Sex in America

Let’s pretend for a moment that it’s 1950. I’m in a floral housedress, bosom prominently pointed due to the unnatural architecture of women’s undergarments of that era. My husband is relaxing in the lounge, catching up on the news of the day as I present him with a happy hour snifter of scotch. A ham or some other animal protein sits roasting in the next room.

After dinner, and a martini or two, the moment strikes where lovemaking is probable. The sultry sounds of Sinatra play as we climb into one of the twin beds placed parallel in our bedroom, for a brief conjugal encounter – in the dark, in silence, ever so discreetly.

Snapping back to 2015, I’d like to think people were properly getting it on in those days. But the residual effects of North America pre-sexual revolution seem to have lingered well past the dawn of free love.

When my husband and I recently decided to live in Los Angeles for a while, I was prepared for a few cultural and social discrepancies compared to Canada. However, having landed in a state made famous for it’s entertainment industry and liberal thought leaders, a few things have surprised me.

Let’s start with something as simple as purchasing contraceptives. The first time my husband popped into our local pharmacy to pick up some condoms, he set off an alarm system. Not the kind of alarm system that prompts an employee to check your bags, nor did a staff member or security guard approach him. It was more of a public shaming of sorts. Attention shoppers: the gentleman wearing the Dodgers hat in aisle three is about to get laid!

Obviously, I had to see this for myself. So we went back to the store, prepared to be cast as Canadian sexual deviants. Sure enough, while extracting a box of condoms from a conspicuous plastic bin, a loud alarm began to sound, alerting everyone in the store as to what we were up to. And, as my husband reported, nothing happened. No one checks on you or asks what your intentions are with the 12-pack of Trojans you just tossed into your basket. People simply stare as you slink towards the toothpaste aisle like nothing happened.

A lot of people we encounter in the U.S. assume that the Canadian healthcare system is something to aspire to. And it’s true; we have much to be grateful for. Until a fellow expat of mine pointed out that the local women’s clinic will give you condoms and birth control for free, no questions asked. Items that are most certainly not free at home. I know this isn’t the case nationwide, but I thought it was surprising considering an alarm comparable to an air horn goes off when trying to purchase prophylactics.

Without getting into the many sexualized starlets that hail from the Golden State, it amazes me what’s considered acceptable and what’s considered taboo as it relates to women. Let’s take the Free the Nipple movement, for example. I’ve written about this before, after Instagram removed an image I posted of a Vancouver-based burlesque dancer, nipples perfectly concealed by a pair of pasties. Nipples on the beach are a no go in California, if you’re a woman. Even where I live in Venice, which has always been the bohemian epicentre of SoCal. Meanwhile, bare bottoms are all the rage, on the beach, by the pool or even walking down the street.

While not particularly common, outside of designated nude beaches, going topless in Canada isn’t considered a criminal offense. Nothing makes me more patriotic than having the freedom to bare my breasts in public, even though I rarely exercised the right to do so.

While we’re on the topic of nipples, I frequently encounter a hot pink van promoting topless maids in my neighborhood, which confuses the subject even more. Nipples out while sun bathing on the beach? No way. Nipples out while tidying someone’s apartment? No problem.

We’ve definitely made sexual strides on both sides of the border, but the line between what’s considered appropriate and what’s considered pervy remains a little bit blurry.

Originally published in The Province.

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