Up Shit Creek

Ottawa XPress, Shotgun, September 29, 2005

I’m not Sean Penn. But I’ll try to be kind like him. OK, so I didn’t help Katrina victims, but I tried to save Ottawans from boredom and disappointment at shitty sex-stores.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many Hollywood celebrities offered their services, like John Travolta who flew five tonnes of food and 400 tetanus vaccines to Baton Rouge in his private jet.

Others like Céline Dion paid $1.2 million to disaster relief, which also afforded her the opportunity to do that thing where she flutters her hand upon her chest while talking passionately. This time it wasn’t about her kid but about her political opinions, on Larry King Live. Many admired this.

But a photo of Penn in a friend’s rickety old boat filled with ragged refugees ran with news ridiculing his supposed attempts at saving victims stranded in their homes. The scenario was mocked in detail in an Ottawa Citizen column, “A Message to the Stars: Stick to What You Do Best,” by Mark Anderson:

“Sean Penn is not a hero, but he plays one in the movies. Which, presumably, qualified him to launch his own rescue operation in New Orleans earlier this week, cruising the flooded streets in a small boat, plucking stranded citizens from rooftops and whisking them to safety.

“That, anyway, was the plan, before his tub sprung a leak, his motor wouldn’t start and, according to the Daily Telegraph, he was last seen ‘frantically bailing water from the boat with a red plastic cup.'”

“To what can we attribute Mr. Penn’s journey to the absurd?” asked Anderson. By Zeus! He was just trying to help out! But there’s the media laughing at Penn – a trend popularized perhaps because of Penn’s vocal anti-Bush stance. Rather than crediting him as a do-gooder, his critics focused on the holes in his boat, not the tiny dent he made in the rescue mission effort.

Sort of like my critics as of late who were calling me on the holes – or omissions – in my “Sexy Fun and Games” Shotgun (September 15), which concentrated on Venus Envy to the exclusion of the competition.

Thank you to online reader, Jenn Farr, who supported my choice: “Most other xxx stores seem to perpetuate the assumption that women are just as much sex toys as the plastic and silicone paraphernalia stocked on their shelves.” And Jan Hobbs who wrote: “The one nice advantage of Venus Envy over other adult toy stores is that they also offer workshops on various interesting subjects.”

But I also got pelted with a few abusive e-mails and last week’s Letter to the Editor from the owner of Classixxx accusing my column of being an infomercial, an excuse to promote my book and CD, and a public butt-kissing for some mysterious nonexistent “freebies.”

Dear reader, I know you’re here because you were expecting to read a follow-up Shotgun to last week’s “Bleeding Barbies” on menstruation suppression and I’m promising it to you next week. But this week, we’ve got a few too many critics on deck.

About my personal opinion of where to shop in Ottawa for sexy toys and aids – let’s put the record straight.

When given the choice of buying a dildo from a shop designed to make women feel comfortable (whether heterosexual, bi-sexual, lesbian or trans-gendered), versus a shop that supports videos of, I’m assuming, the typical pornographic sort where some pussy-shaven, submissive minor is faking enjoyment of two throbbing cocks ripping her anus to fissures while other sad-sack sickos gizum in her eyeballs and share a laugh, well jeez – I’m with the many women who prefer the more discerning joint that presumably promotes sexuality beyond that flavour.

As for the reader who accused me of being narrow-minded because I labelled the sales associate of 11 years ago at “the upstairs sex place right beside Zaphod’s on York Street” as “gross,” get real, honey-not everyone’s pretty. And recall that the column depicts the experience of a then-undergraduate virgin. Show me an innocent 19-year-old girl today who doesn’t use the word “gross” to describe a dude in a “classic” sex shop, and I’ll buy you some wantons and a Coke at Northern 2.

But there I go again promoting some businesses and not others.

You know, if I get kick-ass service-like I did from Joe at Sleepers on St. Laurent Boulevard-then I don’t want my ass kicked for spreading the good word.

And it got kicked, alright, so don’t I know how Sean Penn must feel.

What a fine leap of logic to link Mr. Penn and me in any other way beyond the do-gooder thing. Ah, but such leaps of logic I’ve been accused of making before by one critic in particular who wrote in to say how he and his girlfriend sat there reading Shotgun, laughing at my Olympic-style acrobatic leaps.

But, I wonder how Mr. Penn will respond to his critics. As for me, one thing’s for sure: The pen is mightier than swarthy pricks who use agro to try to intimidate me. Them’s fighting words, mate.

You’ll get more bees with honey. You’ll touch more hearts with a helping hand. When you put yourself out there, you’re swimming with the sharks. It’s sink or swim, baby.

I’ve got my paddle.

– Sylvie Hill