MACLEAN’S/CBC POLL

Doing It and Enjoying It

As usual, Newfoundland sets the pace when it comes to sexual activity

John DeMont December 20 1999
MACLEAN’S/CBC POLL

Doing It and Enjoying It

As usual, Newfoundland sets the pace when it comes to sexual activity

John DeMont December 20 1999

Doing It and Enjoying It

MACLEAN’S/CBC POLL

The Best Sex

John DeMont

As usual, Newfoundland sets the pace when it comes to sexual activity

Thursday night around 10 and the heat is rising at GreenSleeves Pub and Lounge on George Street, smack in the middle of the raucous party quarter in St. Johns, Nfld. The scene uncannily resembles the male fantasy world of television beer ads. On the raised dance floor, a sea of women—

mostly young, coiffed and stylishly dressed—undulates to a Latin beat. In the corner, a knot of recreationalhockey players, just back from the rink, take big pulls on their beers and let out testosterone-fuelled hoots as Shania Twain struts across a video screen. Every few seconds, the door swings open and more people enter, alone and in groups, sweeping the room with their eyes. How they will leave is another matter: GreenSleeves has a reputation as being one of

the city’s premier meet markets. As the room fills, the statistical probability of making a new friend rises accordingly.

The numbers are already mighty favourable. Dennis, 31, friendly and dark-haired, knows what delights await some who venture out on the town in St. John’s. Before recently moving in with a girlfriend, the shipping company employee says he found sex “four or five times a week” in the bars on George Street. Tonight began with the best of intentions:

some hockey, a couple of beers with the boys, then home to the girlfriend. But a brunette in a halter top and tight pants has caught his eye. His hips start to gyrate, as if moved by some primordial urge. Suddenly, the night seems to offer a whole new range of possibilities. “We’ve got a different attitude to sex around here,” he says over the din. “You want it, you got it.”

Is there more to that than just male braggadocio? Sixteen years of Macleans year-end polls suggest there is: no Canadians talk as consistently about their libidos in such glowing terms as Newfoundlanders. Still, plenty of Islanders question their reputation for sexual prowess. “Not for a minute,” scoffs Newfoundland-born comedian Cathy Jones, who now lives in Halifax. “Even if it’s true, shouldn’t they be putting all this energy to use in a better way—like trying to straighten out the economy?” Truth or fiction, the numbers at least are remarkable. This time around, 69 per cent of Newfoundland respondents call themselves sexually active, giving the province bragging rights in a country where the national average is 59 per cent and the nearest rival, Quebec, is she points behind at 63 per cent. There’s more: 53 per cent of Newfoundlanders say they are “very satisfied” with their sex lives, far above the 44 per cent nationally; and fully onequarter in Newfoundland claim to have had sex within the past 24 hours—another top performance, five points above the national average.

Why are Newfoundlanders so hot? Psychologist Elena Rosen Hannah of Memorial University in St. John’s calls that “the $64,000 question.” When she recently quizzed her sexual behaviour class—one of the biggest draws on campus with 315 students—explanations abounded: the lousy weather; the isolation; the

province’s high unemployment rate; the shortage of multiscreen movie theatres and other urban diversions—all of which leave many Newfoundlanders with time to spend in the sack.

Everybody seems to have a theory. Some Newfoundlanders point to the close-knit island way of life—where everyone seems to know everyone else. That, they posit, makes finding new sex partners easier, and less risky, than on the mainland. (The incidence of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is significantly lower than the national average.) Others say the easy pace of life on the Rock helps put Newfoundlanders in the mood. “People here do not live by a city clock,” points out Rosen Hannah. “It is not like most of the industrialized world, where people have to make an appointment with their mate to have sex.” Some explanations seem based on shakier logic. “It’s the diet,” said Lloyd, an oilrefinery worker, between shows at the Cotton Club, an upscale George Street strip club. “Me and the wife eat salt fish, we eat rabbit, we eat turr—that’s a seabird. It makes us all jangly.”

And Newfoundland is, after all, a small province that has spawned two famous Playboy playmates: Shannon Tweed, who lived with Hugh Hefner before hooking up with Kiss singer Gene Simmons and moving on to B-movie stardom, and Danielle House, who was stripped of her Miss Canada International crown after beating up her ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend in a St. John’s campus bar in 1996. It is a province where the place names—Dildo, Come By Chance, Conception Bay—sound suggestive. Even the premier, Brian Tobin, has enough sex appeal to make Chatelaine’s 1996 list of Canadas hottest guys.

Perhaps it’s because they are so active and sat-

Dreamland of ecstasy Percentage saying they fantasize about having :

Canada Nfld. N.S. P.E.I. N.B. Que. Ont. Man. Sask. Alta. B.C. Men Women 10 or more times a day 1 4 6 3 4 5 to 9 times a day 5 4 3 9 6 2 to 5 times a day 20 18 23 19 22 19 13 14 24 22 27 13 Once a day 18 23 11 28 30 22 20 19 22 18 26 21 Never 26 26 30 29 21 24 25 25 22 27 13 35 Refused 30 26 28 19 15 24 33 33 20 28 16 29

• Most likely to say “ 10 or more times a day”: under 40 years—7 per cent

Bedroom bravado

Percentage describing themselves as sexually active:

active: aged 18 to 25-72 per cent; in households with incomes of $50,000 or more—71 per cent

When the earth moves

Percentage declaring themselves “very satisfied” with their sex lives:

Bedroom helpers

Percentage saying they have used erotic materials or sexual aids to enhance their sex lives:

• Most likely to say they have used erotic materials or sexual aids to enhance their sex lives: aged 25 to 39—24 per cent

ScXUcll UpS and downs Percentage describing themselves as... 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 Very sexually active 12 10 12 11 17 13 Somewhat sexually active 50 49 53 53 53 46 TOTAL ACTIVE 62 59 65 64 70 59 Not very sexually active 17 16 12 17 13 12 Not sexually active at all 13 13 12 13 10 13 TOTAL NOT ACTIVE 30 29 24 30 23 25 Don’t know/refused 9 11 11 6 7 16

isfied, but Newfoundlanders are less likely than many other Canadians to spend their day fantasizing about sex. While 1.2 per cent acknowledged having erotic daydreams at least 10 times a day, that number pales beside the six per cent in Ontario and 6.3 per cent in Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.

Newfoundlanders rack up their impressive numbers without, it seems, any undue reliance on pornography or sex toys. According to the poll, they fall in the middle of the pack nationally when it comes to using porn and erotic aids. Business did seem slow one recent weekday afternoon at Strictly Video, the city’s only sex video and aid oudet. A few middle-aged men perused devices with names like the Love Constrictor and the Oriental Bullet and strolled amid racks of films tided Tushy Con Came and Shemale International. But business has not been brisk, says the store’s owner, Ed Bolt. He has his sales hopes pinned on the younger generation. “They seem a bit more free, a little less likely to worry about what others think,” says Bolt, who immigrated to St. John’s from Holland, another place known for its liberal views on sexuality.

On a typical night on George Street, examples of an open attitude seem to surface everywhere. At O’Reilly’s Irish pub,

as a crowd belts out old country drinking songs, two friends—Stephanie Hancock, a 25-year-old cook, and Jason Crummey, 33, a former fish farmer and exotic dancer—sit at a table in the back of the room lost in conversation. The subject: their large collections of pornographic movies and books. Hancock, who has a boyfriend and claims an active sex life, says she comes by her interest in porn naturally— “both my parents are into it.” Crummey, who sports shoulder-length hair under his sealskin hat and says he once ran for deputy mayor of St. John’s, laughs: “We trade pornies like Pokémons.”

At the Ship Inn, a popular downtown St. John’s pub, visitors can choose from the same beers and food available just about everywhere in Canada. But there are few other spots where they would find themselves seated at noon beside a woman who describes herself as a performer of “spoken word erotica.” Or where not a single person among the lunchtime crowd would bat an eye as the 39-year-old grandmother, in a perfectly audible voice, chants poetry that in its explicit sexuality could bring a blush to the most rebellious rap singer. The author, Susan Parnham, aka Suzy Pyrate, says that matters like sex tend to be placed in their proper context in a place like Newfoundland where many lives are lived close to the elements and the poverty line. “Sex is a healthy thing,” she says, “to be enjoyed, not felt sheepish about.”

ScX by numbers Percentage saying they had sexual activity with a partner ... Canada Nftd. N.S. P.E.I, N.B. Que. Ont. Man. Sask, Alta. B.C. Men Women Within past 24 hours Within past week Within past two weeks Within past month Within past six months More than six months ago 9 11 Never Refused 31 28 24 i 24 • Most likely to say “Within the past 24 hours”: under 40 years—28 per cent

But in Newfoundland, sex is not to be taken too seriously either. Hearing that Newfoundlanders once again rank as the sexiest Canadians, Bill Squires, 44, a divorced St. John’s cab driver and father of two, jokes that he must be getting more than he realized. Then he adds: “But maybe it depends on how you define sex. Because, let’s face it, Newfoundlanders have been getting f—ed since Confederation.” ES]