I invited the owners of the Wicked Club in Toronto Shlomo and Aurora Benzion to speak to my Law And Morality class at U of T this week.
It has been almost a year since the Supreme Court of Canada in the Labaye and Kouri cases gave the green light to Montreal swingers to congregate in clubs for mass gropings.
Although the Wicked Club which has a local nightclub at 1034 Queen West is flourishing, with 15,000 members across Canada, I was surprised to learn that the Supreme Court ruling hasn't led to the establishment of a multitude of such clubs in the GTA.
We know there are plenty of voyeurs out there. Apparently, the revenue from the porn industry is larger than the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises.
Because there are 4.2 million porn websites on the Internet, and 25 per cent of all search engine requests are related to sexual imagery, it was reasonable to assume that when the legal stamp of approval was given to sex clubs last year, we'd see an explosion of organized sex parties in our fair city.
But most voyeuristic Torontonians are staying home.
Law-and-order types believe that when legal sanctions are lifted, previously prohibited conduct spreads like wildfire as people explore their newfound liberty. It's often the fear of opening the floodgates that prevents lawmakers from repealing archaic laws.
In actuality, people make most personal moral decisions with little consideration of the law, and even though sex clubs are all the rage in Montreal, it appears that Torontonians have less interest in public displays of sexuality. Modesty is far more powerful than the law.
There's no reason to employ criminal laws to tell people what they can and can't do with their own bodies, because nobody really bases these personal choices on the threat of legal sanction. The Supreme Court of Canada did not have to give its approval to Montreal swingers, because they were swinging long before the court caught up with them.
And voyeurs in Toronto weren't magically transformed into exhibitionists just because the Supreme Court said they could now act upon their sexual fantasies in hedonistic clubs.
Remember the saga of Gwen Jacob. On a hot summer day in Guelph in 1991, she strolled down the street bare-breasted. Her action had nothing to do with sexual fantasies, but she faced the same legal battle fought by the Montreal sex clubs.
The police received a complaint, and she was arrested for an "indecent act in public place." She claimed she had a constitutional right to go topless.
She was convicted and fined $75 dollars. Five years later, the Ontario Court of Appeal allowed her appeal and entered an acquittal.
Media outlets across Ontario proclaimed that women had the right to go topless on hot summer days. For a week, local television stations combed the beaches and parks of Toronto desperately looking for bare-chested women basking in the glory of this newly proclaimed right.
The press came up empty-handed. Gwen Jacob's legal victory did not lead to the mass shedding of clothing in response to global warming.
Even though the law is impotent when it comes to dictating sexual choices, the decisions in Jacob or Labaye and Kouri cannot be seen as representing official recognition of this impotency. These court cases did not challenge the law's continuing crusade to control the indecent and profane they just relaxed the controls for the time being.
Both cases simply turned upon the interpretation of the word "indecency' and found that "in the circumstances' the actions of the accused did not amount to indecency. Change the circumstances and the law can rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
Maybe the next topless woman will find out that a court didn't think the temperature was sufficiently sweltering to justify removing her top. Maybe the next sex club owner will end up being convicted for being the keeper of a bawdy house because some club patrons were playing with S/M paraphernalia not found in the Montreal clubs.
Despite the simplistic proclamations of reporters at the time, these cases did not create any new rights. The criminal laws relating to public displays of indecency still remain on the books, lurking in the shadows, waiting to trap those who believe they have been given carte blanche by the courts.
Courts are rarely that generous.