PROVINCETOWN -- No sex after 10 pm. Wash your hands. The hot tub closes at midnight. Throw a dime in the courtyard fountain dedicated to chronically ill lesbians. Welcome to P-Town, gay mecca on the picturesque Massachusetts coast.
The puritan influence is everywhere.
In the conservative state of Massachusetts, one is inundated by signs announcing the law of the land. Provincetown is definitely no exception. One sign in the bathroom of a popular men's hotel and club reads: "Employees must wash their hands. Others should also."
In the bed-and-breakfast where I stayed with my girlfriend, one of the three signs in the bathroom read, "Quiet time between 10 pm and 10 am. Please respect your neighbour's privacy." Oops, we didn't read that one in time.
If I were asked whether I recommend P-Town as a gay vacation spot, I'd say it's probably lots of fun if you're a boy (I wouldn't know) or if you're one of those crazy girls who enjoy lots of quiet rest and a good game of Yahtzee in a "safe space," in which case I'd give P-Town a five-star rating.
We really should have known better. When we were planning our trip, we noticed the all-too-familiar gender chasm right away on the official Provincetown Web site. Fun activities for boys included dances, drag shows and a cruising beach, while women's activities included a bereavement support group.
What's wrong with this picture?
Pizza pickup Offhand, I'd say women have a hard time having fun, having a sense of humour and having sex. It's OK for me to say this because I am a woman, and I've known a few.
Want more evidence? In P-Town the men don't go home to bed when the bars close. They're on the beach or at a pizza place designated as the local pickup joint.
The famous Provincetown dunes are another excellent example. It's quite a sight, a line of hundreds of gay men, in singles or pairs, stretching to the horizon.
They walk miles into the rugged wetlands to reach the boys' beach. Several kilometres outside of town there's nothing but the sky, wilderness and sex -- lots of gay sex.
My girlfriend insisted we make the trip to see the dunes. I didn't want to go. I knew we didn't belong.
My girlfriend, who came out later in life, was sure there'd be women. I knew better. Her thirst for adventure was stronger than mine -- I felt too old and bitter. After all, what was the point? We weren't going to get laid. Given the choice, I'd rather go shopping than hike through a marsh.
However, I have to admit it was very impressive. Almost awe-inspiring. This was raw sexual adventure. Absolutely nothing like it exists in women's culture.
Golf weekends or naked women frolicking to a badly tuned guitar can't really compare. What if these were women foraging in the wild for sex? We laugh to ourselves bitterly. Only in our dreams.
We didn't make it all the way to the beach, because we were attracting stares and feeling uncomfortably voyeuristic. After about a mile my girlfriend had to admit defeat -- we were the only women out here in a salt-water marsh full of gay men.
I came away from this experience with one burning, all-important question: why are lesbians so afraid? What makes us create "safe spaces" that limit our experience of the world and of ourselves?
Why are social events always linked to abuse, addiction, illness, rape or death? Under these circumstances, sex becomes unnaturally linked with all that's evil in the world.
It's no joke that lesbians are sexually repressed and have no sense of humour. It is a very serious problem.
Ask yourself these questions. Why is there a "safe" room for women who don't want to have sex at a women's bathhouse? And why is a benefit for the Rape Crisis Centre the best place to meet women?
Serious problem This isn't just a serious problem -- it's wrong and twisted. While the secret life of gay men is full of sexual adventure and risk, the secret life of lesbians is full of covert circle hierarchies and bad poetry.
After the bars closed at 1 am, the only signs of women's nightlife were drunken lesbian lawyers loudly weaving the legal quilt: "My mother was a lawyer and my grandmother was a lawyer and now I'm a lawyer," I heard one lawyer yell to another outside the pizza place.
In response to ridiculous boundaries imposed by a puritanical state and a conservative seaside town, the men, as they do everywhere, make their own rules and traditions. And the women, as everywhere, mind the signs and refuse the opportunity to take risks.