Rhode Island City Censors Opening Fete for Sexual Health Center
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The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, new nonprofit educational organization focusing on pleasure and sexual-advocacy issues, was scheduled to hold its grand opening in Pawtucket, R.I., on Sept. 26.
The center’s director is Megan Andelloux, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island (1997) and a certified sexuality educator of the American Association of Sexuality Education, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and a board-certified sexologist by the American College of Sexologists.
Last week, Andelloux, learned that the Pawtucket City Council had received an anonymous e-mail "warning" about the center’s opening and premier event.
"I was then informed that without proper zoning and event licenses, I would be arrested if I held the event in Pawtucket," she said. "Although I had landlord approval, and the building is zoned for retail, business, entertainment and office use, I was told that I had to get a special zoning application for ‘education’ and approval," which typically takes up to two months.
She had to scramble to find alternative space in which to hold the grand-opening event, and she retained a lawyer.
The grand opening will be a three-hour extravaganza of sex-positive, health-promoting information featuring nationally recognized experts, including Bill Taverner, former director of education for Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey; Gina Ogden, Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Return of Desire; Barbara Carrellas, author of Urban Tantra; Elizabeth Wood, founder of Sex in the Public Square, an online community forum devoted to sexuality issues; me; and Carol Queen, director of the Center for Sex and Culture, a similar educational forum in San Francisco offering sex-positive sexuality education and support to diverse populations. It may be no coincidence that Queen and her partner, Robert Lawrence, had a similar call about their center recently.
Andelloux notes that the program also includes "thousands of dollars worth of prizes to give away, and lots of local sexual health, education and advocacy groups present to inform, delight and enlighten." The full program can be viewed at www.TheCSPH.org.
Andelloux believes that the e-mailer told City Council members that the event was going feature a burlesque number and that the council freaked out, thinking it was going to be some sort of bacchanalian orgy.
"Rest assured that the city of Pawtucket has now gone so far as to officially assure me that their concerns had absolutely nothing to do with sex," she said. "Of course, when your local city councilman calls and screams the word 'dildo' over and over at you, you start to wonder."
After a week of meetings with City Council members, city clerks and zoning board officials, she is convinced that someone "up high" it is opposed to the existence of her center.
According to the Pawtucket Times, Mayor James E. Doyle has "serious concerns about the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health locating on Main Street."
Director of Administration Harvey E. Goulet told the Times, "We are not interested in this type of business. It's not really something we feel is appropriate for our city." Goulet further noted that it would be his office's intention not to allow the business to open, but added, "we have to follow through with the laws."
"We don't have a certificate of zoning because in the official opinion of the zoning board, the center is an educational business, but the building where we lease space is not zoned for 'educational' purposes. Get that?
"The city of Pawtucket won't let us start our business because they are taking a strong stance against education! It’s not going to help the city’s case that they allowed a chess club and an arts studio (both of which state that they teach classes) to rent space in the same building," Andelloux opined.