Most Groundbreaking Established Organization
The Center for Sex-Positive Culture (Seattle)
This membership-based community center (founded in 1999 and formerly known as "The Wet Spot" or "The SPCC"), remains unique, and through its combination of formal non-profit status, striving to serve all of the different communities which comprise sex-positive culture in its area, and organizing itself using a community center model in a physical building completely devoted to its own use, has probably forever changed what the phrase "sex club" can mean. Its volunteer program is quite extensive and well-developed, resulting in a passionate loyalty amongst a substantial percentage of its members. And, of course, through its schedule of workshops, discussion groups, and guest speakers, it serves a significant educational role. In our opinion this organization's leadership role within sex-positive culture is well-deserved.
Most Groundbreaking New Organization
Love Tribe (Portland)
Some of the pivotal moments of sex-positive culture occur with the creation of new events or organizations which (1) are truly fun and (2) can be easily reproduced in other cities. Swing clubs were one such example. So were the BDSM community's restaurant gatherings (aka "munches"). The aforementioned CSPC may in time prove to be another such example. However, we suspect that Love Tribe may prove to be yet another, through its non-threatening and comforting focus on touch and "snuggling" (though amidst open acceptance of much more) within an altruistic context that distills from the spiritual sexuality movement just the stuff that actually makes the average person more comfortable. The Love Tribe "Rapture" event that we sampled was one of the most comfortable and fun sex-positive events we've ever attended. Over 110 people were in attendance and the event was organized in such a way that (as far as we could tell) nobody felt left out. Remarkable.
Best Swing Club
New Horizons (Seattle)
New Horizons remains, almost without doubt, the finest swing club in the entire country: we have neither seen nor heard of anything which can compare to its mansional building, thirteen acres of beautifully-landscaped surrounding property, multiple hot tubs, and secluded setting. We believe this facility is worth experiencing at least once (if only as a guest on a Saturday, or for a Wednesday potluck) by every sex-positive person in our area, just to expand your understanding of the quality of space which people are capable of creating and supporting together. New Horizons also features a comfortable and healthy social environment, well-liked by both women and men.
Best Gay and Bi Men's Sex Club
Eros (San Francisco) and Blow Buddies (San Francisco) [tie]
Both Eros and Blow Buddies have very good reputations, and are spoken of with more pride and loyalty than any similar clubs we have heard of in any other city. Eros features multiple floors and theme rooms, and has the advantage of being conveniently located in the Castro district. Professional massage and a steam room are available at Eros, along with a video room. Blow Buddies is likewise very popular, being particularly famous for its wide variety of theme nights. It features two levels, with five play rooms and a backyard.
Best Pansexual Club
The Center for Sex-Positive Culture (Seattle)
"Pansexual" means open to all genders and orientations, and in this case also means open to singles as well as partners. In this regard the CSPC (formerly known as "The SPCC" or "The Wet Spot") is probably an ideal place to start exploring sex-positive culture, since you can contact them, attend an orientation, become a member, and start attending whichever events you're comfortable with, all without needing an "invitation" from somebody important, and all without attendance restrictions on the basis of your gender (with the one exception of the monthly men-only night and women-only nights, for which attendance is allowed based on which gender is indicated on your legal ID). One of the CSPC's most popular events is Grind, a sexy and sex-positive dance event hosted on Thursday nights, and just as popular are their BDSM-focused Saturday night events, for which high-quality slings and all of the popular forms of bondage furniture are provided. However, events of various kinds are hosted on almost every night of the week in their facility, in keeping with their role as a sex-positive community center.
Largest Public Club
The Power Exchange (San Francisco)
This is by far the largest public club in San Francisco, and probably the largest in the entire country. Covering multiple floors, this club has an amazing array of different theme rooms: far more than one could hope to keep track of, which is fun in and of itself. As a practical matter, please note that if you visit the mixed floors as a single male on a slow night (e.g. on a Thursday) then you may be very, very unlikely to find a female play partner for the evening: however, even so it's still worth visiting just to take in the never-ending maze of strange, trippy theme rooms. We do have one request: if you visit the mixed-gender floors of the Power Exchange on a slow night then feel free to suggest to management that they offer a Laser Tag night in their facility. We realize that's a silly thing for a sex club to do, but given the extensive maze-like nature of their facility a laser tag game in it would be so much fun that we'd like to see multiple people make this suggestion just to maximize the chances it will happen :)
Best Summer Outdoor Event
This Labor Day weekend event, held at a beautiful private location near Redmond, succeeds in demonstrating that folks from different parts of sex-positive culture (e.g. SM folks and swingers) have much more in common than separates them. It represents the Seattle Sex-Positive Community Center's best success to date at fulfilling the inclusive nature of its mission.
Best Arts Event
Seattle Erotic Art Festival (Seattle)
This annual erotic art festival has gathered national attention for the quality of its offerings. Some art is offered for display only, some for sale, and some for auction. Represented are typically some of the better erotic artists working today, though artists at any stage of their careers are encouraged to submit their work to the festival committee for consideration.
San Francisco Sex Information (San Francisco)
People anywhere can call the SFSI hotline at 1-415-989-7374 and get their questions about sex answered in a respectful and professional manner, at no charge other than the cost of the telephone call. For many people this could be just what the doctor ordered.
Best Traditional Workshop Series
Libido Events (Vancouver BC)
We were very impressed with the scope and frequency of events being offered through Libido Events, as well as by their efforts to be inclusive of both sex and BDSM, and by their efforts to offer some community-building topics (e.g. their excellent presentation on sex-positive resources in the Vancouver BC area).
Best Experiential Workshop Series
The Body Electric School (Multiple West Coast Locations)
In the area of experiential sex education, specifically on topics related to "spiritual sexuality," nobody comes close to the Body Electric School. Although their weekend workshops are by necessity fairly expensive, they're well-taught and well thought-out.
Pacific Northwest Library for Sex Positive Culture (Seattle)
This library, located in the Center for Sex-Positive Culture's Annex building, covers both non-fiction (sex education, sexuality and gender theory, history of sex-positive culture, etc.) as well as fiction (erotica). Apart from university and research collections, which may not have the same focus and may not be as accessible to the average person, it's the only library of its kind, and probably will be until such time as the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco is able to secure a building for their own collection.
Best Heterosexual Sex Manual
Goofy Foot Press (Waldport, Oregon)
Everyone loves Goofy Foot Press's Guide to Getting it On!. It's one of the best sex manuals we've found to date that's aimed at a het audience, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a popular and solid choice, though the only book Goofy Foot Press publishes.
Best Sex Education Series
Cleis Press (San Francisco)
This sex-positive publisher has a diverse catalog covering theory, fiction, and practice. In particular, they're the publishers of the Good Vibrations Guide to Sex, as well as the highly-regarded "Ultimate Guide" series (covering topics ranging from anal sex to oral sex to adult videos).
Best BDSM/Kink Education Series
Greenery Press (San Francisco)
Greenery Press has more of a BDSM/kink focus than Cleis Press, but within the genre of BDSM how-to it's currently the undisputed champion. Books in their catalog address techniques from the basic to the esoteric, and their new "Toybag Guide" series should prove to be a boon for workshop leaders.
Best Sex Toy Store
Although the venerable Good Vibrations deserves serious kudos for the fantastic job they did refurbishing their web site, and Womyn's Ware gets props both for their bold decision to only carry silicone dildos as well as for having the most informative print catalog in the industry, Babeland takes the award this year on the basis of the excellent Sex Toys 101 book that they published in late 2003, as well as for their continued success at bringing our West Coast style to the East Coast through their recently-opened New York branches.
Best BDSM Toy Store
Mr. S Leather Company (San Francisco)
When it comes to leathersex gear, nobody comes close to the famous Mr. S Leather Company. It's a classic, one of those places that if you're a BDSM enthusiast visiting San Francisco you'll almost certainly want to visit.
Best Men's Leather and Latex Fashion Store
Mr. S Leather Company (San Francisco)
Best Women's Leather Fashion Store
Stormy Leather (San Francisco)
Best Women's Latex Fashion Store
Madame S (San Francisco)
Best Corset Store
Dark Garden (San Francisco)
Best Mainstream Het Video Series
Shane's World (Chatsworth, California)
There's very little het porn out there that we'd consider "sex-positive," and the stuff that is sometimes tries so hard to be politically correct that it's no longer fun. Granted, the "Shane's World" series (mixed gender) and "Slumber Party" series (all-female) by this company aren't perfect, but they often have a lighthearted, fun, and seemingly authentic feel, one that reminds us at least a little bit of sex as we usually think of it. Shane (a female director) and her friends genuinely seem to be having fun portraying real sex, and as such take this award.
Best Gay Video Series
Daddy Oohhh (Seattle)
This producer get kudos, and ultimately this award, for his philosophy of "affirming the fundamental goodness of sexuality in human life" and restoring the "romantic, alluring, and seductive aspects of our sexuality" to porn. His films are often playful, featuring men you could imagine meeting in real life, and are popular both with women who like gay porn as well as with gay men.
Best Lesbian Video Series
S.I.R. Productions (San Francisco)
Titles include "Hard Love," "Bend Over Boyfriend," and "Talk to Me Baby: A Lover's Guide to Dirty Talk and Role Play." They seem to do education and porn equally well, and have plenty of fans. You can expect real bodies and real orgasms in their films, of course.
Best Het Erotic Comics
Studio Foglio (Seattle)
The sheer sense of fun brought to the XXXenophile comics exceeds that of any other erotic comics we've found to date. New issues are no longer being made, but all of the old issues have been made available in a series of bound collections. The artwork is high-quality, and some of the storylines are very erotic (our favorite was the one about the "Sex Olympics"). To purchase the six XXXenophile collections, you can use the following links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Best BDSM/Kink Graphic Novels
Michael Manning (San Francisco)
The quality of artwork in Michael Manning's graphic novels, and the creativity behind them, are both top-notch. Where the XXXenophile comics focus on common sex fantasies with a sci-fi twist, Michael Manning's work focuses on fantasy worlds with a stylized kink twist. Michael Manning's books are as follows: The Spider Garden, Hydrophidian, In a Metal Web, In a Metal Web II, Tranceptor: The Way Station, Tranceptor: Iron Gauge, Amerotica, Cathexis, and Inamorata (the last of which focuses on his gallery art).
Best BDSM/Kink Web Site
Hell's Elevator (Portland)
Moving to the other end of the spectrum we find Hell's Elevator, founded by a well-respected BDSM expert, and now featuring some of the best extreme BDSM/kink imagery to be found on the net. It's one of the only web sites we've ever heard someone who participates in the real-life BDSM community admit they'd paid money to join.
Alyson Publications (Los Angeles)
A long-standing GLBT publisher, Alyson Publications' catalog covers culture, sex information, erotica, and many other topics.
Best Travel Guides
Damron Company (San Francisco)
The Damron Men's Travel Guide and Women's Traveler continue to be the best gay and lesbian travel guides out there. New editions come out each year, as they have since 1964.
A Different Light Bookstore (San Francisco)
The historic "A Different Light," located right in the heart of the Castro district, gets the nod.
Most Impressive Community Center
The Center (San Francisco)
The Center in San Francisco has a magnificent building and a particularly strong array of monthly classes and workshops.
Most Noteworthy Conference
FTM: A Gender Odyssey (Seattle)
Each of these conferences so far as featured a powerful lineup of speakers and topics.
After reading about something intriguing in another city, you may be interested in learning what's most similar to it in your own.
With that in mind, we've prepared for your reference full guides to all of the sex-positive community organizations that we know of in Seattle, Vancouver BC, Portland, and San Francisco.
For other cities, see our guide to finding similar organizations anywhere else in the United States.
Thanks are extended to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for helping defend the basic civil freedoms which sex-positive culture relies on.
Thanks are also extended to the annual Leather Leadership Conference and Building Bridges Conference for helping train sex-positive culture's next generation of organizers.
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