Hot controversy over sexuality center in Pawtucket

Pleasure Dept.
By ALEXIS HAUK  |  September 30, 2009


PRINCESS OF PLEASURE Andelloux at her grand opening.

Too hot for Pawtucket?

Megan Andelloux's Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, which would offer classes on sexuality and the latest from the nation's medical journals, was slated to hold its grand opening in the Bucket last weekend.

But Andelloux was forced to move the long-planned celebration to the Spot, an arts space on Thayer Street in Providence, her plans delayed by zoning snafus and -- perhaps -- a little prudishness in Pawtucket City Hall.

"All these rumors got started that I was going to be selling porn and that [the Center] would be a brothel," said Andelloux, a certified sex educator.

The trouble started with an e-mail sent a couple of weeks back by University of Rhode Island professor Donna Hughes, best known for her crusade to close the state's prostitution loophole, to members of the city council.

Utilizing the suggestive power of well-placed quotation marks, the missive read, simply: "Hello, A center for 'sexual rights' and 'sexual pleasure' is opening in Pawtucket," and included the web site for the center.

Deputy City Clerk Michelle Hardy said Hughes' e-mail was the first time any of the council members had heard of the center.

"Most of the time people call us first to register their business," Hardy said. "I'm not really the license police. But when something is brought to our attention, we do need to act on it."

Andelloux had signed a lease, in May, for approximately 500 square feet on the ground floor of the Grant Building, which bills itself as a creative collective for a variety of services. She says the building's owner, who knew of her plans to rent the space for sex education purposes, never told her she needed to apply for a license -- for her business or the grand opening.

But the city, since it learned of the center, has erected some barriers. Zoning Director Ron Travers raised concerns about plans for a raffle for various sexual products at the grand opening, saying approval would have to come from state police. And noting that the Grant Building is zoned for "tenant" space, and not "educational" uses, he denied a zoning permit for the Center itself.

Andelloux, though, would not be deterred. Her "grand opening" went forward in Providence. There was a panel discussion with representatives of Planned Parenthood, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, and the National Organization for Women. Various organizations and businesses, including Wolf Princess, the Providence Pussy Posse, and Kink Academy, mounted booths. Nothing for sale, mind you -- even in Providence, permitting matters -- but plenty to see.

At the OhMiBod stand, where a cheerful arrangement of vibrating dildos matched all the colors of the new iPod, New Hampshire-based entrepreneur Brian Vatter (who, unsurprisingly, used to work for Apple) and his business partner and wife Suki Dunham, said they were disappointed at the move from Pawtucket. "We're promoting positive sexuality," Dunham said. "We treat our business like any other owner would."

Last week, Andelloux met with Mayor James Doyle in an effort to clear up some misunderstandings about her business. The mayor's Director of Administration Harvey Goulet, also present at the meeting, allowed that the center was less-than-desirable for officials. But he said the project would go forward if it passed legal muster.

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