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Asked to keep sex toys away from City Hall, Trojan plans visit to Boston Center for the Arts

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  November 27, 2012 02:21 PM

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Trojan vibrator giveaway.jpg

(Trojan Vibrations)

In this photo supplied by Trojan, workers hand out sex toys in New York City’s Meatpacking District.

The City of Boston told a sex toy manufacturer “no thanks” when it asked about handing out products on City Hall Plaza, but now Trojan has announced the giveaway will go on — about a mile away, on private property, in the slightly less staid South End.

Trojan released a statement Tuesday saying that it would bring its pleasure carts — modeled after street vendors’ hot dog carts — to the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3. The manufacturer of condoms and intimate devices said it would give away samples of its Tri-Phoria and Pulse vibrators inside the historic 128-year-old building while supplies last.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the choice of location was more appropriate than City Hall, but still expressed reservations.

“The BCA has their own facilities, and it’s their decision,” Dot Joyce, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said by phone on Tuesday.

“We’re happy that they were able to work something out where they could accommodate the company,” Joyce continued. “We feel it’s a much better location than City Hall Plaza, but still are concerned slightly about young children. But [we] are confident that the BCA and the marketing company were able to address those types of issues.”

On Oct. 17, the city’s chief of property management sent a terse two-paragraph letter to a marketing firm representing Trojan after the company inquired about distributing vibrators on City Hall Plaza. Michael Galvin’s letter said he considered the distribution “an inappropriate and irresponsible use for the plaza,” noting that many families and children pass through the plaza each day.

Joyce said Tuesday that those reservations are lessened at the Cyclorama but lingering doubts remain.

“Our biggest concern is the message it sends to young people and the conversations that parents would have to have with their children if they’re being approached by these types of marketing materials,” Joyce said. “However, the BCA is private property and we have great respect for their right to decide what to do with it.”

Veronique Le Melle, president and CEO of the Boston Center for the Arts, said the giveaway would be held inside the Cyclorama, not on the plaza in front of the structure, and the organizer would have security and follow all the standard protocols for events in the space.

“They have also given us a sample of their whole process where they will be screening people at the door and requesting IDs, having people sign disclaimers, making sure that they are of age,” she said. “It’s not just with this event — all our events are really tightly controlled, and we make sure that all our events have the right amount of security.”

Le Melle said she didn’t see the center as entering into any controversy, just renting its space for an event, as it does regularly. After all, the products being distributed are widely available at mainstream stores such as CVS and Walgreens, she said.

“As far as we’re concerned, this is strictly a straight rental, like we’ve rented to other organizations, both for-profit and non-profit,” Le Melle said. “The person handling the event for the company … has rented out our Cyclorama in the past for other events for other clients.”

In its statement, Trojan said it was “helping mainstream the [product] category by making high-quality vibrators accessible across a multitude of channels — at drugstores, grocery stores, mass merchandisers, online, and in select adult stores — making it easier for couples to bring a higher level of fun and intimacy into their relationships.”

Trojan has previously distributed the free products in New York City, Washington D.C., and Chicago, the statement said.

In Manhattan last summer, city officials initially blocked a planned giveaway, saying Trojan didn’t have all the proper permits. But after securing the necessary paperwork, the company went on to hand out a reported 4,000 vibrators in the Meatpacking District.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow the South End on Twitter: @Your_SouthEnd.

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