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By Carla Wintersgill

At Times Square XXX Video, a Shania Twain ballad plays softly in the background while a porno featuring two women and a lot of purple paint is on mute.

Troy Lovett, 38, an employee of Times Square, barely bats an eye at the on-screen antics.

“I watch too much porn,” he says. Besides having a 70-seat theatre, Times Square also features adult video booths. He says these booths are the best. They are imported from the United States. For 25 cents a minute, customers can enjoy 32 channels.

No one is in the booths, and the theatre is empty save for one man hunched over at the back.

Porn videos and magazines sit untouched on the shelves. Lovett blames the Internet for the bad business. He says all the adult cinemas in Toronto are suffering, but the theatre’s ramshackle appearance may have something to do with it.

The walls are dirty and the carpet is stained. “It’s grungy, it’s dingy, and it’s dark,” Lovett says.

In the 14 months that Lovett has worked at Times Square, he has seen debauchery. People come into the theatre to masturbate in front of each other. Men bring their wives to put on shows for the other patrons. “It’s voyeurism, they love to watch other people,” says Lovett.

Like Times Square XXX video, Ryerson University has seen it’s share of self-pleasuring.

Since 2003, nine reported masturbators have reared their heads on campus. The most recent indecent incident happened on Feb. 23, 2005, in a hallway on the sixth floor of the Sally Horsfal Eaton Centre. Someone reported the man to security and the perpetrator was arrested. Lovett says he’s never heard of anyone who gets off on public masturbation.

“It’s a federal offence and they would be pretty stupid if they admitted to that,” Lovett says.

Canada’s Criminal Code states that masturbation is a crime when it is performed in a public place in the presence of one or more persons, or in any place with the intent of insulting or offending someone. The maximum punishment for an indecent act is a $2,000 fine and six months in jail. Despite the threat of being caught, many people continue to masturbate in public.

“It may be a form of eroticism in which they enjoy shocking people,” says David McKenzie, a certified sexologist who has served as a pastor in the Anglican Church of Canada for 20 years. “The idea of a lot of people and the risk of being caught adds to the appeal,” he says.

McKenzie dismisses the idea that public masturbation is a fetish and points out that it is technically defined as a paraphilia, a socially unacceptable sexual practice such as sadism or masochism.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) of mental disorder, public masturbation would fall under exhibitionism, which is classified as a mental disorder. There is a debate in the psychological and sexological communities about the label of paraphilia.

“Let’s say you are into whips and chains. It’s not hurting anyone else, but the DSM says it’s a mental disorder,” McKenzie says.

McKenzie doesn’t agree. He blames a repressed Christian culture that is quick to label people as abnormal. He says society tends to pathologize what it doesn’t accept. McKenzie believes people should have freedom in their sexual behaviour — to a point.

“Exhibitionism and voyeurism become illegal and wrong when it infringes on people’s rights,” he says.

McKenzie doesn’t think the masturbator in the library was necessarily an exhibitionist. If he was hiding among the stacks of books, he was probably excited by the thought of being seen. The risk of being caught would have added to his pleasure.

All of the masturbators on campus have been men. McKenzie says males are the most common exhibitionists. Most are shy young men who find sexual satisfaction in shocking people. Back at Times Square XXX video, it is nearly 4 p.m.–the time when Lovett needs to buy beer.

Part of his job is cleaning up the leftover messes in the booths and the theatre. He deals with it by drinking and smoking pot. Lovett thinks that people’s inadequacies and insecurities bring them to the theatre.

As long as the customers aren’t drug addicts, Times Square goes by the Vegas-style mantra of what goes on in the theatre, stays in the theatre.

Although people who frequent these kinds of establishments are usually associated with the underbelly of society, Lovett quickly dispels this myth.

“I don’t get just seedy people who come in here. I get judges and lawyers, cops and tourists. They’re all the same, they all like to masturbate,” he says.

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