PORTLAND — Maybe the city should dim all of its street lights and pipe Barry White songs from a loudspeaker atop City Hall.
Maybe Portland’s businesses should close for a couple of hours at midday to make a little “afternoon delight” accessible to all.
The solution might not be clear, but the problem is this: Portlanders aren’t having enough sex. Not compared with the rest of the country, anyway.
That’s the gist of a list ranking 100 cities from most sexually active to least, released by Men’s Health magazine this week. Out of the cities studied for the magazine’s “Hotbeds of Sex” list in the October issue, Portland came in dead last.
We came in behind the cowpokes in Billings, Mont. (91), and the folks who call Walt Disney World their neighbor in Orlando, Fla., which ranked 71st. Even frigid Fargo, N.D. (56), was deemed hotter than Portland.
But to Nelly Hall, who has been selling condoms, position pillows and related “adult” items at her shop on Fore Street for 19 years, Portland’s ranking was good news.
She thought it was great that Portland even made the list.
“When I go to industry shows, the larger companies are not familiar with Portland at all,” said Hall, co-owner of CS Boutique, formerly Condom Sense. “They’re like, ‘You’re talking about this to people in Portland, Maine. Really?’
“Sometimes, you get as much attention for being last as for first,” she said.
No one at Men’s Health was available for comment Tuesday, but a press release said the magazine used statistics such as condom sales, birth rates, sex-toy sales and rates of sexually transmitted diseases to arrive at the rankings.
If having a high rate of STDs gets you a high ranking, maybe it’s better to have a low ranking, said Chloe Mack, 18, of Windham, who was browsing in CS Boutique Tuesday afternoon.
Mack added that maybe condom sales are low in Portland because people buy them elsewhere. Who wants to be seen in their neighborhood Cumberland Farms buying a pack of condoms?
And if the list took into account sex-toy sales, that could be part of the problem, too, since polite Maine business owners like Hall call them “relationship enhancement items.”
Whatever you want to call them, people in Maine are indeed buying them.
“As far as condom and sex-toy sales are concerned, Men’s Health should have asked us, since it’s just dead wrong,” said Gina Rourke, owner of Nomia, a “sensuality boutique” on Exchange Street.
“Even through the recession, or maybe because of it, we know for a fact that Portland is having a lot of fun,” she said. “No reason to be concerned; no reason for any performance anxieties.”
One possible legitimate reason for Portland’s poor showing on the list could be the long Maine winters, which leave just a short break for summer tourist season.
“In the winter in Maine, you’ve got to rip off maybe 14 layers of clothing to get to the man underneath, and then you get to the undergarments that have been drying out by the fire up to camp,” said Karen Morgan, a Maine-based comedian. “So by that time, people are too tired to have sex.”
As for the other factors Men’s Health considered, Morgan said, “Who needs sex toys when you’ve got coffee brandy?”
But when she heard that Hartford, Conn. (94), finished ahead of Portland, Morgan positively lost it.
“C’mon, who wants to have sex with an insurance guy? They should be below us. We’ve got fishermen and lobstermen and loggers and lots of manly men,” said Morgan. “Something had to be off.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]