In Boston, even Trivia players talk about it

by on May 12, 2009  •  In Culture

From the (still alive) Boston Globe

At the Savant Project in Mission Hill on a recent Sunday night, Boston seemed far from its Puritan City roots. The restaurant's co-owner Benjamin Kraines sat at one of his dining room tables with a stack of books that included "The Practical Encyclopedia of Sex and Health," "Sex in History," and porn star Ron Jeremy's autobiography. Next to Kraines was Megan Andelloux, a sex educator based in Rhode Island who goes by the name Oh Megan. Next to Andelloux was Maureen Hautaniemi, a Savant Project manager who helps run the bar's special events – including the popular Sex and Drugs Trivia night.

As the threesome made plans for Sex and Drugs-related activities, a Jamaica Plain couple waited to be asked questions about their private parts. "It will either be embarrassing or humiliating or both," said 32-year-old Matt Liebhold, who brought his girlfriend, Cathy Wirth, to play the game.

Kraines admits that when he started this sex-and-drugs-themed Sunday activity, he knew it was a risk. Boston is known for being prudish, and he runs a restaurant that aims to draw a clientele that can afford gourmet polenta and seared tuna. But as it turns out, people in Boston – even some of the highbrow foodies – like to talk about taboo topics in public. They want to learn about their bodies. They want to hear about various methods of birth control and STDs. Even when they're squeamish, they're riveted.

That's why Kraines started this Sunday-night game. There are plenty of trivia nights around Boston. There are wine dinners and tastings. But what about a safe space to giggle and talk about sex and drugs? Kraines liked the idea of smart, subversive nightlifers conversing about what goes on behind closed doors, free of judgments. Those easily offended should leave by 8 p.m.

Last summer, Mission Hill locals and friends of the staff were the only real Sex and Drugs takers. But soon enough, word spread, and now the regulars have to call ahead for tables. This past Sunday – Mother's Day – patrons began arriving for the trivia close to an hour ahead of the 8 p.m. start time. "We have to make a reservation," said Jack Romano, who's been coming to Sex and Drugs Trivia since day one.

Sex trivia works a lot like Stump Trivia! (the game run in most bars around town). Teams come up with creative names (most of which aren't fit to be printed in the Globe). There are some drug-related questions, but the hits are the sex stumpers. When Andelloux is present, which is the first Sunday of every month, the night is a learning experience. Oh Megan does demonstrations and gets deep into the uncomfortable topics. "It just kind of makes people wish they had another beer," explained regular Kate Ziegler, 23.

Andelloux doesn't preach, but on occasion she does force folks to consider the way they treat their partners and their own sexual health. She remembers asking customers at one trivia night to list nonverbal cues their female partners might use to indicate they were not enjoying themselves during a sexual activity. I asked her what she got for answers. "Not the right ones," she joked.

Kraines, Andelloux, and Hautaniemi will soon unveil plans for their summer Sex and Drugs birthday celebration. There will be more embarrassment. More unprintable topics discussed. You might think no one will be interested, but if the regular Sunday crowd is any indication, the line will be out the door.


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