Photos have surfaced of a sex-toy ring toss game at a Florida gay pride festival over the weekend that was billed as "family friendly" and took place on public property, WWSB-TV reported.
The group in charge of the game told the station it was meant as a safe-sex discussion icebreaker.
The city of Venice — which is on the Gulf Coast about an hour south of St. Petersburg and is where the festival took place — responded on Twitter saying it's "very disappointed" and "did not approve the details of these activities."
What are the details?
The third annual Venice Pride Festival was held Saturday in Centennial Park, the station said, adding that soon after, photos were posted on Libs of TikTok showing "the CAN Community Health booth at the festival, which had a ring toss game incorporating the sex toys."
A Libs of TikTok Substack story about the event concluded with the following: "It started out with freedom to love whomever you wanted. 'Love is love.' Then it was more 'representation' and half-naked kink parades. Now, it’s drag queen story hour in elementary schools, kid drag shows, and dildo ring toss. We’re so far down the slippery slope. Are we finally allowed to call this grooming?"
What did the city of Venice have to say?
The city of Venice stated the following Tuesday in a series of tweets:
This past Saturday, the Venice Pride Festival was held in Centennial Park from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. This was not a city sponsored or hosted event. Rather, it was organized and hosted by Venice Pride Inc., which obtained a special event permit for it due to the use of public property.
This was the first time this event was conducted on city property. It was presented to the city as an event which would be suitable for all ages with an objective to "build collaboration around community."
The city was very disappointed to learn that some of the actual event activities did not align with the approved event description. The city of Venice was not informed of and did not approve the details of these activities.
The city has begun reviewing and updating its special event rules and conduct standards to ensure that all future special events are appropriate for the planned location and are conducted as presented in the special event permit application.
What did the group in charge of the sex-toy ring toss game have to say?
A spokesman for CAN Community Health — a nonprofit dedicated to the treatment, care, and wellness of people living with HIV — told WWSB the display was meant as an icebreaker to discuss safe sex practices.
Roger Capote, CAN’s vice president of marketing, added to the station that his organization did not know the event was being billed as “family friendly" — and had the group been aware of that, a different activity would have been used.
“We do apologize for any way that it was misconstrued,” Capote told WWBS. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of false accusations being made out in the community of what we were doing, but the activities we do provide and the services we provide are geared toward adults.”
Here's a clip from the fest. Note the sign in the top-right corner of the screen that reads, "Venice Pride 2022":
Public transgender entertainment for the kdis.youtu.be
Here's another clip showing more provocative dancing — and a child taking in the performance and intermittently playing with his toy truck. Adults are with him:
More pride dancing in a Venice, FL public parkyoutu.be
Another clip shows a bare-chested man in high heels sitting on a woman's lap and fondling her breasts, apparently in honor of her birthday.
CAN on Tuesday released a statement saying it "does not provide medical care to minors under 18 years old without parental consent. Our events and our activities are never advertised as children’s events and are used as ice-breakers to destigmatize our employees’ specialized and very sensitive conversations with community members.”
'Fun and a little bit more open-minded'
Capote added to WWSB that CAN is reevaluating activities for future pride events: “We want to make sure individuals feel comfortable enough to go ahead and break the ice with a funny activity. That’s exactly what the activity was geared toward, to kind of be light-hearted, at a pride event where it is supposed to be fun and a little bit more open-minded.”
Nancy Wilson, a board member of Venice Pride — which organized the festival — told the station the festival itself was a success.
“We’re so excited to provide a community and family-friendly atmosphere for people to celebrate the diversity that is our community," Wilson noted to WWSB. "We had performers, churches, and groups. It was an enjoyable and amazing experience."
Wilson also told the station the city hadn't communicated to Venice Pride about its concerns: “We’d like to unpack that. There may be some misunderstandings. It’s important for us and the city to talk through what was in our program, how it lines up with pride events all over the state. People spread misinformation. We need to be sure we’re communicating clearly.”