50 Shades of Minnesota: 50 reasons why Minnesota is sexy

Jean Bardot's Fetish Ball 2011
Jean Bardot's Fetish Ball 2011

E.L. James is coming to town on Thursday. Don't know who she is? Well, 1,343 people are currently requesting her first book, 50 Shades of Grey, in the Hennepin County Public Library system (and that's not including 393 requests for the audiobook). Back in May, the Times gave us national attention when it reported 2,121 requests in the system, a number the paper called "more holds than anyone can remember on a single title."

So, Hennepin County readers like their BDSM literotica. Which could be why James, the breakout British author behind Grey and the other two books that round out its trilogy, included the Edina Barnes & Noble on a mini-tour of six U.S. cities this month. (Her other stops: Houston, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles).

Feverish fans can start lining up at 9 a.m. on Thursday in order to ensure a wristband to James's 7 p.m. signing, and stay tuned to see how many desperate housewives of Edina storm the bookstore (the trilogy's main readership is married women over 30). But while we wait for the queen of "Mommy Porn," there are plenty of places in our state that would put Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, the star couple in the 50 Shades series, to... if not shame, than at least to greater pleasure.

Here's our list of the 50 sexiest things about Minnesota. Think we missed something? Please tell us in the comments. Sexiness is worth sharing.

See also:
- "Fifty Shades of Grey" most popular book in Hennepin libraries, banned in Fond du Lac
- 50 Reasons Minnesota is the best state in America
- 50 Fun Things to Do in Minnesota
- 50 Reasons to love Minneapolis/St. Paul

50. Cheap date nights at Bryant-Lake Bowl and Red Stag

49. KDWB's annual ladies-only booty cruise features male strippers and everyone's favorite radio personality, Dave Ryan. Fights have been known to break out as the booze-fueled boat floats down the St. Croix River.

48. Get your aphrodisiac fix with Oyster Happy Hour at Stella's.

47. Local designer Samantha Rei's Lolita-inspired fashions.

46. The U studies sex. Thanks to the researchers at our major public university, we know that ovulating women buy sexier clothes and that young women get more vain during recessions. Gotta attract mates somehow.

45. Joan Vorderbruggen's handmade clothing line, Lollycopter, is part vintage, part green, and all feminine. The designs include up-cycled slips embellished with everything from
crystals to beading to satin bows. Plus, Vorderbruggen works on the award-winning window displays at sex shop Smitten Kitten (see: #5). There's also the answer she gave when interviewed for our 100 Creatives series:

You are stuck on a desert island. However, for reasons too complicated to explain, you are allowed to pack a suitcase first. What clothing items do you pack?

"I'd... bring a soft, cotton, sequined sari that I could wear as a dress, skirt, or as a shimmering headdress as I run naked in the night; a burqa to keep me cool and prevent my skin from burning; and a USA flag string bikini for when I'm feeling downright nasty!"

Opening night at the Playful Peacock Showgirl Academy (#13).
Opening night at the Playful Peacock Showgirl Academy (#13).

44. Sometimes sexy doesn't come from hiding away in private, and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the perfect place to practice that public make-out sesh anytime of year.

43. Lindsey Vonn. Our star local skier swapped winter sports gear for bikinis when she modeled for Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue in 2010. This year, she was still the most-searched Olympian on Yahoo!

42. When you're talking yourself into approaching that interesting stranger across the bar, you can get your liquid courage from locally brewed beer, including Surly Furious, the best IPA around. And that local beer industry: Bucking stereotypes, Minnesota women are active in it. Gender equality, sexy!

B Fresh Photography
Professional dominatrix Sharina Nicole of the Dungeon Femme Fatale with client at the Fetish Ball.

41. The Kissing Room at the Local

on Nicollet Mall. Per the bar's website, this back room "was a broom closet until ideas were exchanged to the contrary." Now, it offers two dim red lamps and a comfortable couch for whiskey-drunk strangers (or private parties).

40. Michele Bachmann. Politics are subjective, but you know what's objective? Beauty rankings. D.C. newspaper The Hill named Bachmann the country's most beautiful elected official in the 2012 edition of its annual list.

39. Jean Bardot's Fetish Ball.
38. Bike Smut. The sixth year of this "film festival of radical pleasure" will be in Minneapolis September 22. According to the fest's website, it's "specially designed to provide you the tools to meet, converse, and potentially reach orgasm with bikers in your area." What more could could a sexy cycling film fan ask for? Well, before the screening, there will also be a clothing-optional ride from the Smitten Kitten to the Bedlam Theater.

37. Doing your Valentine's Day gift shopping at a gas station.

36. In April 2009, police busted an Asian massage parlor in Eden Prairie for alleged prostitution. The place was taking out ads that read:

"Men are from Mars!
Women are from Venus,
We understand that sometimes,
It's all about the Penis!"

But there's NO UNHAPPY ENDINGS here,
Because we don't do anything wrong.
We will stroke your ego,
Not your ding dong."

And the poem keeps going.

35. The U's National Public Health Week Film Festival. This fest, which wrapped up its eighth year in April, usually features a sex documentary as well as, on the last day of the event, vintage sex-ed films. This year's lineup included We Were Here, a film about GLBTQ perspectives on AIDS, and Orgasm, Inc. Mark your calendars for spring.

Andrew Saxum Photography
Pink Bow City designs.

34. Pink Bow City's pinup fashions

. Handmade vintage-style designs, all right out of the glory days of pinup. Think polka dots and curves. The line just launched in April, and gets its name from "the iconic symbol of femininity,"


founder/owner Keona Tranby. "Pink Bow City is all about women empowerment. All of my designers are women... and I love meeting ambitious women." 

33. Vikings cheerleaders in their purple
and gold uniforms are enough to spice up any halftime show at the Metrodome.

32. And you know what? The Lynx are, too. Sure, there are plenty of cute male athletes on our teams, but every city has those. Not everyone has a bunch of fit, strong, gold-medal-and-WNBA-champ-winning women.

31. Marvel Bar's dark, speakeasy-vibe will have you in a tizzy if the fantastic drinks don't already. With intimate booths, mood lighting, and an incredible drink selection, getting hot and bothered is only a few sips away. 

30. Leave it to a kid from Minnesota to ask some 600 porn stars to his high school prom. Maybe he thought life could imitate art a la The Girl Next Door. After hundreds of rejections, he finally got a yes from Megan Piper.

29. Minnesota is home to the largest Renaissance Festival in the United States with almost 300,000 people getting up close and personal with mead, turkey legs, and cosplay. It goes without saying that there are more than a few fair maidens and saucy wenches on hand at this annual celebration.

28. Thursdays at Ground Zero mean it's Bondage A-Go-Go. Want to goth it up and dance in dark corners? Got it. Want to pull out that leather-wear you've been dying to try out? Want to watch a first-rate bondage show onstage? Got it. Want to participate in that stage action? For a small price, you can get in on those cracking whips and paddles, too.

27. Josh Hartnett.

B Fresh Photography
Free Range Silicone's psychedelic toys

Sure, there's free-range eggs and

chickens, but did you know that we're home to

Free Range Silicone


The locally-operated company specializes in

silicone sex toys

for just about any adult needs and desires.

25. Some people are afraid of heights, but
frankly, falling for someone is a little like vertigo anyways. The best place to mix those two feelings is at Prohibition at the W Hotel. Found on the 27th story, it has dark corners and strong drinks for a little liquid courage while trying to woo someone in style.

24. 10,000+ lakes = 10,000+ places to skinny dip.

23. Bob Dylan."Lay Lady Lay..."

22. On Men's Health Magazine's list of Hotbeds of Sex, Minnesota got double marks. Minneapolis came in at an even 50, but St. Paul proved it's a little sexier with a rank of 35. 

21. Our top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities. There's that old saying about the way
to a man's heart being through his stomach, but we think there's a path
to everyone's hearts -- and maybe sheets -- through some dim lighting,
choice scenery, and incredible food. 

20. The annual Zombie Pub Crawl levels the playing field. As Patrick Strait writes in his column "The Wet Spot": "No matter who you are, what you look like, how much personality you have, or how many one-armed push-ups you can do in a minute (36), this is
one night where anyone can turn an innocent costumed drinking event
into a hotbed of zombie erotica." And a zombie costume looks even better
(read: weirder) when you're doing the walk of shame (/fame) the next morning.

19. Before Diablo Cody was an Academy
Award-winning screenwriter, she was working here at City Pages and writing a book chronicling her days as a stripper in Minnesota. Flip through the pages of Candy Girl and you'll find that you can easily go on a tour of all the strip clubs
where Cody shook her moneymaker. 

18. Cirque du SoGay. On October 6, the Queer Bike Gang is staging its fourth annual bike tour of, per its website, "the hottest Queer establishments in the Twin Cities." It's a laid-back alleycat that connects LGBTQ riders to the community, and vice versa. This year's ride is launching from the Minnesota AIDS Project and landing at Intermedia Arts. There are two different routes to choose from, the Harder! Faster! and the Virgin. Riders will be awarded prizes not only for speed, but using "RuPaul's rubric of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent." And, of course, for sexy costumes.

17. Shower Night at the Saloon. Every Sunday, our city's finest battle in an "erotic, aquatic clash." Want more? We'll just say it involves fully naked dudes bathing in front of bar patrons in plastic shower stalls on the dance floor.

16. With kinky pros like Lady Lin about town, there's no end to the possibilities of learning about safe rope and fire-play in the bedroom. Our NSFW slideshow looks at Shibari and fire play.

15. Cabaret. To name a few:  Lili's Burlesque Revue and their popular Best of the Midwest Burlesk Festival, Le Cirque Rouge, and Wheel Sexy Cabaret, a group that "celebrates the diverse cycling body" through performances at different events.

Emma Freeman Photography
Midwest Burlesk: Keeping you hot when it's cold.
14. Black Hearts Burlesque

gets its own number for frequently performing on the bowling lanes at Memory Lanes. Check out all the tasteful sexiness in

our slideshow

of the troupe's We're All Going to Hell show.

13. Get in on all the burlesque action yourself with a class at the Playful Peacock Showgirl Academy, the Twin Cities' one and only burlesque school.With courses that help even the most rhythmically-challenged twirl tassels expertly to classes that perfect the art of performing for an audience, the ladies at the Playful Peacock know how to make their students hot for teacher. Even better, they sometimes put on public performances.

12. Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. Here you'll find more burlesque performers, but also contortionists, belly dancers, aerialists, bikini babes, and other locals playing muse for an afternoon and posing for area artists -- amateur or professional. The drawers, painters, sculptors, and other Dr. Sketchy participants gather at the 331 Club the fourth Sunday of every month to drink beer, check out the models, and work on their craft. Take a look at the scene and the results.

Sharp Curves Ahead: An artist draws Le Cirque Rouge's Queenie Von Curves at a Dr. Sketchy's event in February.
Sharp Curves Ahead: An artist draws Le Cirque Rouge's Queenie Von Curves at a Dr. Sketchy's event in February.

11. Strip clubs. Strip clubs aren't always sexy, but 50 Shades isn't exactly our cup of tea though it's clearly it's doing something for people. As Patrick Strait wrote back in April, assessing the Twin Cities strip scene, "No matter what your opinion is on what goes on inside, chances are at some point during your life you will step foot inside of a strip club. And while some people have a less appealing experience than others (e.g. too many pregnant strippers, not enough pregnant strippers), strip clubs are all magical places full of mystery, wonder, and in some cases, hot dogs. Fortunately for us," he continues, "the Twin Cities has tons of great strip clubs perfect for connoisseurs of all tastes and experience levels. That also means there is a lot of garbage."

Patrick's top 5: The Seville Club (upscale, boozy, and a clientele of "non-creepy bros"), Sinners (attached to Sex World and boasting fully nude dancers), the King of Diamonds (outside the city, so offers both full nudity and a full bar), and Rick's Cabaret (lunch specials). In Patrick's words, "Every person should experience that awesome feeling at least once in his or her life of leaving a strip club at 12:30 p.m. on a workday smelling like garlic mashed potatoes and perfume. We call it 'The Aroma of Winners.'" 

10. Strip clubs with free hot dogs. You may notice that the above "top 5" is only four. That's because Déjà Vu gets its own spot on the list. While there's nothing to drink, there is, however, a free hot dog bar. "Every Friday and Saturday night at midnight, hungry club-goers are invited to jam themselves full of delicious hot dogs while enjoying the show," writes Patrick. There's a chance that said hot dogs could also be gross. But: "Your same-day sporting event ticket stub will get you in free." Sex and savings!

9. Sex scandals. Not always sexy but, you know, sex, and we've had a lot of these. The scandal of the summer has been Rep. Kerry Gauthier soliciting oral sex from a teen on Craigslist. But a personal favorite scandal goes back to 2006, when the father of then-Senator Norm Coleman was "busted boning a 38-year-old woman in a car outside of a pizza place in St. Paul and arrested for lewd and disorderly conduct." Coleman Sr. was 81 at the time. (See also: Senator Coleman's wife's racy photos in the Washington Post in 2004, "to promote her acting career").

ThirteenofClubs | Flickr
No pants here.

8. Pants-free events.

There's the annual naughty Independence Day bike ride,

Freedom From Pants

, through downtown Minneapolis. And there's the

No Pants Light Rail Ride

. What's up next up? Pants-less paragliding?

7. Gay 90's. Everyone's favorite downtown danceteria for decades features both male and female go-go dancers, nightly drag shows, and six unique bars. It's also the distinguished training ground for several top contestants of RuPaul's Drag Race, including season one winner Bebe Zahara Benet and season two runner-up Manila Luzon. To further credit these elite ladies, turn to Patrick Strait, who ventured into the 90's for his first time for the 31st annual Miss Gay 90's Drag Pageant. "I've gotten lap dances from strippers who were (allegedly) real ladies, that were way less hot than some of the evening's performers," he writes.

6. One of our U.S. senators once wrote for Playboy. Back in 2000, before he was representing Minnesota's interests to the nation, Al Franken wrote a short story titled "Porn-O-Rama!" for Playboy, about a visit to a virtual sex institute. Excerpt: "My nervousness disappeared, and I sat back and enjoyed the amazingly realistic cyber job. It was every bit as good as the last real blow job I had gotten 23 years earlier -- if not better -- because when I shot my wad, the virtual mouth swallowed." Can't you imagine him and Bachmann talking about their favorite porn?

5. The Smitten Kitten. Our perennial favorite sex store opened its feminist and LGBTQ-friendly doors in 2003. The shop focuses on non-toxic toys and ethically-produced erotica, but also boasts an extensive porn collection for rental or purchase and hosts classes, workshops, talks, and films year-round. Plus, the staff is knowledgeable and welcoming (owner Jennifer Pritchett is a frequent guest expert in Dan Savage's "Savage Love" column). Need more proof the shop is great? Money talks: Per the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, sales from the Lyndale Avenue shop topped $1 million in 2008. Check out the Kitten's video explaining the "Best Butt Plug to Wear to the Grocery Store" here, and our intro video to the store here.

4. Sex World. Sex World is like Costco to the Smitten Kitten's Wedge Co-op: The latter might give you hand-picked, quality products, but Sex World has it all. Our local porn palace (really,

Patrick Strait
The Big One.

it's the largest adult superstore in the Midwest) offers thousands of porn titles -- plus

booths to view them in

-- and all the toys and costumes you need to... do whatever you have to do. But that's not the only reason, or the real reason, to go: Sex World's a

rite of passage

, and, as we wrote in our 2009 Best Adult Store blurb, an "

entertainment experience

," complete with the golden penis ride and the Dollhouse's live girls. You know what the internet porn industry can't give you? "The dubious pleasure of walking into a massive porn emporium, filled with an endless variety of tacky sensual delights, from corn-syrup-based Spanish Fly to creepy little booths that play multiple channels of looped porn --

as long as you keep feeding it quarters


3. Hidden Beach.

This lakeside hangout, long a refuge for nudists and topless sunbathers, has been winning Best Beach in our annual awards for years, and its legend got the

full feature treatment

on a June 2008 cover. "The Twin Cities' most infamous party spot" may not be so hidden anymore -- as we wrote in


, "these days, young families seem to outnumber the aging hippies." But: "The vibe remains. Thank god the vibe remains."

2. Prince. For teaching so many of us how to dance, or inspiring us to try. And for topping many a hook-up playlist.

1. Minnesotans. Prince may be in his own mood-inducing league, but the rest of the state's residents can also bring a thing or two to the table or, er, bedroom: We're not miserable, we're fit, we're bikers, we're gay-friendly. And we'll be looking good as we get older, too. What's not sexy about that?

With help from Tatiana Craine and Jessica Armbruster.

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