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Behind the Smut Slam guidelines

SMUT SLAM NYC: Hard, at the Three of Cups, 11/29/16. Photo by Ed Barnas.

Every Smut Slam, everywhere around the world, starts with the host reading a list of guidelines. For most audience members, this will be the first time that they will have heard these guidelines, and, depending on where we’re doing the Smut Slam, some folks may not have even had any exposure to some of the things that the guidelines talk about. With that in mind, I offer you this point-by-point explanation of the Rules of Smut Slam.

No notes. Reading from notes pulls most readers away from making audience connection. And hearing something read out loud is just not as interesting to us as hearing someone dig deep and find the right words for what they are trying to say.

No costumes or props. Smut Slam is about the story, not the production value.

Only five minutes (with a one-minute grace period). Yes, we have timekeepers, and yo, stop pretending that you can’t see them when they’re waving their big glowy smartphones at you from the front row.

The story must be real and have happened to you. We want to hear about it from your point of view, situated inside the story. Anything else is being done for comedy.

Consent is key. Smut Slam stories must be about consensual sex. (If it’s not consensual, then it’s not sex.) If you aren’t sure if an experience was consensual, then err on the safe side and don’t tell us about it. (Maybe it is something to work out a trained therapist, and that is not snark.)

This is not a “kinkier than thou” competition. No one gets bonus points for having lots of people in their sex scene, or extra rigging or whatever. I added this to the guidelines after someone pointed out to me that, if the host didn’t take the time to specifically acknowledge stories involving different types and amounts of sex, then people with less experience or less kink might feel left out of an event that sometimes seemed to celebrate mostly threesomes and floggers. For this reason, also, I began diversifying my own range of sex stories, so that I could set our entry point accessibly wide.

Nor is it a comedy competition. Even trained, professional comedians can lose track of the narrative when they start going for the laughs.

You don’t always have to be the hero. Sometimes it’s okay to brag. Some sexual experiences are definitely brag-worthy! But there are other experiences, too—poignant, sad, confusing, AWKWARD—and we want to make room for all of that at Smut Slam.

IMPORTANT: Smut Slam is queer-friendly, kink- AND vanilla-friendly, fat-friendly, virgin-friendly, poly-friendly, sex-worker-friendly... we're really, really friendly. We welcome people with all types and amounts of sexual experiences. There we go, the summary. (Pro tip on "sex-worker-friendly": unless you're a sex worker yourself, any story involving the use of the word "hooker" is Not On.)

We DO NOT welcome stories involving racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or any other kind of discrimination, objectification, or fetishization. This bit is most often where tellers trip up. Sometimes they talk about a particular race or gender in a trophy sort of way: “I’ve never had sex with a black person” or “I’ve always wanted to have sex with a trans woman”. Occasionally someone will bring up someone’s race repeatedly, when it has nothing to do with the story; we've also heard that whole “surprise trans” narrative, which is a horrible reminder about what often precedes a transphobic assault, IT'S HORRIBLE, DON’T BRING THAT NARRATIVE TO SMUT SLAM. Again, we ask our tellers to think about the real story they want to tell. If something comes up that goes against this particular portion of the guidelines, it's not a catastrophe: we 'll just have a gentle conversation from the mic afterward, not to scold or shame, but to reaffirm our intent to create an inclusive, welcoming space.

There are even a few guidelines for the audience!

No interrupting. Smut Slams can feel so intimate that I understand the urge to start conversations with the teller in the middle of a story, but hold onto that until intermission: the person at the mic is the one who gets to talk. I have had judges violate this rule, GAH. (Only once.)

No heckling. Supportive hoots and hollering are fine, in moderation. Remember, the teller is being timed! Save your biggest displays of approval for the end.

No necking in the front row. We can SEE you, and it’s distracting!

Finally, and most importantly: What happens in Smut Slam stays in Smut Slam. If it’s not your story, it’s not your story to tell. This makes Smut Slam open mics really difficult to review—even journalists must abide—and it makes it hard for audience members to go back and tell their friends how awesome it was, because they can’t really give any examples of stories, other than their own. Tough.

Smut Slams must remain safer places than the world outside the doors. We must be able to control our own stories, and where they go.

*****

Between Smut Slam and my sex-aware theatre, I've got my hands full and sometimes I struggle. You can smooth my way a little by becoming a patron of mine over on Patreon, and demonstrating your love for the intimate, challenging, necessary work that I do.

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