What is a Smut Slam, and how does it work?
Simply put, it’s a community storytelling open-mic featuring real-life first-person sex stories. We draw out storytellers one slip at a time, as the night rolls on. There are judges and prizes and a chance to participate anonymously with the Fuckbucket (anonymous questions and confessions).
Why a Smut Slam works is a different question. Often it feels like it won’t work at all. There are moments at the beginnings of every Smut Slam, where the bucket for teller entry slips is rattling with only four slips, or two, or one. And the room is full of expectant eyes, all trained on me, waiting for the show to happen, which is my cue to step up to the microphone and say something like, “you people know that this is an open mic, right? You are the show.”
Over the five years of doing Smut Slams around North America and the UK, I have learned not to panic. I have learned to prepare my judges for the possibility of needing to tell a story, and I have learned that, for most of those nights, though the teller bucket may have nothing but tumbleweeds for the first 20 minutes, by the time the second or third story has been told, audience members are nudging each other and finally picking up the little pink slips, and you can feel it in the air, a sort of collective sigh of “oh! I can do that.” At intermission the telling bucket fills up a little bit, and no one needs to know that I was panicking.
As sometimes happens with my projects, Smut Slam started out being a promotional happening, to coincide with the world premiere of my play slut (r)evolution. But Smut Slam quickly became its own style of event, taking on a life of its own and driving off, not giving a single flying fuck that I had accomplished my original goals. People want it on its own merits. The Slams are more popular than my award-winning theatre shows. I don’t even take that personally anymore. It’s just the nature of theatre, so I just make sure to always schedule a Smut Slam before a theatrical run, and rely on one to subsidize the other.
The other thing, the important thing, about my projects is this… I create them because I want it in my own life, and I don’t have time to wait around for other people to create what I want. I do it my own damn self.
Before that first Smut Slam in Boston in 2011, I had started attending and telling at story slams in the region. Storytelling seemed like a good skill to develop for my performance toolbox, I thought, and it was.
But I always felt like the odd one out at those non-smutty slams. I found myself biting back the obscenities even though, from a narrative point of view, they would have been by far the best artistic choice for that particular story. I discarded many a good story for public telling because, even though organizers told me it was an adult event and that I could use whatever language I wanted, I could tell instinctively that wasn’t actually true.
The audiences at those non-smutty events were not the audience for the stories I wanted to tell at that time. I wanted space where those stories, my stories, would be honored as the important things that they were and could be. I also knew, or perhaps I just hoped really hard, that there were other people out there who wanted the same thing.
I have maintained for years that there is no room in our society, as it stands now, to talk honestly about sex. While this in itself is not disastrous on the same scale as the refugee crises or global climate change or authoritarian presidential candidates, it is one more way that we are killing ourselves. And finding a way to open up that space is one more way that we can save ourselves. If we don’t find community, we will perish alone. Actually and metaphorically, we cannot change the world by ourselves.
Smut Slams are a community of sorts. People laugh a lot at these slams, but they are also nodding their heads, and taking down notes, and grabbing tightly hold of their lover’s hands, or occasionally crying. Smut Slam is, above all, a place of honesty and connection. If we’re lucky, we have friends and lovers with whom we can share our authentic sex selves. But in general, that connection is so fucking rare. I wanted it, and I guessed that other people would want it, too.
So yeah, Smut Slams work because some people are voyeurs and some people are exhibitionists and many people do love a good awkward sex story, you know, we can all identify with feeling nervous and making the first move and not having anyplace to urgently fuck, and dogs and/or parents and/or the priest coming into the garage/room/confessional at the wrong moment.
But Smut Slams also work, because … there is no space for this sharing and connecting, anywhere else. There is no place quite like this, where we can tell a story, maybe something we’ve never told before, and we know that we are being heard.
Most of what I write is about this: making space for our sex lives to be heard. If you think that's important and you have the means, step up and become a patron of mine over on Patreon.