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Archive for sexploreum

From the Fuckbucket: “How Deep Is Too Deep?”

Welcome to "From the Fuckbucket," my newest experiment in blog subseries, in which I respond more fully to anonymous questions deposited in the Fuckbucket at Smut Slams.

Fuckbucket questions always lack context, but they’re normally a little more specific than this week's: "How deep is too deep?" I could have answered a question about whether women can orgasm from anal sex, but no. I gave my Facebook family a chance to choose between those two questions, and they chose the one that is practically philosophical. <deep breath> So. Here goes:

It’s too deep when you’ve lost your grip on it.

It’s too deep when you have to go to the hospital to get it back.

It’s too deep when you weren’t prepared for how vulnerable you might feel talking with this person about your first love, and you need a few seconds staring in your too-strong party drink to swallow back your tears.

It’s too deep when you feel something pop that doesn’t normally.

It’s too deep when the pressure gauge says it is, and yes, I know you want to go swimming after that beautiful octopus and the water is warm and you’re feeling fine after 30 years of work, here on your first post-retirement vacation, you just want to go for it, I know, but the dive instructor is swimming after you now, so trust me, it’s too deep.

It could be too deep when you go too fast, when you just plunge in with whatever, your cock or your finger or that snazzy new penetrative sex toy, you just go in, even with lube, odds are good that it’s too deep.

It’s too deep when you draw blood and didn’t mean to.

It’s too deep when you can’t see the bottom of the lake and you don’t know how to swim.

It’s too deep when you can see the bottom of the lake and you’re getting dizzy from it.

It’s pretty damn deep, if you feel like you might pass out from how awesome it is, but you don’t because you can lay your head down on someone else’s body and get some grounding before you carry on with the party. Stop before someone passes out, because that’s too deep.

It’s too deep when you put the fencepost in and it’s only sticking out of the ground, like, 14 inches. Put some of that dirt back in, you’re never going to keep the neighbor's sheep out of your yard like that.

It’s too deep when one standard recipe of pie crust, rolled out to the correct thickness, doesn’t line it all the way. You can probably patch it with scraps, but you might have some problems with cooking the filling all the way through. I recommend that you talk to your neighbour and maybe borrow their pie pan, because yours is too deep.

It’s too deep when everyone else’s eyes glaze over. I mean, it’s too deep for them, because they’re all pretty drunk. It’s not too deep, generally. Don’t worry about it, hon, you’ll find a man who can keep up. Maybe we should stop going to bars to look for boyfriends.

It’s too deep when the person you’re trying it with says your mutually agreed-upon safe word, when they say stop, when they say no, when they say, WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT STOP STOP STOP.

If you want to go deep, but not too deep, go slow. Check your progress frequently. Check in with anyone else involved. Edge in, or get someone who’s already done it to tell you enough that you feel safe. There is no shame in not doing something because you’re scared. Going too deep can be painful, weird, awkward, time-consuming, and in a few cases and depending on what you’re doing, fatal.

Going deep, though, that can be amazing.

*****

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Trying to become more “sex aware”

I’ve been on the sex-positive train for a long time, as a writer, performer, and sometimes-educator. People out in the world seemed quite happy and ready to pin that tag on me when describing a Smut Slam, for example, and when I looked over my own past, specifically the stuff that had made it into my autobiographical plays, “sex-positive” seemed about right, in an almost literal way. I had emerged from a religiously repressive upbringing, done a lot of exploring, and found that good sex was important and made me happy. Sex? Positive.

That all started to change when I was driving back from a Smut Slam with my lover last spring. It was the first time he had seen a slam—he had cheerfully agreed to be timekeeper for the evening, so he was right at the front, right in the thick of it—and I was eager to hear what he thought of this, one of my cherished artistic babies.

“It was wonderful,” he said, “but I felt left out. Everyone was talking about how good they were, or how many people were at the orgy. I didn’t feel like there was room for less experience, or unhappy endings.”

I wanted to protest, to argue the point, to defend the Smut Slam culture that I had unconsciously been cultivating. In this sex-negative world, those who flock to Smut Slams are drawn to spaces where we can luxuriate in our triumphs and abundance and sexual joy. But I sat with what he had said, and realized the truth pretty quickly: there is more to sex than that. The stories and truths that sex digs up can be infinitely more complicated, more diverse, more broad-ranging than simply a joyful romp. Hell, even a joyful romp will have some crumbs in it.

I needed to make room in my work for all of it.

Somewhere around that time, I arrived at the phrase “sex-aware” as a way to describe the way I wanted my work to be. I don’t know if I read the phrase somewhere, or if I just coined it, but as soon as I began writing it, I could feel the space, not just for the atmosphere that I was trying to create at the Smut Slams, but also for my own dramatic works as well.

My fourth and fifth plays—The Pretty One and nerdfucker—are not autobiographical, and they don’t deal much with the happy sexy fun-times. Some of it is harsh; in nerdfucker, for example, sex mostly just hovers in the background as a unspoken motivator in my character’s often bad decision-making. The sex in these plays represents a whole range of experiences.

The only thing I can say is, the sex is there. I don’t want my audience to look away from it, however it manifests. Nor do I want them to imagine that the work is only about sex. It’s just there, as another experience that can change things or not. It’s not on a pedestal, nor dragged through the gutter. Rather, it could be, in a specific instance or story or memory or action. But generally, sex just is. It is there for many people, and I want my audience to be at least somewhat alert to its influence on relationships, on self, and in society as a whole.

Hence “sex-aware” as the descriptor I want to claim for all the work that I do. It leaves room for a richer exploration of different types and amounts of sexual experience, and it also leaves room for my work to not always explicitly center sex in the action.

Audiences and reviewers still call my stuff “sex-positive,” and I’ll take it, because I think I know what they mean and it's fine. But I'm finding more to strive for as an artist doing sex-aware work.

When I make room for all the kinds of sex, and/or when I don't make it the subject of some kind of Odyssean quest, there's so much more room for life.

*****

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“Did you get the invitation?” and other Fringe-season faux pas

I’m finally getting to the point where I know other artists in my stop-over cities, and by “know” I mean they’ve been a Smut Slam judge or I appeared in one of their gigs and at the very least we’re friends on Facebook. It’s also coming up on Fringe touring season, has been for a month already, actually. This means that the steady trickle of event invitations on FB is starting to become a stream, and when Brighton Fringe hits in three weeks, we’ll all be drowning in the stressful convergence of two vast rivers of theatrical output and social expectations.

In the interest of managing expectations, avoiding hurt feelings, and generally being transparent about how I integrate the arts with my personal network, I would like to share my personal etiquette around EVENT INVITATIONS.

When I have an event…

I will invite you, if you’re in the area. This invitation carries no expectations with it at all. You can decline, mark “interested”, mark “attending” and then not attend, or show up and that’s okay.

If we are friends and I know that you’ve seen my work, I may drop you a private message and ask you to share with your people in the area. I try to ask selectively, making sure that we’re in the same wheelhouse, you know, you’re not a kids’ clown or choral singer.

If we are really good friends and we’ve talked about my show or event before, I may drop you a private message and ask you to come to opening night for moral support, or whatever, and I will offer you a comp. But I will not take it personally if you can’t.

If we are reasonably well acquainted and I know you have an event going on too sometime soon, I may suggest a comp swap. I firmly believe that artists are not each other’s target demographic, and I don’t expect other artists to buy tickets to my shows. We are all broke. I do not expect comps—so please feel free to turn me down!—but I appreciate them.

If I ask to swap comps with you, and you agree, I will make every effort to attend. If you ask to swap comps with me, there is a possibility I may not be able to attend your show. Whoever initiates the comp swap convo needs to be really committed to coming.

When you have an event …

I do read the event listing. I am very assiduous in my attention to invites that come in through Facebook. I will mark “interested” if I’m interested, and will only mark “attending” if I am really planning to attend OR if it’s part of a festival-wide campaign to attend each other’s events and boost the FB algorithm.

If you direct message me with an invite that does not mention a comp, I will politely decline. I may have had other valid reasons, but the sales pitch is one of them. (See the bit about not being each other’s target demographic.)

If you really want me to attend for some particular reason, DM with that comp offer and explain that you really want me there.

I only recommend shows that I have seen, if not the actual show, then something by the performer. Keep that in mind when you’re asking me to promote your show. I’ll need to see it or you in action first.

Out on the Fringe…

I will never knowingly flyer another artist, with the purpose of getting them to buy a ticket to my show. (I may hand them a flyer as a sort of business card, though, if they ask for one.) If I find out mid-pitch that you are a fellow fringe artist, I will hurriedly take my flyer back and apologize, saying something like “let’s save our paper for the punters.” You are welcome to keep an accidentally bestowed flyer if you like it, or you really want a reminder, but please don’t then favour-shark me into taking one of yours. I don’t want it. Tell me the name of your show, and if I want to know more, I will ask. I expect the same in return.

In person…

If I ask, “have you seen my show?” it is NEVER meant as pressure to see it. Usually that is me trying to either avoid spoilers OR figuring out what background information you need, if we are talking about our shows or audience responses or whatever.

In general…

My hierarchy of interest, separate from any personally connection I may have to anyone involved in the show is as follows:

Solo theatre > storytelling > variety shows with a strong MC > everything else

Fringe festivals are and have always been my chance to study up on my craft informally. I want to see shows that are close to my wheelhouse first. These are my classrooms.

AND

I have given myself permission to not see any shows at festivals, if that’s what I need to stay balanced. My fellow EdFringers know what it is to run a show back to back to fucking back, for a few weeks at a time; even smaller festivals and shorter runs can take their toll. We all have promo to do, and I personally can’t really see a show for two hours before I’m on or for one hour afterward.

Take into account recovering from travels, getting some groceries in, and trying to get some sleep, and you can see that sometimes… we run out of time. That has to be okay: show first, self-care second, then everything else.

*****

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My truth is a weapon, and it cuts both ways

I have spent the last eight years peeling my life open for public scrutiny, through my blogging and the plays and the Smut Slam and the Facebooking… you’d think I’d have no boundaries left, if I had any to begin with.

You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. I’m finding boundaries I didn’t even know existed, thanks to my efforts at relocating to the UK. People who are stuck in the visa and immigration pipeline don’t get to keep boundaries, not in the UK, certainly, and nowhere in the world. You learn right away to set those aside, because you have to answer those questions and you cannot hedge or hesitate.

I keep thinking this shouldn't be a problem for me; I strive for transparency and honesty in my work and personal life. A lot of what I’m doing is building a bridge out in front of me, hacking through the underbrush and not knowing where that path goes. But being honest about not knowing, being real about not having my ducks in a row, that is not the kind of honesty that wins me friends at the borders to countries. They want to know my path, and they will push me right out onto it, onto some path, even if I’m not ready.

They precipitate decisions, these moments in the queue at the airport, and when I still don’t have clarity and still manage to get through, I am left trembling in front of the baggage conveyor, wondering what I am doing with my life.

How did I end up here being lectured by someone whose uniform includes a jumper with epaulets, who in spite of that still has the arbitrary right—which they reminded me of at least seven times during a 20-minute conversation—to restrict my global movement, event though my paperwork matches up?

I guess that’s what makes these people perfect border guards: they see staying-in-placeness as a thing to strive for. They question fluidity and shifting and change. They don’t understand how I could have been married and still fallen in love with someone else (don’t even try talking about polyamory), or if they do understand, they call it something else with a sleazy, disbelieving sneer. They don’t really believe that I make enough on my theatre and emceeing to get by over here; “that’s not a real job,” I can see it in their eyes.

Most challenging of all, in terms of my path, is that they don’t believe that it’s possible to have more than one purpose in being in a place; my being in the UK is suspect because I dare to both have professional ambition AND the love of my life here. I must be using the first to avoid going the marriage-visa route. I am skirting the spirit of law, they said as much, and I have to stand there and flush hot under their scrutiny.

I told them about UK Muse because one doesn’t lie at the border, and I thought for one wild minute, maybe radical honesty is the way through. Yes, I want to be with him, and yes, I am working toward that. At the same time, yes, I want to make it with my performance work, here in the UK, where it’s actually possible. But this transparency of dual purpose becomes a weapon in their hands, and now I am left thinking, why is this not enough for you people? I am bringing you the best I have to offer. I am bringing you whatever skills and passion I have for the work that I do and the life that I live.

I am telling the truth, the whole truth, but it’s messy. Sorry, visa and immigration folks—and you might be reading this—but at this stage in my life there’s no way of making this tidier. My life and my love are sprawling and grand, and there are always going to be some glorious bits that end up straying outside the box.

*****

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SMUT STAND REPORT: April 9, 2017 (Berlin)

WHEN: 4 hours (1-5pm), April 9, 2017. WHERE: Mauerpark, Berlin. OUTPUT: two full-length pieces, including a deliciously wet sit-and-spin session (with a focus on the ass) and a summer afternoon of semi-public pussy eating with the smells of sausage on the barbecue in the background.

I wanted Berlin to go better than this, on my first time out with the Smut Stand here. Better = more stories, more interactions, more money (more people buying me drinks 😀 ). I have long held the idea that Berliners, in general, are massive perverts, and every person I’ve met here who has lived here for a while has disabused me of that notion.

However, this city is no different from any other: the spot has to be right. Multiple people suggest Mauerpark, a big park next to a weekend “fleamarket.” I thought sure, if that’s the only time the weather is going to be good while I’m here, but I better try it.

Well. On a sunny Sunday afternoon the foot traffic is certainly there, but as a friend of mine tentatively pointed out, a lot of people go there because they know they can get in an afternoon of cheap entertainment, e.g. people watching, drinking, and haggling over mass-produced picture frames. “You might want to operate on a sliding scale,” my friend suggested. I don’t think so, I replied to the text message, and spent my subway ride to the park fuming about cheap-ass trust-fund-baby hitchhikers.

(I stopped offering sliding scale to the general public several years ago. The spaces where the Smut Stand operates are not conducive to honesty in self-pricing, and I value my labour too much. I don’t do this to be cute, I do it to earn money, and I know what my work is worth.)

The further problem with daytime Smutting is that I must be in the shade. At night this is not a problem—instead I’m looking for good lighting during those times—but even a partly cloudy afternoon, even with decent sunblock, can leave me a little crispy fried. In this park, there simply was no place where I could take advantage of the stream of sausage grillers and sun-worshippers, be in the shade, AND STILL have my back against a wall.

So I set up on the grass underneath a partially leafed tree, everything at the Smut Stand borrowed, right down to the typewriter and the tape I used to attach the usual signage to the table. (Big thanks to Marc from Sticky Biscuits for lugging the Smut Stand gear out, and to Liliana for letting me use her typewriter.)

And then I waited. Typed a piece or two, to continue getting used to the typewriter. To be honest, that was the most frustrating part of typing yesterday, as the typewriter had several keys that stuck. Also, the z and the y were switched on this German/Czech? Keyboard. All of that slowed my typing speed down considerably.

I persevered, though, and eventually got two customers, neither of whom boggled at the (I thought reasonable) price, and both being strangely vanilla for Berlin. The older Irish expat in particular was just entranced by the whole process, and sat right down on the grass in his pinstriped suit and smoked a cigarette while answering the interview questions.

 

It could have been really lonely out there for me, but one of Sticky Biscuit’s friend circle, whom I had met at my show of Phone Whore here last Saturday, she came out to visit for a couple of hours, and even brought a cup of coffee like I begged someone to do on the event page.

(Yes, I put up an event page for the Sidewalk Smut, after Marc suggested that I do so he could share it around with his friends. Seems weird, and it’s yet another page on FB that I need to manage, but I’ll give it a shot.)

In short, 6 out of 10, would do again, in the evening on a different street.

*****

Yes, it'll soon be proper Smut Stand weather again, but it all fits into my wheelhouse, as they say, AS DOES your becoming a patron of mine over on Patreon! Do join us, and help me help the world become more sex-aware.

 

 

Talking about desire is my superpower

I don’t know where I got the idea that I shouldn’t talk about what I wanted sexually. Same place everyone does, I guess: pop culture. The music I listened to in the mid-80s definitely had sex in it, but if the girl in the songs went after what she wanted, she was a tiger, she was an animal, she was dangerous, and ultimately not trustworthy. I read voraciously, but the books I huddled up with in the stacks didn’t help; they told me that sex was mysterious if not actually surreal, with frequently upsetting aftermaths, maybe eating disorders or teen pregnancy, or possibly an alien invasion (I read a lot of sci-fi, what can I say?). And my Mormon upbringing meant that I had no way of talking about it at all; there were no words, only shitty metaphors like defiling a temple or crushing a rose.

Somehow I continued to not really talk about sex through high school and college, well into adulthood, in spite of the fact that I fucked a lot during some of that time. I had boyfriends, and later, a couple of girlfriends. I had partners, and we fucked. So there must have been communicating, right?

But there wasn’t. I can’t remember asking my high-school boyfriend if he would finger me or reciprocate oral. I can’t remember talking with my long-term lesbian partner about whether she liked my oral sex skills or not. I think she did, I mean, she let me do it for a long time, but maybe she was just putting up with it.

I definitely don’t recall talking with anyone else about what I felt when I read Patrick Califia’s Doc and Fluff, and wanked repeatedly to the gay-male extreme fisting scenes and came so hard that I nearly fell off the Murphy bed. I didn’t tell anyone about that. I just hid the book under my pillow, never returned it to the Gay and Lesbian Association library—they added “bisexual” to the name a year later—and I never mentioned it to anyone. I went through all that time not talking, just absorbing ideas about sex and my own behavior from various books. I “made moves” and hoped I was making the right ones, or had moves made on me, but saying anything out loud about sex and my desire was never something I learned how to do.

Eventually, I learned to speak up as a survival response. I cheated on my female partner with a dude at a conference, and I realized how fucked up that was to her, and also how fucked up I was being to me. I felt that I was slipping off the deep end, into a spiral of endless shame and blame, so I decided to see a counselor once a week for a year. With her was the first time that I really got to say, out loud, what I wanted sexually.

It was actually pretty simple: I want dick. I remember saying that to my counselor and getting SO ANGRY at myself. It sounded so shallow and ridiculous, so greedy. It sounded, even to my inexperienced ear, like bad dirty talk. I burst into tears at how stupid it sounded, what a pitiable excuse for sending my 10-year relationship through the wringer. And yet there it was. When I said it, there was no going back. Taking it back, pretending that it was a slip of the tongue, was not possible. The truth will out.

Feeling that realness, at the ripe old age of 30, was the catalyst for my power. I'll call it power, maybe even a superpower, because saying what I wanted changed things. Not immediately, not like magic, but the change happened. At first I was terrified of this new-found force; how not, when it had so utterly up-ended my existence and identity and all of it? But then I saw how it made things better; I saw that I didn’t have to feel isolated by my own desires anymore, and I started asking more and more for what I wanted. I want this kind of sex. I want an open relationship. I like doing this sort of thing. I like the way that feels. Can we try playing with that? No, I’d rather not do that. Wait. Stop here. May I kiss you? And things did change. They continue to change. I speak my desire, and oh god, I love where it is leading me. But it wouldn't have happened without that long year of pain.

When people ask me for advice, on how to have those challenging conversations, the ones that seem to push back against everything you think you know about how you're supposed to behave, well... I can tell you what I've learned. I can give you some ideas. But you have to be paying enough attention to know when the pain of holding something in outweighs any possible risks of letting it out.

*****

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