Archive for sexploreum
When I was still working as a phone sex operator—lo these four months ago—I would frequently fall back on a game with new callers. The game, I said, was called “Top Three”; I would tell the caller my (supposed) top three favorite things to do in bed, and then they had to tell me theirs, and then we would see where our interests overlapped.
I called it a game, to keep the tone light, but it was more of a conversational gambit, a way to get to the point of the call with callers who either didn’t intend to give a shit about time limits, enjoyed hearing a woman exert herself in vain, didn’t really know what they wanted from the encounter, OR knew what they wanted, but were afraid to say it. I encountered all four types of callers in phone sex—drastically more of the latter two categories—and frankly, they were all tiring, if not actually tiresome to handle, especially if I was trying to be in any way suave or sophisticated about the conversation, you know, “letting it emerge organically.” If I tried to let it emerge organically with these guys, we would never, ever reach the fucking point.
So, I would say to my caller, “Let’s play Top Three!” and explain the game, really excitedly, of course, like oh my god, I have been waiting all day to play this game with someone! Sometimes they would approve of one or more of my faves, and then go on to share some of theirs; occasionally they’d jump the rails and throw some other thing at me—“how do you feel about (X thing)?” with the answer always needing to be oooh, I love (X thing)!
Usually they’d respond so clearly to one of my faves that I knew we could just run with that. In any case, Top Three was a starting point for a conversation, a gimmick to help both of us get clear on the purpose of the phone call, e.g. getting the caller off. I needed the gimmick, because a lot of my callers were inexperienced at verbal sexy times, and some were struggling with their own kinks. Faced with their loaded silence, I deployed Top Three over and over.
It was my job to open them up, yes. But I’ve also used Top Three, or some variant thereof, with my own new lovers, face-to-face lovers, people who had the same fears and resistance to stepping up first. Look, I have those same fears, too! But someone has to speak first to these fears and desires, or else you just wind up circling around each other, making ineffective or off-putting moves because both parties are lacking crucial pieces of information.
And so, I would speak. What are your favorite things? I like X, Y, and Z, and I might call you daddy if the mood is right, is that okay?
As it did with my phone clients, the gambit worked. It started the conversation, it broke the ice. I gave my partners something to respond to, to embrace or just as enthusiastically bounce their own ideas into. In spite of my own fears, I modeled the openness that I want and need in conversations about sex.
Another great aspect of the Top Three direct approach is that it works even beyond that initial conversation. As a relationship develops and you have some history and context together, you will still have desires or activities or experiences that feel harder to handle, for whatever reason. Can we talk about [X thing], because when that happened last night, these were the three things I liked about it.
Whether at the very beginning of an encounter, or further on in a relationship, there are a few things you can do to help get those Top Three-type conversations going:
- Ask for consent to even have the conversation. I’d like to talk a little more about that. Can I ask you some questions about your experience with this? If someone doesn’t want to talk about a thing, the more you push at them, even in a sexy way, the more they close down.
- Set the dial at 80 percent, max, to start with. On phone calls, I never stated my Top Three at their hardest-core option. For example, to introduce the idea of female-dominant activity I would say, If you want to fuck my pussy, then I’m going to want to be on top, instead of I’m going to sit on your face until you drown. This way keeps the fear factor lower, and it leaves them room to join me in creating the path to, well, pussy-induced drowning, if that’s what they want.
- Ask follow-up questions. These can be yes-no, if the person seems really shy, or they can be open-ended, if you’ve got a lover who is willing to spill the beans, but once you’ve said your Top Three, you have to leave room for a conversation to develop, and a conversation, a good one, is back-and-forthing and asking questions and really listening to the answers.
If Top Three seems too brazen for you, I get it. There are other games and more subtle ways of starting a sexy conversation. I know how to use those, too; it's not all lust bombs in my backpack. But there is something solid and liberating to be gained about being the one to initiate the conversation, and saying up front what you'd like the conversation to be about.
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Believe it or not, I am NOT a fan of public sex, for myself. Sure, the occasional ass squeeze or crotch grope with a lover is in my repertoire, and I have been known to get pretty damn steamy down a dark alleyway or country lane. But the point is to Not Get Caught.
My public sex is semi-public, at best; I want to find and use those hidden corners in the collective consciousness, but the second someone sees, I will hurriedly disentangle, pull my panties back in place and walk on with an attempt at nonchalance I’m not embarrassed. I just have no interest in pressing my sexual displays on unwilling passersby. Besides, one should only involve other people in one’s sex scenes if those other people have given consent.
And yet, sometimes the spirit moves me. Sometimes, for example, I'll be sitting with my lover at a table at the train station and I look at him and a five-second GIF flashes up in my mind, of grabbing him by the hand and dragging him off somewhere, anywhere right then, and doing all the things we just did two hours earlier, the things we didn’t have time for this weekend, but will get a chance to do in two weeks when I see him again. That memory/vision is powerful, definitely visceral—I can feel it in my gut, and a little lower too—and yet, public mores being what they are, there is not a goddamn thing I can do about it.
Except actually, there is something I can do. I can tell him, right there, in a low enough undertone that the people sitting behind us can’t hear, in a small enough sound bite that I will finish my dirty description before the server comes with our tea, but enough to make his spine weaken sideways for a moment and his fingers convulsively clench at mine, and his eyes roll momentarily before he scrunches them shut and then takes a deep breath and open his eyes and sit up straight because, whoops, here’s the server and he may have seen my lover blink his eyes open, but he has no idea what I said to get my lover like that.
This is my favorite application of dirty talk: public sleaze. When you and your lover’s minds are dirty enough, and you know how to communicate at least some portion of that filth, out loud, you can go a long, LOOONG way in public. You can “do” things in public with dirty talk that you can’t actually do anywhere. And if tease/torment is at all a part of your play dynamic, then public sleaze is the BEST. That added constraint of “what people might think” is DELICIOUS.
Not used to bringing your sleaze out in public? Some tips from a dedicated dirty talker:
- Keep it simple. “What I want to do to you (in appreciative detail),” “what you did to me this morning was AMAZING (and here's why),” and “what my body feels like right now, in the aftermath” are all good sleaze-starters.
- Keep it to yourselves. If it’s obviously dirty talk, lean in close, or just take a good look around you to see where possible listeners lurk. The more likely it is that others might hear, the more you should keep your innuendo abstract or "in-joke."
- Use ambient noise to your advantage. Train stations, airports, malls, busy bars… these are good options because the noise will always stay above a certain level.
- Beware the false din. We've all been places where the decibel level can rise and fall a little more abruptly. You don’t want your crude confession to come out when suddenly and inexplicably everyone in the coffee shop falls silent at once.
- Practice your poker face. I love leering and winking and a well-raised eyebrow as much as anyone, but keeping a neutral expression when you’re launching into a really crude description is devastatingly effective. The contrast can be mind-blowing.
- Give your partner feedback. As with any sex, you want to let them know that what they're doing is working. Do your part freely in a dirty conversation, or show your response in body language (eye rolls, butt squirms, running your finger around the rim of a glass, footsies under the table, unbuttoning another button of your sweater or blouse.
If you want to keep your response totally buttoned down, just look at your partner, right in the eyes, while they or you talk. Put all your sleaze in that look. Remember, though: you might feel like this is the most discreet way of responding, but if the conversation is that hot, people around you will be able to tell. But that’s okay. All you’re doing is talking and looking at each other.
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I picked the subject for this Smut Slam—“True Lust”—out of the air a month ago and only yesterday—the day of the slam, whoops!—did I sit down and think, what the hell does this even mean? What makes an encounter or experience qualify as “true lust,” anyway? What makes it that for me?
In my world, in my body, lust has to do with physical craving, a sense of wanting that is actually viscerally felt. I want to have that, says my suddenly hollow stomach, my tightened throat, my tingly cunt. It feels electric, and it comes seemingly out of nowhere, usually in response to eye contact, often combined with a touch or something said.
I had always considered myself driven by true lust at the beginning of all of my relationships, but when I sat down to consider my freshly articulated definition, and measured my actual, historical sex experiences against that… it’s just not true. Lust is not what grabs me.Frequently my long-term relationships have gotten started in what might now be called a demi-sexual way, after a longer period of getting to know someone, either online or in person, and so the comfort and enjoyment was there. And I have had more casual sex for many reasons: I was drunk and the person was there; it felt like something I was expected to do; I abstractly wanted to do it because of the experience; I felt fine with going along with what the other person wanted because they seemed to really want it. In many of these cases, eventually I got into it, but… you see what I mean?
Actual True Lust moments, as far as I can remember, have been few, as in… two. Twice have I been struck through, without forethought, without a whole lot of conversation. And oddly enough those two times were on opposite ends of the “serious intent” spectrum.
The first time was after I had spent a year feeling terrible about wanting to be with cismen after 10 years of identifying as a lesbian. I wanted cock, in other words. After I had talked with a therapist long and hard about all this, I asked my long-term female partner about opening the relationship. She agreed, upon terms, one of those being that I not “do it in her territory.”
And so I went to Burning Man, and watched the sexy times unfold all around me, and felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and never would. I didn’t know how to approach men anymore, or how to be approached. But the night of the Burn, two nights before I left, a gentle man sat next to me on a couch in the middle of the desert, while a 40-foot-tall wooden effigy caught fire in the distance. The man placed his hand on my thigh as the flames leapt upward, and he said, “Those panties you have on are really cute.”
It all came down to the one crackling touch of his palm against my skin. What we did later that night is another story, and I never saw him again.
The second time I felt true lust was something else entirely. Again I met this guy offline, face to face, the traditional way, at a bar. Seriously, in the UK that feels like the traditional way. I liked the way he looked all right, but we hadn’t really talked before he beat me at Bananagrams. People who know me, know how I tend to bring this game out at the drop of a hat, and that I’m very good at it, and that I really love it when I find people who are good at it.
But I didn’t know how turned on I would be when this guy BEAT ME. It had rarely happened; I can count the times on one hand. When this guy won, and we had scanned each other’s word grids, I looked up at him and our eyes locked for a moment, and I can’t say what he was feeling at that moment, but I felt it zing into the back of my brain and drop down to the pit of my stomach and I got a little blurry, it was electric again, and I knew that I wanted to kiss him, more than I had wanted anything in years.
It all came down to that moment, seeing how smart he was and joyful in the game. The lust this time originated in my brain, and the one who struck that spark is now my life partner.
I know, of course, that following lust unthinking, or building one’s future around it, can be a shitty foundation for a life. You can never know, in those electric moments of no thought, just pull, what is actually there. It can be castles in the air, lava underfoot, broken hearts, broken homes.
You can’t rely on the immediate chemistry, the instant heat, whatever the sensation of true lust is for you. (This is the danger inherent in New Relationship Energy.) And it is unwise to place any more meaning on it than the meaning that emerges on its own.
But I think true lust is, besides that spark, a divining rod, showing you something that you need more of in your life. And that can start with anything, and lead to anywhere.
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I have performed Phone Whore probably close to 200 times, if not more. I have performed it a lot, in packed 100-seat theatres and in the basement of a pub with three people watching. For a frowny, arms-crossed crowd in a women’s bookstore, and for a room that was half-full of sex workers. I have a lot of experience to draw from, in terms of assessing audiences, but the show this past Saturday night was something special, and by special, I mean, AWKWARD AS FUCK.
All’s well that ends well, and I am here to tell the tale. We pulled it back from the brink, and it was a nice, tight show, performance-wise. But it started like a smoldering trash heap, oh Christ.
To start with, my front-of-house volunteer, a bright-eyed young theatre person who had checked in with me on the two previous nights when he arrived 15 minutes before house opening… well, he didn’t check in with me this time. I texted him at 20 minutes to show: no answer. I peeked out the doors at 15 minutes to show—when the house was supposed to open—and he wasn’t out there. I couldn’t understand it, he had been talking the whole weekend about bringing his dad, and then the night before he said he was bringing his mum, too, they were huge theatre fans, “don’t worry about it,” he said. And he had just pushed the show on Facebook. What happened?
I came back into the theatre and said to my technician, right, if he’s not here by five minutes before show, we lock the doors and have the drunkest, most leisurely load-out in theatre history. I was fully ready to cancel. I had already clocked out. It had been a challenging weekend, and if nobody showed, not even my door person, that would be the perfect icing on the bad, bad cake.
As I was getting ready to lock the doors, I looked out one last time and… there he was, smiling and leaning against the desk out there, and waving out me. And there were people out there. Not just his mom and dad, but, like, three other people.
I turned to the technician. There are people out there, I whispered. We have to do the show. And then I whirled back around to the volunteer, with my eyebrows lifted significantly. Can you come in here for a second? He walked in, and his family followed him in. By yourself, I hissed at him. They can’t come in yet. He hastily gestured his family back out into the lobby, I gave him a quick pointed briefing about CHECKING IN with your BOSS when you arrive for your volunteer shift, and told him to let the audience in.
It was a small house—six people, including the volunteer and his mom and dad—but not the smallest I’ve ever had. Not noticeably more awkward until I started doing my normal pre-show crowd work. You’re Joseph’s mom? Oh, you are? Okay, and you’re also his relative? You’re his AUNT. Excellent!
I extricated myself from that as quickly as I could, and slid down the row to chat with the straight couple a few seats down. And how did you find out about the show?
“We saw the poster.”
It wasn’t as bad as that: they were visiting from Glasgow and staying at a friend’s flat nearby for the weekend. They had swung by the pub the previous night because they heard it was a good one with good entertainment upstairs. Nothing on this week except Phone Whore, so they looked me up and decided to come on closing night. “Yeah, when we googled it, a bunch of 4- and 5-star reviews came up, so we thought we’d take a chance.”
So, okay. At least 33 percent of the audience was informed about the upcoming work.
Joseph finally closed the doors and the first phone call came on. The audience missed the first laugh checkpoint, so I was prepared, but damn, they were quiet. So very quiet. It was the quiet of paying attention, not the quiet of “we’re hating this,” so I plunged on ahead, but still AWKWARD, and about to get more so. In between calls 1 and 2, my character talks about a couple of clients, including one guy, “he’s an ass men, he’s a real sweetie, a real Southern gentleman.” Whose name is JOSEPH.
FUUUUUU…. It didn’t even hit me until I spoke that paragraph out loud, and then I was like, oh. Right. I wonder if his family will ever let him live that down? I wonder if his family will ever talk about this play, ever, was actually what I was thinking, because they saw the whole thing. They stuck it out. His mom, dad, and maternal uncle were sitting right next to him and I did that full-out mommy-fucker call, and then of course Call 4.
I did say I survived, right? And so did they. Everyone in the house hung around for the Q&A; the energy was fine in there, good questions, etc. Afterward, though, I asked my tech how the show felt from up in the god box, and he said, “It was a good run, but I had to stop watching toward the end.”
What, the play?
“No, the audience. During Call 3, I started covering my eyes, and I hid behind the desk for all of Call 4.”
Folks, when the tech says it’s awkward, it’s AWWWWWKWARD.
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I don’t consider myself a diva. I suppose every diva probably thinks that they’re being reasonable, but I honestly try to be chill. I have to be, with all the traveling and fast load-ins and being my own roadie most of the time. Last night, though, after my second night of a three-night run, I found myself wracked with tears about my set furniture.
“IT’S NOT MY HOME ANYMORE,” I sobbed over the phone to UK Muse. “it’s not right.”
I didn’t expect this intensity of feeling, even though I knew things would be different. This is new furniture, see. I had commissioned it to live here in the UK, to be available for European performances of Phone Whore. The original pieces are still back in Montreal; I left them there because I just couldn’t justify bringing them all the way over, paying huge sums in extra baggage fees. In retrospect, I see that I could have paid slightly less than the cost of construction and skipped the heartache, but at the time it just seemed like the logical next step towards establishing my performance work on two continents. I needed two sets.
The carpenter who I had found through a friend of a friend seemed prompt and responsive; when I emailed to him that the chair, for example, really needed to be fattie-friendly, he didn’t even (metaphorically) blink. Tanner, the director of my fifth show nerdfucker, had been able to reverse-engineer construction plans for the pieces (the original carpenter had gone off the grid, so I couldn’t find her).
Now, Tanner had mentioned to me, early on in the process, that he tried to streamline construction a little bit, because there was lots in the chair that seemed like overkill, etc, and I didn’t object because I knew that the original pieces had been kludged together with no plan, only a directive: both pieces need to pack down and be able to fit in the trunk of a 1991 Toyota Corolla. So yeah, maybe there was a way to make them lighter weight, without compromising the structural integrity. I didn’t want to get in the way of that.
So I knew that it would be new furniture; everything was going to feel different. But at tech, when I started handling the separate components and feeling the splinters, it began grinding home to me. These are really new. The edges are rough, and catch at the bedspread I use to cover the chair frame. I couldn’t find the right foam for padding the chair, and so I am sitting on a whole new assortment of lumps and bumps and none of the positions that I normally hold during the show are comfortable or even work. I did not realize how much choreography for sitting and shifting had gotten burned into my muscle memory over six years of doing this show!
Wait, there’s more! One of the arm assemblages malfunctioned in two different ways at tech and during the show itself. Three of the four chair legs fell out of their slots when I lifted the chair up after the show last night to move it, in spite of latches on each leg that were supposed to prevent that.
And to top it all off, the two tables don’t stack up over/around the assembled chair anymore. That wasn’t ever specified in the design; that was just the way the original set worked out, and then I never thought to tell this new carpenter about it, because that’s the way the originals were. But when the dimensions and measurements got changed and streamlined, something got buggered, and now they don’t stack up right.
I know I’ll get used to it. I have to. The carpenter is going to make good on the malfunctions and the structural reinforcements. He’ll sand down the rough edges. I think I can stack up the furniture if I take the arms out after each show. I will eventually find the correct foam.
But last night it hit me, hard: this set, this stupid, simple set for a show that is supposed to be taking place in my living room, this set really WAS my living room. It is the place where I knew exactly what was going on, and I knew how far back I could lean, and in which directions. I knew what was safe and what was probably a bad idea. I knew how to slam all the furniture and props into place in under 12 minutes, and I knew that at the end of that frenzied 12 minutes, I could sit down in the chair and lean back, and Phone Whore would be home. And now I don’t even have that stability anymore. It’s all changed.
I will deal with it. Hell, I made this move of my own free will. I knew. But I didn’t really know until last night, after two shows of not being comfortable and breaking my own chair with positions that the OTHER chair, the REAL chair could take, I didn’t know how it would feel to my body.
Right now, it feels all wrong. And I am tired of not having a home, not even a fake one.
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It could have been one of many conversations that UK Muse and I have had over the past two and a half years, on Skype or in person, naked or clothed, doesn’t matter. We have managed to keep a spark alive across the Internet, with glitches and sound lag and all; and then right up close, under the same blanket, has its own powerful magic, too.
It didn’t matter where the conversation happened, but it would have been about sex, tangentially, kinda, not directly and unrelentingly, more kind of dipping in and out of fantasy or prophecy or just random wack-ass things that one or the other of us comes up with, off the cuff, to tack onto our games. It’s all seething underneath our public skins, I mean, I’m sure it does for a lot of people, but there really is something about the way that he and I talk together that feels like all of that filth is right there, just beneath the surface. All we have to do, one or the other of us, is poke it, poke a hole in it, and it wells up.
And so then one of us did poke a hole in it, with whatever comment, we went a little further, or we took a tangent, an unexpected twist on what we already play with, we just kept talking, stream of consciousness, and the words just slipped out of one of our mouths, and that’s when the other person said it.
“Is that A Thing?”
The answer that came next depended on what we were talking about; it depended on the feel of the air that suddenly both thickened and sharpened between us, a space where a previously undiscussed act or look or object or phrase appeared between us, and neither of us knew what the other would answer, neither of us would have had any clue, because from the very beginning we have surprised each other, from the very fucking beginning.
“Wait, is that A Thing?”
Rarely has there been a solid Yes, because it’s always a question, a possibility, that we didn’t expect until suddenly there it is. But also rarely is it an immediate, resounding slap down: “no fucking way.” Usually it’s a “Mmmmmmmaybe?” or an “It might be” or simply “I’m not sure.” We know that the hesitation alone is not enough to rule anything out.
“Whoa. Is this A Thing?”
In the space that follows this question, there is a real rush for me, pure adrenalin as we look into each other’s eyes. Suddenly, there is a little part of him that is a stranger again, or some place that I didn’t even know existed. We are both cautiously, simultaneously lifting our freak flags and making ready to set them out a little further. Or leaving them in place; that’s also possible.
The conversation is what gets us to this exciting spot. It’s not just one conversation, I guess, it’s an ongoing one that circles and loops and weaves its way through the other separate conversations. This simmering undercurrent is about who we are and what we mean to each other, what we like and what we positively crave and what makes us feel nervous because WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM and how it feels to watch each other closely in moments of release. Inevitably, because we keep talk talk talking—I mean, we go off the map on the regular—the conversation keeps going places we don’t expect.
“No, really, is this A Thing?”
The question has become less scary over time, and mostly just exciting. After two and a half years, I’ve learned to trust him in those wide-open spaces where neither of us knows. I know that he will tell me the truth, and I know that I can tell him mine, and we won’t flinch or say eww.
It’ll just be, more likely than not, some variant of “I don’t know, let’s find out.”
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