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Archive for Smut Slam

WHOLESOME SLEAZE: the special sauce of Smut Slam

We are all just here to have some fun!

I recruit my Bucket Babes carefully: they have to be naturally outgoing and persuasive, in a gentle, encouraging way. And when they ask what they should wear, I give them the style in two words: “wholesome sleaze.”

This is the special sauce for every Smut Slam: you don’t even notice it as a separate ingredient, but it’s in everything. Wholesome sleaze. By which I mean, sleaze that is beneficial, that is good for your health in some way. The way we run it, Smut Slam is absolutely good for you.

I didn't invent the concept of "wholesome sleaze” out of nothing; it's something I apparently had naturally as part of my personality, to be fairly upfront about my sexuality AND ALSO be pretty cheery about it and not oppressive about pursuing it. (I feel like "the girl next door" is part of it, if the girl next door knew a lot about whips and chains, too.) I am enthusiastic about the full range of sexual experiences, as shared at a slam; I know how to take no for an answer, when I'm trying to encourage people to get involved; and I really do have fun with the conversations.

I urge other Smut Slam hosts to find their own ways to that vibe, because we have to talk about our own shit, and that is hard. Not everyone can do that, or wants to. We model acceptance about our selves and our sexual histories, we demonstrate some level of self-awareness and respect for who we were and who we are. That is way more than most job descriptions include, and yet it’s a key part of getting to that wholesome Smut Slam sleaze: radical openness and vulnerability. We ask nothing of our audiences that we aren't willing to do ourselves.

At the same time, we have to preserve radical boundaries as well. HARD-CORE BOUNDARIES, holy shit. At Smut Slam, we encourage audience members to share their stories, and so we keep the boundaries around the event solid.

We insist on private space for Smut Slams, so that no one gets to witness the event who hasn’t already heard and tacitly agreed to our code of conduct. We have a detailed and still evolving Code of Conduct, which we strive to live up to in order to build the most welcoming space possible. We as Smut Slam hosts might flirt with the entire fucking room, but we are not there to show off our stories or material, but instead to make a stable platform for attendees to stand on.

This care makes total sense when you understand that Smut Slam is not a show per se, it’s a sharing. It’s not a come-on in any way, in any direction; rather, it’s a community happening and even we don't know what's going to happen! The stories may be over the top, all cock and cunts and dungeon scenes, or they may be mellow and loving, gentle with nary a bad word in sight. Usually it's a mix, all in one night!

Smut Slam is some powerful sex-related chaos, in other words, and we hold the space where people can feel safe with it, with hosts who can be silly sometimes, and empathic, thoughtful, friendly.

Wholesome sleaze is what makes the container strong enough to contain it all.

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Safe(r) performance spaces: how and for whom?

As I’m gearing up for more Smut Slams in Europe (get in touch if you want one in your city), I’m thinking again about the Smut Slam Code of Conduct and the idea of safe(r) space in performance contexts.

Specifically I’m thinking about what safer space looks like in my context and why I do it the way that I do, and why I’m really glad that I decided to do it that way because holy SHITBALLS things can get weird otherwise!

All Smut Slams have the Code of Conduct read out loud, a statement of community standards and beliefs that has gotten hashed out and elaborated over time (I think another review is coming soon, in fact). I wish I had kept records of what the Code of Conduct used to be at the beginning of Smut Slam; oh god, I learned fast on that one!

Behind every rule there is a story, they say, and this is especially true with the Smut Slam Code of Conduct. In this living, revise-able document, every specific type of “friendliness” that is explicitly stated, or line of text in the “what not to say” paragraph, every element included in the bit about consent, it is all there because someone told a story that skirted the spirit of the code, or got through some unspelled-out exception or loophole, and we are trying our best to lay it out as clearly as possible.

If we have any sort of “community standards,” then it is on us as creators, hosts, and producers to articulate those standards. I was in a performance room once where the host said specifically that it was a “safe space,” but that was all. Maybe they thought it would be obvious. In any case, one of the performers went on to do a racist bit that had some audience members looking at each other and shaking their heads and muttering. Even the host looked completely taken aback—they clearly knew it was a problem—but nothing in the their statement about “safe space” included any mention of racism, so in the moment the host didn’t seem to know how to even talk about it.

We have to articulate these things, but even more importantly, we have to put down a process for how to deal with those things when they happen. Because they will happen. Shit still gets weird.

Smut Slam is an open mic and it takes place in drinking environments mostly, and people arrive late and don’t hear the host reading the Code of Conduct out loud AND people have radically different and variable ideas about what constitutes consent, for example, and racism and sex-worker friendliness (“I want to tell you about all the wild hookers I met in Thailand” = probably not going to go well).

I can tell you, those are some of my least favorite moments about running a Smut Slam, when I can see the car crash about to happen, when I can practically smell the smoke coming off the opening lines of a story and I know a dumpster fire is headed for my stage.

But the great thing is, Smut Slam has community standards spelled out and they include our process for responding to violations and close calls (“educational moment from the mic” after the story is concluded).

Before we included that component into the Code of Conduct, we had a really clear vision of what we did want and what we didn’t, but we had no way of enforcing it. Smut Slam hosts would have to step in the breach on their own, which is intimidating as fuck. I know I was pretty chickenshit for, like, the first four years of slamming.

But since then, Smut Slam has the institutional response built in. We know, as an event, as hosts, and as a community of sorts, how we deal. We know that stories may occasionally still slip through and go against our code, but we also know what will happen if they do.

(At some point I will write something about how those educational moments are actually a good thing. As someone pointed to me, that is actually where education takes place, if a storyteller isn’t clear about consent or why their specific behavior in an anecdote is misogynistic, for example, or involves nonconsensual objectification.)

For now, though, I will leave my readers with this: it’s not enough to set boundaries. You have to know, ahead of time, what you’re going to do if someone crosses them. Without the follow-through, “safe space” is only safe for the offender, not anyone else.

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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: “Do threesomes live up to the fantasy?”

Do threesomes live up to the fantasy?

Short answer: they can, but often don’t.

Long answer: Ooh boy.

Without any context or background knowledge—the anonymity of the Fuckbucket being mostly, but not entirely, a blessing—I do not know exactly what threesome fantasy we’re talking about here. Threesome fantasies vary, depending on the orientation and fucking style of the person doing the fantasizing. There's no one threesome fantasy, and some of them are probably more achievable than others.

Like, I personally have fantasized for at least a decade about being spit-roasted (two dicks, at least one belonging to a cis guy), with other combinations of genitals being at most half as interesting to me. In my experience and current network, though, it's not that easy to find cisgender dudes who both like pussy and are actually okay (as in, keeping-hard levels of okay) with more than one dick in the room. Conversely, I’m not sure if as many straight men fantasize about it as our collective sex consciousness would indicate, you know, two hot bi cis ladies converging hungrily on that magnificent cock , but… yeah, I’ve heard enough guys talk about it to know that the number is statistically significant. AND AT THE SAME TIME, we bi women are all over the place, but we're not automatically down with that particular configuration. No, not even for you.

Setting logistics aside—which you actually can't—I suspect threesomes succeed or go south for the same reasons that two-person couplings do: communication, or lack thereof. However difficult or scary it is for two people to "use their words," trying to get three or more people on the same page is exponentially more so.

The problem is that people really deconstruct the fantasy all the way to the base. It’s not just getting two babes of your preferred gender mackin’ on your hot body and on each other. We develop a lot of our fantasies from pop culture, and Hollywood would have us believe that sex happens organically, maybe with some extra drinking**, but definitely with a minimum of talking. According to that manufactured fantasy, negotiating sexual encounters is awkward and makes for boring scripts. Sexy times are supposed to just EMERGE, ruffling the white gauzy curtains and turning on some lovely rose-coloured lighting on their way in.

And also, sexy times are supposed to just drift away afterward. I suspect that a lot of people, in any constellation of coitus, don’t deal with post-coital feelings very well. With established couples inviting a third in, there’s the strong potential of jealousy, plus that third person feeling maybe a little left out. With solo or otherwise non-hierarchical folks setting up the scene, perhaps that reduces the possibility of feeling threatened in one’s existing relationship, but…

I am not the person to answer this question. I’ve tried threesomes exactly four times. Only once did the mechanics actually work out, but even in that case I felt a little manipulated, like I was doing it to please my partner at the time more than for my own pleasure. The rest of the cases were either insufficiently communicated, or poorly planned. I do not have what I would consider a truly successful threesome under my belt.

I suspect that threesomes can live up to the fantasy, but you have to be hella good communicators, all three of you, before, during, and after.

** (In actual fact, I would suggest that booze complicates threesomes. It might feel easier, while you’re flirting and chatting and pushing annoyed party-goers off the couch, but you might be muddying the waters of real consent and not be making the best decisions at that moment.)

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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: “Can you love someone else when you’re not able to love yourself”

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.

If anyone thinks that Smut Slams are pure, unadulterated filth, just non-stop sexual sewage filling up the room, let me disabuse you of that notion. Sometimes we get tender questions in the Fuckbucket, like this one:

“Is it possible to love someone else when you’re not able to love yourself?”

Short answer: yes, and it’s necessary.

Long answer:

There are many ideas out there in self-help land that are actually not very helpful, ideas like “you attract the things that you think about,” or “if you focus really hard, you can feel money actually vibrating,” or “if you eat nothing but cabbage soup for the next three weeks you will finally be over your childhood trauma and coincidentally lose some weight, which is only a symbol of your baggage, of course you don’t care about losing weight, that’s so shallow, but HOORAY, you’ll be able to fit into your high school prom dress again, YOU WILL FINALLY BE FREE.”

The notion that you have to healed from a world of self-doubt before you can love anyone else falls in this category of bullshit things.

First of all, “loving yourself” is not a final destination. It is not a perfect ending place. No one gets there and they’re done. The world would never allow that. There are always things to fight against, to keep from internalizing. Our society is built on us continually teeter-tottering, finding new things to hate about ourselves and then seeking other things to make ourselves feel better.

There will be points in that journey, perhaps whole vast stretches, where we don’t love ourselves, not even half-way, where we are struggling to see any good in ourselves at all. At those times, I believe, not only is it possible to love someone else, but it’s essential.

Loving someone else is practice in being merciful. I personally am so much easier on friends for things that I would metaphorically flay myself for. I can fucking stew in my own juices for weeks or months about trifling mistakes, rehashing the situation over and over again and actually losing sleep over it. But when a loved one fucks up, I will go to extra trouble to persuade them that it’s not such a big deal (and really it isn’t). Something about that extra distance gives me perspective and space.

This is why you can love someone when you can’t love yourself. There is more room in your heart for other people. More importantly, in answer to this Fuckbucket question, it gives you practice in making more room in your heart. When you love other people, give them the support and encouragement and forgiveness, you are practicing that skill, of loving in spite of “imperfection.” You are practicing holding multiple and possibly contradictory ideas in your head at once about the other person: they are fucked up in some ways, but they are still worthy of my love. And someday, hopefully soon and often, hopefully when you need it, you will see that you are just like them, in that way.

Here’s the thing: I believe practicing that generous, forgiving love with people eventually helps us make room for loving ourselves in that same way. Doesn’t have to—lots of people don’t make that psychological leap—but it certainly can.

So please: if you are holding back from new or ongoing relationships because you are feeling bad about yourself: don’t. I mean, do get your counseling or your meds on and talk with someone. Loving other people should not be your escape hatch from dealing with your own stuff. But don’t automatically cut yourself off from the beautiful flow of humanity because you have something “flawed” to offer.

You are totally good enough for love.

(For people who are totally looking for steaming-hot ridiculous filth, don’t worry. The same Fuckbucket that gave us that question, also yielded up a detailed question about differences in the cum of my different lovers, as well as a confession about falling asleep with a butt plug in.)

 

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“Not like other open mics”: thoughts on creating Smut Slam space

Open mics notoriously happen anywhere that the host can fit them. I’m not even talking about the alcoves and broom closets of Edinburgh Fringe. I have been on multiple open mic shows—comedy, music, variety, whatever—that just unroll in the front room of a bar, dropping crackly static and sweaty punchlines on whatever poor lushes happen to be hunched over their drinks.

I never heard anyone protest this too strenuously, because no one wants to be the squeaky wheel in a scene where performers are a dime a dozen. The venue doesn’t want to alienate its bar flies, er, regulars, and the organizers know that any venue at all is priceless, and because it is generally understood that comedians and musicians and magicians are performers who are going to be playing to drunk and/or hostile crowds for a good chunk of their performing career, it is also generally understood that they might as well get used to weirdness and interruptions and anger and side conversations and possibly thrown beer cans as early and often as possible. Performers just need to toughen up, is the conventional wisdom. It’s part of our training.

Given all this, I think that venues don’t always understand my extreme care when it comes to selecting spaces for Smut Slams. In particular, they don’t always get the privacy factor. I have gotten people saying, “yes, it’s all private space,” or “it’s all yours, we’ll just have a couple of regulars in during that time.” And then when I show up, it’s, you know, it’s the front room of a bar. Or it’s a side room that looks private but isn’t, a fact that everyone becomes acutely aware of when those two regulars break out into an argument during an especially moving story.

Smut Slam space needs to be … I was going to say sacred space. It’s not that exactly, but almost. Smut Slammers aren’t performers; they don’t need to toughen up or get used to bad performing conditions. I don’t want them to have to be tough; that just gets in the way of good, real stuff. Smut Slammers are delicate fucking flowers, and they need a space to bloom, someplace where people feel supported and encouraged in sharing some deeply personal shit. We Smut Slam hosts expend a lot of energy, trying to lay down this foundation, to create the comfortable feel. But we can’t create that feel in a physical space that just isn’t designed to hold it.

Smut Slam venues have to be private. In my tech rider for Smut Slam, I phrase it as “we must control access to the space,” because we are going to sell tickets to everyone going into the room. Almost always, if someone pays for a ticket, they are going to take the show more seriously; after all, they have something invested now. Also, with that single, controlled entry point, we can check everyone who goes into the space: how much have they had to drink, what’s their general attitude, how do they interact with staff/crew? Do we have to assign someone to keep an eye on the person in question over the course of the night? These are the literal security issues that having private, ticketed spaces helps address.

Controlling access to the space is as much about noise as it is about bodies. When audiences in a Smut Slam space can hear external chatter and noise and espresso machines, they understand that Smut Slam noise can travel outward too. Comedians and other professional performer types usually develop a second layer of skin over their eardrums, to help filter out that ambient noise. “Civilians,” as I call them… they don’t have those mental-auditory buffers. Most of them are sensitive, and rightly so.

And then, well, let’s go back to that ineffable quality of space. After a certain point in the proceedings, we have to shut the door on the space. No more folks; catch us the next time around. We guard the perimeter because goddammit, every Smut Slam is basically a roomful of strangers weaving a delicate web of shared vulnerability and trust. We stake out the space to make that web. We are holding some turf where the room can bloom. I don’t want just any randos stomping through that beautiful smutty garden.

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