X

Archive for Smut Slam

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.

*****

Smut Slam is one way I strive to change the world, and I can use your help to stay on that track. Become a patron of mine on Patreon, and keep my work going strong in sex-aware theatre and storytelling

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.)

*****

HELLO! Do you like the From the Fuckbucket series? Do you think that more people followed my work, either online or in the theatre? Become a patron of mine over on Patreon and help make that happen!

 

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.)

 

Become a patron of mine over on Patreon, and know that you are helping to keep Smut Slam and the Fuckbucket and all of my weird/thoughtful writing up here and out there, making sex-aware culture wherever possible!

 

“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.

*****

When you become a patron of mine on Patreon, you are seriously keeping the Smut Slam garden well watered and fed. For about the cost of one lunch at Applebee's (with a drink) per month, you can help make sure that this work in sex-aware theatre and live-lit events keeps going strong.

 

 

 

 

The spirit of Smut Slam in a small town

I’m a city girl, through and through. As long as I’m not more than 10 minutes away from decent public transportation, drop me in a big city and I thrive.

Not surprisingly, this is where my art does best too. Outside of actual Fringe festivals, my sex-aware, no-holds-barred, “fringe-y” plays require a certain critical mass of people who pay attention to adventurous theatre. That number of people is only really available in populous areas.

And Smut Slam? I started thinking about this recently, while offering Smut Slams to various festivals in the UK. Some of the festivals there are big and established enough, as festivals, but they’re in tiny towns. I had offered the slam two years ago to a venue in a small festival, and they had said, no, I don’t think it’ll work here. I was a little miffed at first, like, no, try it out. I thought they were underestimating the residents there. But 2+ years older and at least a little bit wiser, and I begin to see the truth of that stance.. Smut Slam wouldn’t work there.

Turns out that Smut Slam is also a big-city sport. Most people get incredibly nervous at the thought of public sharing of intimate stories about their own actual sex lives, all the more so if they know that they might run into people in the audience at the grocery store tomorrow, or wherever. In a big-city, that just doesn’t happen that often. Standing at the mic, you’re going to look out and maybe see two of your friends, but everyone else? You’ll never see them again, WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK. Also, small towns breed gossip like kudzu on damp wood, so people are naturally going to be a little hesitant, in spite of whatever efforts and force of charm I bring to bear as the host.

This bothers me, the knowledge that whole swathes of the country may not ever get to experience what can happen at a Smut Slam: the openness and support and encouragement and learning. The freedom, the excitement, the liberation and love. Those are the intangibles that swirl around at a Smut Slam. Smut Slam does this for people, and I would really love to keep spreading that around, make it available and accessible to people in more and different parts of the world.

I’ve been brainstorming with friends, about how to bring the Smut Slam experience to a smaller town, and came to the strong hypothesis that the Fuckbucket, with those anonymous questions and confessions, needs to be the center of small-town smut. And even that might be too risky for some places; I can imagine reading those revelations out loud and audience members giving each other the side eye, wondering about each other.

Setting aside the fact that an all-Fuckbucket Smut Slam would be a LOT of work for me as host—I would become much more a performer—I’m also stumped by the space between the Fuckbuckets. What are the easier bits? What are the lower-risk elements for people who are too shy even for filling in a Fuckbucket form? What is less risky than the Fuckbucket, but still involves audience participation? I don’t think such a thing exists; there is no lower level of acceptable risk before this show becomes a spectacle, no longer interactive in a way that supports a real Smut Slam experience.

The truth is, any activity that asks you to contribute something real is risky. Someone might find out. Someone might now. Maybe there are some places that will never get the Smut Slam.

<GRGGHH> Why does that bother me so much?

*****

Be a part of my quest to spread open, encouraging discussions about sex and sexuality ALL OVER THE PLACE. Become a patron of mine over on Patreon; that is fuel for the machine!

1 2