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I won’t say that I have absorbed anything dramatically new to my own pleasure/fantasy/sex/kink palate. (I assume you’re talking about my years in phone work; Sidewalk Smut is very much the same kind of work.) I’m a little more curious about men in feminine clothing, from talking to a couple of phone clients about what they really liked about cross-dressing, but that’s curiosity, not taste or desire.
I think I’ve probably gotten better at articulating what I want, just saying the damn thing, whatever it is. That has to happen in phone sex; whatever’s going on and however you’re feeling, you have to say it, or at least let out some very convincing groans, or else your partner isn’t going to know that you you're doing anything. But that is really about using my words, which is an excellent transferable skill and not a new deposit into my sexual imagination.
Truth is, indulging other people’s fantasies for a living has never added anything significant to my wank bank. I pick up what people want for long enough to create an experience, spoken or written, that they want, and then I set it aside when I’m done. I’ve got enough going on in my head, I don’t need to store everyone else’s shit.
The same has NOT been true when I indulge my partners’ fantasies. If I am playing with someone not for pay, but because I really like/love them and find being with them a fun time and trust them not to be dickheads, then yes, over time I have picked up a few new fantasies/role plays/activities for my repertoire.
Mostly they have been things on the rougher or more violent side of the spectrum—things like wrestling hard, or hand-on-throat play, or consensual non-consent--where if they came from someone with whom I have no foundation of trust, I would be all, “Gah, no, what?”
Makes sense: these sorts of things require time and exposure and repeated reassurance, in both word and deed, in order for me to feel safe. Someone blathering about them on the phone line just makes me roll my eyes. I have no way of knowing that they know what they’re talking about; mostly, they sounded like they didn’t. With people I trusted, I could explore the extremes and still feel safe.
More than anything else, though, the biggest shift in my sexual life that came about from working with people’s fantasies for pay was in my head, about myself. I learned to judge others less, and learned to judge myself less, too.
In both of these lines of work—phone sex and Sidewalk Smut—I had to keep my non-judgmental face on at all times, even if I was judging them hard. I had to act like it was all good, and that act had to be pretty air-tight, because people can tell when you’re judging them.
And the thing about faking it ‘til you make it? Eventually you do make it. I believe it; it happened. My body was keeping the non-judge-y muscles going, and eventually that sank into my consciousness and I increasingly found myself not judging. I never stopped judging people's level of douche-baggery, but as far as sex and kink went, I learned to say "right on, not my thing, but cool" and really believe it.
It was not inevitable that I turn that kind of radical acceptance around on my own life; most people are harder on themselves than they are on other people. I certainly don’t remember sitting down and consciously thinking about giving myself more room to explore and not judging myself for my fantasies. But that’s what happened.
I am a lot less weird about my own “weird,” which is a much more comfortable place to be.
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I got my two-year working visa for Germany last month, which means I have two years to establish myself as a working artist here. Which is actually the longest period of time ever that a country has given me to be in it and work as an artist. (I’m not counting the US, I only got by there because random dudes on the phone liked my MILFy voice.) Fuck the US anyway. I’m here, I have documentation, and I feel like I could maybe find my people.
Problem is, I can’t remember how.
Touring around for seven months out of the year has always been a problem, in terms of finding friends and connections. Add to that the fact that I’m actually only an extrovert when I can promote my work. When it comes to reaching out on my own behalf just to set coffee dates with people or show up and be part of the crowd at someone else’s show, I’m awkward as fuck.
Top that whole weird sundae off with the perfect bittersweet cherry of blended professional and personal lives: even when I’m out socializing, I’m always repping the brand. This seems to be the default for independent artists: everyday we’re hustling. So I wind up feeling stymied in terms of finding my space and making community. How can I get out of my promoter zone, my wheeling-and-dealing brain, and just find my people?
You may not be an indie artist or promoter, but you can just substitute whatever thoughts/obsessions/work shit are actively getting in your way and freezing you up: too much work, not enough work, worry about family (who can do fine without you), insecurities about schoolwork… what is getting in your way of connecting?
I know what is getting in my way, and even though as an artist I need to keep one ear trained to that ambition and hustle and fear of missing out, I still need undiluted social time, time with people that does not involve me promoting my show or otherwise worrying about my fantastic new two-year-plan creative lifestyle in Berlin.
I don’t always know how to talk with people in that non-work way, but I feel like maybe the first step is to just get out there and be with them, in spite of my anxieties. Being ever the bulldozer type, I decided to make myself get out there. So here is what I’m doing:
- I set aside time for one acquaintance date per week, where we are not venting about touring and ticket sales, even if that would be mutual, and if we do end up talking about my next show, it is only in a sort of sharing of workplace grievances, not like a brainstorming session about living my best performer’s life.
- I’ve got one night a week where I am going out to a place to not perform. Someplace with a sort of theme that I would enjoy experiencing anyway, but nowhere that I am supposed to be performing.
- When I go to a place where I’m anxious about what I’m doing, I set a time limit for how long I have to stay there: just a half-hour, just an hour. I set my timer for that, and I check in with myself when the time is up
Most importantly, I don’t get mad at myself if I don’t manage to do these things every week. I'm trying to change some extremely whack-a-doodle thoughts. That takes time, and hell, I’ve got two years to work up to it.
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When someone says they have no limits in their kink, I give them so much side eye.
I haven’t seen many other subs in action, because I don’t go out to play parties much, but when I was doing phone sex, I heard that sort of thing a lot. These greedy subs would phrase it as a tolerance for pain or humiliation—even though I could tell that they’d never done face-to-face, paddle-to-ass play ever—but really they just wanted to be forced to take a cock the width of the entire known universe into their hungry little butthole.
No shame in having a hungry butthole, but if that’s all you want, then just say it and admit that you do have limits after all.
I laughed at my phone-sex clients for their notion of being the perfect sub, the bottomless receptacle for whatever jizz and verbal abuse I could hurl at them during our few minutes together. They could just ask for whatever they wanted; they didn’t have to say “I have no limits.” They could actually have asked me to shove the entire universe into their ass, and without cracking a smile, I would have described the bumps of the asteroid belts and everything.
The human brain is built to play around with mad pangalactic fuckery, but that wasn’t enough: my clients wanted me to see them as being able to take anything and everything, and they had very specific words for that: "I have no limits."
I could write it off as sheer macho posturing in the face of often “effeminate” fantasies. There is also a compelling gonzo component, when you take “no limits” to logical extremes: you could die from four inches thick and not enough lube, but yes, LET’S GO FOR THE UNIVERSE IN YOUR BUTT.
But hell, I have been known to say “I can take anything” to my partner, and I know damn well that’s not true. So why do I say it? What is that fantasy about? What is it that I’m trying to say?
For me, at least, I’m an overachiever. I want to do better than anyone else. I also imagine that I know what my partner is getting out of topping or dominating me, and I want to be the best target for topping that they’ve ever had. I want to show off, I guess. My ego is there in my submission in a hundred different ways, in the internal tasks that I set for myself: not to move, not to flinch, not to cry at all or not too loud. I want to show to my partner what a good girl I am, that I won’t jump.
But it is not only ego, not by a long shot. With my partner, as with no one else, there is a strange cyclical alchemy of pain and love. I love him so much that I want to give him the gift of my utter submission, to take everything he can dish out. When I endure it, and he sees that endurance and praises me for it, my love expands more and I want to give him even more of that, show him that. And so on, around and around and back and forth.
Thankfully, he knows when to stop, even if I haven’t said my safe word. I am that in love with him that it feels like I could go on forever there, and he knows it, and he also knows that someone gets to put down limits when I am that far gone in my love/pain spiral, and he is that someone. He understands, I think, the space I want to go with my submission.
My body has limits, but my heart does not. I have to balance between the two, and he will catch me, either way.
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I would like to play well with others.
I used to. Growing up, I had to; with seven kids in the family, you share your toys or someone is going to get an actual piece of leftover two-by-four in the face. Plus we were all sporty, so we could do a pickup game of soccer just on our own and to be honest, big sprawling board games like Risk and Monopoly were pretty epic.
But at school, I was a bit of an outcast—for my family’s poverty, for my incipient nerdiness, my weight—so I wasn’t in demand for a lot of teams. When there were artificial collectives for academic projects or student associations, I was rarely in a position of power, and yet in those same groups, I frequently ended up carrying the lion’s share of the work. I just wanted to make The Thing happen—hi, super keen nerd girl here!—and other people coasted on my labor.
Many of the projects I have taken on in my adult years have followed the same pattern: solo because I want to get shit done. And the groups that I worked with, for performance purposes, frequently wound up with conflicts, if not outright implosions, because I wanted to get shit done, sometimes at the expense of group process and consistent ethics and people’s feelings.
I stopped trying to do those things and decided to focus on my solo work. As my touring schedule got more intense, it was easy to pretend like wanting to work by myself was ENTIRELY my artistic choice, that it wasn’t some flaw or trauma of my own that I couldn’t work through.
What? I was touring! I was never in the same place for more than five months at a time, and usually I was passing through places for just a week or two at a time. How was I supposed to meet anyone to play with? How could I set regular writing dates with other performers? How could I go to networking events or other people’s shows when I wasn’t in any one town long enough to do it? I convinced myself of the futility of such endeavours, and accepted my lonely lot.
For a time. Except I kept seeing what other people were doing in collaboration with each other, great shows and writing, really interesting cross-disciplinary happenings and zines and videos. Here in Berlin the potential is real and exciting, so really feel it, this tiny, almost infinitesimal nudge…
You could do that, it says. You could get in there and play. You’re in Berlin for a while, go on, try it out, ask people, get involved. If not here, where else is it going to happen?
These are all very reasonable words that my subconscious tries to whisper in my ear. I shrink a little inside and shake my head, or puff up in self-importance at my loner status, I’m a rebel, I do things on my own, nobody else is going to do it the way I want things done, I play by my own rules.
But to be honest, I’m tired of worrying about everything on my own. Some art is better in collaboration. I want to play with others, which I think means I’m going to have to figure out some new rules soon.
Always looking for interesting opportunities and new performing connections, but the core of my vision remains true: making space for those awkward conversations around authentic sex, sexuality, and relationships. If you also think those conversations are important to have, then consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon.
My hottest epiphany was, in itself, not hot. It was the opposite of hot. It was the coldest that I had felt in my life up until that point, and it happened in my counselor’s office when I was rocking back and forth in a chair that was not designed for rocking, sobbing and doubled over from the psychic pain. But eventually it led to the best sex I've ever had.
Let me explain.
I had gone into counseling because I had cheated on my longtime partner, a woman, with a man. Although my awareness of my bisexuality had been sneaking up on me, to the point where I was starting to feel a little weird at office parties (I had a crush on my male editor at the newspaper), I thought I had it “under control.” When I subsequently went to a newspaper convention, drank two margaritas the size of my head, and rather aggressively pursued a male advertising sales rep from Sacramento… I realized I had nothing under control and sought out counseling.
There in the comfortably bland office, I dissected and discussed my craving for "male company," after nearly nine years of avoiding that shit like the plague. That was not the epiphany. I knew that I wanted cisgendered men back in my life, at least for the bouncy fun bits. The hard part was weighing that desire against everything else in my life.
Because I was still with my partner, and I still loved her, and I knew that pursuing my sexual desires was going to throw everything into chaos. She was already hurting, and I didn’t know how to make that stop. My new-found mantra for that period was You can’t unknow what you know, but saying it didn’t really help.
I felt guilt for what I had already done, and guilt for what I hadn’t even done yet, and deep, deep shame for all of it. It took me months and months to drill down to the core of it, something leftover from growing up in a large religious family with scarce resources and scarce love and sex being a perversion anyway: I felt that I wanted too much. I wanted more than I “deserved.”
Of course this goes back to always being a little bit hungry, and never being able to ask for more because there wasn’t more. But the current-day psychological upshot was that I felt that my wants, of any sort, were excessive. I was "greedy" for wanting what I wanted, and my happiness was nowhere worth near as much as other people’s. I could feel the desire—so profound that it transcended mere tingly bits—and at the same time I could feel my horrified recoil at my own selfishness, so I had been going around and around like a gyroscope, balanced in this endless push of lust and self-loathing.
I don’t know how exactly I broke that cycle. My counselor coaxed me down the path multiple times, as I made little baby steps and then waited for God to strike me down. I had to brace myself against the sure knowledge that yes, my choices would affect my partner, and try and fail and try again to be ethical, to be caring. I had to weigh, over and over, the risks and potential outcomes. I had to be at peace with the nature of my sexual self, and with the knowledge that it shifts and changes.
This is a process more than an epiphany. I still don’t always know how to proceed with my passionate pursuits. I still definitely worry about how those pursuits affect others. But at least I know that I must pay attention to my desires. I can’t always fulfill them right away or at all, because the world is not that kind of place, but my desires are valid and important, and they are definitely not too much.
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I have written about the concept of “home” frequently and at length. As a touring artist, I am understandably a little obsessed, while at the same time trying to be chill about it. I’ve tried to be all, you know, I’m tough, I only need a couple of suitcases to get around. If I can make theatre out of a toaster oven and a cordless phone handset, surely I can make home out of my old Pike Place Market apron and a mini-screwdriver in my makeup bag.
This has worked. For the past seven years this has worked. Less well over time, I mean, I regularly have to fight off the undeniable appeal of knowing where one’s container of flour is, but mostly, I have been able to stay light on my feet, and have felt that to be an important part of my M.O., if not to say my actual identity.
Home was always the hardest thing to shake when I needed to travel: boxing the stuff, transferring the utilities, packing up the room, arranging the sublet, forwarding the mail, finding a foster home for my cat… it was all a source of additional gravity, holding me down, pulling me back. In many ways it was a relief to let those things go, bit by bit.
But all of this was predicated on being a solo agent, a person who, of necessity, had to move through the world and launch myself in various directions on my own. I talked like I wanted to, but the reality was, I had to, or so I thought. I had to hold my relationships lightly because I was never going to be there. What kind of lover would want to sign up for that? I had to learn how to be strong on my own, because no one would ever be there for me in the bad times. Yes, I found support among friends and a few lovers, both on- and offline, but for the deep-down core moments of both pain and joy, I did not think I could not expect anything more than that.
Sometimes I wondered if I was afraid to ask for anything more than that, if I was afraid that my new life was just too full of drama and complications for anyone else to really want to share it. I didn’t have much luggage, but I had a lot of baggage around my desire for home.
And now that all is changing again. I still have the baggage, but I’ve found someone to share it with. I still have the touring, but I am in a long-term, core-deep relationship with a man who thinks I’m a joy, not an inconvenient weirdo. I have met my match and my muse, who proofreads my posts and asks if I am drinking enough water and knows exactly when I am going on stage without having to ask more than once.
More of my stuff is in storage near him than is with me in Berlin. What if I need to get at that stuff, I asked when we moved it there. “I’ll figure out a way to get it to you,” he said, and I exhaled a sigh that felt like it had been held in for years.
What I call home of course includes logistics: it’s the boxes and the insurance source and whatever visa I posses that gives me access to being in a place. But “home” is so much more than stuff. It is where I want to come back to, at the end of a late-night, exhausting show, or a far-traveling tour. It is the cup of tea he will make for me. It is the joy in his eyes to hear my triumphs, and the strength in his hand holding mine when he listens to my frustrations and fears, and knowing that I can do the same for him. Home is, in short, everything that I already know how to do for myself, but I don’t have to do it by myself anymore.
The only shadow is we don’t have our physical home space yet. But the feeling is already here; that, at least, doesn’t take up any room in a suitcase at all.
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Were you always so open about sex and sexual experiences, or was it something you became more open about over time? If it was over time, why?
Neither our ability nor our desire to communicate about sex are things that come pre-installed at the factory. As kids we may be touching ourselves all over the house, or playing doctor back behind the shed, but actually talking about it?... Nah. We tend to absorb whatever our family does, for better or for worse.
With that in mind, I would have to say that I probably was more open and exploratory about sex stuff at an earlier age than anyone had a right to expect, given my background. Despite having been raised in the Mormon church, I still managed to find plenty of books with dirty bits by the time I was 10 or 11, and went looking for ways to experience dirty bits by the age of 14 or so. (Or maybe there was every right to expect that, because of that fighting spirit of opposition, but how come none of my siblings or cousins broke free?)
For a while in junior high school, I had one friend who was willing to share with me a lot of the details about her sex life. We would stare up at the Duran Duran posters on the walls and ceiling of her room, and she would tell me what she did with her boyfriend on those nights where she told her mother she was with me. (Yeah, I was the Alibi Friend.) At the age of 13, that definitely felt like a sort of open-sharing sex-ed outlet, but then I got bigger, both in tits and body, and crossed the line into plus-sized and focused more on school and our other friends turned on me, so I lost that. I was on my own.
From that point forward, my approach seems to have been:
- fumble toward “bliss”
- fuck up, sometimes hardcore
- learn and integrate that learning OR take a huge reactionary swing in another direction
Eventually, over time, I got better with the various steps of this process. I started sitting down and thinking a little more in advance about what constitutes “bliss” for me. Additionally and where possible/necessary, I learned to think about other ways to get that bliss, some of which may be better for me and other people than just being led on a wild goose chase by my cunt.
I got better at dipping my toe in. Paradoxically, I also got better at plunging into the deep end, keeping my eyes open and committing to the dive. Sometimes that’s the thing that fucks you up.
And so, as I got better and more confident at following my (sexual) bliss, the learning curve became less harsh, less steep, considerably less fraught with explosive arguments and confused tears and occasionally lab tests and actual danger. (I should say that the curve has only really gotten shallower in the last seven years. I'm a late bloomer in so many things!) My mistakes aren’t so big now that I’ll feel the urge to run screaming in the opposite direction. And I am managing to find people who can walk and talk with me through the learning.
Now, as back when I was 13, my path seems to unfold right out in public view; I have never been very good at hiding my explorations for long. I don’t know if it’s because I’m stubborn or an exhibitionist or what, but no matter how difficult or weird it gets, wanting to be up front about sex stuff seems to be part of my personality.
Eventually, that led me to creating various shows around sex and sexuality because that’s what interests me. In performing around the world, I started to see that whatever attitude I have seems to be good for other people to witness. Authenticity in sex, especially in areas that don’t have societal support like kink or queerness or alternative relationship approaches or even as basic to me as asking for what I want… most people want more of it, but they don’t know how to get it.
I don’t know that I do either, but I’ve been trying to for a while, so it seems worthwhile to share my experiences with others. It feels like a way that I can make a difference.
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