Other Writing I Do

Reading between the lines: decoding workshop blurbs to get what’s right for you



I’m always grateful for the chance to sit in on sex-ed classes or go to conference sessions. Watching how more experienced educators teach can only do good things for my own work, as I promote Intimacy Improv and build up the rest of my programming. In the back of my mind, though, there’s always a question: would I have chosen this event if I were NOT networking or observing? If I were just a kinky or sexually curious individual and this opportunity came my way, how would I make that decision?

Word of mouth is important, obviously; you’re gonna hear from friends, “yeah, GO to that person, you have to experience them.” But if you have limited time or budget for sex/kink classes, or if you’re looking at a cram-jammed conference schedule, you have to be a bit more thoughtful about what classes to take, and you may have nothing more to go on than the workshop blurb. THAT’S OKAY. Even a 50-word write-up and a bio can give you the information you need:

First of all, READ THE DESCRIPTION. Read it. Sometimes the title is accurate, sometimes it doesn’t, but always read deeper. The description will give you content, items to bring, any prerequisites (“must know single-column tie” for shibari, etc.). It also may answers some other important questions:

WHAT IS THE PERSPECTIVE? That is, who is this workshop directed toward? Yes, you can learn a lot from looking at a situation from different perspectives, but maybe you are seeking something specific for your situation, so look for that perspective—explicit or implied—in the blurb, and ask the organizers if it’s not clear. Is this event for doms or subs? Is this for people who want to learn how to do TheThing, or be better able to have TheThing done to them? If the event does not specify that it is only for one particular group, e.g. mistresses or rope tops or littles, how does the description talk about the other perspectives around that dynamic, if at all?

WHAT IS THE TONE? Is the learning experience pitched as problem-solving, or visioning, or exploring, or learning? How does it align with how you feel about the subject? Maybe your attitude toward menstrual sex is spiritual in nature, so you will want to keep an eye out for write-ups that speak to that. Perhaps you are interested in pegging, but you want less about the how-to and more about the social/political/gendered aspects of it.

WHAT IS THE PEDAGOGY? Is it demo only, or hands-on? Lecture, discussion, interactive? If the event is interactive, are the activities clearly outlined? People learn in different ways, and a capable instructor should be able to work with that, but a workshop that inherently leans toward one style of instruction may not be for you. If talking things out with other people is how you like to learn, then a discussion group may be your best choice. If you are new to TheThing, and shy to boot, then a demo session is a good option, rather than an all-hands-on-deck immersion experience

WHO IS THE TEACHER? Look at that bio, for how many years of experience they have, where they have worked, what they have written. Also look for the less tangible clues. What is the tone: playful, matter-of-fact, serious? How accessible is it, e.g. is there a lot of jargon or in-group language where it’s not necessary to the subject at hand? What titles/awards and other affiliations do they mention? If you are exploring matters of leather protocol or other areas with strong in-group identity, you will want to know. If, on the other hand, that is not a thing for you and the bio is loaded with it, there might be a mismatch there.

What else do you look for in workshop write-ups or publicity? Or is it all word of mouth? What makes you jump on a workshop? This aspiring educator wants to know!


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TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: “7 Difficult Sex Positions That Are Actually Worth the Effort”

Like, the iron butterfly that will snap his neck off?

Butterfly? Like, the iron butterfly that will snap his neck off?

More terrible sex positions… Oh, wait. Not terrible, just difficult. Note to publisher: because you call them “difficult” in the headline doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for putting these out into the world. No disclaimers allowed on this shit. People get weird around sex positions, all over-achievery and stuff. You might as well just call them “leveling up your sex-position game.”

1. The Side Straddle
Okay, so here we have reverse cowgirl with a 30- to 45-degree rotation on the dick, plus a potentially strong power-grind position on the thigh. Honestly, I haven’t heard from a whole lotta cowgirls that reverse cowgirl really works. Exactly one person has told me they dig doing it, so I’m not sure this position, even with that 30-degree twist, is worth it. Also, I’m concerned about his thigh hair chafing at her pussy. Is that a thing? Am I hanging out with a lot of hairy men? The author says that positions facing away are “sexy and animalistic”. THAT IS NOT A UNIVERSAL. Frankly, I wanna see my partner’s teeth bared, like a sex-maddened baboon.

2. Butterfly
This starts out promisingly, with a flat surface, anything that is a bit lower than your partner’s pelvis. But once you get heel-to-shoulder contact in a way that is strictly support-structure, you know this is going to get complicated. Why all the trouble to lift your hips up off the bed? “Being a bit up in the air makes it feel precarious, in a fun way.” Look, precarious is not fun, not when hard bits and wet bits are involved. You want those connections to be as STEADY AS POSSIBLE. If he’s going to really go for it, he doesn’t need your heels pulling down against his shoulders as your core muscles finally give way. Screw the hanging-by-the-heels approach. Get a Liberator cushion block or just a bunch of pillows.

3. The Sofa Brace
It’s just doggy over the back of a couch. All that power that people love—the people who love doggy-style, that is—all of that pounding, hard thrusting over the back of the couch, repeated thudding impact on the back of the… uh, does no one else look at this position. and say GODDAMN Y’ALL GONNA KNOCK THAT THING RIGHT OVER.

4. The Bridge
“…just like in yoga class but way more fun.” I have yet to see one of these challenging-positions articles not reference yoga class. Are you seeing the scene? Organic red lentils soaking on the kitchen counter, stripped-off yoga pants left on the recycled bamboo floor while the two of you work those core muscles in deep, g-spot loving tandem. I think sex-position articles should have a universal symbol for “intermediate yoga required”

5. The Crab Walk
Do you get turned on by watching your partner do the crab walk? SO HOT. “You’re going to look a little ridiculous,” warns the author. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with fooling around, but this one makes me want to pull out some Three Stooges music. If you really want this position, you could just start from cowgirl, have him open his legs and sit up, and then slowly fall back onto your hands. It’s the same basic thing, slightly less fuss in the set-up. But THEN YOU WOULDN’T HAVE THE CRAB WALK FOREPLAY

6. The Cross
You know, I’ve done this one, and yes, it is a good angle for clit play, but there is no leverage for either partner to get connected in any significant way. You’re wrapping your calves around his back and levering upward, while he’s trying to push forward. The movement vectors just don’t match.

7. X Marks The Spot
Okay, so you start out “Picking up Cleveland” (legs up and spread a little, like radio antennae) and then cross your legs once his dick is in. Why it’s worth it? Tight, she says. Right, fine. I guess if you’re that worried that he might slip out unnoticed, give it a shot, but I tried this just now, and I can report that if you have thighs of (any) thickness, he’s gonna be jamming them crossways so hard, he’s not going to have energy for thrusting or leverage or anything else.

The one sensible piece of this article was the part about taking it out with your partner beforehand, even doing a tech rehearsal, fully clothed and when you’re not in the throes of passion. But the positions… let’s just say that for once, the illustrations with a sex-tip article will tell you exactly what you need to know. Pay attention to the pictures, and remember that normal laws of physics apply.


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TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: 17 Sexy Phrases GUARANTEED To Get Him All Hot And Bothered

I love how your cock feels in....uh... hang on, I lost my line...

I love how your cock feels in….uh… hang on, I lost my line…

Disclosure: I have recently begun teaching Intimacy Improv, a workshop to get people feeling more comfortable with dirty talk and role play. The guy who wrote this week’s really terrible tips on dirty talk, this is the largest part of what his online tutorials are about.

But I don’t think of him as a competitor. First of all, he’s way more famous than I am already. He’s got his videos and his approach, and there are apparently enough people in the world to believe that dirty talk is all about the objectively right words, delivered in the right way, that he will have enthusiastic takers for his wares until the end of time. What do those eager students get? Weak-sauce, gender-stereotype suggestions like this:

“Having a large repertoire of dirty phrases that you can use on your man is important if you want to keep things exciting in the bedroom (and outside the bedroom) as well as keeping him faithful.”

Sir, could you not just have left this with “keeping things exciting”? Because the closing three words in that sentence—”keeping him faithful”—deliver an ominous subtext: Be dirty so he doesn’t get bored. It will be your fault if he cheats on you, your fault for not being enough of a pervert. Gah. And describing dirty talk as something that you “use on your man” makes it sound like a tool for manipulating someone, not a toy with which to engage your partner in verbal play.

“There is just no point in learning the words if you don’t know how to use them properly,” says the author. Properly. Ah. This is gonna be good.

How You Talk Dirty
“When talking dirty to your man, you are going to find that you have a lot more success at turning your man on and building sexual tension if you do it confidently. So the next time you talk dirty to your man, make sure to speak slowly and clearly in a way that accentuates the meaning of the actual words.”

Slow and clear. That’s the way I deliver fem-domme stuff on the phone, that’s definitely how you play confident. But that’s not necessarily the way I would ever utter stuff in person, and when someone is talking to dirty to me, I want them to talk the way that they’re feeling. I want to struggle to hear their whisper. I want their voice low and growly, or trembling and falling away because it is so damn good. As for myself, maybe (probably!) I want to play the little girl. Maybe I am teasing more than telling. Maybe well-modulated is a shitty substitute for how you really feel.

“The last thing you want to do is stutter the words or say them incredibly fast or in a weird tone. My advice is to practice these dirty talking phrases a few times to yourself before you actually use them on your man.”

Pro tip: For most people who aren’t actors, rehearsing phrases just ends up making them sound rehearsed.

“So now that I have talked a little bit about using dirty talk in a way that is most effective, it’s time to learn some dirty talking phrases!”

Hear that? Get your notebook out and write these down. Study them on the bus. Post them near your mirror. Record the lines into a recorder, and listen to them until you fall asleep at night. Maybe make some flashcards? You’re learning a whole new language, sweetheart.

Dirty phrases to turn him on in bed:
•    You feel so good on top of me.
  (or underneath me)
•    Just hearing you breathe in my ear sends shivers down my spine.
   (TOO LOUD, TOO LOUD, GODDAMN, move your mouth away from my ear.)
•    I love just touching your body. It feels incredible.
   (It feels edible. NOMNOMNOM)
•    I wish we could just stay in bed forever.
   (Wasting away, trapped by our lust…)
•    Just like that!
(No, not that, the thing you did five seconds ago. No, the thing with the vibrations… sigh. No. Just keep going.)

•    Faster!
   (Why is slower not on this list?)
•    I love being your little minx in the bedroom.
(No one uses the word “minx” anymore except burlesquers and sex advice columnists. Update with “bitch”, it means the same thing. What, is that TOO bold?)
•    I want to taste you.
   (So edible…)
•    Keep doing that.
•    You’re going to put me over the edge.
   (Sorry, all I hear is the line from Shrek: “I’M A DONKEY ON THE EDGE!”)
•    You’re making me too turned on.
(Too turned on, what does that even mean? Too turned on for what? Too turned on to drive a car? Too turned on to accurately calculate the value of pi to 100 places? Finish the goddamn sentence to be both sexier and more vivid. Bonus for non sequitors.)

Dirty talking phrases to build sexual tension:
“When you’re not in bed, you can use dirty talk much more subtly and discreetly to build sexual tension and also keep your man thinking about you (for hours and hours) rather than just instantly turning him on like with you would using the previous dirty talk phrases.”

It’s as easy as flipping on a light switch, apparently! (I will leave the dim-bulb comparison as a side note.)

•    I can’t wait until we’re alone, I’ve got a special surprise for you!
   (I got a tattoo!)
•    Seeing you in those jeans is making me want to jump you.
•    If we weren’t out in public, I would be doing some very naughty things to you right now!
  (Naughty. You are not eight. Unless that’s your game, in which case, go for it.)
•    I wish we could just leave this party/movie theatre/concert and go somewhere private. I am just too horny!
   (You can leave! Fuck social expectations! Find a broom closet!)
•    Don’t look at me like that, you know it turns me on.
   (It’s the googly-eye glasses, god, so fucking hot.)   
•    You know I wore this skirt/these jeans just for you.
   (Just kidding, it’s laundry day.)

<head in hands>

This is exactly the stuff that I hate about the public perceptions of what “dirty talk” is, the very reason I stopped TEACHING workshops for a few years. I got tired of dealing with people’s misguided expectations; they wanted to learn a formula or phrasebook for dirty talk, something that worked on everyone. I didn’t know exactly what to offer instead, but I knew that wasn’t right. Phone-sex operators, who are working with quantities of dirty-talk partners daily, even we don’t have scripts for dirty talk, because that would be ridiculous. Men are people, and people are individuals.

So no, I don’t see the author as a competitor. More like a philosophical arch-nemesis.


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TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: “10 Seduction Tips that will have him BEGGING for you”

I can't lick my lips anymore, this lipstick tastes terrible, god, just come over here already!

I can’t lick my lips anymore, this lipstick tastes terrible, god, just come over here already!

I think I may have accidentally discovered a nemesis. See, there are certain online channels that routinely offer some pretty fucking awful sex tips, and when I started keeping an eye on the authors… oh, shit. This same guy keeps coming up. HE KEEPS COMING UP, AND I WANT TO FIND HIM AND TIE HIM DOWN IN A NON-SEXY WAY AND TELL HIM TO STOP.

He isn’t usually going after the sexual positions. His stock-in-trade is dirty talk <eye roll> and what I would call the “soft” sex tips, things that aren’t about sex per se, but getting people to have sex, or foreplay, stuff like that. Oh, sure, his web site is promoting his oral sex instructional videos—can someone buy me access to those, so I can see whether those are terrible, too?—but mostly it’s soft-core, “how to get him hot” material.

Like this piece. This stuff is straight-up pick-up artist (PUA) territory, for the ladies. I heard about the concept of “escalating kino” a few years back, and while this article isn’t as bad as that, it’s right there on the same spectrum: consciously using physicality in an attempt to artificially accelerate intimacy. IT’S GROSS.

1. Show some skin.

“If your guy’s at all into you, glimpses of your stomach, shoulders and back will drive him wild.”

So, you know, wear a tank top and be reaching up for things all the time. Oh, but “be classy about it, of course.” You do not want to be a desperate slut about this, please.

2. Flirt.

In an article about seduction tips, this is practically a tautology. How to flirt? Flirt. The author says flirting is “easy for most.” Totally, I mean, why do you find it hard to flirt, you clod? Everyone else knows how to do it. Laugh at what he says, lean over and let your tits spill out over the top of that tank top, but not, like, all the way over, that’s just crude. If that’s working, pull out some innuendo—that’s what she said!—and pull him over into a dark corner for making out. That’s flirting in a nutshell, right there.

3. Feed him with your hands.

This can be hot, when you’re already intimate with someone, when you can pop a bit of fruit into someone’s mouth and they take your finger in along with the fruit and then they’re all sucking on it and doing things with their tongue and… uh… sorry, where was I? Oh. Right. Sharing food. Totally sexy! But I recommend saving it for when you are already far enough along that both people know you want it, both the food and the sex. Otherwise, you’re putting food out there and it’s just hanging out there, like a forkful of rapidly cooling lasagna. AWKWARD.

4. Make eye contact.

I read somewhere recently about practicing eye contact by looking in the mirror (if I can find the link, I will add it). That makes sense. If you can just get used to making and breaking eye contact, even with yourself, that’s a good start. This, this head-tilting and under-lash-looking, are just moves, along with other ones, like “look at his eyes and then look at his mouth” or “flutter your eyelashes and smile.” These are things that many of us automatically do when we are eyeballing someone we find attractive. But if you don’t already do that? Well, studied face choreography, for anyone who is not a very skilled actor, is just going to look like choreography. All you’re going to get for your pains is “what’s wrong with your eyes?”

5. Touch him.

“Touching is another tip that you must not overuse. Too much, and you risk making your love interest think you’re handsy or have boundary issues. But some well-placed caresses can do the trick nicely, especially if the guy doesn’t yet know you’re interested.”

Right. Because it is less awkward to get all up into someone’s space, to touch their back or their neck OR THEIR LIPS, JEEZUS CHRIST, I CANNOT IMAGINE TOUCHING SOMEONE’S LIPS WHO IS NOT ALREADY MY LOVER, than to just say, “Hey, I’m interested.”

6. Move slowly.

“Even if you do have somewhere to go, take the time to move slowly and present a relaxed front. Swing your hips from side to side, let you arms move naturally at your side, and avoid jerky movements of your head and neck. When you’re relaxed and sinuous, you look ready for anything … including those things you’d most like to do with him. He’ll definitely notice.”

Can we just get below surface appearances for a moment? If you are rushing everywhere and you feel like that’s affecting the way you relate to people, maybe you could try, I don’t know, walking meditation or taking more strolls by yourself and practicing conscious awareness. This might be helpful, not only for moving more easily around other people, but also getting more grounded and comfortable with yourself and your surroundings. Worrying about your body movements specifically to affect someone else, like the face choreography (above), is a sure-fire way to feel even more awkward. And anyway, not everyone is drawn to a sinuous, jungle she-cat. Some people might find that a little terrifying!

7. Whisper.

“Nothing helps your seduction like taking it down a notch. Your voice, that is. Whispers encourage intimacy because your romantic interest has to lean forward to catch what you say.”

Better yet, mouth the words. Just, all the time. Make him really work for it.

8. Smile cheekily.

“Confidence is sexy, plain and simple. If you’re trying to light a fire in your guy, a coy or mischievous smile tells him you know exactly what you’re doing.”

But don’t go too far into knowing territory; you will wind up with an unbecoming smirk! Add the cheeky smile to your seduction-exercise regimen, along with looking under your eyelashes and slow, snake-like movements of the neck and hips.

9. Talk dirty.

“Even if you haven’t yet done the deed, a few well-chosen dirty phrases or innuendos can make it clear you’d like to without being gross or over the top. While you want him to know you’re interested, you don’t want him to think you’d do this with just anyone.”

God, no, you whore. Keep it classy.

10. Run your fingers through your hair.

“Slightly messy hair can make you look like you just got out of the horizontal position. Wear your hair loose, whether it’s long or short. Let it get wild when you’re walking or when there’s a breeze. Never pass up a chance to walk in front of a fan.”

Ah, yes. The classic “bedhead” approach. Bonus points if you leave some clingy, white hair product around the bangs and sides. It makes you look like someone just came on your face. “That should have been me!” his subconscious will say. “She is obviously the kind of girl who is DTF. Damn, maybe I should make my move.”


Here’s the thing about this article, and most seduction tips: they are 180 degrees away from the idea of 1) Using Your Words and 2) Getting Comfortable in Your Own Skin. They presuppose that we cannot trust our bodies, or learn to trust them, to express what we are feeling, that Saying Something is terrifying and therefore must be avoided at all costs, and frankly, that anyone we want to get with is going to respond the same way to any of these signals that the author lays out.

What’s terrible here is part of what is so problematic about male PUA: the idea that you can treat anyone the same way and get a guaranteed result. It dehumanizes the objects of our desire, strips away from them any quirks or individuality or magic fucking chemistry. And it reinforces the idea that we ourselves, with our own idiosyncrasies and fashion sense and way of moving, we are not attractive. Who we are, at our core, will never be right.

That’s a pretty fucking terrible principle to be operating from.


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WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW: redefining a writer’s rule for myself

Writing it down makes it more real, which helps.

Writing it down makes it more real, which helps.

Whatever name I’ve made in performance so far, I’ve made it performing my self, writing and presenting plays that are deeply and unmistakably reflective of me and my own lived experiences in sex and relationships. If you bring the Smut Slam and storytelling into it, then that’s even more sloppy, raw, real-life stuff that I just fling out into the audience. I get awards for it, and good reviews, but it’s just me and stuff that I wanted to share, and that’s what I’m known for.

I did not go into theatre for therapeutic reasons, honest to god I didn’t.

I can see why it might look like it, though, because I always thought I had to adhere to the writer’s edict to “write what you know.” For a long time, when I considered writing characters that were quite different from me, performing characters that were NOT me, that had only the remotest connection to me, I just flinched away. I can’t write that, I thought, I don’t know what’s true about that person. I can’t pretend to be this person, that’s just faking it. Not being a formally trained performer, I was terrified at the prospect of not being able to fall back on my own personality on stage, if I forgot my lines, if I lost touch with the mood. And if I wrote about myself, and stayed true to my own memories and feelings, then no one could argue with me about my own interpretation of those things. No one could critique that. I would be on unassailable ground. At least, that’s what I thought, which turned about to be not true on a couple of different levels.

First of all, turns out my experiences and feelings and beliefs are definitely assailable! For Phone Whore, certainly, I have gotten lots of flack from people who think that my personal beliefs are problematic, or enabling, or disgusting. And across my performances, putting my life out there is a magnet for those who just … can’t approve of my life. I have the cold comfort of knowing that they can’t actually call me a liar about my own feelings, but ad hominem attacks are totally fair game, apparently.

And then … well, I had worried about writing other characters, that they wouldn’t be “true”, that they couldn’t be “real,” or real enough. I forced myself to face up to that in writing and performing The Pretty One (which is being performed this year in Houston and Nashville). Turns out that’s just the nature of fictional characters: THEY AREN’T ACTUALLY PEOPLE. They are MADE UP. They aren’t real. There is no one person that characters necessarily have to be true to. This is not journalism; there is no fact-checking to follow. Good characters, characters that audiences feel are “real” or honest or true, only need to be written in a way that is internally consistent, and externally identifiable with the way the world works, the way that people work. They need to be true in the broader definition of true: not factually accurate, but simply believable in their own created universe.

Yes, that means I have to have generated that universe, through creating backstory and spending a lot of daydream time in their heads. Performing those characters, I need to soak them in and then bring them back out through body and voice, but I can do that, with the help of directors and watching what other performers do. In the end it’s just more work, and I can do that.

I’m entering a new era now, see. I’ve been wrestling with something deeper than work flow or fictional journaling as a character or movement blocking, and I think I’ve finally pinned it down: “writing what I know” doesn’t mean I have to write only about factual things from my own life. Please, spare me the “no shit, Sherlock”s. You can know things intellectually and still not really understand, until suddenly you do. I really don’t know why it took me so long. I got stuck in my own narrow definitions, perhaps owing to my work writing for newspapers. I was scared. Whatever the reason(s), I’m just glad that I finally got here, to the place where I really trust that, yes, I know more than my own self-centered history.

I know feelings, for example. I know lots of those. I know what it feels like to not know what I am going to say until I say it and then be horrified as the truth spills out in my own voice. I know what it feels like to believe that someone would hate me forever if they knew. I know what it feels like to bask in someone’s loving gaze, to writhe in the middle of the night because I can’t undo it, to step bravely forward into I-know-not-what, to be faced with a decision that feels like too much but must be made.

These are moments of emotional truth that bloom or pierce many people’s lives. And while I may not want to bring my own specific experience of those moments to the writing and/or performance of a particular theatrical work, I know them. They inform what I do. I can explore them to say something important and, hopefully, beautiful. And that really is all that’s required to “write what I know.”


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