Posts Tagged ‘film series’

2012 12 Nov

Free Tickets to CineKink: Chicago, and The End Of Sex+++

Okay, so I’m about to offer free tickets to CineKink …. but firstly, an announcement: my epically awesome sex-positive documentary film series, Sex+++, is ending with 2012.

Sex+++ has been quite a journey. When I curated the original film series in 2009, I imagined that it would be a self-contained set of films and would only last nine months. Sex+++ succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, collected incredible community support, and lasted four years! Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, a historic Chicago social justice site, took a huge and generous risk by hosting Sex+++ this whole time. I’m grateful to the Hull-House Museum and to the volunteers who have stepped up to make Sex+++ amazing this whole time.

Our November screening is on the 13th, and our December screening is on the 11th. The 2011-2012 calendar, plus other details, is here. If you or someone you know is in Chicago, tell them to come join the conversation — it’s free, and we serve delicious conversation plus hot snacks! Also, it’s not too late to join the mailing list or Facebook group. We will continue to spread the word about sex-positive stuff around Chicago, and we may even continue to co-sponsor sex-positive film events!

* * *

And of course, as always, it’s time for CineKink: Chicago on November 16 & 17.

Just like I’ve done for the past two years, I am currently offering TWO PAIRS of FREE TICKETS to a film of your choice at the upcoming CineKink: Chicago:

Celebrating and exploring a wide diversity of sexuality, the films and videos in this sex-positive and kink-friendly showcase range from documentary to drama, camp comedy to hot porn, mildy spicy to quite explicit — and everything in between.

If you want the tickets, then just email me with your name, tell me how long you’ve been reading my work, and include the title of the first post you ever read on my blog! My email address is clarisse.thorn at gmail dot com. (It’s okay if you’ve never heard of me before and the first post is this post.)

I’ll put all the names in a hat on Thursday (November 15). I’ll pick two names randomly, then I’ll email the winners. And you get to choose which movie you see for free with a friend or partner!

Once again, CineKink: Chicago will take place on November 16 & 17. Here’s the lineup. See you there!

* * *

2012 11 Oct

Why I’m Not (Yet) Out Of The Closet About S&M

No one was surprised when Ricky Martin came out of the closet as gay.

Today is National Coming Out Day. I cried when I saw Milk and I think outness can be an important political act, but I’m not coming out.

Not yet.

I’ve been writing under a pseudonym for a long time.

In 2008, I decided to take all my theories about S&M — and all my confused feelings — and use them for sex-related activism. I started Sex+++, my sex-positive film series in Chicago, which was an unexpectedly huge success. I volunteered at the Leather Archives, the world’s only S&M museum. I began writing this blog. Soon I was getting speaking engagements. Then I started publishing articles in big outlets. Always under the name Clarisse Thorn.

I had several reasons for writing under another name:

1) I thought I might want to explore a career path at a conservative company. In fact, I spent the first two years of my Clarisse-Thorn-time working for bosses who would not have been okay with the fact that I’m a decently well-known S&M writer.

The social climate now is somewhat liberal — it’s mostly okay to be gay, for example, or at least it’s more okay than it has been for hundreds of years. But S&M is something else. Less than ten years ago, a prominent U.N. employee named Jack McGeorge was publicly attacked in the media because he was an S&Mer. And while you might think times have changed, a sex blogger who called herself The Beautiful Kind (real name Kendra Holliday) lost her job in 2010 when her boss found out.

BDSM — and sexuality in general — is still very stigmatized. People who write openly and personally about sex are taking huge risks with their employability.

2) I’m lucky because my parents are both very analytical, liberal thinkers; they’re deeply interested in gender politics, and they think my work is awesome. However, there are other people in my social network who would not be cool with Clarisse Thorn. For example, one of my closest friends comes from a hardcore religious family. I like her family. I’ve been to their house for Christmas. They’ve told me that they think I’m “a good influence” on their daughter, although they understand that I’m pretty liberal. But if they knew I was kinky, God knows how they’d react.

Another example: a former boss of mine is very, very conservative. In fact, he’s a Tea Party member. This boss has always been incredibly kind and generous to me; I visit him occasionally even though I don’t work for him anymore, and he’s told me that he thinks of me like a daughter. Would he “disown” me if he knew about Clarisse Thorn? I don’t know.

Some people who work in sexuality say: “Well, I wouldn’t want to work for someone who can’t accept me as I am,” or “I wouldn’t want to be close to someone who wouldn’t be okay with my sexuality.” Maybe that’s true for them. But people are complicated, and the world is a nuanced place, and I’ve drawn a lot of comfort and joy from these relationships, even if I disagree with those folks in some ways.

3) I hope to have kids at some point. In USA culture, the most efficient way to go about that is usually to get married. I don’t want a potential husband to be in a position where people will assume he’s perverted just because he’s marrying me; if he wants to be out, then that’s fine, but I don’t want outness to be a precondition. I don’t want to risk his employment along with my own. And if I’m going to meet a fiancé’s family, I’d rather they had the opportunity to get to know me as a person before they Google me and discover this. I mean, I’ve dated men whose families would have had trouble adjusting to the relationship because I was white. Imagine if they knew that I was a pervert.

And my poor potential kids! I mentioned Kendra Holliday earlier; her son has definitely caught some flak at school. I’m pretty sure the famous S&M writer Janet Hardy stayed in the closet, writing under the name Catherine Liszt, until her children were grown — I seem to recall seeing something she wrote where she described kids as “hostages to social stigma,” although I can’t find it now. (Update: Janet did stay in the closet until her kids were grown, but she doesn’t recall saying anything about hostages; see comments.)

There are other reasons for being closeted. I am, in fact, nervous about having everyone in the world know details about my sex life (even though my writing is fairly vague and emotional and political, compared to most sex writing). Personal safety worries me, too.

There is something shadowy and romantic about having a “secret identity” — and as a dedicated child of the Internet since 1996, when anonymity was the norm, I always liked playing identity games. But this is more inconvenient and stressful than romantic. I mean, earlier this year I spoke at the biggest new media conference in the world. Imagine attending a four-day social media convention while preventing yourself from being photographed or identified. It was intense.

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2011 27 Oct

Free Tix to CineKink Chicago AND Group Discount to Reeling Film Fest!

November is an awesome month for sexuality-related films in Chicago. First of all, there’s the ongoing Sex+++: my sex-positive film series at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Sex+++ is pro-sex, pro-queer and pro-kink. The films are all totally FREE to attend, and we serve enticing snacks and delicious conversation. Our next screening is November 8, and you can read the full 2011-2012 film calendar by clicking here.

November is also when CineKink: The Kinky Film Festival brings its annual national tour to Chicago, November 18-19 — and I’m offering free tickets again this year!

Plus! November features Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, November 3-12 — and this year, I can offer a group discount to one of the screenings.

For more information, keep reading ….

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2011 17 Mar

The Sex-Positive Documentary Film List: 2011-2012!

SEX POSITIVE
pro-SEX, pro-QUEER, pro-KINK

a FREE documentary film series for people who like sex
curated by Clarisse Thorn and the awesome Sex+++ Committee!

+ Join our Facebook group, and invite all your friends!
+ Join our Google Groups mailing list to receive updates!
+ Want to volunteer to help out? Join our volunteer mailing list!

* * *

OFFICIAL FILM LIST: 2011-2012
2nd Tuesdays at 7PM
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 South Halsted

Sex+++ is a film series and discussion group that’s open to all, where we discuss sex, culture, and sexual fun. When I started the series in 2009, I thought it would only last 9 months (here’s the original film list) — but Sex+++ ended up succeeding beyond my wildest dreams!

This year, we’re exploring some new themes:

+ Activist Sex (how sex and activism intersect),
+ Sexual History (how sex has been viewed in the past),
+ Love And Sex (how romance and relationships shape sex),
+ and Sex Everywhere (how people think about sex outside the USA).

You can RSVP by phone if you like: 312.413.5353. If you RSVP, we’ll save you a seat — and if the venue fills up, you’ll definitely be able to attend! In other words, RSVPs are not required, but they’re in your interest. Please note that we unsave seats at 7PM.

* * *

MARCH 8, 2011: “Margaret Sanger: A Public Nuisance” (1992) + “Jane: An Abortion Service” (1996)
#1: Highlights Margaret Sanger’s pioneering strategies of using media and popular culture to advance the cause of birth control, and discusses some of her early-1900s arrests and trials.
#2: Tells the story of “Jane”, the Chicago-based women’s health group who performed nearly 12,000 safe illegal abortions between 1969 and 1973 with no formal medical training.
+ themes: Activist Sex, Sexual History

APRIL 7, 2011 — THURSDAY: “A Jihad for Love” (2007)
+ This is a special event and will take place on Thursday, April 7 rather than the second Tuesday in April, because the filmmaker is coming into town for a talkback!
+ Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing religion. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, discovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims. After we screen “A Jihad for Love”, Sharma will talk about his more than a decade of work and experience in countries like Egypt, where he filmed in secret, without government permission, during Hosni Mubarak’s repressive regime.
+ Note that there will also be a brown bag lunch with Parvez Sharma at noon on April 8, on the topic of race and identity.
+ themes: Activist Sex, Sex Everywhere

MAY 10, 2011: “Sister Wife” (2008) + “The Love Bureau” (2009) + “Muslims in Love” (2010)
#1: A fundamentalist Mormon woman in a polygamous marriage explains how she feels about it.
#2: Profiles a modern-day mail order bride service that specializes in matching Eastern European women with Italian men.
#3: Shows devout American Muslim young people pursuing love and marriage, searching for alternatives to arranged marriages common to traditional Muslim culture.
+ themes: Love and Sex, Sex Everywhere

JUNE 14, 2011: “Trans Entities: The Nasty Love of Papi’ and Wil” (2008)
A unique, sexy, thought-provoking and above all touching portrait of an interracial, polyamorous, transgender couple. The film involves several personal interviews and three explicit sex scenes: the first with Papi’ and Wil; the second involving an extra partner; and the third an S&M role play scenario.
+ themes: Love and Sex

JULY 12, 2011: “Outrage” (2009)
Examines the issues surrounding closeted homosexual politicians and their hypocrisy in voting anti-gay on measures from HIV/AIDS support to hate crime laws — and how they have harmed millions of Americans for many years.
+ themes: Activist Sex, Sexual History

AUGUST 11, 2011 — THURSDAY: “The Canal Street Madam” (2010)
+ This is a special event and will take place on Thursday, August 11 rather than Tuesday. It will also take place at the Everleigh Social Club, 939 W. Randolph St., rather than at the Hull-House Museum, because we are partnering with the Sex Workers Outreach Project on their upcoming sex worker film fest!
+ “The Canal Street Madam” follows the story of Jeanette Maier, a New Orleans madam whose clientele included a number of powerful, high-ranking politicians. When she was busted by the FBI and torn apart in the press, they escaped censure, so after her trial she set out to fight back against a system that silences the powerless and protects the elite.
+ themes: Activist Sex, Sexual History

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2010 11 Dec

Call for Sexy Documentaries: Sex+++ Has Five New Themes!

I hate to post two press releases in a row, but I’ve been very caught up in some Chicago community issues lately, so I haven’t had time to write anything more personal. I’ll bore you all with details about my life soon, I promise! In the meantime, please feel free to repost this …

SEX+++
pro-sex, pro-queer, pro-kink

Contact:
Clarisse Thorn :: clarisse.thorn at gmail dot com

+ Q. “What is being sex-positive?”
+ A. “Defining sex on my terms.”
+ A. “Understanding my sexual needs.”
+ A. “Being in charge of my sexual experiences.”

The Sex+++ Documentary Film Series is now entering its third year. We want to make it bigger and better than ever — and take it in new directions! We’re still discussing next year’s film line-up, and we’ve got a lot of ideas, but we also want to throw open the floor. We’re looking for suggestions and submissions: documentaries that are pro-sex, pro-queer, and pro-kink.

In 2011, Sex+++ will focus on several themes. We’re still discussing these themes, and they are subject to change as we research documentaries and develop the program, but here’s what we’ve thought of so far. We’re open to hearing more about any and all sex-positive documentaries — but in particular, if you’ve encountered documentaries that fit within these themes, please let us know!

+ THEME: Sex Everywhere

We want to explore how sexuality, sexual culture, sexual identity, and sexual pleasure are recorded, experienced, and understood outside the USA.

+ THEME: Love And Sex

We want to explore the many ways sex happens within romance, dating, relationships, marriage, and love.

+ THEME: Sexual History

We want to explore the history of sexuality, sexual culture, sexual identity, and sexual pleasure; we want to learn about sex-positive heroes.

+ THEME: Activist Sex

We want to explore sex-related activism and how sex-positivity intersects with other social issues such as class, race, labor, health, justice and the environment.

Sex+++ will continue at its current amazing venue, Chicago’s own Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Click here to learn what’s up with Sex+++ right now. And again — if you’ve got any documentaries to recommend, please get in touch! The primary contact for Sex+++ is Clarisse Thorn, who can be reached at clarisse.thorn at gmail dot com.

(Note, as of February 2011: The fifth theme, Talking Sex — about how we discuss sexual pleasure, desire, and consent — was ultimately dropped due to a lack of corresponding films. We’ll cover related stuff, though.)

2010 17 Nov

Free tickets to CineKink Chicago!

I am currently offering TWO PAIRS of FREE TICKETS to a film of your choice at the upcoming CineKink: Chicago. If you want the tickets, then just email me with your name, tell me how long you’ve been reading my work, and include the title of the first post you ever read on my blog! (It’s okay if you’ve never heard of me before and the first post is this post.) I’ll put all the names in a hat tomorrow evening (Thursday) and pick two randomly, then I’ll email the winners. And you get to CHOOSE which movie you see for free with a friend or partner!

CineKink Chicago has a great 2010 lineup. These three films sound especially awesome to me:

Friday, November 19th, 8pm: S&M Judge (Trailer)
The 2010 CineKink Audience Choice Award Winner! A compelling drama in which a respected judge finds his job, reputation and family life in jeopardy after he and his wife begin to explore sadomasochism, with an opening reception for CineKink: Chicago to immediately follow the screening.

Saturday, November 20th, 2pm: My Sexuality: A Sensory Experience followed by a panel featuring meee! (Trailer)
Shines light on five ordinary women from different backgrounds, sexual preferences and past experiences as they experiment with activities intended to boost both sense of self and sexuality. Immediately following the screening will be a panel discussion about women, representations of sexuality and sex-positive filmmaking, including Clarisse Thorn!

Saturday, November 20th, 4.30pm: Waxie Moon (Trailer)
Takes the world of neo-burlesque by storm in a thought-provoking and hilarious documentary look at one artist’s unlikely journey.

But there are a bunch of other good films showing as well. Don’t you want free tickets? The films are being screened at the awesome Leather Archives & Museum (up at 6418 N. Greenview Avenue in Rogers Park). Local sponsors of CineKink Chicago include my pet sex-positive documentary film series, Sex+++; the wonderful sex toy store Early To Bed; and the rope bondage convention ShibariCon.

RECAP: For a chance to win TWO FREE TICKETS to CineKink Chicago, all you have to do is:

1) Email me, Clarisse Thorn: clarisse.thorn at gmail dot com.

2) In your email, tell me how long you’ve been reading my work, and write the title of the first post you read on my blog. (It’s okay if you just found my blog, and the first post is this post! And if you can’t remember the title of the first post you read, just tell me what the post was about.)

3) Sit back and wait until Thursday night. I will email you if you win the tickets! And remember, if you win, you get to decide which CineKink movie you see for free!

2010 18 Jul

[advice] How did I know that S&M was right for me?

I love it when people email me interesting questions. This letter is posted with permission:

Hi Clarisse —

I found your coming-out article on “Time Out” and I am both grateful and fascinated by your story. I apologize if this email is a bit personal, but I am unsure where to get honest non-judgmental advice. Recently a lover introduced me to SM and while I have always considered myself a fairly sexually tolerant and open person, I found myself unwilling to let go and trust with a scenario. On the surface, I feel I would very much enjoy what BDSM has to offer, but in practice I am unable to fully appreciate? the fantasy.

My questions to you are: did it take a bit a time for you to … hm … let go of yourself with this type of play?

It seems from your article that you recognized this lifestyle was / is a “fit” for you. How do you know if it is the right lifestyle for you?

Also, you mentioned some therapists who specialize in understanding the needs of alternative lifestyle folks. Could you direct me to some resources for additional information?

Here’s my response:

Hi there,

Firstly, and most importantly, here is the link to the website for the list of Kink Aware Professionals. You can read their FAQ and hopefully find a therapist to assist you there. I recommend that if you have the choice, you visit several therapists before choosing one. I wish you luck.

I can definitely say that once I had spent a little time doing S&M with Richard, the “main character” in my coming-out story, I was absolutely sure that it was what I wanted. It was undeniable, even though it was hard to adjust to it. But at the same time, I had trouble — that’s part of why I wrote up my coming-out story. It took me a long time — years! — to be totally okay with letting go and enjoying S&M. So, yes, it took me some time. And if you think you want to try it, then I think it’s important that you give yourself some time, as well.

But still, your question about “how do you know?” is a difficult one. When I first encountered Richard, I wasn’t very attracted to him. And if he had just asked me, “Would you like to try some S&M?” I might have said no. I had even encountered someone who tried to do S&M — holding me down and biting me — several years before I encountered Richard, and I wasn’t very interested at the time. But when Richard actually started hurting me, hard … I recognized it, and I knew it was something I had been seeking for a long time. So how did I recognize it when he did it, but not when the previous guy did it? I’m not sure.

I think that sexuality is very affected by the way we have a given experience. Our mood before we start having sex; our feelings about our partner; our level of attraction to our partner; our satisfaction with our current relationship; the reasons we have chosen this sexual experience at this time …. All of these factors come together in how we feel about a given sexual act. And then, on top of that, there’s also the fact that the way a given sexual act is performed can change the way we enjoy it. For example, I often get bored (or irritated) if someone ties me up and acts nice, even if they give me oral sex. But if someone ties me up and acts mean — if they try to genuinely scare me, or hurt me a lot in the ways I enjoy, and then they give me oral sex — then I think that’s really hot. So I think that the moral of the story is that there’s a lot of different ways to have different kinds of sex, so it’s often worth trying things more than once (unless you really, emphatically didn’t like it the first time). Recognition can come late.

Finally, just remember the old saying — “The search is more important than the find.” My best sexual experiences happened after I gave up on “finding” something, or “being sure”, and I started simply trying different things and enjoying them for what they were.

I recently wrote a post on my blog about how to encourage sexual openness; maybe it will be helpful for you.

I had some more thoughts after I sent the letter, and they were complicated enough to deserve a blog post.

1) When we showed the polyamory movie at my sex-positive film series, I remember there was one particular woman who stuck around for the discussion afterwards. She was blonde and wearing a sports jersey, and she said that she really wanted to try poly, but there’s a problem: she likes sports, and she’s not interested in science fiction, gaming, comics, or other alternative nerd-type subcultures. A lot of people laughed when she said that because it precisely illustrates something important about the polyamory subculture: most poly people are hippies, geeks, nerds, etc. (For more on this, and particularly more on the demographic differences between polyfolk vs. swingers, you can check out this post from Polyamory In The News.)

The point I’m trying to make is that a person may not be well-suited for the subculture around a certain type of sexual expression, and yet want to practice that kind of sex anyway. I’m not sure what to advise in that case. I think that sex communities are incredibly valuable, and that it’s in a person’s interest to attend workshops, panels, and just generally chat with other people in a given sex community if they want to have alternative sex. One of the awesomest things about the S&M community is how a good S&M workshop will teach us kinksters how to be safer and more skilled at Whatever It Is That We Do.

But … even I would probably be less interested in the S&M subculture if the communities I’ve encountered didn’t contain a healthy number of science fiction- and fantasy-readin’, game-playin’, liberal-leanin’ weirdos just like me. I mean, BDSM workshops would still be valuable if I didn’t know any BDSMers who shared my hobbies and politics … but the group would seem much less interesting. I guess that for someone in that position, I’d still suggest attending the workshops and getting to know people in case you need advice. Unless you really dislike them!

I’d also suggest not making any judgments about your sexuality — about whether you’re interested in BDSM, or polyamory, or swing, or whatever — based on whether you like the local subculture. If you really hate the local S&M group, don’t hang out with them, but don’t assume you hate S&M either! You can learn plenty about S&M from books (like The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book, both by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy) or even the Internet (the kinky social networking site FetLife has lots of great discussions).

Oh, and before I forget, here’s a fantastic calendar of Chicago BDSM subculture events.

2) It’s so weird (and wonderful) how enjoyment of sex can change completely from a different angle. And I don’t necessarily mean physically — sex is all about emotions and connotations, so different mental angles on sex can matter a lot. As I said in my response to the woman above, being tied up is totally boring on its own … but when combined with a partner I trust and who knows how to hurt me, being tied up becomes a hell of a lot hotter.

It is totally reasonable to feel uncomfortable with sex, or with a certain kind of sex. But figuring out where that discomfort comes from and how it ties into your desires will help you open new doors and broaden your sexual expressions. Figuring out what turns you on or makes you uncomfortable even at a very simple level can take a long freakin’ time, so don’t expect to know all the answers right away. And don’t be surprised if your desires are more fluid and changeable than you ever imagined!

Here’s some questions I’ve found helpful for identifying new angles on sexuality. Maybe they’ll be useful or maybe other people will hate them or maybe they’ll make some people feel uncomfortable. Always keep in mind that if you don’t want to have sex, that’s okay — so if you really hate the idea of doing something sexual, and you don’t feel like trying to figure out why, then suit yourself! Feedback and examples are welcome, as always.

A) If you’re interested in a certain act: What inspired your interest? Did you see or hear something that appealed to you? What elements of this kind of sex seem hot?

B) If you’re not interested in a certain act: Are you sure you don’t like it, or are you willing to try it? If you tried it and didn’t like it, can you tell what turned you off? Is there something that could make you more interested?

C) Just for fun, some basic exploration questions: What are the hottest things you’ve ever seen, read, experienced? Can you describe those things to your partner? How do they make you feel and are there elements of those things that you want to try with your partner?

2010 29 Apr

Very quick notes

1) The Hull-House Museum, which hosts Sex+++ — the free sex-positive documentary film series I started in 2009 — has changed the Sex+++ permanent link on their website. If you were using the old permalink, then you should use this one instead.

2) I am going on vacation within Africa through mid-May and will have very limited Internet access during that time, if any. I might manage to post once or twice, but this means I can’t moderate comments quickly during that time — sorry! But as long as you don’t put 5 or more links in your comment, it probably won’t get held for moderation. (The 5+ comment threshold is an antispam measure, because spammers frequently put lots of links in their comments.)

2010 7 Feb

Chicago-area pro-BDSM, sex-positive events this week!

Now that I have successfully ambushed my good friends in their home, I can break my semi-secrecy and announce that I am home in Chicago! This week only! (My favorite part was when I dashed into a close friend’s room, threw my arms around him from behind and was already squeaking with joy by the time he realized it was me and shouted “Holy shit holy shit!”)

Because I am me, I have arranged a host of sex-positive, pro-BDSM events for your pleasure even though I am only here for a week. Note that all these events are free and open to the public (though one comes with a suggested donation)! Check it out:

* * *

SEX+++ DOCUMENTARY FILM SERIES: “SLUT” (2004)
Tuesday, February 9, 7 PM — NOTE: THIS EVENT WAS RESCHEDULED TO 2/16 DUE TO SNOW. CLARISSE WILL NOT BE PRESENT AT THE 2/16 SHOWING.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 800 S Halsted

Every town has one. She was notorious in your high school. The girls harassed her; the guys had her. Or did they? Who is the slut? Can one be both virgin and whore? What does the word actually mean and why is it often shrouded with invention and intrigue? And should “slut” be added to the ban on “7 dirty words” from radio and television broadcast? Come out and join us at the ongoing Sex+++ Film Series for delicious documentary and discussion, and also some fascinating snacks! Chicago’s own sex-positive activist Clarisse Thorn, the original Sex+++ curator, is visiting from her work in Africa and will facilitate the post-film discussion.

* * *

QUICK BDSM OVERVIEW
Wednesday, February 10, 3.20-4.20 PM
Northwestern University, Ryan Auditorium, Tech Building (near corner of Noyes & Sheridan)

Imagery deriving from bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism (BDSM) is becoming commonplace — and we all know (or think we know) what a dominatrix is — but most people don’t have much idea of what BDSM actually involves.  Although it is increasingly accepted as an alternative sexual orientation, BDSM remains surrounded by stigma, scandal and occasional legal action.  In this presentation, pro-BDSM activist Clarisse Thorn will describe the basics of BDSM (however, it’s not a how-to lecture — you aren’t going to learn how to use a whip, though you’ll learn where to go if you want to find out!).  She’ll also poll the audience to see what else they want to cover — BDSM history? cultural landmarks? BDSM & feminism? legal issues? we’ll have to see!  This event is generously hosted by the Northwestern University Department of Psychology.

* * *

SEX-POSITIVITY FOR ALL! INCLUDING THE MENS!
Thursday, February 11, 7-9 PM
University of Chicago, 5710 S Woodlawn Meeting Room

What is masculinity or male advocacy as a movement, and how is it in dialogue with contemporary feminism? Can it be incorporated into feminism, or can the values of the sex-positive feminist community speak to its concerns? What does positive, productive talk about masculinity sound like? Feminist, pro-BDSM activist Clarisse Thorn — currently on vacation from working in Africa — will discuss the above questions in a short lecturette and then facilitate small discussions on kinky male sexuality, men in the pickup artist community, and men who buy sex. This event is generously hosted by University of Chicago student group The Feminist Majority.

* * *

LEATHER ARCHIVES & MUSEUM PRESENTS “GRAPHIC SEXUAL HORROR” (2008)
Friday, February 12, 7.30 PM
LA&M, 6418 N Greenview Ave

Graphic Sexual Horror” takes a peek behind the facade of Insex.com, a notorious bondage website, exploring the mind of its artistic creator and asking hard questions about personal responsibility. Original Insex footage, behind-the-scenes interactions, and interviews with website creator PD, models, members, and staff reveal deep fascinations with bondage and sadomasochism that run parallel, and in fact become irreversibly entwined with the lure of money. InSex was shut down by federal prosecutors, but its story asks questions that are still relevant. Can paying a BDSM partner distort his or her consent? Why were prosecutors so easily able to force a legal business to fold? Director Barbara Bell is coming to town for the post-film discussion, which will be moderated by pro-BDSM activist Clarisse Thorn. This event is a fundraiser for the Leather Archives & Museum, and we are requesting a $5-10 donation from attendees. Special thanks to our sponsors: Sex+++ Film Series at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; and ShibariCon, Chicago’s own rope bondage convention, coming up in May!

* * *

And just in case you were directed to this page by a friend or something and have no idea who I am, here’s my adorable small bio:

Clarisse Thorn is a feminist, sex-positive educator who has delivered workshops on both sexual communication and BDSM to a variety of audiences, including New York’s Museum of Sex, San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, and several Chicago universities. She created and curated the original Sex+++ sex-positive documentary film series at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; she has also volunteered as an archivist, curator and fundraiser for that venerable BDSM institution, the Leather Archives & Museum. Currently, Clarisse is working on HIV mitigation in southern Africa. She blogs at clarissethorn.wordpress.com and Twitters @clarissethorn.

2009 9 Dec

Manliness and Feminism: the followup

In late October I posted a three-part series under the title “Questions I’d Like To Ask Entitled Cis Het Men” (Part 1: Who Cares?; Part 2: Men’s Rights; Part 3: Space For Men). These posts kicked up more of a furor than I anticipated, with a bunch of cross-postings and responses on other blogs.* It all gave me a huge number of new perspectives to synthesize, which is part of why it took me so long to post this followup … but here I am!

I really want this followup to be readable to people who didn’t bother with the initial three posts, so please let me know if I fail!

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Introducing myself, and One Correction

Please allow me to introduce myself. I think those posts probably make more sense (as will large swaths of this one) if you know who I am, and they got linked around to so many non-regular readers that most of the audience now doesn’t.

I go by Clarisse. It is not my real name, because I am a sex-positive and, in particular, pro-BDSM** activist, and being all-the-way-out-of-the-closet about kink can have serious, long-term repercussions for someone’s life (the most pressing for me, right now, being employability: my immediate superiors here in Africa know about my BDSM identity, but the larger rather conservative organization sure as hell doesn’t). Identifying as feminist and pro-BDSM can be really fraught territory — many avowed feminists regard BDSM with suspicion and some, on the more extreme end, with outright hatred. (Famous German feminist Alice Schwarzer once said, “Female masochism is collaboration.” Many feminist spaces have a long tradition of excluding or marginalizing BDSM, like the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, which incidentally has a similar history with trans people. Nine Deuce, a popular radical feminist blogger, has been known to assert that sadists are morally obligated to either repress their sadistic desires or kill themselves. For example.) In her post “Healing My Broken Feminist Heart”, Audacia Ray talks about how much it hurts to identify as a feminist and yet be told, often, that the way you realize your personal sexuality is unfeminist; I’ve been meaning to write a response to that post for ages, because boy do I know how that feels. (I swear, I have the biggest crush on Audacia Ray. I want to be her when I grow up.)

I am Chicago-based in that I lived there for years before I moved here to Africa in order to work in HIV/AIDS mitigation, and I suspect I’ll move back there when my contract ends. In Chicago, I lectured on BDSM and sexual communication, and I created and curated a fabulous sex-positive film series and discussion group that it broke my heart to leave. (The film series was so successful that a group of loyalists gathered, formed a committee, and have continued it without me! Yes!)

My feminist history isn’t very “official”, though I was raised by two very feminist people. For instance, I haven’t read most of the classic feminist authors. My degree is in Philosophy, Religious Studies and Studio Art, not anything gender-related — and when I was in college I remember that I often viewed hard-line feminist assertions with suspicion. I would irritably characterize them as “conspiracy theories”: these people seemed to think there was some secret society of evil men sitting around and plotting to ruin their lives, which clearly was not the case! Ah, youth … :grin: The problem is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that definitions of feminism have become so varied and so many different issues have been attached to feminism by different people.***

In other words, almost my entire gender/sex background is idiosyncratic and self-trained. I certainly can’t hope to match the massive theoretical background that many Internet gender commentators have. And I am very familiar with having my experience discounted and dismissed in a feminist context (“Sorry, BDSM is abuse. Period. If you enjoy BDSM, you’re mentally ill or you have Patriarchy Stockholm Syndrome”). These are some of the reasons I tried to spend my entire Entitled Cis Het Men post series asking questions, rather than making assertions.

The posts weren’t intended to be prescriptive — I don’t have much of an agenda beyond “create more conversations around sex and gender”. There is of course my agenda (shared by almost every human alive) of “convincing people to agree with me” and “getting people to join my cool club or at least admire it from afar”, but I don’t personally have any pressing Grand Policy Goals. One commenter who went by Sailorman over at Alas said, on the third post: I read this thread with interest, but it is of course basically a very extended and well written TPHMT argument? I don’t know what the acronym means, but I’m honestly sort of annoyed by any attempt to boil those three posts down to a single argument, because I tried so hard to make it clear that a single argument was not my intent, with that series. I really am just interested in exploring various and often very discrete masculinity-related questions. No, really, I am. No, really, I am.

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