Posts Tagged ‘LGBTQ’

2010 9 Sep

[review] Best Sex Writing 2010

As a fairly obsessive sex educator, S&M activist, and informal researcher, I didn’t expect Best Sex Writing 2010 to make me think nearly as much as it did. I’d imagined it as an anthology that would hit all the usual bases and say the usual sex-positive things: Sex work should be decriminalized! Open relationships can work! Fetishes don’t have to terrify us! Women deserve to be promiscuous, if that’s what we really want, and we must be empowered to say “no” to sex too!

The first few essays struck me as par for the sex-positive course — though extremely well-written. Indeed, my favorite essay in the book is the sixth (of twenty-five), an absolutely brilliant work by gay escort Kirk Read that made me want to close the book and start selling sex on Craigslist. Still, it didn’t actually challenge any of my current preconceptions, it just made me want to cheer.

But then the book surprised me. As editor Rachel Kramer Bussel explains on the anthology’s website, “I want writing about sex that makes people think about it in a new way, that confronts sex and sexual stereotypes, that opens people’s eyes, that says things people might find uncomfortable.” This even applies to perverts like me, I suppose. The chapters that unsettled me most weren’t the explicit ones, but rather the ones that don’t align with my ideals of positive sexuality: as openly and carefully communicated, for example, or negotiated with an eye to egalitarian ideals. (No matter how extreme the power differential when a gentleman friend whips me, I approach the relationship itself on an equal footing.)

I felt most grossed out by Michelle Perrot’s essay on her upcoming affair, in which she writes: “I don’t want an open marriage, where you and your partner agree that you can have sex with other people. I don’t want hurt feelings and jealousy, all the inevitable trouble that would come with such an arrangement …” but then notes that she’s discussed the idea of cheating with her husband, and that “if one of us were to have sex — just sex — with another person, we’d just as soon not know.”

In other words, Perrot refuses to style herself as one of those open relationship people — and let’s not even get into the stereotypes in her description thereof — because having a tacit agreement with your husband that both of you can sleep quietly with other people isn’t an open relationship. Huh? At the same time, Perrot published the essay under a pseudonym “to protect her marriage,” which would seem to indicate that she’s not actually sure about her husband’s consent after all.

I don’t mean to pick on Perrot, whose essay was quite well-written and gave me a lot to ponder. My point is that Best Sex Writing 2010 has something for everyone, including material to make a jaded sex theorist think twice. It lacks political sensibility by missing some important bases (e.g., trans people, polyamory, and people outside of the US) and makes one or two truly odd editorial choices. (Why on Earth is Mollena Williams’ essay on race play, a fetish so transgressive that it unnerves most people even within permissive S&M communities, placed before Betty Dodson’s much gentler memoir that could serve as an introduction to S&M? Are we trying to blindside and horrify the newbies?)

Still, lesbians and sex work and sex education and sex biology and safer sex all appear; S&M comes up a surprising amount, and even manliness gets a mention. Most importantly, Best Sex Writing 2010 is a genuinely layered and challenging book.

This review was originally published at Elevate Difference (formerly the Feminist Review).

Shoutout to my friend Thomas Millar, whose brilliant essay “Towards A Performance Model Of Sex” — first published in Yes Means Yes — also appeared in Best Sex Writing 2010. Go Thomas!

2010 10 Jun

[litquote] Gay alcoholic heartbreak, breakup, and HIV

I’m going to start posting literary quotations that strike me. This one is from Augusten Burroughs’ sweet memoir, Dry. I post it for no reason other than that it made me sigh.

On my bookcase at home, there’s a photo of Pighead trying on a leather jacket I bought him one Christmas. I can be seen behind him in the mirror taking the picture. I’m wearing a ridiculous red Santa hat and my wire-framed nerd glasses. In another picture, I’m swimming in some motel pool in Maine. It was the Lamp Lighter Motel, I remember. It was fall and the pool was freezing cold and had orange leaves floating in it. Leaves and beetles. This was one of our first road trips. We’d known each other for about a year. I remember that after getting out of the pool, we went back to the room and I took a hot shower. When I came out, we ended up fooling around on the bed. We stayed in bed for two full days, leaving only at night to get prime rib or spaghetti at the only restaurant in town that served water in glass instead of paper.

Back in Manhattan, I told him one night, “I think I’m in love with you.” We were leaning against the railing of the esplanade at Battery Park City, watching the planes circle in their holding patterns above us. For New Yorkers, planes circling above at night replace stars, in terms of romance.

He turned to face me. “I love you too, Augusten.” Then gently he said, “But I’m not in love with you. I’m sorry about what’s happened between us. It shouldn’t have happened. I should never have let things get sexual, A. And B, I should never have made you feel that we could be anything more than friends. It’s my fault.”

I felt trapped because I did love him, but also now wanted to cause the most massive harm possible. You will love me, I thought. And then it will be too late.

It went on like this for a year. The sex, always intense, fast and hungry. And the friendship. But no romance. I’d go over to his apartment (mine was always too messy for his taste) and he’d make roast chicken or beef stew. I’d watch his hands work: slicing, stirring, grinding pepper. I would watch his hands and think, I love those hands. And all the while, I knew I had to get over him. It didn’t matter why he wasn’t interested in me romantically. Just that he wasn’t.

I started dating. … It was a year later when I finally thought I was over him. When not every song reminded me of him. And I was able to go for entire days without thinking about him on a constant basis. I was able to imagine the possibility of someone else.

One evening he called me from his car and told me to meet him downstairs. It was Friday. Probably I had plans … “You need to come downstairs. Now.”

I climbed into his car and foul mood. “Jesus, what the hell is the matter with you?” I remember asking him. Maybe not those exact words, but close enough. “You have to keep everything in perspective. Nothing is this bad. Your fucking job is just a job. It’s not like you’re HIV-positive.”

But it was. He’d tested positive.

That night, I slept over at his house, holding him, showing him that it didn’t matter to me. I wanted him to know that even if there was no cure, there was hope. The kind of hope that is powerful, because it comes from such need. That was the night he told me that he loved me. That he was in love with me.

But hearing him say it made me feel like he was saying it only because he was afraid. Afraid he’d never get anything better. I made it my mission to fall completely out of love with him, yet be there for him as a friend. That virus was something I just didn’t want anything to do with. And I was angry with him. Furious that I had spent so much energy falling out of love with him, only to have him fall in love with me after he became diagnosed with a fatal disease. Part of me felt deep compassion. And another part felt like, You fucker.

So now we’re friends and I thought I was way past all that crap. But obviously I am not over all that crap. Obviously I am sort of a mess.

2010 5 Jun

Gender-hacking and the big picture consequences?

I heard about Hack Gender (inspired by Hacking the Academy) earlier this week — both are awesome projects. But I don’t have time to write anything complicated, so this post is my own hasty contribution.

In my last post, Sexual Openness: 2 ways to encourage it, I wrote up some tips on how we can facilitate our own sexual evolution — to create an environment more likely to turn us on to new sexuality. Do those tips hold true for gender identity? I’d say so — my two big factors were a pressure-free environment and exposure to new conceptions of sexuality, sexual mentors, and sex education, and it sounds to me like those ideas easily port over to gender identity rather than sexuality. In fact, I suspect that I could replace all instances of “sex” or “sexuality” in that piece with “gender” or “gender identity”, and it’d work pretty well ….

But one thing that I wonder about gender-hacking is … well … much as we rail against restrictive and coercive definitions of gender — and while as a feminist I’m not only concerned with the limitations placed on women, but also try to be sensitive to men’s limitations — isn’t it strange that many of us who attack gender so violently also tend to play with its manifestations most passionately?

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think it would be awesome if gender stereotypes stopped negatively influencing the way we hire people, make friends, treat lovers, and so on. But it’s also kind of awesome when, for example, drag queens dress way more femininely than I do. I love that kind of display; I love almost all subversive, or sexual, or just plain playful deliberate usage of gender ideas. I would be kind of sad if all gendered associations disappeared from the universe. I would be kind of sad if we so thoroughly encouraged gender-bending and gender evolution that gender distinctions blurred out of existence.

I’m not saying that my sadness is an argument against the destruction of gender. I understand and acknowledge that, sometimes, nostalgia is the enemy of necessary progress. I recognize that saying, “Well, drag queens are awesome and so maybe we shouldn’t try to destroy gender distinctions” could be as blind and flawed an argument as, say, the women who argued against women’s right to vote because “I like to convince my husband to vote the way I want him to.” I recognize that I could be making an argument similar to one that I’ve deconstructed about BDSM — an argument I hate that goes, “Let’s not destigmatize BDSM sexuality because I think it’s hot for S&M to be transgressive.” The fact that we can work within — and even enjoy — The System does not mean that The System is not fucked up.

Still ….

I’d like to believe that we can hold on to what’s beautiful, surprising, and hot about The System. Can we keep the stereotypes and have justice too? Is that possible? Or does the whole thing have to burn and be reborn? This question is probably academic, because it seems unlikely that it’s even possible to Destroy All Gender and make something new. My question is about utopia, and I tend to get pretty bored with these kinds of questions pretty fast — I like to think about actions we can take in our world, now. But I am sort of curious about whether utopia truly would be genderless, or whether it simply wouldn’t judge who wears femme nail polish and/or a man’s button-down collared shirt.

I apologize if anything I’ve written here offends LGBTQ readers or other gender warriors. I don’t often write about this — it’s sex that is my bag, really — and I hope that if I wrote something questionable here, you’ll let me know.

2010 19 Mar

Chicago feminist sex ed paper focuses on LGBTQ students’ needs

I recently received this interesting and, of course, incredibly flattering letter, and offered to give the project more publicity by publishing the letter to my blog. (Which isn’t to say that I need flattery to give good projects publicity, but I am human, you know?) I’ve already connected Stephanie with some people who can help her, but if you know anyone else who can, or are in a position to assist with her project yourself — or are simply interested and want to be kept informed of its process! — then you should totally email her: [ sgoldfarb at luc dot edu ].

Dear Clarisse,

My name is Stephanie Goldfarb and I am a graduate student at Loyola University. I am currently working on a research project that is focused on assessing the Chicago Public School’s sex/health education system. Specifically, I am interested in learning whether or not this system meets the needs of LGBT students. I also aim to formulate a working definition of “feminist sex/health” education. Though this will ultimately be a 25-30 page paper, it may evolve into my Masters thesis. As a leader in the sex positive community in Chicago, I thought it might be good to ask your opinions on this matter. Also, I am currently on the search for primary documents (such as CPS sex education curriculum and/or lesson plans) and I wonder if you might be able to point me in a good direction. Some of the articles on your wordpress site, especially “Liberal, sex-positive sex education: what’s missing” might be approved as primary sources for me, so I might end up citing you. Anyway, thank you for all the incredible work you do Clarisse. You are truly inspiring, and the sex positive community is beyond lucky to have you organizing, writing, and speaking out about the issues that are important to us.

– Stephanie Goldfarb
Loyola University Chicago
MSW / MA Women’s Studies Gender Studies Candidate
sgoldfarb at luc dot edu

2010 29 Jan

Sex-positive in southern Africa

Right before I came out here, I was recruited by an online magazine to write about sexuality in Africa and my experience thereof. I wrote some columns, sent them to the magazine … and was told they weren’t quite right. So I sold them to CarnalNation instead! Here’s a roundup of my first four CN pieces; I doubt this is the last time I’ll publish with them, as CN (and editor Chris Hall in particular) is very awesome.

January 7: Rest In Peace, Pitseng Vilakati
I met an incredible, high-profile lesbian activist and wanted to be friends, but soon after she was murdered … and her partner charged with the crime.

January 14: Sexual ABCs in Africa, Part 1: Abstinence
In which I discuss how my relationship started with my current boyfriend, a Baha’i convert who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage (the pseudonym I chose for him was, therefore, Chastity Boy). I also describe some of my hesitations in promoting abstinence as a good sexual choice, even though it is a legitimately wise one in a place that’s so beset by HIV.

January 21: Sexual ABCs in Africa, Part 2: Be Faithful
Polygamy makes things difficult by setting norms that encourage lots of multiple concurrent partnerships, which is a spectacular method of spreading HIV. This was the hardest piece to write so far, because it’s so incredibly complicated! Halfway through I realized that my draft consisted of a beginning, an end, and eight incomplete sentences in the middle, at which point I freaked out and begged Chastity Boy for advice. He helped a lot with the cleanup, and I’m pretty happy with the result, although I do wish that I’d made it clearer that — while polygamy is definitely part of the problem, as is the gender gap — a bigger problem from a health perspective is that the ideal of polygamy sets the norm at multiple concurrent sexual relationships even for unmarried people (rather than the safer, though not morally superior, serial monogamy widely practiced in America).

January 28: Sexual ABCs in Africa, Part 3: Condoms
You’d think that people in a place where up to 40% of the population tests positive would be really careful about condoms, wouldn’t you? Especially when free condoms are widely available and everyone knows that they protect against HIV? You’d be wrong.

2009 20 Jun

Sex-positive documentary report #10: “Boy I Am”

Since next week I’m going to Africa forever and ever, “Boy I Am” — the June 9th screening at my sex-positive documentary film series — was the last one I’ll be able to attend in person. The film series will continue. It’s going to be coordinated by our amazing Hull-House Education Coordinator Lisa, plus discussion facilitators we recruited from among regular Sex+++ attendees! But I, alas, will be far away being eaten by lions. (Yes. Eaten by lions! … I’m getting a bit loopy from lack of sleep, caused by running around trying to wrap up my life.)

Happily, though, the June 9th screening was a really good one … okay, they’re all really good. But this was really good! There were lots of people in attendance (I’d estimate 30-40), which surprised me — as I said in my last sex-positive documentary report, I was figuring that attendance would generally be lower for the second half of the series. Maybe some people were tempted to come by the presence of filmmaker Sam Feder, who was a great contributor to the discussion! Or maybe I’m just wrong about what films have wide appeal. Or maybe now Sex+++ is getting famous enough that people are just excited about Sex+++, more than about any particular film. Hey, I hoped to start an ongoing salon … it seems like I’ve somewhat succeeded!

Distributed by Women Make Movies, the documentary “Boy I Am” is a fascinating look at the stigma faced by female-to-male transpeople — not just in general, but within specific liberal subcultures one might assume would be trans-friendly, such as lesbian/gay groups or feminist groups.

I’m a BDSM activist, so one of the topics I related to most was the way some forms of radical sexuality have frequently been excluded from gay/lesbian or feminist communities. I’ve read about this before — for instance, the Michigan Womyn’s Festival has in the past famously excluded BDSM activities from its site on the grounds that BDSM is inherently oppressive, etc etc. Only after I learned about the anti-BDSM incidents at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival did I hear about the much higher-profile anti-trans policies; unlike the anti-BDSM policies, the anti-trans policies continue to this day.

I think there’s two issues at stake here, and there were quotations in “Boy I Am” that admirably represented both of those issues. One quotation: “there’s no way to be male without misogyny” … the idea being that identifying as male — or, worse, choosing to identify as male — brings with it an inherent anti-woman bias. I feel like if the woman in question were discussing BDSM, she might say: “There’s no way to exercise power without being oppressive.” Arguments like these are based on a grain of truth — that privilege is terribly easy to both abuse, and forget — and for that reason, they can be compelling in the right company. But they erase the importance of individual differences and desires; and they assume that we can’t learn to outthink our biases, or negotiate our potentially “privileged” and “oppressive” desires in ways that don’t hurt other people.

The other quotation: the “existence [of radical sexualities like trans or BDSM within the lesbian/gay movement] demands a higher level of tolerance than [many L/G activists] are willing to fight for”. The idea being that lesbian/gay people may feel that they are “normal” enough to have a chance at social acceptance — but if they band together with more “extreme” sexualities, they’re worried that they’ll lose their chance. You can see some of this attitude in this Salon article from a couple of years ago, titled “Gay Rights and the Transgendered” by John Aravosis:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was first introduced 30 years ago. In all that time, it only protected sexual orientation and never included gender identity. This year, that changed, and gender identity was added to the bill. Coincidentally, this year is also the first time that ENDA actually has a real chance of passing both the House and Senate — but only if gender identity isn’t in the bill. … [Everyone I spoke to about this] felt bad about taking gender identity out of ENDA, everyone supported transgender rights, and everyone told me “pass it anyway.”

Their main argument, which I support: practical politics. Civil rights legislation — hell, all legislation — is a series of compromises. You rarely get everything you want, nor do you get it all at once. Blacks, for example, won the right to vote in 1870. Women didn’t get that same right until 1920. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided a large umbrella of rights based on race, religion, sex and national origin, but failed to mention gays or people with disabilities. People with disabilities were finally given specific rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, but gays as a class have still to be granted a single civil right at the federal level. If we waited until society was ready to accept each and every member of the civil rights community before passing any civil rights legislation, we’d have no civil rights laws at all. Someone is always left behind, at least temporarily. It stinks, but it’s the way it’s always worked, and it’s the way you win.

(Thanks for the link to Sex, Art and Politics.)

On the surface, Aravosis makes a reasonable argument. But when I read the rest of the article, I get an uneasy feeling that this has less to do with practical politics … and more to do with the author’s biases. For instance, Aravosis calls bisexuals “only part-time gays”, and his dislike of trans is even more transparent (teehee): “A lot of gays have been scratching their heads for 10 years trying to figure out what they have in common with transsexuals, or at the very least why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins.”

I might consider the idea that civil rights move slowly to be a reasonable argument … but calling bisexuals “part-time gays”, or wondering what gay people have in common with transsexuals, is simply bizarre. It’s obvious what all alternative sexualities and gender identities have in common: the idea that consent matters more than knee-jerk bias; the idea that everyone has sovereignty over our own bodies. Gaining equal treatment for alternative sexuality can’t just be about convincing people that individual acts or specific identities are okay — because worrying about individual acts in themselves is part of what gives people anxiety about alternative sexuality in the first place.

If we say: “Okay, straight sex and gay sex is fine but I don’t support bisexuality,” we’re making the same mistake that the “normals” make when they say: “Straight sex is fine, but I don’t support homosexuality.” This movement cannot be about acts; it must be about the context of those acts. Consent has to be what matters more than appearance. That’s the only coherent philosophy.

Other points brought up by “Boy I Am”:

+ Some women talked about how they think transitioning stems from women’s negative body image. They argued that it’s really hard to feel okay about our bodies growing up; that women always feel uncomfortable in our bodies, and that female-to-male transpeople transition more because they hate being female — less because they want to be male. They were bothered by this; one was angry, and called it “audacity”. She resented female-to-male transpeople for “walking away” from the issues of femininity that she constantly felt compelled to confront herself. It seems clear to me that this is based more on resentment and frustration than on any rational critique of trans in itself. And while I’m sympathetic to women who hate our culture’s misogyny, I think we always need to make sure that we don’t attack/dislike others personally just because we feel shafted by society.

+ Every human body is a modified body: we all eat hormone-modified foods, we take medications, we wear makeup and piercings and tattoos — indeed, we wear clothing! When we allow smaller modifications like those, it seems strange to prevent larger modifications. One might ask, where’s the line? Well, the line … again … is consent. It’s not the acts, it’s not the body changes in themselves — it’s consent. Always.

+ Is there ever a premature time to transition? How young should we allow people to get trans surgery? I don’t think we do kids any favors by preventing them from dressing / appearing as they wish. I think the surgery question for me boils down to this: why is there ever a reason to prevent someone from getting trans surgery, if the person wants it? If that person recognizes the costs and accepts any potential risks, what right does anyone have to stop that person from doing what they want with their body? If we prevent kids from transitioning, then I think we need to be very clear about why we’re doing it. If we believe that people can do whatever consensual things they want with their own bodies, then the only reason it’s different for kids is if we claim that there are different rules about consent for children. And maybe there are different rules about consent for children — but if we believe that, then we need to be clear that we’re talking about those rules when we prevent kids from transitioning … not anti-trans bias.

1500 words this time! And I have to go pack for Africa; this’ll be my last overly-long Sex+++ documentary report. To summarize — “Boy I Am” is a really layered, fascinating movie. I give it five stars, and I’m glad it was my last one … it means I get to leave on a super-up note.

It’s been great, guys, and I encourage you all to come out to the next film — Tuesday June 23rd, “On the Downlow”. It’s about underground Black gay life. Have fun! Rock the rest of this film series for me!

2009 9 Jun

Sex-positive documentary report #9: “The Aggressives”

Cross-posted at SexGenderBody.com

We’re settling into a smaller audience at my sex-positive documentary film series — I think it’s possible that July 28 (which I have mentally dubbed “porn night”) will draw the same kind of standing-room-only audiences we had at some of the earlier screenings, but I’m guessing that we’ll otherwise continue to have smallish audiences (15-30 people). This doesn’t particularly worry me; I somewhat expected it, in fact. The early films I scheduled for the series are both difficult to find information about — few mainstream venues screen documentaries about BDSM! — and quite accessible in tone. That is, early Sex+++ documentaries were more along the lines of introductory or “101”, while the films I’ve scheduled later tend to be about more complicated or esoteric topics.

For instance, “The Aggressives” is about a specific lesbian subculture ….

… and I liked the film a lot! Thanks to Seventh Art Releasing for letting us screen it. And I loved the discussion after the documentary even more — it was very focused, with some eloquent and diverse perspectives. I left grinning ear to ear.

The documentary is about the “Aggressive” subculture in New York — possibly it also exists elsewhere; I don’t know enough about this topic to say — which is composed of lesbians of color. Apparently, Aggressive women focus on creating very butch identities, and have contests/balls where they compete to be the most masculine; these balls feature dress-up themes like “construction worker vs. painter” or “businessman vs. blue collar”. Interestingly and perhaps obviously, this means that many Aggressives work hard to fit themselves into stereotypes of masculinity. Not only do they seek to look “obviously” masculine, but to change other patterns of behavior, like speech and body language; and some do go on male hormones.

Indeed, there was one fascinating interview in which an Aggressive talked about how she sees male hormones as an “edge” in the Aggressive contests, and cited this as temptation to take hormones. It was not apparent to me whether she was as interested in being masculine, as she was in beating other Aggressives at the masculinity game. And maybe it’s worth noting that this particular Aggressive’s femme girlfriend said she wasn’t too excited about the idea of her partner going on hormones — “I still like a woman,” she said.

One description I found for this film on the Internet states that the Aggressives challenge gender stereotypes by acting the way they do. But one question that came up in the discussion group was — do they? If Aggressive identity is focused around being stereotypically masculine, then arguably they’re working more to reinforce our cultural assumptions about gender than to challenge them. There was some footage showing Aggressives doing very “macho”, “dominant” things like rapping misogynistically, or ordering femme lesbians to perform for them. One Aggressive talks about teaching boys to be men and says, “You don’t have to be a man to teach someone how to be one — it’s about being responsible, being the breadwinner.”

So, it does seem as though many Aggressives still fall prey to gendered preconceptions. On the other hand, the film also noted the existence of women who identified as Aggressive … but femme rather than butch! I wish the film had spent more time explaining what exactly it might mean to be a “femme Aggressive”. It seemed as though some Aggressives might switch between roles, but I’m not sure about that.

Speaking of switching puts me in mind of my experiences as a BDSM switch, and takes me to another thought I had during the post-film discussion: there were such obvious dynamics of power between femmes and butches in the Aggressive subculture … it made me wonder what kind of BDSM practices might exist in these relationships, and how those practices might be negotiated. It also seems possible to me that some people in the subculture might be attracted to the ideas of power, strength and dominance so obviously typified in certain Aggressive stances — I wonder if some Aggressives are more attracted to the power dynamics than they are to the lesbian (or, for some, trans) aspect of being Aggressive.

Obviously, this is wild theorizing on my part, and highly biased at that — I am far more exposed to BDSM and BDSM desires than I am to LGBTQ. But I have met multiple people who stated that the BDSM aspects of their sexuality “trump” their straight vs. LGBTQ orientation. My last entry was about the idea of BDSM as an orientation, and Laura Antoniou left a comment that included the statement: As Califia once wrote many years ago, I’d rather be left on a deserted island with a kinky man than a vanilla lesbian; SM trumps gender identity and my otherwise primary orientation to other girls. So, who knows? I’d love to talk to some Aggressives sometime about power dynamics and violence in bed.

This also highlights another question I’ve thought about a lot — how does the available culture shape how we approach alternative sexuality? That is, what happens to someone who has BDSM desires if that person is never exposed to a subculture devoted to BDSM? I see myself as “oriented towards BDSM”, but what would my BDSM practices look like if there weren’t an available subculture showing me certain images of BDSM? If I’d been exposed to the Aggressive subculture and never exposed to the BDSM subculture, would I have been likely to incorporate myself into that? Conversely, is it possible that some of the lesbians who find themselves in the Aggressive subculture are there more because it’s the lesbian community that’s available to them, than because they’re drawn to masculine women or power or … whatever?

Argh, over a thousand words and I’m only halfway through my notes … and I have to run! I feel like I never have time to get out all my thoughts about these films. Oh well. You can buy “The Aggressives” online at the website for Seventh Art Releasing. And I definitely encourage all and sundry to attend the next Sex+++ screening. That’s tonight, Tuesday the 9th, 7 PM as always! The documentary featured will be “Boy I Am”: a look at the experience of three young female-to-male transpeople, and the way they’re treated — not just by society at large — but also by some queer and feminist groups that see female-to-male transitioning as culturally suspect or problematic. Thanks to Women Make Movies for letting us screen it.

“Boy I Am” will actually be the last Sex+++ screening I facilitate because I will soon be taking advantage of a professional opportunity abroad, but the film series will continue in my absence. I’ll post more on that soon — in the meantime, I hope to see you here at Hull-House Museum … very soon!

2009 9 May

Sex-positive documentary report #7: “It’s Still Elementary”

Cross-posted at SexGenderBody.com

I half-suspected this would happen: after our sixth screening (the bisexuality documentary) was overwhelmed with people, the seventh Sex+++ movie was far quieter. It was nice to have breathing room! The really cool thing about this is that I can now promote the film series to new groups … I’ve been afraid to do any new promotion because we’ve had so many people at some screenings, I’m nervous that we’ll be overwhelmed. So now that I can do some more reaching out, I’d love new ideas about new people I can tell about the film series!

In the meantime ….

I’ve taken a while to post about it because I went to San Francisco on the interim, but the last film at my sex-positive documentary film series was “It’s Still Elementary” — courtesy of GroundSpark: Igniting Change Through Film.

“It’s Still Elementary” is a bit of a meta-documentary: a documentary about a documentary! In 1996, a film called “It’s Elementary” confronted the question of how to educate grade-school kids about gay and lesbian issues. It showed a number of grade-school educators taking on the issue — in the 1996 political climate, they risked their jobs to do so! — and it also showed the kids in their classes creating their own respectful, honest conversations on the subject. Of course there was a firestorm of controversy around “It’s Elementary”, especially when it was broadcast on TV in 1999. Conservative religious groups did things like call it a “powerful pro-homosexual propaganda film” and mount fundraising campaigns against airing it, writing to their followers that “If we fail to take a stand to put a stop to this outrage, the sin of sexual perversion could be promoted to a potential audience of tens of millions of children” (source).

That controversy is covered in “It’s Still Elementary”, as well as the process of making the “It’s Elementary”; the progress of the :cough: “homosexual agenda” inherent therein; the way the kids who actually experienced that education feel about it today; and issues faced by leaders who tried to get the film shown to educators in their communities. One thing that particularly struck me was the apparently frequent allegation, made by people who didn’t want “It’s Elementary” shown to teachers, that gay and lesbian issues simply weren’t “important enough” to be worth covering in school. School administrators — who didn’t see themselves as at all bigoted, but simply pragmatic — frequently argued that what’s “necessary” is readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic. So of course, since it didn’t fit into that box, they figured training teachers to address gay and lesbian issues wasn’t worth doing.

The reason this caught my attention was that I’ve encountered that argument before. People, even open-minded people who don’t consider themselves to be anti-sex, will frequently argue that quality sex education is simply not something we “need” to be worrying about. Folks will just figure it out, right? Or even if they don’t, raising a generation of sexually confused and ashamed kids is no big deal … right? In fact, this attitude continues — for many people — into adulthood; it’s just phrased differently. As adults, the questions (sometimes stated, but almost always implied) become things like, “Does sexual pleasure really matter?” or “Is it really so important that you explore your sexual needs?”

Now, it’s not that I think everyone should be spending all their time thinking about their sexual needs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — there is no “should”. I wouldn’t want to tell anyone their priorities, and I have no problem with freely choosing to prioritize other things over sex … I mean, I do it all the time. Sex is not the only thing in the world. But I do think that this whole idea, that sexual pleasure is unimportant, goes beyond being a crying shame — it’s positively dangerous. Sex, our sexuality, is important. It’s so deep-rooted, it shapes so many things about us, so much of our approach to our lives … whether we’re aware of it or not. How can we know ourselves if we don’t know our sexuality? How can we live as whole human beings? And why, why should we be expected to repress or subvert or twist up a powerful drive that could be such a source of pleasure and power? The idea that sex is unimportant, “not worth it”, is another manifestation of our cultural stigma against sexuality, and a dangerously subtle one to boot.

One person at the discussion group, after we showed “It’s Still Elementary”, noted that the film (and the educators it highlights) was limited — it didn’t take on bisexuality, or trans. That’s a problem. But I’d argue that there’s a bigger problem — that educators limited themselves, are limiting themselves, to orientations when it would serve us better to create a wider curriculum around general sexuality. But, gasp! We can’t have a curriculum about general sexuality for children! What would happen to kids exposed to ideas of sex?

As it turns out, they’d be fine. Unitarian kids get the best sex education in the country through the Unitarian church, starting in kindergarten, and they amazingly don’t grow up to be axe murderers. The key is that sex education really doesn’t have to be entirely about explicit sex. From the website for Our Whole Lives, the Unitarian sex ed curriculum:

Our Whole Lives helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. It equips participants with accurate, age-appropriate information in six subject areas: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. Grounded in a holistic view of sexuality, Our Whole Lives provides not only facts about anatomy and human development, but helps participants to clarify their values, build interpersonal skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional, and social aspects of sexuality.

This is a concept introduced by “It’s Elementary” — the idea that we can have conversations about gay and lesbian issues (which are, after all, about sexuality) with kids without edging into scary sex territory. It’s time to take that idea to the next level and create good, national, general sex education that doesn’t tiptoe around important ideas like pleasure, or self-discovery, or defeating shame. Or so I’d like to believe. In a country where — what is it, 60%? — of schools are still mired in abstinence-only sex education, I recognize that my grandiose plans to teach kids not to be ashamed of their bodies are far from implementation. At least I can do adult sex education … reverse the damage a bit, perhaps. (Interestingly, one of the people I met on this past San Francisco trip, name of Dr. Charlie Glickman, did a dissertation on proposed adult sex education among — guess who? — the Unitarians. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it seems so good.)

It’s been a while since I linked to it, so I’ll wrap this up by mentioning my old post: Liberal, Sex-Positive Sex Education: What’s Missing. Which just goes to show that even when you’ve got decent sex education, there’ll be room for improvement.

And now I am off to bed (not in a sexy way, regrettably … I’ve worn myself out, with all this typing about sex!). Check out the GroundSpark website to buy “It’s Still Elementary”, and do come out to the upcoming Sex+++ films “Private Dicks” and “Forever Bottom” — both about ideas of masculine sexuality. May 12th, 7PM. See you there!

2009 24 Apr

Sex-positive documentary report #6: “Bi The Way”

In a minute I’ll review the sixth film at my sex-positive documentary film series, but first I have to say … man, the screening was unexpectedly stressful! For the first time, we simply didn’t have enough space for everyone. In a way I’m thrilled, of course, but I’m also feeling a bit overwhelmed. Previously we have simply been encouraging people to RSVP by phone (312.413.5353) in order to save a seat, but it looks like now RSVPing is effectively a requirement. If you want to attend, you probably want to RSVP by phone … or show up early and hope that someone who RSVPed flakes out! I’ve been encouraging people to RSVP in the last few invitational emails and on Facebook; since last Tuesday I’ve also emphasized the RSVP information in every other Internet venue I have control over.

It’s been suggested multiple times that we switch to a bigger screening venue. This is, however, more complicated than it sounds. One reason for that is that we have very little money for Sex+++. It’s a largely grassroots effort that’s being supported by a few awesome co-sponsors; you can help if you know any potential sex-positive co-sponsors — talk to them and tell them to talk to me!

Another issue is that we want to make sure the event is centrally located within Chicago. This is important because that way it’s maximally accessible to everyone — but it’s especially important because we’ve already printed up the next batch of posters for Sex+++, and they all say it’s at the Hull-House Museum. So, ideally, any new venue would be close enough to Hull-House that people could still make it to the film if they went to the wrong place. You might be able to help us find space if you know of any large, free (or at least cheap), centrally located Chicago movie venues and can convince them to talk to me.

Anyway!

Yeah! Sex+++! Last week’s documentary was “Bi The Way” — all about bisexuality!

This movie was great for soundbites! I must have written down a million quotations. Here’s a few:

+ From a bisexual woman — “I don’t really differentiate sex with men and sex with women as two different things.”

+ From a man who was talking about how bisexuals supposedly just don’t want to “make a commitment” to one sexual orientation — “It’s not fair! The rest of us have to!” (Other negative comments about bisexuals included the assertion that bisexuals are “greedy”, or that they want to “have their cake and eat it too” — whatever that means.)

+ Some kids talking about gender and whether boys can wear pink shirts — Kid #1: “Tough guys can wear pink shirts!” Kid #2: “Yeah, tough gay guys.”

+ From an African-American gentleman profiled by the film — “In the African-American community, gay is not cool. It’s like the opposite of being Black.”

+ A bisexual man talking to his two parents, and complaining about how they tried to limit his sexuality with labels — Bisexual man: “You didn’t encourage me to explore myself. To be ambiguous.” His mother: “Well, I didn’t know that was a possibility!”

The first and last quotations in particular, I think, show how the film did a good job of highlighting issues around limiting sexuality with labels. And it’s great to see a documentary taking on bisexuality as a subject in itself, especially some of the stereotypes surrounding bisexuality. (Speaking of stereotypes, I highly recommend that everyone check out Violet Blue’s recent description of a brainstorming session on assumptions about various sexual orientations.)

I feel so bewildered by some of these stereotypes — I have no idea how to respond to them, much less deconstruct them. The “it’s not fair” and “greedy” ones, in particular, get to me. Only a culture as sex-negative as America could come up with something so ridiculous. I’ve spent the last ten whole minutes trying to articulate the assumptions behind a statement as insane as “bisexuals just want to have their cake and eat it too” (and I’m never getting that ten minutes back). The closest I can come up with is:

Assumption A: For the good of society, there is a tacit social contract imposing limits around sexuality. Society can expand its definitions to handle people who want to have sex with members of their own gender, but only as long as they impose their own limits on sexuality. Bisexuals ignore all limits for the sake of their own pleasure, and that’s selfish.

Assumption B: Sexual experimentation is bad.

Assumption C: People have complete control over who they’re sexually attracted to.

I’m not sure I’m getting to the heart of the insanity, but I think Assumptions A-C are definitely caught up in those statements. And of course, I think all those assumptions are terribly damaging! So, thanks to “Bi The Way” for bringing those issues to the surface.

“Bi The Way” frustrated me in several ways, though. One is that the documentary doesn’t really differentiate between being bisexual and being non-monogamous; it brings up non-monogamy in a way that implies an automatic association between bisexuality and non-monogamy, as if one leads to the other. There’s a stereotype that all bisexual people are non-monogamous or — more negatively — cheaters, and I feel like the film ended up reinforcing that stereotype … which is ironic, considering that it set out to debunk them.

Furthermore, I think it’s good practice for media about different kinds of alternative sexuality to differentiate between those types of alternative sexuality. There are lots of interesting models of consensual non-monogamy out there, none of which “Bi The Way” addressed or even named — which means that anyone interested in consensual non-monogamy who attends the documentary might come away more confused than ever. Such an attendee wouldn’t even know what words to plug into Google. (Want to learn more about different models of consensual non-monogamy, such as swinging or polyamory? Check out my review of polyamory documentary we showed at Sex+++, “When Two Won’t Do”!)

Another concept that was talked around, rather than addressed specifically, is one I consider really important: gender and bisexuality. One researcher interviewed in the documentary mentioned that (apparently) it used to be considered relatively normal for men to experiment with bisexuality in their youth, but not women; now, she asserted, it’s considered relatively normal for women to experiment with bisexuality in their youth, but not men. The documentary also pointed out various appearances of female bisexuality in the media — for instance, the famous (or infamous) Britney/Madonna/Christina kiss — but not much more than that.

The Ultimates, a swinger couple that attends most Sex+++ screenings, noted during the post-film discussion that women in the swinger scene are encouraged to be bi while men are encouraged to be heterosexual. Other audience members agreed that there’s more stigma against bi men than bi women. I don’t personally have much experience with this, but I can attest that I know a lot more heteroflexible women than heteroflexible men. I’m also willing to assert that — although female sexuality generally carries higher stigma than male — within very liberal and alternative sexuality circles, women have more social space to experiment sexually than men. Still, I have no studies or “evidence” to back up that assertion, just my own experience. It would have been nice to see more on that in “Bi The Way”.

A few people I spoke to mentioned that they felt bothered by how “Bi The Way” also brought up both Black gay culture and conservative religious LGBTQ issues, but without going into any depth. Fortunately, Sex+++ be screening documentaries specifically on those two topics: “On The Downlow” on June 23rd (Black gay culture), and “Equality U” on August 25th (Christian LGBTQ activism). (You can see the full Sex+++ calendar by clicking here.)

Overall, though, I was pleased to screen “Bi The Way” and encourage larger specific discussion about bisexuality in itself (rather than simply folding it into the “LGBTQ issues” umbrella, which happens too often). And on April 28th, we screen our next documentary: “It’s Still Elementary”, about educating elementary school kids on LGBTQ issues. See you there!

2009 23 Mar

Interview with Richard Berkowitz, star of “Sex Positive” and icon of safer sex activism

Our second film at Sex+++ was “Sex Positive”, a fascinating documentary about the history of safer sex. I’ll be honest: I was psyched about “Sex Positive” from day one, long before I’d even seen it. It was the first film I chose for my film list. In fact, the whole idea for the film series came out of a conversation I had with Lisa (our lovely Hull-House Museum education coordinator) in which I said that I wanted to see “Sex Positive”, and then added, “There are so many sexuality movies I want to see. You and I should have a regular movie night!” She looked at me and said thoughtfully, “You know, I bet people besides us would come to that ….”

“Sex Positive” tells the story of Richard Berkowitz — and how he was one of the first to spread the word about safer sex in America. Berkowitz, a talented writer, started out as a hot-blooded participant in the promiscuous gay bathhouse culture; later, he became an S&M hustler. When AIDS started decimating the gay community, Berkowitz was instrumental in teaching his community (and the world) about safer sex. As it became clear to some medical professionals that sexual promiscuity spread AIDS, Berkowitz tried to tell the world about their findings. But there was a huge backlash against him — because in those days, the promiscuous bathhouse culture was seen by many gay men as a huge part of identifying as gay and sex-positive … and anyone who argued against it, or tried to modify it, was therefore cast by many people as sex-negative.

You can read my “Sex Positive” followup blog post and quick semi-review here, and Richard Berkowitz himself did just that! He left a comment offering feedback on my review, and I was so thrilled and honored to hear from him that I emailed him right away. We talked a little bit, and met in person last time I was in New York City — and I practically begged him to let me interview him by email. Here’s the results: a discussion of Richard’s history with S&M; what he thinks about advocacy; his feelings about the gay community and its history; and where he finds himself in his life right now.

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Clarisse Thorn: In “Sex Positive”, you mention that you didn’t initially think of yourself as a BDSM type, but that you had partners who convinced you to do it. Do you think you would have gotten into BDSM if you hadn’t had partners pressuring you to do it? Do you think you would have gotten into it if you hadn’t been able to make money at it?

Richard Berkowitz: I was filmed talking in three- to four-hour sessions over the course of a year about difficult, often painful, personal history. At times I felt uncomfortable, I made mistakes, so there are moments in “Sex Positive” that I wish I could clarify — but it’s not my film. That’s why I’m thrilled that you’re giving me the first opportunity to address the moments that make me cringe when I see the movie — and what amazed me is that you nailed most of them.

Me — pressured into S&M? Hell, no. I stumbled across BDSM porn in college, and was both appalled and more turned on than I was to any other porn. I pursued a few experiences as a novice when I was in college, and I was completely turned off to the scene for years. The few Tops I met were clumsy, distracted by fetishes that bored me, and I was convinced a bottom could easily get hurt — so I walked away.

When I began hustling in NYC, I was an angry activist and it attracted S&M bottoms that were happy to teach me what I could do with my anger that was erotic and consensual. To that I added what I had learned that Tops did wrong — and presto! I got really good at it fast — and I loved it. I was doing two or three scenes a day, but because I could often steer a scene to what turned me on, it felt more like play than work.

If I hadn’t had been trained as a Top by older, experienced bottoms who were hiring me, I still would have had S&M experiences on my own. But I doubt that I would have gotten as heavily into the scene if it wasn’t for hustling. That’s where I earned my S&M PhD.

In 1979, S&M was considered the fallback scene for aging hustlers — it was what you turned to when you were losing your youth. There was such a dearth of good Tops. But I had the raw material to be a great Top at 23, and I built quite a reputation on word-of-mouth referrals and repeats. Many of my clients became close friends.

CT: Where do you place BDSM in your sexual identity and self-conception? Do you see it as deeply part of you, or something you chose? Do you think of your BDSM urges as coming from a place as deep, as intrinsic, as your gay orientation?

RB: I think it’s too late for me to answer that question. Turning my libido into an occupation at 23 changed me in both good ways and bad. It would take a book to explain — so let me just say that as a product of gay male sex in the 70s, there was an element of power intrinsic to the sexuality of the times. That shaped me. I don’t see vanilla sex and S&M sex as mutually exclusive because I believe in Tops and bottoms — and that’s the basis of BDSM. “Tops and bottoms” are not exclusive to BDSM; the terms are widely used for assigning roles of power in sex in general. Gore Vidal said, “There is no such thing as gay and straight — only top and bottom”. I believe both are true.

But one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a third of my living space for the past three decades was a sound-proofed dungeon.

I think that a culture like ours that’s based on competition, as opposed to cooperation, can be extremely sadomasochistic. I think bad S&M can be found in many aspects of our daily life, and good S&M is just eroticizing aspects of being human that can enhance sex immensely for some.

CT: What kind of BDSM advocacy have you encountered? What kind of sex work advocacy have you encountered? What did you think of what you saw? Do you have any ideas about how to make those movements effective? Do you have any fears about those movements? Would you consider being part of those movements?

RB: My only fear about those movements would be if they didn’t exist! My neighbor down the hall for the past 25 years built my dungeon and was a co-founder of Gay Male SM Activists, but I always had too much hot sex going on at home to be interested in meetings. Plus, I never stopped feeling like a pariah in the gay community because of the attacks on me and my writing since AIDS began. You reach a point where you just assume people hate you because it’s easier than trying to figure out who doesn’t.

I fiercely support BDSM advocacy, but mainly from a distance. There’s a limited number of body blows any activist can take before we just retreat. I had my fill — but the response to “Sex Positive” and the new Obama era is nudging me out of my shell. I had a breakup a few years ago that devastated me, so I’ve been out of the scene for almost three years. Now I’m trying to reinvent myself, find one person I can retreat from the world with. I’ve never lied about S&M being an intrinsic part of my sexuality, and because of my early bad experiences with BDSM, I’m thrilled and inspired by advocates for it. If there had been BDSM advocacy when I came into BDSM, then I don’t think I would have had the bad experiences I mentioned earlier. As a BDSM sex worker, I met so many men who had horrible tales of being hurt in scenes, and I did my best to be an antidote for that.

CT: On my blog, you commented that “Of course BDSM was a source of joy in my life but I put it aside when it robs me from having a platform to champion safe sex to the largest possible audience, which BDSM often has.” Could you talk more about that?

RB: Smear campaigns are hard to pin down, and there’s no way to know how much of the contempt against me or my writing was due to my BDSM, my sex work, my safe sex evangelism or simply me. I’m just a dangling piñata for people who have issues with sex!

There are gay people of my generation who are as uninformed and rabidly anti-BDSM sex as homophobes are about gay sex.

I can’t think of anyone who has gone on film with such brutally honest testimony about their radical sexual history as I did in “Sex Positive.” It felt like a huge risk and you can see my anxiety in the film, but to me, this level of honesty is crucial to pro-sex activism. People are so dishonest about sex; many would never talk publicly about their private sexual behavior — and they don’t want others doing it either, so it’s not easy.

There was a doctor I saw once when AIDS began who heard I was into S&M. As he went to take blood from me, he stabbed the needle into my arm. I bolted out of the chair screaming, and he said coyly, “Oh, sorry, I thought you liked pain.” How can I not feel reticent talking about BDSM considering so many people I’ve met like that? And then I think, how can I not?

I’ve seen the most courageous pro-sex writers and activists attacked, pilloried and silenced because of their honesty in writing about their kinky sexual histories. I shudder when I recall the vicious smears against pro-sex feminists by anti-porn feminists back in the early 80s. I don’t want to invite that bile into my life, especially now, when my circle of gay male friends are no longer alive and here to support me when I go out on a limb with my personal radical sexual issues in public.

So why did I speak out? Why do I still speak out? Because I owed so much to the army of men who loved and supported me over the years and no longer have a voice, and because gay men were dying. It was no time to be squeamish about sex. It still isn’t.

CT: Do you have any regrets? — and, concurrently, what are you most proud of? Did the making of the film “Sex Positive” bring any regret or pride to the surface for you?

RB: I have a few regrets about “Sex Positive”, but they pale next to what I’ve gained. I’ve been to more cities with this movie in one year than I’ve been to in my entire life. Young people have been extraordinarily supportive and kind, and it helps me to let go of the past. I’ve been stuck in the past for so long — it’s deadening, but I finally feel that this movie is breaking me free, to finally let go and move on to write about other things. For that, I’m forever indebted to Daryl Wein, the documentary’s director.

What I’m most proud of is how much work I did on safe sex that no one even knows about. I’m putting it all on the Internet as a free archive, as soon as I can find or pay someone to help me with the technical stuff. I’m from the age of typewriters.

CT: Is there anything you’d like to add? Please feel free to also respond directly to points I made when I talked about “Sex Positive” on my blog.

RB: I loved S&M hustling before AIDS so much — sometimes, when I talk about it, I become the part of me that tied people up and dominated them; it’s like a mental erection. I get lost in the reverie of being an erotic, arrogant Top. I begged director Daryl Wein to delete me saying that clients would tell me that I could do whatever I wanted to them except fuck them, and then I would proceed to do just that. I said that when I was lost in a persona, and it makes me sound like a rapist!

The truth is, my most valued expertise as a hustler was teaching men who were afraid of getting fucked how to relax, how to douche, how to open up, how to explore the intense pleasures of receptive anal intercourse and anal orgasm without any pain. I would never rape or violate anyone’s consent — and certainly not customers I wanted to come back! I had tremendous empathy for how difficult it can be to learn how to get anally fucked because I was never able — or had the desire — to do it without being high on drugs. (You have to remember how pervasive recreational drug use was during the sexual revolution. There were articles in the gay press saying how cocaine was good for you. We didn’t understand addiction then as we do now. And we paid a heavy price for that innocence and ignorance.)

When I began hustling in NYC, the lesbian and gay liberation movement was ten years old — and about that mature. We grew up in such an intensely erotophobic and homophobic culture — there was no way to escape it, even after we accepted that we were gay. We didn’t always treat each other well, and it permeated our sexual expression whether it was vanilla or S&M.

You mention in your blog post that you are wary of how I talk about BDSM as arising from “self-loathing” and “insecurity” and negative cultural pressures on the gay community. Yes — in S&M and in vanilla sex — I saw how we brought a lot of the culture’s contempt to what we did. But, as I say in “Sex Positive”, many of us came to realize this, and we understood that a lot of sexual fantasies are socially constructed by the times that shaped us. Many of us came to realize that sexual fantasies don’t diminish us as people — they can actually help free and enrich us when we understand what we’re doing.

I’m reluctant to put myself forward as a role model for BDSM and sex work, because of what happened to me after AIDS when I went back to hustling. I was furious that there was no place in the community for me to do safe sex education. I felt so hurt that some people only saw me as a sex worker/sadomasochist and that political differences got in the way of saving sexually active gay men’s lives. You can’t imagine the rage I felt that it took two entire years after we wrote and published “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic” for NYC to do its first safe sex campaign. I went back to hustling in such despair that I was an addiction waiting to happen, and that’s what did.

In the end, though, BDSM and my love for it is part of what saved my life. If I weren’t so busy hustling with BDSM before AIDS and safe sex, I would have spent much more time at the baths having high risk sex, and died long ago. I think each of us has a limit to how much sex and how many different partners our spirits can bear. Sex can become an addiction, and when you reach that point, people use recreational drugs to keep that level of hypersexual activity going. If I had found a place in safe sex education, my life would have been a much happier, healthier journey. But I never lose sight of how grateful I am to still be here, or how much joy and pleasure sexual freedom gave me until the world I loved started collapsing all around me and taking the men I loved along with it.

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Check out Richard Berkowitz’s web site to read more about him and order his book, Stayin’ Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex.

If you’re interested in seeing Daryl Wein’s documentary “Sex Positive”, then keep track of the film’s website. It hasn’t been released yet, but I have it on good authority that it’ll be out to a wider audience later this year.

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This piece is included in my awesome collection, The S&M Feminist: Best Of Clarisse Thorn. You can buy The S&M Feminist for Amazon Kindle here or other ebook formats here or in paperback here.

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