THE PARADOX OF PORN: interview on the Sacred Erotic Podcast

Adam Nicholson is an energy worker and spiritual seeker who hosts a podcast called The Sacred Erotic Podcast. I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by him about my book The Paradox of Porn. The interview is in two parts, and you can find it online by clicking here. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: EROTIC

“How To Turn Off The Erotic In Five Easy Steps”
1. Hurry, Feel Rushed or Pressured. Your sexual soul wants nothing to do with feeling hurried or pressured around pleasure.
2. Make sex into work.
3. Make orgasm the point. Orgasm is pleasure that last for a few seconds to minutes. The erotic pleasure can last a whole lot longer.
4. Worry about “doing it right”. Sex is not a performance art, it is a feeling experience.
5. Worry about how you look, taste and smell.

Bully the erotic and you may find that it will walk out on you.

–Pamela Madsen (author of Shameless)

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THE PARADOX OF PORN: Update

I’m pleased to note that, a year after its publication, my book The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture, continues to have an impact on the population for whom it was intended.

In mid-June, I gave a presentation on the subject matter of the book at the annual conference of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) in Philadelphia, whose theme this year — Let the Body Rejoice!” — was right up my alley.

At the end of July, I gave a reading from the book at Easton Mountain Retreat in upstate New York as part of the annual Gay Spirit Camp, and I also conducted a workshop called “Writing from the Erotic Body.”

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I recently received this five-star review on Amazon.com:

If you’re a gay man who wants a more exciting, pleasurable, meaningful, and fulfilling sex life;
if you struggle with sexual shame;
if you’ve found porn both liberatory & oppressive;
if you believe in sexual freedom & liberation but feel ambivalent, dissatisfied, or downright depressed about how those ideals play out in most gay male sexual culture;
if you can’t help comparing yourself to the men depicted in gay porn and feeling you don’t measure up in stamina, technique, repertoire, attitude, muscle size, dick size, body type, facial features, ejaculatory ability, or age;
if the simultaneously sex-obsessed and erotophobic society in which we live has negatively impacted your sexuality;
or if you simply enjoy reading smart, entertaining, skillful writing on sex and culture,
then this book is for you!

In the category of You Learn Something New Every Day, I recently encountered a definition of pornography I had never heard before. Philosopher Michael Rea theorizes that an image is sexual pornography when we use it for immediate gratification, while avoiding the complexities of actual sexual relationships like physical intimacy, emotional connection and romantic interaction. Sounds reasonable to me — what do you think?

 

 

 

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: Joseph Kramer – Portrait of a Sexual Healer

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In the spring of 1992, I interviewed Joseph Kramer, the founder of the Body Electric School, for an article that was published in the April 21 edition of the Village Voice (“Sexual Healing: Joseph Kramer Sings the Body Electric”). I used only a few brief excerpts from the interview in the published article. But the conversation with Kramer covered a lot of territory above and beyond the “Celebrating the Body Erotic” workshop. He spoke in much greater detail about his own background, the evolution of the workshops he taught, his vision of the vocation he named “sacred intimate,” Andrew Ramer’s notion of the “consciousness scout,” and his own understanding of the erotic consciousness scout and its function in society, among other topics.

I’ve come to view this interview as a historical document, so I’m publishing the complete transcript here for the first time, edited only in order to be comprehensible.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Sasha Shulgin on psychedelics

PSYCHEDELICS

Keep in mind that psychedelic drugs are not the only keys to our unconscious minds; they cannot be used for learning and growth by everyone. There is no single drug or dosage level that will benefit all explorers equally. And it cannot be said too often that what is being experienced in the use of a psychedelic drug or visionary plant does not come from the ingested chemical components, but from the mind and psyche of the person using the compound. Every such drug opens a door within the user, and different drugs open different doors, which means that an explorer must learn how to most safely and successfully make his way through each new inner landscape. This takes time and should be done with the guidance of a veteran explorer, as if the case, ideally, with all deep emotional and spiritual explorations.

All of the above cautions aside, these tools – the psychedelic drugs and plants – offer a much faster method than most of the classic alternatives for the accomplishment of the goals we seek: conscious awareness of our interior workings and greater clarity as to our responsibilities towards our own species and all others with whom we share this planet.

–Alexander T. Shulgin

BOOKS: Stephanie Theobald’s SEX DRIVE

Stephanie Theobald’s Sex Drive is a wild ride! Theobald, a fierce bisexual British novelist and broadcast journalist, took it upon herself to survey the contemporary landscape of female masturbation, figuratively and literally. She made a list of all the American female sexperts she could think of and then rented a car and drove across the country to meet them and harvest their wisdom while having adventures which she shares in great detail with her lucky readers.

She starts at the top by taking private instruction with Betty Dodson, author of Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving and widely considered “the godmother of masturbation,” and then works her way through an illustrious roster of pleasure activists. They include Regina Thomashauer, founder of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts; Veronica Vera, former model for Robert Mapplethorpe and proprietor of Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls;

Barbara Carrellas, who teaches classes in Urban Tantra; Annie Sprinkle, the renowned pornstar-turned-sex-educator; best-selling author and columnist Susie Bright, aka Susie Sexpert; Nicole Daedone, the founder of the female-centered sex institute OneTaste and the author of Slow Sex: the art and craft of the female orgasm; and a Bay Area-based professional dominatrix named Raven. Theobald even flies to Little Rock to commune with Joycelyn Elders, the former Surgeon General of the United States who was hired by her fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton and then fired for advocating that children should be taught that masturbation is a normal part of human sexuality.

An excellent interviewer and a game participant-observer, Theobald creates vivid, accessible, frequently hilarious prose that makes her every bit the equal of “New Journalism” heavyweights Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson (not unlike the New York Times’ rising star Taffy Brodesser-Akner). She truly goes into this enterprise as a nervous student and extracts a bountiful supply of useful nuggets from her teachers. Curiously, given her vivacious personality, Theobald is plagued by physical inhibitions and shame about her pervy fantasies.

Naomi Wolf claims in her book Vagina that porn desensitizes the pussy, but maybe it’s rather that it shrinks the imagination. Because at some point, you have to ask yourself: Is this really my fantasy or am I becoming addicted to someone else’s dream world? …When I told Betty that I worried about having dirty thoughts, not just when I masturbated but also when I was having sex, she told me not to worry. “Fantasy focuses the mind,” she said. “The dirtier, the filthier, the better.”

Susie Bright allays some of Theobald’s fears, telling her, “I have really insane fantasies. Most of them are physically impossible and morally repugnant. But they’re in my head, so it’s like criticizing me for pretending I’m a princess or riding a dragon….we need a more nuanced psychological understanding of this. I mean, I don’t actually want to be ravaged by nuns and priests on the altar, but in my imagination it can make perfect sense.”

Theobald (above) gets some good instruction in edging from Barbara Carrellas and in eco-sexuality from Annie Sprinkle. The pro-dom Raven is more helpful addressing Theobald’s history of painful intercourse than the medical doctors she’d consulted.

It annoyed me when my vulvodynia doctors used to trot out the “What are your pain levels on a scale of one to ten?” line. They didn’t finesse the question by asking, “Is your pain burning, stabbing, aching, shooting, throbbing, electric?” But Raven goes even further. She says that certain types of extreme sensation — i.e., pain — can teach you to relax around fear or adversity in your life. Sometimes you just have to sit with your pain. Accept your pain — see where it takes you.

I think of myself as pretty knowledgeable about women’s sexual pleasure – as knowledgeable as a gay cismale sex therapist can be – but I learned a lot as vicarious companion on Theobald’s journey. I’d been under the impression that clitoral stimulation (by hand or vibrator) is pretty much the be-all and end-all in terms of generating female orgasms, that penetration was something women go along with because it’s pleasurable to men but not so much to them. I learned otherwise from Theobald’s account of Betty Dodson’s tutelage.

A dildo makes you feel like you are being taken. Penetration is a big deal. It’s easy just to do what Betty calls “clit stim,” when you’re masturbating, but adding a dildo will take things up a notch.

Subtitled “On the Road to a Pleasure Revolution,” Sex Drive works as a zesty memoir and a funky sex manual. Yet at heart it means to serve as a kind of manifesto, shining light on an aspect of sexuality that most women are not trained to prioritize. I’ll close this review with my favorite passage from the book, which speaks to almost anyone:

The truth is that you never know what’s going to happen in your head when you start to masturbate. It’s like that challenge in Masterchef where the chefs lift the lid on a mystery box and find they have to make dinner from a tub of gherkins, some glacé cherries, a jar of peanut butter and a couple of crayfish. Who knows what will come out in the end? The only certainty is that whatever does emerge in the privacy of your head shouldn’t be thrown in the bin. It might not win a TV show, but you should look on it as your own personal masterpiece.