Best Sex Writing 2009 call for submissions

February 22, 2008

What great news – my publisher Cleis Press has asked me to edit Best Sex Writing 2009. If you’re reading this site, you have an idea of the kind of work I’m looking for; I’d also love any tips or recommendations.

Call for submissions: Best Sex Writing 2009
To be edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Publication date: November 2008
Deadline for submissions: May 1, 2008

Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel is looking for personal essays and reportage for inclusion in the 2009 edition of the Cleis Press series Best Sex Writing, which will hit stores in November 2008. Seeking articles from across the sexual spectrum, covering alternative sexuality, reproductive rights and sexuality, sex education, sex and technology, sex work, sex and aging, sex and parenting, sex and religion, sex and race, sex and disability, BDSM, polyamory, gender roles, etc. These topics are just starting points; any writings covering the topic of sex will be considered. Personal essays will also be considered. I like work that looks at sex in new and unusual ways, that challenges us to think about sex and our own sexuality, is thought-provoking and possibly disturbing. I want sex journalism that’s found in the most unexpected places.

Previous editions of the annual series have featured authors such as Susannah Breslin, Susie Bright, Stephen Elliott, Tristan Taormino, Virginia Vitzhum, Gael Greene, Michael Musto, and others. See Best Sex Writing 2008 for examples of the types of writing being sought (introduction and more information at https://bestsexwriting2008.wordpress.com). I’m especially looking for reported pieces that are political, timely, intelligent, surprising, and insightful about sex in American culture (and its many subcultures).

About the editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel (www.rachelkramerbussel.com) is a prolific author and editor. She hosts In The Flesh Reading Series and has edited or co-edited over a dozen erotica books, most recently Yes, Sir, Yes, Ma’am, Best Sex Writing 2008, and Crossdressing.

Requirements: Story must have been published (or slated to be published) between June 1, 2007 and October 31, 2008, online and/or in print (book, magazine, zine or newspaper) in the United States.

Instructions: Please send your double-spaced submission (up to 6,000 words) as a Word document or RTF attachment to bestsexwriting2009 at gmail.com – you may submit a maximum of TWO pieces for consideration. You MUST include your full contact information, a bio, and previous publication details as per below.

If for some reason you are unable to send a Word document or RTF, send your submission in the body of an email. Put BSW09 in the subject line. Include your name, email address, mailing address, phone number, and exact publication details (title of publication, date of publication, and any other relevant information). ONLY SEND WORK YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REPRINT.

Editors may submit up to three submissions from their publication, following the guidelines above. Please make it clear that you are the editor submitting work for consideration from your publication, and have the author’s contact information available upon request.

Email address (for queries and submissions): bestsexwriting2009 at gmail.com
Payment: $100
Deadline: May 1, 2008
Expect to hear back from me by October 2008 at the latest.

Sex Workers Art Show

February 21, 2008

The Sex Workers Art Show, founded by Annie Oakley, which is consistently creative, thought-provoking, and powerful, has been in the news a lot this year. Oakley went on The O’Reilly Factor to talk about the show:

Oakley is also the editor of the recent Seal Press book Working Sex: Sex Workers Write About a Changing Industry, which I blurbed:

Working Sex is a radical, powerful, vitally important book. Presenting takes on various kinds of sex work from men and women, it will open your eyes and dispel the umpteen stereotypes about whores that, sadly, still seem to flourish. The best part? It’s also an entertaining read that’ll have you tearing through its pages not just for the politics, but for the extremely well-written, soul-baring prose.

From The Weekly Dig

Some of the show is more demonstrative. In New York, pro-domme Keva Lee dominated a female volunteer, someone who would not be considered a sex object according to conventional beauty standards. The piece left audience members a bit awed, not by the demonstration, but by a woman who manifested such believable desire for a stranger and by the way that desire transformed someone she didn’t know.

Sex workers are repositories for our most secret, most frustrated or even most mundane desires. We put so much of ourselves onto sex workers that we often forget to ask who they are. Or rather, who else they are.

Maybe we just expect them to be complicit in our own shame. The penitent whore is a better-known character than the escort who is not a drug addict and can criticize her job without condemning her peers and her work. Chris Kraus’ reading is a good example of this—acknowledging that strip clubs are, behind the scenes, often dystopian and unhealthy … just like so many other American workplaces.

Maybe we are just afraid of what sex workers would say if they started talking. “They line up for me like children lining up for Santa Claus at the mall. They want to tell me what they want,” recounts Lorelei Lee of her experiences with fans at sex industry trade shows. A pretty blonde porn star, Lee reads anecdotes about her sex work as well as those on more commonplace aspects of her life, like watching television with a sick roommate or picking out frozen food. These pedestrian vignettes serve as healthy inoculations—for her and the audience—against pure fantasy.

“People think you’re supposed to be continuously sexually available and excited and really enraptured with whomever you’re having sex or giving a lap dance to, and therefore that you’re this constant nymphomaniac,” says Oakley—who is also selling on tour her anthology of writings by sex workers—the first ever to be edited by a fellow sex worker. “People don’t grasp that it’s a job.”

Big old overdue sex in the news roundup

February 5, 2008

I’ve been holding onto some of these for way too long, my apologies. A belated sex in the news roundup…

The Principles of Pleasure has a great Flickr set from Love L.A., this one featuring Midori doing bondage:

Sex is big in the Ivy League (which you already knew if you read former Columbia Spectator columnist Miriam Datskovsky’s “Absolut Nude” piece in Best Sex Writing 2008).

Sex Week at Yale kicks off February 10th.

Sex Week is an interdisciplinary sex education program designed to pique students’ interest through creative, interactive, and exciting programming. In February 2008, renowned professionals from a wide variety of industries, from models and television stars to professors and relationship specialists, will convene at Yale University to challenge students’ conceptions of sex and sexuality and question the way sex is presented in our society.

Next year I’d love to go and cover this; they’ve got everyone from Dr. Ruth to Dawn Eden! (The latter on Sex and Spirituality.) With everything from Ron Jeremy to the CEO of porn company Vivid to speed dating and a lingerie and fashion show, this almost makes me wish I were back in college. Kudos to Yale for bringing such high-quailty programming around sex to their campus. Here’s the schedule.

“Nude rag to spread pages soon?” Harvard Crimson

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but if Matthew M. Di Pasquale ’08 gets his way, they’ll soon be a frustrated Harvard boy’s best friend too.

The Dunster House senior plans to publish nude photographs of Harvard co-eds in a new campus magazine, to be called “Diamond.” The plans for the magazine haven’t been fully fleshed out, but Di Pasquale said he hopes to discharge his first issue this spring.

Di Pasquale has created a Web site for the magazine, and he has solicited prospective Harvard models through the Dunster House e-mail list. He has also sent information to friends at the University of Pennsylvania. So far he has recruited one model.

As for how he’ll make money off the student body, Di Pasquale said he has financial backing, but he declined to reveal the source.

Di Pasquale said he conceived the idea of Diamond about two weeks ago. His inspiration was simple: “I love women,” he said.

If published, Diamond would not be the campus’s sole sex magazine. H Bomb, which is officially recognized by the College, was founded in 2004 and has been published periodically since then.

Jennifer Baumgardner, author of Look Both Ways, looks at bisexual women for The Advocate and quotes Best Sex Writing 2008 contributor Amy André.

Well, first of all, most bisexual women are partnered with women, according to Amy André, an expert on bisexual women’s health. Second, such a justification for hating bisexuals relies on increasingly outdated notions of men being more able to “take care of” a woman financially. These days I doubt that many women—of any orientation—choose a mate based on earning power, and most people nowadays, regardless of gender, expect to take care of a partner as much as they are cared for. I grant that same-sex partnerships are often stigmatized while opposite-sex couplings are generally viewed as normative. However, it is one thing to acknowledge that it is difficult on a personal level to compete with the social approbation male-female couples still receive, and it’s quite another to actively contribute to the disparagement of an entire social group.

There’s evidence that bisexual women are suffering—in quantifiable terms that will be of interest to anyone who cares about human rights. André, who is herself bisexual and has a master’s degree in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University, reports that bi women experience more oppression and stigma than women of any other sexual orientation. She cowrote the book Bisexual Health—published in March 2007 by a coalition of organizations including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute—which analyzed more than 100 studies that, taken together, demonstrate “that bisexual people have worse physical and mental health than people of any other orientation,” says André. “There is a lot of evidence that bisexual women in relationships with monosexual partners have notably higher rates of domestic violence than women in any other demographic,” says André, who is in a relationship with a nonhostile, phobia-free monosexual woman. “If it were not a reflection of biphobia,” André concludes, “there’d be no statistical difference between the safety in relationships of bi women and women of other sexualities.”

At Tango, Regina Lynn asks, “Are Sex Parties the New Vibrator?”

Cinekink is a fabulous kinky/sex-related film festival that happens every year. Check out their latest:

CineKink @ Pioneer presents…

Tuesday, February 12 – 7 pm

In a teaser event leading up to their fifth annual festival taking place later in the month (February 26-March 2), CineKink presents a Valentine’s ode to the sweet miracles of the orgasm.

New York Premiere!
ANNIE SPRINKLE’S AMAZING WORLD OF ORGASM
(Directed by Sheila Malone & Annie Sprinkle, 2005, USA, 53 minutes.)
Annie Sprinkle reflects upon the incredibly diverse aspects of the orgasmic experience and introduces twenty-six “orgasm experts” who have, over the years, taught her some key piece of knowledge about the fascinating topic. Inter-cut and layered with a lively collage of archival film clips and sexual imagery, interviewees include Stuart Block, Juliet Carr, Barbara Carrellas, Cleo Dubois, Cleopatra, Betty Dodson, Dominique, Fakir, Eleanor Hamilton, Scarlot Harlot, Jwala, Karen, Joseph Kramer, Kutira, Laraji, Robert Lawrence, Frank Moore, Ray Noonan, Michael Perry, Kembra Pfahler, Carol Queen, Andrew Ramer, Carolee Schneemann, Ray Stubbs, Norma Wilcox and Wonshe.

Plus, the climactic shorts!

COME TOGETHER (OR COME APART)
(Directed by Kirby Ferguson, 2007, Canada, 3 minutes)
At long last, attention is paid to the plight of the world’s sextoy-less.

MY PUSSY IS MAGIC
(Directed by Matt Davis, 2006, USA, 4 minutes)
The lovely Jessica Delfino sings it on home!

New York Premiere!
BLONDE ISLAND: FUNK ME
(Directed by Susan M. Block, 2007, USA, 9 minutes)
Dr. Suzy presents an erotic look at the nature of sex and the folly of war, exploding into pop star Orgasmical’s performance of “Funk Me.”

and

ANNIE’S FAMOUS FIVE-MINUTE ORGASM
(Directed by Maria Beatty & Annie Sprinkle, 1992, USA, 6 minutes)
This excerpt from the feminist sex film classic, SLUTS AND GODDESSES, documents Annie’s experience of a historic and mind-bending orgasm.

An afterparty follows the screenings at China 1 (50 Avenue B).

Boinkology and Violet Blue lament the lack of sex blogs in the 2008 Bloggies.

Chocolate vulvas at Early to Bed

Black Porn: It Ain’t Just Sex on Screen,” Black Voices

Even in the porn industry, Black folks get the short end of the stick. Okay, that was corny. But author and journalist Lawrence Ross decided to explore the reality of black folks working in the adult entertainment world in his new book MONEY SHOT: WILD DAYS AND LONELY NIGHTS INSIDE THE BLACK PORN INDUSTRY…

Ross also conducted hundreds of interviews with college professors, industry insiders, and other porn stars to provide a first-hand look at a world that many of us don’t know much about. MONEY SHOT uncovers sexual and racial politics–including racism, and the hypersexual portrayal of Black women, discusses how AIDS plays a role, and looks at the close ties between the porn industry and the corporate hip-hop world (think Snoop Doggy Dogg’s film).

Interview with Gael Greene

February 4, 2008

Here’s the latest in my interview series of Best Sex Writing 2008 contributors.

Gael Greene wrote “The Insatiable Critic” column for New York magazine for more than thirty years and remains on the staff, writing a weekly “Ask Gael” column. The author of Blue Skies, No Candy, Doctor Love, and other books, she is also cofounder (with James Beard) and board chair of Citymeals-on-Wheels, an organization that delivers 2.2 million meals a year to elderly housebound New Yorkers. She lives in New York City. Visit her at www.insatiable-critic.com.

What prompted you to write your memoir, Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, and who would you say is your intended audience?

I wanted to tell the story of how New York City and America fell in love with food from my early days as a foodie-ahead-of-the-times, before I forgot it and before people who weren’t there rewrote it. Feeling that the sexual revolution had prepared Americans for the food revolution by seeding sensualism, I wanted to tell that story too. In each decade what was happening culturally, on the streets and in the stock market, affected what we ate.

What has the reaction to the memoir been like? Did you get any flak from people who primarily think of you as a food critic for writing about your personal life?

There were some passionate food lovers who were offended by the erotic memoir. Some of the men in my life were pleased to be left out of the book and a few I neglected to mention were hurt. One wrote asking if we could meet for lunch so he could audition for the second volume.

The excerpt in Best Sex Writing 2008 (“The Prince of Porn and the Junk-Food Queen”) is about your dalliance with porn star Jamie Gillis. Looking back on that time of your life, is there anything you’d do differently? How did it feel to relive that era while writing Insatiable?

It was emotionally draining to remember all the sad times and mad times in the book but what fun to relive the great moments. I could almost taste the astonishment of dinner at Fredy Girardet and memories of incredible times in bed were so vivid.

Since you cover both of them extensively in your memoir, what do you see as the connection between food and sex?

Obviously, two of the greatest sensuous pleasures consenting adults can share. It seems so obvious…we use the same senses in both eating and making love — the eyes, the nose, the ears, the sense of taste. The more in touch one is with one’s sensuality, the more pleasure, and the greatest pleasure is in the moment. The ability to enjoy the moment is a gift.

Has he been in touch with you since Insatiable was published or have you seen him recently?

Jamie Gillis is living with Zarela Martinez, the restaurateur — she met him a few years ago at my birthday. They seem quite together and happy. The four of us had dinner two weeks ago.

What does the word “insatiable” mean to you?

Literally, “insatiable” means not being able to be satisfied. I have never found satisfaction elusive. New York magazine’s creator Clay Felker thought Insatiable Critic was amusing and my then husband did too, so it’s on my New York magazine column and my web site.

For me, too much of a good thing is just barely enough.

You are now writing for your own website, Insatiablecritic.com, in addition to your New York magazine column and other food writing. What’s different about writing on the web vs. print? Has being able to update the site whenever you want changed how quickly you write your reviews?

The big difference is I decide what I want to cover and how long to write. Alas, another difference is I have no determined fact checker on the site as I do at New York, although I do have two editors who read for typos, grammar, spelling. Everything is faster now than it was in 1968 when New York magazine was born and I came on as the critic; nobody waits for a restaurant to settle in. The competition is huge, beyond imagining. Most of my blog postings are about first visits to new restaurants, although some of the stronger pieces are rediscoveries of places and chefs I have admired.

Do you get more feedback from readers from the website vs. your New York magazine column?

The instant feedback of an email to the site is apparently very tempting.

What’s your favorite recent restaurant find?

I loved the food at Dovetail on the Upper West Side. Bar Boulud is a great gift to the Lincoln Center area. Chop Suey in the Renaissance Hotel will be good if it stays consistent. The Smith is better than it needs to be for the NYU students it draws and the amazing low prices.

You did a roundup of 2007’s Best Dishes on your site. In general, do you prefer to revisit old favorites or try new places?

After three or four new places that aren’t wonderful, I desperately need to go back to a restaurant I love.

What can visitors to Insatiablecritic.com look forward to in the near future?

I’ll keep up with what’s new. I hope my readers will feed me more good food world gossip. Every week, we post more vintage articles from the earliest days of New York magazine, not available anywhere else on the web. I think they are fun to read for those of us who were there, and newly obsessed foodies who want to know what it was like.

Interview about Best Sex Writing 2008 at Cleis site

February 1, 2008

My fantabulous, awesome, amazing (she really is all those things and more!) Cleis Press publicist Kara Wuest interviewed me about Best Sex Writing 2008 and sex journalism generally. Read the whole interview – here’s a snippet:

KW: The intersection of sex and the law was a recurring topic in many of these pieces. Is it impossible to talk about modern sexuality without acknowledging how much trouble you can get into?

RKB: Well, I think sex and the law will always be intricately tied together. We tend not to think about the ways our sexuality is shaped by the law until it’s infringed upon. I love that Ariel Levy’s excellent article “Dirty Old Women” is also included in Best Crime Writing 2007, and in many ways she looks at why and whether and how statutory rape works when it’s female on male, and some of the assumptions, legal and cultural, around it. Trixie Fontaine’s look at not just the legal implications of menstruation porn, but the financial ones, was fascinating, and showed that money doesn’t trump all. It’s hard to say who the villain(s) are in Ashlea Halpern’s piece and she does a great job showing that this doctor who acted outside the law by performing sex change surgery may have seen himself as doing something positive (or else just didn’t care and wanted to make money). I found Kelly Kyrik’s piece about those who go after child sex predators fascinating as well, because those working on the side of the law have to try to get into the heads of pedophiles. And all of these are in stark contrast to “Sex in Iran,” where there’s a huge discrepancy between the letter of the law and what’s actually happening.

KW: Which contributions were the most surprising to you?

JL: Jill Eisenstadt’s “To Have of Have Not: Sex on the Wedding Night” surprised me because I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t a formal submission to the book or something I’d bookmarked along the way. I happened to be reading an anthology called Altared, about women’s takes on modern weddings, and found her insightful essay questioning whether anyone gets busy on their wedding night anymore. And Ashlea Halpern’s “Battle of the Sexless” gave me chills. I’d never really thought about eunuchs before, and her piece is both heartbreaking and fascinating and touches on the law, medicine, gender identity, and so much more. I know many people won’t be able to get through it, and it’s a very visceral, tough piece, but all the more provocative and powerful for it.

Best Sex Writing 2008 video footage, Q&As and Jezebel post

January 31, 2008

My friend Jason Boog over at his excellent writing/publishing-themed website The Publishing Spot did a 5-part Q&A with me (last one’s up tomorrow) and also has some footage from the Best Sex Writing 2008 party:

How to Build a Better Reading Public

How to go from short stories to a novel

How to cope with the stress of freelance life

How to write about sex without sounding like a spam email

Also, in separate but related news, Jezebel (a multiple Bloggie nominee!)has a great post up by Jessica Grose, with lots of debate in the comments, called “Shiksa Studies: Why Don’t Jewish Women Get Any Pop Cultural Love?” and it includes an excerpt from my interview with Rachel Shukert about Jewish girls and blowjobs.

From Jezebel:

Radar is declaring, in its typically amusing and tongue-in-cheek fashion, that this year’s hottest accessory for shiksas is a Jewish husband. You know what? Tongue-in-cheek or not, I’m over Jewish dudes getting all the love. You never hear about Jewish women being the hottest, well, anything; while Woody Allen is off bagging WASP goddesses Mariel Hemmingway and Diane Keaton in Manhattan, cultural stereotypes of female Jews show us to be fleshy, frumpy, sexless overbearing mothers with big noses and unruly hair. Rachel Shukert, the far from frumpy sex writer, thinks that “Jewish men have really had a large part in disseminating those [negative] stereotypes” of Jewish women.

Read the rest

Sugasm 116

January 31, 2008

Sugasm 116

The best of this week’s blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #117? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the link list within a week and you’re all set.

This Week’s Picks
In Case Of Fire
“His hand slid around the back of my neck and pulled me close – easily, no effort at all, letting me feel the power of his arms and the warm puff of his breath against my ear.”

It was a long night…
“I gasped as he slowly pushed in one finger, slippery with oil, and began to wiggle it and spread me open.”

Sex Worker Confessions: Gracie Passette
“But underneath it all, sex workers are all about bridging, in body & soul, word & deed, the irreconcilable differences between realities and desires.”

Mr. Sugasm Himself
The Persian Kitty Alternative

Editor’s Choice
Baker’s Birthday

More Sugasm
Join the Sugasm

See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday.

(Sugasm participants should re-post all the links above within a week. The following links may be excluded as long as you include all the above links.)

NSFW Pics & Videos
Guy fucks an English babe’s bum in free gangbang clip
Half-Nekkid on Wacky Hair Day
Joanne Arnold, Extra Nipples & A Request
Justine Joli
Lucy C topless (Met Art)
Naughty Toons
Our movie debut )
Pornsaint Mandy Morbid
Sex Toy or Dog Toy…Or Both?
Thistle
WebMistress Feature Gallery: The Shaving Celebration

Sex Work
Sex Worker Solidarity: Rachel Kramer Bussel

Sex & Politics
Choice Only Begins With Abortion
A Taste of History and Ethics

BDSM & Fetish
Catalina loves Old Friends
Intensity
Learning my place
Morning Wake Up
Punishment
The Secret Room
Sex Party of Five
Sight
Submission
The TAO of Slavery
Tinkle Tinkle
Viper

Sex News, Reviews & Interviews
Bisexuals Are No Longer Confused
Gwen Diamond Cuckolds Her Husband And Forces Him To Eat Cum
Interview with Rachel Shukert on Jewish girls and blowjobs
The ultimate titty finder

Thoughts on Sex and Relationships
Cum-shots, spanking, and the role of blogging in feminist porn
Fear and Loathing of Phone Sex
Just Ask For It
What is sex?

Sex Advice
The Two Best Sex Positions for Delaying Ejaculation

Erotic Writing and Experiences
Choices.
A Clandestine Liaison
Cock
The fluent cunnilinguist
For You….
Guesterotica
Haute Couture – Part 1
Mood
Recovery – Part III
Seven minutes
Table Seventeen
Teaching a blowjob lesson
That Girl

Press for Best Sex Writing 2008

January 28, 2008

Last week, after our group reading, we did a joint podcast interview, all five of us, for Bat Segundo. I’m only sorry I don’t have a photo of us all sitting around with huge microphones at a pizza place! That is probably the most interesting location I’ve ever done an interview in! Click below to listen to me, Rachel Shukert, Liz Langley, Lux Nightmare and Miriam Datskovsky.

segundo173.jpg

Manleez.com also did video interviews with us which will be up soon; for now, read Jordan Manley’s take on the book.

And more reviews are coming soon, along with some cool interviews with contributors.

My friend Jason Boog over at The Publishing Spot</a> interviewed me for his “Five Easy Questions” segment. I think my answers were so long he’s running them in more than one part. And I love the title he gave the piece: “How To Write About Sex Without Sounding Like A Spam Email

Here’s a snippet:

Jason Boog:

It takes a lot to write frankly and vividly about sex. There are so many clichés and taboos to steer around. What’s your advice for a writer looking to write more physical, sensual, and sexy nonfiction? How can we avoid clichés and stop gettting hung up on taboos?

Rachel Kramer Bussel:
I think the first thing to do is to forget about anything you think you “should” do. We all talk and think about sex differently, so the words that may feel right to me might not be right to you. I think sometimes people make the mistake that simply writing about sex is automatically titillating, when that’s not the case at all. You can write smart nonfiction about sex that’s insightful without being clinical – and you can also write erotica that’s actually not sexy at all.

Being honest, with yourself and your audience, is foremost. If that means using a pseudonym, use a pseudonym, but you don’t want to be cagey. I don’t mean you have to be clinical, I just mean don’t make assumptions about what your readers are into sexually.

The Columbia Spectator on the Best Sex Writing 2008 reading

January 25, 2008



Miriam Datskovsky

Originally uploaded by editrixie

“Writers Bare All for the Best Sex of 2008,” Columbia Spectator

The cover of Best Sex Writing 2008 features a young woman’s backside, her lacy black thong tugged upward by one patent leather heel. Those expecting to find nothing but a collection of lit erotica within, however, will be pleasantly surprised—the book, like sexuality itself, has a lot more going on in the noggin than we might give it credit for.
“I wanted to create an anthology that would open people’s minds about sex, and not just deliver the usual suspects or what you might expect,” explained Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of the current edition. “I set out to find pieces that looked at sex in new ways and focused on people you might not normally hear from.”

She has certainly succeeded. The book’s 21 stories range from comic vignettes to serious essays to journal-styled entries. In one, modern-day eunuchs explain the reasoning and risks involved in their voluntary castrations. Another, “Sex in Iran,” examines the divisive case of a sex tape scandal within a fundamentalist nation. “Oral Report,” meanwhile, attempts to explain why Jewish women supposedly give better head. And one story, “Absolut Nude,” by Miriam Datskovsky, BC ’07, focuses on a topic dear to all CU hearts: college sexuality, specifically the advent of the nude party scene.
Datskovsky is perhaps best known at Columbia for her “Sexplorations” column during her years at Spectator. She was inspired by previous sex advice articles, which answered the “nitty-gritty how-to details” but failed to “actually broach issues of sex and sexuality that college students face.” Datskovsky is now an editorial assistant at Condé Nast Portfolio, a business magazine from the publishers of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.

Before the formation of Best Sex Writing 2008, Datskovsky had known Bussel for years, and both women were familiar with each other’s work. “Absolut Nude” was chosen to address the college trend that is naked parties, and Datskovsky’s piece has the distinction of being one of few to address university-aged sexuality, and the way that obscurity and group participation can diminish sexual taboos.

“I would hope that all expressions of sexuality become acceptable regardless of anonymity or whether everyone’s doing it,” Datskovsky said. “Ideally, people will be comfortable with their own sexual preferences because they’re comfortable with their sexuality and nothing more.”
Photo of Miriam Datskovsky by Stacie Joy

Interview with Amy Andre about sexuality studies

January 23, 2008

Best Sex Writing 2008 cover

Here’s the latest in my series of interviews with Best Sex Writing 2008 contributors. Click here to read the table of contents and introduction. Amy Andre

Amy Andre has a master’s degree in human sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She works as a sex educator and writer.

What inspired your article “The Study of Sex?”

I’m actually the guest lecturer I refer to in the essay. I’ve lectured in Dr. Nick Baham’s class a number of times. He’s doing great work, and I wanted to spread the word.

Your essay starts off with a description of a course called African-American Sexuality and goes on to talk about how race is handled in the field of sexuality studies and the lack of people of color in the field. How is race dealt with generally in the sexuality studies classes you’ve taken? What are some of the areas where the intersection of race and sexuality should be explored in academia, in your opinion?

Sexuality and race are two things that infuse every element of people’s lives. So I feel they should be in every area of academia. When I was in grad school, I was lucky enough to have a couple of professors who were very cognizant of their importance. But that was not the case in every class.

That course was actually part of the Ethnic Studies Department. Do you think a course like that also belongs in other departments?

Absolutely. I would love to see it replicated in Ethnic Studies departments across the country; it belongs in Sexuality Studies departments, too. As far as Nick and I know, his is the only course of its kind anywhere in the US, and, in fact, the world.

You quote SFSU Human Sexuality Studies professor Rita Melendez who says that the word sexuality “gets associated with white people,” and that if it’s in the title of a course, people of color tend not to sign up for that. Based on your own experiences and research, why do you think that is, and what can the field of sexuality studies do to be more welcoming to people of color?

She’s right. For example, even though SFSU, where I got my master’s degree, is, like many California universities, a majority minority school (most students are people of color, and mostly Asian American), the students in the Sexuality Studies master’s program are mostly white. When I was a student there, I was one of three students of color in my graduating class, and the only African American. Sexuality scholarship seems to have a reputation as being a white field, and that’s to the detriment of everyone, current scholars as well as potential scholars. Professors who are passionate about diversity should follow the example that Nick and Rita are setting.

Another interesting notion you bring up is a quote from California State University Professor Nick Baham about BDSM being a “political act.” What’s your take on that notion?

I agree. It’s political because engaging in BDSM is so recreational (as opposed to procreational), that it’s really the loudest you can metaphorically scream “I deserve erotic pleasure.” And that’s a political statement.

One of the first comments on the article at Alternet is an objection to its even being posted there on religious grounds, and religion is also something you touch on in the article. Is there a greater degree of tension between traditional religious beliefs and the field of sexuality studies from people of color?

I’m a non-practicing Jew, so I can’t speak from experience here, only from what I’ve read. But I have not read any social science research indicating that people of color are (a.) more religious than white people; (b.) more sex-negative than white people. There’s a stereotype, for example, that African Americans are more homophobic than whites (and that this homophobia is linked to the involvement of African Americans in Christianity). But, in fact, all the research I have read shows that the opposite is true: white people are just as homophobic as blacks, and blacks are just as LGBT-rights-affirming as whites. That’s a social scientific fact.

You have a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality. Was that also what you studied for your undergraduate degree, and what drew you to the field?

I have a BA in psychology. What drew me to sexuality was the just that I love sex. I’m constantly curious about it. I love to read about what other people do and why they do it. Also, I’m bisexual, and I am especially interested in understanding bisexual identity, politics, health, community issues, etc.

What do you see as the future of Sexuality Studies? Where would you like to see it go?

I would like to see sexuality studies focus a lot more on bisexuality. I recently co-authored Bisexual Health, a book published by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and bisexuals are experiencing a major health crisis. When we look at health status in relation to sexual orientation, people who identify as bisexual (which is, by the way, 50% of all those who identify as either gay, lesbian, or bi) have poorer physical and mental health than people of any other orientation. There’s a lot of work to be done.

What is a typical class you’re taking now like? What do most people in your field want to do after they finish their studies?

Right now, I’m getting an MBA, so a typical class is about finance and math! Coming from the social sciences, and as a writer, I feel very much like a fish out of water. Most people with MBAs go into the corporate world, but I’m planning a career in the nonprofit world, specifically focused on the needs of LGBT people.

In terms of sexuality studies, most of the people I got my first master’s with ended up back in school, working on PhDs, or working as researchers doing sex research at local universities.

You’ve been doing a lot of press around Lisa Diamond’s recent study on women and bisexuality. Can you tell us more about your thoughts on that and the general media treatment of bisexuality? Do you feel the topic is overly sensationalized in mainstream news outlets?

Lisa Diamond’s study shows that, for bisexual women, attraction to people of more than one gender remains consistent over time. Of course, to bi women, this comes as no surprise. I came out as bi when I was 14, which was almost 20 years ago, and I’ve never wavered from that. What she’s proving is that being bi isn’t a phase. The idea that it is a phase – and that phases are bad or wrong or inauthentic – is not only biphobic to me, but also confusing. Why would desire not based on gender be temporary? Why would desire based on gender be the ideal permanent state? I don’t have anything against monosexual (gay and straight) people – in fact, I’m engaged to one – but I do object to a monosexual-centric imperative.

There is definitely a lot of sensationalism happening in the mainstream media. It’s almost as though journalists can’t figure out any other way to present bisexuals.

You directed the short documentary film On My Skin about a transgender man and his family. Can you tell us more about the film and how it came about?

On My Skin is about my friend Logan Gutierrez-Mock. He and I got our sexuality masters degrees together. For fun, after I graduated, I took a free intro-level film class at a local community center. My fiancée, Kami, is a film-maker, and I love visiting her on sets and watching her in action, so I thought it would be cool to learn how to make one. Logan had just come back from Mexico, where his grandfather is from, and he had blogged about his journey. He was also just starting to transition from female-to-male and had a lot to say about his family and his gender. I decided to make a film based on his blog, and six months later, On My Skin was born and showing at film festivals all over the world. It’s even been translated into Spanish for the showings in Latin America and Spain!

What are the differences for you in working in academia and working in film? Do you prefer one over the other?

Other than giving guest lectures on topics like bisexual health, I don’t work in academia. And, other than directing On My Skin, I wouldn’t say I work in film, either!

What are you working on now?

Currently, outside of being a full-time MBA student, I’m writing a book, getting essays published in various places, and promoting Bisexual Health, which is available on the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force website as a free PDF download. And bringing On My Skin (which is available on my site, amyandre.com) to universities; it’s perfect for Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Sexuality Studies classrooms. Oh, and I’m also planning my wedding. I stay pretty busy. 😉