Posts Tagged ‘rkb’

Sex 2.0 conference in Atlanta 4/12

April 10, 2008

I’ll be teaching Erotica 101 at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday in Atlanta for Sex 2.0, a one-day “unconference” where you can learn everything from “Sex blogging as a feminist project” with Elizabeth Wood of to “HOWTO: Gt the most out of sex/tech” with Regina Lynn to “Sex Styles of the Internet Famous” by Melissa Gira, description below, to my friend/roommate Twanna A. Hines‘s “A Brief History of Sex.” Also, not about sex, but on Sunday at 3 p.m. I’ll be playing cupcake bingo at Sweet Pockets – stop by if you like!

On the Internet, we’re all famous to fifteen people. Inevitably, you’ll date at least one of them. So how does one gracefully navigate Relationships 2-point-whatever? Is post-coital Twittering acceptable? Should you block an ex from your Flickr? Do we need to call in a couples’ counselor to revise our Facebook relationship status together? After the breakup, who gets custody of the secret sex vlog? A seriously self-effacing facilitated discussion of social networking & managing your identity online when that comes close to and at odds with that of your lovers & partners.

Read more about it with Amber Rhea’s interview with Cory Silverberg at About.com

Great review in Forum UK

March 24, 2008

From the latest issue of Forum UK:

Rounding up the most incisive, provocative and bizarre articles on sex published in the last 12 months, author and senior editor at Variations magazine Rachel Kramer Bussel presents a selection as mouthwatering as her other area of specialist interest, the cupcake. The collected articles range from Kevin Keck’s wryly amusing Double Your Panic, in which he tells how every man’s dream of bedding twins becomes a nightmare when you’re about to become the father of a set, to Tristan Taormino’s alarming look at the use of phthalates in cheap sex toys, Dangerous Dildoes, which is guaranteed make you think twice when you buy your next vibrator, and Ashlea Halpern’s harrowing Battle Of The Sexless, which examines the plight of men who will go to any length to become eunuchs. If that’s not enough, there are also investigations into the phenomenon of ‘naked parties’ on campus, the unsafe sex lives of the over-fifties and the truth about wedding night sex.

Scott Poulson-Bryant’s profile of Lexington Steele, The Hung List, fails to say much beyond ‘America doesn’t like its black porn stars to be too black’ (a comment which could be leveled at its black female singing stars and potential Presidential candidates…) and the think pieces on the whole are less interesting than the reportage, but Best Sex Writing 2008 proves that the quality of writing about sex I generally as high and thought-provoking as it has ever been.

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.

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

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.

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. 😉

Interview with Funky Brown Chick and Reading/PARTY!

January 22, 2008

Very exciting update!the reading/book party made it into the New York Times‘s UrbanEye newsletter!

Cover all your literary erotica bases on Tuesday night (and actually leave the house to do it). At the old-school East Village haunt the Rapture Café, Rachel Kramer Bussel celebrates the publication of her new anthology, “Best Sex Writing 2008.” Several contributors — including former Columbia sex columnist Miriam Datskovsky — will read their work.

Thanks also to FreeNYC and Going.com and The L Magazine Time Out New York (and TONY blog) for listing the reading!

Here’s the first of a few interviews I’ve done about Best Sex Writing 2008, with Funky Brown Chick. We’re also being interviewed tomorrow for a new website and for the Bat Segundo podcast.

Best Sex Writing 2008 cover

So please don’t miss our reading and party, where there will also be cupcakes like the ones pictured below (those are peanut butter chocolate, there will also be strawberry cream cheese ones, free!):

BEST SEX WRITING 2008 BOOK RELEASE PARTY AND READING!
Tuesday, January 22, 7 pm – 9 pm

At Rapture Cafe, 200 Avenue A (between 12th and 13th), NYC, FREE
Featuring editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, Rachel Shukert (“Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report”), Lux Nightmare (“The Pink Ghetto”), Miriam Datskovsky (“Absolut Nude”), and Liz Langley (“Sex and the Single Septuagenarian”). Free cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery will be served, and books will be available for sale and signing

With Kumquat Cupcakery's peanut butter chocolate cupcakes

Interview with Rachel Shukert on Jewish girls and blowjobs

January 19, 2008

Rachel Shukert

I don’t know if editors are supposed to be unbiased and treat each piece in their books like their babies (as in, “I can’t choose which I love best!”) but if that’s a rule, I’m breaking it. I totally fell for Rachel Shukert‘s “Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report” when I read it in Heeb. In part, yes, because I’m a Jewish girl who likes giving blowjobs and got her start in the erotica world with a fantasy piece about Monica Lewinsky (“Monica and Me”). But it really won me over because it unpacked a huge stereotype, but didn’t just set about debunking it. Rachel went after the truth behind the stereotype and along the way tackled some uglier stereotypes than Jewish girls just liking cocks in their mouths. She looks at JAPs and Monica and food and family and the ways these all get tangled together. Because I believe that sex is not just about sex; that is perhaps the true point of Best Sex Writing 2008. That sex is about sex and so much more; it’s about identity and safety and love and comfort and pride and on and on, and Rachel did such a wonderful, witty job of tackling her topic. Plus, come on, she sent me the above photo of her with a giant penis that she said “seems appropriate” to illustrate our interview! LOVE her, and I hope you will to.

And…you can come see and hear us read this very Tuesday, January 22nd, 7 – 9 pm at Rapture Cafe, 200 Avenue A, between 12th and 13th. It’s free and, for those who have oral fixations, there will not be penises to suck (well, if there are, that’s your business), but there will be peanut butter chocolate and strawberry cream cheese mini cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery, perhaps the next best thing.


Best Sex Writing 2008

Rachel Shukert is a playwright and author based in New York City. Her plays include Bloody Mary (NYIT Award nominee), The Red Beard of Esau, Sequins for Satan, The Blackstone Hotel and Soiled Linens, and have been produced and developed by Ars Nova, the Williamstown Theater Festival, the Culture Project, the Ontological/Hysteric, the EVOLVE series at Galapagos, and the Omaha Lit Fest, among others.

Rachel is also a regular contributor to Nerve.com. She has also contributed to Heeb magazine, McSweeney’s, Babble, Culturebot, and Critical Moment. Her upcoming collection of essays, Have You No Shame? will be published by Random House/Villard in the spring of 2008. Rachel holds a BFA from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. www.rachelshukert.com

What was the genesis for your piece on Jewish women and blowjobs? What were your ideas about Jewish women and blowjobs going into it and how did they change once you were done?

Well, I felt so much had been written about Jewish male sexuality, (we can all picture scenes from “Portnoy’s Complaint,” et al., of some weird-looking little boy masturbating furiously, lusting after tall blond shikeas, etc.) and traditionally, that had left Jewish women sort of sexless–as either mother figures, or obnoxious harridans, or at best, entitled JAPs who only care about money and status. This is something that bothers me very, very much, and I felt that Jewish men have really had a large part in disseminating those stereotypes, in books, and especially in Hollywood, where you see these very stereotypically Jewish men scoring with hot, WASPy chicks constantly, and Jewish women are never, ever part of the equation. Which is funny to me, because there are more hot Jewish leading ladies now than maybe ever before–Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johanssen, Sarah Michelle Geller, Rachel Bilson–but they never play Jewish characters.

There’s this idea that Jewishness is sexiness in guys but a liability in girls. Yet, the tide is hugely changing, in that there’s been an explosion in the past several years of Jewish women emerging at the forefront of movements about sexuality–you, for instance. So I wanted to find something very, very specific to research that would address some of these cultural myths, and Josh (Neuman, the publisher of Heeb, where the story appeared) and I remembered all those dirty Catskills era sort of jokes about Jewish women being frigid, especially where blowjobs were concerned, and I remembered growing up how people always joked about Jewish women loving to give head, and being great at it, and then Monica Lewinsky entered the collective unconscious and Jewish women and blowjobs became kind of inextricably linked for a generation, at least.

How did you figure out who you’d include in the piece? Did people say, “Go talk to her – she’s a blowjob queen?”

Ha. Originally, I wanted to talk to girls in high school, who were active in Jewish youth groups, etc., but that didn’t really work out–I spoke to one or two, but for the most part, they were very, very uncomfortable talking to me, as I think I would have been at that age. To my surprise, they really saw me as an adult, which is a big division to overcome. And you don’t have much perspective on sex, at that age, obviously–with very few exceptions, you’re just trying to wrap your head around and make sure not too many people (or only the right people) find out what you’re doing–which would be the opposite of being in a magazine story.

So I switched my focus, and started thinking about who I wanted to talk to, and yes, asking around. One of my colleagues had interviewed Miki before for an article, and knew she was Jewish–I don’t know if he knew she had once been ultra-Orthodox, but she told me that in the interview and that was obviously extremely compelling, and I really wanted the point of view of a professional–who could really keep feelings out of it and look at the act in a very clinical, very objective way.

I really wanted to talk to a non-Jewish girl, just to turn the tables a little bit, see what it was like from the other side, and Kristina Grish wrote the book (Boy Vey! The Shiksa’s Guide to Dating Jewish Men). And I wanted to talk to a Jewish woman at the forefront of the sex-positive, educational movement, so I talked to Jamye Waxman, who gives seminars and classes on oral sex, etc., and she took me to what was kind of the Holy Grail for this story–she was giving a blow job class to a bachelorette party of Jewish girls from Long Island, and that experience really turned a lot of my hypotheses around. But basically, I decided I wanted to talk to people who would really have some perspective and point of view on this issue, who’d though a lot about it, and wouldn’t just be “My boyfriend says I give good head, I guess,” you know? I think I wound up getting some of the best of all worlds.

I thought the connection between Jewish women using their mouths for eating and for cocksucking was a very interesting one. Do you think they’re related, both in the mythology of the oral-obsessed Jewish woman and in actuality?

I think it’s a question of appetite and consumption, and not being squeamish, you know? A story just popped into my mind when you read this question–I was a debutante in Nebraska where I grew up, and I remember going to the mother-daughter debutante tea at a country club. The food was terrible–like this horrible pasta salad, and lettuce, and some lemon thing for dessert (like why bother, right?) but I remember noticing that my mother and I were the only ones who ate anything. We were hungry, it was lunchtime. And it wasn’t like we were fatter or had worse manners or anything, it was just a very cultural thing–that culture still exists I guess, where it’s very not done for a woman to be seen eating much of anything in public. And it’s completely because of other women–there were no men there at all.

So I don’t know. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory that if you eat like a pig, that must mean you’re great in bed, but I think there’s some kind of link. I think it’s appetite, and more than that, it’s a kind self-determination that Jewish women have, which I think we actually acquired from never being part of high society, from never really being seen by men as these kind of dainty flowers. It’s the kind of self-determination that’s like, if I’m hungry, I’ll eat. If I want to suck your cock, I’ll suck your cock; and conversely, at the other extreme, if I don’t want to suck your cock, I won’t, you can’t pressure me, I’ll do what I want to do. And I do think there’s an oral component, but some of it has to do with speaking up for yourself, which is something Jewish women traditionally don’t have a problem with. And food is a very important part of Jewish culture, and this constant urging from maternal figures to “Eat! Eat!” So I’m sure there’s some subliminal messaging there, and you know what? It does feel nice to have something in your mouth.

What kind of reaction did you receive to it, both from men and women, and Jews and non-Jews?

Hmm. Positive, for the most part. I think a lot of people were disarmed by the humor in it. A lot of non-Jewish girls came up to me and told me how true it was, how their Jewish boyfriends always told them that the girls they went to camp with gave better head, etc. A lot of people really responded to the characterization in the story. A few Jews had some problems with it–but that’s how it always is. My parents were proud, as always.

Why do you think the stereotypes about Jewish women and sex are so pervasive? What do you make of the contrast between the older stereotype of the frigid Jewish woman vs. the newer one of the oversexed one?

Well, I think it’s important to stress that most of the factors in the culture that have made Jewish women seem unattractive–whether it’s being frigid, or physically unappealing, demanding, spoiled, etc.–have been created by Jewish men. Now, I love Jewish men. The men I love most in the world–my husband, my father, my grandfather–are Jewish men. But it’s not Gentiles who invented the “shikse goddess” or wrote all the JAP jokes. Who knows why? Frustration, mostly, I think. All that self-loathing and insecurity.

I’m going to speak in incredible generalizations here for a minute, so just bear with me. I think that Jewish men in the past 30 or 40 years have been extremely invested in making themselves sexy and attractive to the culture-at-large–and they are, they seem smart, sensitive, generous, etc. But with it comes this sense of fear, this kind of atavistic fear, I think, that at any moment they’ll be found out. And if anyone can call a Jewish man on his bullshit, it’s a Jewish woman. So they rationalize why they shouldn’t be involved with Jewish girls–all of these reasons. Jewish women are left open to constant criticism. And since Jews have been such an intrinsic part of popular culture, all this stuff disseminates and becomes conventional wisdom.

Now, I think this is changing, hugely. I think Jews have become more and more of an accepted part of mainstream culture, and this generation of Jewish men are more comfortable with themselves than ever before, and no longer feel like they’re straddling two worlds and trying to leave one of them behind. They can look on their Jewishness as something comforting instead of something constricting. But in the meantime, I think Jewish women have been like, “You know what? We’re sick of waiting for you,” and started on their own project of who they are, which is extremely interesting. And that’s what’s ascendant right now, I believe, which is very exciting for me. So that’s the split, I think, that the old Jewish stereotypes were disseminated by men, and the new ones by women. And the mainstream picking up on it.

If Jewish women are supposed to be good at giving blowjobs, does that extend into other areas of sex as well, or did you find that most of the stereotype is about oral sex?

I think most of the stereotype, at least in the research I did for this article, dealt with oral sex, but look. Jews, for all our troubles, are remarkably un-fucked up about sex. There’s not a lot of shame or guilt about it; “purity” in the creepy, virginity pledge way, is not a part of our doctrine. Our religious leaders mostly stay out of it. You won’t find a lot of Jews, not mainstream Jews, in the abstinence only movement. Dirty jokes and earthy humor were a part of Yiddish culture for hundreds of years. And that translates into a pretty healthy sex life, I think–and by healthy I don’t mean necessarily frequent, but not fraught.

What are you working on now?

Well, I’m glad you asked me that, Rachel! My book, Have You No Shame?, a memoir/essay collection is coming out at the end of April from Random House/Villard. It’s my first book and I’m tremendously excited, and I hope everyone will read it and like it but mostly that they will buy it! I’m also shopping my next book, which is a follow-up to the first one about my time living in Europe, working on a couple of new plays that will probably go up this summer, and some collaborations with exciting people that it’s probably too soon to talk about, but look for them soon.