Carol Queen is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive Communities, The Fifty Shades Phenomenon and Its Effect on Our Social Sexual Behavior and the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence. Check out Carol’s bio here.
How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
I’m really fortunate to have a platform (or several) for discussing issues of sexual diversity, acceptance, sex-positivity, and all the other things I’m known for as a commentator and activist. I work with Good Vibrations, the Center for Sex & Culture, Robert, and solo, writing, speaking, and interfacing with the media, to try to give more complex and nuanced information about sexuality to anyone (consenting) I can get my hands on. I think that by both modeling lived sexual difference/diversity and also addressing these things in academic and lay terms, I can help catalyze others’ understanding of their erotic and relational choices as well as their abilities to act on those choices.
Who or what was a catalyst for you?
Becoming sexual as a teenager, with very little access to any kind of resources that would make that process easier, AND coming out as queer were the two huge issues that catalyzed me when I was young; just a little later, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and my move to San Francisco were huge influences on me. Finally, meeting Betty Dodson and Joani Blank, getting involved with Robert, and attending the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality majorly shaped my work, my perspectives, and my adult experience.
What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
I want to call out four things to answer this, though in reality I think this is a huge and important question with possible answers that go beyond what I’m going to address.
One: I think the world/field of sexuality is in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and others, and I believe a new battle in the so-called “culture wars” has begun; it’s especially obvious in the attention being given to porn, prostitution/trafficking, and “sex addiction.” Look at all the outrageous things being said about women’s sexuality, LGBT issues, etc. by right-wing politicians in the last political season and you’ll see that we are far from comfortable with sexuality in the US. It’s not impossible to imagine a really significant backlash, and I think we should all have our eyes on that as a possible challenge over the next few years.
Two: WAY more people are now interested in making a living doing sex education of some sort than there are jobs to held them. So we have to develop them, and people have to develop entrepreneurial skills. Obviously the health of the economy will make a difference in how easy this is to do, as will the “culture war” questions I mentioned.
Three: I don’t think we always do as well as we could about diversity issues within our community–things like race, class and culture, and in some cases more philosophical things. (See below.) I especially think this is an issue of access to the ideas and opportunities associated with sex-positive education; not everyone gets access to this information and these ideas. (This issue could certainly dovetail with my #2 issue, as well.)
Finally, I think there’s currently a really interesting generation gap in our community as younger activists come into their own and begin to establish some ownership and/or altered perspective over the issues we all work with. Most notable to me about this is the backlash against the term “sex-positive.” I find this really fascinating and also possibly a source of discord that could sidetrack us, as well as affect younger activists’ access to (and interest in) the history of our community/ies and movement/s.
What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?
I really love the discourse that happened about slut-shaming, LGBT issues, and rape/consent after the pack of right-wing politicians and commentators went off on their entertaining and scary tangents last year. The calling-out of those awful perspectives didn’t just come from us — lots of people in the culture were part of it, which is great. If our ideas *don’t* find their way into the mainstream on some levels, it marginalizes us in ways that may make our community/ies feel special, but also limits our ability to affect change. I also LOVE the new Feminist Porn Book and think it’s going to make a great splash. And though I’m not pro-marriage, I *am* pro-marriage equality, and this has been a pretty amazing year for that issue.
Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive Communities, to CatalystCon East?
Even without Rush Limbaugh and the guy who talked about women holding aspirin between their knees, the slut (or, more precisely, slut-shaming) has been part of the political discourse recently, and the SlutWalks have really made an impression. But when slut-shaming happens among us, it’s really a vital issue to talk about, and talking about it unpacks one of the core elements of sex-positivity: each person’s right to their own sexuality (that isn’t necessarily the same as others’ either in specific practices, frequency, or context).
Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East?
Getting one’s work published is such an important part of establishing a voice about sexuality, whether it’s erotic work or other kinds of writing like essays, how-to, etc. Especially on the heels of 50 Shades of Grey, I think many people dream of hitting the big time as erotic writers, and getting more information about this field will be a great inspiration AND reality check! (And people who attend this should also come to the Saturday night reading that Rachel Kramer Bussel is organizing: In the Flesh.)
Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, to CatalystCon East?
I am really excited to share this discussion with Robert and tell attendees more about our history of activism — and the sex-positive community in San Francisco, which is such a substantial influence on both of us. We’ve had amazing adventures that people will, I think, love hearing about. And we both have a great interest in the way this community is developing and how we move forward, and it’s a privilege to have this forum to share some of these thoughts. Plus, Robert doesn’t have as much verbiage in print as I do — and there will be people at Catalyst who haven’t met him or his thoughts before. They’re in for a treat.
Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.
I was once going to study historic preservationist architecture, which explains my dream of owning a chain of tattoo studios specializing in images of notable architectural detail from the city where the studio is based. But who has the time?!