This is a transcript of the 'Curious Conversations About Sex' podcast episode #76:
"This is the no-bullshit, all honesty, *useful* sex education that most teenagers never receive, myself included.
There's a lot of reasons why we don't get good sex education.
One reason is that for a lot of adults and educators, it's a really complicated and scary topic to bring up, and in the absence of knowing how to teach it, people just hope it goes away. And most of the people that should be teaching you about sex were never taught about it themselves, so they don't have a whole lot of role-models to copy from.
Another reason is that a lot of cultures and communities think you shouldn't be having much, or any, sex... and they hope that if they don't tell you about, you won't experiment with it.
You and I know better. You're going to check it out whether the world wants you to or not.
And that's where what I want to tell you about today comes in. This is the stuff that I think literally every person should be taught, even if you're not expecting to be having sex any time soon.
This is the stuff I absolutely wish someone had told me about when I was in my teens. It would have saved me a whole bunch of well-intentioned fuck-ups, and would have made life a lot easier.
So, here's 13 things that I think you need to know...
An interest in sex is normal. If you're interested in sex, you're not a freak.
Despite what people say, there's not a correct amount of sex for you to be having.
Some people like a lot of sex.
Some people don't like sex at all - we call that 'a-sexual', and that's normal too. In the same way that you're not a freak if you want to have lots of sex, you're not a freak if you want none at all. Start with the assumption that so long as it's not interfering with the rest of your life, whatever amount of sex you want to have is perfect, and go from there.
There shouldn't be any shame in wanting, or not wanting, sex.
When I say that any level of interest in sex is normal, I'm making the assumption that you're doing it reasonably safely, and that you're only having the sex you want to have.
Safety, when it comes to sex, is a pretty broad topic. Maybe someone's told you a little bit about safety as it relates to not getting pregnant, and not catching sexually transmitted infections. Those things are really important, and you should listen to them carefully, but that stuff is just one tiny little bit of what sex is about.
When you get beyond the very first things, like kissing, touching, oral sex, and whatever the word 'fucking' means to you, you do need to be mindful about not doing things that might damage your body. You might never want to try out the more adventurous things like spanking, sex involving your arsehole, or kinky stuff... But if you do, then do a little bit of research first on what's safe and what's not. Exploring sex can be a lot of fun, but it quickly becomes very un-fun when you break something.
You also need to think about how safe the people you're having sex with are, by which I mean their emotional safety. Do the two of you have mutual care and respect? ...You don't have to be in love with someone, that's totally your decision. But you need to have mutual care and respect.
It just doesn't matter who's having sex with who, by which I mean: dudes with dudes, or chicks with chicks, or any other combination you can think of.
It just doesn't matter - so long as people are treating each other well and being reasonably safe, then who cares? What does it matter?
While we're on the topic, have a think about who you might be attracted to, if you haven't already. The world is set up to assume heterosexuality. That works out well for a significant portion of the population, but If that's not you, then good for you - you're still perfect. How open you want to be about that will depend on what kind of community you're living in. If it doesn't feel safe or wise to disclose something about your sexuality, then don't push yourself to. It can be complicated, but you'll navigate it. You'll find partners that like you, and friends that like you as you are. It generally all works out fine, even though it can be pretty dramatic at times.
The idea of 'consent' is way, way more interesting that what's normally described.
Normally, consent is framed as something like, "Don't have sex with someone without their consent". This should be really obvious, and it is legitimately really important. It's another way of saying "Don't be a nasty person".
Normally it's pointed out that you're actually causing someone a huge amount of damage if you do things against their will. That's really true, and really important, but there's another reason, and that's that you have to live with yourself. If you take sex from someone against their will, or trick them into having sex, or anything like that... You're going to know what you've done for the rest of your life, and that's a really nasty thing to be carrying around. Knowing you've done bad things is NOT fun. And to say nothing about the mess you can cause for the other person, you'll really mess up your own sexuality in the process.
All of that's super important. But here's the bit that I think is missed...
Being good at consent is being really clear with each other that you both want to have sex, or whatever other sexual activity you're talking about. So that might sound like asking, "Would you like to have sex?". And that's great - good job. Gold stars for you both.
But go on and take it to the next level. Don't just ask if the two of you would like to have sex. Go a step further, and ask "What kind of sex would you like to have? What would make it perfect for you? Can I tell you exactly what I'd like, and then we see if that's possible?"
If you approach it this way, not only will you be doing things with full and proper consent, but you'll be having the best sex of your life and getting exactly what you want. That's the bit about the idea of good consent that's missed - it'll lead you to really great stuff.
Which leads us to the next point...
Sex is like any other skill - you don't automatically have it to begin with, but you can learn it and practice it and get really good at it if you want to.
Here's a paradox though: Even if you get good at knowing what one person likes, you pretty much go right back to the beginning when you get together with someone new. How hilarious is that??
So you need to create a culture between the two of you where you can ask questions about each other's bodies, try stuff out, and learn from each other. It's about learning, rather than performing.
I think of sex as being like a whole series of experiments, where you try something out, and really carefully watch what happens. If you slow down and let yourself focus, you can read your partner, and you can tell how their body is responding to your touch. You can get really confident, just from watching carefully.
And hell, you can just use your words, and ask. Like, "What does this feel like for you? Would you like this harder, softer, slower, faster? How do you like to be touched, generally? How would you like to be touched right now?"
You've been totally lied to by most of the films and shows you've seen, btw. When sex is shown, it often looks like people just magically know what the other person wants, and it all unfolds all by itself. That does happen sometimes, when people have got a lot of confidence and skills and experience. But the other 99% of the time, no-one really has much of an idea of what they're doing. The solution is to ask questions, and help each other out. It might seem weird at first, but you'll really quickly discover that you're having much better sex, and you won't want to go back to closing your eyes and hoping for the best.
Porn can be great, but you need to know the ways it's lying to you.
Porn and erotic literature are hugely popular, and almost everyone enjoys one or both from time to time. But you've got to remember, you're not watching a documentary - rather, you're watching something that's been put together because maybe it looks good, or looks scary, or does something that will make you want to click on it.
This is really weird to say, but some of the people making porn don't know much about good sex. Or, if they do, they're choosing not to make videos about it. That's fine; what they're making is called entertainment, but when you don't have a lot of experience at sex yourself, it's almost impossible to pick the difference between good, educational, and informative porn, and porn that's just entertainment that you definitely don't want to try and copy. It can give you a really warped understanding of what most people are actually getting up to, and what they enjoy.
The kicker here is that I don't know of any way to help you pick the difference. So I'm just going to say sure, enjoy porn and erotic literature, but try and remember that you could be seeing as much misinformation as you're seeing actual information.
Bear in mind also, that if you just watch one type of porn, and the people in that porn are all of one particular body type, your brain is going to get a little bit wired to only find those sorts of people and that kind of sex to be sexy. You can accidentally wind up really narrowing your options and getting frustrated when the reality of your sex life doesn't match what you've been watching or reading about.
Which brings us to...
Everyone's got a right to explore their sexuality if they want to. And everyone can be as sexy as fuck - it's got nothing to do with how someone looks, what size body they've got, what gender they are, or how their body works.
Our culture constantly reinforces the idea that only some people are sexy - and those people are almost exclusively going to look like they're thin, young, rich, and fit. What's not spoken about so much is that how someone looks has got nothing to do with how good they are at touching you, or how they're going to respond to your touch. How someone looks also doesn't say anything about whether they're going to be a good person to be in relationship with.
Someone can look hot as fuck, and that might be attractive at first. But what you want to keep an eye out for is how they behave when things aren't going their way; whether they value you about us much as they value themselves; and how they conduct themselves in a conflict.
By extension, however you are, is perfect. If someone's not into your body, as it is, then move on and find someone that's more open-minded.
We often speak as if men and women are completely different species with almost nothing in common.
What a load of bullshit.
Men, women, and people who have different gender identities, have way, way more stuff in common than they do in difference.
By which I mean, some people like having sex, some people don't. Gender has got nothing to do with it.
All people like being treated well, and being treated with respect.
All people have better sex if there's foreplay and warm-up involved.
All people get shamed by our society for being interested in sex.
All people have bodies that sometimes do what they want, and sometimes not so much.
All people have parts of their lives that are easy, and parts that are hard. Our society definitely introduces some gendered patterns here. It's great to be aware of the ways our world makes your life easier because of your gender, and also the ways the world makes your life harder. No-one wins that particular war, but no-one's the outright loser, either.
Don't think of people as 'the opposite sex'. Think of them as people, just like you. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to get along with people that way.
We're getting a bit more into some territory here that's maybe more like my opinion, but...
There's a question here of whether women and men are born differently, or whether they become differently because of the way they're socialised.
I think that there's not a lot of fundamental difference. But the differences in the ways we're socialised are huge.
By which I mean that for reasons that I can only describe as utterly pointless, our society often encourages you to be a particular way, and do certain things, because of whatever body you were born in. One of the ways that this comes up in sex, is that men sometimes make more advances and play a more active role in sex - they're often the ones doing the doing, if that makes sense. And they're often described as the ones that want sex. Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to sit back and wait for the offers to come in, and have the experience that sex is something that happens to them, rather than something they do to others.
Like all gender-based generalisations, if this is true, it's only going to be true some of the time - meaning that some people might have the opposite experience of what I've described. However, if you find your own experience aligning with what I've described, then just make your own decisions about whether this is the way you want your life to be or not. It doesn't have to be this way, and most people prefer having a mix of experiences; most people don't like the gender restrictions we're given.
In relationships, sex often takes care of itself for the first month, or maybe the first year if you're lucky. But then it starts to drop away. This is the most normal thing in the world, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the person you're with is wrong for you.
Fortunately, if you want to keep your sex life alive, you can, but you're probably going to have to put some effort into it, and do it intentionally. By which I mean, you're going to have to talk about it, perhaps get more of an education and try some new things out. It actually all works out great though, since sex is a pretty fun thing to learn about and experiment with. And once you've put in the work, the sex you wind up having once you've worked on it in long-term relationships is better than the sex you were having at the beginning.
I'm repeating myself a bit here, but sex is like any other skill. You can't decide to build a house and then do it, just like that; you've got to first learn a few things about building, and then get good at it. Same goes for sex.
There is absolutely a connection between your relationship with a person, and the quality of the sex you have.
If your relationship is not great - if there's aspects of the other person you strongly don't like, or if you talk disrespectfully to each other, or if you've got unresolved conflicts - then you're not going to be having great sex together, or possibly any sex at all.
This might seem like a bummer, but it's actually great - your desire for sex can be the motivation you need to bring your best game to the relationship, and to invest the time to get stuff sorted out.
Perhaps you've heard about 'make-up sex'? It's the sex you have when you resolve an argument, and there's a reason why it's a thing.
An interest in kinky things.
There is so, so much stuff out there to do and explore, if you want.
It's not even that useful to try and think in terms of what's normal sex, and what's kinky sex, because it changes a lot over time, and what's kinky for one person is the most normal thing in the world for someone else.
If you're not into something that a partner wants to try, then just say so, and don't do it.
If you're not into something that a friend is into, then don't shame them for being into it. So long as they're doing things reasonably safely, then good for them.
If there's something that you're wanting to try out, throw a little bit of research at the subject first. Not only will you learn some really important safety tips, you'll learn heaps more about how to do it well.
Most of the time, being a good lover is just a question of having good knowledge. Information is sexy. This is especially the case if you're exploring kinky things.
Different relationship styles for different people.
We're generally given the impression that we should all be aspiring to have one partner. You'll move in together, buy a house eventually, get a couple of kids from somewhere, one person will go out and work while the other stays home and does family.
That's great for some people, but some of us are unique little creatures, with unique needs and interests.
The type of relationship, or relationships, that you want to have, might not look anything like this standard model of what a relationship is meant to look like.
In fact, you can sort of think about it like a game, where the aim is to try and work out what relationship style you want to have with a given person. You win if you can work out the style of relationship that works for you both.
Do you want to live together? ...You don't have to do that.
Do you want to share finances? ...You don't have to do that.
Do you want kids? ...You don't have to do that.
Is sex important to you? ...You don't have to do that.
Do you want to be monogamous? ...You don't have to do that, either.
...All of these things are up for grabs. If the truth is that you don't want to go with everything in the standard model, then life's going to be so much easier if you don't try and force yourself to do it in a way that's not right for you.
If there's one thing I want to tell you, it's this: Use safewords for everything. Especially sex.
The safewords system that most people use is 'green', 'orange', and 'red'.
If you say 'green', it means that everythings good and safe, and you're wanting to encourage your partner to keep doing whatever they're doing.
If you say 'orange', it means that something is approaching a limit, and will need to change soon. You might be getting tired, or something's getting painful, or maybe it's just that your interests have shifted and you want to try something else.
If you say 'red', it means that everything stops, right now, and that's all there is to it. You'll probably want to then have a chat about what's happened, but that'll depend on circumtances.
You can say 'orange' or 'red' any time you want, for any reason. It's your human right. You don't need to be able to explain, or even understand, why something is orange or red for you. And obviously, anyone that wants to ignore your orange or red is behaving incredibly badly, and you're going to want to get out of that situation urgently.
You'll quickly discover that these words bring you a level of trust and safety that you wouldn't have thought was possible. When a couple can use these safewords, they've got it made; they're going to be able to navigate difficulties, and also much more quickly be able to find the really good things about sex.
I just can't emphasise this enough. I know it's going to seem weird at first, because you've probably been taught to never speak up, and never interrupt, and that good sex should just unfold naturally, by itself. That's all bullshit. You'll quickly learn that green, orange, and red are the things that lead you more deeply into your pleasure, and it will quickly seem wrong to not use them.
There's more going on with these safewords than we've got time for here, but I just want to say again: If there's one thing I wish I'd been taught, and one thing that I think the world should know about, it's these sweet little safewords.
Also, once you've got the hang of them in sex, you'll find yourself using them elsewhere...
"Green to you getting me a drink right now".
"I think I'm orange on listening to this track again, but you can put your headphones on if you want".
"What's that? You want me to go to your parents for Christmas? ...Red"."
Thank you for what you've offered me, but I'm leaving you now.
You've done a great job, in many ways, of bringing people together, and making the coordination of events particularly easy. There's been some genuine breakthroughs there.
And other things too - from birthday reminders to group suggestions - that you've done well. At times, you've brought people together - especially those that experience marginalisation through health, identity, beliefs, or interests - in a way that has probably saved them, or at least made the world more navigable. Thank you, for those things; they're not nothing, and you deserve credit.
But there are downsides to your service too, and I want to name some of them...
I don't personally mind the exchange of my data for your service - at least, now that I'm aware that that's what the arrangement is (it wasn't clear at first). But I feel for people for whom this has more dangerous consequences than it does for I.
I hate though that you've allowed this data to be used for nefarious purposes, such as changing elections. You've put your own profits in front of the greater ethical good many times, and avoided taking responsibility by saying that all you've done is created the tools, and it's up to others to regulate their use. That's technically true, but I feel every bit as good about that as I do when arms manufacturers say that guns are not the problem, people are. Stop welching on your ethical responsibilities, and stop protecting your clients.
I dislike the constant pings and reminders, across whatever device you can gain access to, constructed so carefully to get me back on your platform with the most seductive draw-cards you can find, then to keep me there by doing whatever it takes. It's so manipulative, especially when it masquerades as something you're doing to help me.
I am stunned that when anyone puts something to do with sex-positivity up, you manage to find it and take it down so quickly. And yet you're having so much difficulty working out what to do with actual threats or acts of violence. I'm sure it's complicated, and I know you're working on it, but it seems ludicrous that we're stopped from making love while making hate is apparently a grey area.
(Having said that, I appreciate that you got the unsolicited pussy-pics out of my in-box. For a few years there, I was getting at least a couple per week, from people that were only trying to scam me. You were slow to act, but got there in the end, and I appreciate that. I imagine it's hard to say yes to some parts of sexuality, but no to the less desirable parts).
It's an irony that Facebook has become so sex-negative, given its alleged roots. Kicking people off the social platform for merely having an interest in sex would seem to be the ultimate social shaming, and is doing nothing to further sex-education locally or globally. You are part of the problem with the way sexuality plays out, because in the absence of access to information, bad choices are made, and you're contributing to that. But there's more money in just saying no to it all, right?
But perhaps most of all, I hate the divisiveness. I hate that you've worked out that showing people something they totally agree with, or will totally react against, makes for better metrics for you. You've worked out ways to feed this back to your users, so that the most anger-filled and divisive are encouraged to write polarising and trauma-fueled tempests. These in turn garner a following and continue to destroy whatever the issue is and any chance of its resolution.
Somehow, you have made people that come to a conversation with compassion and understanding seem like they're apologists or that they're spineless. You have marginalised from your platform the very elders and leaders that can bring people together and create peace and progression of the issues.
But it's even worse than that - you haven't just quietened them down. Between you and Twitter (and others) you've managed to create a whole new form of social violence, where an angry mob comes together and bullies those that they don't agree with into submission. The left destroys individuals from the right, the right destroys individuals from the left. Your metrics go up, bodies are left in the middle, people are too scared to interact with the subject material, and we are not making progress.
You are not bringing us together, or anything like it. This... This is how you want to make money? This feels good to you?
Yes, the individuals involved in these processes need to realise what they're doing, and stop. But that'll be easier once you stop rewarding them, and stop telling them the polarising mess you're feeding them is 'news'.
You're like a boxing manager, with two players in a fight. So long as someone gets injured, you get paid, and all is good. It's a long, long way from being a 'social network'.
It's taken me an impressive amount of effort to get off you. Since I run a business, the process of setting up an alternative platform for our groups has taken months of work, and is now ongoing to maintain. In the process, we've lost a bunch of people, since not everyone's ready to be dragged onto yet another platform, which is fair enough.
But it's been an acceptable price to pay to have governance and agency over what happens. Our users are loving being able to control what they see, and how they interact with the platform.
And finally, knowing that everything I've set up is not about to be whipped out from under my feet because I said the word 'sex'... Well, let's just say you're out of the race now.
Thanks for what we had. At times it was really fun, and I felt like part of the revolution.
I hope you can learn and change, and in the meanwhile, I hope the damage you're causing is contained.
SHORT VERSION: We are delighted to again be offering in-person sexuality workshops: The Forest, Fun Little Sex Games, Adventurous Touch and Intimacy, Roleplay Your Way, Sexuality Psychology and Movement, with more to come. To do workshops, our new application process only needs to be done once, takes less than five minutes, and can be done right now: https://www.curiouscreatures.biz/application.html
LONG VERSION: We've put a lot of effort into our workshop descriptions over the years to make sure you have an accurate idea of what to expect, what not to expect, and confirm if it's the right workshop for you.
This has generally worked very well, but occasionally, a detail gets missed (which is easy to do, even with the best of intentions) resulting in unaligned expectations.
As Curious Creatures reaches a wider audience, we've been aware that at some stage we'll need to transition to an application system for tickets, rather than simply having them open to everyone. As we come out of Covid lockdowns, we've decided now is the time to implement this.
Our new application process consists of a few questions, easily answered in less than five minutes. You'll then be put in one of three groups on our new online forum (based on your application and also ticket type availability), and will be able to attend as many workshops and events at that level as you wish. (Down the track, you may apply for a higher level of access; priority will be given to people that have participated in previous events).
We've set our forum categories up so that you can easily search for events based on what ticket type you're after (using 'tags'). You can use the forum (which has many groups & categories in addition to the ticket-buying ones) as much or as little as you want. By default we'll set it to just send you an email when we set up a relevant event, although you have complete control and can turn this off if you'd like.
We're quite excited about this new system. We believe it will make for a better and more enjoyable workshop experience for everyone, and it'll also give us more freedom as facilitators to target specific experiences towards the people that are a good match for those experiences. We regret that we've had to put another booking hurdle in place for you, but we're quietly confident that the improved experience will make it worthwhile.
~Rog and the Curious Creatures Team.
From our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Why don’t your workshop descriptions offer many promises?
A note on the language we use, and how capitalism clashes with our sex education.
‘Rape culture’ might be described as a culture that allows, ignores, belittles, or encourages the taking of a person’s sexuality or body without their informed consent. Curious Creatures exists in large part to provide an alternative that’s better for everyone.
Unfortunately, the nature of marketing and capitalism is in itself often a culture of manipulation and deceit – telling people what they want to hear, and playing on their emotions, in order to get what we want, often without proper informed consent. And sometimes, through what can only be described as outright theft.
We feel uncomfortable with the crossover between pushy marketing, and our aspirational targets: Clear communication, good boundaries, and honesty. So where it would be normal from a marketing perspective to promise many things, we try and use more tempered language – that something we offer might help some people, some of the time.
When you compare our language to the way things are normally done, it may sound like we lack confidence in our products and services. This is not true – we are actually very confident, and very proud, of what we offer. But we don’t want to trick you into something, and then have you feel like a failure if you don’t experience a level of change or improvement that should never have been promised.
In the same way that great relationships, and great sex, are built over time through the establishment of trust, we hope that you will come to have a level of trust in the words we use to describe what we offer.
This is a work in progress for us since we are so deeply immersed in a manipulative capitalist culture that we have many blind spots. We will welcome your polite drawing of our attention to any instances where we might not have gotten the language or tone correct.
Get ready for 2020!
Get ready for 2020; we're ramping it up for you big-time, by bringing additional presenters and tours to Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. We're excited to fill out the sex-education calendar, and support more opportunities and experiences for you.
From February 26-29, Myola Woods (from The Erotic Coach in Sydney) will be in Melbourne. Myola will be teaching Deepen Connection & Intimacy through Communication on Wed 26th, Activate your Orgasmic Body! on Fri 28th, and Vulva Magic, Tips & Techniques for Penis Pleasure, and the Three Circles ritual, all on Saturday 29th. Access all her workshops here.
Myola's work is accessible and well-rounded. If you'd like to hear more about her perspectives, check out episode 53 of Curious Conversations About Sex, where Rog interviews her on Modern relationship dynamics, sex education, affairs, and football comparisons. We've recently listed her workshops, and they're selling quickly.
From March 7-12, Dr Martha Lee (from Eros Coaching in Singapore) will be in Brisbane. Set the dates aside now, and stay tuned for more information - make sure you're signed up for the 'Qld' mailing list. You can also access all her workshops here.
Then, from April 18-28, Dr Martha Lee will be back in Melbourne, teaching a whole range of workshops. Stay tuned to the 'Vic' mailing list. You can also access all her workshops here.
Please note that when we presented Martha in November 2019, almost all workshops filled to capacity quite quickly, so if you're interested, you may wish to get in soon.
In mid May, Rog and Tess will be taking Curious Creatures to Singapore. Finally, the rest of the world will get to start to experience our fun little approach to solving the world's sexuality problems!
On the weekend of June 6, 7, 8, we're delighted to be bringing Deej and Uma to Melbourne. Deej and Uma are a core part of the Institute of Somatic Sexology, who bring us the famous Sexological Bodywork course, and who have been teachers to all other workshop facilitators on this page.
From Rog: "Deej and Uma are easily two of Australia's best sex educators and facilitators. Their work is academically grounded, accessibly presented, and just plain old fun a lot of the time. I'm proud to have participated in or supported many of their workshops, and am honoured to be bringing them back to Melbourne. I enthusiastically encourage people that like the Curious Creatures style to check these folks out".
Details are on the Curious Creatures calendar (now searchable by location and facilitator!).
Finally, in August or September, Rog and Tess will again take some Curious Creatures workshops to Brisbane and Sydney, including a few new ones. Stay tuned to the 'Qld' and 'Nsw' mailing lists.
In amongst all of the above, we'll continue to do our best to provide high quality learning and practical environments for you in Melbourne.
Warmly, the CC team
Addressing gossip and building strength within sex-positive communities
If someone comes to you to talk, discuss, debrief, or gossip about someone else, listen to them. Be there fully for them; support them with your ears and your heart... once.
If they come to you again, to talk about the same issue about the same person, find a way to say something like "I notice we've spoken about this before. I wonder if there's a way I can support you to bring these issues up with the person concerned, or process them in some way so that you can move on?". If they decline, respectfully let them know that you don't want to participate in gossip.
There's a lot of reasons why I like this policy, or some variation of it.
I first came across it when I was living in an 'Intentional Community' (which is essentially a group of people in some kind of intentional living arrangement; it's like a community development project running on '11', using yourself and your close friends as experiments, and also as housemates or neighbours).
Intentional communities - like all communities - need to get damned good at getting along well and resolving conflict, if they are to survive and be nice groups to be involved in.
Something that is counter to this, and that often rips communities apart, is gossip. When someone tells a story about someone else, it often seems so compelling that it's hard to imagine that there could even be another side of the story. Plus, as recent studies - search "effect of gossip on hormones" - have shown, if we don't act with awareness, we inadvertently use the very act of gossiping as a way of bonding and developing trust with the person we're chatting with - at the expense of the person we're chatting about.
One thing leads to another, and what started out as one person's passing comment can calcify and become the whole story. And even if the story was true, or has some truth in it, what we're falling for is the idea that one side of the story is all there is; that the issues can't be resolved and that justice can't be served.
Left to its own devices, gossip will cruelly expel the person that is being gossiped about, or it will create such division and mistrust that the community risks fracturing and become dysfunctional. And, in the process, people will get really hurt, and otherwise good communities and their projects die.
The "listen once policy" short-circuits this process. It moves us all towards resolution, rather than calcification. It puts value on getting all sides of the story, and sorting things out, which is profoundly good for community and friendships. It's also good for all of the individuals concerned, because even an aggrieved person is going to be happier if they can get something that bothers them sorted out or at least more well understood.
And it goes without saying that the policy is better for anyone being gossiped about; if that's ever been you, then you know the importance of things like the right to know what's being said, the benefit of the doubt, the right to reply, and the right to be judged fairly. And you probably also know the importance of having the right to apologize and make amends, if that's possible and appropriate.
It can seem easier and quicker to gossip. But it's also a high risk game, because when we allow gossip to flourish, on some level we have to accept that we might one day wind up as the subject of gossip - what goes around, comes around. Gradually, it doesn't feel like a community we want to be a part of any more.
This "listen once and once only" approach assumes that the person being gossiped about is open to feedback. That's not always the case, but in my experience, most people, given the opportunity, know what's best for them, especially if they're in ongoing relationship or community with you.
I was under the impression that I'd had a lot of participant diversity in my workshops in Australia - until I found myself teaching sex in Thailand.
I was there for a six-day training in large-group conflict-resolution, and had made a plan with two of the other participants to have dinner, because one of them was interested in polyamory and wanted to chat. Due to the language barrier, I thought it was just going to be the three of us, but word spread quickly, and about ~15 people were eagerly awaiting my 'workshop', which was a bit of a surprise!
They were enthusiastic, almost desperately so, for the glimpse into sex-positivity that I was able to represent. I think of Australia as being grossly under-serviced for sex education, but Australia feels like an oasis in comparison to the little slice of Thailand I found myself in.
To my right, was a monk, who had earlier explained that "If there is a conflict - and we don't like to call it a 'conflict' - we move away from the conversation as soon as we can, and meditate. We find peace, internally. Only when there is no internal conflict, do we come back together." The concept of sitting down with a partner and talking in great detail about sexual interests and differences was almost unimaginable to the monk, and my 'Joy of Accusations' approach to relationship conversations would have apparently been very counter to their spiritual training.
To my left, was a woman from Myanmar. She was missing one and a half digits from both hands, and a foot; although I didn't know the details of how that came to be, it seemed like it was too much of a deliberate pattern to just be an accident. I was also aware that rape and violence are very real and current methods of war in Myanmar; it made me want to cry, as I explained the subtleties of using the scale of 0-10 to control the level of touch you're receiving, or using safe-words to stop something you don't like. How do you explain those concepts to someone who you can tell is trying to hide their hands from your view, presumably due to their shame and trauma around whatever happened to cause the loss of their fingers?
In Australia, when I give out my Consent Cards, people generally respond as if they're a good idea - a handy thing, and probably something that should be shared more widely... Or something like that.
The people I shared them with in Thailand responded as if they were an artifact from another planet - like proof of alien life. At first, they looked at the cards like they were some kind of a joke, but then, as they took turns translating the questions for each other, their responses ranged from bewildered to ecstatic to confused to giddy.
One person said, "I just can't imagine that anyone would want to go through this card". I replied, "I can't imagine entering into a touch experience with someone that isn't willing to go through this card". Although I later qualified that I'm not representative of all of Australian culture, nevertheless, the difference in realities was pretty blunt.
At the end, they thanked me profusely. They said they'd never seen anyone who was able to be so free with their sexuality, and so happy to speak about it so openly - or even imagined such a person existed. They asked me if I had always been like this. I explained that no, for a long time, I was shamed by myself and others for my sexuality, and that some people still view me as a bad or dangerous person, because of my interests. But I was quick to point out that what I've experienced is nothing compared to what they're up against.
There were other similarly compelling experiences. I wound up doing two 'workshop dinners', like the one described above. I got chatting with a brothel owner, desperate for information about consent and bdsm for her and her staff - of which nothing is currently available, in her experience. And the operator of a sort of a sex museum wants me to run talks and events in their space - ironically, to help Thailand get back to what used to be some apparently rather sex-positive roots, before various waves of foreign invaders left sex-negativity and shame in their wake.
I love what I do, in Australia. I love those moments where it feels like I'm doing something good for someone, and perhaps the world.
But this experience in Thailand took my breath away. I feel like a beginner, again, in terms of making sex-positive material accessible. But I've also been made aware of what a wildly abundant, well-informed, and positive bubble we live in, at this time in Australia - at least, relatively speaking. I am grateful.
Fire alarms, lost kids, conflicting ethics ...
Roger Butler describes a tricky challenge they recently experienced – one where they’re not at all convinced they did the right thing. Here’s how they described it, about an hour after it happened:
“Wow - that was a difficult situation. And I think I might have failed.
I was just down at my local shopping centre. As I was walking in, the evacuation alarm was going off. People looked like they were becoming increasingly panicky.
As I saw shops beginning to shutter, I realised it was a real alarm. I was about to leave when I saw a toddler by themselves. They had that "where's my parent?" look on their face, so I stopped to observe for a few moments. It quickly became clear they were lost, and had gotten it in their head to start walking towards the other end of the centre.
I asked a few nearby people if the child was theirs, and got blank stares in reply. So it was obvious to me from then that the child had become separated.
I went into a bit of dumbness at that point in time. What I wanted to do was pick the child up, take them back to where I first saw them, and trust that the parent/s would show up. But all I could think of was people accusing me - as an alone older male-presenting person - of kidnap or molestation. I am very aware that people of my demographic aren’t generally meant to be alone with children, especially ones we don't know, or even be near them, on account of all the really shitty things that go on in the world. It happens that just last night I listened to a podcast about how the dark-web is being used by paedophiles to coordinate their activities, so perhaps it was more on my mind than usual.
I was freaked.
I got the attention of a female-presenting person, who for a moment agreed to walk with me, and watch the situation. After a few moments she asked the child if they were lost, got no reply, and so then shrugged their shoulders and walked off.
I followed the toddler all the way to the other end of the mall, wondering how this odd little stand-off would end, hoping the parent would just spring out of a shop or something.
At the end of the mall, some women noticed what was going on. I told them the child was lost, and that they had walked here from the other end. One of the women immediately picked up the child, and headed back in the direction I pointed. The woman was treating me with a lot of suspicion, and initially wouldn't engage with me, but did eventually. I wasn't going to leave the situation unresolved, so I walked with the woman back to where I originally saw the toddler. About ten more meters further on was a very distraught parent, followed by tears of relief. They thanked the woman, who turned and left without any further exchange, probably unable to understand why I hadn’t done what she did.
What a dilemma. I think I failed, at least partially. My socialisation around never being a lone guy with a child is really strong, but I let that over-rule what should have been the focus: the child (and, to a lesser extent, the poor parent with whom I anonymously shared a few minutes of anxiety). I think I should have taken the risk, and scooped the child up. Even, in a worst-case scenario, me being questioned by police is better than me doing nothing. I also could have been more insistent that other bystanders helped.
And I didn't do nothing; I wasn't going to leave the situation. My actions probably just meant it dragged on for longer than it should of. I'm sorry to the kid and the parent.
What a bind. This was an hour ago, and I'm still adrenalised."
Ripple effects that I'm both proud of and very happy about:
This is a win for us all, but especially queer and trans folks. It's also a really good example of why we need to work together, and be in the same spaces.
When Curiosity started, I would have been happy for it to just turn out to be a half decent play-party. I underestimated how much self-development would come from it - I didn't anticipate that something that is on the surface just a sex event, would have so many ripples and positive knock-on effects.
I've heard from many sources about its influences, from the empowerment individuals in many parts of their lives, through to changing the ways consent plays out in wider communities.
I've insisted on keeping gender exploration as a part of the Curiosity workshop, even though it's perhaps not strictly necessary. One of the first things that happens at the workshop is that folks are asked their name, and the "gender pronouns you like using in relation to yourself". This frames gender, from the get-go, as an exploration or a discussion - rather than as a fixed or self-evident thing. (For the record, I like neutral pronouns like "they", but I'm happy with anything).
Later in the workshop, there's more content where assumptions around our's and others' gender identity is explored, about why that's important, and about how to respectfully engage with people different to one's self.
A person who doesn't identify as being part of the gender-fluidity movement came through the workshop recently, and felt welcomed and interested by the way gender issues were presented - even if they thought the topic was given a lot of time. They then happened to listen to an episode of our podcast (Curious Conversations About Sex - temporarily on hold, but more coming soon!) where myself and two guests discussed how rigid gender definitions exclude so many of us from so many facets of life, including government organisations.
It turns out that this person found themselves in a position of influence within a major state-government health organisation. As a person who identifies as more or less straight and cis, they used their position to lobby for a person's gender to be recorded as they wish - without reference to the binary if that's what they want, and without reference to whatever they were assigned at birth.
I can't name the organisation yet, but it looks like this change is coming into play in the foreseeable future, and it's huge. A lot of people that have been otherwise marginalised have just had one barrier removed; this is especially important for trans-folk, but also for any of us that are more comfortable, more ourselves, when we get to define our gender. And as the gender-fluidity movement trickles down, a lot more of us are going to start wanting to be identified as something more than just 'male' or 'female' - I believe many of us are so much more than that.
I'm really proud of the way the person used their position and privilege to improve the world for others.
I'm also really proud that Curious Creatures played a role in facilitating this. I'm proud of the importance we place on gender issues, and especially happy that we manage to present it, at least some of the time, in a way that is accessible to both the bent and the straight, and beneficial to all. It's not a version of reality that's right for everyone, but there's something exciting about seeing everyone hang out together, in the same space. There's something hopeful about it, even if it can be more challenging than just hanging out with folks like one's self.
This particular achievement is something people have been lobbying for for decades. My hope is that once this particular government department changes, others will follow.
A big thanks to elders past and present - changes like this follow on from uncountable and often invisible previous efforts.
Hi curious friends,
Ever wondered what our play-party Curiosity is really like, from the perspective of a first-timer? ...See below for a really well-written, and accurate piece. All 2018 Curiosity dates (both workshops and parties) are now listed, and the next workshop for new folks is on Jan 7th.
So are the rest of our workshops, actually, all the way through until December. Enjoy!
If you're a part of Curiosity already, there's a Social on Jan 11th.
Otherwise, we don't really swing into gear until February, with Fun Little Sex Games on the 8th, and The Forest: Touch & Embodiment Ritual on the 15th.
The latest podcast episode features an in-depth chat with Seani Love, about the parallels between psychotherapy and well conducted kink practices. The links go way further than we'd imagined, and show just how much sex-work and kink sessions can be like, um... counseling? (Yes, we know that might sound a little odd).
Search for, and subscribe to, Curious Conversations About Sex on whatever app you use for podcasts.
Warmly, Rog and the CC team.
Review of Curiosity on Passionfruit: 'To Sex Party or not to Sex Party?'
Here's a snippet: "I’m a 30 year old professional woman, living in Melbourne, recently single, and I feel like my sex life has been a tad one dimensional. I keep falling into standard ‘sexual intercourse’ with guys. It feels based on ‘how quickly can I stick my thing in your thing’ and I want to know what else is available on the sexual menu.
So I went to a sex party. I did this on behalf of the Passionfruit Tribe (thank you Passionfruit!) in search for something a bit more sensual… (taking one for the team, so to speak).
’Curiosity’ is the name of the party. It is run by workshop organisers ‘Curious Creatures’ out of a venue in Brunswick. It describes itself as:
‘a very unusual exploration of sexuality, self-development, and liberation... an experiment in community and self-development that uses sexuality as a starting point.’
It sounds like an orgy with a personality and a degree. I’m nervous, but, as the label advises, curious…" Read More.
Rog is the driving force behind Curious Creatures, and the main author of this sexuality blog in Melbourne. They were brought up white, middle-class, mostly heterosexual, and male. They now identify as kinky, tantric, polyamorous, queer, and very, very curious. Are you curious? Read more about Rog and Curious Creatures.