column from author/activist
The Royal Treatment
Higher (Sex) Education
I speak at colleges and universities on a very frequent basis. I try to do as many college gigs as I can because in the colleges and universities of today are the leaders and citizens of tomorrow. I want them to laugh at my jokes, buy my books, shop at Good Vibrations, and have better sex than their abstinence-only high school sex ed classes prepared them to have. I want them to make a different world in the not-too-distant future. I want the people of this country to be more sexually sane, and to do my part, I hit the road whenever I can. I hope people will see me on a TV show, no matter whether or not they could afford or get into college. This fall I did the History Channel not once but twice, appeared on a Toronto debate show called Test of Faith, and Ill be popping up fairly regularly on Canadas SexTV (which airs here on Trio). Im a media whore mainly because I believe it means something to get out there and contribute a sound bite to the cultural dialogue. But its something special when I get to speak to people especially students -- directly. In fact, this week I am doing not one but five college classes.
But its more special than usual when I get to travel to Yale. Yes, the Yale, the appointed Presidents alma mater one of the beautiful and scholarly places that puts the ivy in Ivy League. I went there last week to do three lectures, one called a "Masters Tea," at which the students actually drink tea and discuss intellectual topics. I pulled out my discussion of "PoMoSexuality" for that one, based on the idea that our culture loves oppositional ideas but that not all of us live on opposite ends of the gender or sexual orientation continuum. The sexes are not "opposite," not all of us are completely gay or straight, and the sooner we figure out how to honor and acknowledge this kind of diversity (I sometimes call it "sexual multiculturalism"), the better.
Walking onto campus for the first time I really did catch my breath: it is the sort of gorgeous old campus I dreamed all universities looked like, back when I was a bookish kid in the sticks of Oregon. I went through a gate with lovely nude female angels carved into either side, their mighty wings spanning the arch on top. That gave me my intro at the Masters Tea: "I noticed coming through the High Street gate that John Ashcroft hasnt yet been to campus to cover up the angels."
Did I speak to a future president or Attorney General at the Masters Tea, or were those people all off at a Skull and Bones meeting? Ive written here before about visiting George W. Bushs prep school in Massachusetts, a high school with an art museum to rival (or, frankly, top) those of most US cities, including not one but two shows with edgy and sexual work. Amazing that conservatives rail against that which is explicit, except when it comes with a high-class pedigree and hangs in their own homes. This is one of the odd facets of the history of censorship, the well-to-do assume themselves immune to the dangers of sex, the images that so inflame the hoi polloi.
That being the case, and many Yale students having been raised in a degree of cultural sophistication unknown to kids who wind up at your garden-variety community college, my evening's presentation, while slightly raucous, was well-received and not marred by the kinds of hoots and hollers I sometimes expect from younger audiences. And I was waving dildos and vibrators in the air practically the whole time! Yes, I was personally responsible for instigating much of the raucousness; its a good way to keep people's attention, I find, and when you back it up with intellect and useful facts, is a presentation style that stays lively and teaches that sex talk can be accessible and fun. Oh, yes, theres always some sort of pedagogical underpinning to my madness, even when I say things like this: "The penis actually has two legs, called crura, that extend into the body they sort of anchor it, which is why none of you guys have pulled yours off yet."
There is, I confess, an exhibitionistic thrill to getting a big laugh at Yale.
The next day I spoke (getting a few fewer laughs) to the doctors and other personnel at the student health center. Then it was back to New York for a conference at Columbia and a visit with Betty Dodson.
Dr. Dodson Tells You What To Do
Long-time readers will know Ive known Betty Dodson for many years (15, I think), and that I love and respect her enormously. She has a new book out, Orgasms for Two (following her previous, hugely successful Sex for One) and in preparation for meeting her, I read it on the plane. Before I tell you what I thought, I have to catch you up on a fantastic and somewhat controversial element in Bettys life. A few years ago, after a couple of decades of masturbation workshops, fuck-buddies, and determined solo-hood (during which she criticized her coupled-up friends for becoming ensnared in "pair bondage"), Betty got herself a partner who's far more than just a fuck-buddy. Eric is her live-in puppy, and hes forty-something years younger than she is.
Betty is indeed old enough to be peoples granny, and she uses her years to exactly the same effect my old granny did: to tell you what the fuck to do. In this case, Betty uses her age, prestige, doctorate in sexology, and years as reigning queen of masturbation to tell you how to fuck. She knows that most people in America dont fuck as well as they should, and dammit, she knows why! So listen to your old Aunt Betty and dont interrupt. Shell tell you all about why its invigorating to have a young lover, how to make sure you know what youve got and how to use it, how to have bigger and better orgasms. She freely admits shes not an expert in coupling shes got no long-term success unraveling that mystery, and her relationship with Eric will last "as long as its good" but she knows that most people dont get enough plain talk about sex, and thats what she dishes out in Orgasms for Two.
Im about to start reviewing books on my website (www.carolqueen.com), and I jotted some notes about Betty's book so she could be my first entry in the new "What Im Reading" section. Heres what I wrote, after closing the book on the plane:
For more on Betty Dodsons new book Orgasms for Two see the interview and chapter excerpt in Naked Brunch.