Theyre Back -- By Popular Demand
Annie Sprinkle and Jwala are again offering their "Sluts and Goddesses" workshop for women.
Ten years ago our intrepid editrix, Marianna Beck, took the workshop, and had a time worth writing home about.
Herein, from the Libido archives, is her account of what it was like to spend two-days with Sprinkle, Jwala and a bevy of women out to open their chakras and change their lives.
For information on this years Sluts and Goddesses workshop see the bottom of this article.
Is There A Goddess In The House?
In New York with Annie Sprinkle
By Marianna Beck
How do you explain to your ten-year-old son that youre off to New York City to attend Annie Sprinkles "Sluts and Goddesses" workshop? My explanation went something like this: "Its like taking a workshop on soccer with an ex-World Cup Champion. You learn new ways to make a goal."
I winced at having plunged myself into the wide world of sports metaphors. He looked at me quizzically and uttered a line I decided I wouldnt touch with a barge pole:
"But Mom, didnt you know theres only one way to score?"
Then there were my friends. "So whats this about Tantric rituals and dressing up like a slut and getting in touch with the love within? "What do you do when you find it? Fax Rod McKuen? How you gonna get there? On the astral plane? Whats this about finding out everything you wanted to know about sex. Dont you publish LIBIDO? Energy orgasms and the mechanics of female ejaculation? Whats the matter with the usual whip and chair? Even my mother was suspicious. "You dress up and then you what?"
They were merciless.
But I know Annie Sprinkle. I decided that a workshop with her would rank somewhere on the Richter scale of memorable events. At the very least, Id shake out my chakras -- energy centers -- and become a three-minute expert on Tantric sex. Besides, $250 seemed worth an outrageous anecdote or two. Annie is also one of the most quixotic people Ive ever met. She is utterly without artifice, not to mention sexual boundaries. At the same time, she is as guileless and ingenuous as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. And shes really funny. This girl has been around the block -- or more accurately, up the Empire State Building. As an ex-porn star and prostitute, now-turned "feminist-porn-activist, artist, writer, AIDS-awareness spokesperson, professional dominatrix and sacred prostitute," she talks about having had sex with over 3,000 men. She puts this figure into greater perspective with her own analogy: "If you put 3,000 erect penises (measuring on average six inches in length) end to end, the distance would equal the height of the Empire State Building. Minus the antenna."
For this journey into sacred sex with an emphasis on slut, I was accompanied by two friends, both of whom had seen Annie perform her "Post Post Porn Modernist Show" last year in Chicago and were so engaged by her special hybrid of wit and sexual energy that they, too, couldnt pass up an excuse for a weekend learning how to "re-define sex in the 90s." The workshop was to be taught by Annie as well as her long-time teacher, Jwala, who has practiced Tantra Yoga for the last 20 years and refers to herself as a "musician, meditator, erotic environmentalist and temple priestess."
We had been told to gather at Jwalas apartment on Friday night. Although the three of us hadnt had a chance to discuss our expectations, I suspect we had entirely different views on what would transpire. Climbing the stairs to Jwalas fourth floor flat, I flashed on the image of Marty Feldman in Mel Brooks version of "Frankenstein." "Remember the guy who developed a facial tick and a hunchback from too many orgasms over a short period of time?" I asked my companians. They ignored me. I suspected they imagined a weekend of chanting while we twisted ourselves into Tantric pretzels and concentrated on our lower chakras.
As it was, there were only thirteen students, in addition to Annie, Jwala, and Barbara who said she produced and managed Broadway and off-Broadway theater. Jwalas apartment abounded in Indian fabrics, incense and carved statues of Indian dieties, among them Shiva and the elephant-headed Ganesh. It felt like Berkeley 1968.
We started off cross-legged in a circle. A casual glance at my cohorts revealed a surprising age-range -- and nervousness. Several women looked dour, refusing eye-contact, their uptightness palpable. It seemed more like a support-group for reformed shop-lifters rather than a celebration of female energy. Maybe it was the packets wed all been handed containing xeroxed sheets, condoms and a rubber glove that left some of them looking edgy.
Our den-mother slut/goddess Annie welcomed us with a beatific smile and suggested we introduce ourselves by "passing the yoni." She held up what appeared to be a plastercast facsimile of a vagina, complete with hooded clitoris and labial folds. Suddenly, I thought about the Matisse show I was missing at the Museum of Modern Art. I thought about the G.O.P. I thought, I cant do this. Yet passing this clam-shaped chachke functioned successfully at some level for many of those present. In trying to explain why they had decided to take the workshop, several women alluded to a host of sexual traumas, including rape, abortion and the isolation imposed from having a host of garden-variety STDs. One woman said shed contracted herpes after her first sexual experience at sixteen. The Tupperware party Id expected suddenly turned serious.
The group appeared predominantly straight and white and included a couple of Botticelli innocents whod recently graduated from college; a cellist with a large tattoo on her shoulder; a chubby Hispanic woman whos goal over the weekend was to shed a life-time of Catholic guilt; a bisexual who lived with a man but wasnt sure if thats what she really wanted; a lesbian from Alaska who had recently dumped her husband; a woman whos cancer was in remission; and a new mom who had just given birth to twins and was trying to jump-start her libido.
Given our differences, I was intrigued by common agendas. In one rather satisfying ritual, we were asked to write down whatever negative emotions we wished to dispel. Before burning our little scraps of paper in a common bowl, we scrambled them together and read them aloud. "Fear of not being good enough" ranked number one; "fear of sexual guilt" ranked number two. These emotions were shared by women who ranged in age from 22 to 51. It became clearer as the night wore on that the emphasis was to be on self-acceptance, self-love, self-gratification. The tone was one of self-preservation: if youre stood up by your date some night, dont despair. Take responsibility for your own sexual gratification . Light a lot of candles and take your Magic Wand to bed. One things for sure, youll never be dumped by your vibrator.
Saturday morning found us all together again at Jwalas apartment ready to learn about our chakras, a breathing technique called the microcosmic orbit, and how to have a body orgasm. Before getting started, Annie led us through an exercise session that largely involved doing Kegals -- squeezing our pubococcygeus muscles together in rapid succession.
"Sex is about energy flow, not penetration," cooed Annie. "Doing Kegals is like kissing your own pussy and getting in touch with your own sexual energy. Walking down the street, I used to fantasize about Nazis and dogs; now I concentrate on healthier and more natural things like the mircocosmic orbit." We were reminded again just how healthy it was to have sex, especially with oneself, and how sex "creates disease-fighting neuro-peptides."
After numerous body-loosening motions, we were ready for the Fire-Breath Orgasm. In our goddess/slut press packet, a sheet titled "How to have Energy Orgasms" explained the phenomenon as an energy state that would help balance our seven chakras. Not only did it have the potential of making genitally orgasmic women "mega-orgasmic," but it also promised to clear the body of repressed emotions. Our sheet also noted wed feel euphoric and light-headed and possibly arch our backs, clench our fists, laugh hysterically and scream. It was also O.K. to feel nothing.
We lay on our backs in a circle with our heads touching while one of our den-mothers burned some sage as "psychic air freshener." And then we were off and panting. Theres no doubt about the energy created in a roomful of hyper-ventilating women. At times the sounds around me were a chorus of ecstatic moans, the Morman Tabernacle Choir on quaaludes; at other times, high-pitched and plaintive.
Clearly, forty-five minutes of this rapid breathing achieves an altered state of one kind or another; one woman howled mournfully while another later said her body trembled violently and her hands felt paralyzed. I merely hallucinated. At first, I experienced profound emotional swings, then a violet light from which an internal omnicient narrator said something like: "Youve got the right one baby, uh-huh." I took this as a good sign.
After wed sat up and waited for our oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to readjust, it proved difficult to articulate exactly what had transpired. Most of us stared vacantly, looking like wed just undergone electro-shock therapy. It was obvious that nearly everyone had felt something although no one seemed to be able to pinpoint what that was.
The next stop was Annies apartment. This portion of the program offered an opportunity to once and for all get in touch with the "bad girl" that resides in all of us. We were free to ask any questions of our sacred prostitute, Annie, who after years of having had sex with anything that moved, is a veritable encyclopedia. We talked about the merits of Saran wrap as a great barrier for female oral sex, the location of the G-spot, female ejaculation (yes, there is such a thing according to those who experience it), butt plugs and prostate oragsms ("I used to make all my extra money with mens assholes "), and the best condoms ("Gold Coins brand").
"Girls, before you go on a date, always be sure to throw at least twelve into your purse,"Annie advised.
For those who werent sure where the G-spot was located, she handed out rubber gloves, slid down in her chair and offered up her vaginal canal for spelunkers. "Now would anyone like to see what a cervix looks like?" Those of us who werent otherwise engaged in watching Annies own Sluts & Goddesses video in which she demonstrates how to have a five-minute orgasm, filed by for a peak with a flashlight.
We were then encouraged to strip and rummage through a roomful of garter belts, corsets, stockings, Dolly Parton wigs and other paraphanalia for our photo shoot. A make-up artist had meanwhile appeared to ease the transition into slut-hood. With our over-made eyes, fake moles and huge lips, it became easier to slip from doudiness into dominance. Gleefully, a few women began plowing through bins of lingerie while others, unsure of how to wear a leather harness or Merry Widow, stood back transfixed.
"Here, try this halter," ordered one of our "transformation facilitators." "You! Youd look great in the dog collar. Try it with the the purple corset. Dont you think shed look great in the sequin number?" Soon, even the shyest among us was enthusiastically playing with this idea of dress-up, of embracing sexual power in one of its more overt and visible forms. We were, as Annie said, "reclaiming the whore in all of us. That may be hard," she warned. "Youre challenging the boundaries of femininity."
Armed with her Polaroid, Annie snapped away, documenting our sexual metamorphosis. The mousiest became the most brazen. "O.K., get those legs in the air, stick your tongue out, think, blow job. Lets see more ass. Stick that butt out. Give me a pussy shot," our guratrix barked as the camera flashed. The young cellist who posed wearing little else except a leather cap, gripped a whip between her teeth and spread her legs for the camera. "For this shot, youll have to keep those legs together," Annie corrected. A dominatrix never shows her pussy lips!"
While we chattered away, each of us waiting our turn at make-up and the photo session, Annies neighbor, Karen, dropped in. A professional dominatrix, Karen had offered to provide some quick S&M pointers. Tall, striking, and red-haired, Karen appeared in jeans and a T-shirt, having just finished a session with some businessman whod paid her handsomely to humiliate him. "He only wanted me to pee on him," she revealed matter-of-factly. "So now, what would you ladies like to know?" Our little group seemed momentarily reticent, no one venturing a "whats-the-best-kind-of-whip" question.
But Karen was ready whether or not we were. "Look here, Ill show you the best way to tie up a dick." She pulled out a rope. "It involves the same hitches you use in macrame and in sailing," she said, demonstrating on someones arm. Suddenly the questions were fast and furious, "Howd you get into S&M? What kind of people do you like to do most? Do you consider what you do, healthy?" Karen smiled sweetly. "I felt ostrasized at a young age and I wanted personal power. Get on your knees, you bitch," she said, turning suddenly to one of our frillier sluts. "Just kidding. You see, I like being in control. The people I like doing most? Without a doubt, female office mangers."
"Whats the most popular fantasy?" someone ventured. Karens face grew positively sunny. "I call it the Patty Hearst fantasy. You tie up someone, lock em in a closet and then let a bunch of people in to have sex with em. As for whether or not S&Ms healthy, Id say, yes. Its all about fulfilling fantasies and going past a certain limit. Its particularly good for people who are in denial of their own sexuality."
While Karen was finishing up on her pain and ecstasy demo, another acquaintance of Annies appeared to give us yet another lesson -- this one in the art of stripping. Lily Baindrop, a.ka. Lily Burana, editor of Taste of Latex on the West Coast, just happened to be in town for a visit. She shed her wool sweater and pants in the backroom, and reappeared wearing a bra and panties the size Barbie might wear. With her white-blond hair and skin the color of creme fraiche, she might have been an Italian Renaissance Venus rising from the half-shell. The only difference with this Venus, who keeps in shape dancing at Mitchell Bros. in San Francisco, was the fact that her tongue was pierced with a gold jewelry.
"Stripping is nothing more than the trickle down theory of lingerie, she lectured. "Even if youre a rhythmless, middle-class kid. Rule number one: aways over-accessorize." Lily grabbed a plastic form-chair and bent over slowly, revealing a world-class ass bisected by dental floss-sized panties. She continued to lecture us: "And always give yourself a reason to bend over and show your butt. Before you slide into home base, maintain that eye contact! Touch yourself, involve your audience. And remember that one of the fringe benefits of being a stripper is that you can turn yourself on while you do it." She then added some advice about spanking: "Whatever you do, spank from the shoulder, keep that hand open and your wrist loose. Otherwise youll develop mistress elbow."
By the end of the evening, our faces had begun to melt: our lips looked more like Bozos and the fake moles were resembling large birthmarks. Wed all gone over each others Poloroids with a certain awe, amazed at how wed been captured in this other, unfamiliar incarnation. Annie, who had taken over 100 poloroids, looked relieved shed successfully launched some new sexual personae. She asked us what names wed give our new-found sexual selves. "Oui, Oui. La Bamba. Miss Clitty," some of us yelled out spontaneously.
Im proud of you," she said. "You make beautiful sluts."
Sunday provided a day of rest from boas and garter belts and we were now ready to embrace the more sacred part of female sexuality. This was the role that Annie said she preferred these days, particularly after a couple decades of being caught up in porn movies and sex-work. The goddess portion was all about invoking the names of female dieties -- Kali, Ishtar and Diana to name but a few -- and otherwise meditating on the good old days when the female principle was all powerful and the ideal body type was the Venus of Willendorfs. It was also a time before most organized religions had managed to reduce women to the status of goats.
Once again we trotted off for a costume change, this time involving yards of diaphanous fabrics, veils and beaded head-gear. This was clearly fairy-princess time and indeed, each one of us emerged looking rather resplendent, if not like extras from a Star Trek set. We chanted and meditated and danced and learned a few Tantric exercises which largely involved a lot of stroking and eye-ball gazing. By late afternoon we were handed our Annie Sprinkle Awards (look for the Union Labia) and prepared for our sensual food feast by stripping down to our underpants. Then, in Roman fashion, we reclined on the floor, feeding each other fruit dipped in whipped cream and chocolate. My last view before leaving was of Annie reclining on pillows, her billowing breasts smeared in chocolate, surrounded by three very attentive, giggling goddesses. These were the same three who two days before had seemed among the most nervous and uptight.
But the message had clearly penetrated others as well. The Hispanic woman who had wanted to shed her lifetime of Catholic guilt performed a symbolic strip-tease the night before.
The message had clearly penetrated others as well. The Hispanic woman who had wanted to shed her lifetime of Catholic guilt performed a symbolic strip-tease the night before. "It seems a little easier to show how I feel about sex, she later said. "Ive never gotten the message that its been O.K. for someone like me to do that. Ive never felt powerful -- in all my 48 years." Indeed, the notion of celebrating sexual power was at the heart of this workshop, and what better way to play wih the concept than to push boundaries in order to gain greater understanding of personal limits. I was perhaps most amazed at the physical transformations that occurred by the simple act of changing clothes. The mousy metamorphosed into the radiant; the quiescent into queens of pleasure. The act was simple but also courageous, especially for those who had approached this workshop to try and overcome emotional traumas. Rather than shy from sexual power, they opted to confront its varied manifestations; the beast, it turns out, can be harnessed for the ultimate joyride.
As for any personal revelations, I learned a couple of things. The first one is I that have a problem with towing the Earth Mother party line -- the "if-only-women-ran-the-world-it-would-be-a better-place" cliché. To that I say, "Oh, yeah? What about Margaret Thatcher? Doesnt the problem rest more with power and who it corrupts absolutely?"
The second revelation has to do with Tantric sex. The bad news is I dont think Im ready for it. Maybe its because it reminds me of phone sex which never quite lives up to its reach-out-and-touch promise. On the other hand, maybe its the time factor. Who wants to burn sage to clean the auric field and wilt the negative ions, or nose-breath to ignite the upper chakras, especially when theres a full moon and I hear the pharoahs moaning? I dont want to start out sharing a poem or looking my inamorato straight in the eye and saying, "I am the source of my own love."
I just want to do the yoni-lingum thing. Make like the beast with two backs. Visit the dark gods. Score a goal. Get laid.
Details on Sluts and Goddesses 2002
Where: Annie & Jwala&Mac226;s home in Marin.
Jwala, which means "love fire", has been teaching Tantra for 24 years. She is also a rebirther, masseuse, artist, bakti yogini.
Annie Sprinkle, which means "I like it wet", fancies herself a mermaid. She has been a porn star, author, internationally acclaimed artist, and recently earned her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality.