column from author/activist
Carol Queen

The Royal Treatment

Ah, Madison!

What a lovely town, especially on the cusp of spring. And what do the frisky students at the University of Wisconsin do when spring has sprung? Why, like students all around the country they celebrate Sexual Health Week. This is apparently the main way sex-positive campus organizations can tap their schools&Mac226; event budgets and invite the likes of me to show up to speak. Around this time of year I’m almost always on the road to some university or other, preparing to entertain and enlighten and always with the understanding that I’ll tack my topic to the larger issue of sexual health.

Well, that’s not hard to do. It’s hard to talk about sex, any kind of sex, without addressing sexual health as part of the big picture. In the first place, there’s HIV and other sexually transmitted conditions to remind people about, especially young people in these benighted days of abstinence-only "sex" education, the finer points of staying safe are usually omitted entirely. Then there’s the small matter of sex ed for everyone else: as I’ve ranted here before, almost no one in this country gets really, really good sex education unless they go out of their way for it, enrolling in a strong university program or finding an expert and becoming a sex apprentice. It’s not like you get all you need from cable TV and magazines -- though a little more good information is getting out via these channels than used to be the case. And without sex ed, people usually manage about a fraction of the sexual pleasure and comfort they could attain otherwise -- also a sexual health issue.

So the youth of America, bless ‘em, are doin’ it for themselves: at Berkeley, at Columbia, all over the place. And at Madison, too as a warm, gentle spring sun beat down on the UW quad, every sex-related student organization came out and set up Sexual Health Day tables. I had addressed a good-sized crowd the night before. Apparently earlier in the week some student group had set up a porn night. The quad was abuzz with people checking out the tables; one group, Sex Out Loud, had set up sex-positive carny games. Now, that was some fun! Pitch the beanbag into the vagina; toss the cock ring over the dick-shaped thingy that was made of PVC piping from the hardware store. Find the condom taped to the bottom of the tubful of identical rubber ducks! And they had a special t-shirt sported by everyone in the group: it had a picture of a rubber duckie vibrator, all dolled up with a spiked leather cock ring. Very cute, and pretty danged postmodern. You could win one, if you were really good at the carny games.

As students came rushing up to try their hand at the games, parents swarming the campus for Visitors&Mac226; Day did double takes every time they passed by. I saw a dad or two look longingly at the ring toss.

Robert and I chatted with the students and with their justifiably proud advisor, who sat in the midst of the bustle and beamed. On one side there was a condom-decorating booth; while it’s true that a decorated condom might lose its prophylactic effectiveness (you just can’t glue glitter on them and then expect to use them), decorating them certainly helps you lose your fear of the things. And there was a "color a pussy" table too; if you didn’t pay enough attention when coloring the clit, the young woman at the table pointed out that you might want to give that part some extra attention. Very educational!
And then there was WHAM: Women Happily Advocating Masturbation. Yes, it’s a student group! What a fine thing. They were gearing up for their very own Masturbate-A-Thon, which was to happen the next weekend. Unlike many other Masturbate-A-Thons, this was a fundraiser for their own group, which apparently is tolerated at UW but not funded by the university.

One of those inflatable jumpy-tents was set up on the quad too, and at first I thought it was a Tent of Consent, a Sexual Health Day extra which I’d heard about at Columbia when speaking there the year before. Apparently when they set up the Tent of Consent at state schools, controversy ensues, because it&Mac226;s a space where students (or other passersby) can go in and negotiate, and then perform, sexy acts. The catch is, you can’t just go in and start making out; you have to talk about it first, and agree upon your next move. Sort of like the notorious Antioch Rules, which everyone made such fun of a few years back -- but in a tent right there on the quad. The exhibitionism possibilities seem very good, and anything that makes conservative state legislators squeak is good by me, too. That’s apparently what went down when they tried it somewhere in Pennsylvania.

But this wasn’t the Tent of Consent -- it was an actual jumpy-tent, there so the super-frisky students could leap around and burn off some of that wild spring energy. The lake, very close by, had been frozen over all winter; spring has sprung in Madison, and I’ve never seen such a lovely group of happy-to-be-in-their-tank-tops people.

We were in Madison from Thursday to Wednesday, and by the time we left the trees had leafed out green. Spring hit like a very welcome truck! And I had a gig doing my solo performance, Peep Show, in an old lakeside synagogue. Lake breezes wafted through the beautiful old building as I turned it into the Lusty Lady theatre -- amazingly, this was the second time, not the first, that I’d done Peep Show in a house of worship. Of course, given that my tenure at the LL, back in 1990, had reminded me of working in a secret confessional booth, perhaps this makes complete sense.

I refer to the Ten Commandments in the show, and I must say that this was the first time I’d performed with them posted right over my head. They were written in Hebrew, though, so I couldn’t use them as a cheat sheet. I don't know about you, but I find a couple of them consistently hard to remember.

Our own Jack and Marianna were present for one show, up on the balcony with the videocam; it was fun to play to them, hovering up there like angels. Like god themself! (Fun fact -- a couple of breakaway religious movements in the nineteenth century conceived of god as simultaneously male and female. Ah, but I digress.)

This performance wasn’t connected up with UW; instead, the lovely Ellen and Myrtle, who run a fantastic erotica shop in Madison, were my sponsors. I work at Good Vibrations, of course, and it’s always fun to visit our sister stores. I like them all, but I’m especially fond of A Woman’s Touch, their shop -- maybe because Madison really isn’t a big urban environment, it always seems really homey, its customers especially grateful to have them in the community.

Yee-Haw! Bubba Pagans!

We hit Minneapolis and Chicago on that trip too, and the weekend before, we’d been outside of Austin, Texas, in a place about as different from a Midwest college quad as I can imagine. This was a visit to preach the sex-positive gospel at a big Texas pagan festival. Gigi, our host, wanted us to shake up the pagans a little by talking about sex and then by having some. In other words, Gigi wanted to throw a pagan sex party under the stars.

Texas pagans are, as you might guess, a little mellower than many other Texans, and certainly more live-and-let-live. Still, they were an amazing mix of familiar and, well, Texan. There were way more Old Glory tattoos on biceps than you’d expect to see at a pagan camp hereabouts, but Gigi just said, "Oh, yeah, those’re our Bubba Pagans." Yep! They’re Texan as barbecue, but they prefer to worship out in the greenwood, hoisting a bottle of mead. I’m not kidding! The mead stand was just down the road, and the Bubba Pagans rode around the land in an old pickup truck with a longhorn steer rack on the front.

Those Texas pagans sure do like to revel. They built a huge bonfire every night. Also, they had booked all the pagan rock bands they could, and I’m here to tell you that the Bay Area does not corner the market on three-quarters-nekkid fire dancers. The bonfire would get lit and the assembled revelers would "yeeeee-haw" like crazy.

We were supposed to run a sex party in the midst of this? Did I mention it was a family gathering too, with children running all around? (The jailbait kids were supposed to wear red glow-in-the-dark necklaces to warn away the grown-ups.) We had a fenced-in, tarped area full of twinkly candles, and at first we were afraid the revel would upstage our sex party, but soon the braver ones came creeping up the forest trail to our encampment. We had mead-swillers there soon enough, but the first group made a circle, we did a sweet little ritual in which each person present stated what she hoped to experience during the party, and as soon as we broke up someone yelled "Puppy pile!" -- and the party was on.

I know George Bush lives around Austin somewhere, and all I could do was hope that he was home that weekend and could feel the disturbance in the usual Texas atmosphere. We must have shaken something loose, 'cause they didn’t stop until dawn. Those Texas pagans sure do like to revel!

Masturbate-A-Thon Postscript

While the happily masturbating women of WHAM and the Good Vibes Masturbate-A-Thon have yet to report total income, the first A-Thon of the month was a stellar success -- and you can still contribute! On May 2nd the live Masturbate-A-Thon, hosted by the Center for Sex & Culture and attended by about 75 people, raised over $1200.00. I emceed the event along with femme diva and alterna-pornographer Shar Rednour, and a good time was had by all -- we webcast it on our new site,, and received visits by San Francisco's hip Alice Radio and Reuters. This resulted in mentions on Howard Stern, Saturday Night Live, and Rush Limbaugh: the latter got all his facts wrong, a real testament to his journalistic prowess, the fact that mentions of masturbation get him all worked up, or both. He seemed pretty freaked out, in fact. We figured we must be doing something right.

I stopped Howard Cosell-ing the proceedings to masturbate for a while -- so you can still participate in sponsoring me, if you like! If you want to donate to the Center on my behalf, send checks to CSC, 2215-R Market St. #455, SF CA 94114. I lasted about an hour, I think. Or better yet, pledge me for the last live Masturbate-A-Thon of the month! It’s taking place in Portland, Oregon on May 31st, and you can find out all about it by checking out Come for a cause, or support me in doing so. The CSC is a non-profit. Hey, you won’t have more fun writing a deductible check this year -- or any year!