Posted by Sarah Sloane on Jul 19, 2010 in Guest Essays
Every sex educator I know has gotten the question “so, how did you get started doing this?” at least a hundred times. Unfortunately, our answers rarely seem to be the answers that people really want to hear. What they wish we could say is that there is a defined “career path” for sex ed folks; that we all went to college and got Bachelors degrees in Hot Sex Making, then got a Masters degree in Teaching Hot Sex Making. Alternatively, I think they’d like for all of us to have sprung, fully formed, from the heads of Kinsey, or Masters & Johnson. Unfortunately, there are very few universities that offer any degree in sex education or counseling, and often what makes us easy to relate to & learn from is the fact that we don’t use a lot of psychological or medical jargon.
So, in an effort to give readers a real feel for the kind of work that is in sex educators backgrounds, I sent an email out recently asking people what their first job was. Please…read ’em and weep (laughing, of course)!
Audacia Ray: “I was a horse-crazy kid (and a bunch of other sex educators were/are too – that’s another story entirely!), so all I wanted to do was be near horses. I spent all of my teens working on horse farms – first mucking stalls, feeding, doing barn chores (I even learned how to drive a tractor!), then I became an exercise rider and eventually trainer and riding instructor for kids. I even spent a few summers traveling and teaching horseback riding. The year after I moved to New York, I spent the summer in Manhattan, Kansas (aka The Little Apple).”
Barbara Carrellas: While Barbara started acting at age 14, she says she wasn’t always paid – so she defaults to babysitting as the first paid job. Of course, as smart and talented as she is, she quickly graduated to stage managing…and then, took over the world.
Jacq Jones: Jacq tells me that her first job – at 3 years of age! – was as a model…and she modeled until she was 12. Her first “grown up” job was waitressing – and then she moved on to the Executive Director & Lobbyist for Common Cause in MN.
Lee Harrington: “Though I held a burger king job for about 4 months, my first “real” job at the age of 16 was as a receptionist at the Wizards of the Coast Game Center in Seattle, WA. Wizards of the Coast are best known as the makers of “Magic: the Gathering,” the collectible card game that became affectionately and hatefully referred to as “Gamer Crack.” I was lovingly bombarded with a constant stream of Conan the Barbarian soundtrack music, while I would sit in my white shirt, black vest, black trousers, boots and slicked back hair underneath a 8ft tall Minotaur head. Giant beady eyes, they stare at me. Between calls and answering sweaty gamers questions about Robotech and Vampires, I would paint Warhammer miniatures for the store.
The Game Center was open 364/5 days a year… we were open new years eve, Christmas day, it was a tad crazy. But, on special event days where I was working head reception, I would wear 6″ silver stilleto heels under the desk. I will have to say this for me and my co-workers… some of us were a kinky lot. Warhammer measuring sticks made for mean canings, and one of my back alleyway blowjob partners and I are still causing trouble in the scene together 15 years after meeting through our gamer dorkiness.”
Midori: “My first pay for work was by a Japanese literary magazine for translation of an English nursery rhyme. My mother was a contributor and, if I remember correctly, the editor must have thought it would be delightful to have the well-known scholar’s bilingual daughter do a child’s translation of a piece meant for children. I was about 7 or 8 years old. The publisher paid me the same fee as an adult contributor and gave me a copy of the magazine. I have no idea what I spent the money on, but I know I was thrilled. To this day, when the publisher’s checks arrive, I’m thrilled – although the proportional work to pay ratio has changed considerably since then.”
Princess Kali: I don’t have a print quote from her, but she did disclose to me that her first job was at a McDonalds. I’m guessing that they didn’t let her wear her tiara, those jerks.
Reid Mihalko: “…my first true, file a W9 job was working at the Brown University cafeteria -the Ratty- to help pay for books and tuition. Then I worked for the Teamsters humping freight during the graveyard shift one summer, and, eventually, I began working security and barbacking at a local Rhode Island bar where I was finally given cultural license to talk about sex with strangers.”
Richard Wagner, PhD (aka Dr. Dick): “I was a Catholic Priest. Does that count as a first job?” (He’s serious, folks!)
Shanna Katz, M.Ed.: “My first job? I had two actually. A combo of working 15-20 hours a week in a theatrical costume and make-up shop named Disguises, and teaching Hebrew at Sunday School for my temple. Odd? Yes. The Disguises job I got because I was a total theatre nerd, and love love loved anything to do with it. Being able to work with costumes, teaching people how to apply Ben Nye and Mehron, playing around with fake blood (I went home feeling like Lady MacBeth more than once), trying on outfits and wearing them to staff events? It was fabulous. Making $6/hr and occasionally working 9+ hour shifts (oh so illegal, as I was 15 at the time) wasn’t always the greatest, but being able to get a 20% discount on products I wanted was pretty awesome. I worked there for almost a year until I graduate HS at 16 and headed to college.
On the other hand, Sunday School Hebrew was a hoot. I was too agnostic to teach the religious studies part, so they stuck me teaching Hebrew to the advanced 4th graders. Now, little kids love me, but I’m not so big on children, so going here on a weekly basis to teach a langauge I couldn’t speak fluently to 8 and 9 years olds was always interesting. Good thing I’m more patient than I thought I would be…and my advanced group wound up out reading any group of 4th graders in the history of the temple, and got bumped up to the 6th grade Hebrew reading group. It was a good way for me to be involved with my Jewish heritage without actually attending temple, which I wasn’t really into at the time. Like the Disguises job, I kept it until I was 16 and headed to college.”
Sarah Sloane (me!): “My first job was at a shop called “The Fudgery”, in Richmond, VA. We made fudge on big marble top tables, and had “Showtimes”, where we sang and made bad puns and poured & turned the fudge until it was solid. I was 16, working with a bunch of art school nerds & queer folk from VCU, getting a paycheck, and learning about The Big World. It was also my first lesson in public humiliation – there’s nothing like singing, at full volume, to total strangers, songs like “It’s a grand old fudge, it’s a high-flying fudge, and we want you to try some today…it’s the emblem of the work we love, the home of the weird and the crazed”.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Oct 22, 2008 in Guest Essays
My friend, Edward Dain, is one of those people that I love to listen to, and to read. I hang out at his home a few times a year with his family, we mutter on the phone about the trials and tribulations of life, and I send him adult movies from my collection to share with his partners…so I guess you could say that we’re friends. He’s also one of my more thoughtfully prolific FiendsList members on my ComatoseJournal, so I get to read his processing on occasion, and a while back, I asked him to expand on one of his posts. He graciously agreed to do so, and he sent it to me a few days back. I wanted to share it with you all, so this week, he is going to challenge your brains, instead of me. I’m putting his bio & contact info below the essay, so if you’d like to contact him and carry forward the discussion, please feel free to do so!
What Is Leather Worth
Without falling prey to some sort of fannish worship of that which never was, I do find some of the values of “Old Guard Leather” (as a variety of people describe them) to be important on a personal and a community level – and congruent with the values held by the people who had a strong impression on me when I was first entering the Scene. These values continue to be equally, if not more, important to me now as well. Some people might say that this makes me an elitist. I say that it takes more than words or a membership card to be part of the tribe.
And before anyone thinks that I am in any way or sense claiming to be “Old Guard Leather”, let me give them a virtual slap upside the head. I would likely give an Old Guard Leatherman hives – I am so far afield from that community (or even the not-so-New Leather either) that it is rather amazing that I even identify as a Leatherman. But that’s also a function of time and space. There is no Old Guard now. The few that survived passed through a hell of blood and tears and were irrevocably changed as a result.
It is a different world now, the community that defined them is gone, and I was never part of it.
For those of you who want to follow along at home, I would suggest reading Guy Baldwin’s essay, “Old Guard”: It’s Origins, Traditions, Mystique and Rules“, his presentation at the 6th Leather Leadership Conference, and Joseph W. Bean’s essay “Old Guard? If You Say So”. Those are decent enough places to start.
These values are what speak to me-
Clothing: Leather was the marker, but you had to earn it. Collars, Covers, Flagging, it all has its roots here. Oh – and don’t scare the old ladies.
Do you know why I don’t wear more Leather? Because unless I’m riding, I haven’t freaking earned it yet. Boots and belt are the basics, and I skate by with the jacket and gloves because I ride and do rough body play. My slave Keris has been in my service for over almost two years now and has one piece of Leather other than her chain – though truth to be told, she deserves another piece at this point. I’ve just been looking for the right one.
And if you can’t wear it where you work, it has no place on the street. If you have a question, then change when you get to where you’re going.
Chain? Yes, you read that right. Not all Leather is made of dead animals. Instead of a collar, she wears a custom-made chain around her waist. Much easier to explain, hide, or otherwise pass off in a vanilla setting – instead she gets complimented on her “industrial jewelry.”
And I still flag the way I learned 20+ years ago. It’s hard-coded into my kink – but that is a whole different story.
Manners & Protocol: Bottoms defer to Tops, but “time in grade” is worth more than titles, offices, and leather worn. You give your respect to your elders because they’re your elders “unless and until” they prove that they don’t deserve it. Be polite. If you aren’t then you’re not worthy of respect yourself (even if that other guy was an asshole). The titles that matter don’t come with a sash. Keep your hands to yourself unless given permission otherwise. Don’t be stupid and overindulge in substances, and don’t give the community a bad name for that or any other reason.
Yeah, this sort of thing struck home is a humorous manner when a mutual friend put some tooth-marks on Keris without asking permission soon after she started wearing my chain and my blood-pressure went through the roof. I laughed at myself as I watched the reaction, but it was still there.
And it would be there again if it happened again.
Values and Characteristics: Honesty. Reliability. Honor. Integrity. Generosity of time and spirit. Trustworthiness. Responsibility. Respectful for self and others. Being of sound mind. “A life that worked” aka “Financial Stability”. “Genuine and Personal” “Sense of humor”. Camaraderie. “A sense of appropriateness and good manners.” Wanting to do more than just watch.
Another piece that many people don’t seem to get is the notion that your behavior reflects on those people around you. If Keris acts poorly in public, it’s a poor reflection on me, on our Household, on my Leather Family, and on the Scene. Same thing for me. Same thing for Phoenix, my spouse. We’re part of an organic, dynamic network of Leatherfolk – in a way that many, perhaps most, people in the Pansexual Community just don’t relate to.
What you say and what you do is who you are.
It is just that simple.
Your place in the Leather Community is only as strong as the Leather Family you have. They are the ones who decide if you belong, not you.
It’s more than going to the local Eagle and owning a full set of leathers, a flogger and some nipple clamps.
Leather doesn’t end at the door to the dungeon. If you can take it off at the door to the dungeon, then it’s just a sexy costume – and that’s not Leather.
All of this created and creates a culture of exclusivity instead of the false inclusivity of much of the modern Scene. In theory, and often in practice, there was little or no place for the Five Geek Social Fallacies – because it was dangerous to let the wrong people in. You couldn’t be a member of the in-group until you proved that you were worthy of membership by displaying these characteristics. It also required hunting out the right places and the right people – something that wasn’t anywhere near as easy as it is now.
Similarly, attitude and experience trumps technique. As Gayle Rubin puts it, “Paint By Numbers BDSM” isn’t Leathersex – and that certainly isn’t what I learned I learned and it isn’t what I practice. For those of you who might be wondering, I had never read through or owned a “how-to” book on BDSM or Leathersex until I started graduate school. Aside from a handful of passages from The Leatherman’s Handbook that I had read over the years, all my learning came from three places – doing, being done, and reading porn (I read The Story of O and the Kama Sutra when I was around 10 or 11, I bought a copy of a Marquis de Sade reader when I was 16). Oh, that’s right – I also had the entries, such as they were, on kink from The Joy of Sex and More Joy of Sex. They were certainly informative… not! There was also a big book titled Erotic Art of the East – lots of nice shunga in there as I tend to recall.
Technique is the most easily learned and the least important part of Leather and BDSM. You can teach a monkey technique. You can memorize safety acronyms until you can recite them in your sleep. Attitude is part of an intrinsic learning process not any sort of extrinsic validation of skill.
Sweat. Blood. Tears. Cum. Screams. Moans. Laughter. Growls.
This is where you learn attitude.
Not in a book.
Not taking a class.
Not watching somebody else.
By having your life in someone else’s hands.
That’s what Leather’s worth.
The life of your partner.
The lives of your Leather family.
Copyright 2008 by Edward Dain
“Edward Dain” is the long standing pseudonym for a “squicky, neoshamanistic, Ordeal Path, Leatherman.” Also known to describe himself as “so Queer I can curdle milk”, he’s been actively and knowingly kinky long enough to be embarrassed when people ask him when he started – given his tender age of 39. Currently holding a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, he just defended his doctoral dissertation, an interdisciplinary clinical guide to BDSM for mental health counselor. You can reach him at edain (at) squirrelsnest (dot) org.