Sex Still Spoken Here, the Erotic Reading Circle, & GV History

tumblr_inline_n8b1uyPqOI1qjpzcgThe very first interaction I ever had with Good Vibrations was the Erotic Reading Circle. I think it was about 1985, and I’d just arrived in the Bay Area from Eugene, where I went to college. I hadn’t written any erotica yet, unless you count a few poems, spicy love letters, and journal entries, but I was very interested in erotic literature, probably because that was the one place I’d found so far where sexual ideas and possibilities weren’t talked to death or the cause of a big ol’ feminist fight. Those were the years of the “sex wars,” and everybody and her dog* had popped up to judge each others’ desires. It was not, on the one hand, feminism’s finest hour. But on the other hand, it got us talking about sex and sexuality, much as idiotic Republican guys this year have caused many of us to remember the stakes involved in the control of women’s sexuality and reproductive choices.

*Strictly platonic!

In the 1980s and through the ‘90s, the Erotic Reading Circle lived at Good Vibrations, where it had been developed in the early ‘80s as a space to nurture erotic writers and as one of the many events GV held in-store to bring otherwise nervous people in. The educational and arts events that were created (Good Vibrations’ first After Hours programming, which continues to this day) were a good reason to invite the public to visit Good Vibes, and they helped shape GV’s reputation as a community space. And while the Erotic Reading Circle was surely not the very first context in San Francisco to include or encourage erotic writing—sexual culture was pretty vibrant back then, and in particular women writers and artists were having their say—the Circle was in a way a predecessor to GV’s first publications: the Herotica series whose first volume, edited by Susie Bright and Joani Blank, launched in 1988.

In the 1990s I inherited the ERC, which I facilitated for several years with my colleague Jack Davis. One night we were treated to an amazing story about a man, a woman, and a cigar—and I just want to state for the record that this happened before that situation with the president and his intern. It was such a well-written, breathtakingly creative story, I’m sure I said to Jack that very night, as we were putting chairs away, “We’ve gotta do a book!” In 1997 we released Sex Spoken Here (title contributed by Lawrence Schimel, with whom I’d edited Switch Hitters and PoMoSexuals).

Finally the ERC went on hiatus. Attendance dropped off, and there were many other sexy, cultural things to do in San Francisco. But in the mid-200s, it revived, thanks to a new (and may I just say, thrillingly talented) erotic writer in town, Jennifer Cross. She had already begun teaching writing classes—some for people who were recovering from abuse, some erotic writing classes, and more (today she does this regularly through her project Writing Ourselves Whole). But she loved the sound of the Erotic Reading Circle, and asked if we could revive it at the Center for Sex & Culture.

Good Vibrations gave its blessing for the Circle to move to CSC. And there we’ve been ever since, almost every 4th Wednesday of every year since 2006, where a new crop of writers (and occasionally one of our old friends who was a denizen of the GV Circle years) meets regularly to read everything from novels- or memoirs-in-progress to stories to journal entries, blog posts, essays, poems, and—as I like to remind people is just as valuable as all these––some initial sexy ideas scrawled on a cocktail napkin.

And now it’s time to publish another book! The Center for Sex & Culture has just a few days left ion its Indiegogo campaign for Sex Still Spoken Here––the second book to come into the world via the creative and diverse microcosm that is the Erotic Reading Circle. Amy Butcher has joined Jen and me to put this fantastic collection together—Amy is a veteran of self-publishing, so she knows how to make it all happen. If you’d like to contribute, here’s the link: Donations of more than $20 will get you a copy of the book, and there are many other fine perks! Plus the amount of your contribution over the value of your perks is a deductible donation, as CSC is a nonprofit. If you want your money to stretch, we’re about to announce a Matching Funds Challenge. The campaign ends on August 1—just a few days away! Or pass it on to your friends who love good erotic writing––and when you’re in San Francisco, come join us (to read and/or listen, and to give supportive feedback) at the Erotic Reading Circle.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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