Carol Queen’s Guilty Pleasures

This interview with Carol was published as part of a larger article by Kaye Cloutman, “Discovering Mommy’s ‘Other’ Little Helper,” in the SAN FRANCISCO | SACRAMENTO BOOK REVIEWs. It appears here with Kaye’s kind permission. Full article, about her visit to a Good Vibrations’ “Mommys’ Playdate,” here.

Kaye writes a weekly column called Book it!  You can contact Kaye at kaye.cloutman@1776productions.com.

I also had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Carol Queen, sexual guru-extraordinaire who gave the mommies an educational tour of the land of bullets, latex and creams. She sat down with me to share her take on this whole “sensuality issue. Read my interview with her below.

Why did you choose to become a Sexologist for Good Vibrations of all things?

I really fell into (or perhaps developed into) this role at Good Vibrations. I had set out to be trained as a sexologist so I could specialize in HIV/AIDS issues “ only to find that everyone, not just people with HIV, needed safer sex info and sex education. Meanwhile, I’d been recruited in 1990 to work at GV by then-owner/founder Joani Blank. I got my degree in 1998, was already working in PR and education here (I developed the educational department in the early-to-mid-’90s), so I got a new title and I stayed on. I was the first Ph.D. sexologist, to my knowledge, to have this kind of role at a sex toy company.

Is it really necessary to have toys, props, etc. to achieve a better orgasm?

For most people: No. It is necessary to know enough about your own (and/or your partner’s) body to be truly comfortable, to become fully aroused, to feel safe enough to let go. The function of toys is to add on to that experience and, for some, to help them explore enough to learn their own preferences and responses. Some research, though, has shown that women using vibrators can get to orgasm more easily than without, so vibes are a very helpful tool and toy for those exploring sexual response. Plus they’re fun and stimulate a particular kind of nerve ending that isn’t stimulated by other kinds of sensation!

What are your guilty pleasures?

I’m not guilty about much of anything, fortunately, but I’ll tell you what I love to sneak away and do when I can: cruise estate sales, dine in restaurants where I can eat delicious food, and make collages. Plus I visited Orvieto, Italy last summer, so now I’m trying to figure out if I can clone myself so I can go live there without leaving here. I suppose my guiltiest pleasure is really traveling.

Where do you draw the line between sexy and slutty?

Well, we’re all so different as regards the best lifestyle for maximizing the sex and relationship balance in our lives. Some women are 100% monogamous and others are happier when they’re single with a couple of “special friends (with benefits, of course). Some seem very reserved but can really let loose erotically if they’re in private with someone they trust, and some seem wild and crazy but may not be having partner sex at all (Lady Gaga appears to be one of these, or going through that phase!). I think the real answer to this is control: Does a woman have control over how she behaves and represents herself? Is she doing what she really wants to do? Or is she uncomfortable enough about sex and her attractiveness that she gets wound up by having too many drinks, and goes over a line she would not otherwise cross? A really sexually empowered woman is often called a slut by at least some people in US culture, but we fail to see that you can also be very empowered behind closed doors, and that not everyone who seems really slutty in fact is, or wants to be.

What are your best tips for moms who want to bring ˜sexy’ back into their marriage?

Get a sitter and get out of the house! Seriously, there’s a wonderful book called The Great Sex Weekend that gives partners who’ve gotten too focused and stressed with other things, like work and parenting, not only permission but instructions on how to get away and revitalize. Here’s the tip I really like: At first, don’t even think about having intercourse. Reconnect with each other, and remember what it’s like to be with this person on an intimate level. Wait ˜til the next day to get to intercourse, if that’s your goal, and meanwhile, explore each other sensually. I love this because some young moms have really lost touch with what they themselves respond to, partly through tiredness and ˜busy-ness,’ but also because the hormonal changes of pregnancy and childbirth can actually change things! Each mom must learn her body again, and her partner has to learn her anew, as well. The other huge thing: Body image! Dress erotically, accentuate what you feel good about, and tell your partner you need some positive feedback. I write about this sort of thing in my book Exhibitionism for the Shy.

If you weren’t a sexologist, what would you be?

Well, I’m a writer also, and I feel sure I’d be some kind of a writer if I didn’t write about sex. I nearly became a college sociology professor. I probably am one in some alternate universe somewhere. And before all this, I wanted to be an architect specializing in historic preservation!

What do you love most about your job?

Being able to make sexual pleasure, relationship connection, and personal comfort (as in freedom from shame, etc.) more accessible to people. What a wonderful thing to be able to do! I’m really blessed to have found this work.

Dr. Carol Queen’s Book Recommendation:

I’m going to say Caught Looking, which was a book of very smart, politicized essays about porn published in the 1980s “ illustrated with antique porn images! I love old things and this book is really special to me. If I was recommending a sexually empowering book today, besides my own Exhibitionism for the Shy (which is sort of my opus on this topic, at least to date), I would say I Love Female Orgasm “ this is the third interview today in which it’s come up, so I really do love it, and except for men who only want to have sex with each other, it’s completely worthwhile for everyone!

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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