Sex Summit Interview Series: Maggie Mayhem

Are you getting as excited for the Sex Summit as we are? It’s going to be a fantastic day of amazing speakers and fun conversation. But if you can’t wait for October 27, here’s a little preview of the fabulous Maggie Mayhem.

1) There are many different ways that sex is regulated or limited, whether through legal limits, religious guidelines, or social rules. While some of them are easier to see, others are more subtle. What are some that are more difficult to recognize that you’ve seen?

I think that the barriers we have on nutrition, education, healthcare, and living wages are very effective ways to impose restrictions on sex. This is why sexual freedom isn’t the cherry on top of human rights, it is a human right. The first sex education workshops on pleasure and communication that I ever hosted where within homeless shelter walls where at least 80% of my audience reported a history of sexual abuse as children. I think we forget how destructive poverty is. We treat the bodies of the impoverished in our country as problems for the rich to deal with rather than a cycle that human beings are being trapped in. Sexual freedom and social justice are not mutually exclusive.

Poverty is an incredibly effective way to regulate sex and it comes from all angles. If one or more parents is working 2-3 jobs on their feet, they aren’t getting a chance to relax and honor their own sexuality let alone spend vital time with their children developing bonds, answering questions, and above all protecting them from abusers in and outside of the home. The kind of food we have access to eating and the healthcare we can afford all have massive impacts on sexuality. Growing up where there is systemic violence makes it hard for the body to produce the hormones that make sex pleasurable. It’s not just a matter of sex education being offered, a lot of times it’s whether or not any education is being offered. Without literacy and critical thinking, there’s only so far that sex education can go because our youth need tools to even cultivate the questions they should be asking of themselves and their partners.

2) For all of the talk in US society about sex, why do we still hold onto these restrictions? What can we do about that?

I heard a great phrase that said, “Tradition without purpose is just a bad habit.” Simply doing things because that’s how they were done in the past doesn’t allow us to make decisions for our lives with the best information available. I’m an idealist and I do believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge and the tools available to them. When we don’t have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information about sex, we aren’t making the most informed decisions for ourselves or our families. On top of that, many of our emotional resources are equally under siege. A culture of bullying and violence can lead to a deficit of esteem and that makes it hard for us to see that we are deserving of pleasure and boundaries.

There is no single trick or magic wand. One phrase I learned from the Occupy movement is “diversity of tactics.” We need to have a diversity of sex positive tactics and we need to support people who approach sex positivity from different perspectives. We need people who are lobbying against unjust laws, we need people to teach age appropriate sex education to our children and youth, we need sex education for adults, we need STI experts to help us understand our bodies and mitigate risks to our health, we need people who create safe spaces for sexual expression, and we need people who create erotic art that opens our minds to how limitless sexuality can be. I don’t know if I’m part of a sex positive community, per se, but I do think I’m a part of a team. I want to continue building respect for people who play different positions because every single one is needed and more spots are opening up everyday.

3) If some of these rules were applied to other facets of our lives (food, money, work, etc.), they would seem ridiculous. Why do you think we view sex differently?

One of the problems with hierarchical societies is our tendency to consider pleasure a privilege. I believe that pleasure is a fundamental human right because we can look at a growing body of physical and psychological evidence that demonstrates all the ways we as humans wither without it. When you think of pleasure broadly, you can see that many of the same ridiculous rules do apply because we believe that pleasure is a privilege. So far as sex goes, nothing and no one has ever gotten in the way of the 1% pursuing sexual or chemical pleasure even to the direct expense of others. Although there are contextual differences, I think we apply similar views on what humans “deserve” in others areas.

When it comes to healthcare we consider something like preventative care (to help an individual thrive) to be in the realm of the more wealthy and emergency (survival) care to be a generous gift for the less wealthy. In general, we have a perspective of the world where fresh and nutritious food is for some and high fructose corn syrup and processed fats are for others. In the world of education, some students will have safe and supportive learning environments and others will have classrooms that can’t afford books and educators who turn their heads when violence occurs. I don’t think sex is treated differently so much as I think it’s a hot button issue. It’s one big package.

It’s going to be hard to have a healthy and pleasurable sex life if you’ve been denied every other tool that you’ll need to obtain it and it’s ridiculous that we think we’re doing people a favor by merely allowing them to survive instead of providing resources that allow everyone to thrive. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that places where there is universal healthcare, educational support, time for parental bonding with children, and other social services will also often have fewer of the stringent taboos around sex we see in the Unites States. Sex is like the canary for detecting social toxins that prohibit us from achieving the visions we have for our own lives.

4) What are you looking forward to most about the Sex Summit? What’s one thing you’d like to see come out of the event?

I cherish every opportunity that makes my world feel simultaneously bigger and smaller. Whenever someone throws a perspective on sex that is totally alien to me, my world feels bigger because there’s information out there that was so far beyond my consciousness that I would never have considered it without having encountered someone new who spoke up and reminded me not to confuse my experience with an objective reality of the world. At the same time, I feel like my world gets so much smaller because I’m connected to someone else looking and thinking about the same issues as me and I’ve gained a new peer.

5) Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? How can people find out more about you?

I’m always up to something and my blog is a great place to find out where I’ll be speaking or performing. You can also find me on twitter or on the indie queer porn site I run with my partner.

Are you coming to the Sex Summit? We’re hosting a one-day conference, full of amazing speakers, fascinating panel discussions, and more! Plus, your ticket gets you a seat at the Quickies, our erotic short film competition on October 26 at the Castro Theater, and the post-Summit cocktail party. Get your ticket before they sell out!

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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