We return to The Pleasure Activist's Nine Questions: The Sexuality Edition! This week, I got a chance to interview writer, certified sexologist, and Tucson resident Kati Standefer!
As a sexologist, Standefer has provided sexuality education to more than 7,600 people in schools, conferences, and halfway houses. She is also a widely published author, and her recent essay "Animalis: References for a Body, one winter,» details her experience learning to have casual sex one winter while working as a sex educator, and is forthcoming in January 2016 from Fourth Genre. (For her complete bio, check out www.KatiStandefer.com)
For those of you who are aspiring or seasoned writers looking to explore erotic scenes or sexuality in your works, you may be interested in Standefer's six week nonfiction writing workshop: Penning the Nasty (the tender, the sweet): An Exploration into Writing Sexuality. The first class starts this Monday, April 13th at Casa Libre en la Solana! Register here: http://www.casalibre.org/programs/spring15/Standefer/workshop.html
In addition to her writing course, Standefer will also be teaching a free Adult Sex Ed workshop at Jellywink on Sunday, May 24th from 6:30-8pm. It's sex ed with more depth and more games than your traditional high school variety. As usual, any workshop held at Jellywink is 18 and up.
1) At what age did you become aware of your sexuality? And what were your first sexual interactions like?
Kati: I've been aware of my sexuality for as long as I could remember, pressing stuffed animals and pillows between my legs as a kid. I got in trouble in kindergarten for trying to touch a boy›s penis at rug time, and I did my fair share of playing doctor. I cybered online in middle school and found my way to porn early.
As a result of religion and the culture at large, though, I thought my goodness was tied to saying no to all things sexual. I "failed" in private, and in public loudly lambasted others who chose to be sexually active in high school (and even college, to some extent), though I craved it myself intensely. There were a few men I felt strongly for, but I didn't know how to say yes in the small ways that would lead us toward intimacy. It wasn't until I was raped at age 22 that I had my first kiss, and in the months after that I kept distance from men as best as I could, now for new reasons. I'd bought into the idea I was a gift to be given—and I didn't know what was left to give in my new, fairly shattered state.
I finally got together with my first boyfriend at age 23, when I was living in an open-air shack behind the bed and breakfast where I worked, in Jackson, Wyoming. The "tent cabin," as we called it, was half-built, with no door or windows in their frames, and the night we got together, my first boyfriend was curious to see this weird place I lived. We lit candles along the frame of the cabin. I took him into the forest to see geraniums, a wildflower we'd been talking about, by flashlight—and when we stood up beneath lightning-licked trees, he began to kiss me. It was earnest, sweet. Later, in the cabin, when I pulled my dress above my head by that candlelight, he tried to stop me. "Please don't let this be awkward in the morning," he said. "Please don't let this be just a one-night stand." We wound up together in that narrow green cot anyway (it was a two-year stand), but I've always been so grateful for the safety he offered me. I knew what to do with my hands from porn, but I didn't know how to communicate about it.
2) If we were to go through your "bedside drawer" right now, what would we find?
Kati: Unscented antibacterial toy cleaner; Sir Richard›s plaid «vegan» condoms; Trojan yellows that a particular partner likes; BabeLube purchased with a partner in Seattle last spring; an unimpressive (in size, in stature, in performance) and rather old purple rubber vibrating dildo thing (when you›re cheap, you keep what you've got); a barely-used vibrating black butt plug; and as a cover on all this, a stack of old T-shirts with their necks cut out.
3) What was the funniest partnered or solo sexual experience you've had?
Kati: Funny to experience, or funny to tell others about? There was that time the ancient, rickety futon broke when a boyfriend and I were kissing and rolled too much weight onto one portion of the bed ... and my knee plunged into his crotch. A roommate's new girlfriend, rustling in the kitchen for food, thought people were being murdered and almost called the cops. I can guarantee my boyfriend at the time did not find this funny.
4) What do you find irritating or just doesn't do it for you? (Sexually speaking, of course)
Kati: Cologne. Hair gel. Too much toothpaste taste (I've never been much for mint). Women, unfortunately; though I›m sure a few rare ones could get through the filter, my porn is two-dick. And the biggest buzzkill of all is failing to get consent before introducing a new activity.
Ally: Yeah, lack of consent for new activities, at the very best is presumptuous in a very unattractive way. Cologne seems so amateurish to me. Maybe I haven’t smelled the really good stuff, though?
Kati: Even outside sex, I prefer naturally occurring smells—no air fresheners or anything. So I love men who smell like... active male body. Salt, sweat, maybe a sage or dirt smell from being outside. One partner of mine burns palo santo woodchips in his home, and I love how it makes him smell. Of course, there's a thin line between sweat and funk!
5) What famous, mythical, or historical character would you jump at the chance of having sex with?
Kati: Ed Abbey. I don't know, maybe if we stood face to face I'd find him a dirty old man, a misogynist, as people say, as his writing sometimes suggests. But there's something about his mystique, his love of the desert and fires and walking and wildness. His dimples, beard. His words are beautiful. Somehow he got young women in the sack with him until the end. I want to know what that was all about.
Ally: I haven’t read any of his works, but I’m inspired to now! And yeah, he is a cutey.
6) Moaner, screamer, crier, silent shaker, grunter, or something else?
Kati: God, all of them. My body is like an Appetizer Sampler Platter. Although the overall trend is louder, with more cussing, then a period of silent shaking, and, if we're lucky, the ear-shattering re-emergence of voice.
I like to keep my windows open.
Ally: I think I’ve shared walls with people like you! ;)
7) Name one thing that is still on your sexual bucket list.
Kati: The elusive MMF. I don't meet many men willing to get naked with other men around, at least who want to be with me, too. But that would be amaaaaazing.
Ally: [A note for those of you not familiar with the Craigslist “casual encounters” type abbreviations: MMF = two men and one female.] I think I may know a couple willing guys, Kati.
Kati: Do they wear cologne? Ha.
8) While you have this platform, what do you see as the sexual state of the union?
Kati: I find it terrifically fear-driven and generally nonsensical. I hope we can begin to march towards embracing our sexuality as it is, and not as it's "supposed" to be, according to the narrative society offers us —which is basically that sex is good only if it's "redeemed" by falling into categories of acceptability: heterosexual, one-on-one, married, monogamous, cisgender, for reproductive aims, missionary, able-bodied, youthful, conventionally "attractive."
We are bodies. A body that continually sneezes might have a cold or allergy; a body that continuously passes out might have an arrhythmia. There are reasons we have arms, eyes, knees, desire, and all of them are myriad. If we find almost all bodies drawn into sex (some people are asexual, of course), if we continually find ourselves drawn to porn, excited by sexting, cheating in our monogamous relationships — it's time to ask ourselves what these things say about human sexuality and the human body. Individual moral failures are possible, sure. But as a society, we've got to stop crucifying people for what sexual activity they're engaging in with whom, and instead to support each other in considering why and how we're sexual. Is it consensual? Does the partner enhance a person's well-being? Is it pleasurable? Sex can be problematic, sure, but not for the reasons we're focusing on. I look forward to an era in which we're not surprised when a politician sexts, because we're franker about being sexual beings. I look forward to an era when sex ed curriculums spend more time on crushes, on attraction, on sexual decision making, and in which young people have trusted adults they can talk to about sexuality who will not shame them. I recommend everyone read the book Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Calcida Jetha.
Ally: Yes, yes, and yes.
9) Figurative gun to your head, if you could only keep one sex toy, which one would it be?
Kati: Can I be briefly unpopular? My honest answer is: a penis. Truly, my favorite thing is partnered PVI, preferably with plenty of good kissing. I'm all about getting down with my lady parts—but my favorite thing about sex is surprise. And that is one thing I can't offer myself.
Ally: [Okay, this one I actually had to look up: PVI = penile-vaginal intercourse.] I wouldn’t say this is an unpopular notion at all. I could make an argument that it’s the most popular preference, in fact, as far as comparing masturbation vs. partnered sex. And I, myself, personally do prefer the depth, warmth, surprise, tenderness, and throbbiness of body parts of another human body.
For many, though and myself also included, masturbation holds an entirely different and also pleasantly important place. Sex toys are also frequently used as part of partnered sex. So in this context I don’t consider a penis and another human body as a sex toy- it’s answering a different question- therefore I call apples and oranges on you!
Kati: I suppose that's your right! I've never desired a sex toy the way I desire humans, so the idea of losing sex toys isn't terribly traumatic. And, as you probably guessed, they're not currently a part of my partnered sex life. To be fair, never having had much cash, I haven't gotten to experience too many toys (including, probably, some of the most interesting, high quality ones).
So I guess I'll just say—dear god, don't cut off my fingers. :)
Ally: I wouldn’t dream of it.
Ally Booker is a pleasure activist. She is passionate about educating herself and others on cool sexuality related things like communication skills, creating and respecting boundaries, sexual self-determination, destigmatization, gender and sexual expressions, sex toy use and safety, and all the other mechanics of pleasure. You can often find her milling around her Tucson shop, Jellywink Boutique, 418 E. 7th St., (888) 874-6588.