Day two at The Festival on the Art of Lust and I had the privilege to talk to the patron saint of “Ethical Sluthood” Janet Hardy, who together with Dossie Easton has written “The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures”.
She has authored a huge range of books about all kinds of sex, kinky sex and even sex disasters. She has written on a wide range of sexuality topics but I wanted to ask her about what we can learn about safe good sex from the world of kink and also multiple consensual partnerships or “poli-land” as she calls it.
So she starts with a bit of myth busting.
“One of biggest myths is that if sex is good, we shouldn’t talk about it, that somehow talking about it spoils the fun. That we should get swept away on a wave of passion. That if someone loves me they should know what I want. In fact negotiation can be foreplay. You can use it as a way to get turned on”.
“Putting the words to our desires is scary” but as she points out it’s all a matter of re-framing. And that’s why we love about what she says about safer sex. Who says a condom can’t be sexy if you put it on right. As she points out.
“It’s about asking how do you want me to put on that condom, not what shall we do about condoms. At some point you have to open your mouth. I would love people to get that negotiated sex is foreplay – and use it as a way to get turned on”
She recounts her own personal experience of talking about what she and her partner wanted to do to each other, and they got so turned on they had to run upstairs and just get to it quickly, before carrying on the original negotiation. After all what is the different between “talking dirty” and “negotiating”.
I asked Janet her opinions of what different sexual communities, particularly non heterosexual communities have to offer in terms of god safe sex wisdoms.
“The numbers of different ways to get off that are not intercourse. Especially in relationships where there is not a dick around” was one that she came back with. We also talked about the fact that armpit sex, mammary sex or thigh sex is very popular where there is little access to family planning or virginity taboos. But she says
“Its a shame that they are strategies of last resort and not more popular as an enjoyable first choice”
She adds “For men to learn how to eroticize things that are not their dick is an awfully good idea, they don’t always take to it right away but they learn to love it because it opens up a range of it of possibilities”.
By which we think she means all over body pleasure and learning all those new erogenous zones that you did not know you had.
We next move onto one of our favourite topics – how to make sex education sexier and more appealing. Janet feels that it’s easy for health educators to put a “foot wrong” if they don’t listen to their audience. This will then loose the impact of their message. “Met people where they are” is the term she uses. If a sex educator goes to talk to a group of people who are into BDSM but don’t recognize the value that community places on consent – then the audience will be lost.
Janet gives an example of how she and Dossie, her partner and co-writer of many books, showed a group of health educators how two people might negotiated a BDSM scene. The room fell silent and someone piped up “I wish everyone did that”. The open negotiation of all elements of what they hoped who happen during the sex was a great transferable lesson, they hoped would happen for the non BDSM or “straight” world.
She also had some wise words on what we can learn from people in non monogamous relationships. Having multiple partners means talking explicitly and agreeing with all partners about what is safe and who needs to wear condoms all the time and which partnerships don’t need to. But beyond that people who are negotiating to be with or love more than one person at once are really going to hone their communication skills – because they are trying to keep a many relationships happy, healthy and fruitful against the expectation of society. Whereas people in monogamous relationships may not have the same challenges or will accept these norms without discussion.
Janet talks great wisdom and good sense about topics that look initially a challenge, but are in fact simpler than they seem. Like making safe sex sexy. She lifts the fog and we love her for that.
The Ethical Slut 2nd Edition has just been released. Buy it. It is fantastic.