Dr. Ava Cadell is one of my favorite people – a friend and a client. She’s also America’s #1 sexpert, and one of the most-filmed and most-quoted sexology pros in her field, always appearing on television giving advice on how to have better relationships and sex. We travel around the world together on her speaking tours, and I edited her latest book, Neuroloveology. She trains and mentors many up and coming sexologists, but this weekend I got to meet some of her peers.
We worked the CatalystCon convention here in L.A. where the American College of Sexologists International (of which Ava is the president) was a sponsor. We filmed dozens of sexologists talking about their practices and fields of expertise, and met some fascinating people, all determined to make better sex and “alternative” sex practices more accepted and mainstream.
The final keynote address featured four famous feminist sexologists who spoke about their experience in the nascent porn scene of the 1970’s in New York City, and their life-long group friendship that they call Club 90, named after the street address of an apartment they met at regularly.
The first thing I ever heard about Annie Sprinkle was that she did a live interactive show where she put a speculum into her vagina and invited people up on stage to look inside at her cervix. She was one of the reasons I took a feminist film course at University, and I’ve always admired her brazen, brothel-Madame style. She’s says fuck you to society’s uptight sexual ‘norms,’ but in such a boob-shaking adorable way that even the most fearful individual would have to come away feeling loved. Her new thing is Eco-Sex, where she and her artist-professor partner Elizabeth Stephens are “changing the metaphor from ‘earth as mother’ to ‘earth as lover’.” How brilliant is that? They are the ‘ecosexuals,’ joining the forces of art, theory, practice and activism to make environmentalism sexier. Let’s all join in, because mountain top removal and fracking are NOT sexy!
Candida Royalle is the feminist erotic filmmaker. She pioneered the concept of women-centric porn and continues to create it, develop it, and make it better and more inclusive with her company Femme Productions, which produces ‘sensually explicit’ movies, in her words. It was fascinating to listen to her talk about her struggles with reconciling feminism and pornography while so many women’s movement advocates were just against it completely in the 60’s – and let’s face it – now.
I always imagined she just ignored all that pressure, but being a woman was different then, and we needed determined people like Ms. Royalle to pave the way for a space that lets women enjoy ‘dirty’ movies. I don’t know that anyone could carry the torch quite that high, but it was hopeful to hear her say that she felt like she’d done her job to see a room full of people continuing the legacy of her work.
Her latest giant project is a documentary about her life, directed by my friend Sheona MacDonald, who began creating a doc about porn, quickly setting her sights on an untold story that will be riveting. Click on the picture to read all about it:
Jane is a warm friend and a wonderful actress, also known as Veronica Hart. I saw her in a play called Deep Throat Sex Scandal recently, which I blogged about here. She’s always off to China on trips where she teaches sexuality and intimacy for YuNa’s company D’Eros. She has produced and directed over thirty of her own award-winning feature films, and has been inducted into all the halls of fame in the industry! A true legend, and a great person.
Jane, along with the other Club 90 gals, received an honorary Doctorate from the Institute For Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She’s starting a new venture called “Better With Age,” where she focuses on love and sex for couples over forty. Looking forward to linking to it here!
I have read that the character played by Julianne Moore was based on Jane’s life. I’ll have to ask her if that’s true. She’s also played in other mainstream film and television like Six Feet Under.
I discovered Veronica Vera when I was researching cross-dressing and gender fluidity years ago. She started the first school dedicated to men who want to ‘cherchez la femme’ within themselves. It’s called Miss Vera’s Finishing School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls. Most of her students are straight men looking to express their female side, but she gets people of all kinds, including a lot of women who take the ‘how to walk in high heels’ class. I could use that.
“For every woman who burned her bra, there’s a man ready to wear one” says Miss Vera on her site, citing that up to 6% of men wish to cross-dress, and that they want to be liberated.
Veronica was the only person at the conference as far as I could tell who actually shocked a crowd. Maybe shocked is too strong a word, after all this group is pretty kinky, but when she was telling a story about being barely twenty and learning about every fetish one could have, at one point she said, “Shit – it smells worse than it tastes” – and the room fell silent. That was the moment I decided that she is the most awesome woman I’ve ever met. Who can wow a group of jaded sexologists with a shit-eating grin and still be the most glamorous woman in the room? Miss Vera, that’s who.
I was thrilled to be the one to tell her that Pin-up Girl Clothing (from whom she ordered her fabulous dress online) has a brick and mortar store in the valley on Magnolia. Yay! Hopefully she’ll get to check it out before she goes back to NYC. I also chatted with her about my own women’s ‘support’ group and told her how much ass we’re kicking, and how we’re thinking of marketing the idea. She gave me her card and said to let her know if we needed any help. I kept my delighted squeal to myself! After all, I was in the presence of the Dean of a finishing school – hello!
There were other big highlights for me at the CatalystCon conference, besides getting to work with Ava and Mike McCormick in the filming room all day. I got to hang out with Elle Chase a lot. She is my pal and recent creator of the LA Academy of Sex. She helped us find people to film, made us laugh, and just generally brought more fun to the whole weekend.
I must also mention Dr. Susan Block, who is a fabulous dresser, and one of those people who just oozes sensuality from her pores. She helps people explore their sexuality at her Institute for the Erotic Arts & Sciences which is an internationally renowned center for sex exploration, expression, education, investigation and therapy, founded in 1991. She’s also got a new book coming out called The Bonobo Way, where she tells all about what we can learn from bonobo primates. They use sex to diffuse violence in their society and the females run the show. If only we could make that happen for humans! Dr. Block is leading the way.
I was also very impressed with Emily Lindin of the Unslut Project. She screened a rough cut of her documentary on Thursday evening, about the horrific ‘slut shaming’ that girls and women endure, and the low self-esteem and suicides it’s causing. It must be stopped, and she’s the one to do it. I can’t wait to see the film. One of the producers is the fabulous Robert James, who we shared a filming room with. So of course on the second day I gave Robert a copy of my band Fuck Y’all’s ‘Dumb it Down’ on red vinyl, put out by Tina and my record company, Slutty Records, and a copy of my movie Goldirocks, which was constantly being criticized for having an unsympathetic ‘slutty’ protagonist. I am way beyond shaming of that kind at this point, but I will fight for any woman who doesn’t like any label that gets slapped on her. You go, Emily! Stay tuned for more blogs about that upcoming film and ongoing project.
Robert James is also filming a documentary about Ted McIlvenna, the founder of the American College of Sexologists International. I met him for the first time at the conference and he is amazing. He speaks seven languages, and told me in Arabic that “my father must have dipped his cock in honey before making me.” Well, then, I made an impression. He also gave me two amazing vintage porn posters including Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls, pictured below! He’s a spry 82 years old and houses a huge collection of vintage porn and erotic art as part of his Institute for Advanced Study in Human Sexuality, which seems to be the epicenter for sexual knowledge.
Now we can add CatalystCon to that list. What a weekend.