Banned Book Club: Carol Queen on Sexology, Journaling & the Trouble with the Interwebz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Friday Radar will be at the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco (1349 Mission Street, between 9th and 10th) at 8pm for the Banned Book Book Club! We’re featuring an all-star perv lineup that will heat your cold little Grinch heart right up. $10 admission! Click here for the Facebook event details. 

Carol Queen will be breathing new and sexy life into Judy Blume’s work! She’ll be joined by La Chica Boom/Xandra Ibarra, Jiz Lee,  Lil Miss Hot Mess, Dodie Belamie, and Aya de Leon. We asked Carol a bunch of questions and wanted to share her infinite wisdoms with you:

Beside perhaps “artist” or “writer,” talk about another identity that matters to you.

I’m choosing “sexologist” as my alt ID; I’m doing so because so many people are studying sexology and trying to make lives as sex educators today, unimaginably many more than when I was a pup, and the culture has not kept up and made work for all of us. Sexology is still sort of a bastard child, professionally and academically, but the fact is, it is one of the most interdisciplinary fields anyone could ever tackle: everything from medicine to law to sociology to arts and literature live within its purview, because what isn’t relevant to sex?

Is the internet ruining the world? Why or why not.

Yes! Sorta. Here’s why I say this: When I turn to the Internet to research something, anything, I very often find that ‘Net-available information dries up by about the year 1998. I want to check something that happened earlier in my life, or get the kind of historical perspective I used to go to the library for, and I very often come up short. The Internet is information overload, of course. But it is vastly wide but not deep. Of course I could still go to the library, but not everything makes it into a book or journal; the Web promises us all knowledge, in a way, but a lot of the time it delivers us blogs and lists. Oh, and cats! And porn. Which people today apparently often mistake for sex education. (Oh, plus? Apparently libraries are getting rid of lots of books and teaching librarians to search the Internet. Sigh.)

Give us one piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything.

I’m going to give advice I wish someone had given me. Back before I was ever published, I journaled––I journaled all the time, for many years every single day. Since I’ve been writing for publication, I abandoned that practice––when I thought about it at all, I’d say I stopped because I was pouring whatever I wanted to process and address into my fiction or essays. Maybe, but I really regret now not continuing that part of my writing practice. It gave me something in the way of introspective and processual opportunity that no other kind of writing does; also, it allowed me to document things that now I wish I’d documented throughout the ensuing 25 years. Keep up your journal, and don’t do it as a blog that everyone else can read––unless you will truly disclose everything in that format. In my experience, most people don’t, and that means a big segment of our generational truth is left on the cutting-room floor. We need that history.

Dr. Carol Queen [www.carolqueen.com] is a writer and cultural sexologist and is the co-founder of the Center for Sex & Culture [www.sexandculture.org] in San Francisco. She is a noted erotic writer and essayist whose work has appeared in dozens of anthologies. She’s written three books: the essay collection Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture; erotic novel The Leather Daddy and the Femme; and Exhibitionism for the Shy, which explores issues of erotic self-esteem and enhancement. She’s also edited several volumes of erotica and essays. Queen works as staff sexologist and Company Historian at Good Vibrations, the women-founded sex shop, where she has worked since 1990. She has been speaking publicly about sexuality for over 30 years. Her perspective in addressing sexual diversity incorporates personal experience, accurate sex information, and informed cultural commentary. She has addressed many conferences, including the International Condom Conference, the International Conference on Prostitution, and the International Conference on Pornography; she frequently addresses college as well as general and specialized audiences. Five years ago she debated the question of promiscuity (“Virtue or vice?”) for the Oxford Union at Oxford University, England.

Xandra Ibarra/La Chica Boom On Lesbionic Men, Boob Juice & Cockroaches

When you watch Xandra Ibarra/La Chica Boom perform you know that you are witnessing a spectacle (or as she would call it, a “spictacle”) unprecedented in terms of its grandiosity, brilliance, and perversity. Chica Boom will be reading at the Banned Book Book Club: Sex Edition at the Center for Sex & Culture on December 12 at 8pm. We asked Chica Boom some questions about her influences, fantasy date and advice for artists. Here’s what she said:

Who influences your work? 

I am influenced by everything. Maybe I am gullible; maybe I let in too much. Don’t care. I am influenced by my mom’s humor, the mushroom jazz in my panties, the interactions between animals, ‘Nordic track’ behavior, the catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the rigor of cockroaches. Ugly things, color, sound, movement and lots and lots of feelings influence me. My zodiac sign is cancer; yup I feel, I feel you, but mostly I feel me. I am also influenced by my own obsessions whether they make sense or not. I perform them, photograph them, act them out or seek to experience them in some way or another. Fortunately or unfortunately my obsessions are always about sex and race and the multitude of ways that these two things work. I imagine the ways they work together in an alternate universe. I make boob juice or agua calientes, have you heard?

You get to have an epic dream date with anyone dead or alive: who are they and where do you go on your date?  

I would meet a 35-year-old Lacan in Mexico City at a dirty strip club called “Wawis” in the 1920s in the early afternoon. We would tip the dancers too much and get drunk. Then we would go drunk shopping for plants and street food to put in our new apartment. You see, he would become a lesbionic man and want to u-haul into my life. I would like it. He would love it.

One piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything.

Being broke sucks. Learn to do lots of things porque nunca sabes cuando lo vas a necesitar.

Xandra Ibarra/La Chica Boom is an Oakland-based performance and video artist from the El Paso/Juarez border who performs and works under the alias of La Chica Boom. La Chica Boom is a performance art project that uses hyper-raciality/sexuality/gender as an expericne based mode of inquiry into her relationship with coloniality, compulsory whiteness and Mexicanidad. Ibarra uses video, objects, photography and sex acts to evoke comedy and melancholic racial and sexual expectation. Her aim is to amplify gendered and racialized iconography and make such problematic constructions via spectacle more transparent to the spectator‚—what she calls spictacles—spectacles of degeneracy and power that are both against and engaged in the colonial gaze.

James Tracy on Octavia Butler, SF Displacement & Being an Urbanist Not a Luddite

We chatted with James Tracy, author of  “Dispatches Against Displacement: Field Notes From San Francisco’s Housing Wars,” a bunch of personal questions and here’s what he said. He will be reading at the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin Street) on Tuesday, November 4 for the Radar Reading Series. Click here for the Facebook event page.  

Who influences you & your work? 
 Even though I don’t write Science Fiction, writers like Ray Bradbury and Octavia Butler really helped shape my moral compass and concern for what is going to happen in the future. I also love the 1970s school of blue-collar tough-as nails newspaper columnists such as Jimmy Breslin and Mike Royko. For Dispatches Against Displacement, I turned to the school of radical and progressive urbanism, Mike Davis, Saskia Sassen and Andy Merrifeld to name a few. Rebecca Solnit’s masterpiece A Paradise Built in Hell was really inspirational in the way that it showed how everyday people faced down disaster. The everyday disaster of displacement can bring out some similar strengths.
Many of the authors who most influenced me were the ones running around San Francisco in the 1990s, who were part of the open-mic scenes at the Paradise Lounge and Chameleon. To name just a few: Michelle Tea, Ananda Esteva, Bucky Sinister, Bruce Jackson, Daphne Gottlieb, and Leroy Moore. Most of these people wouldn’t be able to get a start in San Francisco today thanks to the high rents.
Is the internet ruining the world? Why or why not. 
The way we use the internet is ruining the world. Today, you can use it to learn a new language for free, communicate with people across the globe, and publicize your revolution. But we chose to use it to stay in tightly knit thought bubbles. Comments without analysis and actions without strategy. We let ourselves think that online petitions are a substitute for face to face mobilization with our neighbors.
Yes, the tech industry with its massive income inequality,selfish ideology, and ties to the surveillance state are a massive part of the problem with the world. But like any industry, the trick is to try to seize the means of production, democratize it and place it in the service of everyday people.
I’m an urbanist, not a luddite.
What’s one piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything?
You’re never too good a writer that you don’t need an editor.

Jandy Nelson & Ebin Lee On Pizza at Eddies, Writing Like Yourself &Taking the Peanut Butter Out of the Fridge

We chatted with Jandy Nelson, author of I’ll Give You the Sun, and Ebin Lee, illustrator/poster artist, a bunch of personal questions and here’s what they said. They will be reading at the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin Street) on Tuesday, November 4 for the Radar Reading Series. Click here for the Facebook event page.  

 

 

 

 

JANDY NELSON

Tell us something that challenged you in your last project.

The structure of I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN really challenged me, sending me off a cliff many times. It’s the story of these twins who’ve always been inseparable until tragedy strikes and rips them apart. And it’s also a tapestry of all these interweaving love stories: romantic ones: both gay and straight, complicated familial ones between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, the dead and the living, artists and their art. The story is full of secrets and lies and betrayals and it’s also kind of a mystery. All the different webbing narrative elements and intricacies of the story really overwhelmed me at first–I felt like it was way way bigger than my ability. I knew I wanted it to be braid, knew I wanted to tell the story in the dueling points of view of the twins, from Noah’s perspective when the twins are 13, and Jude’s when they’re sixteen after the events that divide them. I finally realized the only way for me to write the novel was to write three novels so I wrote Noah’s story start to finish, then Jude’s story start to finish (which took over 2 1/2 years!) then spent a year weaving their stories together which was like writing a whole new novel. It was intense–the whole process took almost 4 years.

Describe your perfect meal.

My perfect meal is a picnic by a river in the hot sun with all my closest friends/family, both living and dead: crusty bread, this life-changing cheese I just discovered called Bonne Bouche, tons of finger foods prepared by Thomas Keller and then dark chocolate  truffles, all of it served with tons of Chateauneuf du pape and champagne.

Do you have a piece of killer advice for artists?

Don’t put peanut butter in the refrigerator. I just learned this and it’s been such a revelation!. Also, in terms of writing the best advice I ever got by far was this totally simple and obvious idea: Be yourself in your writing–get your personality on the page. Own your myths, monsters, and miracles. It doesn’t mean you need to write about yourself, just write like yourself. Like Oscar Wilde says, “Be yourself: everyone else is already taken.” This advice absolutely changed writing-life.

 






 


EBIN LEE

Besides “artist,” talk about another identity that matters to you. 

My identity as Black kind of encompasses everything about me.

You get to have an epic dream date with anyone dead or alive: who are they and where do you go on your date? 

My dream date would be with Neicy Nash. If i didn’t pass out from sheer excitement/nerves at the news that Queen Neicy accepted my date request, I’d take her for pizza at Eddies on Killingsworth (In Portland) and then after we would sip wine sprtizers and watch re-runs of Clean House.

What advice do you have for other artists?

Make tons of embarrassing drawings.

 

Mimi Nguyen On Epic Dream Dates with Keanu Reeves, Tenure & Obscurantist Labor

Mimi will be reading at the November 4 Radar Reading Series at the San Francisco Public Library. We asked her some questions about dating, writing and advice for artists. 

 

Tell us about something that challenged you during your last (or a current) project. 

The worst thing about writing the first book (The Gift of Freedom) was that I had to finish it according to an external deadline – tenure. At some point I found I wasn’t writing to answer a question about liberal empire, or to close the circle of the argument, but to meet an institutional metric for a “productive” scholar. And even though I was writing with friends confronting the same metric –we would literally sit in a room together and write for hours, next to one another, chatting about a sentence one minute and leading each other through some stretches another—it was still an incredibly isolating experience.

The moment I remembered that I had an intensely satisfying creative and intellectual life long before I came to the academy was transformative. A feminist literary scholar named Janice Radway came to my campus and in a lecture discussed my work as a zinester (with particular reference to the Race Riot compilations, and feminist critical theory in my zines) and its relationship to my scholarship now. I had been feeling so under seige on the tenure track that I cried for a few days afterward, because I understood so acutely what I had been missing for the last few years – which was writing to the question, for the argument, and of course, for myself.

 

You get to have an epic dream date with anyone dead or alive: who are they and where do you go on your date? 

My friends reading this would know it’s a lie if I chose anyone but Keanu Reeves. That said, I have no idea what an “epic dream date” would be, and having only been on a few “proper” dates, and it seems like it would be awkward to go on a grown-up, straight-person date with Keanu Reeves.

But pretending as if this isn’t the most awkward question, we could just go to a punk show on his motorcycle (or if he still has access to that time-traveling telephone booth, we could take the booth to the Hong Kong Café to see The Bags or The Go-Go’s in 1979), and then spend a few hours going through the boxes of zines and records in my living room I haven’t made time to read or listen to yet. After that, we could choreograph a mash-up of a movie-fu fight with Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” dance and put it on YouTube as a performance piece. I hope he kept his sleeveless denim jacket from River’s Edge, because I would wear the crap out of it in the video. (Also I would be wearing Madonna’s boots from Desperately Seeking Susan, since those are the most epic shoes.) And then we could make a 24-hour zine about making art and getting older, and I could impress him with my carefully hoarded Letraset collection.

I should note that I am answering these questions with a cold fogging my brain. The other night, while otherwise wiped out on Advil, I randomly started a site to archive all the responses to Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby.” I am totally a good time, Keanu.

 

Give us one piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything.

I don’t have advice as much as I have “random questions about the nature of work.” How do we reproduce troubling measures of civic and capitalist productivity through binaries of activity/passivity in our cultural work? How do we evaluate an artistic process or object or experience? Through what measures of value, accountability – and to whom? As a scholar, I hear from both administrators and activists that the intellectual labor I do “should” yield concrete outcomes – whether in publications or grants, or in something measurable as “social change.” I worry about what these utilitarian (and sometimes authoritarian) demands mean for us, especially because I want to hold out a place for creative and intellectual labors that are slow to unfurl, or otherwise appear to the efficacious eye as useless, obscurantist, impractical, marginal, or wholly unproductive.

 

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