Anal Sex 101 with Tristan Taormino
The expert on all things naughty, Tristan Taormino, talks to Kate O’Halloran.
You may not necessarily know who Tristan Taormino is, but you probably have a book or two of hers sitting on your shelf. Perhaps best known as the award-winning author of The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and founding editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series, she has also edited lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs and runs her own adult film company, Smart Ass Productions.
Taormino proudly self-identifies as a queer sex writer who has never regretted that her passion for talking about sex might appear one-dimensional to some.
“You know, when I published the first volume of Best Lesbian Erotica in 1996 and The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women in 1997, people would often say, “Oh, watch out, you’re going to get pigeonholed as a sex writer,” recalled Taormino.
“The implication, of course, was that being seen only as a sex writer was ultimately a bad thing. I have so much passion for the subjects of each of my books, and I think that the opposite of that ‘pigeonhole’ argument is true: writing about sex has offered me the ability to reach people from all different walks of life.”
Reaching a wide demographic is something Taormino feels strongly about, because opening up sex for discussion is important for people with all types of sexual preferences.
“It’s very important to me that my work be as inclusive as possible. I want it to be accessible to people who are curious about a subject, those who are very experienced and knowledgeable, and everyone in between,” she said.
“I try very hard not to assume anything about my readers, which is something I learned from working as a sex educator and salesperson at Babeland [a sex toy company in the US]. Whenever someone walked into the store, I could never predict what question they would ask or what kind of toy they were looking for. Inevitably, that edgy punk rock woman [had] never used a vibrator before and that buttoned-up businessman wanted the biggest butt plug we stocked.”
A lot of Taormino’s work begins from a place of not wanting to be presumptuous. This includes not assuming that people know what they mean when they talk about different kinds of sexual practices or relationships. For example, even though ‘polyamory’ is often mentioned amongst queer people, this doesn’t guarantee that everyone understands the term, or its practical complications.
“In the grand scheme of things, polyamory is still a pretty new concept. The discussion about non-monogamous relationships within mainstream media has increased in the last few years, but I wouldn’t say that ‘polyamory’ is a household word yet or that a huge percentage of the population understands the basics about it.”
Taormino hopes to go some way towards providing her audiences in Melbourne with more of an insight into the logistics of negotiating an open relationship in her class entitled ‘Making Open Relationships Work’, which discusses practical strategies for making polyamory possible.
Taormino argues that sometimes this means acknowledging that open relationships don’t work for everyone, even if we are surrounded by people who tell us that they do or should.
“There are some polyamory activists who imply, or say outright, that non-monogamy is the more evolved, enlightened relationship style, but I think that’s bullshit. I have always said that monogamy is a valid choice – choice being the key word. Unfortunately, too many people are monogamous not by conscious choice but by default; it’s what their peers are doing, it’s what is expected of them, it’s what society promotes and rewards as the ideal goal. I want folks to know that there are lots of options for how we do relationships, and people have to figure out what works best for them.”
Helping people figure out what works for them sexually is something Taormino is incredibly passionate about, and something that keeps her going through the sometimes-repetitive material she is called upon to present.
“I have no idea how many times I’ve taught Anal Sex 101, and yet it’s still a joy every time! It’s so fulfilling to see people in the audience nod their heads, get answers to questions they’ve wondered about for years, and just feel safe to talk about sex openly.
“When I get an email from someone that says, ‘You changed my sex life,’ I know that what I am doing really does make a difference. And I know I need to keep doing it.”
Making Open Relationships Work, April 12, 225 Bourke St, Melbourne
Information and bookings – pleasuresalonmelbourne.wordpress.com
Tristan Taormino will be presenting a class called The Art of Service at Eagle Leather on Friday, April 13 starting at 7.30pm. Bookings: eagleleather.com.au