Episode 3: Dr. Carol Queen, Part 2 of 2; Do-It-Yourself Sexuality

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"I remember being a little kid and not liking my mother's cooking and how amazing it was to find real wonderful food when I grew up. I'm sure that sexuality is that way for people sometimes, too. Carol Queen, PhD From Host, Beth Crittenden: In this program with Dr. Carol Queen, we hear about the Masturbatathon and the Center for Sex and Culture, 2 fascinating ventures that Carol and her partner Robert Lawrence have created and supported for 13 and 5 years, respectively. The Masturbatathon is as it sounds...people take pledges to masturbate for a good cause! Much like the AIDS ride, this event was created to raise awareness around an important health issue. Hear all about the history of this event, which has now reached international proportions. Carol also shares with the listener why masturbation is important to keep included in our sex education dialogues. When young women especially venture into sexual exploration, do we want them exploring with themselves, or off their center with other people? This issue is treated with admiration and respect, and the episode will benefit single people and partners alike. The Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco is the educational arm of Good Vibrations. The Center is creating a historical archive of sex, and Carol and Robert are committed to preserving artifacts and information so generations to come can learn about their roots. Hear about their sexy journeys to estate sales, finding grandpa's naughty novelty items.


Dr. Carol Queen, Part 2 of 2; Do-It-Yourself Sexuality

This program, brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com, is suitable for mature audiences only and may contain explicit sexual information.

This is Part Two of a two-part Podcast. If you’d like Part One you’ll find it at PersonalLifeMedia.com


Beth Crittenden: Hello everyone. Welcome to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews.” I’m your host, Beth Crittenden here on Personal Life Media; coming to you from OneTaste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco; where we are weaving orgasm into the world conversation and into our bodies.

I am so pleased to present to you today, Carol Queen. Carol is here to take part in our Urban Monk Hybrid Practice lecture series; where we invite people from a wide variety of sensual research and discovery to come share their work with us.


Beth Crittenden: Join us on “A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews” as Carol Queen tells us about coming for a cause with the annual Masturbate-a-thon that she’s put together and is now traveling with internationally. Also, we’ll hear about a fascinating place, The Center for Sex and Culture, located in San Francisco, that is archiving sexual history; past, present, future and doing some incredible work.


Beth Crittenden: Welcome back to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews.” This is Beth Crittenden here, so delighted to be speaking with Carol Queen. Welcome back Carol!

Carol Queen: Beth, thank you.

Beth Crittenden: So tell us about the Masturbate-a-thon.

Carol Queen: Well the Masturbate-a-thon is in its twelfth or thirteenth year now. In one incarnation, and that incarnation is that right after then-Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, got fired from her job by Bill Clinton--the aforementioned Bill Clinton who probably should have been thinking a little more about masturbation at the time--for saying, and this is almost verbatim, her quote, “that masturbation was perhaps something that should be taught about to youths” when she was asked a question about this—which may have been a set-up for all we know.  She was canned and at Good Vibrations, where I worked at the time and still do, we were horrified that this had happened. She was the first African American women, Surgeon General. She was an amazing woman, and boom, she’s gone. And we decided to make National Masturbation month; to make sure that everyone would remember masturbation; remember Dr. Elders, and talk more about this thing  that clearly somebody was shame filled about--plenty of some bodies as we know.

A little bit after that, couple, few years later, the Masturbate-a-thon came along as an addendum to the National Masturbation Month concept which was like a walk-a-thon, or a bike-a-thon, or a dance-a-thon; you masturbate for a given amount of time—as long as you do, as long as you can, as long as you want to. And get pledges from other people, for every minute, hour, orgasm, however, you want to break it down, that you do when you’re in your masturbation space--your activism masturbation space--coming for a cause. Although coming is optional, it’s good—it’s optional. And the point of course is, not just to raise money, although that was a good--a really good—hook to hang the whole the idea on. But also, the idea was to get people to go out and talk to other people about masturbation while asking them for pledges. And it was very successful at doing that, and very successful at getting attention from the press. Over and over the people and press said, “Where are you having it? I want to be a judge.” Well people were having it in their own bedrooms, or wherever it was that they usually masturbated. There wasn’t anything…we weren’t having it at Keysar Stadium or anything like that. We didn’t fill the Cow Palace—although that’s a fantasy.

Beth Crittenden: [laughing] I have a great picture in my mind right now.

Carol Queen: I know! And for those of you, who haven’t been to the Cow Palace, just imagine a really big, big, big, big, big building full of masturbating people. It’s awesome! It’s a great idea. So I would have to say, “No, no, no, sorry! There’s no ‘there, there’” I mean, we’re having an amazing amount of wonderful masturbation going on National Masturbation Day, but you can’t come and watch all of it at one time. Until Robert and I finally said –because we had been doing erotic safe sex ritual, public or semi-public things for years already—“We could run that. We could make that happen easily. Why haven’t we thought of this before?” So we got permission from Good Vibes to sort of take it outside. Good Vibes was never the only ones who did it. We did the first one in about—generally about 80 to 100 people came to the first couple. And then . . .

Beth Crittenden: Good fun. [laughing]

Carol Queen: Yeah! And many more came thinking about it, I would only hope. We tried to put the first one online and we sort of had a computer and an antenna made out of an old coat hanger—or something like that. One person in lower Slobovia got the Masturbate-a-thon; no body else was able to tune in. We got some real computer people by the second time, and the third, and fourth.

So we now had four, live Masturbate-a-thons. After the most recent one, which was last May, we always hold it the last Saturday in May; after the last one, somebody contacted us and asked us to come and do one in the UK. They wanted to do a documentary on it. So we went to London last summer, and we had to find—because it was a masturbate-a-thon --it has to have a charity connection. What we do in San Francisco is we may do it for our own charity, The Center for Sex and Culture, but there they found Marie Stopes International; which is much like our Planned Parenthood in the United States. It’s a sexual health and contraceptive provision organization, basically, and The Terrence Higgins Trust, which is like our AIDS Foundation.

Although interestingly, Marie Stopes was very interested, got very involved in helping to out this thing together, and the Terrence Higgins Trust guys were hiding in a corner. They didn’t even come to the Masturbate-a-thon! [laughing]. I think they probably cashed the check. But they were not pitching in as much as the people from the sexual health organization who totally saw what a consciousness raiser it was. It was held at a little gallery. They decorated it very beautifully. About 120, 140 people came to it. One of the world records was broken, “Most Orgasms from a Female.” Now, as I’m talking to OneTaste representative, this may not sound too impressive, but our UK masturbator-a-thon winner of the women’s orgasm section had 49 orgasms and came stumbling out of her little room and said, “Damn! I shouldn’t have done it this morning. I wanted to hit 50.”

[Beth Crittenden laughing]

Carol Queen: [laughing]Well, next time perhaps. And then she said she had figured out how many calories she had burned per orgasm. [Beth Crittenden laughing] She had done the math and she knew exactly how large a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate she would be able to have when she went home. I thought she was perfectly British. She lived in Coventry too. Isn’t that great?

Beth Crittenden: [laughing] I think that sounds like a very healthy pursuit.

Carol Queen:  Isn’t that great? She was wonderful. So there’s going to be –at some point—on Channel 4 in the UK, a documentary about this and we have the website, Masturbate-a-thon.com; MASTURBATE-A-THON-dot-COM; in order to spread the good word about masturbate-a-thons and when they eventually schedule it --it was suppose to be around Valentine’s Day and they pushed it off for some reason--it was too controversial. But we’ll have it on there when it finally is going to air and hopefully it will come to the US too.

I have to say that the very, very most interesting thing about this masturbate-a-thon trip—or Tour de masturbate-a-thon, as I like to call it. I was blogging about it at CarolQueenBlog.com and I was calling it that—Tour de masturbate-a-thon —was that in the US when we do the Masturbate-a-thon, we get very little main-stream press. A little bit, but not too much. I did seven hours of press interviews outside the curtains at the Masturbate-a-thon, was right behind.

Beth Crittenden: Fantastic!

Carol Queen: Seven hours. Everybody and their dog in Europe wanted to know what was going on back there and why it was happening and they asked totally substantive questions. It was the most interesting seven hours of discussion of masturbation that I had ever done—a little repetitive maybe—but really valuable and such a contrast. I mean it really. . .I have a forest-for-the-trees vantage point sometimes even though I try to focus on the study of sex and culture here because even I was surprised at how different it was from the Puritan overlay that’s so often in the US. It takes the position of just ignoring whatever is going on.

Interestingly, I’m a judge in a competition that’s being developed this year for sex-positive journalism awards. I think it’s going to be a very interesting thing to see if we can get a good amount of PR for this since so much journalism about sex is sensational or snarky or disrespectful in some way. I have to say that so far the Brits get the prize. I’m sure we could find some good journalists in the US too, but it was a really interesting difference. And now we hope we’re going to get invited to Australia.

Beth Crittenden: Hmm.

Carol Queen: And then we’ll have to go to Canada so we could be sort of commonwealth and ex-commonwealth countries.

Beth Crittenden: [laughing]

Carol Queen: Then we’ll move on to continental Europe.

Beth Crittenden: In terms of mainstream culture and America, do you think that people are masturbating and just not talking about it? Or do you think that there’s so much shutdown that people just aren’t even touching?

Carol Queen: Well I think a lot of people are masturbating and not talking about it. Because when you get out into the community and start to talk to people—if you have the opportunity to do that. If you have a call-in in the show, for example, or on the floor of Good Vibes, or whether you go out and give talks or whatever, and if masturbation comes up--a lot of times people, especially fairly young people and especially partnered people come up and express—guilt might be too strong a word—but not for all of them, for some of them, guilt is a perfectly appropriate word; guilt or shame. About the fact that don’t think they should be masturbating because it isn’t healthy, it isn’t as good as quote, un quote “real sex” and especially the partnered ones feel like if they have that feeling they should be with their partner. Whether or not they and their partner are fully sexually compatible; whether they’re time compatible; what the therapists call “the desire phase”; discrepancies present in their lives or what; they tend not to honor masturbation. So I think there is far more masturbating going on than people are letting on. But in your question is also embedded, are there people that haven’t figured out that their arms reach that far, and yeah, I think that there are people like that too.

Statistically men tend to start earlier than women. I think over time there may be a little bit of a shake down around that since I think there’s more discussion among younger women now, about sex and sexual issues. But whether that gets all the way to self-pleasuring, I am not sure. I think it needs to. We just saw some research that’s been released by the American Psychological Association about early sexualization of girls. When young women are, instead of understanding their own bodies and their own body’s pleasure potential from a very basic first person perspective before they decide to go out and experiment with other people and instead go out and experiment with other people, they’re off their center, on a really profound level. I know that there are people who would prefer to have partner sex than masturbate, I honor that, but I really want to remind everyone that you are in your own body and learning it and knowing it is so important. Even if it’s not your primary understanding of eroticism, it’s still good for you.

Beth Crittenden: Let’s say there’s a listener who’s been curious but not quite sure what to do or how to do it. How do recommend people start the practice of regularly masturbating?

Carol Queen: Well one of the things that I think makes a difference is for people to really think of it almost as ritualistic; if that helps them to do it. Or maybe people don’t think in those terms, but thinking of going on a date with themselves or setting some time aside for themselves will make sense to them. Especially if someone hasn’t masturbated and has some resistance toward it. Really making space that feels secure that feels lovely and comfortable; not too cold; not with your roommates barging through, it’s secure in a very basic way--might make a lot of difference. Thinking about how your whole body brings you pleasure and sensual experience, not just your genitals--because sometimes for people it’s sort of a genital phobia. Starting with the rest of the skin moving toward other parts of the skin makes a difference.

But sometimes people just need more information. I remember when I was a teenager I went to the library in Roseburg, Oregon literally for about three years before I could find a book available to me to look at that defined what orgasm was and defined what masturbation was. I was reading those words in women’s magazine articles and the occasionally book and of course, by the time you start to read those things in articles they never get defined [laughing] It’s assumed that you know what they are. So that a young person or a slightly older person, or even a quite an old person who has missed out of this sometimes needs to get some back-up information. There’s not a lot of good accessible information for people under 18 about this issue. Part of the reason I had to keep going to the library back in the seventies and it’s not enormously better today because of the problems with sex education in our culture. But there are for people once they turn 18, certainly lots of resources available.

Betty Dodson’s website is one that I would recommend to anybody. Betty has books out that you can get at Good Vibrations and at other bookstores. There are videos. I made a video called “Carol Queen’s Great Vibrations”, which is about vibrator masturbation specifically. But of course there’s lots of ways to masturbate besides with vibrators. There’s the edge of the chair; there’s your hand; rubbing on the sheets; there’s the teddy bear that you never got rid of; there’s putting your puss right up under the running water; or for that matter your cock, because plenty of men need encouragement to do more than just a quick one to relieve tension. Because one of the wonderful things about masturbation is if you can learn how to make it last all day, then you’re ready for a hot date with an amazing opportunity to connect with another person and find out the kinds of things that two people’s bodies can do together. Pretty amazing.

Beth Crittenden: Nice. Anything you want to add about masturbation before we change topics?

Carol Queen: The other thing I want to add about masturbation is a fun fact that I don’t remember where I learned but in a study sometime in the last ten years, somebody figured out that many women are more likely to masturbate when they are in a relationship and when the sex is good in the relationship. I think that’s such an interesting thought that when a woman in particular is in sort of the throws of, “wow this is hot! Sex is hot!” that she wants to have more sexual energy in her life. She might go into a more quaesint state if there isn’t as much sort of knocking on her door so to speak.

I just think that’s very fascinating and I’m sure there’s a lot more to know around that gender difference. They may be things that they didn’t think to ask about men that are things we should be thinking about as well. I really hate to leave gender differences at that without poking them a little further and inquiring whether the right questions are being asked and whether cultural assumptions are being acted out in research. But nevertheless, that’s a really interesting and provocative finding.

Beth Crittenden: Interesting study on hunger there.

Carol Queen: Very much so, yeah.

Beth Crittenden: Thanks for that.

Carol Queen: I remember being a little kid and not liking my mother’s cooking and how amazing it was to find real wonderful food when I grew up. I’m sure that sexuality is that way for people too sometimes.


[commercial break]


Beth Crittenden: What would like to tell us about The Center for Sex and Culture?  What’s the description?

Carol Queen: Well, The Center for Sex and Culture is now about five years old—although we’ve been planning it since 1994. So it’s getting older and older at least in the time that we’ve been thinking about what we wanted to create. It’s a sex-ed center and a cultural center because I firmly believe that cultural production is part of education. Art is leaving elementary schools, but we adults can put it back. We can talk about sex through art. I think it’s a very useful and mind expanding thing to do.

We have a library; an archive, we don’t want people to throw anything away. We may very well want to archive it. People can visit us online at SexAndCulture.org and see what sorts of things we’re up to in terms of the events that we run; various kinds of classes, various kinds of cultural events and interesting, and thought provoking things; salons and discussion groups sometimes. We are focused on giving adults of any sexual orientation and gender, a space to learn; to get better at sex if that’s something that they want to do; also to find places for research --just further information and networking and community-making. All of those things are just about equally important. Although they don’t all appeal equally to everyone. There very important in the way that we put the whole process together. Robert and I founded it with support from Betty Dodson, the aforementioned “Mother of Masturbation” who said, “You kids should start a place!” [laughing]

Beth Crittenden: And you did.

Carol Queen: So we kids decided, yeah, you know she’s right; we do need to start a place.

Beth Crittenden: What’s one of your favorite items form the Center?

Carol Queen:  You know, I was telling you earlier that Robert and I like to go estate saleing. It’s one of our, I-can-see-if-you-were-having-sex-all-the-time, kind of, like breaks from having sex all the time or talking about it or teaching or whatever. When we find things that were like, grandpa’s secret sex stash, I love that.

One of the things that we have is a little key chain telescope that when you look through the end of the little tiny telescope you see a little nude-y in there and grandpa carted it around in his pocket probably. Grandma might never have known what happened when you look through the telescope—or maybe she did. Maybe she did. Maybe it was grandma in there. That kind of, sort of, secret treat. And they look so charming now; I’m sure that there are plenty of people who faced with a bunch of sex novelties from 2007 would go “Eeww, these are tacky!” Or whatever they might say--although, of course plenty of people would be great fans of those kinds of things. But something from fifty or seventy or eighty years ago is such a treat.

There’s actually something we missed at a sale once we didn’t actually have enough money to buy it at that time. It was a two-by-four, carved out and two people fucking were carved inside and they actually moved when you pulled on a little match stick that was stuck outside of the thing like a little button. You messed with the button and the couple inside would fuck. There was a rubber band that was about to give up the ghost holding the whole deal together. It had a little cover, so it was closed like a little book. A two-by-four. Grandpa went out to the shed and carved his own porn sometime in about 1939.

Beth Crittenden: Beautiful.

Carol Queen: It was so exciting to see that because in the first place a folk-art sex thing is such a rarity, but it’s also a really logical subject for someone to make folk-art around. It’s just a treat, it’s like, you know, found a new pyramid in Egypt that nobody dug underneath—only more rumpus Remy than that. But for me culturally, it’s just the kind of freak I am. I think that’s the most amazing, charming, sort of secret message from the people who came before.

When my dad died I found a box, an empty box of condoms from the 1940s, stashed in his stuff. I thought, you know, these were a talisman for this man. These meant so much to him; whoever he used them with; whatever the circumstances were, he was dead already so I couldn’t ask him. Some piece of that stays with me, and helps emotionally fire up what it takes to continue to go out and try to find those kinds of secret things; because they go away if we do not preserve them. There is nobody in the culture, not even the Library of Congress is spending all their time trying to document grandpa and great-grandpa and great-grandma. They’re just not doing that and their sex lives. So somebody’s got to do it. And we’re some of the people are.

Beth Crittenden:  Thank you for doing it.

Carol Queen: Thank you.

Beth Crittenden: What’s next for The Center?

Carol Queen:  Well we just moved into new quarters. We left our old space in the summer for a variety of reasons and had to bustle out of there quickly. It took a little while to find a new space. We had what other wonderful entities around town who were supportive and let us do things in their buildings in the meantime. It really helped us understand what a community of sex-positive organizations we have here in San Francisco. Of course we visited OneTaste during that time and a lot of other places as well.

One of the things that we’re doing now is just putting the library back up. It’s amazing every time we get another six cases of books; I un-box them and put them on the shelves, how much more like home it feels and how much more of an anchor that material is in the place. We’ve got one big room where we can out about a circle of thirty people—it’s not as large as your room anymore—but we do larger events elsewhere still; and smaller classes there on site.

Beth Crittenden: Nice.

Carol Queen: Yeah, we’ll be ramping up more classes as the spring progresses.

Beth Crittenden: Sounds great. Anything you want to add before we wrap up the show?

Carol Queen: Well I mentioned the two websites for The Center and for the Masturbate-a-thon; but I didn’t mention that I have a website too which is, CarolQueen.com. People particularly who are interested in the initial part of our talk about my writing, might want to go there and look at the bibliography and see the other stuff that I’ve written. There are a few Q&As on there; and some essays; a couple of frequently asked questions; a little of this and a little of that.

Beth Crittenden: Thank you so much for joining us today.

Carol Queen: What a pleasure, I was really happy to do it.

Beth Crittenden: And I’m pleased to let our listeners know that OneTaste will be teaching a two-hour course just for women at the Berkeley Good Vibrations.

Carol Queen: Fabulous.

Beth Crittenden: We’re kicking off National Masturbation Month.

Carol Queen: Fabulous.

Beth Crittenden: Yeah, May 4th. It will be just for women an “Introduction to Orgasmic Meditation” and that we call RAW.

Carol Queen: That’s great. The Good Vibes classes are actually now shared by The Center for Sex and Culture; co-sponsored by them. So that gives us the opportunity to do a great amount of work with wonderful teachers in the Bay area and people coming through from out of town too.

We send people out also in cahoots with Good Vibes to do lectures for community groups and classes and things like that. I know that many of the people who listen to this radio program will probably be out of the Bay area and all I have to say to all of you is, book a vacation here when you can and check out some of the major interesting things that are always going on in the sexuality community in this wonderful area. There’s so much here.

Beth Crittenden:  Consciousness and sensuality together; you can’t beat it.

Carol Queen: It’s a nice mix.


Beth Crittenden: If you’d like to learn more about OneTaste, you can visit www.OneTasteSF.com

A lot of interesting things got brought up today: How do we define orgasm? When do we pleasure ourselves? When do we allow a partner to pleasure us? This is just an example of the wide variety of things that we discuss both at OneTaste™ and at the Center for Sex and Culture and we’re researching the frontier of orgasm as a life force. So whoever wants to join in, you’re welcome to. You can participate online you can come in-person to study and practice. I have to say for myself it’s been an absolutely magnificent ride.

So this has been “A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews” with Carol Queen.

For text and transcripts of this show, you can visit www.PersonalLifeMedia.com. You can email us any questions, or any feedback at [email protected] .

You’re welcome to submit anything you like; we want to know what’s on your mind and on your pussy or your cock. Thanks for tuning in, take care, and tune in and turn on.