Nicole: So, the first question I like to ask each guest is, how would you introduce yourself?
Dr. Carol Queen: I'm Carol Queen. I have a PhD in sexology. I identify as a pleasure activist and a cultural sexologist, which is different from I have a white coat on and I'm going to examine your penis now, although that can be fun on weekends. I've written a bunch of books, edited some books, uh, and contributed to a bunch more books.
And documentaries and this and that. And the other thing I like to talk about sex related issues in pretty much all the contexts, but I am really most in love with thinking about this question of deep sex positivity and of diversity in general. So that filters in, I feel, to everything that I do and all the work that I do.
And besides me and those things, I am the staff sexologist company historian and curator of the antique vibrator museum at good vibrations. If anybody can beat that job title, I dare you all to do it because it is a fine job title, isn't it? And my partner and I, uh, 20 plus years ago, co founded the center of sex and sports, sex and culture, uh, the center for sex and culture in San Francisco.
So yeah. So. busy
Nicole: and passionate. I can feel it in your energy, right?
Dr. Carol Queen: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's, uh, you know, those of us who came to the planet to get something done, you know, we, we can't not, right. We don't always know what it is at first, but we can't not do. Something it try to help, try to throw ourselves into it.
So you've got some of that in you as well. And many, many, or if not all of your listeners do too.
Nicole: Yeah. That inner like fire for something more, right. Which frequently gets us in trouble, but man, I think that's part of the process. Uh, well, I'm excited to have you in the space and to chat with you. I like to ask guests too, like, is there something you're passionate about in terms of.
starting. I know you mentioned deep positive sexuality.
Dr. Carol Queen: So deep sex positivity is what I'm talking about now. Yeah. I mean, I've been talking about sex positivity since, since the jump, but many, many people use that term now, which is wonderful. It was a, you know, it was an underground notion at one time and it's not so much anymore.
Although, um, in my opinion, a lot of people miss The depth, which is why I added the word deep to it. It's not, it's not just a, it's not a relationship to sex, although, yay, sex. I mean, who could argue that feeling positive about sex is grand, but that's not All of what we're talking about when we talk about sex positivity.
And so I like to unpack that and, and, you know, these days, of course, if, you know, if we didn't get into the question of sex negativity and the world in which we live, that would be a little surprising, wouldn't it? So I've been thinking and talking about that quite a bit because a little hard to ignore Extremely important.
Nicole: Well, I'm excited for this conversation. Start unpacking it. And I, I want to hear all about it.
Dr. Carol Queen: Well, shall I start by telling you, um, where I first heard the term sex positive? Does that sound like a good place to start at the very beginning? The very, the very best place to start is, which is not of course the very beginning because I didn't show up at the table when it got.
You know, determined. This is a phrase we will like to use. I mean, I wasn't there yet, but I came in relatively soon after that happened because as far as I can research, this got developed and started to be talked about at my alma mater, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.
And I showed up there in 1987. I showed up there in 1987, specifically because I wanted to do some kind of sex related work. That would make a difference in the HIV AIDS epidemic. Yeah. That was the, the door that I chose to enter. I'd already been doing some AIDS work, but I felt like there was more to do.
And, and the part that really, really grabbed me was being able to talk about safer sex and, and, you know, and sexual risk and all that stuff. Sure. In that context. And of course, HIV AIDS still exists, but in those days. It was many communities were on fire, uh, not in a good way. And so I just, I had to something.
So, so this is what I fell into doing in a way. I mean, I chose to do it, but I had only just realized that there was such a thing as sexology. So not surprisingly, once I embraced that, I got to the Institute with. Very interesting, quirky school universe, possibly, but a very interesting crowd of people who had developed it very interesting thinkers and I fit right in in those ways.
I hope I can safely say when I heard the term sex positive there. I'd never heard it before. I had been a queer activist for not quite 15 years. At that point, I was, I co founded, I think, the third queer youth group in the country in the early, mid 70s. But, uh, who knows? I mean, there might have been. Dozens of them that I never, ever heard about, but that was the third that I knew of and have heard of.
And so I had been out there in the, you know, the trenches of talking to college health students and things like that about queer sex and whatever, and having some, some interesting adventures and political organizing or activism or this or that. But, I'd never heard this phrase, and when I heard this phrase, it immediately made my head, uh, made my brain light up, and I know why it made my brain light up.
One, it wasn't that common to hear people talk really positively about sex at that time. I'm obviously in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, people are saying a lot of negative things, and Brightened things, right? About sex. And many people then, as now, just talked about sex in really limited and sort of, um, siloized ways.
And that was not actually how I experienced my own sexuality and my sexual adventures. Yeah. This seemed to broaden that. It also made me think immediately, of course, of the phrase sex negative. Sex positive, sex negative. I, and then I thought about the word homophobia and biphobia, transphobia, all the phobias and realized that, uh, that, that the work that I was doing around those issues was very much related to this larger concept.
And that was cool because I was not a strictly simple queer person. I was. Bisexual Bicurious, bisexual, lesbian identified, but lesbian bi, I mean, I pansexual I suppose is what you could say that I was, but, but it wasn't easy to step across those boundaries as often as I did it. It was like I was skipping rope in as schoolyard with the sexual identity boundaries.
I was just bouncing around . Sure. As there were ropes spun around me. Yeah. And some people thought that was cool, and many people thought that was kind a bogus. So I felt personally supported by this notion, but I also felt really affirmed in having been the kind of activist that I've been so far. So that was my, that was my aha to it, right?
And so I just turned 66. So the likelihood is really good that when you heard the term sex positive, the likelihood is really good that it was. In the context of describing sex positive community, right? The people who come to sex inflected communities with what, you know, joyingly, I'm going to stop putting words in your mouth in one second and ask you what it, what it was for you because I'm very interested to know, but, but you know, this, this idea is, is what it's sort of morphed into as it got out of the corral of academics and, you know, sort of.
Specialist ologist type thinkers. And that's one of the things that I think is really interesting about this notion. People need to feel positive about sex. And when they hear this phrase, they're like, Oh, that's what that is. What was your path to that? Did you remember first hearing about it?
Nicole: My God, Carol.
Dr. Carol Queen: I mean, I grew up in the water, right? So, right.
Nicole: I mean, I grew up very Christian. Okay. Which meant I was not able to be queer, which meant I did not have a positive relationship to sexuality.
Dr. Carol Queen: Maybe a little slut shaming.
Nicole: Oh, you know, dear God. I mean, I couldn't masturbate. I couldn't even, you know, like the whole, the whole, the whole, the whole thing.
Um, and so the first time I heard sex positive, I think was even like in my, to be quite honest, like in my doctoral training. When I started like getting really like starting this podcast and getting really passionate about all of these things. And my mentor was like, here's a way that you can use this frame, this, uh, sex positive as what you're passionate about.
So that I don't scare too many internship sites. Here's the word to use. You don't scare them with your queer kinky, non monogamous identity, you use sex positive. I was like. Okay. So that's kind of how I know the term is like, as like a, a catch all to speak to something in a way that's maybe professional to the larger psychology community,
Dr. Carol Queen: which is super interesting and great.
And it also, this is interesting. I haven't, I haven't quite heard your narrative yet, which is, I love, I mean, the, the, Raised Christian. No, my, my school didn't teach me about this. Yeah, that narrative is very common, but yes, but this reminds me of the overarching way that we began to use the term queer, you know, some, depending on who you asked some 30 to 25, 30 years ago, the term queer really came into the LGBT, et cetera, a wonderful alphabet soup lingo so that, Those people who didn't feel like, like I talked about before, like I was skipping around and jumping boundaries and I didn't have just one orientation.
Right? And, and it. Kind of over arches in the same way that queer does for the. It's really not very binary when we talk about this, this set of initials. So let's, let's just kind of make sure that we give this, this umbrella notion that helps us think about. Well, it doesn't just help us think about sexuality.
I mean, one of the things that this, that I'm getting from your story is that it helps us identify in a particular kind of way, right? Or communicate with others about how you're identifying in this map.
Nicole: Yep. Exactly. Yep. In a way that could be digestible rather than like putting out your identities a little bit.
Dr. Carol Queen: Yeah. And it's. Extremely useful way and thinking in terms of people identifying as sex positive or as part of sex positive community, you know, as your advisor or whoever was was trying to communicate with clearly what successfully communicated with you. There's a lot of different, different ways underneath that umbrella that people could, could express their sexuality and live it.
And, or, or even just, you know, sort of, sort of sit there alone in the corner being in it. And sex positive can cover basically any of that that's consent based, any of it, anything, including, and I have this fight. all the time with sex positive people, you know, big old weirdos, et cetera, not as much anymore, but also asexuals.
People who have never had any sex at all, serious virgins, 40 years old and otherwise, and also virgin, what a, what a bogus term, but anyway, not at any sex with anybody else. And people who had. terrible sex histories that, that honestly they don't want to have anymore because it was so bad so far. Those people can still be sex positive.
We can still hold all of those folks within this embrace of sex positivity because it does not mean, I love sex, I have all the sex. It doesn't mean I'm open and poly. Although it doesn't mean that it doesn't mean I'm queer, although it certainly can mean that. I mean, it doesn't mean any 1 thing aside from this radical, not judgmental space about the variety of sexual possibility, sex and gender possibility.
I might add, because those things, those, those things are a complex, um, like living math problem. They're not the same thing there. It's, it's.
Yes, they're, they're beautiful fractal things. And those notions, I think those are really important. It's important to, to understand that people have drifted to sex positivity or really felt that that was the space that was expected that they identify around. If they were a particular variety of sexual person, you know, all the weirdos, all the, all the, the frisky people, all the, this, all of that.
But, uh, you know, The monogamous cishets have to understand that they, too, are embraced in this bigger embrace. Not all of them want to be in that particular cuddle pile. I understand that, but I'm sorry, folks. Conceptually, you are. You are there.
Nicole: How so? Say more.
Dr. Carol Queen: Well, unless somebody's sex. Desires, fantasies, explorations, behavior, preference, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera is bound up in non consent.
And there are ways for that to be true where you could get out of it because the non consent is not the point. And there are other people for whom it seems that the non consent is the point, but the ones for whom even the ones for whom the non consent is not the point can be given a space it introduced to a space where.
We learn consent based behavior and communication and for all of us, you know, hardly anybody of certainly of my generation, maybe even of yours will sort of was brought up into that specifically, you know, we were brought up into. There are lots of things you don't do, but that's not the reason why exactly.
It's because it's bad to do them. Somebody said it was bad to do them and we're just carrying down the knowledge from, you know, from Moses came down from the mountaintop and he had some tablets and written on them was, Thou shalt not. Right? Yeah. Yeah. For whatever other religious background and, you know, whatever was written on those tablets.
There are a lot of Thou shalt not's out there for a lot of reasons and sex positivity is not really there for that except the, you know, thou shalt not behave in a non consensual way with other people. Why? Because it's, I mean, if we're talking within an overarching space of, of anarchism, because it's, it's like the least pro social way that you can be in the world.
You're, you're, you're doing top down fuckery of whatever it is, including just, and this is, this is where I really got fired up about the, I've got to talk more about the deep stuff because. I started going and talking at, you know, sex conferences and psych and social conferences and this and that talking about sex positivity and I would get a little pushback and the pushback would basically be, well, yeah, but I don't really like that phrase because somebody used it to bully me.
What do you mean? Tell me what happened to you. Well, if you were really sex positive, you'd open up our relationship. If you were really sex positive, you'd let me fuck you in the ass. If you were really sex positive, you'd let me tie you up. If you were really, you know, if, if you were really. a cool kid.
It's this manipulative nonsense engaged in by some people who identify, appear to really identify as sex positive who didn't ever get the class about, yeah, you don't, you don't behave in a non consensual fashion. And that's not, that's not consent based behavior and communication. It's really not. And it also, this idea that, that you could use You know, any identity or orientation or no, you know, political notion that many of us hold dear to shove another person around, you know, let's not, let's not be that way.
Nicole: Yeah, for sure. I mean, all of the non monogamous folks that try and convince monogamous folks to come to that side through like, I'll show you the way I'll show you the way. And I guess I've been a part of that in the past, trying to get partners on this journey with me that didn't want to go on that journey.
And. And the learning process that you go through of that, of like, that's not really an ethical way to do this. All right. To like, try and convince people to go down different paths or to, like you were saying even more, maybe like malicious ways of using, you know, ideologies and values against another person.
If you're sex positive, you would do this. Right. And I think a really spicy one too, to think about is that like, obviously. Consensual non consent is really fun and hot, but I dare I say that in my psychology classroom, and then all the psychologists in training look at me and are like, what? You know, and I'm like, yeah, you can do that consensually.
Dr. Carol Queen: That's a double negative. We can't do, we can't go there. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that the whole Field of sexuality related communication, especially like this academically, um, or professionally, uh, contextualized stuff. This is really interesting to me because this is how, how these sort of incremental changes move into the way that our professionals think and treat us.
And now, of course, in. The world of psychology, there are plenty of people who, you know, who have stepped across those lines of things that used to just be in the DSM to, you know, so that the shrinks could bill insurance. And so, and tell people that they were being problematic, express desire and eroticism, and that's problematic in and of itself in its ways.
But as we started to wrestle with the DSM, and, and Any podcast listeners who are not. In a, you know, a psych program might not know that DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Yup. What a fun book it is! And, and Queer and Kinkster and et cetera, people have, have really come to the table to, to negotiate and, and confer about this book and say, all right, listen, Of course, all the therapists want to be able to build the insurance companies.
It's not a bad thing, you know, if we're going to live our lives and, you know, feed our families. But there's also this problem of assuming that anything that's different from whatever we might think of as normative in any given community or at any given historical moment is wrong to do or to want. And All you have to do is, you know, dig a little bit into the history of not quite modern into modern sexuality.
And you see how many things used to be illegal or completely, you know, not, it's not done even when it was being done. And now there, pushback. Such pushback now, but, but that's because there's been a pretty enormous amount of movement. So, so the whole, the whole discussion about the DSM and pathologizing things allows us to say.
There are people who do this without consent, and there are people who do it with consent and with mindfulness. And you cannot conflate those two things. You're, you're not serving the populace. If you're going to conflate those things, those are, those are things you don't want to conflate at all. You want to make sure people understand what consent looks like.
You want to honor it. You want to teach it. Yeah. You want to support it as being, you know, sort of the bright line. And if you're going to cross it. Have really thoughtful conversations first with the people and get everybody's enthusiastic know how and buy in right and I'm not surprised to hear that in some classes full of, you know, psychologists and therapists and therapists to be and stuff that that that sounds.
Little janky, but you got to dig deeper and see why communities have developed, you know, without the BDSM community, the differences in how things used to be thought about, my first book was Exhibitionism for the Shy in the DSM. I'm actually answering a question. Tomorrow, to a journalist who's like, can exhibitionism ever be consensual?
I'm like, would you read my book?
You didn't even still in print. But somebody jumps out from behind a tree in the park and starts jerking off at you non consensually. They call it exhibitionism. You could get sent to jail and we have to be able to talk about the role that consent plays in empowering everybody who learns about it and uses it to understand that they might be not Surrounded by people who want to do the same things as you, but empowered to find out who those people are who do want to play that way.
You know, just like your, your anecdote about maybe pushing people that more than, than now you think you should have. I mean, that's steps on that path, right? Partly because nobody has to come in and hand you a pamphlet that says, Hey, have you heard about consent for you to have tried that a few times? So the couple, three partners and go, why isn't this working?
Why isn't this, you know, it's, it's so awesome to be this way. It's so awesome to live your life this way. Why? Why are they so resistant? You know, they, they were raised Christian too, or they, they, they were, you know, but, and then understanding that it's really okay for people to wanna be monogamous. Yes.
That's just a thing. It's fine to wanna be. Yes. And as the polyamory mothers of the 1980s used to say, I think I heard this from Debra Pol, I think the late Debra Pol, she said, it's. It's common for people to want monogamous relationships. It's pretty common for people not to want monogamous relationships.
It's the mixed marriages that get in trouble. Want different things, right? Totally.
Nicole: And it's so hard when you've been, when society has really like clamped down on you and always attacks you. So you want to like share that light with everybody and then, but you become so radicalized in it that you forget that like other people are constructing their own life that brings them joy and your path is not going to be the same.
same as other people. So like, like you're saying when maybe a more vanilla therapist goes to pathologize the, you know, kinky client, like the non monogamous person who looks at the monogamous person and pathologizes them, like I was doing that same level of like imposing your reality on another person.
Dr. Carol Queen: And, you know, both sex positivity and anarchism. Um, want us to be able to live in community and community that's diverse. I mean, it's, it's a little easier to live in undiverse communities in various ways. And that could be not just very, very various ways because there's lots of different kinds of diversity to, you know, sort of open your mind to, but it doesn't help a whole lot, especially with the goals of anarchism, which I've.
I've been really happy to embrace for 40 plus years now to, you know, that's like one of the foundations. I realize as I'm talking to you of the thinking and one of the things that made sex positivity means so much to me initially, we've got to be able to shake the top down power structures of our cultures and not recapitulate them.
Right away in our new space, right? We've got to we've got to take that critique, which is a real and vital critique and say, okay, how else does this does this shine light? And to me, it shines light on the sex and gender spectra. Brilliantly.
Nicole: Absolutely. Because there's so much power tied up in that. So much.
Right? And I think that's why I really enjoy this space as, um, where we can have these conversations and where I've seen like therapists start to follow the podcast and stuff and like maybe this is a space where we can like have more expansion, more learning about the ways that people can show up for pleasure and whatever that means to that person and honoring, right?
Like. Absolutely. Absolutely. The consensual nature of that and the amount of space that you can play when you're in that consensual framework is huge. It is huge. Like, anything, like, beyond a vanilla script gets really pathologized. But, like, my god, beyond vanilla is, like, every color of the rainbow and, like, deep meaning and, like, Life force creation.
I mean, like, it's huge. So it's just wild to me. There's so much there.
Dr. Carol Queen: And, and speaking of people using the term sex positive in a pejorative way or in a manipulative way, you, you said vanilla and beyond vanilla. And I just want to remind all the people. That vanilla wasn't intended to be a pejorative term either.
I know you're not using it. I like it. Yeah. Vanilla is a delicious sprinkles on it or eat by itself. And, and there are, are plenty of people having beyond vanilla connections that, that, that don't have, you know, the ICU fellow honored human in whatever way that looks like. including, you know, being tied up and strung from the ceiling or, you know, pretending to do dastardly things or any, any, or actually doing dastardly things or anything.
Instead, I, I think it's really, really important, especially for those folks who were like, well, here's, here's how I'm going to, here's how I'm going to draw my line in the sand that I have kink community is by having that little sneer in my voice. I don't know why I say the word vanilla. Yeah. You know, glorious vanilla sex is glorious in some of the same ways that every other kind of erotic experience is glorious.
And it doesn't matter in terms of who is around us and even who we can trust that they don't do the same exact things that we do. I appreciate that. Like seeks, like, and like trust, like, and all of that fine. I think that's natural. I think that's fine. But. We're living in a historical moment when people are making enemies of each other way too fast.
And not always for mindful, real reasons. Let's try not to do that when we don't have to.
Nicole: Totally. And maybe a better word than is like, anything beyond the scripts, right, of sexuality, beyond the scripts of, you know, but then I start to use more labels like heteronormativity, and penis and vagina, like those scripts.
Like, yeah, how do we find language that doesn't other people in that conversation, but also acknowledges that, like, many people are living in a very, like, small idea of what sex is,
Dr. Carol Queen: you know, I think that one of the things that, that sex positivity can help us kind of think about, although all of career theory and all, all of the stuff that you're talking about also, I mean, it has, it has its role to play.
It's like, if it's true that this vast. Spectrum from nope, no sex, never, never, never, or never again to all the sex, all of it, all of it, you know, which, yeah, that's, that's the thing.
Nicole: I love it.
Dr. Carol Queen: Who's got the time? I asked you, but I do. I was, I lived in the nineties a little bit like that. So I know, I know it.
I know that feel. But there's something about how any one of us at any one of these spaces in the sexual spectra. Um, and be there because we think we have to be there, you know, to get the love we want, um, because we never have had any alternatives introduced to us that we can understand and, and, and think and feel our way into find, find desire for, you know, the, the, those of us who have to.
Keep that stuff secret. Those of us who, you know, hate ourselves because somebody taught us how to do that. And when we feel or experience something outside those boundaries that you're talking about, I mean, those are, those are situations that can't heal in this sort of pop culture sense, unless someone, you know, it's like a or something.
It's like when somebody is ready to say, all right, I want this support now, then that's what matters if I want to heal, if I don't want to hurt anymore, if I want desire to be comfortable and easier, if I want to be able to find the people that I'm supposed to be having sex with, because they want to do the same stuff as me, rather than all the other people that I've been running into so far, there are lots of things that work.
That pop culture, sex positivity can really embrace people with. So even if that was all we were talking about together today, I would call it a really important, um, sort of healing tool or, or, or notion. And many, many people, of course, probably you yourself have experienced that, if that way. Right. And then there's the deep part, and we've already sort of inadvertently started to talk about that too, because the deep part includes the whole society and what we get from it in terms of messages, in terms of resources.
Like a therapist who believes that what you do is a problem when you're doing it and consensually and mindfully and you even looked up the how to do it safely guidelines on the internet. That therapist is sadly as well meaning as they are, as well trained as they feel that they were part of the problem.
The doctor who you walk in and they, you know, try to call The cops, because you've got bruises on you, even though you're trying to explain to them that that was fun, we didn't hit anywhere dangerous, doctor, it's cool, you know, because all of the people who have this provision of service and information to the populace role now, all of those people.
Have become part of the mechanism to either support people and feeling good about themselves and getting what they need in terms of information in terms of the services of of the culture. Or they're part of the problem and are imposing sex negative notions on people, whether they realize they're doing that or not.
So I hope that, I hope that people in these roles will think seriously about this because this is part of the, part of what needs to happen for deep sex positivity to actually move the needle. Um, and then also, you know, what does the law say? What's, what's illegal? What's considered problematic and likely to get you, you know, get your kids taken away, even if it's not illegal per se.
What are the things that the state can do, having to do in some way with your sex and gender, your behaviors, your, I mean, we're looking at a wavy freaking mirror right now around those issues, aren't we? I mean, we're. We're in a terrifying and really fascinating time because it appears that sex and gender diversity is such a powerful set of notions that it can make about a third of the populace really feel unhinged about a bunch of issues that The rest of us need for our safety and our well being.
Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Oh, just in case anybody thought that this was a fun episode where we were just going to talk about sex. and tell stories, you know. Yeah, that's, it's always valuable to do, but. Yes. We got to remember that it's, we're in, we're living in a serious time.
Nicole: Totally. And I think that's the anarchy piece of it, right, is like, you can talk about sex all you want, but if you don't take that larger critique of power, which is that like, Hey, like I can't marry, which, you know, is a legal thing in America where I'm going to get specific benefits from my multiple partners.
Right. It's not just that. We have to look at the larger structure that is causing all of this and it's all interconnected and at the core of it is my pleasure and your pleasure and all of our pleasure, right? So like sex conversations need to, in my opinion, have this larger critique and larger conversations.
Dr. Carol Queen: Absolutely. If you don't do that, I mean, if you focus on pleasure, and I am not going to gainsay focusing on pleasure, it's a fine, fine thing to do, but if in your way of talking about the set of issues, you focus on pleasure and you focus on, uh, You know, sex play and, and sex way, ways, and this and that, then the people around who are having challenges and difficulty around sexual issues, or even are simply happy asexuals who are like, Oh, geez, you
again, do I really have to hear about your weekend again? Right here. We are good friend of mine, but jeez, whatever, whatever. the person who isn't, you know, joined with the sex cadre or who is in their mind, but can't find people who want to have sex with them. All of them. I mean, it's just not simple. It's never as simple as we think and getting that and going, okay, well, then how do we make space where we can talk about all this pleasure, inclusive and pleasure based stuff and always remember.
To be inclusive of the people in the room for who that's not the way they're living right now. It might be the way they're living in a year, right? It might be they were living that way a couple of years ago, but they had to take a break for whatever reason. We don't, you know, it's hard to see into other people's.
Process and lives and, and it's not really a good idea for us to inadvertently insult one another when we're trying to do our, our best life work. We want to try to think about making the embrace bigger. So, so those things are packed into deep sex positivity too, but especially the question of how we understand that we are in a world of diversity.
Accept it, love it. Never talk about it out loud, but understand it. I mean, there was a time when we would not have had the kind of rising up of parents of trans children that we're seeing right now, because a queer or a trans kids. own identity would have been so much a challenge to the identity of the parent that the, and there wouldn't have been any critical mass at all for the ones who were supportive.
I had wild conversations with my parents. That's like that you have to, if you talk to them about this kind of stuff before PFLAG, before parents and friends of, uh, of lesbians and gays and everybody else who Who began to make that critical mass space, and I think if we, if we wanted to write the history of why we have such passionate, positive parents of trans and queer kids right now, the fact that PFLAG 40 years ago, or whenever it was, made more than 40 years ago, 45, made space for parents to have a role in this movement, whether they were queer or not, right?
No, there's, that's really the thing. We need to make space for people to have positive roles in this whole movement, this whole series of ways to be in your relational life, in your sex life, in your gender identity and all of it. Yeah. That's I think what's really most important because when we exclude, they show up shit posting pretty soon and then they vote and then some of them get guns.
It's just not good. Right. I don't want it. I mean, that's not the it's more complicated than that, but that's really the line. I think I see. Yeah.
Nicole: Yeah. And I, at least I've seen. Yeah. Even in our community, the ways that we'll attack 1 another and, like, really get vicious with 1 another and not hold space for reality that, like, a lot of these things.
Require, dare I say the privilege of the space to think about them and learn about them and all of that sort of stuff. And we don't need to be attacking other people who maybe don't have that. I mean, obviously calling people into deeper community to learn and to grow and to evolve and be held accountable for their actions is super important, but like, it's not to other other people, right?
Like there's, there's some deeper way to do this in community and that's going to move forward. All of us forward. And so I'm usually trying to talk about like, yeah, what is pleasure more space for pleasure. Oh, I see cat. I love cat, but like, yeah, pleasure and authentic expression, whatever that means to the person in a way that is not causing harm towards other people.
Like we need more of that space.
Dr. Carol Queen: We really do. And we, and we need, I really feel like we need compassion because almost nobody got good sex education in this culture, right? There are some people who are likely to get more information younger than other people. That doesn't mean that they get to make the rules either, but it definitely makes a difference to call out all of our failure to have been served by the guardians of the culture and the state.
Because guardians of culture are parents in the church, at least, you know, the community in which you come up. And they're held. In a kind of esteem, along with true guardians of the state, like teachers and political figures who psychologist or make or repeal our laws and doctor psychologists, other people who make or repeal our laws.
Come in and consult when it's time to determine if there's a problem, if someone's not normal, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You know, if somebody's kids are going to get taken away and we want those people to have had good sex education. And sadly they haven't always had it. And even in college.
Especially not in Florida right now. And it's really worth everybody's time, especially if they find that there's any kind of issue that these kinds of guardians are going to participate in that will affect our well being to really think about why it's important to have sex education, to think about why it's important to have contraception and abortion care.
Why it's important to have laws that protect people who are more vulnerable, maybe give them some space to not be targeted by other people because times are intense now. But they were intense when I was helping to found one of the first gay youth groups in the country. I'm sure. And they've been pretty intense.
The whole freaking time, especially depending on where you grew up and how you grew up as you know, and I think all this stuff is all connected. So, so truly being able to talk about deep sex positivity on a podcast that takes anarchism seriously is such a gift because it's, I do feel like they. They have some, some interesting common roots.
They're not the same thing, but they talk to each other pretty well, I think.
Nicole: Yeah. I would love to hear how you see that, because I see that, and maybe the listener sees that, but I'd love to hear more about how you see that connection.
Dr. Carol Queen: Well, partly to me, anarchism is an analysis of these power structures.
And not just an analysis of power structure to help us think about how we can step up in those hierarchies, although for many people, that is a study. Right? And it's an important 1 in many ways. I mean, I, I want there to be. Queer doctors and therapists and senators, and as long as we've got an irritating Supreme Court on the Supreme Court, you know, I want, I want racial diversity in those places.
I want many kinds of diversity in those places. And to me, that's part, if, if you accept the state as an entity at all. I think that those are ways to enhance how we all can get more of the wheels of power to turn in the direction that we need them to. Like right now, the actors, the screenwriters, George and Jean, the cats, all their fans, everybody is every once in a while having reason to say relatively nice things about the National Labor Relations Board.
And I'm sure there are anarchists who are like... Screw the National Labor Relations Board better when it's helping you do the work you need to do to get more, you know, rights in the workplace. It's better than when they're not supporting you in that. So, to me, you got to understand these levels of power, these, you know, these wheels of power and how, where we come from in them, how they affect us, how we're one up in some ways and have privilege and how we're one down in other ways and have, you know, enemies in the state and then in, in these, these levels of power.
And then. When we step away from participating in all of that to the degree that we can, how do we not recapitulate it? And also how, even if it is our goal to step away as thoroughly as possible, what are the things that we really need to keep an eye on? You know, I know, I know when I was in college and the.
Late 1970s, early 1980s, there was graffiti, uh, near campus that said, don't vote. It only encourages them. And I'm all, well, yeah, it clearly pretty much does encourage them. But the last several years, we've kind of gotten a lot of insight about what happens when too many of us turn away from that process.
Like, can we turn away safely and take the vulnerable with us? Well, it turns out that we freaking can't, can we? Not yet. Not right now. So to me at this time in my life as an anarchist, not voting in a mindful way prevents us from exercising care to more vulnerable populations. Right. And we can work it out as we go, as we, as we move through our political and human process so that I would no longer say that, but right now in this decade, I'm saying it.
Nicole: Yeah. Got to work within and against the systems, right? Like within and against at the same time.
Dr. Carol Queen: Because within is. a really important place to see our values get reflected. I think that there are a lot of people who, especially when we're talking about pleasure and things like that, who don't see that as a collective good, right?
Yeah. But I think that pleasure If it's not a collective good, if we can't understand that there are still many ways that much more path to tread to get to the space where people can access the pleasure that's right for them in a way that's safe in a way that, you know, where they can find joy, where they can find safety, all of all the, all the wonderful things that, you know, that being held either in community or in one person's arms can feel like.
For us. Yeah, it's there's there's no, you know, there's no other way to to embrace those things for some of us than in those contexts. If we don't Care about whether other people have access to the kinds of pleasure spaces that we've been fortunate enough to build for ourselves that we'll discover with others, then there's a, there's a streak of selfishness in that space, right?
I'm not going to suggest that we should turn away from our, our own pleasure space. In order to wait on that, that was kind of one of the core arguments between. Sex positive feminism and like sex neutral or really sex cranky feminists. And I don't mean to, I don't actually mean to dishonor feminists who were like, Sex can't come first until we get rid of the violence.
I mean, I, I, I understand why people would feel that way. Honestly, I do. It's not wrong. But it's also not right because telling everybody that pleasure is for later, feeling good in yourself and feeling okay about yourself is for later is not a revolutionary perspective.
Nicole: Right. Or that it was for when you were young and that stage of your life is over.
That's a real fun narrative.
Dr. Carol Queen: Oh yeah, that's nonsense. Did I mention I turned 66 a couple of days ago? Stop it, people. I love that. See, like, here's what I want to say to them. If you don't Feel like you want to explore and have sex. You know, if since your second kid, you just don't have the energy. If I, whatever it is, if you're not in that place anymore, that's fine.
Our sexualities and our identities too, can be fluid across the lifespan. I'm a lot more asexual now that I was in the nineties. I'm going to tell you what, but. You cannot tell another person how to live in their body, how to live in their mind, how to express themselves around those things. We can put up the fence about consent, because without that boundary, people get harmed.
We can think about other ways that people get harmed too, because that's not the only way that it might happen, but that's important. And acknowledging all of that stuff is not the same as saying, well, you people are just having too much fun and you don't care about the collective, or you don't care about the sisterhood, or you don't care about Who, what, who, who, and whatever the earth, you know, we can use pleasure as a fuel and the lack of pleasure can be a true impairment for those of us who need access.
And I'm not just talking about orgasms. I'm not just talking about fucking, I'm talking about feeling safe and okay in your skin and your blood. And It was a wonderful title of an anarchist book, Go The Way Your Blood Beats. Mmm. I love that. We cannot cut people off from their needs for that and still be in integrity with the things that we say we want as progressives or anarchists or queers or, you know, expansive post, post villain people, any of it.
We just can't. That's deep sex positivity.
Nicole: Yeah, and I talk about the damn pleasure revolution and the power that could come if more people were experiencing pleasure in all of the different ways that you talked about, right? Feeling good in your body, feeling good in the identities, feeling good in your journey of your evolution of relationships, sensuality, sexuality, your connection to the earth.
You know, like we can get into all of that, but I think like all of that would, would quite literally like fuel a revolution of change. Yeah.
Dr. Carol Queen: Which means that if anybody's listening and they're like, I really, I don't really think the sex and gender stuff is all that important. It's like, please, please open your heart to what it means for somebody to feel like their identity is crushed by the state.
I mean, plenty of. Working class people feel like that when they go to work, you know, imagine feeling it 24 7 all the time. Yeah, it's not. It's not okay to tell other people what they need. Right. Right. Simple. Right. Better to listen to what they. Tell you they need, and then we can start to, you know, sit in a circle and make some plans.
Nicole: Totally. Totally. And I think, yeah, for me as a queer kinky non monogamous psychologist in training, right, I feel like I'm navigating such like that fine line as a woman in the space between the Madonna And the whore and I'm man, Carol, if I can do anything, I hope to navigate the direct center of both of those things of like, hell yeah, I'm divine and spiritual and good and deeply slutty and deeply into all of the quote unquote, dark, whatever we want to put in that category.
But like, Oh, man, do I want to ride that line between both and take that somewhere.
Dr. Carol Queen: And we have been here all this time, just that it hasn't been as common at all. Yeah. To see us in the mainstream, to speak up in these, these power. You know, power inflected spaces like in your programming in your classes and, you know, in just standing up in court, you know, just imagine how many people didn't get what they needed in the world before.
We started to find lawyers who would be like, yeah, we'll go to the Supreme Court and argue for you. You know, it's, it's, we've, we've seen some rather extraordinary change over my lifespan. And I think it's in some ways not surprising that there is pushback right now. But I don't think many of us understand quite what a, I'll just use scientific language, shit show it will be.
If more and more of those successes happen, because how do you stuff change back into, you know, a sack and tighten the cords and throw it in the river, you don't, you, you kick up more. You know, cultural dust and we're that's where we're living now and you know, I don't have I don't want people to breathe the dust in but when it settles on your skin, you know why it's there and and let's just take that on.
It's so important. I'm so glad that you're talking about these issues. I'm really just very honored to have a chance to come and rant about these things with you. It means a lot to me.
Nicole: It's very nicely timed because I just had a, uh, meeting about like applying to internship where I have to answer this essay of tell us about yourself, right?
And it's like, Okay. Thank you. My God, how honest can I be in this space about what I'm actually passionate about without getting called unprofessional? Because, because you, like, it makes me a little jealous. I feel like I would have, should have went down your path of like going down a PhD in sexology and going down that path.
We're now in the clinical psychology space. It's so like, you know what I mean? So like, it's, it's nicely timed to hear you say that because I quite literally just came from a space where like, I'm, I, I feel in my body how much so I'm like a little bit afraid of if I'll be accepted in those spaces, which is really sad.
Dr. Carol Queen: That is really sad. And it's a strategic decision to think through what, what you, I mean, even when your identities are, are fully political for you, you know, we've still got to think about how they land. We still have to think about how safe we are in various spaces. There's, there's a lot of, There's a lot of contingencies.
It's kind of too bad that there are as many as there are, but there they are. And, and we do better work when we take them on and think them through, right? Yeah. So, you know, at, at the very least, whatever you put out to them is not going to be anodyne and, and boring and have none of your own personality in it.
So you can think in terms of when privacy is necessary and strategic, or you can. Give them the opportunity to listen to the way you represent and yourself and argue your truth and say why it's crucial to the work that you're doing. Step up.
Nicole: Hell yeah. Let's see what, what they do. My podcast is on my CV, so they will see and, and, and maybe Carol will be right when this episode is coming out, they'll get my application, come in and hear our conversation and dive in, baby.
Dr. Carol Queen: Well, in that case, it was meant to be.
Nicole: Yeah, exactly. So yes. I appreciate that so much, so I want to hold a little bit of space too as we come towards the end of our time in case there is maybe something we didn't talk about that you want to share with the listeners. Otherwise, I have a closing question I can kind of guide us towards.
Dr. Carol Queen: I just want to say that one of the things that I really want to remind people And it's, if anything, it's even more important in this moment of AI making up its own facts. It's not bad enough that our freaking country people are also making up their own damn facts. It's right now. It's the machine. Yes. I just want to remind people that when you're looking for information on the internet, you're not getting Good information that goes way back, particularly when we're talking about alternate spaces and all of that stuff.
Was more hidden and more secret than it is now and it may or may not have found its way to an archive been digitized and show up on a search. Don't think these, you know, the sex positive political changes marriage quality. This and that don't think they started in about night 2010. Did you ever notice how if you look stuff up on the internet, a lot of stuff starts to happen around the year 2000.
It's because it didn't show up on the internet. That's not the only place to be aware that history might reside history, you know, resides in me and in every other older person history resides in books, even though sometimes you have to read between the lines of them. It's just, I want, I want people to be alive.
To the fact that, that all of these things we've been talking about, including political change, are processual, fluid, go back decades and decades and decades, if not centuries. And if you consider yourself an activist, it's great to be alive to that stuff. It's great to take into account because in the first place, it helps you feel great about how much has changed.
In the second place, it makes you realize we all got to stay tuned.
Nicole: Yes. Yes. And it reminds me a lot, right? And fight and fight, right? With, with a lot of different tools, but yeah, it reminds me too, of the importance of community, like throughout all of these things, like when you're dealing with the people who don't understand and who judge and who, who harm you, like the ability to have that community that you come back to that knows and understands you, and also has the lineage of wisdom that you're referring to.
referring to, right? Like, there's so much wisdom tied up in these communities that is not necessarily on the internet, and so getting more connected with other people is a crucial part of that.
Dr. Carol Queen: Yeah. Yeah. And you said you had one last.
Nicole: Yes, I do. The question I ask every podcast guest is, what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?
Dr. Carol Queen: Diversity. I wish people understood that there's not just one way to have pleasure, experience in your body, identity. That it is not all binary, it is not all either or, it is fluid and changeable. I like to say there are, what, 8 million ish people, 8 million sexual orientations. Sure. Because we compare ourselves.
To what we believe to be the norm so often, and if we switch away from heteronormativity. There we are living somewhere else, and we're still often comparing ourselves to what we think the norm is in the new identity. And while solidarity and, and likeness of experience are wonderful things to have in your life, they're not laws that mean that we have to cut out any other desire or experience or way of identifying.
I just think it's crucial that people come to understand that part of the pushback right now really, really is coming from, Oh, right now let's just codify binary into everything. Bake it in. It's like, honeys, it's already baked in. You know, some of us jumped out of the cake and if you bake it in some more, we'll do it again.
There is no no. I'm just going to. Boil it down to that, because the most common question that I and other sex educators and sexologists hear, and you will too, as a therapist, is am I normal?
Nicole: Yes. I hear it all the time.
Dr. Carol Queen: It's not the right question. Yeah.
Nicole: Mm hmm. You passed the anarchist test, Carol. Glad to hear that.
It's almost like a secret question these days. It's like, do they deconstruct normal or do they let it pass by? So I love it. I love it. And yeah, it reminds me too of like, just like the need for diversity at like, when we look at ecology and how nature thrives, like we need diversity, right? Like that is quite literally how we have healthy ecosystems.
And then just like the expansion of like our existential reality. You know, I always think about that as a therapist of that, like even the word. kinky, right? Like I say that and that means something to me and it means something different to you. And it's going to mean something different to someone else.
And so like when we talk about normal and like the range of diversity and all of that, that we can create with these words and these languages that we use to like label these things, it's like, man, I could ask someone what that one word needs them for days in a session and really unpack that because like we're all creating our own narrative of meaning making with sex.
So that is Huge.
Dr. Carol Queen: And so many people don't get permission to even take sex that seriously. To think in terms of creating a narrative of meaning making, it's just sex. Oh it's everything. There is no such, it's, I had, I had the most wonderful, it was a wonderful conversation. I'll start my last word on this.
Probably. I had the most wonderful conversation on the phone. I remember pacing up and down, talking long distance to my ex girlfriend. This happened 35 years ago now when I was entering my program at, um, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, which sadly no longer exists. Everybody, you can't just enroll in it now.
You sexology schools, but anyway, quirkiest school in the world. He said to me, I could see it if sex was your business. I could see it if it was your hobby, but for you. for you. It's everything. And I was all well in the first place. You're the, you're the person who taught me about multiple orgasm. Come on.
Let's just give yourself some credit about how wise you are in the sexual realm. And then it's not. One thing. It's not just one thing. Like I've used the metaphor of a, a faceted jewel, you know, and not, not everybody even sees the other side of the facets. You should turn it around and around and around, but it's okay not to be curious about what's on the other side of the jewel.
It's not okay to say. There is no other side of the jewel. I can only see this side.
Nicole: Right. And the reality is when I set, I, you know, like sexuality and pleasure is like a center point in how I am constructing my life and what I'm choosing to build and how I want to live my life. That means I'm not going to learn a lot about fishing.
And I'm going to have to one day get to my deathbed and be like, damn, I did not turn the jewel of fishing. You know what I mean? That someone else spent their whole life really focusing and studying and, and feeling the pleasure of that practice. And like, so. Yeah, everyone gets to choose what you want to build your life around and like the joy of the diversity
Dr. Carol Queen: or stumble into it, which is, I mean, if, if, if you plan and, and, and navigate yourself, it's great.
If you fall off the curb and find yourself in a whole new world, you didn't know existed. That was me. Some of us got here that way too, so it's all good as long as you have the tools you need. And, uh, And the safe space to, to build what you need. Right. And for some fishing, we'll, we'll come up at some point and for others, not so much.
Absolutely. It's been such a delight talking to you. Thank you for having me.
Nicole: Thank you. Is there anywhere you'd want to plug so that people can find your work, your writings, the projects you're up to?
Dr. Carol Queen: Well, people, um, You can find me at Good Vibrations, goodvibes. com. Uh, we've, there's a page for me, you can email me through it if you want to.
There's another page where people ask sex questions of my lovely colleagues and I. You can also find my book Exhibitionism for the Shy there. Since I mentioned it earlier and, um, a book that I wrote for good vibrations, the sex and pleasure book, good vibrations guide to great sex for everyone, which I didn't name because I would never say for everyone, but, but let's hope that it is.
And, um, it's. Uh, a compendium of lots of different information about sex, toys, porn, but also sex positivity and sex in the lifespan, fluidity, and a lot of things, a lot of things in the book. And, um, you can also track down, um, sometimes in other places, other stuff that I've written, but bunches of it are, um, out of print now.
And hence they are enriching used bookstores, which on the one hand, yay bookstores and on the other hand. Um, I don't want people to have to pay that much for my books. Maybe someday I'll try to bring them back into print, but, um, but those places and here and every once in a while at a university or a conference near you, so not traveling as much as I used to, but I pop up as well.
Nicole: Thank you for creating this conversation with me and sharing your expertise with all of the listeners today.
Dr. Carol Queen: My pleasure and honor. Thank you for having me.
Nicole: If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And head on over to modernanarchypodcast. com to get resources and learn more about all the things we talked about on today's episode.
I want to thank you for tuning in and I will see you all next week.