Tag Archives: Chris Donaghue

Conner + Dr. Chris Donaghue talking sex and culture

13 Oct
Welcome to Episode 10 of Against Everyone with Conner Habib
I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far without talking at length about sex yet. Well, that changed, of course, when I invited one of my closet colleagues over: sexologist, author, and co-host (with Amber Rose) of Loveline, Dr. Chris Donaghue!
Chris is one of my closest colleagues (as in, we share the same approaches to thinking about sex), and he’s constantly reinvigorating my interest in a subject that I’ve been studying and working with for over a decade.
IN THIS EP
  • When you talk about sex, you’re condemned by pop culture and bureaucracy (this goes on for quite awhile, because there’s example after example): 2:25
  • This condemnation is happening for everyone, it just rises to the surface when you enter the public sphere 9:55
  • Hypersexualization meets sexphobia to create a frustration culture: 10:30
  • Sex shame in the self help section: 13:55
  • Your own sexual liberation is a lifelong project 15:45
  • The surprising places sex negativity springs up 16:35
  • New age fundamentalism masquerading as healthy sexuality 18:20
  • Dismantling “balance” and going for excess to be healthy and fully realized: 19:45
  • “Balance” is just another name for monogamy: 21:35
  • Sex IS the teacher: 23:00
  • To learn about sex, seek some discomfort: 28:45
  • How monogamous partners often police and trap each other: 30:50
  • Wittgenstein explains pornography 33:55
  • My favorite adult scene to watch: 38:30
  • Why bisexuality does and does not exist: 40:10
  • Are new terms for sexual identity politics valuable?: 43:10
  • Conner feels fat, and that makes him a top: 47:55
  • Individuality vs Individualism: 1:01:10

The show notes, including three books Chris recommends, are here on my patreon!

If you enjoy the show, please do support it!
Thank you!

CH

#TheSexRadicals, Conclusion: Where are the sex radicals of today?

22 Sep

AASBEach week this summer, I’ve been posting short essays on sexual thinkers who have changed my perspective on sex, and who, I believe, could be instrumental in helping us remake Western sexual culture. All the figures were dead except one, Amber Hollibaugh, who I included because, in my life, she’s tied to the other thinker featured in that post, Edward Carpenter, in a way that I felt made both more illuminating.

The task at hand after the series was finished was to cap it off with a review of the sex radicals of today.  I thought it would be easy.  Instead, I found myself searching without much success and wandering around in a sort of cultural pessimism.

It’s not that there’s a shortage of people doing amazing sexual thinking. I know dozens of people who are doing essential and powerful work around sex.  I list some of them here in hopes that you will find and engage with their efforts.  People like:

sex and law scholar Eric Berkowitz

trauma and abuse researcher Susan Clancy

Middle East cultural critic and feminist rebel Mona Eltahawy

sex work journalist Melissa Gira Grant

trans rights activist/porn occultist Bailey Jay

critical theorist Roger Lancaster

writer and researcher into childhood sexuality Judith Levine

the dispeller of sex and porn addiction myths David Ley

cultural documentarian and sex worker advocate Maggie McNeill

sex-in-evolutionary thinker Christopher Ryan

The world would be worse off without any of these people’s vital efforts. And for all the tremendous amount of respect and

Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich

gratitude I have for them, I don’t find in them the big picture risk of someone like Wilhelm Reich, or the comprehensive theorizing of someone like Jacques Lacan. Nor anything like Ida Craddock‘s attempt to merge dimensions of science, pleasure, spirituality, and feminism into a usable practice of sensual liberation.

This isn’t a slight to any of the luminaries I’ve mentioned.  Rather, it’s a report on the state of the world, which has seemingly moved on from a renaissance of interdisciplinary thinking. Instead, thinkers tend to find a niche and gather information, to become experts.  This is, in some ways, a positive development.  After all, the sweeping generalizations of the modern era led to (and continue to lead) to colonialist wars, racism, classism, and more.

But the drive to discover the entire world in yourself, and to discover yourself spread out across the world your very being located everywhere, that does bring us something potent and radical.

Perhaps more to the point, that the current cultural impulse demands we sequester our work and not allow the free flow of other disciplines into our own is decidedly un-sexual.

My mentor, biologist Lynn Margulis, was an interdisciplinary radical if ever there was one.  She knew geology, chemistry, microbioogy, botany.  She could recite Emily Dickinson poems by heart, and at the end of her life published a book of fiction.  She went to school for philosophy and helped create the field of biogeochemistry, which studies how living beings interact with non-living beings in profound discursive loops.

Lynn and Me.

Lynn and Me.

“The people down the hall from my lab,” she told me, “have no idea what I’m doing.  And the people down the hall from them have no idea what they’re doing, and so on.  How is anyone supposed to know what ‘science’ is if scientists don’t talk to each other?”  That was in a single University of Massachusetts building.  Now what about that building and the humanities building?  And other campuses?  And people who don’t go to college or teach at a college and those that do?  The world is hopelessly fragmented and continues to harden into fine intractable points of view.  We don’t have disciplines any more so much as we do shards of thought.  We can’t help but harm ourselves with their edges, still jagged from when they were broken off from the whole.

Happily, there are deeply interdisciplinary thinkers that write and speak about sex. The founder of the Center for Sex and Culture Carol Queen, for example.  Science fiction writer and academic Samuel Delaney. Sex therapist and author Chris Donaghue.

I don’t mean these intellectuals are “better,” simply that they are doing the work of introducing disciplines and perspectives to SOTLother disciplines and perspectives.  They are bridges for disparate ways of thought.  These sorts of bridges are desperately needed.

And we need to do more than that, even.  We need to focus our efforts on more than just sex.  Sex is the teacher, and its lesson is not merely itself.

I’m guilty myself of every charge here, of course.  I’m guilty of limiting my scope and vision and action, and I’d like to do better.

A world that embraces true sexual freedom will need to be pluralistic, because sexuality is individual.  Unfortunately what our culture embraces, sexually, is pluralism’s opposite.

Fundamentalism is the default attitude of our culture when it comes to sex.

It’s an attitude composed of a psychotic certainty about what is sexually moral.  People and institutions in power may have set the stage for these fundamentalist attitudes, but everyone perpetuates them.  Whenever you slut-shame someone, whenever I reactively flinch at a friend’s sexual preference, whenever we unthinkingly let a sexual taboo go unchallenged, even if we are sex positive, we reinforce sexual fundamentalism.  The best way to combat fundamentalism is to cultivate in thinking, feeling and action, a true plurality. Sexually, you may engage with people you might not normally find attractive, try a new sexual act, question your patterns and boundaries.  But let’s move beyond sex here to get truly sexual.  We can read and investigate topics outside of our interests, allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.  Pull a book at random off the shelf at the library, force yourself through it, whatever it is.  We can speak to people outside our group, however we might define it.  Start a conversation with a stranger, and watch your thinking as you proceed.  Finally, we can believe in and hold lightly concepts that are counterintuitive to see how they feel.  Allow love for your enemies, whether they’re people or ideas.

When we view the world pluralistically, when we see many disciplines, the image of the leader dissipates and is replaced with and image of partners.

When Lacan observed the revolution in France in 1968, he said “What you aspire to as revolutionaries is a master.” He knew that what usually happens is that people replace one assembled invisible worldview with another.  There’s no desire in that.

So how can we change the landscape of sex without seeking new masters? 

I’m not sure, but my best shot is this:

Let sex teach you.  Be its student.  Then look to yourself, the world is there.

Interlude/Update/Events/Hello

2 Sep

inbedMy blog series, The Sex Radicals returns next week with the penultimate entry.  Until then, I wanted to give everyone a heads up about what’s going on here in my ridiculous life.

***

Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking at Catalyst Con West on Saturday September 12, with my closest colleague, Dr. Chris Donaghue.  Our talk, “The Limits of Sex Positivity,” will focus on the pitfalls of the sex positive perspective and community.  The sex positive movement has helped contribute to a healthier, better educated, and more open sexual culture. But with any cultural shift, new dangers are created. What are the limits, pitfalls, and problems of the sex positive movement? For more info on the talk, click here.TT

The same day at Catalyst Con, I’ll be recording a live podcast discussion with porn director and sex educator Tristan Taromino on her world-renowned radio show, Sex Out Loud.  Click here (and scroll down) for info.

***

Media

Happily busy with podcasts, videos, interviews, etc.

A while back, I appeared on the Grimerica podcast, which focuses on science at the margins, the occult, and general weirdness.  This was my second appearance, and I was joined by the host of one of my other favorite podcasts, Skeptiko.  Alex Tsakiris and I talked about all sorts of stuff, and we don’t always agree (as usual with Alex and I), but it goes deep.  To listen to the discussion, click here.  If you like the discussion, there’s another one between Alex and I, on my blog, here.

Abby Martin

Abby Martin

I also appeared on Abby Martin’s new podcast, Media Roots RadioYou might remember my appearance on Abby’s radical journalism show Breaking the Set a few years back.  Or, if not, you might just know who she is and think she’s awesome.  You’re right.  Abby and I discuss the problems with gay marriage from a queer perspective, as well as bigotry masquerading as new atheism.  We also talk about the PEN America/Charlie Hebdo kerfuffle I was involved in a few months ago.  Abby just moved to New York to start her new show, The Empire Files.  When it airs, watch it.

In other podcast news, I also appeared on This Week in Blackness after Dark with host N’Jaila Rhee.  We spend the 45 minutes or so talking about the recent federal raid on the offices male escort service, Rentboy.  We also discuss all the issues of intersectionality (male privilege, homophobia, class issues, etc.) this raid raises.  Lots to chew on.

My series of sexual health videos for the LGBT Center in West Hollywood, produced by WeHo Life, are now out.

In the first video, I talk about cleaning yourself out in preparation for sex.  For some reason they wanted me to film that video in a public park, so, enjoy my frank public discussion of a generally private act.

I talk with Happy Endings star Stephen Guarino about open relationships and monogamy, and how to juggle both/either.  Quick tip: neither is in-and-of-itself easy.  Watch it here.

In another video in the series, I discuss how to create a sex positive community with stand-up comedian James Adomian.

James Adomian

James Adomian

Meaning, I discuss it with him.  Not, like, how to create a sex positive community with James himself.  Although, okay, sure, if he lives in your neighborhood, you might want to.

I loved shooting these videos because they allowed me to talk about sex and be goofy at the same time.  But not like “tee-hee, OMG it’s SEX” goofy, just like, “look, like is silly and we do this silly thing called sex when we’re alive.”

Also, they did a little opening credits animation thing where I’m the Superman of sex.  I like being a superhero.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.53.06 AM