Isn’t synchronicity delightful? I had just stepped off the tram from my first Smut Slam, where diverse people share real-life sex stories in English. As I set foot on the pathway to my building, I noticed something unusual. The person walking towards me on the unlighted footpath was a) male, b) naked, and c) in stilettos. He wasn’t an exhibitionist, judging by how he covered his bits as he passed me. This piqued my interest even more. What was his story?
I told my Mitbewohnerin, who promptly pulled out her phone. “Was it this guy?” Pictures of a naked, middle-aged man in the rain, who apparently wanted to play basketball with them on the kids’ playground. Not the same guy. The mind boggles.
LeipGlo’s Dr. Amorous chatted with Cameryn Moore, hostess of the hugely popular Smut Slam sessions, about intimate info sharing. How much information should one share about one’s sex life? When is it Too Much Information (TMI)?
If the idea of people dishing on their sex lives appeals to you, look out for the next Smut Slam in Leipzig in September.
– Intro by Loudine Heunis
How much of one’s sex life with a partner can you share with friends? Is it up to oneself, or is it a deal in the relationship?
Dr. Amorous: This raises some issues around privacy, consent and autonomy. My first reaction would be, “you can share exactly as much or as little as your partner says is OK.” However, on closer consideration, the issue is more complicated.
Cameryn: It’s totally complicated! On the one hand, yes, maybe your partner doesn’t want you sharing that all around. But on the other hand, talking about our sex lives is one great way to get and share information about sex. And to process our own experience of it. We may not want or need a counselor, but want a sounding board other than our partner.
Dr. Amorous: If we want to establish a basic bottom line, I would say that it’s not OK to talk in ways that are not OK, period. Giving details of the other person’s anatomy, criticizing them or belittling them to others. Or mocking their bodies or preferences in any way. I think we can be pretty confident about that being off-limits.
Where it gets complicated for me is around issues of control.
I could think of situations where one partner forbids the other to ever talk about their sex life, even on the basis of privacy. However, maybe the other is experiencing some things they aren’t comfortable with, and needs validation for their concerns. That is not going to happen within the relationship. So in that situation negotiations around freedom to talk with discretion could reveal deeper issues of control.
Cameryn: Are you suggesting that every couple negotiates how/when it’s okay to talk about their sex lives with close friends?
Dr. Amorous: I wouldn’t want to be that prescriptive, because couples are mysterious entities. I would say that those conversations are worthwhile, because it requires you to think through your boundaries. And to share them and figure out whether you trust the other person. All of which falls under worthwhile relationship homework.
There are ways to compare notes without violating anybody’s privacy.
Cameryn: Okay, but talking about demographic trends and techniques in general is not even possible if you don’t have a lot of experience. In the interest of full disclosure, I do run Smut Slam stories involving my past partner. But there are one or two friends in my life that I have the occasional in-person sex convos with. I think I just include that in the possible job description of being a really close friend. I would agree with you, though, on those basic ground rules: no demeaning or descriptions of physical attributes.
Dr. Amorous: So we’ve covered how it’s OK to talk about it, and I think we’re also moving towards where or with whom to talk.
“Freedom to talk with discretion” suggests trusting the other person.
They need to discern who to trust with your private questions or experiences, rather than exposing your sex life to disrespectful people. The where/with whom issue also leads us to meta-social spaces like Smut Slam. Or an advice column, or various internet resources like Savage Love or Dear Prudence. Here you can ask questions anonymously, so you can learn without setting off the more problematic issues of exposure or non-consent.
Cameryn: So where do you draw the line for yourself, in your relationships?
Dr. Amorous: Right at the bedroom door. Metaphorically speaking. I am not possessive of others, but I am extremely possessive of myself.
What happens around my body belongs to me.
That’s my magic, I’m not sharing.
Cameryn: So you wouldn’t want any of your partners talking about your sex with anybody else?
Dr. Amorous: If I’m honest, no. I can’t imagine that happening in a way which I would not find mortifying. I dated a guy once who told his brother on Skype that we were getting along well, but not so much in bed. This was true and very apparent to me already: We were just not compatible. That was equivalent to meeting the relatives at Thanksgiving and the brother already thinks, “This woman is a terrible lay.” If it was showing off about how great a time we’re having, maybe a little. But if it was more specific, “girl is devoted to my nipples and I wish she would stop,” I wouldn’t be OK with that.
We can all formulate sentences like, “I know you love it but I need you to fall back a little.”
Cameryn: Generally I’m not going to my best friends for sex advice, more relationship advice, which is its own delicate area. It hasn’t always been the case, but I have gotten pretty good at giving feedback in the moment, like you say. I still like to brag it up a little bit sometimes. Not to family, though!
Dr. Amorous: I think it is OK to brag a little and I am currently doing my share, but also with discretion. I think what is appropriate also depends on whether your close friends/family pool and people-you’re-fucking pool are interconnected. My best friend lives on a different continent, so I can safely tell her things which will never put her in an awkward situation when meeting the person. I have come to her after sketchy experiences and said, “I feel like that’s not OK, is that definitely creepy?” It was very important to have her say, “That is definitely extremely creepy.” Someone close, but well outside your immediate experiences, can offer an important perspective when dealing with less-fun issues.
Cameryn: It sounds like something that not only could be talked about in the relationship, and perhaps should be, but also thought about for yourself. What your needs are, and what those interconnecting social circles are. And also, generally getting better about talking with your partners about this stuff. When in doubt, ask!