Join us on #GiveOUTDay May 15th, 2014! Spread the word!
In 1994 my partner Robert and I (I’m author and sexologist Carol Queen, PhD) were visiting our friend Betty Dodson, sometimes known as “the Mother of Masturbation,” in her NY home. Why didn’t she bring her fabulous Bodysex workshop to the Bay Area? we asked. There wasn’t an appropriate venue there, she said. And then she said the words that begin the story of The Center for Sex & Culture: “You kids should start a place.”
Betty was right! Between us, we had connections in many sexuality-related communities. We both have doctorates in sexology; I worked at the legendary Good Vibrations and wrote for Spectatormagazine, which had evolved from the old Berkeley Barb; I wrote stories and essays for zines and anthologies too, and was working on my first book, Exhibitionism for the Shy; we traveled around the US teaching, speaking, and meeting people from many sexual worlds, and were ourselves comfortable participants in many of these; and we’d both been directors at SF Sex Info. Together, we could relate and identify with much of the range of sexuality.
It took over 5 years of talking up the idea, but at last an angel donor helped us get over the fence: We corresponded with the IRS, got our non-profit status, and began looking for a space. Interns and donated materials came our way even before we had a room to house them. When we did get a place, we invited every sexually interested person over 18 to be part of it: as member, performer, teacher, patron, life-long learner. Academics and journalists began to visit to use our library and inspect our collections. Librarians descended on us, helping us to organize the many books and journals we’d amassed. (We believe we now have the largest publicly-accessibly sex library in the country — maybe the world!)
We host sex ed classes, and also cultural events. I deeply feel that, in the absence of good sex ed in the US, many of us learn about sex and develop our attitudes about sexuality via culture, and we want to participate fully in that discussion. We also support culture-making: through writing classes for sex workers; our award-winning Erotic Reading Circle; burlesque and dance classes; and our annual Nude Aid artmaking day. We also support community-based organizations, from BDSM/leather, to sex worker support groups, to the unique safer sex strategies of the SF Jacks. Our collections include Buzz Bense’s HIV/AIDS poster collection (these hang in our gallery from November 2013 through January 2014), materials from Pat Califia and Larry Townsend, a full run ofOn Our Backs magazine, Scarlot Harlot’s searchable database of sex worker interviews, and so much more.
We are all-volunteer, a labor of love and community for everyone involved. The next wave of core staff — a new librarian, a gallerist, archivists, and each year’s group of interns — came to us because of the cultural impacts of our collections; they have made them increasingly organized and accessible, and are helping to turn CSC into a venue for erotic artists who have few other places to exhibit their work.
Our first publication was SAFE SEX BANG, a catalog of Buzz Bense’s aforementioned safer sex posters, in early 2014. We dream of publishing more books, thus helping more non-Bay Area people join the conversation. We also want to broadcast many of our events online, so we are even more a global community sex center than a local one. In the meantime, we hope you will visit us when you come to San Francisco! And thank you so very much for reading about our history and supporting us. EVERY donation helps us keep our doors open and take care of the materials our community has entrusted to us.
Here’s more information about a recent CSC story, collected by our friends at Horizons Foundation. Please read and share this article about what The Center means to two of our very favorite comrades and community members, Ingrid and Alexandria:https://www.facebook.com/centersexculture/posts/10154059497755276
Wishing you pleasure and all the sex information you need!
–Carol, Robert, Dina, Marlene, Dorian, Ian, Anissa, Gina, Ingrid, Alexandria, & the rest of your friends at the Center for Sex & Culture