A few years back I attended my very first Kinky Salon in London and I was sold the moment I stepped in. It changed everything for me. Here was a community that celebrated creativity and artistry, connecting with each other, being authentic to oneself and of course, sex. No one was judged, everything was accepted and celebrated.
I saw women expressing themselves proudly in any way they saw fit. This was especially important to me as I come from a background where sexual expression in women is seen as the biggest taboo and can ruin a woman’s life. That night I flirted, explored, expressed and sometimes just observed. I also had sex. Exciting, thrilling, cheeky sex. And I felt no shame. I was exhilarated. I wanted more. I was hooked.
This was my first introduction into a world that was created by Polly Superstar. Kinky Salon first opened its doors in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2003. Since then it has grown into a worldwide arty, sexy event with parties happening in dozens of cities around Europe and North America. Polly moved to San Francisco – home of the sexual revolution – from London in 1999 and has since been causing a sex positive riot on the streets of San Francisco.
When her book Sex Culture Revolutionary first came out it took me a while to find the time to sit down to read it, but when I started I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in one sitting. While our lives are vastly different, her stories struck a chord in me. I felt deeply the things she wrote, like finally coming to a space where I was heard. Someone is hearing me. I am normal. I am accepted. She put into words things I struggled to say to partners and lovers but didn’t know how to say succinctly.
There were many stories I related to, but one surrounding shame and the double standards imposed upon women in a sex negative society really got to me. Here’s a quote from her book:
“I remember a one-night stand that turned sour after I consented to anal sex. I got the lube from my side table. He was a little rough, but I liked it. Then afterward he said he was going to the bathroom, but I heard him leaving my apartment. I ran out confused. ‘Where are you going?’ I asked. He laughed. ‘Why would I want to stay, slut?’ he said as he slammed the door in my face.”
While Polly remained unaffected by the incident – “I did not feel ashamed” – even just reading it was triggering my shame buttons. I had encountered men like that not just in my pastYou’v but even in sex parties (other than Kinky Salon). Men who went to sex parties looking for sex but at the same time thinking that every woman who attended these parties are just sluts. When I asked these men if they would ever date someone they met at a sex party, the answer was, “No!” These women aren’t for dating, these are ‘slutty’ women. For a wife or girlfriend they want a ‘nice girl’.
It is this kind of double standard that affects not just women, but anyone who wants to explore anything outside of vanilla sex, different relationship structures or anything different from the norm. It is for this reason we need more people like Polly and her community. I take comfort from her quote on shame:
“You should feel bad if you kick a puppy. But experiencing shame because you ate too much chocolate, have a strong opinion, or fantasize about threesomes? Time to let that go.”
Time to let that go indeed. I got Polly on the line for a quick chat on being a revolutionary, female sexuality and being sex positive.
What does it mean to be a sex culture revolutionary?
It’s a popular perception that the sexual revolution is something that happened in the past, but that’s not true. The sexual revolution continues as humanity continues to develop its relationship to sexuality. Every revolution needs its revolutionaries: people who question the cultural norms and instigate change. A sex culture revolutionary could be an artist, educator, activist or business owner who is motivating a change in culture’s relationship to sexuality.
Times are slowly changing and some cultures seem more accepting and open to different types of sexuality. What do you think is holding back society from accepting and embracing sexuality, specifically female sexuality?
We are working with many thousands of years of cultural programming and it’s going to take a while to unpick the effect of so much puritanical and judgmental shaming. I don’t see us as being held back—it’s inevitable this is going to be a slow process and it’s just the path that we are on.
What do you know now about sexuality that you wish you’d known when you were younger?
I don’t have any regrets about my past or wish that I somehow had access to the understanding I have today. I learned the lessons and every experience that could have been perceived as negative was simply a step on a journey.
You found a safe space to explore your sexuality as a teenager in BDSM clubs. In your opinion, how can people safely explore their own sexuality, if they’re young, or/and if they’re older?
I would say I found a safer space, because nowhere is totally safe, but certainly sex positive spaces are much safer than bar or club culture. If there’s a Kinky Salon nearby you then obviously that would be my first recommendation!
What advice would you give someone who wants to explore the world of sexy parties like Kinky Salon?
Take it slowly. There’s no hurry. Check out a party with the agreement that you aren’t going to have sex before you even consider playing. If you build slowly you’re much more likely to have positive experiences than if you jump in at the deep end.
Can you define in your opinion what is being sex positive?
We currently live in a sex negative culture. That means that the widespread belief is that sex is dirty, shameful and wrong. There’s a lot of fear wrapped up in sexuality, and its exploration is seen as negative. Virginity is seen as a virtue and women in particular are judged harshly for being sexually uninhibited. Sex positivity simply means that you believe that sex is healthy, fun and positive, and doesn’t have a negative effect on culture. Sex positive people believe that exploration and experimentation are healthy, and don’t see one sexual orientation as superior to another.
Mission Control (where Kinky Salon parties used to be held in San Francisco) has long been a hub for artsy/sexual expression- what have you learned about the sex positive community?
Being part of a sex positive community can create a sense of liberation in people that spreads much further than their sex lives. When we break down the barriers of culture norms and present a new idea of what’s possible, it triggers that sense of possibility in other areas of life. Sexuality, relationships and pleasure are just the starting point.
I love the idea of Kinky Salon and what it was built on. How can someone who wants deeper connections but also explore playfully, start a community built on the same ideas? Especially if they live in a small community?
It’s possible for anyone to create a Kinky Salon. They fill out the form on the website and then there’s an application process and a manual which we share with every team.
As someone who was raised in a sex positive environment, in your opinion how can parents raise kids who are sex positive without all that shame surrounding sex?
I don’t have kids and so I’m not really an expert on talking about raising them, but I imagine that if you have shame around sex you will transfer that to your children. If you want to make a point of raising your children without shame then perhaps the first step would be to work on your own shame first.
What is the one major piece of ‘advice’ you’d give a person looking to rock out of their shell and into their sexual center?
I don’t have a magic answer for helping people become more sexually evolved, but I do know that most people are channeling some fear, shame, guilt, or self hatred through their sexuality which makes them feel inadequate or frustrated. Although it might look like the rest of the world is getting it right, they aren’t. We’re all carrying that cultural shadow with us, and most of us are struggling. It’s okay, you aren’t alone.