By Timothy Dillon
Photo courtesy of Bawdy Storytelling.
There is a microphone and it sits stage center. The audience, some clad in t-shirts reading “Sex Geek” and others in full-blown leather fetish outfits, are patiently waiting to welcome the storyteller on stage. Speaking in front of a crowded room, for some, is paralyzing, regardless of the subject they are speaking on. In this case though, there is a unique anxiety that comes with realizing you’re about to disclose your sex life with a room full of strangers. And not just any part of your sex life, but a sexual adventure.
Bawdy Storytelling is a monthly storytelling event that is described as “The Moth for Pervs.” It is a chance for people from all walks of life, to come and share their sexual encounters. Founded and run by Dixie De La Tour, the event provides an evening of laughter and sometimes even tears at the hilarious, raunchy, dirty, explicit, and absolutely revealing tales that people have to share.
“I can’t tell a story without the word ‘fuck’ in it. I can’t tell a story without saying ‘assrape,'” La Tour told LA Weekly back in 2011. The event is held in the Bay Area and in in L.A. and while she is always able to find submissions in L.A., it is San Francisco that submissions are hard to come by. In a city that is considered to be one of the kinkiest in the nation, you would expect them to be more vocal about it. Instead, La Tour is forced to plead and sometimes convince people that their story will be well received and something people will want to hear.
The rules are simple. Each Bawdy event has a theme and each storyteller must tell a story that relates to that them, and do so in under 10 minutes. After that, there are no holds barred. The storytellers can use any sort of language they please.
Reid Mihalko, whose website sports the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the bedroom,” as an homage to the teachings of Gandhi, is a regular bawdy storyteller and has built a career on talking about sex.
Back in 2004 Mihalko, with co-creator Marcia Baczynski, started Cuddle Party, a way for people to congregate to encourage consensual human touch without it being a sexual experience — an exploration in intimacy and affection that encourages communication. Mihalko would go on to become a sexual rolemodel, giving talks, lectures, and holding workshops that focus on healthy sexual life.
“[Cuddle Party] was launched in New York City, became a huge news story because all of a sudden New Yorkers are paying to cuddle and that effectively launched my career in the media as this sex and relationship geek. And now, 10 years later, I have the privilege of touring around the country speaking to adults and college-aged adults about anything that falls under that rubric of sex and intimacy,” says Mihalko.
Part of his success as a sexual educator are using tools like humor in combination with sexual facts and truths to inspire people to open up. These are the exact same tools that have made Reid such a successful bawdy storyteller. One hilarious story Mihalko told focuses on a distance long distance relationship where, under a strange set of circumstances, the FBI was eavesdropping on his phone sex.
Spoiler Alert: the story ends with Mihalko ejaculating in his eye and the FBI hanging up.
This tale, while humor-filled and certainly bawdy, is about how two people wanted to make the most of their sex life, even at a distance, and regardless of circumstances. Long distance relationships are nothing new, but sustaining those relationships have changed dramatically with introduction of new types of technology. What Mihalko offers in his story is more than just a voyeuristic view into his own sex life. He also offers a way for people to relate to his experience.
“The people telling 10-minute stories, whether they’re funny or poignant or even sad, the reason I’m such a fan of Bawdy and why it’s so important to me, is it’s allowing people to hear from other people about what their sex lives are like,” says Mihalko. “Which one, we all kind of have this desire, I think, to hear other people’s dirty laundry. And because we’re walking around feeling like we’re broken and abnormal. Hearing someone else up on stage talking about a failed relationship or in my case, having phone sex and shooting myself in the eye while jerking off[…] it allows everybody else to forgive themselves for all their sexual mishaps.”
The experience isn’t therapy, but it can be therapeutic to know you are not alone. Mihalko stresses that the importance and success of Bawdy is due to the sharing. The fact that people bear all, especially when a personal experience is hard to share is what makes this a worthwhile gathering.
However, the event itself would be considered taboo by mainstream standards. Most people, as Mihalko points out, tend to walk around wondering if they are alone in their sexual hopes and desires. He cites the Puritans as being responsible for much of this repression in American culture, but more over, he blames Plato.
“Plato was one of the first people to talk about the mind being superior to the body. And this idea of thought and reason being what elevates us from our, to steal from Sufic tradition, our water bags with nine holes in them,” explains Mihalko.
The affinity toward what is rational or considered sane is often given preference over what our bodies are telling us what we like and what we want. Mihalko looks forward to a time when we can talk about sex as openly as one would intellectual discourse. Bawdy offers a glimmer of hope for a repressed nation, who could probably use a bit more dirty talk.