Many of you have asked me about the Secret Sex Lives session of the Texas Book Festival. As I stated in my original post about the Festival, it exceeded my expectations but I’m not comfortable talking about it because it feels like bragging. So I asked the session’s moderator, Jodi Egerton, to tell you about it. So here is Jodi’s account of our 45 minutes, standing at a podium in the Texas State Capitol, talking about sex. And, yes, we used words like “vagina” and weren’t censured for it.
On Sunday afternoon, October 28, 2012, conference rooms in the Texas State Capitol were buzzing with conversations about the Civil War, cowboys, feminist cookbooks, and first-person narrators. But down in Capitol Extension 2.036, we talked about sex.
Suzy had been thoroughly convinced that no one was going to come see her panel, that she and I were going to be sitting alone in the basement of the Texas Capitol, talking amongst ourselves. Somehow I knew that she was wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure enough, as we approached the room, a volunteer tried to block our entrance. “It’s full, there are no more seats. I’m sorry!” With a quick flash of Suzy’s author badge, they parted to let us through, though not without a bit of a look (“So you’re the sex panel, eh?”).
Standing room only, people lining the walls and crammed into every seat. We chatted with the crowd briefly, and then it was time to begin. As I looked out, I was struck by the audience, which looked exactly like any other at the Book Festival. We could just have easily started up a conversation about the inclusion of marshmallow in festive desserts in the 1950s, or the lost figure of the cowboy’s apprentice in contemporary westerns. There was nothing about this group that shouted “SEX!”
And then…smack dab in the front row was my lovely, adorable mother-in-law, waving at me. Next to her, my father-in-law, my husband’s aunt and uncle visiting from England, my brother- and sister-in-law, and my twin 15-year-old nephews. Deep breath.
“Welcome everyone! We’re here to talk about…SEX!”
Two things could happen here. There could be an uncomfortable silence, and some paper shuffling. Or there could be laughter. Thankfully, they laughed. And we smiled. And then we dove in.
Our 45 minutes together flew by. We talked about researching and writing, about finding the heart of the story. And about discovering (with some sharp nudges from editors and fellow writers) that your own story needs to be told. And being brave enough to write your story.
We talked about the experience of going on television to be interviewed about your book, and having the interview turn to your own sex life. And having family and friends know all of the most intimate details of your life. And having to grapple with their honest and sometimes hurtful reactions to your work.
And we talked about sex. I said “penis.” Suzy one-upped me with “cock shots” and “drip list.”
We talked about married men having secret sex with other men in women’s lingerie. We talked swinging. We talked bondage and dominance and submission. We talked adultery and Craigslist and AdultFriendFinder.com.
Suzy had the entire room holding a collective breath as she shared stories about research experiences that took place after the time covered in the book. She shared with us her continued connection with many of her sources. I think I speak for all of us in the room when I beg and plead for a sequel.
And through these conversations we got to the heart of it all. Because while the book covers sex in so many of its fascinating permutations, in the end, more than anything else, Suzy’s work is a powerful meditation on loneliness, especially loneliness within partnerships.
Use the book, Suzy shared with the rapt crowd, as a conversation starter. Read it with your partner. Talk about it, laugh about it, but use it as a way to enter into conversations about what you each desire. What you want and need. Push past the boundaries of what you “should” and “shouldn’t” feel, and talk about what you actually feel. Move beyond judgment, and into acceptance and love and support and empowerment. Enjoy your sexual life, and create a sexual life with your partner that meets both of your needs.
I believe that there were a lot of powerful conversations taking place around Austin that night. And a whole lot of good sex.
Also, my mother-in-law bought the book. But I’m not going there.