Photos by Niko Karamyan
Pillow Talk is a new interactive events series on sex, love, community, and communication organized by Fiona Alison Duncan at the Standard, Downtown LA. A spin-off of her lit series, Hard to Read, Pillow Talk seeks to offer an intimate forum for nuanced, brilliant, embodied discussions on bodies, politics, power, desire, the lot. The following is a selection of highlights from a long document of secretary’s notes typed by Anastasia Davydova Lewis during Pillow Talk’s inaugural “A Lay of the Land of the Laid!” event, which was co-hosted by Tierney Finster, Samuel Muglia, Gaea Woods, Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Alice Barker, Mandy Harris Williams, and Alexis Blair Penney.
Thursday 25th January 2018 7:40
Fiona: 50 people in here is ok – cozy enough to meet someone you haven’t met before
[alexis’ breath work]
[doc johnson show and tell]
Fiona intro: i’m here for the swag – i love hotel rooms and swag! /.. no, i’m trying to take over the world.
[Why “Pillow Talk”?]
Fiona: I had the idea of events like this in 2015 when I moved to LA & was bothered by the way people were communicating online in particular about sex and love, also rape, there was a lot of discussion around this in academic contexts… misandry… othering… i felt the judgement in my body. as a writer it was difficult…
~oh i’m getting nervous – people say i’m a confident writer, but they can’t hear all this!
Fiona: I used to write a lot abt sex + love – weird things about it, not Rah Rah – i was writing about sex and anxieties, trauma … people online would reach out to me with sexual issues. audiences are mirrors. young women writing to me abt anorgasmia, date rape, inability to feel, and amorphous queer kids – I’d always write about how i felt i had a phantom cock without a desire to present boyish really, comfortable with my inside outside idk identity… i loved the openness / anonymity online but in those dialogues and after the reach outs i’d end up feeling empty since there was a void where there’d ought to have been another person…
on road trip this summer saw a sign that said “pillow talk” and so…
oh i have a note – “thank the hotel again” – this is good for their sexy brand, since how we relate to sex now is changing
[intro tonight’s Talkers...]
Tierney Finster: Sex writer, model, filmmaker
Ana Cecilia Alvarez: used to write & edit for Adult, the best erotica magazine – ever? also a sex-ed programmer at BHQFU
Gaea Woods: Associate Marriage & Family Therapist. Soulfriend Radio
Sam: ? Token Straight Guy / Eckhaus Latta Porn Campaign ?
Alice Barker: activist / programmer / support.fm
Alexis: favorite teacher, mystic, yogi, writer, artist…
Fiona: Q for All – What are Your Sexual Theses ?
Sam: I’m fascinated by the mainstreaming of kink. I discussed this on Gaea’s radio show “soul friend” my thesis: the mainstreaming of kink is a response to the pornografication of sex thats occurred in the previous two decades, and is in of itself a good thing
Alice: Re: kink. When I try to look up my body type online, I have to look up kinks. “Shemale” “Tranny”… As a trans woman I end up being lumped into a “fetish”.
Alexis: When I think of sex in our culture, I think of repression. Something that could have been generative and expressive .. there is nobody on this planet who could have been without sex – and yet we shove it away and pretend we aren’t having it. Even my friends have unhealthy boundaries: “my girls, my friends, the people that I fuck” I’ve been a sex worker for 10 years and sex addict for longer. Shitting, farting, nose picking are all so repressed in our society – and its because we are terrified of our own mortality. The more I live in my body I realize that it’s all very temporary.
Fiona: I started doing kundalini yoga and having crazy energy orgasms [not touching yourself] and – i died! and i was reborn! and i know its fake sounding, but i could feel the taste of blood, and could feel it all….
Tierney: I write primarily about sex for magazines. I was very fortunate to be a party girl and meet someone working for Playboy. One of the first things I wrote about was Hobby Lobby, the court case re: companies having the option to choose what kind of health insurance their workers would have. I was interested in narratives of pleasure and what i wanted to achieve in my sex writing was to not mimic what i was reading. I have a tendency to report based on people’s real experiences. I’m a performative person, but this kind of journalism has let me listen to other people, which has let me learn a lot abt myself. I try to normalize what I talk about. Usually I write profiles and Q&A interviews. I’m in conversation with certain people regularly – like Jim Pfaus, a neurobiologist studying rats and their processes of desire [aka copulation] and is able to talk about how people make choices in their love life.
[Amanda / Mandy Harris Williams arrives late]
Amanda: Im late tonight bc I was teaching a workout class: cycling. My sexual thesis is pretty simple. I enjoy learning and enjoy pushing boundaries of the unknown. I think and write about desirability in the context of historical erasure & exposure? of black women. The introduction of black pussy – there’s the Venus Hottentot – she was a human exhibit, a black woman with a large butt. I read what people did to her during this exhibition… systematic rape, slavery, freakishness … My rape is imagined a justified, my free labor is justified.. Is this understandable? Ok, good… I’ve grown up in a lot of white spaces – I’ve experienced feeling removed from womanhood because of my blackness.
Jasmine Nyende [audience member]: Q for Amanda.. and all.. im in a band called “fuck you pay us” and we have a song called “suck my nappy black pussy”. i was wondering how does music relate to sexuality?
Amanda: when i first saw you perform your song, you say the lyrics so loud, i definitely felt empowered. i am grateful for you.
Ana Cecilia: i was reminded of princess nokia’s lyric “my little titties and my fat belly” – that made me feel good about my little titties and fat belly. back to sexual theses – i’ve been working through the question of what sexual education could look like and what i would like it to look like. i started reading “the uses of the erotic” by audre lorde. late 70s, little cheesy but i loved it. she theorizes the erotic as a guiding force that offers you a path of what you want to do or what you want to be. it’s something you can harness and listen to, something that can guide us to fulfillment. i’ve really loved that. but then dating apps, social media, pornography, capitalism.. also guides us… in testo junkie paul preciado writes how capitalist machines are constantly trying to extract pleasure from us, tickling our pleasure to get us to consume something. so, a big question, not a thesis is – how can i pay attention to the erotic within me while also paying attention to how that might be exploited by capitalist forces?
Alice: OoooOoo my sexual thesis is that when ur cumming you can hack your brain into thinking new things – if cum while thinking about throwing out my cigarettes, i could reinforce my own interests through that pleasure.
Fiona: Alice could you tell us a bit about support.fm? And our idea of a queer Naked Party? Why?
Alice: support.fm is a nonprofit I run with Grace Dunham and Blaine O’Neill. Its a bail fund for gender non conforming incarcerated people. Our angle is that being GNC is prison is life threatening. Re: naked parties… For a lot of people a chick with a dick is a really wild thing, but its for me every morning. If i knew what trans was as a kid, I would have been “sign me up!” but instead led a tortured existence as a male lesbian, super confused. When I transitioned I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to go to the spa anymore. Both female and male sections look at my body with confusion.
Fiona: we should open a spa!
Alice: I bought the domain Shequinox recently lolol -
Fiona: On Tuesday’s Hard to Read, themed on Body Language, Amanda asked some questions at the end of her reading. / “Are you still fucking people D Trump wants you to fuck?” / “If it weren’t for white supremacy, would you still be cute?” — What does it mean to fuck ppl Donald Trump want u to?
Amanda: Donald Trump wants you to fuck people you’d be fucking if your life was a movie. Are you doing that?
Kalyane Levy [audience Q]: Im european and… i find theres so many terms about sexuality in America, half of which i don’t really get. growing up with my sexuality in france it was very liberating to experience things without defining them. i am curious about the vocabulary in america… is it liberating for you?
Alice / Alexis: its important to identify that people are fighting for an identity, that process is important to an identity – when its invisible and you can’t talk about your path, whats allowed is so clearly defined, what isn’t becomes part of reality’s underbelly, vulnerable to transgressions
Audience comment: as a person who is fighting for their life every day, someone with an identity that is assumed to be unchanging… i see a lot of people who are now “queer” – but as a person who is trying to release as many labels as possible, i want to understand the movement of identifying that way…
Alexis: queer has become the buzzword du jour….
Tierney: on tuesday i talked about “queer identity” being a way to obfuscate white privilege… New interest in intersectionality & organizing is great – but still needs nuance. also, people need to stop, these stories aren’t new – just because you were ignorant about something before, doesn’t mean that thing is new
Audience comment: this isn’t the first time popular media has focused on trans ness, queerness – i like that Tierney brought up that this idea of newness isn’t true and is corny – it isn’t new, just being rebranded.