It is a hot and muggy September night in Oakland, and I am all dolled up to interview Allison Moon—hearts are my power shape, and on this particular night I am sporting heart tights and big red metal heart earrings, voice recorder in hand, ready to talk about Girl Sex.
Article by July Westhale Published Blog Slixa Late Night
The thoughtful advice and opinions of the author of this article are meant to be informative and entertaining and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slixa.
Allison Moon is the author of the Tales of the Pack series about lesbian werewolves. The first in the series, Lunatic Fringe, was nominated for a Golden Crown Award for lesbian fiction. She was a 2011 Lambda Literary Emerging LGBT Authors Fellow. She's a passionate advocate for independent artists and the democratization of publishing tools. She's also a sex educator who has presented her workshops (including Girl Sex 101) to thousands of people around the US and Canada.
I had the extreme fortune of attending the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writer’s Retreat with Ms. Moon in 2011 as a Poetry Fellow (Allison was a Fellow in Genre Fiction), and have maintained a crush on her prolific and fast-moving brain ever since.
JULY: Hi Allison! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for Slixa! I would love to start at the beginning--tell us about your newest project, “Girl Sex 101”
ALLISON: “Girl Sex 101” is a sex-ed, road trip book that encompasses a narrative, practical sex education, and philosophical essays all in a very fun and easy-to-read book.
JULY: Sounds very fun! What gave you the idea for this project?
ALLISON: I’ve been teaching the “Girl Sex 101” workshop for many years and I’ve also been really inspired by the people who come to the workshop—they are so curious and willing to be in a space to be educated, to really learn and explore. So, the class was something I taught around the country, and I realized that this was information I wanted to make available to a lot more people, more so than all of the people I met and knew in the various large cities I travel to. When I announced that I was taking on this project, I realized that there really was a void in the market, so to speak (laughs), that there wasn’t something that was 101, that was really introductory—and on top of that, something that was playful, and fun to read and allowed people to explore in a way that didn’t judge them or assume that they had a certain level of reading comprehension. Even if people felt like they knew everything, they’d still be able to enjoy a story, and possibly they’d be able to see their lives reflected back at them.
JULY: This sounds really exciting and necessary. I know that this particular book is unique in that it is a sex guide that also has a novella component—can you talk to me a little bit about this aspect of the book?
ALLISON: Yeah! The whole book is based on this story of Layla and Jamie, who are two ex-girlfriends who are driving from Vancouver to San Diego. They stop in a lot of major cities and they get into a lot of sexy adventures (laughs). The reason I wanted to have this story component is that I have written two novels before, and the emails and feedback I get from people about my novels are about how cool it was to see lives like their lives, mirrored back to them, through the characters and play and kinds of sex and community that my characters have and engage in. Story is such a powerful teaching medium—
ALLISON: I know so many people whose first experiences of queer sex has been through erotica and/or porn. So people are looking for stories to help them find their learning curve. That’s really beautiful. There’s a subversive beauty to hearing a story and feeling spoken to, to really getting something from that. More so than any anatomical diagram will ever give to you.
JULY: I love that. A subversive beauty. And you have a background in storytelling, which makes this project especially intuitive for you.
ALLISON: Yeah! I am. I’ve written the two novels I mentioned earlier, about lesbian werewolves. The first one came out in 2011, and the second one just recently in 2013. I wanted to write novels that I felt represented my experience coming of age as a queer woman. And I did it, you know, through a little bit of metaphor, using werewolves (laughs). Also, as an educator I have always used personal anecdotes to illustrate different aspect of my teaching. That’s really important to me, because I think the way that we teach in our society and culture tends to be very dry and tends to remove a lot of the humanity from it. So when we are in situations as students that we don’t know how to navigate, we often feel shame for not knowing what to do. It’s powerful to tell stories because it’s one thing to say “this is how you negotiate sex”. It’s another thing entirely to say, “this is how I negotiated sex this one time, and we found ourselves in a really complicated situation, and how we came out of it.” That offers a lot more context and a lot more humanity. To realize that sometimes your bodies do weird things! And sometimes something goes horribly wrong and you have to figure out how to get out of it. I write fiction for that reason, but I also do storytelling in live events as well! I’ve done Bawdy Storytelling which is a local, Bay Area storytelling event I’ve told on the “Risk” podcast. It’s fun for me to take stories from my own life—true stories, that really happened— sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re touching, sometimes everything went wrong and sometimes everything went right. I think it’s valuable for people to see that, to get that permission. Sometimes you’re going to have an epic fail and that’s ok! Sometimes you’re going to get into a situation you didn’t think you’d ever be in, and it ends up being amazing. A lot of the beauty of sex comes from how we handle situations. I feel blessed that I have the ability to be transparent, I know not everyone has that—it feels like a duty, to be a permission-giver.
JULY: I think that’s a valuable aspect to creating a sex guide or sex manual with humanity because I often find when I’m reading sex writing, I’m thinking, “Oh gosh this person has it all together and is having amazing sex all the time! How do I get to that level? I will never get to that level.” I would appreciate reading a manual that expressed that sometimes sex is really awkward.
ALLSION: Tone-wise, that’s really where I wanted to come from, in everything I do. There are already a lot of books of “Dr. Expert Explains It All!” and I wanted to be “Big Sister Gives Some Good Advice”. Which is a tremendous tone shift. There’s nothing wrong with the former, but there is a dire need for the latter.
JULY: I’d be interested to hear about some of the challenges you’ve faced in this project.
ALLISON: I think a big part of it has been finding the voice of the fiction, like anything. Writing a book is a big challenge, and writing a book that people are seeing develop is an even bigger challenge. In terms of the ‘philosophy’ and ‘how-to’ part, the biggest challenge has been making sure that people feel seen and heard in the creation of the book. That means using the best language I can, getting as tight in my politics as I can. We are on the cusp of many challenging and complicated conversations around how we talk about bodies, sexuality, and identity. People are having sex at a more advanced place than people are talking about sex. What we do is more evolved than how we talk about it. When you’re talking about a book, about sex education, we have to be able to use language that makes sense and is current and is inclusive. Bodies create conundrums. Bodies are complicated. The defy a lot of liminal understanding of language. How can I possibly translate that complicated experience into an essay about, say, cunnilingus, is difficult.
JULY: I can imagine!
ALLISON: (laughs a big, boisterous laugh)
JULY: Let’s talk about this concept of ‘coming-of-age’. What books did you read during this period? What do you consider your erotic lineage, so to speak? Sex writing, sex manuals, erotica, the works.
ALLISON: Nothing can ever replace on the ground (laughs) experience. But in terms of reading, I read smut! As much smut as I could get my hands on. Which, again, was the only stuff out there when I knew about it. I was lucky enough to have a “Gay & Lesbian” section of the Borders in my hometown, but even then it was mostly gay fiction and a smattering of lesbian whatever. I read The Silk Road, which was the first lesbian novel I ever read, it was profound for me. The protagonist represented the kind of girl I was—this precocious, curious, scared-out-of-her wits girl, who was engaged in a relationship with an older woman. And all of the complicated feelings that creates. That was awesome, because it was my first experience of what it was like for two women to be in bed together. I think that’s a big question mark for a lot of people—we don’t have that in our culture, we don’t really have an understanding or representation of how that works. We’re SO cock-centric. If there’s not a cock involved, how can we even do that? It’s really special to explore what sex means when it doesn’t look like the one thing you’ve always been told it looks like.
JULY: As Felice so aptly put it, “Lesbians (or queers) want love, but we also wanna fuck!”
ALLISON: Yep! We internalize that stuff. Girls (or people socialized as female) are raised to believe that we need to look for a monogamous Prince Charming even when that doesn’t feel like our sense of rightness. But when we have zero role models or culture for alternatives? It’s getting better, but certainly not to the level of saturation—I just don’t see ideals of what people want their futures to look like represented, which means there is a much steeper learning curve for a lot of queer kids to figure out how to have sex, how to find love, or how to even define sex and love for themselves.
JULY: I think you’re right on a lot of levels. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about the publishing logistics of this project—does it have a publisher yet?
ALLISON: I’m doing it myself.
JULY: Oh, it’s self-published! That’s excellent.
ALLISON: I created the Lunatic Ink imprint to publish my novels, and I will be publishing “Girl Sex 101” through that. It’s such a large project that I can’t really imagine a traditional publisher who would be willing to take that on (laughs). I think there is a lot of awesomeness in the zine-spirit, and though this isn’t a zine by any means, I love the idea of cutting a check for not only a thoughtful, “here’s some money for all your hard work”, but an actual check. A real check! That I can give to someone and say, “you don’t have to pay this back or earn this back in book sales. You just get it. It’s yours!” I want to be able to support my fellow authors and educators. That’s what’s beautiful about Kickstarter, is it allows me to do that. It allows me to presale enough copies to pay my graphic designer, my illustrator, my editor, and all of my educators before the book is even on the shelf. They don’t have to wait a year and a half to get paid.
JULY: What is the project timeline for this? When are you anticipating the release?
ALLISON: I’m hoping to have the book out by this time next year.
JULY: Wow! What a quick turn-around!
ALLISON: (laughs) It’s very ambitious! But it’s my goal.
JULY: Thank you so much, Allison, for meeting with me and telling me all about “Girl Sex 101”! For those of you who want to preorder the book and support the Kickstarter project, you can do so here.
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