Why I started podcasting

headphone2.jpgIn each interview I’ve done about Open Source Sex, the journaist always asks me why I started podcasting in the first place. Invariably, my answer never ends up in the final piece; likely because it’s not a neat soundbite. Part of the tech-geek-fetish blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Annalee Newitz, who at a party commiserated with me about how Podcast Alley (at the time) was a ‘sausage party’, and Adam Curry, who still owes me a RealDoll orgy, hopefully himself included.

But podcasting, and especially Open Source Sex, was already in my plans for world domination. My site, as you may notice, has a simple design, with no Flash or any other crap that makes it slow to download or might clog up a browser — or might make it difficult for blind site readers to ‘read’ my site. It’s not that fact that I’m a self-taught web designer that leads to this bare-bones result; it’s because I want my site to be accessible to *everyone*. As a result, I’ve gotten a regular stream of fan mail from happy, horny blind and sight-impaired visitors. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that blind people must have more difficulty than anyone to getting access to sex ed, sex entertainment and life’s essential healthy pasttime, porn. Especially content that doesn’t insult, judge, preach absitnence or spread homphobia.

headphone3.jpgThe next step was obvious: audio files. Podcasting, serialized subscriptions even better — and it would force me to nail down audio file compression, making it even easier for more people to have access to. (I wonder how the iTunes interface is for blind reading software?) But yesterday I got an email from a blind Open Source Sex listener that told me everything I needed and wanted to know, and was the closest thing to a hug from the universe I’ve ever had:

“This was meant to be a short letter and its gone on way longer than I intended. I really just wanted to thank you, provide you with another perspective which you may not have considered and point out that for some people, like myself, podcasts like yours really do provide a important, appreciated and welcomed service. If you think its unfortunate that sex education is too often oriented towards reproduction and not presented as something to be enjoyed, its often far worse for people with a disability – its seems that disabled people are not thought of as being sexual beings or if they are, its assumed you will only explore your sexuality with others who have the same disability etc. Many organisations which provide critical services like talking books tend to be dominated by well-meaing Christians who find the idea of erotic talking books offensive and/or obscene. Many who are blind are too embarrassed to seek out erotic material or even ask questions regarding sexuality etc. Podcasts such as yours offer a very valuable resource and possibly something which should be pointed out to the neo-conservative and overly judgemental who feel they need to protect us from ourselves.”

* I found the sexy photos here Update: original page, with video!!!

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Fun Finds

Still no news on my friend. Things that made me happy tonight: an 11-month-old kitten in my backyard, and I happened to have a bottle of bubbles (no, really!), and a long motorcycle ride to the ocean, and back through Golden Gate park at night (I can’t wait to see the DeYoung Museum when it’s finished). Tonight I did some Fleshbotting; below is a little sample of my travels, liveblogged as I clicked around on my nightly rounds. Think of it as an odd, mostly NSFW drive around the web:

Google: disappear
gomi
Urban Pinup (thanks Laust!)
obedient mechanical organism trained for observation and potential infiltration (cool name)
Subgenius: Filth
Customized rubber shirts (via 3xL)
Andreaxmas
super cute sushi
sick of Suicide Girls: they tell their side, SG model claims erroneous FBI censorship (now prefaced with disclaimer by SG), Zentastic tells it like it is. (Update: my model login at SG is no longer valid. Shocking!)
Just posted: Morning Wood at FB (Wherein I post a link to the Iran Defence Forum on a Gawker site and Ron Jeremy actually impresses me by hilariously debating a born-again anti-porn pundit. I met him in January, and he was quite polite and nice, fyi…)

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No Air

Last night’s reading was awesome — we packed the place and had six contribs from Best Sex Writing ’05 read to the full house. Quite fun.

I feel all turned around. I’ve been asked to whip and spank (yet another) hot boy tonight as part of an all-male revue for “ladies” and it all sounds so campy and fun… Except I found out a couple hours ago that a close friend, whom I’ve known for ten years, is suddenly in surgery today for breast cancer. Last year we lost her partner to cancer; they have a child. I love her so much. Everyone’s an ocean drowning, with no one to help you out.

Okay, I just called and opted out for tonight; fuck, I just can’t stop crying. I wept openly into my phone while I told the hot boy that I can’t make it… I started putting together the Sex Blog Roundup for Fleshbot and went into my kitchen to get an energy drink. I took out a glass and poured. I don’t know what I was thinking about. It overflowed and I didn’t even notice until I felt the cold and wet and it fizzed all over my countertop. I found my cell phone and tried to call Jonno; I still can’t fucking get through to Louisiana. But I somehow, slowly, cried and wrote the post.

I feel like all the air is gone.

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Rent-a-Dildo Discontinues Anal Sex Toys

Remember how I told you about those awesome press releases we get at Fleshbot? Like the Penthouse one where it was spelled “Penhouse”? You know what this one means — FREE used butt plugs!

—————————- Original Message —————————-
Subject: Rent-a-Dildo Discontinues Anal Sex Toys
From: [redacted]
Date: Tue, September 27, 2005 1:04 am
To: tips@fleshbot.com
————————————————————————–

http://www.rent-a-dildo.com/notice.htm
Effective immediately, we will cease lending anal sex toys to customers. This includes butt plugs, anal beads, anal probes, and dual-penetration dildos. If you currently have one of these types of rental toys, you may keep it without charge as a courtesy accommodation.

We have taken this step due to concerns raised by health officials about the possible spread of fecal-borne disease. Please note, we are confident that our patent-pending cleaning process is sufficient to sterilize toys, even after extensive inter-anal use, and no infections have been reported by our customers. However, we have decided to err on the side of caution by eliminating anal toys from our rental inventory.

As a further precaution, all sex toys returned to us will be tested for fecal matter. If a toy tests positive, the customer returning the toy will be given a warning. Any repeat violations will result in the cancellation of the customer’s account and being billed for the cost of the soiled toy.

We appreciate your cooperation with this new protocol and your continued patronage of our sex toy rental service.

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Webzinealicious

At 3am friday night (actually saturday morning), I sat in my kitchen over a Camapri over ice listeneing to “Bootylicious” for the thrid time, and I heard drunk, 95-lb. Macki call out from my closet-turned-office, “hey, how do you get this thing into ‘terminal’?” I knew I was in trouble.

Well, maybe not total trouble, but when you have a guy on your computer that likes to do this, that and the other thing totally wasted from the Webzine 2005 launch party careening around on your porn-soaked hard drive with a snappy connection, things could get… erm, interesting. That night had started out as getting chalked up to be a total loss. Another email from Jonno about evacuations and power outages, and no guest editor relief in sight for us on the blog, then silence… did he lose power? Did he have to leave? Could it hurt anymore to remember what it’s like to be homeless? I am physically unable to fall asleep with my shoes on, or anything on my feet, still, to this day. My friend was having a birthday beach bonfire, and there was a sex party that might’ve had me wrapped in rubber and in a cab by ten, but the gulf between my heart and my head was dark, yawning, too open to be out and about. I was staying home.

But then Macki called me. Most people don’t call me anymore because I never answer my phone — too many publicists over the years have given out my phone number, and truth be told, I prefer the accuracy of email conversations. But I bought myself a new phone for my birthday — one of the new iTunes phones — and was back into looking at the phone when it rang. (ringtone: “Dontcha”) My former phone was the first cell phone I’d ever owned and was quite old; having survived several SRL shows it literally fell into pieces when I unwrapped the electrical tape to remove the sim card.

Macki was at the party, down the street from my house, was tipsy, and not letting me off the hook. “Um, there’s a lot of *guys* here. I think they’re all *computer geeks*. I think you’ll be safe.” Walking up to the bar, I couldn’t find him. But then again, he really is tiny; this is the guy who had a party when he turned 100 (pounds). Me, on the phone: Macki, I can’t see you. You’re too small. Macki: I’ll take my dick out. Me: Ohmigawd a redwood tree just sprouted on Market Street.

Out front we were met by Jake, who I had only met briefly before, never enough to have a conversation. I was happy to see Jake, and when I was told the list was closed (we were supposed to be on it), I managed to talk the doorman into 2-for-1 cover price and paid Jake’s way in because he said he was broke. But then in return he bought me a cosmo, and one for Macki too, who totally did not need one and told me gleefully that it would make him barf everywhere after he drank it.

So we got smashed; Macki hung on me a lot and sneakily kissed my shoulder a few times when I wasn’t paying attention, and I hauled him out of there to retrofit his bite-sized self onto my couch at about 2am. We stayed up taking about relationships and friends, and when I expressed nervousness about being on two Webzine panels the next day, he’d wisely change the subject. Me: Should I do anything to prepare? Macki: Hell no. Let’s see if the photos from tonight’s party are up on Laughing Squid yet!

We passed out and woke up late: the plan was to get up, get breakfast on the way to Webzine and be there by one for Jake’s presentation. I was to be on the 18 and Over panel at three, and breaking the rules, had been happily invited to be on the Podcasting panel at 4. Which sunk me into a hair and makeup panic — this wasn’t just me dragging my hungover bootie (and Macki’s and Hornboy‘s) to a bloody mary brunch; this was eat, be smart, be onstage, get pictures taken, wind up on the web instantly… All three of us opted for bagles and coffee from the freezer while I applied glitter and hot rollers. And slid on the sock garters, of course.

We got there, found Jake. How are you, I asked. “My presentation is so fucked, I’m so screwed,” he laughed. Apparently there was a technical difficulty, though I’m fairly sure it got repaired and Jake went on. Hornboy and I sat in the balcony; I wasn’t sure what to expect; at this conference it seemed like there were a lot of tech elite and hackers of many stripes, bloggers and people generally interested in the cutting edge of tech and free expression; bloggers’ rights and the whole lot. There were also a good number of tinfoil-hat tech types, and the usual gross self-promoters trying to get their ‘brand’ into as many ‘markets’ as possible; the sort of human spam I always find at every tech or computer gathering. I generally felt like I didn’t belong, but was at least among a few friends.

Up on the scree: a photo of track marks; abscessed needle holes. The familiar roadmap of a painful life seeking comfort as tattooed on skin vis the puncture of a needle. For me, a reminder of growing up; also the obituary I wrote for Eva Lux on my birthday. Jake explained that it was his father. each slide showed his father’s decline to death, here in San Francisco; like the junkies you pass on 5th and Market when you come to see our beautiful downtown cable car turnaround. Jake had documented his father’s slide into death, hastened by squatters who injected him with bacteria that killed him. Jake showed the photos he took of the evidence the SFPD destroyed.*

He told us went to Iraq to die. Actually, “To come back whole or full of holes.” He showed us the photos and told us his story.*

He continued with talking about his trip to NOLA where he said he brought internet to the people suffering there.*

I went on next for the 18 and Over panel; which was supposed to be about the 2257 laws; the crowd was restless, even though we opened with a stellar presentation on the realities of these laws by Jason Schultz; how they affect everyone (not just sex and porn people), and how they’re totally not effective in preventing the “reason” they’re being passed — child porn. Hopefully I can persuade Jason to put this online… But then the panel took a few left turns, as these things always seem to do. You know, I was on a panel about bloggers’ rights for the EFF a while back that did the same thing; people on the panel were so fucking into themselves and their brands and their self-promotion and personal genda that we didn’t fucking talk about anything that mattered. Which was pretty much what happened, especially when the Lavender Lounge guy took over the mike (repeatedly) and gave his (incorrect) history of censorship and politics, and his (incorrect) perspective on 2257 laws. An example was that he stated that 2257 means that if you put a nude sex picture from the (OLD) film Blue Lagoon on your blog, you could be prosecuted under 2257 for not having the correct info about the actors. Which is totally wrong; for starters, the 2257 regulations only extend back to pictures produced after July 3, 1995.

Hey, I’m just saying. But then some woman from the audience, wearing an AdBrite shirt and maybe a tinfoil bra told us how she thought 2257 was important to protect us from child porn.

And I realized that no one was paying attention anyway.

Next up was the Podcasting panel, with my new favorite podcaster on it, DailySonic. The moderator was loud and lively, though when he read the bio for the woman on my left, she leaned over and whispered, “Uh, that last part isn’t me.” I wondered whose bio he was actually reading. Then the moderator asked a variety of questions to different panelists on topics specific to their areas of podcasting; when he got to me it was (of course) an iTunes question. But before I had a chance to speak on my own in the panel, he prefaced his question with “I’ve been to your website. And you have some really nice breasts.”

WTF.

I’m pretty sure the auditorium went quiet, except for the roaring in my ears and the pounding in my chest. I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I mean, what if you were speaking in front of a crowd of friends, peers and professionals you might want to impress a little bit about the fact that you’re a woman (one of the first on PodcastAlley, thank you very much) and your topic is sex and you have a brain, and aren’t we all pretty much on the same page about this because we’re all in this room…? Okay, you’re not me but what if you were on a panel at a tech conference and the moderator asked your first question after mentioning you had a nice uncut dick? Or alluded that he’d seen naked pictures of you and got turned on by them, oh, and what was that thing that got you well known for that tech thing you do?

I think about stuff like this all the time, of course. I walk a line in this culture by posting intelligent opinions on sex and culture and showing you pictures of myself naked. But I also know that most of you are pretty fucking sophisitcated and know that if you go into a liquor store to buy a copy of Hustler to take home and jack off to, it does not mean the girl who rang you up is the same as the girls in the magazine she’s selling you and it’s not okay to comment on her breasts.

I was taken out to coffee a couple of weeks ago by the programming director at NPR. He wanted to talk to me about podcasting, my show and where I think this is all headed. he was here from New York to meet with other radio and podcast content people; I might have been the only podcaster he took time out to meet one on one, in person. He told me no trip to San Francisco would be right unless he got a chance to meet me. One of the questions he asked me was if I got weird emails or if there were inappropriate listeners. And the really interesting answer I gave him, and the truth is, no. I never get emails from rude men, or scary emails or fucked up or insulting comments. The only rude email I’ve ever gotten and subsequent mean blog post (on his blog when I didn’t reply fast enough) was from Ian Kerner, who is, by the way, a giant sized, homphobic douchebag. I know, you’re like, who? No, the people who like my podcast and my blog, and who read my books and contact me are across the board tech-savvy, well-read, polite, extremely nice, usually very funny, totally helpful and I’ve formed many friendships over the years based on “fan mail”. The only odd exception was the marriage proposal form the 400-lb Elvis impersonator, but that’s another story…

So, back on the moment time stopped on the panel, I thought about the comment for a minute. I really wanted to just get up and leave. I think I could have. But I wanted to answer the iTunes question, and I felt I really needed to represent as a non-commercial podcaster on the panel (was I the only one?). So I answered. And predictably, someone else whose tinfoil garment made it through the tinfoil-detector at the door felt the need to use the Q and A to accuse me of “cheapening” the word censorship in reference to what happened with my podcast and iTunes (which is *so* ancient history now). I, in fact, never said they censored me on the panel at any time, but that was so not the guy’s point. I did mention that someone at Apple emailed me to tell me that people there think that I “rock”. I told the guy as politely as I could that his issues were with the media spin on the whole situaiton, but he still thoguht I was “cheapening” the concept of censorship with my podcast, so I resigned myself to images of the moderator and tin hat dude being pulverized by my favorite SRL machines. You know, the ones I work on, operate and fix, even though my boobies are like totally on my chest all the time. I didn’t even bother mentioning the time Focus on the Family campaigned to get my books banned.

After the panel, I had the pleasure of running straight into David Pescovitz’s arms, which is a pretty nice place to land. Jake came after me and attched himself to me physically. Jake persuaded all of us (me, Macki, Hornboy) to stay and listen to Phillip from Make Magazine, who gave the coolest and most amazing presentation ever, and then Michael Shiloh‘s all-too-brief talk about his ultra-cool server controlled robot.

It was one of those times where a group of people forms, and we don’t want to make a move without planning on when to see each other again. My trio came back to my place for a disco nap, then over to Jake’s house where a whole bunch of really people drank beer, talked tech, listened to Jake’s comparisons of Iraq and NOLA and we watched some of Jake’s videos — one in which he interviews an Iraqi sniper.* Then the industrial pallet wrap came out — I don’t remember how it came up, but the next thing I knew… this really pretty girl was naked, except for her piercings and black socks, and we wrapped her in saran wrap. She really wanted to try it; it looked really fun and incredibly sexy. She had the prettiest little A-cup breasts, with big pink fluffy nipples, and she’d just waxed her pussy so it was bare and puffy; also very hot. The vibe in the room was really fun; not a weird or creepy vibe at all, which is the total opposite of what happens when girls drop trou at porn events and porn parties. This was innocent, playful, yes very sexual, but totally fun. There were other girls there, too but we had fun watching and helping our playful little exhibitionist.

Photos from the party.

We released her, but then re-wrapped her when we decided to crash the Webzine party with our new Miss Webzine 2005; we wrote “Fuck 2257” on her, stuck her with Webzine stickers and a “Powered by Laughing Squid” sticker on her bum, and off we went. The party was fun and easygoing, there was only one creepy ogling guy (and the party was very self-regulating in that no one tolerated his nonconsensual filming of various girls, and even took his camera at one point), and lots of fun. I spent a while in the kitchen bound in X-mas lights, and got accosted by the party’s “kissing bandit” for a minute. Sadly, she kept asking me what to do and if we were done yet… why can’t I get the girls who want to go for it? Maybe next time, sigh. I could think of at least one scorchingly hot girl who should have been at the conferenece that would have *known* what do do…

I woke up the next morning to Macki on my computer shouting “YOU”VE BEEN BOINGBOINGED!” It was before coffee. And it was quite a weekend. Later, more beer and fun, and with Phillip there we all got to drunkenly tell him the Make Magazine issues we’d like to see, shouting “Revenge Make!” “Naughty Make!” Phillip is a very patient man.

* This story has been updated and edited in light of new information that most of Jake’s stories and claims are untrue, and many belong to other people.

** I miss you, Macki.

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The rest of my b-day pics

Just a few, but if you want to see the others I took in the bathroom yesterday, they start here.

And thank you, everyone, for all the birthday wishes and compliments! The most interesting comment was this: “while I ought to be saying something like what pretty breasts or what a curvy waist but really what I want to know is… has anyone told you you’ve got beautiful eyelids?”

Why no, my dear Figleaf. You’re my first!

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Of Hurricanes and Hope

Now Rita. I received an email last night saying it looks like Jonno is going to have to evacuate again, from the house he’s been crashing at, still unable to go home after almost a month (read the tearful story of his cat Lola here). Next week on Fleshbot should have a guest editor to give us relief, though I did play hooky yesterday, as you might be able to tell.

So I’m getting posts together on Fleshbot right now, but just received an email from Siege’s girlfriend expressing thanks and an update. His mom lost pretty much everything; and he’s blogging his journey and experiences. Take a minute to check out his Operation Eden blog, but most of all please do visit to see his heart-stopping portraits of the survivors. You won’t see this in the New York Times, in Time, or anywhere else — no media outlet has the courage to do what Siege is doing, though I can see that as an artist, and because of those extra-soft spots us creative people have that give us paralyzing empathy, this is the way he’s surviving it. By recording it. Like with his portrait of the woman on the right: Orealia Marshall, 45. Her face is so beautiful. “Orealia and her two children and a cousin survived by clinging to the branches of a tree. The cousin died the day after the disaster struck, and Orealia and her two children waited three days for officials to take the body.”

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