FOR those of you who have previously enjoyed a sheltered existence, Annie Sprinkle is a porn star, ex-prostitute, filmmaker, performance artist, feminist, educator and "metamorphosexual", with a PhD from the Institute of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.
Alarmingly, Annie claimed she was inspired to enter the business after meeting Linda Lovelace and her then mentor, the psychopathic wife-beater (and, coincidentally, porn producer) Chuck Traynor. By the way, if anyone gave you the re-released video of Deep Throat for Christmas, I suggest you threaten them with a knife, beat them up, then ram the offending article down their throat at gunpoint. Just make sure they know it’s ironic. If you actually received deep throat for Christmas, a thank-you note is perfectly acceptable. Feminists aren’t anti-sex, they just prefer it without a side order of abuse. Annie Sprinkle is a sex-positive feminist, but retains the eager-to-please attitude associated with women in porn. So even the gang-rape film that went wrong was a valuable experience, and hey, her modern-primitive friends love it. However, her most recent movie (which she also wrote and directed) was an endearing tale about mermaids, in which the action was faked using a dildo and condensed milk. I couldn’t tell the difference, and it was the film I felt most comfortable watching, because it was the one in which Annie herself looked happiest. (It had also been shown at MoMA, so it must’ve been art, not filth.)
Her engaging stage persona won me over, and I decided to give her another chance. In the interests of research, I signed up for her Super Sex Technologies workshop. The blurb promised we would "build, move and utilise sexual energy", which, I reasoned, couldn’t be all bad. Besides, I secretly hoped that in an all-female environment, a chink might appear in Annie’s "porn is liberating" armour.
Dr Sprinkle welcomed us into the CCA, sporting a flowing pink dress and multicoloured hair extensions. She’s pretty and reassuringly womanly in shape, compared to her early days as a Teenage Deviant. A good sign, I thought. In the same way that nobody likes to see a thin restaurateur, who’d trust a scrawny sexpert? It would suggest too much self-control and insecurity. She had two glamorous assistants: in a blue wig, Diane Torr, the NY performance artist more often known as Danny King, who was very nice and encouraging and brandished her industrial-size "relaxing massager" with aplomb; in a pink wig was an employee of the CCA, whose demeanour suggested that whatever they were paying her, it wasn’t enough. And, of course, 42 of us eager beavers.
We started with a worksheet, filling in the qualities of our ideal lover. It came as a revelation that we were actually describing ourselves. Next, we resolved to improve our lovemaking spaces (string fairylights round bed, buy frilly nightie). So far, so good, so Cosmo. Completely at ease, I scribbled down my top turn-ons in life: reading, music, walks in the countryside, drinking lots of wine then slurring "But I luvoo" before belly-flopping on top of my unsuspecting partner. Some of the new-age types present might have been more adventurous, but at least I was entering into the spirit of things. We cleared the energy body by shaking out our tension, visualised our energy flows, felt the energy ball and attempted a small microcosmic orbit. Still absolutely fine. I’d done meditation before, I knew the score. Again, Annie was right: everyone feels better after a quick stretch and shoogle, and if you feel good, so will whoever you’re with.
Next stop, sound. This started well, with us all silently screaming into our hands, then screaming out loud. In your daily life you might shout or yell sometimes, but you don’t get to scream as loud as you possibly can. I felt hoarse, but liberated. In fact, I suggest soundproof booths should be installed in public places, preferably for women only. Men already have football, and they might be more likely to urinate in the booths.
Then everything started to go a bit Pete Tong. We all feel loneliest in a crowd, but that palls in comparison with being alone in a crowd of people who are all squatting and making "erotic" noises. Call me old-fashioned - hell, call me frigid - but I nearly ran away. All exit routes were blocked by groaning women. There was nothing else for it. "Urrrr," I moaned, under my breath.
"Louder!" shouted Annie.
"Ooooh," I whispered.
"More!" Annie urged.
All around me, women whooped and ululated, until finally, in desperation, I shrilled, "Eeeeeeeee!"
In case you were wondering, the point of this exercise (apart from rank humiliation) was to show how even thinking about sex and making sexual noises can make us feel more sexual. Well, it certainly made me feel something, namely overwhelming relief that it was over. I’d like to tell you about the "lust thrust" which we then performed, but my subconscious appears to have blocked it out.
It was time for some synchronised kegels (clenching the pelvic-floor muscle that stops you peeing). This, I could deal with, kegels being internal and silent (though a few show-offs were groaning theatrically, as though training their vaginas to tear telephone directories in half). In the break, there was a mad dash for the toilet, a reminder that we should all be doing a few more kegels if we want to avoid incontinence in later life. Plus, your Bangkok-style party tricks will always revive flagging dinner parties.
As we returned to the fray, a girl said to me, "Weird, eh? Never thought I’d see so many women doing that at once. Or that I’d be one of them."
There was more to come. I lunged to the east, supposedly sending out waves of sexual energy, actually pitying the poor CCA bar staff, who, on the other side of the wall, must’ve been felled by a veritable tsunami of the stuff. "Man the lifeboats, we’re going under!" Then, making love to the west, I noticed my local librarian. She smiled, in a slightly pitying way, doubtless anticipating my future shamefaced attempts to look her in the eye as I hand over my Andrea Dworkins.
With our sexual energy suitably warmed up, we were ready for the main event. Annie said that we might recognise some of the techniques from rebirthing, and asked if any of us had ever been rebirthed. "Nup, this is Glasgow," came an emphatic voice from the corner. Undeterred, she asked if anyone had ever had a "firebreath energy orgasm". We shuffled and looked at our feet. All except one woman, who proudly put her hand up. She wasn’t from Scotland. Curiously, I noticed that the non-natives in the class were the only ones who could actually say the word "pussy", as in: "Annie, I’m not sure where I should be channelling my pussy energy right now." Later, a quick survey of my friends proved that we had all been raised to the "front bottom" persuasion, suggesting somewhere neat and well-tended, perhaps with a couple of pots of geraniums and some nice garden furniture. Vagina’s too clinical, flower too twee, and all our other words have been stolen by men to use as insults for each other. Please, return our cunts! Give us our fannies back! If only so that we can continue to be amused by Americans: "My fanny’s so big I can’t get these pants on." (Yes, I know it’s sad, but there aren’t many perks to the communal changing-room.)
Anyway, my curiosity was well and truly piqued, as was my competitive edge. Perhaps I too could have a spontaneous firebreath orgasm, or even a megagasm? (Annie referred us to her instructional video, Sluts and Goddesses, for details.) At the very least I hoped to burst into tears, as we were warned was wont to happen with such intense meditative technique. There was, however, a slight hitch. I’d forgotten the yoga mat I’d borrowed from my mum for this very moment. Let’s just imagine that conversation for a second - "Are you starting classes?" "No, Mum, I’m going to a sex workshop with a porn star notorious for sticking a camera up her cervix live on stage." Luckily, I bagged a space on a large communal duvet, between two nice women who were also on their own. I instantly felt less self-conscious. Annie lay in our midst, making the tantric wave movement as she breathed from her diaphragm. Soon her undulations turned to full-blown writhing, of a kind that she’s often used in her movies. I’m thinking of Masturbation Memoirs in particular, but I also noticed it in Mature Women #2.
Although most people seemed transfixed by Annie’s ample bosoms, which seemed liable to make a break for freedom at any moment, I found my attention wandering. Just as I’d decided what to order for my Chinese takeaway later, Annie reached her spiritual and emotional climax, and thanked us for our supportive positive energy. I would like to think that it was the thought of pancake rolls and crispy seaweed that got her through it.
Annie guided us as we tried it for ourselves, reeling off our chakras like Stations of the sexual Cross: Pussy! Anus! Tummy! Chest! Throat! Head! The erotic noises were reaching a crescendo, intermingled with sobs and thuds (no, I don’t know what the thuds were either, I had my eyes closed). Determined to give it my best shot, I breathed and clenched for all I was worth. I even groaned and undulated a little. Somebody tickled my tummy with a feather. Then I started to feel something. Okay, I didn’t have a firebreath orgasm, I didn’t rebirth, I didn’t manage to levitate small objects using the power of my pussy. But there was a definite connection with the energy of the other 41 women in the room, and it was strong and revitalising, like a big mug of oestrogen-packed coffee.
Afterwards, California-style, we shared. One woman, having had her wee cry, bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t find a boyfriend, though she did think that her new-found sexual confidence might help her out when she did. It wasn’t quite a group hug situation, but it was a real feeling, made stronger by the mixed ages, sexualities and experiences of the people there. I’m sure a few Glaswegians got a pleasant surprise that night, although I’m ashamed to admit that I stuck to my tried-and-tested belly-flop, combined with a daring freestyle attempt at undergarment removal.
The amazing thing about Annie Sprinkle isn’t that she knows so much about sex, but that she’s one of the few women to survive 30 years in the sex industry with her health and sanity intact. She’s a clever, good-looking, likeable person with a healthy ego, who wants to change the world for the better. So although I can’t believe that she wasn’t extremely uncomfortable in some of the movies we saw, I do think she’s genuine. The sooner she admits that there’s more to life than sex, the happier I’ll be, and if she ever says a bad word about the porn industry, I’ll strip the willow down Buchanan Street with her, wearing only a pair of nipple tassles and a merkin. But maybe I’m trying to impose my agenda on her. Next time she’s in Scotland, see for yourself. Be brave and go along to one of her workshops. Just don’t pack a toothbrush.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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