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I refer to the first day of my doctoral program in human sexuality as my Dorothy Experience. Our professors encouraged to use San Francisco as our campus and explore the diversity of sexuality from the subcultures all around us. So I did. This episode of Sexplanations is the story of how quickly I learned about new-to-me expressions of sex and how my erotocentricity collapsed.

I love sharing this story with others because it tends to test the erotocentricity of others. I also love it because it reminds me of how being informed and positive about sexuality is a gradual process. It may happen in bursts like my first day of school but more often it happens slowly and over decades.

I was in my early 20s when I I started my doctoral program. I'm 34 now. The younger me had no idea about the things I know now and the older me learned so much from the adventures the younger me was brave enough to go on.

My point as usual is to stay curious! Here are some ways to do that:

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Dr. Lindsey Doe: It's story time! This is one about my first day of sex school.  

-- Intro Cut Scene -- 

I was 24 years old, one Rolly-bag in tow, and headed to my orientation at The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality to embark on my doctoral program as a sexologist.

I left my things at a nearby hostel, and began the 18 block walk to a nondescript gray building I would come to know as "school." Inside, my seven new classmates were sitting around Formica table and invited me to join their conversation. I quickly learned where they were from, what careers they had already established, and how they hoped to be sexologists too. The headmaster explained how intense the coming weeks would be; how we'd be putting in a lot of hours learning from incredible professors, reading assignments, watching films, doing exercises and research projects. Then, after the rundown, he encouraged us to think of San Francisco as our campus - our laboratory.  If we wanted to go, the opening of Michael Rosen's photography at the Center for Sex and Culture was later that night.

"Sex and Culture? Exploring? Go!" I thought to myself and asked my new friends if any of them wanted to go with me. My classmate, Jack, offered to go, which I thought was excellent. He walked me back to the hostel for some stove-top dinner, and then we went to the Center for Sex and Culture for our first sexual laboratory.

Inside the door, there was an enormous room packed with fascinating people, a stage at the front of the space and black-and-white photography along the walls. Some people were roaming the gallery others were seated in the rows and rows of chairs in front of the stage. Jack and I took a quick glance at the prints, coming to the realization that the show, named Vanilla Sex 2005 was a play on the idea that what we think of as marginalized expressions of sexuality (like bondage, water sports, anal sex, sadism, homosexuality, and play with sex toys) were actually quite "vanilla" by modern standards.

If you don't know the term "vanilla sex," it refers to what is conventional or traditional (like a man in missionary style with a woman) no flavors added, no rainbow sprinkles. Soon it was announced that the opening-night dedication was going to begin, so we found our seats.

The Master of Ceremonies explained there would be an erotic reading and a live performance to honor the work of Michael Rosen, the photographer. So first Dr. Carol Queen, founder of the Center for Sex and Culture, a graduate from the Institute and Good Vibrations go-to sexologist, read from her book, Leather Daddy and the Femme, which I describe as a graphic account of dressing as a boy to have rough sex with big old gay bears. I think it was the first time I'd heard erotica. It must have been, because it lit up a new part of my imagination.

Sexist diversity was incredibly... diverse. There wasn't just a range and pleasure; there was a range in the source of the pleasure.

Next up a, curvy woman in a black dress began to walk the aisle to the stage. Behind her, almost as if being pulled by an invisible leash, was a nude man. Chains linked his body parts, like his nipples and penis, a horsetail draped from his anus and two tufts of hair, sculpted like goat horns, stood up from his otherwise clean-shaven head. There were all sorts of dynamics being presented, but I didn't know it at the time! Like the nuances of body language, negotiation, trust, compatibility, power, vulnerability, performance, rehearsal, intention and sensation - they were all there! It's just that all I could see or feel was "newness." I nudged Jack nervously. Was he as full of shock and wonder as I was? He had to be, right?

I looked at the stage. Two large screens were displaying previous performances of what we were about to see - like primers - and in front of them, the couple began the live version. He performed cunnilingus on her. She masturbated him. He put his penis in her vagina, and she put her forearm in his rectum... onstage. In front of us.

Younger Lindsay didn't know what horsehair butt plugs and nipple chains were. Seeing a forearm disappear into someone's rectum (also known as fisting) was perplexing. I scooted closer to Jack to communicate "is this really happening?" The woman continued with her fist, and with her other hand raised a goblet to his penis. He promptly ejaculated into it and then turned around to face her.

Take a deep breath, there's a little more.

The woman then move the goblet beneath his chin, and raised her hand up to his forehead. Remember, they both walked past me and Jack to the stage, but there had been so much sensory input, I hadn't noticed that he had nails (like hammer nails) nails stitched into his forehead. She pulled the nails from his head, blood fell in the cup, a little swish to stir it, and the two of them ended the performance imbibing the blood/semen mixture.

It was my welcome to Oz! I was not in Kansas anymore! my erotocentricity was blown apart! Erotocentricity - the assumption that our approach to sexuality is the approach to sexuality. Michael Rosen's photography, Dr. Queen's erotica, the performance, even the people in the room watching, made it clear: there isn't one approach, not even one lens, with which to see the sexual world. There's so much sexuality I didn't know about then, and so much left to study!

Stay curious!

Not everyone's first day of sex school is like this, but I feel incredibly grateful to have had these experiences. If you would like to learn more about human sexuality, please subscribe.

-- Outtakes --

Dr. Doe: The woman continued with her fist and with her other hand raised a goblet to his (*laughter*)

*off-screen* I thought was gonna happen and it did. Haha! It's like the rubbing your belly and pat your head thing.

Dr. Doe: Huh. Chikka Chikka Chik.