May 072013
Eclair Bandersnatch mural at Center for Sex & Culture

Eclair Bandersnatch mural at Center for Sex & Culture

As some of you may know, I was born on May 9, and this year, I’m thrilled to tell you exactly what I want for my birthday!

The Center for Sex & Culture (CSC) in San Francisco, founded by Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, is a non-profit archive, library and community space for preserving and sharing information and artifacts of sexual identity, sexual products, and sexual ideas. It is a VITAL resource for sex-positive communities. CSC accepts donations year round, but May 9 is a special day. May 9, 2013 is the first national Give OUT Day for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. Give OUT Day is a new national initiative that aims to mobilize thousands of individual donors on a single day across the country to give in support of the LGBTQ nonprofit community. It is a chance for LGBTQ groups large and small, to work across the wide range of issues and activities that matter to the LGBTQ community from sports to policy change, families to the arts. It is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community and our many allies to stand up and show our support for our community together on one day. In addition, The Horizon Foundation (The Bay Area’s LGBT Community Foundation) is sponsoring a challenge (The “Bay Area Leaderboard Prize”): It will award prize grants ($5,000, $2,500 and $1,000) to the top three small Bay Area non-profit organizations with the greatest number of unique donors at the end of Give OUT Day on Thursday, May 9. That’s right, it’s not about how much money they raise, it’s about how many people they can get to donate in one day, which means that any amount helps, even $5, but you’ve got to do it Thursday, May 9. Go to the Center for Sex and Culture Donation Page on Razoo and donate there (it’s important to use this link since they are tracking all the donations through it). You can even go beforehand and schedule your donation for May 9 by choosing “On a Giving Day” from the drop down menu. I am encouraging you to celebrate my birthday, support the important work of the Center and get more bang for your buck while you do it. Isn’t that appropriate?

Here is more information about The Center for Sex and Culture in Carol’s own words:

In 1994 my partner Robert and I (I’m author and sexologist Carol Queen, PhD) were visiting our friend Betty Dodson, sometimes known as “the Mother of Masturbation,” in her NY home. Why didn’t she bring her fabulous Bodysex workshop to the Bay Area? we asked. There wasn’t an appropriate venue there, she said. And then she said the words that begin the story of The Center for Sex & Culture: “You kids should start a place.”

Betty was right! Between us, we had connections in many sexuality-related communities. We both have doctorates in sexology; I worked at the legendary Good Vibrations and wrote for Spectator magazine, which had evolved from the old Berkeley Barb; I wrote stories and essays for zines and anthologies too, and was working on my first book, Exhibitionism for the Shy; we traveled around the US teaching, speaking, and meeting people from many sexual worlds, and were ourselves comfortable participants in many of these; and we’d both been directors at SF Sex Info. Together, we could relate and identify with much of the range of sexuality.

It took over 5 years of talking up the idea, but at last an angel donor helped us get over the fence: We corresponded with the IRS, got our non-profit status, and began looking for a space. Interns and donated materials came our way even before we had a room to house them. When we did get a place, we invited every sexually interested person over 18 to be part of it: as member, performer, teacher, patron, life-long learner. Academics and journalists began to visit to use our library and inspect our collections. Librarians descended on us, helping us to organize the many books and journals we’d amassed. (We believe we now have the largest publicly-accessibly sex library in the country — maybe the world!)

We host sex ed classes, and also cultural events. I deeply feel that, in the absence of good sex ed in the US, many of us learn about sex and develop our attitudes about sexuality via culture, and we want to participate fully in that discussion. We also support culture-making: through writing classes for sex workers; our award-winning Erotic Reading Circle; burlesque and dance classes; and our annual Nude Aid artmaking day. We also support community-based organizations, from BDSM/leather, to sex worker support groups, to the unique safer sex strategies of the SF Jacks. Our collections include Buzz Bense’s HIV/AIDS poster collection (these will hang in our gallery in Nov./Dec. 2013), materials from Pat Califia and Larry Townsend, a full run of On Our Backs magazine, Scarlot Harlot’s searchable database of sex worker interviews, and so much more.

We are all-volunteer, a labor of love and community for everyone involved. The next wave of core staff — a new librarian, a gallerist, archivists, and each year’s group of interns — came to us because of the cultural impacts of our collections; they are making them increasingly organized and accessible, and helping turn CSC into a venue for erotic artists who have few other places to exhibit their work.

We dream of publishing books, thus helping more non-Bay Area people join the conversation; and also want to put many of our events online, so we are even more a global community sex center than a local one. In the meantime, we hope you will visit us when you come to San Francisco! And thank you so very much for reading about our history and supporting us. Any donation helps us keep our doors open and take care of the materials our community has entrusted to us.

Wishing you pleasure and all the sex information you need!

—Carol, Robert, Dina, Marlene, Dorian, Anissa LibraryVixen, Tess, & the rest of your friends at the Center for Sex & Culture

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