My economy has always been a patchwork quilt.
I balance at least four elements of living in the material world at all times — in a way, five, because I am the head of my household (something as a queer girl I always assumed I might have to do, but which no entity EVER gave me any useful information about).
Here are my four realities, where money comes and goes (and rolls and flows through the holes in the pockets of my clothes, as Arlo Guthrie sang in “Walkin’ Down the Line”): I work a job, one with the most fabulous job title EV-AH: Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist and Chief Cultural Officer (oh, and Antique Vibrator Museum Curator, if you were wondering if I had enough going on being chiefly cultural). I write books and things. I direct the Center for Sex & Culture. And I teach, lecture, and perform, sometimes on the road and sometimes off. Without the part-time gig, the other work, particularly given my responsibilities to my home, wouldn’t pay enough to let me stay on one of the universe’s most culturally fabulous, and expensive, cities.
Most queer writers get small press gigs which tend not to pay our way in the world, not big book deals. In fact, hardly anyone gets a big book deal these days. The entire economy of writing is shifting, and payments from a decade and a half ago were generally a good deal better than payments now. This is different from, but somehow related to, what happened to my 401-K, such as it was; which is related, but a bit different, from what happened with Bernie Madoff, which is the reason so many colleges and universities now pay less than they used to a decade ago — because student funds went to Wall Street, and they didn’t come back.
I could work full-time at my “real job,” but my real work in the world also involves making culture, art, writing, and the other stuff I do. I cannot bear not to do it.
I shepherd the non-profit, the Center for Sex & Culture, along realizing that though it puts no money in my pocket, it deserves to exist: to be a space where we can hold the doors of diverse erotic community open to see who needs a place to meet, to play, to learn, to make or see art and culture, to leave their secret diaries and drawings after they die so they are not lost to the ages. Thank goodness for the community of dedicated stakeholders, supporters and key (volunteer) staff, who helps me keep it afloat.
On top of this, lovely sex-positive queer and queer-friendly young should talk to me all the time and tell me they “want to be me when they grow up,” or some such very flattering but equally frightening words: frightening, because I want my young friends to inherit a world where they can choose the work they love and it will compensate them fairly, and where choosing to do sex education or sex-positive culture-making should be a choice they have (really I should have said and/or, because it’s a patchwork), and even if we actually live in a world where that being an economically fulfilling goal is evanescent or even impossible — how could I ever be the voice to break that news? I can’t do it, which means I still have to believe we can make change.
Still, that’s not the world they’re inheriting, at least at the moment — the world where they can imagine doing this work for love and value and not for hustle. I cannot bear to fully warn them OR to dissuade them. All I can do by way of leadership, if this is what it is, is to keep doing my work. What’s a future where we cannot dream of doing what we love? The one I think we have — where we can do what we love but often can’t make much of a living doing it — at least has queer culture in it, and sex-positivity, and where we have those things, we have a quilt to pull up to our chins on cold nights. Parts of it might be threadbare, you know? But we’re under the quilt with some excellent friends.
[box class=”grey_box”] About Carol- Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a “cultural sexologist” because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple’s sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.).
Queen has worked at Good Vibrations (www.goodvibes.com), the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turns 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes.
Next Seen- – Sunday, February 12, at the Good Vibes in Brookline, MA — hosting a reception for the excellent women of Our Bodies, Ourselves — their 40th anniversary!
Tuesday, February 14, at Yale — “Wisdom from Someone who Loves Sex to Someone Just Starting”
Friday through Sunday, March at MOMENTUM — moderating keynote panel and doing other gigs.
Current Projects- CQ will be traveling to Boston, New Haven, NYC, Washington, DC, Northampton, and Minneapolis this season to speak and teach. She’s working on developing some 1-year-anniversary programming to celebrate the Center for Sex & Culture’s new space, and to raise funds. She’ll help host Good Vibes 35th anniversary gigs in March (www.goodvibes.com), and in her copious spare time, ha ha, she is getting a collection of her short stories together and working on a new project, Four Essays on Sex and Culture.