From locker room fantasies featuring Paul Ryan, to binders full of men, the Perverts Put Out! Election Erection Edition provided a unique take on sex, politics and the upcoming election at the Center for Sex and Culture Oct. 20.
One of the longest running performance series in the Bay Area, Perverts Put Out! was created by the late Bill Brent and has been a platform for sexually and intellectually stimulating readings for nearly 17 years. According to PPO! co-curator and erotica author Simon Sheppard, the election theme varied from their more common kink themes, but it’s what’s on everyone’s minds.
“It’s almost Halloween, but the election is scarier,” Sheppard said.
The prospect of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in office is so scary to Sheppard that, though he has a history of writing smut featuring politicians, he could not finish his intended story about a locker room rendezvous with Paul Ryan, and went “meta” instead.
“It was process oriented, because I started writing this thing and I thought, you know, I’m so pissed off that there’s no way I can use the Paul Ryan character that will satisfy my rage,” he explained.
But it wasn’t just a night for bashing the Republican ticket. Gina de Vries, who is pursuing her master of fine arts in fiction writing at SF State, chose to read a more personal piece about love and heartbreak titled “The Best Thing.” An audience member reminded everyone that “the personal is political,” when de Vries apologized for not keeping with the theme.
“I really appreciate the specific election and political slant, but honestly, most PPO!s have people reading work that is political in some way,” said de Vries, who has been performing at PPO! since 2007. “I feel like there’s still a lot of fear about connecting sex and politics, and creating an artistic space where the focus is sex means that those conversations can happen at a more nuanced level.”
Though PPO! has a fairly regular rotation of readers, the performers and audience welcomed PPO! virgin and successful slam poet Sam Sax to the stage. Sax performed two poems: a found work piece based on the first debate, and a poem inspired by his own experience registering to vote.
“I’ve been trying to write a poem about where I was in Ohio when Obama was elected,” he said. “I registered today, so it all just kind of unfolded. I’ll probably work more on that poem until it becomes something I would share elsewhere.”
Sax was far more enthusiastic about performing and hearing other’s work at the Center than he is about the upcoming election.
“(I’m feeling) pretty removed and neutral,” he said. “I’m going to vote, but I don’t really expect that to make any material change in the communities I’m involved in.”
Whether or not the ballots cast this November will change anything about the current sexual politics, the conversations that PPO! performers engage in are important. The discourses of birth control and rape definition have left PPO! co-curator, writer and sexologist Dr. Carol Queen asking in anger, “What the hell year is it?”
“The way we can cut to the chase of explicitness here is part of the solution to the frustration I feel and I think many people in the audience feel about the retrogressive way that we’re talking about sex and bodies and possibility and orientation in this particular season,” Queen said. “It’s so odd, it’s so frightening, and just reading a little porn is enough to make us say, ‘OK, that’s not the only discourse.'”
PPO! may only happen four times a year, but the Center for Sex and Culture is available throughout the year, offering library hours and educational, sex-positive events. The next PPO! performance is scheduled tentatively for January or February 2013.
“If we haven’t all fled to Canada by then,” Sheppard said.