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A quickie with Dossie Easton

April 20th, 2009

Dr Petra

Previous quickie guest Meg Barker recommended this week’s interviewee – Dossie Easton. Not that I needed much encouragement to have a quickie with Dossie who’s the co-author of the inspirational (and brilliantly titled) book The Ethical Slut (second edition just out!). Aside from being a fantastic guide to alternative relationships, it’s a great book to read on public transport – I promise it will get you many new friends!

Here’s more from Dossie…

Dossie Easton, a long time player on the San Francisco S/M scene and well-known killer bottom, is co-author with Janet Hardy of The Ethical Slut, a practical guide to polyamory, open relationships and other adventures, as well as The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book, When Someone You Love Is Kinky, a book designed to give to outsiders to inform them about kink lifestyles, and Radical Ecstasy: SM Journeys to Transcendence. She is a licensed psychotherapist working with individuals, couples and more in her private practice, with a particular interest in how unlearning jealousy can bring old wounds into the healing light of consciousness and teach us how to treat ourselves very well.

An active sex radical since 1961, Dossie makes her home in the mountains north of San Francisco, travels around to teach at conferences all over the world, and spends her nonexistent free time hiking the hills declaiming filthy poetry to the vultures and
hosting outrageous pajama parties. You can check out her website at

What have been your proudest achievements?
I am feeling terrifically proud right now because the brand new second edition of The Ethical Slut, which my co-author and I have been working on of the past year, has finally gone to press and will be released in April. The book is quite a bit larger and I get to have extra pride when I contemplate all the work with my therapy clients, eleven years since the first edition, that has brought me so much breadth and depth of understanding – I am grateful to them all. Slut is really the culmination of my life’s work – I have been nonmonogamous continually since 1969, and the distillation of all of that experience into a book – which has been delightfully well-received – has left me with more pride than I quite know what to do with. I feel very blessed.

And I am ultimately proud of being 65 years old and happily still living my slutty life – you don’t have to give up being outrageous just because you have wrinkles. Trust me on this.

What do you still have left to achieve?

I would like to write my memoirs, and teach workshops on sluttery and radical ecstasy all over the world. Dublin is next, in July of 2009. I would also like to publish some of my poetry.

Who are your heroes/role models?

Betty Dodson, the amazing and outrageous sex educator, whom I have known for many years. My co-author, Janet Hardy, who has not only written wonderful books but founded a press to publish them. Eartha Kitt, who was just about the only exciting woman I could see on television in the nineteen-fifties.

Tell me one thing about you that might surprise me

How easily are you surprised? I live in the mountains north of San Francisco, have huge connections to Nature spirituality, and my house is full of altars. I cook. I knit afghans.

What do you do to relax?

Read mystery novels. Buzz off.

What makes you happy?
My lover, especially when she ravishes me.

What projects are you currently working on?
The new edition, extensively rewritten and with lots of new stuff, has just gone to press and will be released in April. I’ve just completed two articles that will be published in european academic anthologies about doing therapy with slut relationships and with kink lifestyles. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my poetry and with my very patient partner.

What are the main problem areas in sex/relationships we need to deal with currently?

I think we are in transition into some new forms of relationships, maybe even new paradigms, and we need to look at our old scripts, recognize when they are limiting us for no good reason, and visualize how we want our relationships to be in the future as we figure out how to change them.

What can’t you live without?
Nature, ocean, mountains to hike in, waterfalls. Oh, yeah, sex. And ravishing.

What sex education did you receive when you were a child/teenager?
None at all – I thought the silence was unbelievably scary.

What sex information do you wish you’d been told as a child/teenager?
I wish I had had a chance to talk to at least one open-minded woman who had explored her sexuality, and that I had had some reasonably accurate books to read.

What’s the best sex tip you’ve ever heard?

Take your time, there’s plenty of it, no reason to be in a hurry, this feels good, let’s feel good a little longer.

Name your guilty (or not so guilty) pleasures
Chocolate. Erotic graphic novels. Greedy massages. Bondage. Blindfolds. Helplessness.

What do you consider to be the main innovations in sex/relationships over the past century?
We have moved away from the agrarian model of relationships, and become wealthy enough as a culture that our survival no longer depends on staying in relationships that are miserable – we can leave and the children won’t starve. I think this is very important.

Our old models of relationship are all about financial and survival security, banding together to keep the wolf from the door. The most important value was stability. Now we are exploring what relationships can be when their most important purpose is love and sharing and connection and traveling through life together in a joyous and (perhaps) sexy way. I like to count all my relationships, including ones that may not be sexual, when I look at the love and support in my life.

Where do you see our sex lives going in the future?

I see a lot more mobility and fluidity. I see us moving away from the notion that there is one ideal form for love relationships to take, and all others are wrong or lesser. Or that there is one and only one right way to fuck. I see us exploring and affirming and valuing a huge range of ways that people can connect, in love and sex and intimacy.

What are the main threats to our sex/relationships lives today?

People who want to preserve the values of the past and criminalize moving into the future – I think of them as huge noisy destructive dinosaurs.

Is it possible to have great sex?
We have not even begun to figure out how great sex can be, and what amazing journeys we can share in Eros. Sex is not only about pleasure and love to me, but also about spiritual traveling. It is definitely possible for every single person to enjoy
beautiful sex that is astounding and miraculous and transformative.

Describe an average day/week in your job?
I’m a therapist, so in an average week I spent four afternoons and evenings in my office in San Francisco talking to individuals and couples and sometimes more. I also teach workshops on weekends about once a month, often traveling to do so. I like having time to spend fixing up the house, and hiking in the mountains and on the beaches with my beloved. I also like to have time to spend making love for hours and hours.

What are the main things people worry about in relation to their sex lives?

That they are doing it wrong. There are so many ways to do sex right that most explorations will find something that works as soon as you let go of what ought to work and get down with what feels good.

What causes those worries?

Rankings and hierarchies. We have a lot of cultural beliefs that you can put everything on a ladder and figure out which thing is better than which. When you do that, the only thing you wind up valuing is the thing on the top of the ladder, as if all the other pleasures don’t count. It’s like hiking up a mountain and ignoring the valleys and streams and trees and wildflowers because the only thing that counts is getting to the top. We need to meander more.

If you could plan school sex education programmes, what would you put on the curriculum?
I think children of all ages can handle information about sex and play and polyamory and any of that. So I would encourage a lot of open information and discussion and asking whatever questions they want to ask. We should answer all of their questions with love and openness and without judgments.

What sex/relationships issues are worth campaigning for?
Decriminalizing all forms of sex and love between consenting adults, and validating all of our relationships. I think we need to truly separate church and state, and let marriage be a sacred event that people do in their churches and in their communities, however they want to. The state can issue civil unions for anyone who wants them. I have very little interest in whether or not the government approves of my relationships.

Are there any issues in sex/relationships are given too much attention?

We seem to be terribly fond of pathologizing – pretending we have solved or understood a problem by assigning it the role of disease. I wish we would pay more attention to what is right and good and lovely. I say this even though I have worked in rape crisis and battered women’s shelters and with survivors of sexual abuse and with people getting treatment for unhealthy and compulsive sexual behaviors. I believe that if we validated all the good stuff we would be better able to deal with the problems.

Are there any issues in sex/relationships are overlooked or neglected?
How sex and love can be a conjoint journey into Shadow, a healing and a voyage of discovery.

So, if you want to find out more from Dossie, here’s a reminder of her website

And as a special Thank You for Dossie, here’s Eartha to play us out

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