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Dani Weber: What I’ve learned from creating space to talk about sex

Dani Weber  

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Dani Boi is a genderfluid dragtivist. Dani began performing and speaking out on LGBTQIA+ rights while living in San Francisco for 1.5yrs, and since returning to Melbourne has performed at a variety of queer club nights and community events. For the festival, Dani will be talking about gender, fluidity and desire at Speakeasy: Sex.

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Sex can be a very vulnerable and taboo topic to discuss. Challenging the silence and mystery around sex has enabled me to peel back layers of guilt and repression, and learn more about what is possible for myself and others.

When I was 18, on a family holiday in New York, I begged my mum to let me visit the Museum of Sex. I learned about how much variety of play and interaction there is in the animal world, and that there isn’t necessarily one way of having sex that is “natural” or “normal”. A popular example of this is bonobo chimps, who engage in sexual activity not only for procreation and pleasure, but also for increasing social bonds, reconciling conflicts, reducing competition, and so much more.

When researching more about gender and sex, I learned that in Gayle Rubin created the concept of the Charmed Circle; a visual representation of what was seen as socially sanctioned, “good” and “natural”, versus what was seen as “bad” and taboo. The former included aspects such as sex being:

  • Heterosexual
  • Monogamous
  • Vanilla (as opposed to BDSM)
  • Unpaid sex in private between two people who are married to each other, and with bodies only (no toys)

It’s been a huge (and ongoing) journey of unlearning shame and misinformation around sex. The main realisation for me is understanding what is taught to us as the norm, and how we actually have the potential to challenge this, and write our own narratives.

What is sex?

When people say “sex” they often mean penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse, and a lot of value is placed on the entire experience being an escalator towards orgasm. For example, the concept of virginity in typically heterosexual relationships, usually places penis-in-vagina sex as being “real sex”, with everything apart from that being “foreplay”. I soon realised however that it all really is just “play”, and that play can be whatever you want it to be. Sex needn’t just focus on genitals or penetration, and certainly doesn’t need to end once the guy has orgasmed. In fact, there doesn’t even need to be a penis and vagina interacting to have incredible play.

If we expand our ideas of what sex can be, it’s not only more realistic and inclusive towards same sex and queer relationships, but it also opens more doors for pleasure and connection. It’s okay to pause, change direction, and get creative. This can involve using toys, changing roles, bringing in elements of power and restraint, and figuring out what parts of the body or what acts people like the most – which often takes a fair bit of communication, exploration and discussion.

Exploring gender during sex

As someone who’s genderfluid, I love to use sex as a playground to explore my identity. I’m also bisexual, which means that I interact with a variety of people (men, woman, nonbinary people). I enjoy shifting who I am based on who I’m with, or how I’m feeling at the time. For example I could be a gay boy, a queer woman, a genderless babe, and all of these require different language and approaches.

Gender isn’t limited to what body parts we have, and getting creative with how we interact with each other can leave so much room for self exploration and affirmation. This can be so important, and knowing how to respectfully communicate and interact with someone’s body, especially if they’re trans, is a beautiful thing – it rocked my world to read this poem: How to Make Love to A Trans Person.

Combating jealousy

There is a word created by non-monogamous people to describe the opposite of jealousy; compersion. It’s defined as the joy you feel that someone you love is experiencing joy with someone else. This idea was vital to me in realising that there are other meaningful choices in how we structure intimate relationships.

While the act of having sex is something that I enjoy and cherish, I also don’t see it as something that should cause possessive feelings. If my partner has sex with someone else, it needn’t make me feel like I’m losing anything. Being non-monogamous can be done super ethically, with honesty and communication. Reading The Ethical Slut taught me a lot about how one could go about writing their own rulebook for open relationships and polyamory.

Communication and safety

We are often discouraged to discuss sex. We’re taught that it’s supposed to just work, and that we’re supposed to be able to read our partners’ minds and know how to please them. However, creating really clear ways of checking in during play can help people explore more widely and deeply. For example, using a traffic light system (“green” means yes keep going, “yellow” means slow down, and “red” means stop) can be a simple way of ensuring that someone is still enjoying themselves. It’s when this immense safety through communication is created that people can explore power play, dirty talk, kink, and all sorts of pleasure that require negotiating boundaries and individual needs first.

My good friend and educator Kate Kenfield discusses the idea of being a beacon of permission – a safe person with whom to discuss ideas around sex. The more we can create spaces to talk about our experiences, wants, fears and desires, the more we can challenge stereotypes and norms that don’t fit for us. I wish to see a world where we can be our full selves between the sheets, on the streets, and in every aspect of life.

Join Dani for dinner and drinks at Speakeasy: Sex for roundtable discussions between dinner guests and artists.