I am pleased and honored to have Janet W. Hardy, co-author of the groundbreaking work The Ethical Slut, here to answer a ten-question interview. (You can pre-order her upcoming illustrated book, The Sexually Dominant Woman, now!!), Fangirling all over her.
1) The Ethical Slut is the kind of book they call a game changer. How did writing it change your life, at the time of the first version, and now, after the THIRD version? Were there things you came to understand about yourself during the writing process? And why should someone who’s read the earlier versions want to get the latest one?
I’m quite sure that neither Dossie nor I had any idea of the impact Ethical Slut was going to have, either on us as individuals or on the greater culture. We thought we were writing a nice little niche book for a small subgroup of people like us, not an underground bestseller for more than 20 years.
Between the first and the second editions, we saw a tectonic shift in attitudes toward poly in mainstream culture – not least, we stopped having to explain what “polyamory” meant, at least most of the time. Big Love hit the air in 2006, Newsweek ran its cover story on polyamory in 2009, Newt Gingrich was outed as a would-be polyamorist in 2012, and each of those events (about which we have very different feelings!) brought a whole new group of people into our readership.
When the first edition was published in 1997, our audience was primarily from subcultures that are often open to alternative sexuality and relationships: Renaissance Faire, science fiction, neopaganism and so on. These days, the folks who attend our presentations are as mainstream as can be – professionals, artists, homemakers, business owners, all kinds of people and races and ages.
The aspects of me that have changed since the first book have less to do with my romantic life – I was poly in practice then, I’m poly in principle now but not feeling particularly like seeking out new sweeties – than they do with having attained some measure of fame. Although I’m not at the level where people recognize me on the street (most writers aren’t), I’m definitely someone who is sought after and respected because of this book in particular, which is only one of the twelve I’ve authored or coauthored. It’s quite strange.
2) Does your fame within the sex positive and kink communities have an adverse effect on your own sex life? For example, are potential partners either intimidated by you, or starfuckers?
I’m not currently partner-hunting, so it’s no longer an issue. But, yeah, back in the day, definitely. I’m a BDSM switch, and it was particularly difficult to find tops or dominants within the kink community, who tended not to get overawed by my fame. Starfuckers are definitely out there too – but I don’t have a problem with consensual starfucking, and I’m pretty good at weeding out folks who are pretending to be interested in something besides my byline, so that’s less of a problem.
3) Do you have any kind of crush among the sex educator and kink community? Who is your hero or shero, and why?
My all-time favorite book about sex is Dr. Jack Morin’s The Erotic Mind. I’m also a huge fan of the sexual/philosophical writings of Marco Vassi. Sadly, neither of these men is still with us, so my crushes are perforce completely platonic.
4) You’re a writer, a publisher, and a public speaker. Which is your favorite “hat” to wear, and why?
It’s not quite correct to say I love writing – I’m fairly sure that anyone who claims to love writing is either a liar or a bad writer. Writing is *hard*, and lonely, and it hurts, and it’s never exactly what you thought you wanted to say. But I love having written. And I hate not-writing; I get really surly if a week or two goes by and I haven’t put words on paper.
I love speaking. The day they invent the transporter, I’ll do a lot more of it. But aging bodies and plane travel are a bad combination.
Publishing, I could take or leave. I started doing it because nobody else would publish the stuff I wanted to read, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it through the years, but it isn’t my first love. The day someone else wants to run a publishing company and promises to publish my writing, I’ll happily hand the reins to them.
5) Do you have any regrets re: a sexual experience you wanted to try, but didn’t, or did try, and wished you hadn’t?
I’ve never tried sex on entheogens (in fact, I’ve never tried entheogens). I’d like to, but first I’d have to start having sex again, and then I’d have to find and take the right substances, and it all seems like more work than I’m interested in doing right now.
I’d also really really like to mess around with some foreskins. Being an American baby boomer who has mostly dated other American baby boomers, I’ve only gotten up close and personal with a couple of foreskins, and only once with a condomless one. My experience with that one was enough to interest me in more of them.
No real regrets. Every sexual experience I’ve had has either been wonderful, or just-okay, or a learning experience. Nothing I’d like to take back.
6) Are there any new and exciting areas of sexuality you want to explore, either via personal experience or as research?
I have a personal quirk: nitrous oxide makes me come. I’ve met several other people, so far just women, who share this ability. I believe it to be an artificial technique for creating the same neurochemistry as that of kundalini orgasms, but the research is ridiculously far out of my scope.
If I were a researcher on the physical side of sex rather than a writer on the emotional and spiritual sides, I’d be pursuing this avenue to see what it is in nitrous that causes this reaction.
7) Some of my friends have asked, is it “safe” to be out as polyamorous in 2018/2019? I think this might be subdivided into two sections, “safe” re: workplace, housing, etc., and “safe” re: family, friends and community.
It’s not entirely safe on either. Some cities and states still have laws prohibiting multiple adults from sharing a household. No city or state allows multi-partner marriage, and multi-adult families are not recognized by most governmental support entities.
Similarly, some families, churches, communities, etc., have it in them to be supportive of people’s choices outside the boundaries of monogamy, and others don’t.
I firmly believe that anyone who can come out, should. The more of us there are leading our happy, responsible, mutually supportive lives, the more people will see that it is possible to be non-monogamous and also be ethical and a good member of our community.
But I do encourage people to think carefully about what they might lose by coming out. If you ever hope to work in politics, or with children or the aging or disabled, or in a church or religious organization, think about this very hard. If you have a relative who is socially conservative, think more. You don’t get to say “You didn’t take me seriously when I said I was poly, did you? I thought you knew I was just kidding!” – it just doesn’t work.
8) Beside The Ethical Slut, I’ve read both The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book. Why does everyone on the Top/bottom spectrum need to read both, even if they primarily identify as one or the other?
Any good top needs to understand what their bottom gets out of the scene so they can be sure to provide it. The reverse is also true. You don’t have to switch if you don’t want to, but you do have to understand your partner’s needs and desires and fears, or the scene won’t do what you need it to do.
You should read Radical Ecstasy too. Of the Janet-and-Dossie books, it’s actually my favorite.
9) What’s your newest book, and why do we want to read it?
Two of them! An all-new, graphic-style edition of my very first book, “The Sexually Dominant Woman,” will be coming from Greenery Press on December 1, 2018 (Pre-order now!!) The original was written in 1992, so a lot has changed since then, including the way people like to receive their information – so I’ve spent the last year or two doing fun cartoons of sexually dominant women and their partners, showing all the ways two people can enjoy themselves with female-dominant energy.
My new memoir, “Impervious: Confessions of a Semi-Retired Deviant,” is coming in the spring from SinCyr Press. It’s the story of my own pursuit of ecstatic kink, from my earliest fantasies (topping Dr. Smith from Lost In Space!) to my semi-retirement from the scene over the last few years.
10) What question have you never been asked, that you always wanted to answer (and what’s your answer)?
What does the W stand for? Wyndham, my grandmother’s maiden name.
Janet W. Hardy is the author or coauthor of twelve groundbreaking books about relationships and sexuality, including The Ethical Slut (nearly 200,000 copies sold to date, including the third edition published in 2017 by Random House), Spanking for Lovers, and her recent memoir Girlfag: A Life Told In Sex and Musicals. She’s a public speaker, and so much more. Find her full bio on her website, here.
Questions, comments, thoughts?