Carol Queen is an American author, editor, sociologist and sexologist active in the sex-positive feminism movement. Queen has written on human sexuality in books such as Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture. She has written a sex tutorial, Exhibitionism for the Shy: Show Off, Dress Up and Talk Hot, as well as erotica, such as the novel The Leather Daddy and the Femme. Queen has produced adult movies, events, workshops and lectures. Queen was featured as an instructor and star in both installments of the Bend Over Boyfriend series about female-to-male anal sex, or pegging. She has also served as editor for compilations and anthologies. She is a sex-positive sex educator in the United States.
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My short bio: With the release of "Marriage 2.0," I want to open up a dialogue about the many facets of alternative relationships. Regardless of whether you look at "Marriage 2.0" as an indie film with sex or an adult film with a story/message, the heart of the movie is the celebration of the modern relationship. We aim to redefine what a committed relationship is and show how it can be a dynamic springboard for adventure, where unrestrained physical and emotional intimacy can fuel deeper connections with those in our lives. We also want to highlight the struggles, along with the triumphs, of opening up your partnership. The evolution of relationships, love, and sex is a hot topic right now, and we want to share our knowledge and hear from you about your experiences with open relationships, polyamory, commitment, BDSM, and more. As a pleasure activist, and one of the stars of Marriage 2.0, I, Carol Queen, want to give insight into these controversial topics and the stigmas attached. Want to learn more about the movie, starting/having an open relationship, or me Carol Queen? Visit http://www.marriage2point0movie.com/, https://twitter.com/marriage2point0, https://twitter.com/carolqueen, or ask me here; I'll be here from 7-8p EST / 4-5pm PDT to answer all your questions!
Update: So hey, darlings, it looks like my hour has flown by! I am so grateful to everybody for these terrific questions. I hope I can come back sometime, but meanwhile, visit the Center for Sex & Culture at
After I hit "refresh" there may be more questions that come in--I will get to them as I can, OK? Thanks for making a space for me to chat with you on Reddit! Don't forget you can tweet me @CarolQueen or find out more about Marriage 2.0: @Marriage2point0. Have a great night!--Carol Queen
What are your thoughts on how sex is portrayed in cinema with movies like "Fifty Shades of Grey"?
I think the real radical place of change, on the whole, is on TV; there is so much interesting sexual content (and ideas being explored) in so many shows these days, particularly cable. But big movies have such a huge impact because we talk about them even if we don't see them, and there's so much pop press about them. I do an occasional column about sex in the news for the Good Vibrations website at goodvibesblog.com--and I couldn't believe how many stories about 50 Shades I collected! To really dig in to its cultural effects, you have to count the stories as well as the film itself. I think, like many others who know something about BDSM, that when I finally see the film I will find many things that concern me about the way communication and negotiation and safety are depicted. But my understanding is the film gets some of those things more right than the book. Here's the thing: to write a sex book, you don't need to know it all about sex. But once you write it, it becomes info even if you didn't intend it to be. So I hope EL James understands her responsibility to help us all engage better in sexual discourse. That's absolutely what we're trying to do with Marriage 2.0!
What was it like guest starring in an adult movie?
Dang! I answered you, but I don't think it saved. :-/ Trying again!
It was big fun! I've been on sex movie sets many times, on both sides of the camera, but this set was really special. Both the performers and the movie-makers were very aware of how different this project was. It was great to see them bring such a depth to their work, both being able to bring it sexually but also let loose with their abilities to really perform. Acting chops are sometimes not acknowledged in adult movies, but that's a big mistake--when they have a great script that they find moving and interesting, many sex actors really can ACT. Certainly these people are tremendous performers in all ways, and it was so great to hang out and watch the process. I'm very proud to be a part of this. BTW, some of you may not have seen any reviews of Marriage 2.0, and I'll paste some in for you to check out later. It's really an extraordinary film in SO many ways.
Marriage 2.0 continues to wow viewers and critics, earning top accolades from viewers and reviewers. Here are just some of the recent examples:
CineKink Audience Choice Award – Best Narrative Feature
'Marriage 2.0 is a potential game changer for the porn industry.'
'It is the kind of movie that I, as a critic, have been waiting to see come to life for many years. It is truly a mainstream film, with sex that plays in perfect harmony with the story.'
'A rare achievement in progressive adult filmmaking, “Marriage 2.0” will make viewers think with its strong statements about culture, commitment and unconditional love.'
'[Marriage 2.0] demands a seat at the indie filmmakers’ table.'
'a different kind of porno...both entertaining and enjoyable in a way that we just don’t come to expect from a general porn feature OR a Hollywood movie'
Awarded an NC-17 rating by the MPAA
Hi Carol, what can we do as individuals to stop societal shame of sexuality? Is it even possible?
Sorry I was AWOL for a bit while Reddit was not letting me back in! This is a great question. First, we all need better access to sex education, for two reasons. Sex ed should let us all understand that sex is a diverse phenomenon. That way we are less freaked out about whether we're normal and the shame that many people feel around that question. That would also mean that parent's hesitation about talking to their kids is less a barrier to knowledge AND a source of shame-inducing messages. (If sex is really good, why do Mom & Dad get so weird when it comes up in conversation?)
The other thing is to remove legal issues associated with consensual adult sex. These are leftovers from a very different time, and policymakers should realize this. But most of them are as frightened as Mom & Dad to get those antiquated laws off the books.
What does the San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture do?
We're a nonprofit community space that hosts classes and cultural events (reading, performance, and stuff like that), plus we have a gallery/library/archive. you can see more about the events we host and other relevant thing, including our mission, at
People state that monogamy is not instinctual to human nature, but an open relationship would imply that neither is jealousy. How do you feel jealousy works in relation to open relationships?
Some people are blessed to experience little or no jealousy--but that is not most people's experience. Most people in successful open relationships learn to manage jealousy or let it flow by--they don't get stuck in it. When we have our own satisfying life with plenty to keep us occupied, and when we have good self-esteem that isn't tied directly to our relationship, it gives us the beginning of the skillset we need. There's another emotion the polyamorists cite that most of us learned nothing about in school: compersion, "the pleasure I get in my partner's pleasure." In my experience, that helps mute jealousy a lot. BUT! All this really only kicks in when the initial couple has a good, healthy relationship. When the jealous person really isn't getting what they need, trying to quash jealousy won't really help.
How has the response to the movie and its topic of alternative/open relationships been?
The movie's just recently been released, but its reviews are really good and heartening for those of us who care so much about this project--inside the porn industry AND outside of it, people really do seem to get it: why it's different from any contemporary movies, for one thing. It really mates what people love about adult films, that seeing sex is very moving and intense, with what they love about non-explicit movies: wonderful performers taking you on a journey that stays with you. I think this movie is another great way to start a conversation about open relationships, but also about ANY relationship. And I think that this is a moment in history in which many people are very interested in this topic. Open relationships are definitely a thing; the polyamory community is quite well-developed and people can find support and info about these desires. The film takes that one more step.
I've admired your work for a long time, and I wonder...What professional advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in sex education?
Oh, thank you for the good words! There's actually a lil' article about this on my website, here: http://www.carolqueen.com/pages/faq.htm
--but let me say some things about it now too.
First, get educated about sex! THE biggest issue I see in the field of, especially, "sexperts" is the sex enthusiast who starts teaching based on their own experience, not understanding at all that not everyone else is wired that way! We are simply not all the same, and a good solid sex education--personal experience but also book- learnin'--helps us get that. There are few places to get this kind of education, and before you decide on a degree, think about what you actually want to do. There are really hardly any JOBS doing this. There are entrepreneurial opportunities. Some people are wired that way, some not. But if you do want the letters after your name, some places to explore: CIIS, IASHS, and SFSU in San Francisco (I think you can google all those successfully); and outside of Philadelphia there is Widener, which has a significant program. I believe NYU still has a program. The Kinsey Institute at Indiana U, of course. AND many social science and helping professional programs have people who are especially focused on sexuality, even in an non-sex program like sociology.
thank you. do you know if anyone is trying to get legit sex ed into schools? it seems like the people who actually HAVE sex regularly (and even professionally) would be great educators but it's a double edged sword because if they HAVE sex regularly there is often shame attached to that. so how do we cultivate sex educators while the shame is still rampant?
Yes, there is some good sex ed in schools, but mostly it is easier to find this in private schools than public ones--look up Al Vernacchio in the New York Times Magazine for an example of this. There is a significant push to make better sex ed in public schools, but here's the thing: when WE think of sex education we might believe that learning how to have good sex is a goal, but that's not the goal of public education when it comes to sex. This is really the reason there's a culture of "sexpertise" that's grown up: because people need to get that info after they turn 18.
Why what? Happy to reply to something a little more specific. ;-)
Thanks for doing this AMA!
What advice would you give someone who is interested in having an open relationship with their partner, but are not sure how to bring it up?
My pleasure! I think the first steps are to get as comfortable as possible talking both about sexuality-related things (not just your your personal ones, but cultural or political issues too––sometimes it's easier to talk about sex first when it's NOT about your own personal bits or desires), and also about relationship issues overall. You can't even begin to open a relationship where communication isn't strong; communication, negotiation, the ability to express love/respect/assurance, and time management are all pretty crucial parts of an open relationship. Also, of course, the ability to manage jealousy. I would say, start by reading: Kathy Labriola has a much-respected book, Tristan Taormino wrote a good one, The Ethical Slut is a classic, and Sex At Dawn doesn't tell you HOW, but it gives you tons to talk about. Share a good book or especially interesting passage and say this is something that you consider interesting, and do they think so too? That starts you on the path to talking it out.
Do you think society is becoming more accepting of relationships that deviate from the “norm” (i.e. open relationships, polyamorous relationships, etc.) now that we see a lot of it in mainstream media (like Showtime’s “Polyamory: Married & Dating,” “Big Love" and “My Five Wives”)?
How do you see it changing / evolving in the future?
Yes, absolutely (and we should also note the changes around same-sex marriage), and I think pop culture is helping to drive that change as well as people's activism. I often say that most people in the US get their sex ed primarily from pop culture: movies, magazines, etc. BUT I don't think we can guarantee forward progress will continue unless old laws are removed from the books, as I said above, AND the info in the pop culture space helps people really understand and accept -- not turning people into circus freaks or drawing the connections between them and everyone else. Also, most therapists were not trained to help people in open relationships, and that has to change, too. A pro-monogamy therapist can really destabilize a person who is poly or open person by nature who is trying to learn the skills to have such a relationship successfully. This happened to one of my partners 20 years ago and it really screwed her up. So the people who make the pop culture really need to understand their responsibilities to REAL people when they create these TV shows and movies -- something the makers of Marriage 2.0 were completely in sync with.
What is the schooling and credentialing procedure like for someone who wants to become a sex educator / sexpert?
See my answer to erotic_academic above! Also: AASECT has a credentialing procedure for sex educators; it is pretty hard to wade through the bureaucracy, but it is a resource. Another useful org is Quad-S (sexscience.org, I believe). And there is a sex education conference every year run by the Center for Family Life Education that is ALL about sex ed.
What's the best part of your job?
Learning more about other people's experience and attitudes--it colors in the lines of the sex science and theory.
How did you become a pleasure activist and sex educator? What led you down this path?
My mother had a hard time with sexuality (I wrote about this in my book "Real Live Nude Girl"), and I could tell from a very early age that sex was important and problematic. Finding my own information and resources in a small town in the 1970s wasn't easy, and I set myself on a path to learn as much as I could mainly for myself -- but it didn't take me long to figure out than anything I learned was relevant to others I knew, too. I became the kid who talked about sex all the time. Around that time -- as I was getting to college -- I was also coming out as queer, and I became a campus LGBT activist; I directed my school's Gay Alliance and co-founded the third (I think) gay youth group in the US. BUT I was actually bisexual, so continued to have to deal with difference and biphobia in my queer community; this is really what led me to the kind of advocacy I do now, and what cemented it was the HIV epidemic. I helped found the AIDS Council in Eugene, then when I found out about sexology, the rest was history: I moved to San Francisco to get my degree. I was on the training staff at San Francisco Sex Information, began working at Good Vibrations in 1990, and began to write. The books and essays opened doors for public speaking and more advocacy, my partner Robert and I started the Center for Sex & Culture in 2000, and the next thing you know, I'm debating promiscuity ("virtue or vice?") at the Oxford Union. ;-)