In celebration of National Coming Out Day, guest speaker Sinclair Sexsmith performed at an open mic at Scripps College’s Motley Coffeehouse Oct. 8. The Queer Resource Center, Claremont McKenna College’s Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Students’ Union, and Scripps’s FAMILY co-sponsored the event.
Sexsmith is an educator, coach, and writer specializing in sexualities, genders, and relationships. His literary work includes collections of poetry, prose, and lesbian erotica.
Much of Sexsmith’s work includes some form of “smut,” as he put it. In addition to being tantalizing and seductive, smut has important implications for understanding different genders and sexualities. Although smut is often dismissed as filth and pornography, Sexsmith’s explanation of erotic novels and short stories may have provided a new perspective for the audience. Erotica often presents non-heteronormative perspectives on sex and sexuality in its literature, which can create empathy among a cisgendered and heterosexual population.
“That’s what I love about erotica writings—to drop in on someone’s life and understand—that clicking,” he said.
Sexsmith has worked on several tomes of erotica, most notably the anthology Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica. At the open mic, he read passages from the anthology as the audience called out page numbers. Sexsmith shamelessly and theatrically voiced each passage. Half the room squirmed, while the other half erupted in bashful laughter.
In addition to erotica, Sexsmith also has a background in poetry and poetic prose.
“I’m a recovering slam poet,” he said.
Fortunately for the audience, Sexsmith relapsed and recited several moving pieces, including poems from his collection Fervor.
“That nothing is forever / but if we can bend together to time’s winds / we can weather anything … / but I trust my strengths and virtues and vices to carry me / that love is never permanent / but it changes me / every beautiful time,” Sexsmith recited from his poem “What I Haven’t Told You I Believe About Love.”
For all his success, Sexsmith maintained a profound humility. At the beginning of the show he passed around a clipboard asking for students to share the stage with him and read a poem.
Several students presented both covers and original material, including Andrea Frias PZ ’14, Carly Goodkin CM ’14, and Naomi Bosch PO ’15.
The students presented writing that either touched on personal introspection or dealt more generally with encounters related to issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. Their work dipped and wove around sexual tension, longing, struggle, comedy, lust, loss, and love.
Bosch’s poem, “How to Heal a Living Thing,” focused on the visceral and the love of the grotesque. Although every poem and sample of prose presented was beguiling, there was something refreshing about Bosch’s engagement of beauty and the grotesque.
“I wouldn’t say the visceral is beautiful, necessarily, because I think that’s an oversimplification, but I feel that the visceral is valuable and should be explored more,” Bosch said of the poem.
Bosch was enthusiastic about the opportunity to perform at the open mic.
“I love events that are a vehicle for words,” Bosch said.
Sexsmith’s work is most readily available on his blog, sugarbutch.net, in addition to other websites, including Be a Sex Educator, AfterElle, and Carnal Nation.