No topic’s taboo at this Philly Erotic Literary Salon – Philadelphia Citypaper

Wonderful article written by erotica author/editor Rachel Kramer Bussel

Published 10/30/2014


“We have a virgin in the crowd,” Susana Mayer announces to big applause from the rapt group gathered at the Bohemian Absinthe Lounge on Sansom Street. The host isn’t referring to a sexual blank slate, but to a newbie reader at her monthly Erotic Literary Salon.

The salon, held in an upstairs bar space above Time restaurant, embraces all sorts of writing in a no-judgment zone. Want to hear sexy stories? You’ve got them. Want poetry and real-life revelations? Check. Want to learn about bisexuality, porn or other sexual topics? A guided discussion starts off each evening and draws plenty of audience participation. Mayer, a sexologist who’s been running the salon for six years, calls the three-and-a-half hour event “edutainment.”

Those who want to read sign up at a session for the following month or via email. The only requirement? Include a backstory, because Mayer knows those listening to the stories are thinking, “Is that a real story? Did they do that, or did they dream about that?” Here, the audience finds out.


About 20 people read at October’s salon, standing at a mic set up in front of the crowd. They read short pieces on everything from prehistoric mating rituals to an Italian fling, Tantric sex to wedding-night remembrances. They were alternately tender, enlightening, hot and provocative. The vibe appears to be less about getting off than building community.

Jackie, a cross-dresser who shared a humorous true tale of her double life, told me, “It used to be the cock-and-pussy show.” Now, she says, the writing is better and more varied, but still has “an erotic aspect of some sort.” This racially and age-diverse salon is for people who aren’t afraid of dirty words, and are looking to expand their minds. “There’s no shame in anything you want to talk about here,” one attendee said.

Pretense and pompousness, along with a fear-inducing stage, are missing. You don’t need to be the second coming of Anaïs Nin to be a hit. Many approached the mic holding cell phones or tablets to read from; some spoke timidly, while featured reader Lynn Hoffman, author of Radiation Days, used his voice to boom out his poetry about having orgasms after 40.

It’s a room so open-minded that frequent reader Jennifer came out to the crowd as transgender before she told her own family. At the session last week, she offered a humorous take on lesbian sex, referencing “boob-level 69,” but got serious when she said, “My greatest challenge now is being seen as halfway between male and female.”

Nobody can reveal every nuance of their lives in five minutes or less — the time limit to the readings — but you’d be surprised at how much a good storyteller can pack in.

Mayer has a doctorate in human sexuality, and her educator hat showed during last week’s opening talk about masturbation and the history of hysteria. People volunteered what they’d been told growing up about solo pleasure. (My favorite? That they’d run out of sperm!)

She doesn’t screen what people say, but she will offer her two cents. One night, when someone waxed rhapsodic about putting soap inside a woman’s private parts, Mayer was quick to warn that this could be dangerous.

She admits her no-holds-barred approach can “make people squirm,” but to her, that’s a good thing. Local comedian Rachel Fogletto did standup, mimicking getting come on her face, while others offered odes to anal play, threesomes and goddess-centered sex. It’s apparent there’s no right or wrong way to approach eroticism.

The salons are open to the public, 21 and over, and Mayer charges $10 ($8 for students/seniors). The next salon, Nov. 18, will feature erotica writer Emerald and a discussion on ageless sex (“Sex has no expiration date, or does it?”), Mayer’s forte and the subject of her forthcoming book. Be prepared to laugh, learn, gasp, talk to strangers and, yes, squirm.

✚ Rachel Kramer Bussel is the author of the essay collection Sex & Cupcakes and editor of over 50 erotica anthologies, most recently Hungry for More and The Big Book of Submission.

She tweets @raquelita.

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