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Indie Music Groups Share Sex Positivity
by Georgia Kral
Two indie bands with all female members, Mountain Man from Bennington, Vermont and Sleep Over from Austin, Texas, use their music performances to share more than sound. On the road, both experiment with offering zines that preach sex positive messages for fans.
Sex positive education goes further than the basic sex education one might receive in school. It’s not about what could happen if you have unprotected sex. Sex positive education teaches about, among other things, enjoying and understanding sexuality, being open to gender differences and identities and learning to talk about sexuality freely.
While some of this is happening in pro sex-education organizations, these are examples of sex positive education taking place in the open in cultural circles. By distributing literature at their shows, these bands are using their platforms to share information in unexpected places.
Mountain Man is a group formed by Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Erin Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. These three women sing mainly a cappella songs in the folk tradition and Meath and Sarle study or have studied gender at Bennington College, where the band formed.
The zine, “Get Your Squirt On,” is about female ejaculation, and was made by a friend of Meath’s. The pocket-sized handbook is pink and includes hand-written descriptions on how to achieve what is usually thought of as a male-only sexual climax.
“The goal was both to teach and inspire,” said Meath, adding that she herself learned from it.
Heather Corinna, founder of the alternative sex-education informational site and blog, Scarleteen, said in an interview that sex education shouldn’t just be about “avoiding, managing or reducing risks.”
“Sex and sexuality isn’t a zero-sum game that we ‘win’ by simply not having anything bad or unwanted happen…There are also positives in sex and sexuality, and when it’s something good that benefits people, that makes us feel good, that is a positive way to express ourselves and enjoy being in our bodies,” she said.
Sarle said it was “fun” to distribute the zine.
“Most people associate ejaculation with penises, but vaginas can do it too,” she said. “This was a way to expand the ways we live and experience our bodies.”
Sleep Over is a psychedelic pop band formed by Christa, Sarah and Stefanie, all of whom use only their first names as performers. On tour, they sold the work of a friend in their collective art scene in Austin, CJ Harris. The zine, “Juicy Stream,” is a graphic novel and is also about sexuality.
The band says its intention in distributing the zine is to support their community. They see the musical realm as potentially welcoming and even eager for progressive information about sex and gender.
Indeed, using the stage or any kind of alternative platform from which to teach can be seen as useful, especially for younger audiences.
From the “About” section on Scarleteen, Corinna’s site: “Few young adults nor parents can rely on school alone, or at all, for comprehensive, accurate sex education.”
“Most school settings certainly have different -- and far less relaxed or emotionally safe -- social dynamics than a concert does,” said Corinna in an interview. “And while there are still plenty of young people who look up to educators, I do think it's safe to say that there are probably more who idolize musicians in bands they really like. Getting a message from someone, whoever they are, who you just think is dope is always going to have more impact.”
For Meath of Mountain Man, who is also an actress, performance and being on stage is exactly where tackling tricky or sticky subjects makes the most sense.
“I have always tried to address things I believe in through performance,” she said. “[With Mountain Man], I try to not perform, and to simply be honest and vulnerable, and to share that with the audience who is present.”
Sarle agrees and says that art helps to create the very spaces that are needed to empower people to change their lives and perceptions of others.
“We wanted to do more than sing for people,” she said. “As performers we have such an amazing opportunity to start conversations, and giving away these zines is another form of that.”
Musicians and particularly feminist musicians talking about sex from the stage is nothing new. Feminist musicians have been preaching about sexuality and female marginalization for years. Beginning in the '70s with punk bands like The Raincoats and The Slits and extending into the ‘80s and ‘90s with the riot-grrrl movement, musicians have used the stage in this way.
During the ‘90s riot-grrrl scene “there was the whole writing on the body thing—writing “slut” or “rape” or “cunt” on the belly—that was a reclamation not just of words or epithets but of taking back sexualized zones,” said Marisa Meltzer, Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music, in an interview.
“Music is such an effective way to educate,” she said.
June 10, 2010
Listen to “Soft Skin” by Mountain Man.
Georgia Kral is a music writer in Brooklyn and the outreach and editorial assistant at On The Issues Magazine. She blogs at Microphone Memory Emotion.
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