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How to Improve Your Sex Life and Save America


I was at a Halloween party on Saturday, sitting between two men whose entire bodies (including their heads) were covered in green spandex, when I reached this conclusion: all of us, in the company of our friends, families, lovers and co-workers, ought to spend much more time talking about sex.

I propose that talking about sex will help us to feel less shame, have better sex, and even weaken the influence of politics (and worse, politicians) on our personal lives.

Here’s how it works.

Waste less of your life feeling ashamed.


We feel ashamed when we think that we are doing or feeling something uniquely awful. You can’t feel ashamed of doing something that everybody you know and love is also doing. At least, in theory you can’t, but in practice you do: everyone you know and love picks their nose, poops, does not look like an airbrushed supermodel when naked, and has all kinds of dirty, dark, and deviant sexual desires. Just. Like. You.

Keeping the shameful stuff to ourselves keeps us isolated from each other. We are so afraid of each other’s judgment that we clam up, and forfeit the possibility of connection. The irony is that connection is the only thing that can alleviate our shame - when we realize that we are not uniquely dirty-minded, just plain old run-of-the-mill dirty-minded, the shame begins to evaporate. Of course, it may not be the case that your best friend shares your fantasy about being tied up. But guess what: there is only one way to find out.

Personally, I am sick of shame. I’ve spent enough time with it to recognize the depth of its uselessness. If you could also do with a little less shame, follow these simple instructions: 

  1. Invite some friends over. 
  2. Make a pot of tea. 
  3. Pose this question: “What turns you on?”


Have better sex.


One thing I’ve often found perplexing is why competent, intelligent, fully-grown members of society so often turn into simpering weenies when things get sexual. They lose the ability to ask for things they want, and to say NO to things they don’t want. As anyone who has ever hung out with a toddler knows, these are not advanced skills – every one of us mastered them completely by the age of 2.

So what gives? It seems to me that our vast reserves of shame cloud our judgment and thicken our tongues. Whatever the reason, the fact is that most of us suck at communication when we’re turned on. Luckily there’s a really easy and reliable way to get better at things: practice.

Start talking about sex before you get into bed with somebody. Like, WAY before. At the party, on the date, in mixed company. Right after “what do you do?” and “where are you from?”, ask “what turns you on?” 

If you’re honest with yourself and the ones you covet, here’s what I predict: you may have fewer sex partners (having filtered out the incompatible and easily-offended ones right off the bat), but you’ll have much better sex. Your sex partners will know what you like before they have the chance to try all the things you don’t like. You’ll know what they like, too, so you can spend less time worrying about your performance. Even better: the more you practice talking about sex, the better you’ll be at it; so when your desires inevitably change and develop, you’ll be more likely to get those satisfied, too.

And here’s the revolutionary part: when you talk about sex, the people around you will also have better sex. Talking about sex is contagious (that’s why I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my Christian homeschooler friends after I was about 13). It jumps from host to host, devouring their shame, connecting them to each other, and making their sex lives hotter. It’s a miracle drug. If I could make it into a pill I’d be a billionaire.

Kick politicians out of your sex life 

(unless you’re having sex with one).


Part of the reason politicians and voters support stupid, counterproductive, dangerous legislation about sex is because they are under the influence of sexual shame. Remember how being open about sex and sexuality brings people closer together? It also weakens people’s opposition to no-brainer civil rights issues like marriage equality. In short: shame makes us stupid.

Sexual shame gives politicians and voters the selective-blindness required to support policies that are bad for them and their families. Shame allows closeted gay politicians to endorse anti-gay legislation. Shame allows parents of gay kids to keep mum about their support for marriage equality. Shame allows otherwise rational people to suggest that abstinence-only education is a good idea. Shame allows people with uteri (or daughters) to support a Presidential candidate who wants to de-fund planned parenthood andoverturn Roe v. Wade - a lethal combination for women, regardless of your religious or moral position on those issues (HELLO SCIENCE: making abortion illegal does not mean that fewer women get abortions, it means that more of them die in the process.)

All of this is not to mention that oral sex is currently illegal in eighteen states.

In short, sexual shame is what a lot of people are smoking when they vote against there own interests. And what have we learned is the sobering antidote to sexual shame, friends? Or at least the morning-after, hangover-easing french toast and OJ? Talking about sex.

So turn to your neighbor, open your mouth, and say something sexy. For the good of humanity.





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On Women Who Like Sex

Tomorrow, I am releasing music video for “Backseat”, which is a song I wrote about wanting to have sex with a hot tattooed guy who unfortunately had a girlfriend. In said video, I will be dancing around in lingerie, drooling over my dear (hot tattooed guy) friend Dan, and singing some pretty thinly veiled sexual innuendo. (Update: see the video here.)

So, this seems like the time to make my confession. Confession might not be the right word, actually, considering my last album, Idiot Heart, was more or less an epic poem on the topic. But, for those of you who don’t know me, or who aren’t big on lyrics, or who are still nursing your vision of me as an innocent young folksinger, here goes: I like sex. A lot. I don’t like it because it’s all about love, or because it’s some kind of spiritual journey for me. I like it, mostly, because it’s just so dang fun. Because it makes me feel alive, and it allows me to share that aliveness with other people. Because it helps me to learn things about my body and mind and heart that I otherwise wouldn’t. 

In other words, I like sex for the same reasons I like music and dance: it is a joyful, playful, fun, surprising way to connect with people, and to explore the human experience. So why, when I’ve written and talked extensively about music and dance, haven’t I gotten around to writing about sex? Because I am afraid of what it will mean. I’m afraid of being judged, shamed, belittled, or reprimanded. I’m afraid my fans will run screaming into the hills, hiding their children, or become creepy stalking phone-breathers. It’s only recently occurred to me that these fears don’t belong to me; they belong to a culture with a long history of wrongheaded, destructive views about sex, especially as it pertains to women. In my own interest, and the interest of sex-liking women everywhere, let’s get a few things straight.

1. Sex ≠ love.

I think the idea that sex and love are the same thing (perpetuated throughout the world for much of recent history by religion, art, literature and advertising) is responsible for many of our misconceptions about both, so let’s get this one out of the way first. Clearly, on occasion, people who aren’t in love have sex. Clearly, also, people love other people and don’t have sex with them. I’m not saying they’re mutually exclusive, but neither are they inextricably linked. Love and sex, like milk and cookies, pair well; but neither is required for the enjoyment of the other.

2. Women like sex just as much as men.

Countless theories have been put forth over the past few centuries about why women don’t like sex. Without going into the tedious details, let me state my own opinion on the matter: they do. 

 If you don’t buy it, let’s do an experiment. Let’s start a new culture where women, from their girlhood, are told that sexual pleasure is a natural, fun part of being female. They are never told that sex is dangerous, dirty or weird. They are never badgered, shamed, pressured or forced into any sexual experience. When they become interested in sex with other people, they are encouraged to explore it in a consensual, safe, fun way, with whomever they find themselves attracted to. All of their sexual partners are caring, communicative, generous, and happy to take direction. 

That will be our control group.

3. It is not “dangerous” to like sex.

All people are vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. All sexually active people are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. I don’t believe there is anything about liking sex, or acknowledging it, that puts me in a more vulnerable position. That’s not to say that there are no risks to having sex, but those risks are not higher than, say, driving a car. Driving a car is generally considered a justifiable risk, whereas having sex - colored by its cultural legacy of shame - is not.

4. Women who like sex will not necessarily have sex with you.

This, my friends, is the clincher. When I find myself in a conversation about sex, and mention that I am a fan of the activity, the men in the room tend to get very nervous, very handsy, or very surly. I think this is due to a common misconception: that women who like sex will have sex with anybody. Like, our brains will be so flooded with arousal endorphins that we’ll transform into some kind of pansexual nymph. 

Women who like sex still have all our wits about us. Like most people, we only want to have sex with people who we think are attractive, and trustworthy, and with whom we have chemistry.

In conclusion: I just made a music video that is sexy, based on a song that is about sex. Why? Because I like sex. I like sex that is loving and profound, and I like sex that is fun and casual. I like sex as much as any man I know. I am not a weirdo, I am not a slut, and I am not in any excessive danger. I like sex, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you.

Probably.  


image

Photo by

Lauren J. Andrews

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The “Pay What You Please” Manifesto

In 2008, I helped start a business called “Quidplayer”, which built a nifty little widget for artists to post on their websites. The Quidplayer is a music player that allows fans to pick their own price for the music they download from artists. It was a fairly revolutionary idea at the time (I had only heard of Radiohead taking that approach, never a smaller-time artist). These days, because of the success of Bandcamp and similar businesses, I’m happy to say it’s becoming more commonplace.

I’ve now adopted Bandcamp on my website, allowing fans to download tracks from the Buoy album for any price they choose. I’m planning to release the new record, Idiot Heart, in the same way. Additionally, for the past year, I’ve been inviting fans to choose their own price for my physical CDs at my shows.

This approach has gotten mixed reviews from fans. Some people are instantly in favor of it, others are downright incredulous. I’d like to let you in on where the idea came from, and why I’m now 100% sold on it.

The fan experience

Before I was a musician, I was a music fan. I still am! Music that moves me is worth more to me than almost anything else in the world. I would eat gruel every day for the rest of my life, or live in a tin hut, before I would give up good music. Music that doesn’t move me, on the other hand, is worth nothing to me. So how can two songs, one totally inspiring and one completely boring, both be worth $.99?

My answer is, they aren’t.

Not everybody has the same taste, but I will wager that everybody who loves music has a similar experience. If you really love an artist, if their music gets inside you and wreaks glorious havoc, destroying and rebuilding your interpretation of the world, making you laugh and cry and reconsider things, their art is worth an infinite amount of money to you.

The industry

Something big happened in the music world about a hundred years ago. Vinyl records were invented. Suddenly, record labels could record musicians, and distribute their music to jukeboxes, and later, directly to music fans and radio stations.

Imagine the enormity of this! Before 1910, a musician was a working person who traveled from town to town, performing their music live, in the same room with their fans. A fan was a person who saw that artist, enjoyed their performance, and planned to see them again the next time they came through town.

Recording changed the face of music in countless ways. The most shocking and new and important way, I submit, what that it turned a song – previously an experience, unsellable and unquantifiable - into an object which could be bought and sold.

With that one little idea, the recording industry was born. You can’t have an industry without a product, and you can’t make a product out of a musical performance unless you stamp it onto a piece of plastic. Now, a hundred years later, the music-buying public seems to think that a song is more or less the same as a pen, or an iPod, or an ice cream cone: it’s a thing, and it’s worth a fixed amount of money.

This, my friends, is lunacy. Songs are magic. Money is just money.

In Conclusion

It seems to me that the big mistake – the very biggest mistake in the history of the music industry – was not highly paid record executives, or unfair royalty distribution, or Napster, or iTunes. It was the faulty premise on which the whole empire was built: pretending, in the first place, that a song could be bought or sold.

So, here in the 21st century, as I make my songs and sing them into microphones, as so many others did before me, I’m challenging that premise. If you hear my music, and you like it, and you want to take it home with you, don’t ask me what it’s worth.

To me, it’s worth everything. It’s worth every failed love affair I wrote about. It’s worth the debts, and the late nights, and the incessant station wagon traveling. It’s worth every ounce of heartache that went into conceiving, writing, singing, and recording it. It’s worth all the money I’ve ever made, and ever spent, and ever will.

The question is: what’s it worth to you?



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