Montreal Mirror


Horny like me

>> John Ince sheds light on Canada's erotophobia in his book The Politics of Lust

Montreal Mirror December 11, 2003


One of Canada's foremost erotic activists - a lofty title to be sure - John Ince is not only a talented B.C.-based lawyer and journalist, but co-founder of the Art of Loving sexuality centre in Vancouver, an institution where, among other things, one can get schooled in the fine art of giving a first-rate hand job - an important skill which always looks good on a job application. Monsieur Ince was in town recently to hawk his new book, The Politics of Lust, an ambitious exercise which "probes the nooks and crannies of the modern erotic mind and discovers that below our seeming enthusiasm for sex is a reservoir of fear." The Mirror cornered him for an hour or so to get the skinny on the state of our nation's sexual health. This is what he had to say.

Mirror: My impression of your central thesis is that, contrary to how we may view ourselves as a society, we are in fact a lot more uptight about sex than we'd like to believe.

John Ince: Well, just look at the nudity laws. Why is it a crime for me to sunbathe on Mount Royal in the nude? Why do the mainstream newspapers regularly edit out images of genitals even when they appear in a news story? Why are our children so ignorant of sexuality? Sex education in the schools is still enormously deficient. It's all about danger and disease and not about pleasure. Why are sex workers being persecuted? Why is it a crime for somebody to rub my dick and get paid for it and not a crime to rub my gluteus maximus? Why is it that as soon genital pleasure enters the equation, prohibitions arise? That's what my book is about. You know, just look at the laws. It's not a problem for me to say "My back is tense, I'd like it rubbed." Nobody would go "Oh, that's weird." But if I say, "Oh, I'm really horny, I'd like to get jerked off, I think I'll go downtown to find a stroke parlour," judgments would start flying about all over the place. Just because they touch genitals and create genital pleasure, it creates this massive stigma. The hole in the donut is always genital pleasure and we absorb these subtle negative messages all the time. I believe it comes right into the bedroom and makes us pretty lousy lovers.

Shut up and let me screw!

M: You've devoted a lot of energy to challenging Canada's obscenity laws. Do these regulations offend you more from a civil libertarian perspective, or simply because they attempt to limit the free expression of human sexuality?

JI: Both. Some people are just so angry that other people would be free sexually that it's frightening. But it's just about their own hostility to sexuality, and their own denial that they have either denied sex to themselves, or had it denied, that there's this huge resentment about other people being able to play with an energy that is so frightening to them.

M: You write quite extensively about the foolishness of "fig-leaving" our genitals, and that by constantly covering them up we further encourage this false notion that they are somehow dirty or obscene. But I dunno, there's a part of me which kind of likes the fact that genitals are usually kept hidden, that way I get a more pronounced boner when I come across them in my sexual exploits.

JI: Well, that's cool. But I think that as erotophobia becomes less prevalent, people will be way more experimental sexually than they are today. Way more! I hear people going, "Oh yeah, I'm kinky," and that means that they jerk off with their wife watching them. Which is great, I'm not knocking that behaviour in any way, but we are so restrained. If you could film each one of us making love, and then compare it to what it could be, you would just see enormous inhibition. I'm talking about the degree to which our sex is routinized. I mean, you talk to any sex therapist, and they'll tell you that the level of sexual boredom in relationships is very high. And one of the reasons is that people are afraid of experimenting.

Breaking the habits

M: Speaking of sexual experimentation, what's the deal with this Erosha thing you teach at your sexuality centre? Is Erosha not just tantric sex by another name?

JI: No. Erosha is about how to take sex out of the bedroom and play with it.

M: Like the way I sometimes take it out and play with it at the playground when school is letting out?

JI: (laughs) Yes, well, uh, kids can play with themselves sexually, they don't need adults to get involved. You see, the thing with Erosha is that so much of our sex is really habitual. Like, count the number of times you stroke before you cum the next time you're jerking off, make a note of it, and the time after that, make the same note and you'll be surprised to see the lack of variation.

M: Okay, I'll be sure to do that and report back to you.

JI: And you'll find you probably go through the same lovemaking sequence with your partner. With minor variations maybe. You might do a little kissing first, you might go down on her, she might go down on you...

M: Right, or you might punch her really hard in the face, in a loving, sexual manner of course, or cut her up a little bit, or...

JI: Yeah, sure, you might have her puke on you if that really gets you off.

M: If?

JI: Erosha takes you out of all that. It's all about one person being a total giver and the other person a total receiver. I started Erosha as an alternative to prostitution. I wanted to devise an alternative to traditional sex work and operated Erosha as a form of sex work for years and trained women how to do it. And then I realized that the real market for it was couples. I do several seminars a month in Vancouver through my erotic arts centre and this one is definitely the most popular. I'll typically get eight to 25 women a session. We also do kissing and hand job classes, you know. But with Erosha, we're talking touch, there is no penis penetration whatsoever. Only with fingers.

Performance anxiety

M: Hey, on the same subject, a lot of The Politics of Lust concerns itself with the idea that we would be living in a much happier world if people could get over this concept of sex being something vaguely dirty or perverse. What about those of us who kind of like the idea of sex being dirty sometimes? That can be a big part of the fun, no?

JI: In an erotophobic culture, such as ours, sex is dirty. And erotophobia doesn't stop people from having sex, it just causes them to have anxious sex. Shame-ridden sex. And then shame and negativity becomes eroticized. When you couple two very primal behaviours such as fear and anxiety with eroticism, there is a lot of science that shows the two start fusing, so getting really anxious can generate arousal, and getting aroused can generate anxiety. So I would argue that if you think that's hot, wait until you transcend the fear and dirtiness as a trigger for a turn-on. Because anxiety allows some charge but not really a full charge. The very biological reaction of anxiety is tensing, and that constricts the flow of blood that transfers feeling. So an open, fearless orgasm is much more powerful than a dirty, anxiety-tinged orgasm. But whatever gets you off is good.