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02.11.09

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Phaedra

Photograph by Steve Diet Goedde
Teacher Teacher: Sex educator Midori sheds light on places the sun don't shine in regular classes at Pure Pleasure.

Miss Midori

It takes a special person to teach a roomful of blushing adults to drop their rear guard

By Jessica Lussenhop


There is no "hanging back" in sex class. Not even for me, a supposedly "unbiased" reporter. Midori, a world-renowned sexpert, will not allow it.

"I'm going to make the journalist grab my dick," she declares, pointing the quivering lavender strap-on she's modeling at my face. I am powerless to resist. So are the rest of the nine students who've assembled at Pure Pleasure in Santa Cruz--an even breakdown of men, women and age groups, and with only two wedding bands among us.

One girl is talked into making a would-be anus out of her balled-up fist, which Midori lubes up and massages skillfully with her fingers. "It's kind of fun, isn't it?" she says to the girl, who, with her fist held up in the air, turns a pinkish hue. "It's different," she concedes. We all shift in our seats.

There something about being in this atmosphere, a small sex shop surrounded by lifelike dildos, that makes people go a little sex-positive crazy. We all want to be cool. I have been witness to and participant in many a shouting match between customer and sales clerk, both parties striving mightily to prove to the other how "chill" we are. But in front of Midori, the author of bestselling books The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage and Wild Side Sex, there's no room for posturing--not here at anal sex school. She's alluring, she's in control and she's even a little bit scary. The walls come down pretty quickly here, and she will make you blush.

"Butt sex. Buggering. Shagging. Anal. Back door. Pegging--ooh, that's a good one," Midori calls out. "In our Judeo-Christian, poo-fobic, hand sanitizer-obsessed culture, there is nothing wrong with good butt sex."

This isn't some bullshit Zen tantra or a careful medical procedure, and she doesn't use PowerPoint. Midori prefers "Betty," a clear plastic blowup doll, a disembodied Hannibal-esque anus made of rubber, a veritable war chest of toys and an arsenal of vulgarity to, as she puts it, "demystify, inform, entertain." She explains the art in artless terms like "ass cancer" and "Frankendildo." Her audience vacillates between adolescent tittering and complete adoration.

Midori's been coming to Santa Cruz to do her classes, which range from "How to Eat a Peach" to "Hands-on Rope Bondage," for about a year, and has been teaching all over the globe for more than a decade. Her philosophy emerged from the darkest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the '80s and '90s. "You're too young to remember when people were dropping like flies," she tells me. "People shouldn't have to be dying from sex, or sex that is gilded in shame. Shame is a waste of time."

Though Midori gets us through two hours' worth of uncomfortable double-entendres with the tools of physical comedy--giving muffled instructions out of Betty's bum and telling X-rated blooper stories--she takes her mission very seriously. "I'm teaching [people] that information is accessible and that you are a fully blossomed sexual entity," she says. "Sex-positive education really does make a difference. It gives people confidence."

In many ways, the instruction is what one might expect. "Communication, lubrication, and take it slow" is the basic gist. Then there's a bevy of interesting little prohibitions. Do not use silicon lube with a silicon toy. Do not eat raspberries or strawberries beforehand. Do not insert anything that does not have a flanged base.

But more important to Midori than the list of tips and tricks is the fact that a room full of adults are giving themselves permission to speak frankly about their butts. "These are the ones I like to teach," Midori says later. "When I see they're participating and the light bulbs are going on."

At the end of the two hours, we are all extremely aware of our own asses, and aware that everyone else around us is aware. I am definitely aware of mine, because it has fallen asleep. Thinking I'm going to amuse Midori with this information, I say so. She, unflappable, immediately flicks on another vibrator and demands that I sit on it to, you know, get the circulation going. There is no escape from this interminable blushing.

The only thing that seems to surprise Midori is the persistence of this type of knee-jerk discomfort. "I am at times disappointed that very culturally sophisticated and well-educated people can still cling to old sexual mythology and bad information," she says. "I try to take the shame away. It's really no big deal. I would like people to take away fun, safe and real sexual information. That's what the presentation is all about."

As I leave the class, Midori is MacGyver-like, demonstrating how to construct a strap-on out of a dildo and a student's winter scarf. "Thanks for letting me fuck your fist!" she calls to the hand model.

Her students slip out into the night and melt in seamlessly with other Santa Cruzans who've just come from the Gap or the Nick. Someday in the future, when we see one another, we will nod knowingly, Fight Club-style, in appreciation of the antics of the night.

MIDORI teaches 'Things That Go Buzz in the Night: Tips, Tricks, and Bloopers' Thursday, Feb. 12, and 'Hands-On Rope Bondage' Wednesday, Mar. 4, at 7:30pm at Pure Pleasure, 204 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25, available by calling 831.466.9870 or at www.purepleasureshop.com.


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