In last Saturday's Globe and Mail, Barbara Ehrenreich makes the point that people teaching sexual abstinence should be abstinent themselves. Which is a good idea. Coast columnist Dan Savage gave a talk in Halifax several years ago; he pointed out that those who teach sex education in schools seem never to show any passion or experience in their subject; as say, a history or math teacher might (and should).
Midori doesn't have that problem. She loves sex, and she admits it freely. She'll be giving two workshops while in Halifax, part of a busy peripatetic September, in between a Rope Dojo—a two-day intensive workshop—in NYC and workshops including "Suspension Made Easy" in Ottawa.
"This is a crazy life," she says. "Good thing I love to travel."
Midori was born in Kyoto, Japan, to Japanese and German parents and raised in what she calls a feminist intellectual household. She moved to the US as a teen and started on her professional path as a volunteer at San Francisco Sex Information, a free, non-judgmental telephone resource of sex education, before the internet. She earned her psychology degree from University of California. She is still, in her 40s, based in San Francisco, and we speak on the phone. Why sex education? "I'm not a good enough snowboarder or white-water rafter to be competitive," she says. "I love to eat fabulous food but I'm not a cook. I do the things I am focused on—sex education, installation art and photography." Midori says her primary work is sex ed. "I teach a range of things," she says, "from sweet and fundamental love skills to the more spicy." I guess. Her workshops have alluring titles like "Family Jewels: CB Play," "The Sensual Whip" and my favourite, "Military and Interrogation Fantasies."
Shelley Taylor owns Venus Envy, host of the workshops. She's brought Midori to Halifax before. "There are many excellent sex educators out there," says Taylor, "but few bring a wealth of personal experience to their work, like Midori does. She's a former sex worker, erotic film actor, teacher, writer of both fiction and guide books—she seems to have done it all, and in doing so has so much to offer anyone interested in learning more about sex."
In Halifax, Midori's first workshop is "Hands-on Rope Body Harness." She says the aesthetics of it are front and centre. "In Japanese culture for a long time everything has been tied; it is all tying and binding. And Japanese culture is artistic and borderline obsessive-compulsive, turning everything into an artform—like bento boxes. So why not a sweet, cozy, cocooning shagfest?" As the workshop blurb says, "you can use a harness for very secure rigging. Or you can make a pretty rope outfit. Create intense harnesses for pain sluts. How about sensual breast bondage?" The dress and supplies note from Venus Envy for "Hands-on Rope Body Harness" suggests comfy clothes, a towel or yoga mat, and rope. (Suggested minimum: three or four pieces of 20-, 25- or 30-foot lengths. If the rope is for a smaller person, bring the shorter lengths. For a larger person, bring the longer lengths.) Back-to-school shopping has never been so fun.
There is nothing brutal or brutish in Midori's work. In her book,
The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage, the photos do show the craft of it, how beautiful bondage can be. There are the ropes—different thicknesses, lovely colours, wound and woven; bamboo rods, thin and thick. In the photograph of Kikkou (the tortoiseshell body harness), the rope is a deep purple. For another position it's thick bright pink. In The Toybag Guide to Foot and Shoe Worship, a pair of female feet is bound with intertwined silk cord and pearl beads, toes held high.
In her bondage workshop Midori teaches four basic ties and does a demo so people get a sense of emotional interaction. She says it's more than pretty knots. "The rope is not static—it's so much like a tango, really gorgeous—like a tango fantasy of confrontation—the game the dancers play: I will. No you won't."
As she talks, Midori doesn't sound at all scary. She's teaching things many of her students have little or no experience at, and like anything worth doing well, walking in the first time has got to be intimidating. On the phone Midori is very easygoing, smart and funny.
"I am a patient teacher," she says, "because I myself am a slow learner. I try to explain things in different ways. Some people are hidden gems; all they need is somebody like me to say, "You're doing good; here's how you can do it better'."
"I do some clowning around and tell stories about myself," she says. Midori tells me how she ended up trying anal sex for the first time. "In college my boyfriend and I were looking through the campus newspaper. Reverend Jerry Falwell was sounding off about sex and, good campus newspaper that it was, it printed all the Blue Laws in the US and we decided to go down the list and try them. Somewhere it's illegal to be in your front yard wearing only socks and holding a gun. We skipped that one, but when we came to anal sex we decided give it a try."
Her second workshop in Halifax is "How To Get What you Want in SM," a session for everyone—top/bottom, dominant/submissive or just curious. Midori wants people able to express their desires in the most honest way while still considering the other person. Without frightening them off. "It's a lot like cooking," she says. "Say you have an amazing meal by Alice Waters. "I'm never going to be able to make this' you say, but you can learn. I give students the basics. I demystify. If I demystify, people are less overwhelmed. I believe in authentic experience. And even if it's a brief time—if you meet someone on Saturday night in a club and have only one night—let it be sincere, let it touch somebody in an emotionally intimate way."
Midori gets requests to make a DVD, but she's hesitant. "Someday I might," she says, "but I do love the experience of interaction with other people—the giggles, the lightbulbs going on. I have lots of people saying "I thought I was a little odd, but I'm not alone. This is what I've been thinking and feeling but you have given me the tools to express it'."
Midori agrees that sex is like singing: With a little help, anyone can learn more. Get better.
"Take me if you will," she says, "but take me well."
Midori leads two workshops in Halifax, each $25 (limited income $15), with no specific experience needed. Pre-register with Venus Envy, 1598 Barrington, 422-0004. 7pm Tuesday, September 11, Hands-On Body Harness Workshop. 7pm Wednesday, September 12, Getting What You Want in SM.