Last year, the writer and literary curator Fiona Alison Duncan was road tripping to her hometown of Montreal when she spotted a sign: “Pillow Talk”. For a while, Duncan had been thinking about how, for many people, complicated conversations about sexuality were only happening anonymously online, and that even actual “pillow talk”—conversations between lovers in bed—largely failed to include thoughtful wondering about sexuality.
Duncan took the sign as a calling, swiped the name, and when she returned to LA, she pitched The Standard a new series. Hosted (appropriately) in-room at The Standard, Downtown LA, Duncan describes Pillow Talk as “community organizing on sex, love, and communication.” Pillow Talk aims to start conversations that require focused listening, the occasional clearing breath, and plenty of awkward wondering.
Given the proliferation of complex issues related to sex, sexuality, sexual abuse, and gender in 2017 and 2018, the timing couldn’t be more relevant and necessary, and last week, Duncan hosted the series’ inaugural installment, “A Lay of the Land of the Laid,” a panel that included me, Tierney Finster, sex journalist for magazines like Playboy and MEL; the activist Alice Barker of support.fm; writer and sex educator Ana Cecilia Alvarez; psychotherapist and Soulfriend Radio host Gaea Woods; and Samuel Muglia, the stylist responsible for casting Eckhaus Latta’s pornographic ad campaign.
With Pillow Talk, Duncan has set out to create an intimate space for people to share the nuances of their sexualities, helping to reform traditional, inaccurate ideas about the binary, inflexible nature of our sexualities. In short, she’s set her sights on nothing less than finding ways to replace our fucked up sexual culture with something better.
We sat down with Fiona to hear more about the inspiration for Pillow Talk, the importance of physical touch, and the way trauma can alienate us from pleasure.
This Thursday, February 8th, Duncan hosts the second installment in the series, “We’d Rather Be Free,” a “femme-centered consciousness-raising session” that will “address trends like celebrity rape and sexual abuse revelations while exploring questions with personal/political implications. Co-hosts include: the writer and trauma support specialist Larissa Pham; queer scholar Jane Ward; artist Amalia Ulman; actor Dasha Nekrasova; activist Alice Barker; and the writer and educator Ana Cecilia Alvarez. To attend, email firstname.lastname@example.org.