CW / Content notes: mention of sex, strong language
One of the amazing events we were sad to cancel this spring is SMUT SLAM. Created and hosted by Cameryn Moore, Smut Slams are open mic gathering where people share actual sex stories – not in a peeky braggy way, but in a way that cherishes all varieties and backgrounds. Smut Slams are changing the way we talk about sex and creating a safer space each time:
“Smut Slam is queer-friendly, kink- AND vanilla-friendly, fat-friendly, sex worker-friendly, virgin-friendly, polyamory-friendly, we’re really, really friendly. We welcome people with all types and amounts of sexual experiences. We DO NOT welcome stories, fuckbuckets, or thread comments involving racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or any other kind of discrimination, objectification, or nonconsensual fetishization. All activities discussed must be CONSENSUAL.”
We talked to Cameryn, who has successfully found ways of converting real life gathering into broadcasting. The next Slam takes place on Wednesday 6th of May with a guest judge from Loukko. Tune in!
What is Smut Slam and how did it come about?
Smut Slam is a community dirty storytelling open mic, where audience members are the ones who get a chance to come up and share their stories. It’s uncurated, unrehearsed, and utterly magical. I created the first Smut Slam on Feb 2011 in Boston, because I was trying to find places where I could practice telling my stories about sex (I was working up a few of them to include in my solo show Slut Revolution). There were a couple of storytelling open mics in Boston at the time, and the organizers said they were fine with sex stories, but the looks on the audiences’ faces there–lots of frowns and folded arms–told me that clearly those spaces were not good matches for my stories. So I was like, fuck it, I am tired of being the only perv in the room, I’ll make a space where everyone can come and share their shit.
So I was like, fuck it, I am tired of being the only perv in the room, I’ll make a space where everyone can come and share their shit.
How has Smut Slam evolved since?
Well, for starters, the Code of Conduct, the rules that guide the tellers and the listeners and everyone in the room, that has grown longer and more detailed over time. Smut Slam has also become considerably more participatory for everyone; for example, the Fuckbucket (anonymous confessions and questions) only became a thing in the spring of 2015. Before that, only the storytellers got a chance to share their stuff. With the Fuckbucket, suddenly everyone in the room had a chance to help create and participate in the show.
Also, I and the other hosts of Smut Slam have been very mindful about reaching out to organizations and companies in our areas, both for outreach purposes but also to strengthen the communities that are emerging around the various slams. Before, Smut Slam kind of stood apart, but now I’ve definitely come to see the importance of rooting the event in existing networks.
Smut Slam remains a place where people feel that they can find sharing, knowledge, and connection around these subjects. Smut Slam is not only about sex, it’s mostly about the human emotions and experiences underneath and around sex.
Why do you keep doing this?
Because people keep responding to it, because they keep telling me they need it, that we as a society need it. Even in cities where you’d think people would be more blasé about it, like Berlin, Smut Slam remains a place where people feel that they can find sharing, knowledge, and connection around these subjects. Smut Slam is not only about sex, it’s mostly about the human emotions and experiences underneath and around sex.
Smut Slam is very international and you’ve been working as a touring artist – for how long? The COVID-19 pandemic obviously changed the palette fast and total. You’ve found ways to overcome it. How is it working out?
I’ve been a touring artist since 2010, and focusing heavily on touring with Smut Slam since 2017, so yeah, the pandemic landed hard and shut down everything that I do, in that particular form. Up until mid-March, my work mostly required bringing large groups of people together. Now that is off the table for a long time, but people still need to feel community around these topics, so I decided to try online and make Smut Slam Europe a weekly broadcast.
Turns out that storytelling events are not difficult to adapt to online platforms like Zoom, especially because I was able to get a few people together quickly to be broadcast crew for this endeavor, so the tech and chat moderating is handled by the team. Not being able to feel audio or visual feedback from audiences–because I have to maintain eye contact with the camera–is personally difficult for me, but I’m learning to just override that need and proceed with the story and comments. Generally, though, Smut Slam online is working out well, so much so that already a number of participants have expressed a hope that Smut Slam continues doing online broadcasts as an option, even after it becomes possible to do in-person smut slams again. It’s just so much more accessible!
You have a beautiful code of conduct. How did it take form – have you had to add certain topics after things have gone wrong, or has it been the same from the start? Is it different online?
The Smut Slam Code of Conduct is definitely a living document. I don’t remember what it was at the beginning, but the way that it has evolved over the last few years has been mostly driven by hearing a story that didn’t go against the existing guidelines, but still felt wrong. So then I have to go and sit with that story, and maybe talk with the judges or with audience members after the show, and figure out what exactly was wrong with it: was it the actual story? Was it the way they delivered it, or constructed the story? A lot of times the changes to the code have been just me articulating my particular set of ethics around sex and storytelling, and sometimes, when I’m lucky, it’s about learning from audience members things that I hadn’t considered.
Online, the Code of Conduct is implemented in exactly the same way: if a person tells a story that violates or pushes hard at the Code of Conduct, I let them finish it, and then I will take the microphone for an educational moment. That’s when I and the teller (it’s mostly me, to be honest) discuss why that story, or the way they told it, is not actually appropriate for Smut Slam. It works just fine.
Online, though, we have to work hard to keep track of chatter. At the in-person slams, there is very little chat while the stories are going on or when I’m reading the Fuckbuckets. This isn’t a fucking comedy lounge with VIP booths, so shut the fuck up, people! Online, though, people do chat AND everyone can see it. So we have to make sure that people’s chat comments don’t violate the code of conduct either. Thank the gods for my mods!
Smut Slam events have in my experience been warm and welcoming with a special communal atmosphere. It’s not to be taken as granted. Is this something you’ve had to work on a lot, like what will it take to create that, or does it come naturally?
Smut Slam communities are a little like … sourdough bread. Or yogurt. Or good blue cheese. You have to introduce the right elements at first, but if you keep the environment controlled, it comes utterly organically after that. The right elements are, I think, me being vulnerable, choosing the right stories from my experience, and telling those stories with authenticity and calm. As the person who is always telling the first story of the night, I have to model the sort of attitudes I want to see in the room around sex and sexuality and graphic sex talk. Also, I try to make sure that my co-producers and I are bringing audiences and judges with the widest range of backgrounds that we can. Then I set the safer environment, with the Code of Conduct and our controlled box office policies. Under those conditions, the audience understands pretty quickly that it’s safe and they will step up to the mic AND support one another.
I try to make sure that my co-producers and I are bringing audiences and judges with the widest range of backgrounds that we can.
What kind of feedback do you get?
From ”that was so fun!” to “this changed my life.” To some degree, Smut Slam attendees get out of it what they put into it. When people show up and really make themselves open to the stories, the awkwardness and silliness and the live-wire truth of it all, all kinds of stuff can emerge. And it does.
What do you consider the best things that have come out of Smut Slam?
The code of conduct, and the collective maintenance of a space that is truly open, encouraging, and elastic, when it comes to new information and experiences in the area of sex, sexuality, gender, and kink.
What would you say to someone who’s never been to a Smut Slam but is feeling intrigued? Do you have some pro tips on overcoming awkwardness?
There really is nothing wrong with sitting back and watching. You do _not_ have to tell a story to be at the Slam, and the tellers need listeners! If you still feel weird, it is okay to turn off your video while attending an online slam. And if you want to tell a story yourself, you can turn off your self-view, to keep you from getting sidetracked about how you look.
Smut Slam is not the only thing you do. Please use this platform for shameless self promotion!
Oh, HAHAHAHAHAA, Smut Slam is definitely not the only thing I do. I have a heaping handful of solo plays and storytelling shows, a few of which have won awards in categories like “artistic risk” (for nerdfucker in 2016) which is the best category ever–thank you, Vancouver Fringe! In addition to nerdfucker and Phone Whore and slut (r)evolution–most of my plays have been about sex and/or relationships in some way–I just added a new type of show to my repertoire last year, Muse (“an experiment in storytelling and life modeling”). it really is a strange hybrid, but I love it. Muse begins as a 1.5-hour life drawing session, with me as the model (I’m one of only a few plus-size life-drawing models in Europe.) While posing, I then tell stories about my experiences of being in a body that is constantly under scrutiny, both in the studio and out in the world. Meanwhile, MUSE audiences may choose to watch, draw, listen, and ask questions, participating how and when they wish.
it revolves around creating opportunities where people can share and experience authentic stories and sometimes challenging truths in a safer and encouraging space. My job is to hold that space, and I love it, however it happens.
Developing and performing Muse has been a pretty stunning process; every show is different because the audience is really determining where it goes. Artists have found Muse super interesting because of my body type, and people who otherwise would _not_ identify themselves as artists find the space a really safe and encouraging place to both create visual art AND talk and meditate on issues around “the body.”
Other things? More storytelling shows, such as NOM open mic (like Smut Slam, but about food) and curated shows like the one I’m working on for June 2 of this year, featuring storytellers who are sex workers telling stories from their lives. I am beginning to offer dirty talk workshops again–because a lot of people are trying phone sex for the first time, oh boy–and I create custom typewritten erotica for people as well.
There is a lot of stuff in the works, to be honest, but it mostly all revolves around creating opportunities where people can share and experience authentic stories and sometimes challenging truths in a safer and encouraging space. My job is to hold that space, and I love it, however it happens.