Girlfag

In Depth Interview with Ethical Slut Author Janet Hardy PLUS Miss Maggie Mayhem & Zille Defeu Video

Hey Rockstars,

Janet W. Hardy is well-known as the co-author of the seminal book “The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.” Since writing the groundbreaking book with psychotherapist Dossie Easton, Janet has continued her adventures in sexuality and publishing. Goddess Hardy is once again looking to shine a bright light in the hidden corners of a sexual minority culture with her upcoming project “Girlfag: A Life Told in Sex and Musicals.”

The non-fiction memoir and guide explores her life as a girlfag, meaning a woman who is sexually attracted to gay men. Although Hardy has found success as an author, she still needs help to bring this indie project to life. She’s currently running a Kickstarter campaign that to-date has 65 generous contributors but still needs backers. Check out my in-depth interview with the maverick here!

Abiola's Signature

Janet Hardy: From Ethical Slut to Girlfag

ABIOLA ABRAMS:  Janet, I’m so excited to talk to you. When did you realize that you were a girlfag? And when/how did you learn the term?

Girlfag by Janet HarddyJANET HARDY:  I learned the term *much* later than I had the realization. I think I first heard the word, which was coined by the writer Jill Nagle, a decade or so ago. But I can remember when I first learned that there was such a thing as gay men; it was when a family friend came to visit, when I was maybe eight or nine.

When my mother explained to me why Tim had another man with him, I can remember immediately thinking, “Oh, people like *me*.” It was just instantaneous, that recognition of my place in that culture, even when I was too young to have much of a sexuality at all.

Abiola:  I love the “people like me” revelation. How do you find gay guys willing to be intimate with you? Do you have advice on “getting lucky” for other girlfags? I don’t think that any of my gay husbands would be intimate with a woman if their lives depended on it!

Janet W. Hardy
Author, Janet W. Hardy at BEA

Janet:  It helps a lot if you don’t insist on penis-vagina intercourse, which is pretty scary for a lot of gay men — it’s not too uncommon for gay men to be a little offput by female parts (although I’ve found that many are fascinated by breasts). BDSM between gay men/women and lesbians/men is common enough to be almost unremarkable in many communities, so that’s probably my main mode of interaction with gay men — someone who can swing a good flogger doesn’t need any particular genitals to do it 😉 And strap-ons are always nice as well.

The easiest way, of course, is to find a bisexual man who feels “gay enough” to ping my gaydar; that’s a good description of the man I’m married to. (It’s not too surprising that he loves me at least in part because I feel “gay enough” to ping *his* gaydar; he’s spent most of his life in relationships with butch dykes.)

Gay Icon Kylie Minogue On Gay Times Magazine
Not Quite a Girlfag: Kylie Minogue On Gay Times

Abiola: Has anyone ever tried to deter you from your girlfag pursuits?

Janet: Not really. A casual friend was horrified when he learned that I was negotiating play with a gay man I knew to be HIV+, and couldn’t get it through his head that we weren’t talking about doing anything that could pass the virus between us — but that’s the only time I can remember anybody having an opinion about it one way or the other.

Abiola:  What are your favorite things about gay men? And is there a difference between sexing a gay guy and a not gay guy?

Janet: Both questions have the same answer. Straight men go into sex with the presumption that it’s their job to talk the woman into something, and with the innate belief that the power of making the connection happen rests in them. Gay men approach sex in a more egalitarian way, with the assumption that if their potential partner isn’t interested they’ll say so — there’s much less sneakiness, fewer agendas. It just feels more comfortable to me, more like the way it would be in a world where everyone had equal responsibility for both saying “yes” and saying “no.”

Abiola: Is there a “straight men need not apply” policy for you, Janet?

Janet: Not 100%, but close. The few heterosexual men who appeal to me these days aren’t very straight — they’re usually men who are “gay-like” in some way, either effeminate enough that they’ve encountered some of the same hassles that gay men do, or out of the mainstream enough that they’ve felt “different” all their lives. Mostly, I find it easier to stick with bisexual and gay men, but I don’t rule someone out strictly because he’s hetero.

Abiola: The original version of “The Ethical Slut” included a “how to f*ck up list.” Is there a special “how to fuck up list” for girlfags?

Lady Gaga Equality March
Queer Icon Lady Gaga

Janet: Probably about the same as anyone who partners an oppressed minority. Don’t trot them out to show how liberated you are, don’t treat them as spokespeople for everyone else like them, don’t make assumptions (assuming, for example, that your gay boyfriend is any more interested in helping you with your wardrobe than your straight boyfriends have been), and respect their limits: if he tells you that cunnilingus is simply beyond his abilities at this time, don’t whine about it, just figure out something else you like to do — or, if you really need to have that to enjoy your sex, then negotiate an open relationship so you can find someone for whom pussy-eating is a “get-to” rather than a “have-to.”

Abiola: That’s a good list! Has there been any negative pushback about the girl “fag” theory and terminology?

Janet: Not directly to me so far, but many of my fellow girlfags have experienced it, and I expect it. The word “fag” is incendiary, and rightly so — when it’s used by “outsiders,” it’s often the prelude to a physical threat, or a symbol of oppression. For many gay men, a woman is always going to seem like an outsider, and I can understand why they might be upset by my use of the term.

Guy Dyke
Symbol for Guy Dyke from LiveJournal

Since I don’t feel like an outsider, I feel okay about my use of the term, particularly since I don’t know any other word for what I am. It’s worth noting that I’ve never heard of a gay man getting upset by the pejorative “fag hag.”

Abiola: So Janet, what has changed since you first wrote your groundbreaking anti-slut shaming advice guide “The Ethical Slut?” Has society become less judgmental?

Janet: Oh, lordy, yes. Just the difference in *awareness* between the first edition in 1997 and now is unbelievable. There are still many people out there who don’t like or approve of consensual non-monogamy, but there are very very few who aren’t at least aware of it as a viable option. That wasn’t the case 15 years ago. And, of course, many more people now know folks who *are* poly, and can see for themselves that it’s a harmless and viable life choice, so there’s a lot less judgment.

Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

Abiola: With the new version, many people are just now discovering “The Ethical Slut,” so please excuse the following questions being so rudimentary. What is an ethical slut?

Janet: We define it in the book as “a person who lives their life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” More specifically, it’s a person who believes that any consensual sexual or relationship style, mindfully chosen and ethically followed, can be a valid and growthful life choice.

Abiola: How did “The Ethical Slut” book originally come about?

Janet: Dossie, of course, as a therapist, has been working for many years as a marriage and family counselor, specializing in people in nontraditional sexual lifestyles, including polyamory. After our first two books (“The Bottoming Book” and “The Topping Book”), we became aware that many of the questions and issues we were hearing from our readers weren’t really about BDSM, they were about the relationship complexities that come up when people reach outside the boundaries imposed by traditional monogamy.

We felt that, while there was already some good material about long-term committed multi-partner relationships, there wasn’t much available about all the other ways outside monogamy that people build their relationships — casual sex, group sex, fuck-buddy circles, couples with outside partners, and all the rest of it. We felt that all of these were valid and ethical choices and needed their own book.

The fact that we wound up teaching skills that would be equally applicable to all relationships was coincidence; our main target was people who weren’t necessarily looking for marriage or marriage-like relationships, but still wanted to be ethical and mindful in their choices.

Abiola: Well, I’ve spoken and written about the word slut and racial representation for Jezebel, in the upcoming documentary American Virgin and in anthologies edited by Ellen Sussman and Paula Derrow; so the conversation is thankfully ongoing. What do you think about the current conversation around slut shaming and prude shaming?


Janet: I think a lot of people who get upset by the word “slut” aren’t doing such a great job examining their own prejudices. If we were truly unashamed of being sexual beings, the word wouldn’t sting the way it does. The solution to slut-shaming isn’t to stop calling people sluts; it’s to start approving of people who manage complex and ethical sexual lives with as many partners as they want and can handle.

I like to point out that we can understand a lot about female sexuality as a commodity when we look at one of the words used to describe sexually promiscuous women — we call them “cheap.” That’s because, when you treat sexuality as a commodity, it follows the rules of supply and demand — the more you give away, the less it’s worth. That is, IMO, a truly horrible way to look at something that’s supposed to be about intimacy, connection and pleasure, and until we get away from thinking that way, slut-shaming will continue to be a reality.

Abiola: Tell us about the fantastic Girlfag Kickstarter campaign.

Janet: As I’m sure you know, it’s a difficult time in mainstream publishing these days, and I’ve found that the larger publishers aren’t willing to take on a literary memoir about a niche sexuality.

However, I’ve been a successful small publisher for more than two decades — my company Greenery Press, founded in 1992, published more than 100 books about alternative sexualities until it was sold last year — and I believe that there is a market for Girlfag. So I’m going back into the publishing business with a new company called Beyond Binary Books to get the book in print and help it find its market.

But as a freelance writer and editor, I’m not exactly rolling in funds… so I’ve reached out to my readers, friends and fans to get some support for the expenses (printing, marketing, etc.) involved in bringing the book out into the world. Anybody can help, at whatever level is comfortable for them, and for as little as $2 people can get rewards — everything from signed postcards, books, Advance Reading Copies, t-shirts, patches, etc., all the way up to personal events in their hometown featuring me reading and speaking from the book.

All they have to do is visit the Kickstarter site here  and make their pledge; Kickstarter will hold the funds until the deadline of February 29.

Abiola: Last question, my upcoming book is named The Official Bombshell Handbook. I’m reclaiming the word bombshell to mean a woman who owns her self and her power. What makes you a bombshell, Goddess Janet?

Janet: I started feeling like a bombshell when I started realizing that traditional femininity wasn’t a good fit for me. While I enjoy a nice night in drag as much as any other fag ;), I really do better in jeans, boots and tank tops. I express my individuality with my hair, which I wear short and spiked, and dye as the mood suits me (it’s currently pale silvery lavender, one of my favorites). A woman who feels comfortable in her skin is a bombshell; a woman teetering around in something that feels unnatural and uncomfortable can’t be.

Abiola: YEAH. Well said! I can’t wait to read this new book. Thanks, Janet.

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