A self-proclaimed “sex geek who wears her glasses when she fucks,” Andrea Zanin has enlightened Canadians on queer sexuality for close to a decade. Zanin will offer two workshops at Venus Envy on non-monogamy and flogging this week. Xtra sat down with this leather dyke and beat answers out of her about the introspection that comes with polyamory and the reality of taking a good flog.
Xtra: On your Sex Geek blog, you write about the major misconceptions surrounding polyamory. What would you say is the most widely held misconception?
Andrea Zanin: A lot of people think it’s a free-for-all. People see it as essentially being legalized cheating. As if people were like, "Okay, it’s all right for people to go ahead and do this horrible thing that’s going to hurt me a whole lot." When in fact, it’s actually more about caring, actually wanting to expand beyond two people.
Do queers approach polyamorous relationships differently than our straight counterparts?
There’s a cultural history among queers of having some sort of openness around non-monogamy that is a little more ghettoized. It’s there with straight folks, too, but that tends to be found in circles of pagan people: subcultures that are tight to themselves, not as widespread. I think when you come into the queer community, not everyone is doing it, but it’s relatively common in some way or another. So maybe a little more cultural support for the idea. Unless you’ve found a specific segment of the straight world that is doing that.
Sex educator Andrea Zanin says anyone in a relationship should examine their values, but those in non-monogamous relationships have no choice but to put themselves under a microscope.
(Courtesy of Andrea Zanin.)
What can attendees of your polyamory workshop expect?
They can expect to be in a room with other people who are facing similar challenges and questions, which is a surprisingly hard thing to get to sometimes. Just being around others who are also doing this can be valuable. They can expect to have time to discuss and think, then leave with a lot of homework. Essentially, my non-monogamy workshop is one where I do a lot of asking people questions and saying, ‘So what are your values around this?’ Fundamentally, polyamory and any other kind of non-monogamy are relationship styles that require you to have thought out your values in a pretty clear way so you can then make decisions about how you want to do things that are in keeping with those. I think that’s true within any relationship, but it becomes really evident when you start doing non-monogamy because the questions come up fast and furious in a way that sometimes we can be protective against. In relationships that are monogamous, it’s just as important to think about questions of how your relationship values work, but we are not encouraged to do it. Whereas in polyamory or non-monogamy you end up having no choice to start thinking about those things.
You don’t hear too much about flogging in the mainstream. Can you tell me about flogging and how you became interested in the practice?
If you are interested in any kind of play that involves sensation, flogging tends to be an easy go-to as a basic-level type of play. It’s not something that requires a colossal amount of technical skill, and it’s actually pretty hard to do any serious damage with a flogger in a dangerous way. It makes it a type of play that is often appealing to someone who is a beginner. Which is not to say it’s not something that is only for beginners, but for me I enjoy it because frankly it’s easy [laughs] and feels really good, both giving and receiving. It’s low risk, high satisfaction.
And what can attendees of the flogging-with-flair workshop expect?
They can expect hands-on practice. This is a workshop where they are going to show up, I’m going to talk to them for just a little bit, then I’m going to put something in their hands, and they are actually going to do it. [Most people] come out of it saying, ‘Oh my god that was so much simpler than I thought it was going to be. Look: I can do these five different things now.’ It’s a practical, hands-on, demystifying, try-it-out-for-yourselves kind of workshop.