Capacity crowd, a line out the door and the sound of cocktail shakers underneath the bevy of guests. Sounds like just another night at The Whistler (@whistlerchicago, 2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Chicago’s number one “hipster bar” according to a recent Thrillist article. Only instead of a band no one’s ever heard of, people were here tonight for another reason.
Sex. Or rather, sex positivity.
Full Disclosure Podcast
Last Wednesday, the Full Disclosure podcast—helmed by writer/comedian Eric Barry (@EricBarry)—took on a different form, premiering as a live variety show with standup and improv comedy, BDSM demonstrations, audience interviews and Q&A segments. The event was sponsored in part with Early To Bed, a local boutique shop dedicated to providing positive information and culture alongside their selection of sex toys and accessories.
The podcast, dedicated to cultivating all things sex positive, was started in April 2012 out of Barry’s bedroom while he was still living in San Francisco. Since launching, an impressive array of celebrity guests have appeared on Full Disclosure—including Dan Savage, Nina Hartley, Belle Knox, Sex Nerd Sandra—as well as local Chicago sex educators and sex workers. A former male escort himself, Barry has discussed this part of his past openly on the podcast. Although some episodes are interview-based, others feature topics and demos ranging from nonmonogamy to vibrator reviews and semen cocktails.
What Is Sex Positivity
What is “sex positive”?
In a basic sense, it’s the idea that one’s sexual preferences are a matter of personal choice, and that within the confines of informed consent, those preferences should not be subject to the moral imposition of others. That doesn’t mean you need to be into or even understand others’ sexual proclivities, but you need to respect them. Whether that means you haven’t slept with anyone in the last 10 years, or you’ve slept with everyone in the last 10 years.
What was the genesis of this project?
I’ve always had a fascination with sex and just how much it impacts every moment of our lives and how we interact with each other, whether or not we recognize it. Sex is why we’re all here, after all.
I wanted to talk about sex. I’ve worked as an escort in my past and I’ve seen all the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding sex workers and I wanted to change that. People tend to open up to me about very intimate parts of their lives as soon as they meet me, and it seemed like a podcast was the natural medium for showing a more honest look into the lives of sex workers, and discussing topics people are curious about but afraid to bring up.
Why did you decide to have a live show? (Was this always a goal, or the goal for the program?)
I moved from San Francisco to Chicago this past January. While San Francisco is amazing, I’m overwhelmed by Chicagoans support of the arts—particularly those who are not themselves directly involved.
Given that some pretty intimate, and at times outlandish things happen on the podcast, it seemed like this was something that would translate really well into a live show while also helping to promote the larger social awareness of the podcast.
What were the most formative circumstances in your life that led you to have such a voice and initiative in the sex positive community?
Certainly being a straight guy who sucked cock for money helped. But I’ve always been interested in provoking conversation. I started a free speech underground newspaper in high school—while I was wearing all black and a trench coat, mind you. I was also on the football team, and ended up being elected school president.
We love to put people in boxes—but everyone has a story, and it’s usually not one that fits nicely into a box. I think if we can be more open about our own stories, we might learn to live together a little more harmoniously. If I can help tell those stories, I’ll always find fulfillment.
Why The Whistler? Why Logan Square?
Logan Square is still growing, and there’s a lot of room for a cultural “stamp” of sorts to be put on it. Coming from San Francisco, the segregation of neighborhoods is a little crazy to me, and that extends to sex-positive communities. I think it’s insane that someone who’s LGBT in Logan would have to travel to Boystown or Andersonville to find a gay bar, or a kinky person might only feel welcome at a secret “munch” meet up organized through FetLife.com
I think Logan is a neighborhood that’s particularly interested in building a progressive, culturally rich community—and that’s exactly the kind of neighborhood sex-positivity can thrive in. I believe bars that actively brand themselves as queer-friendly, kink-friendly and inclusive of all walks of life are in Logan Square’s near future, and The Whistler actively expressed interest in being as much.
Full Disclosure Live
For displaced fans of the “Sunday Night Sex Show,” a longtime comedy/drama storytelling series at The Burlington (@burlingtonbar, 3425 W. Fullerton Ave.), the live version of Full Disclosure translated much like a souped-up reboot. In the live show, Barry and co-host Mary Zee began by leading the crowd through the vast kink lexicon, clearly defining terms such as sex positive, dom, sub and more. Always keeping the mood light and fun, they alternated the sexual segments with comedy. The show featured standup from Natalie Jose and Tommy McNamara, as well as improv bits inspired during an audience interview.
“I want this not to be some exclusive party for people who are already in the know per the podcast, but I want this to be a bridge between people who are like ‘What’s this thing?’ and that world,” says Barry.
But perhaps what really stole the show was a BDSM demonstration by dominatrix Lady Sophia Chase. No stranger to Full Disclosure (her full interview is in episode FD #77), she shared some tidbits about her life in the sex-work industry and taught a quick workshop in spanking and paddling on a GGG (which stands for “good, giving and game”) volunteer. Even The Tamale Guy stopped for a second and said, “Yeah, we’ll stay for a minute …”
Lady Sophia next brought out her needle kit to use on Barry, piercing his nipple. In an interview after the show, he claimed the original plan was to pierce his pectoral muscle but the crowd was insisting on the nipple and he had enough professional trust in the dominatrix’s abilities.
“I came to know Sophia through the podcast, and she’s truly become like a friend,” he said later, once the bleeding stopped. “She’s so amazing, so professional. I wouldn’t let some random person on stage do that to me … Sure enough, she was great and she did it.”
Now that the first live show has happened, Barry sees this opening the door to future events. “I would love to have it be a monthly recurring event where people can come and see entertainment, and also before and afterward feel like they’re in a friendly space—be it a queer-friendly space or a kink-friendly space or what-have-you.”
“I don’t think anyone needs to have ownership over sex positivity or a show that’s trying to push a little bit of the boundaries. And I think Logan Square is the neighborhood for that, I think that Logan Square is cool and chic and progressive, and it’s that way because it wants to be that way.”