Dispatches from a Dark Corner

Inside the Insatiable Mind of Sexuality Podcast Host Tina Horn

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Tina Horn’s feminist, kink-friendly, body- and sex-positive work as an all-purpose media maker has been expanding my mind about all things sex since 2010. When I set out to expand more minds with “Dispatches from a Dark Corner,” she was the first person whose big, sexy brain I wanted to pick. Her newish podcast, “Why Are People Into That?!” excites my inner sex geek to a near frenzy. A sort of portal into the minds of kinksters, fetishists, and experts, the podcast delves deep into where certain sexual proclivities and practices get their appeal. I sat down to talk to Tina at my home in Brooklyn, with illustrator Jayel Draco on hand, to talk about the podcast, spanking expertise, delighting in dirty talk, the allure of boobs, train boners, and squirting.

Can you give me a little bit of your background? How did you end up teaching sex workshops in the Bay Area?

The short version is that when I was twenty-four, I was playing in a rock and roll band, and I had a degree in modern literature. There weren’t a whole lot of jobs then, as there aren’t now, for somebody with a humanities degree. So I notoriously typed the word “dominatrix” into Craigslist, a little bit on a lark. I found a house, and I started working as a professional dominatrix doing professional BDSM.

Then I started to perform in porn. This was about 2010, by this point, or I guess 2009. Circa that time, there was a little bit of a queer porn renaissance going in the Bay Area—feminist, indie, artsy, political, erotic films. I started performing in them, and then I became a producer and a director. That project that I co-produced and directed, QueerPornTv, was, for me, always an emphasis on the interviews about transgressive sexual identity, coupled with people’s super-raunchy, super-personal, amazing performances. They were essentially like video performance art, which also just happened to be hardcore and therefore people would pay for memberships.

During that time I also started doing community-based sex ed. Feminist porn was starting to have a moment, so people were needing people who identified as feminists and were also making porn to come and talk at universities, like, “Can you please come and explain this seeming conflict?”

At that time I decided that I wanted to get another totally useful humanities degree! I got my masters in creative nonfiction writing, and I’d always wanted to move to New York, so I’ve been making that magic happen over here on the east coast for the past three years.

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Tell me about the types of workshops you’ve done.

My two workshop specialties are dirty talk and spanking.

The spanking classes sometimes are about classic, over-the-knee spankings, and sometimes involve other types of corporal and impact play. All my classes are about two hours long, and I really try to appeal to kinesthetic learners, and aural learners, and visual learners, by having a little bit of technique, a little bit of philosophy, a little bit of social context, feminist interpretations, psychological interpretations. That’s the kind of stuff that I’m really interested in, and I also think it makes people better in bed to think about those things. And then a demonstration. The demos aren’t like live sex shows, but they’re intended to show people how much [fun] those scenes can be.

And the dirty talk workshop is the same, but it’s much more about language and communication. I am a ham, and I love being in front of people, so I figure if I want people to pay attention to me, I’d better put on a good show and have something interesting to say, or be giving them something. So teaching is a great way to give back.

How did you come to the conclusion that this type of education needed to be turned into a podcast for the masses? How did “Why Are People Into That?!” come about?

I have always loved radio. It combines two things I love, which are writing and performance. And it seemed like a project that would be a step into more production than just writing a blog. But the idea of a very simple format, with a different guest and a different topic every time, for “Why Are People Into That?!” would mean that it could be totally specific and totally open to any sexuality or kink subject that I wanted to talk about and that my guest wanted to talk about. And that I could take advantage of all the amazing perverts and sex geeks I know, and hang out with them and have a conversation and collaborate. It’s been one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.

You’ve got a really great radio voice, too.

Thank you, I love to talk. I love the sound of my own voice.

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You’ve covered a wide range [of topics]. Some of them are really broad, like role play. But you’ve also covered really specific things, like bootblacking. How do you pick topics for the podcast?

It’s all about the guests. I want to have this person on the show, and then I ask them what they want to talk about, and we talk about that. Most of the time, these people are my friends or colleagues. Some of them I’ve known for a really long time, some of them I’m close to, and sometimes [I don’t know them well]. Like, recently I had Jillian Keenan on because I had read her writing about spanking and I was like, “This is so good that I need you to be the person who comes on and does “Why Are People Into Spanking.”

It’s all about the guest, really…I’m taking it as it comes. Tristan Taormino was asking me who my dream guest would be, and I said Sam Delaney.

I don’t know if you can get a more universal turn-on than breasts.

In terms of [further] topics, I really want to have an episode about boobs. I don’t know if you can get a more universal turn-on than breasts. Everybody loves tits…Gay men love tits. So you don’t even have to be interested in having sex with ladies to love tits. So, like, what’s going on there? I love them. I don’t even know why.

You’ve gotten into things that are quite taboo with the podcast. You’ve done an episode on sex slaves, for instance, which is a scary topic for a lot of people. Do you have any hard lines about where you will and will not go?

Let me put it this way. I would love to have a podcast about consensual non-consent. I would love to have a podcast about rape fantasies. I would love to have a podcast about people who enjoy scenes of force or extreme humiliation, degradation, all of that stuff.

I would never want to have a podcast where I talked to someone about why people are into actually doing things non-consensually. That’s not sex. That’s violence.

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If you were trying to convince someone to listen to “Why Are People Into That?!” and you had to pick the episode…

I think I would pick Ignacio Rivera talking about “Why Are People Into Squirting,” because it sort of covers all of the bases. It’s a microcosm of the podcast.

Ignacio is a friend of mine, and is incredibly brilliant. A sex worker and an educator and a writer, so kind of the quintessential “Why Are People Into That?!” guest. They’re able to talk about their own sex life, which is incredibly varied and wild and exciting, in a way that is so dirty. But they can also bring in all the social analysis that I love, [and] all the anatomical, physiological understanding of the body that can really help you to understand why people like a thing. Ignacio is queer and genderqueer and polyamorous and kinky and a sex worker, and…all these marginalized identities that “Why Are People Into That?!” is about.

I want you to be reading something that is cultural reportage, creative nonfiction, and you’re on the train and you’re like, “Oh, this is highly literary,” and then all of a sudden you’ve got a boner.

And I think that squirting is something that is, on one hand, really kind of vanilla in the sense that it’s about sex, it’s about the body. It’s not a particularly cerebral or psychological or, like, sadomasochistic or D/s based sex act. And yet, because it’s been so mystified and there’s been so much disinformation around the G-spot and female ejaculation, it is still an extremely transgressive thing to talk about, and therefore an extremely feminist thing to talk about. Because it’s all about female-bodied pleasure that is ecstatic and easy to see. Demonstrated female pleasure. Sheet-staining.

Let’s talk about your book, which is the next big thing that you’re doing. What is it about? When is it out?

My book is coming out in April of 2015, from ThreeL media, which is a new publishing imprint that puts out books about transgressive sexuality subjects. It’s called Love Not Given Lightly, and the subtitle is Profiles from the Edge of Sex. It is a collection of nonfiction stories about sex workers that I have known. There are a few stories about people who are escorts, who do porn, or who do professional BDSM. There is a story about the house that I worked in and managed for four years. There’s a story about a long-time client of mine. It’s a little bit New Yorker profiles and a little bit Susie Bright/Carol Queen/Tristan Taormino sexuality/cultural reporting.

I just had a meeting with my friend who I met at the Lambda Literary Retreat, who read the book and was giving me notes. He said, “I just got so many train boners reading this.” And honestly, as soon as he said that—and other people have said that when they read the manuscript—I was like, “That is my goal with this book.” I want you to be reading something that is cultural reportage, creative nonfiction, and you’re on the train and you’re like, “Oh, this is highly literary,” and then all of a sudden you’ve got a boner that you didn’t expect to have. Then you just have to deal with that for the rest of the train ride!

“Dispatches from a Dark Corner” is a new interview series focusing on the passions, projects, and personalities of the humans who populate the worlds of adult entertainment, sex work, night life, and underground escapades. Lynsey G is a writerly type whose work has appeared in Bitch Magazine, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, xoJane, Menacing Hedge, Stirring: A Literary Collection, TOSKA, and others. The winner of a 2013 Feminist Porn Award for her short documentary film, she is now blogging at LynseyG.com and Luna Luna Mag, and finishing a few book projects.

Illustration by Jayel Draco.