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Last month the SheVibe Team had the pleasure of hanging with Tristan Taormino and her partner Colten for a few hours. We have long been fans of Tristan’s work , hell we were fans before any of us were even associated with the sex industry having seen her appearances on HBO and the Rikki Lake show. Tristan is an accomplished author, producer, director and public speaker. For crying out loud, she even hosts and produces a top rated podcast; Sex Out Loud. And you know what, she’s really good at it, all of it. What became apparent, right away, is why she’s so successful. Tristan is warm, engaging, direct and honest. Tristan is our generation’s Dr. Ruth…but way hotter.

Already a veritable sexual diversity superhero, we just had to immortalize her in the way only SheVibe can: Tristan Taormino and the Rise of Reason.
SheVibe: When did you know that you sexually identified in a way that was different than the typical societal norm?
Tristan: Wow, that’s a great question that no one has ever asked me before. Sexuality is so dynamic, and coming to terms with one’s own sexuality and coming out is a neverending journey. At least for me it has been. I knew in junior high that I liked boys and girls. I knew in junior high that role play and power dynamics in sex really turned me on more than simply fooling around. I liked the drama and high stakes. I knew in high school that I really loved sex and pursued it with more people and more variety than my peers did. I knew in college that I was bisexual, then a dyke, then queer. I also came out as femme, kinky, and an anal sex aficionado in college. I knew I was a queer woman who occasionally enjoyed sex with cis (non-trans) men in the late 1990s. I knew I was an exhibitionist and non-monogamous around that time too. I came into my identity as a dominant (in BDSM play) in 2001. I lost my exhibitionist streak and became much more private around 2004. I became a hardcore voyeur in 2006, which coincided with directing porn, so that worked well. In 2013, I am in a very different place sexually. I don’t really want to elaborate any more than that.
SheVibe: Do you believe the zombie apocalypse is coming?
Tristan: No. I believe a lot of things, but not that.
SheVibe: I recently read that you identify as queer. How would you describe to someone who is only familiar with the societal gender norms of male and female what it means to be queer?
Tristan: Queer is my sexual orientation, so, while it informs my gender expression, it’s not a gender identity. For me, being queer is not just about who I love and fuck. Queer encompasses the way in which I see the world; it’s about my sexuality, culture, community, and politics. I came out in the early nineties at the height of direct action groups ACT UP and Queer Nation, so reclaiming the word "queer" (which had been and still does get used in a derogatory way) is really important to me. I never identified with the word lesbian. It’s just not me. Queer is an inclusive umbrella term that can describe lots of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual folks who don’t fit the norm, fuck their gender, or identify with the word and the communities its represents.
SheVibe: Happily, I do see some movement toward a broader understanding that sexuality is fluid and our genitals don't necessarily dictate our gender, but it can be quite intimidating to know which term to use with whom. How would you advise someone who is trying to navigate the "new" gender pronouns?
Tristan: Let’s talk about navigating pronouns period. I prefer a direct approach, which is to ask the person, what is your preferred pronoun or what pronouns do you use? If I don’t have the opportunity to do that, then I simply don’t use pronouns at all when referring to the person until I can find out. I like that Sandra asked me this question. All of Sandra’s questions are fun to answer. It’s difficult, but not when you make the conscious effort. I do it all the time.
SheVibe: East coast or West Coast?
Tristan: East Coast forever in my heart, but probably bi-coastal soon.
SheVibe: Name 3 pivotal moments in your life that changed everything for you.
Tristan: When my father died of AIDS in 1995. When I published my first book. When I met my partner Colten at UC Santa Barbara.
SheVibe: Are there any phrases or words that you totally overuse and wish you could stop saying?
Tristan: "clearly," "sort of," "OMG" (it’s embarrassing to admit that).
SheVibe: I know that you work incredibly hard and incessantly, how do you ground yourself when things are bat shit crazy?
Tristan: My partner and my three dogs ground me, so when things get crazy, a hike in the woods can really clear my head. I have been studying Buddhism which also helps me cope with stress, uncertainty, and other people’s bullshit. Meditation is an amazing tool, but I admit I have trouble making time for it.
SheVibe: We love your work within the feminist porn movement. What would be your top 5 movie recommendations in feminist porn that best represent the heart and soul of its progression?
Tristan: That’s nearly impossible to do, so I am going to restrict it to the United States, pre-2006. How to Female Ejaculate directed by Nan Kinney and Deborah Sundahl, Eyes of Desire directed by Candida Royalle, The Crash Pad directed by Shine Louise Houston, Nostalgia directed by Courtney Trouble, and Chemistry, directed by me!
SheVibe: Are you a mama's girl or a daddy's girl?
Tristan: Definitely daddy’s girl.
SheVibe: Do you have any recommendations of "traditional" (not necessarily feminist) porn?
Tristan: Fashionistas directed by John Stagliano, The Truth About O directed by Ernest Greene, Upload directed by Eli Cross. I also love the classic Seymore Butts movies, especially with Alisha Klass and Chloe. And I love what Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell are doing right now for New Sensations.
SheVibe: Fess up something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
Tristan: I need at least 9 hours of sleep (preferably 10) to operate at my optimum level.
SheVibe: You most definitely know your way around a sex toy! So, you're aware that most of the time it seems as though companies are just re-inventing the wheel. Is there a sex toy in recent years that you feel was a game changer or had the potential to be?
Tristan: Oh yes, several. Every single stainless steel toy made by Njoy is absolutely unique and amazing; the designs are just so smart. The same thing goes for the NobEssence toys. I think the We Vibe was a game changer for vibrators because it’s a totally new shape and concept. I also absolutely love Vixen Creations VixSkin line - no other toy feels the way those toys do. The SpareParts Harness brought a fresh perspective to the strap-on harness market. Full disclosure: We-Vibe and Njoy are sponsors of my radio show, Sex Out Loud.
SheVibe: How well do you remember your first sexual experience? Did it leave you feeling good, bad or indifferent?
Tristan: My first sexual experience was with myself, masturbating, when I was very young, and I left it feeling satisfied and sleepy. My first sexual experience with another person that involved genitals was arousing and frustrating. My first sexual experience with intercourse was physically painful, but psychologically exciting.
SheVibe: You strike me as a very gracious, even keeled person. Have you ever worked with someone in the industry who pushed all your buttons and made you want to spit nails?
Tristan: Why thank you, I try. Of course I’ve worked with folks who push all my buttons. In Buddhism, we call them teachers. So, yeah, there is no shortage of teachers in the sex industry.
SheVibe: Is it more difficult to write/publish a book or direct/produce a movie? (For crying out loud, now I feel like a total loser :) ). Do you prefer one creative process over the other?
Tristan: They both involve creating something from the ground up, from scratch. But they’re otherwise very different. Writing a book is mostly a solitary activity, so it can be lonely and frustrating, but it can also be liberating and gratifying when you have a breakthrough and when you finish. Directing a movie involves interacting with a lot of different personalities and "making it work" as Tim Gunn says, and never under ideal circumstances. It can be challenging and intense, but also exhilarating and wondrous when everything comes together and I shoot something amazing.
SheVibe: Cupcakes or French Fries?
Tristan: Gluten-free cupcakes. (Everyone please take note.)
SheVibe: What sexual question are you most commonly asked?
Tristan: "Am I/is this normal?" Usually people just want permission and validation for their desires, fantasies, turn-ons, and sexual practices. Also: "How do I convince my partner to have anal sex?" (answer here). And from college students: "Why can’t I have an orgasm during vaginal intercourse?" The majority of women need some kind of clitoral stimulation to come, but there is still this myth out there that everyone should be able to come from intercourse alone. It’s just not true!
SheVibe: Being a sex educator, author, college lecturer, feminist pornographer and VoiceAmerica radio host, you are well regarded in many different realms and you have already accomplished a lifetime of achievements, is there anything that you haven't done yet that you are aiming for?
Tristan: I have a dream porn movie project I want to direct. I have a long list of books I want to write. I want someone to name a building or something after me (I have my namesake butt plug, but something bigger). I’d like to learn how to do letterpress stationary. I want to eventually have a daily meditation practice (I’m trying to take baby steps there).
SheVibe: With all that you have discovered about human sexuality, is there anything that still shocks you?
Tristan: No. Really!