After Monday night's episode of Q&A, which delved into the world of sex and artificial intelligence (namely, sex robots) as part of Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FOD), many people were struck by one of the panelists, Emma Maye Gibson – also known as Betty Grumble– who is a sex clown.
They were struck for two reasons. Some, like me, were curious: what is a sex clown? What's it all about? Where can I find out more? Others *cough* Andrew Bolt *cough* and the *cough* the fkn Daily Mail were less open-minded, choosing a path common to those who don't understand something: the teasing and taunting pathway.
In his Sky News interview with Sharri Markson, titled 'Why is the ABC treating a 'Sex Clown' seriously?' He opens with, "What is a "sex clown"? Why did the ABC's Q&A think her opinions were worth hearing? And why did no one dare to laugh?"
Well Mr Bolt, your first question could be answered with a simple Google search. Your second answer is: 'because she's a human being who had an interesting perspective to offer on a topic she's well versed in'. And your third answer is: 'because people who push the boundaries that society places on sex and gender are brave humans. We can have a bit of fun with it, but it's no laughing matter.
Markson's perspective was that there are bigger issues to be focusing our attention on – especially considering it was US midterms week – and she was perplexed as to why the ABC would preference a panel on sex robots over a meaty political topic.
She's right in that these political issues deserve our attention, but what's not being considered here is the impact that the work of people like Betty Grumble, drag queens or other sex positive folk have on the lives of other people.
Image: @bettygrumble at Sydney's iconic Bearded Tit.
Sometimes seeing someone expressing their sexuality in a grand scale (and I mean GRAND – Grumble performs lip sync performances with her vulva) is what will encourage someone to do so on a smaller scale. That might be helping someone to feel comfortable wearing something outside of their prescribed gender's wardrobe, or maybe it will help someone struggling with their sexuality or gender identity to come out?
Sure, it's not every day you bump into a sex clown at Woolies. Until watching the Q&A episode last week, I hadn't heard of a sex clown before. But rather than publicly ridiculing on Grumble's work, as Bolt did, I'm going to take the time to find out more.
What work does a sex clown do?
Betty Grumble doesn't speak on behalf of all the sex clowns in the world. In fact, I'd imagine that an important part of being a sex clown is the individuality of performances/ experiences.
From what I gather, sex clowns are much like Drag Queens in that they use costume, humour, play and a generous sprinkle of fabulousness to convey an important message of inclusion and act as a voice for underrepresented folk in the Queer community.
The ABC said Grumble's cabaret performances "include dance, self-defence disco, and sensual ecosexuality, challenging issues of gender and the body with a playful ferocity".
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Emma Maye Gibson said "She [her alter-ego Grumble] was a reaction to a world that told women there's only one way to be... I believe that pleasure is a radical act, that's been really healing for me. Betty Grumble's been a healing tool for me."
Her most recent performance at the FOD had a focus on climate change (I guess that's how the ecosexuality comes into play).
"I think people feel it's uncomfortable to face these ideas of climate catastrophe head on, especially in this playful way," she says to SMH.
"The show asks what is indecent, what is vulgar, in a time when the government is actually making decisions with environmental policy that are going to mean our world will end."
Having sex with a clown
This is perhaps a subset of the work Betty Grumble is doing, as her stuff is inextricably linked with environmental activism and female body commentary, but there are a lot of people that just really like having sex with clowns, it's a common fetish.
Sex blogger and educator Sunny Megatron, spoke to Comso about her first steps into the world of clown sex with her husband Ken.
"Sex is messy, sex is ugly, sometimes you fart, you do something embarrassing. And the clown role-play let me take that to the extreme and not be so self-conscious."
"It took a good six or seven months before I was willing to indulge. And I realised that clown sex, for different people, can satisfy very different things. There are some people that are more into the BDSM thing side of things, and they like to play with fear, because fear gets your adrenaline going, it gets your endorphins pumping. So if you're someone that likes to use fear in your BDSM play and you're terrified of clowns, well, that's a really easy way to get scared: Have your partner dress as a clown and say some creepy things to you."
"I had grown up very sexually repressed, not able to communicate about sex, not able to explore, I had always tried to live up to this normal picture of what I thought sex should be... I thought that sex would be like it is in the movies. And it's not like that in real life. And being a clown gave me the permission to be my stupid, silly self in bed. Sex is messy, sex is ugly, sometimes you fart, you do something embarrassing. And the clown role-play let me take that to the extreme and not be so self-conscious," said Megatron.
Whether someone is a sex clown for performances or they like to engage in sex with clowns, the Andrew Bolts of the world shouldn't be scared. No one is asking you to be a sex clown. These people are putting their own flavour on the world of sex and that's great, they're keeping the word interesting.
T;DR? Then check out this video from the people at Heaps Gay.
Kate Neilson is the founding editor of Twenty Something Humans. She likes her toast in bed and feels awkward writing about herself in third person. Lurk her @katiepotatierose.