Radical Soul
Radical Soul
Janet Hardy On Aging in a Public Body

Janet Hardy On Aging in a Public Body

Interview with writer and kink educator Janet Hardy

Janet Hardy has a very public body. As a traveling kink educator and public player, it’s no leap to believe that thousands of people around the world have studied her body in public scenes or demonstrations. And as an author, much of Hardy’s work has centered around her own embodied experiences. As such, she has given us access to her body in a profoundly intimate way.

But this work has had consequences.

In her newest book, Notes of an Aging Pervert, she writes about an experience she had at a Western tantric workshop that felt like an electric power surge coursing through her body. One that she couldn’t control.

My intellect was still functioning, but it became small, distant, and helpless. It told me that what I was feeling was dangerous — that if it went on, I would hurt my body or my brain or both. I thought about strokes. I thought about heart attacks. What I couldn’t think about was what might happen next, because I didn’t know: I’d spent many hours learning how to achieve this ecstasy, but it had never occurred to anyone to talk about how to stop. Maybe it stopped when I fainted, or died.

Following the workshop, she needed a break from the kind of erotic and spiritual exploration that forced her to be present in her body. But she couldn’t take a break: she was on a deadline.

At the time, Janet and longtime play and writing partner Dossie Easton were working on Radical Ecstasy, a guidebook that combines BDSM with Western tantric practices. In our interview, she explained, “So we went on practicing and playing and writing for several months, by the end of which I could no longer do anything that involved putting myself in my body instead of in my head, because the minute I did, I would start to going back into an orgasmic state, which was both frightening and embarrassing in many ways.”

Her relationship with orgasms and any deep embodied play was never the same.

I find it striking how it wasn’t just the experience in the workshop that impacted Janet, but also the sense of obligation she felt to keep going to meet her deadline.

Here’s a glimpse of the embodied intimacy found in the book:

Last week, I had my first cutting. I asked a friend to open my skin very shallowly with a scalpel, not to make me healthier or prettier, but as an intentional exploration of the nature of this thin pink layer that makes the difference between me and not-me.

I am not very good at telling the difference between me and not-me.

Ever since the cutting, I have been in a state of terrible turbulence, alternating between pathetic neediness and hermitlike sensitivity. Something got opened up, something much more than a layer or two of epidermis, something that really didn’t like getting touched and that apparently really needed to get touched.

Art from Janet Hardy’s exhibit Truth Tellers about queer people who “told their own truth and have been harmed by having done so.” From left to right, portraits feature Mollena Williams-Haas, Leslie Feinberg, and Quentin Crisp.

Now in her late sixties, Janet reflects on her aging body and her changing relationship with pain, sex, gender, time, and mortality.

She opens the book by talking about how she used to teach classes on pain processing which teaches you to divorce “pain from all the feelings that usually accompany it, such as fear, anger or worry.” Learning to process physical pain is exceptionally helpful for kinksters who use pain in their play, not to mention anyone living with chronic pain, preparing for childbirth, recovery from injuries, etc. But she found the same advice could be applied to emotional pain and learning to process feelings like “jealousy, displacement, or insecurity.”

“But all my techniques and practices fall short when I think about my own aging and especially about its inevitable endpoint — which is to say, death,” she writes. “That may be one sensation that’s too big for me to process.”

The book is an attempt to process it all, from how her body is forcing her to slow down and change what she enjoys to the aging of her partner and the death of her father.

For the reader, the key benefit of an author having lived a public life through the decades is that, through the course of her work, we’re able to witness how a person’s identity can evolve.

Hardy’s three memoirs: Girlfag, Impervious, and Notes of an Aging Pervert.

One of the benefits to the author is decades of self-reflection. For Janet, this has resulted in a present-day that’s mostly free of shame.

“It’s pretty hard for me to feel ashamed of anything anymore,” she told me. “There are things I wish I hadn't done — surprisingly few, because even the things that came out awful I learned from … But in terms of  things I genuinely feel ashamed of, there are not many.”

Listen to the interview for more on ageism and accessibility issues in alternative communities, Janet’s warning to folks exploring kink and other intense embodied practices, and more on aging and kink.

Pick up a copy of Notes of an Aging Pervert for a humorous reflection on aging as an alt-lifer.

About the Guest

Janet W. Hardy is the author or coauthor of more than a dozen groundbreaking books about relationships and sexuality, including The Ethical Slut, which has sold more than 300,000 copies to date.

She spent the first three decades of her life believing that she was the only person in the world who got turned on by thinking about spanking. She wrote her first book, The Sexually Dominant Woman, to help create a world in which nobody else would ever be that clueless.

Janet has traveled the world as a speaker and teacher on topics ranging from ethical multipartner relationships to erotic spanking and beyond. She has appeared in documentary films, television shows,and more podcasts and radio shows than she can count. She has narrated audio versions of many of her books, and looks forward to doing more.

Janet spent a quarter century as editor-in-chief of Greenery Press, the firm she founded in 1992, which went on to publish dozens of books about alternative sexuality and relationships. While she has retired from being a publisher, she goes on writing, drawing, editing and educating about sexuality.

Janet lives the life of a kinky poly queer genderbent geezer in Eugene, Oregon, with her spouse and a whole lot of pets.

Radical Soul
Radical Soul
Formerly Left-Handed Journeys. Interviews with radical souls about their spiritual journeys, especially centering the stories of queer folks and sex workers.
This podcast is part of the larger Radical Soul brand which centers justice, strives to help others heal from religious trauma, and rejects white and Christian supremacy.
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