A woman in her mids sat at one end, working on what looked like trig homework. I met Dixie on a bright, warm January day—the type of January day you can have only in the Mission district of San Francisco.
When I went to introduce myself and stuck out my hand, she instantly pulled me into a hug. But Dixie has devoted her entire life to a subject that is usually talked about only in hushed tones: She is the founder and host of the show Bawdy Storytelling. For 10 years, stories of kink, sex positivity and the sexual underground have been told on her stage.
I assured her that that was the last thing I would want. Interviewing her was like talking to your favorite aunt, the one who will give you advice about your boy problems and answer the questions you are too embarrassed to ask your parents.
She swears easily, even as children selling Girl Scout cookies in a red wagon walk by. She answered my questions with long, unfurling stories, and if something distracted her, she could pick up right where she left off. When Dixie was first introduced to San Francisco storytelling, she was working as a sex-party producer.
She went to the now-retired Memoir Spool. For weeks she listened, unable to voice her own. All her stories revolved around orgies and porn clowns. A place for the weirdos to go into the gritty details.
Like the ice-breaker games in high school, you have to go around and find people who match the descriptions on your card. We decided it was a good bet that he would have done something listed on the card.
Within minutes, he was telling us about his night at a bondage club in the Castro. Across the aisle from us, a young couple in their 20s giggled nervously at each other. Dixie stepped onstage to introduce the show. Some of the performers were first-timers, and you could hear their voices shake due to nervousness. Others were veterans and jumped around the stage, acting out each sex position.
She had coached these storytellers. In the early days, Dixie would sometimes crop up as an extra in these stories.
Performers would offhandedly mention that she had been in the orgy pile or at the sex party. It seems that Dixie has been prepping for Bawdy before she even knew about storytelling.
She had a knack for finding porn stashes in the woods and would take the bus across town to pay 25 cents to watch peep shows at an adult bookstore. So as a year-old virgin, Dixie knew more about blow jobs and gay male anal sex than anyone else at her high school.
She had to sit in the library. Nowadays, her family continues to disapprove of the work she does with Bawdy. They change the subject or avoid it altogether. And the most unexpected result occurred.
Her family fell in love with San Francisco subculture. They fell in love with the tantra teachers and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Dixie hopes that attending will inspire conversations that might otherwise never happen organically. Walking back from the show, my friend and I were discussing which stories we liked the best, which sex acts intrigued us and which ones seemed too much out of our comfort zone. It was definitely not a typical Thursday-night chat for us.