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Breaking the Boundaries of Sex and Love

An Interview with Madrone

When the RQ cell met to plan our Spring/Beltane issue, we brainstormed many different ideas and possible themes, landing appropriately enough on sex and love and their infinite expressions as the organizing theme.

With so many options in our local community for creating relationships and potential partners, it seemed difficult to know where to start. Yet one thing was clear... talk to Madrone! What follows is not a complete summation of the alternative options for sex and love, but a launch pad to dive deeper into these topics.

In mid-February, I met with Madrone in her Oakland home to gather her insights and perspective on the broad themes of sex and love as well as hear some of her stories from her years as a Reclaiming teacher, sex workshop facilitator, and adventurer. As a sexual healer and counselor Madrone actively engages in deep healing work around body trauma and abuse. She conducts workshops for both men and women who come to participate for a wide variety of reasons, including desires for connection and touch, help with body issues, trauma, and breaking free of patterns of their sexual selves. Both men and women can be victims of incest and sexual trauma, and these experiences remain in their bodies whether they are conscious of them or not. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator, regardless of gender, socioeconomic class, race, etc. When we negotiate the risky waters of sex and relationships, we bring with us all of our body lessons and memories.

Many people do not get what they truly want, even if they are conscious of what that may be. Often sex is mistaken for love, because people are in deep patterns developed from childhood experiences, including low self-esteem, a victim pattern, deep shame that leads to promiscuity or rigidity, and self-blame. Madrone's workshops provide a safe place to learn better personal boundaries, discover one's needs and limits, and take risks. "I think my class is pretty much for the adventurous but it's also gentle," Madrone says.

It is often easier for men to come to the workshops because they tend to feel less objectified than women. For example, in one boundary exercise from the workshop, the women are often afraid of offending the other person in partner work, because girls in our society rarely learn how to draw boundaries, especially sexually. When I attended an all-female workshop led by Madrone a few years back, I was immediately challenged by having to undress in a small group. We had permission to do this either on our own or with the group's help. Right away I felt vulnerable and exposed. I saw there is much we cover in our everyday lives that hold power.

Madrone guides this space to create room for all kinds of people. Her own experiences and fiery nature combine in her as warrior-priestess. Influenced by (and friends with) many of the sexual pioneers of our time, Madrone holds space for healing to occur. She cites Annie Sprinkle, Betty Dodson, Joseph Kramer, Jawala, Susie Bright, Carol Queen, and Pat Califia as true pioneers.

She has witnessed a shift in the politics of sex. "It is less shameful now than in years past to teach abut sexual liberation." Politically-aware organizations like PONY (Prostitutes of New York) and Coyote (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) fight back against prostitution laws and are well organized. The stereotypes of prostitutes as desperate drug addicts do not reveal the whole story. Many women see "sex work" as more than basic survival; they are politically empowered and practice sacred sexual healing.

This does not preclude the possibility of sexual abuse or oppression, even in the generally accepting environment of the San Francisco Bay area. There are still hate crimes perpetrated on queers and "others," however defined. Gay pride has had to come a long way from "a bundle of fags thrown on the fire," a reference to gay men literally being burned to death. Such terms are cruel reminders of the ignorance and misguided hatred toward queers.

Alternative Options

Books and Resources

Much has been written on the subject of polyamory. Good books for reference are The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt. For a more theoretical read, try Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits.

A good resource for help and information is San Francisco Sex Information at, (415) 989-7374. They handle questions of all shapes and sizes and provide references and referrals.

Also, Carol Queen's books and her website,, are excellent resources. Her website has helpful links and suggested books for further exploration.

For information on Madrone's workshops and counseling, contact (415) 789-7674 or


These days there are many progressive organizations and practices from which to choose, from the politically astute, organized sex workers to play parties (or sex parties), to polyamorous relationships.

Play parties allow guests to act out role-playing, have casual sex, and see how others handle boundaries in an environment of mutually consenting adults. Just as there are many expressions of sexuality, there are many types of play parties. Madrone sees the value of getting lots of support to act out fantasies in this atmosphere. "Different personalities bring out different parts of one's sexual self," Madrone says. Local author and sex activist Carol Queen hosts "Queen of Heaven" parties, invitation-only parties where you must be on a list to be invited and you must take responsibility for any guest you bring. Each party has a certain set of rules, like no unsafe sex (condoms, lube, and other supplies are provided), conversational chitchat is kept at a minimum, and if it is a single-sex party, no members of the opposite sex are allowed. The unwritten rules (in co-ed parties) are that men are not supposed to approach women and if women are interested, they will let the men know. "Sex parties have been effective in helping people break free of sexual oppression and body image issues."

There are also public sex parties that are open to everyone, which are not screened and therefore present their own moralities. The Power Exchange in San Francisco is an example.

Polyamory is another expression of sex and intimacy. There are many definitions, but such realationships involve varying numbers of people and can be monogamous or not.

Which brings us to resources.

Interview by Jennifer Privateer