Just in time for the Erotic Literary Salon’s fourth anniversary, we sat down to chat with founder Susana Mayer about creating this sensual haven for boudoir belles lettres.
City Paper: When did you realize you needed to start an erotic literary salon?
Susana Mayer: Creating the salon was an accumulation of a lifetime love of erotica coupled with my dissertation investigations [on female sexuality]. I was hearing a lot of post-menopausal women saying they had lost their libido and was thinking, “No you didn’t, it’s just dormant! Why is that, and what do you need?” So I suggested erotica as a stimulant.
CP: How did it start?
SM: What jump-started it was posting [my fliers] at the Free Library. After that, when I went to cafés, I would say, “By the way, the public library has these,” to give them legitimacy. So after the fliers, a Phawker interview and then a shout-out in Scarlet, an erotic magazine in the U.K. for women, it started to grow.
CP: Who is drawn to the event?
SM: It’s everyone, all genders. On a visual basis, it’s everyone from the pierced and tattooed to those in business suits. Some people attend the salon to enjoy a night out with friends, or as an unusual place to take their date. There are some people who come secretly, because if people found out they would get a divorce, which is why I protect all my visitors. And then there are the people who bring their families!
CP: What would you say the salon provides these people?
SM: It gives them a platform to share erotica in a comfortable and safe space. As far as I know, there isn’t anything like this anywhere right now.
CP: What has been your most amazing moment in the salon over the years?
SM: There have been a lot of amazing moments, but recently there was a man who came in late and asked if there was still space to read. [When I] asked him what name he wanted to read under, he said “Nicole.” I had no idea what to expect, but he got up and read from the perspective of a woman. It was the most heartfelt reading. Afterward, I was going through my emails and he had already commented saying, “I never knew such a life of honesty could exist. I finally found a home I can be comfortable in … this event changed my life.” I was just overwhelmed and so happy for him.
CP: How has the salon changed over the years?
SM: The salon started as a true salon, so people had backstories and wanted specific critiques and discussion. It was wonderful. Not that what’s happening now isn’t wonderful; it’s just very different. Now it’s more entertainment; people read their works, but we generally don’t discuss anything concerning their specific piece.
CP: Any advice to new visitors?
SM: First of all, we have an extremely supportive audience. I’ve never heard a “boo.” We encourage our virgin readers; before they even read they get a round of applause. But no one is pressured to read. There are people who have come all four years and have never read. It’s really hard to say what each night will be. Clearly there are things that are constant, but I censor nothing so I don’t know what will be read that night. So you might get to hear things you aren’t allowed to see in print, and I may warn people of that.
CP: What are your plans for the future, for yourself and the salon?
SM: Currently, I’m writing an e-book series called Ageless Sex Life. It’s a philosophy of ‘doing no harm, doing no disappointment while creating sexual pleasure,’ which is challenging when you are aging. It will be available at the end of the summer, as will the Erotic Literary Salon’s anthology. I am slowly changing a little bit of the format [of the salon]. [For instance,] we’ve done a few post-discussions on certain topics, like 50 Shades of Grey and BDSM. I’m still trying to integrate a subject that people would enjoy, either based on what someone is reading that evening or something in the news or a suggested theme.
The next salon is Tue., June 19, 8 p.m., $10, TIME Restaurant, 1315 Sansom St., theeroticsalon.com.
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