Review: Miss Vera Gives TRANSPARENT an A+




The beauty of the show TRANSPARENT, is that in telling the story of Mort who is Maura Pfefferman creator Jill Soloway has chosen to include sexuality as a theme, as equally important as gender. The show and all involved get an A+.

Rita Petite, Miss Vera, Misty Madison on Wall Street.

Rita Petite, Miss Vera, Misty Madison on Wall Street.

TRANSPARENT Is sex positive which means that the sexuality of the characters is, first of all, included and second, presented without judgment. This is particularly important to me because over 20 years ago when I created Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to be Girls, the world’s first transgender academy, I included sex ed as part of our curriculum. This went against the current thinking of the time, which was that trans people would be safer and more respected if sex were not part of the discussion. “It’s a gender issue, not a sex issue,” became the operative phrase, and for some people, still is. It wasn’t so long ago that trans people were considered perverts and subject to arrest. Sex  as a subject, it was thought, had to go. But the people who arrive at my door wanting to find the woman inside have run the gamut of being total virgins to those who are very, very sexually active, and they confide their trans nature has definitely influenced their sexual identity and practice. So I was delighted when in the pilot episode Mort is described by his son as “a pussy hound.”” Oh, yes, I thought, we are going to go there.

Miss Vera's Academy students and friends pre-makeovers for Candy, the transversal style magazine, 10/2013.

Miss Vera’s Academy students and friends pre-makeovers for Candy, the transversal style magazine, 10/2013.


In TRANSPARENT Individual characters’ sexual orientations are  presented with clarity and complexity and a wide variety of sexual orientations are included. We learn in the pilot episode that of the three adult children of Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) and Shelly Pfefferman (Judith Light) first born Sarah (Amy Landecker) is bisexual; her brother Josh (Jay DuPlass) loves younger and older women; and the youngest sibling Ali (Gaby Hoffmann), well it’s hard to pin her down but she herself agrees she needs “discipline.” Their mother, Shelly must have liked sex enough with Mort to have given birth to three children, though how much, we can’t be sure because what is sex, but a dance, and Shelly states she doesn’t like music. She also mentions Mort’s money being spent on younger women.

We learn, however, that no character’s sexual orientation can be taken for granted. We may think we know one person’s story, but, not for long. For instance, I thought the woman Josh visited in episode one was a prostitute with whom he was very familiar… but stay tuned for a surprise.

Miss V and Ginger Liscious in vendor area, Southern Comfort Conference 2014.

Miss V and Ginger Liscious in vendor area, Southern Comfort Conference 2014.

The show is transgenerational. There are three generations of Pfeffermans and there are flashbacks to Mort’s life in 1989. This is particularly helpful because transgender as a movement has grown so rapidly in such a short time. Transgender as a word was not really in use until the 90’s. The T in the Los Angles LGBT center Maura visits was most likely not added until the late 90’s. The support group that Maura attends there would have existed years prior to today, but not with so many confident and diverse members, and certainly not with trans actors in the roles.

Young TransMen and their Girlfriends at SCC, 2014.

Young TransMen and their Girlfriends at SCC, 2014.

Dr. Ted and new DHS

Dr. Ted McIlvenna, founder Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality w Jane Hamilton, Candida Royalle, Veronica Vera, newly invested as Doctors of Human Sexuality (D.H.S), June 2014.

We learn not only how the lives of trans people have changed over the years, we are also presented with ways one generation’s life choices affect another’s. When my students tell me they are afraid to share their transness with their children, I suggest that they could be liberating their children from living in the same emotional strait jackets they’ve worn themselves. Maura’s children appreciate their dad’s “going for it” and it impacts their own lives and desire for sexual integrity. Remembering that “a little child shall lead them, how lovely to hear Poppa Mort’s grandchildren easily adapt to calling Maura, “Moppa”, a word the will now enter the language.

In later episodes, we are treated to gender and sex education, right along with our entertainment: Premarin pills and hormone injections, trans men, female ejaculation, erotic shaving and much more… This free flow of information, in fact the entire attitude of the show reflects the development of the field of sexology which emerged from the sexual revolution of the 60’s, as well as the formation of the transgender movement. Both fields of study have inspired professional degrees, support groups, associations and conferences across the country and around the world.

Club 90 on stage for Keynote, Catalyst Con, sexuality conference, 2014.

Jackie Strano and Club 90 (Veronica Vera, Jane Hamilton, Annie Sprinkle, Candida Royalle, Gloria Leonard (R.I.P.) on stage for Keynote, Catalyst Con, sexuality conference, 2014.


In episode 8, Maura and her friend Mark who is Marcy (Bradley Whitford) arrive on the site of Camp Camellia, they see crossdressers in all their feminine finery, casually strolling along the path. I was reminded of Fantasia Fair, a week long gathering where for 40 consecutive years the trans community has taken over Provincetown, Mass. One of my favorite scenes in #8, the most revelatory episode in terms of all the characters, is the dance party at Camp Camellia, the joy expressed was truly transcendant.

Amy & Wife Trish (student) Shot_05_1193

Amy & his wife Trish, together for 40 years, have 3 children and 3 grandchildren (so far). by Philippe Vogelenzang.10/2013.


Also at Camp Camellia, Connie, a crossdresser’s wife is presented as independent and strong. She will go after what she wants, though she may need a drink to relieve some inhibitions or simply put her in the party spirit. She is not presented as a sad martyr. She even mentions the “Crossdresser’s Wife’s Bill of Rights,” a real document. The way Mort’s wife Shelly laughs and later shrugs off her husband’s crossdressing resonates with truth. “She knows but doesn’t want to know.” I’ve heard this so often from my students. I’ve always said it’s better that at least she knows. Transparent makes us wonder if that is really enough.

To get TRANSPARENT on the air was a major accomplishment for all involved. To have it presented by Amazon, a company originally founded to distribute knowledge, seems particularly appropriate. I’d like to think that my own two books, and every book written on sex or transgender have helped just a bit. But the gold star goes to Jill Soloway and company. By creating a show with so many layers and opportunities for twists and turns, the story and the characters have room to grow and so does everyone who watches.

transparent pr picNote: Your first month of Amazon Prime is offered free, and all ten episodes of the first season are available now.


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Invitation to Club 90 Doctoral Celebration in SF, June 26.

(L to R)Annie Sprinkle, Gloria Leonard, Veronica Vera, Candida Royalle, Veronica Hart)

(L to R)Annie Sprinkle, Gloria Leonard, Veronica Vera, Candida Royalle, Veronica Hart.


An Open House, Meet & Greet, & Erotic Art Exhibit with Porn’s Golden Era Stars & Sexuality Innovators

At the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS)

1523 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 (At Sutter)

June 26, Thursday. 2:00-5:00 pm.
Come enjoy a rare opportunity! For one day only, the public is invited to tour the groundbreaking Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality’s campus, peruse its incredible library, and view part of its vast, priceless erotic art collection gathered from around the world. Also on display will be ephemera from the world’s first porn star support group, Club 90, items spanning its thirty-year herstory. Golden age XXX films will be screened. Meet and mingle with Club 90 members Candida Royalle, Veronica Hart, Veronica Vera, Annie Sprinkle, and their “golden era” friends, including Sharon Mitchell and Howie Gordon (aka Richard Pacheco). Guests can also meet some of the Institute’s administration, faculty and students. Cameras are welcome for some great photo ops. Drinks and snacks will be served.

This special occasion is in honor of four former adult movie stars who have been innovators in diverse fields of human sexuality, who will on this day each be awarded the degree, Doctor of Human Sexuality. Jane Hamilton (aka Veronica Hart), Candida Royalle and Veronica Vera will receive their degrees from Dr. Ted McIlvenna at the Institute. Gloria Leonard, who died in January 2014 will receive her degree posthumously.

Founded in 1976 by Rev. Dr. Ted McIlvenna, the IASHS was the first to award advanced degrees in the newly emergent field of sexology that grew out of the sexual revolution. Says, Dr. McIlvenna, “These Divas personify, what has always been, a primary goal of the Institute which is to spread the truth of human sexual experience in all its complexities. To acknowledge the Divas’ visionary work renews our shared commitment to that goal and helps assure our continued success.”

While the public is invited to the afternoon’s Day of the Divas Open House, the evening’s graduation ceremony is private. If you are a personal friend, family member, or press and would like to attend, please contact one of the Divas to rsvp.,,

Facebook event link is here. Please rsvp here and share this info widely. Thanks.

For more information contact Ted McIllvenna at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. 415-928-1133. Extension 23.



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Miss Vera on TRANNY

Miss Vera's Academy students and friends on location for Candy, the first transversal style magazine, 10/2014.

Miss Vera’s Academy students and friends on location for Candy, the first transversal style magazine, 10/2013.

Note: I created Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, the world’s first transgender academy, 22 years ago.Prior to that I interviewed people and wrote articles about all aspects of human sexuality including many people who self-identified as transvestites, transexuals, crossdressers, transgender, drag queens, shemales. A word in common usage was “tranny.”

Reality: The word tranny has its origins within trans culture and from people who themselves identified in some way as trans, or were the allies of trans people. These were the people who fought the real battles, who came out of the closet. They stood on the side of tolerance and freedom. These people are owed respect for their efforts and their courage.

Reality: The origin of the word “tranny” was not used as a prejorative. It has been turned into a prejorative mainly by people within the trans movement who choose to see it as one.

Reality: Censoring language censors history. In this case, the history for whom the word “tranny” was and is a unifying word and a step up. Turning “tranny” into a prejorative is an insult to those who stood for the rights of trans people to be seen and heard.

Reality: the real enemies of trans people did not use the word tranny because they did not acknowledge trans persons or trans culture. The enemies of trans people used and still use words like “pervert”.

Reality: The word “tranny” is being used less and less even by those who once used it to self-identify. It is becoming out-dated, not because of the anger and divisiveness of the language police, but because of actions of those with the courage to claim they are not simply trans, but also women and men, or  both,  not the genders the outside world assigned them, but the genders they know from within. They are not a perversion of humanity, but humanity’s essence.

Reality: Humanity is messy and chaotic and can be dangerous. It is something all human beings share no matter how we identify. We need plenty of love and compassion and understanding – we need unity- to get us through not only this moment in time, but those moments to come. For the times, they are a-changin’.

With thanks to the students of Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls and to Kate Bornstein, RuPaul, Mariette Pathy Allen, Annie Sprinkle, Calpurnia Adams, Jane County, Jamison Green, Johnny Science, Angie Extravaganza, Ariadne Kane, LaVerne Cox, Janet Mock,  Diane Torr, Jill Monroe, and so many more, plus Bob Dylan…

Note: These thoughts will be included in a larger article soon to appear in the New York Observer.


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Al Goldstein – On Women

Al Goldstein, On Women
Interview Veronica Vera. Photos Annie Sprinkle

(originally published November, 1986)

At fifteen Al Goldstein was a shy teenager who sent away for a book on how to kiss girls.  He practiced technique on his own hand.  At age 32, Goldstein created SCREW magazine, “the world’s greatest newspaper,” the sex tabloid responsible in its eighteen year history for millions of orgasms.  A newspaper that men like to read with one hand.

Goldstein Flag
Now 50, Goldstein is recently divorced from wife number three and, after an exhaustive romp through the personal ads and video dating services, perhaps headed for marriage number four.  He has bedded prostitutes and porn stars, professional execs and Jewish princesses.  His success as a pornographer inspires both rage and respect.
Author Gay Talese, in his book Thy Neighbor’s Wife, describes Al Goldstein as “a man who did not aspire to influence society so much as to reflect the world as he knew it was being lived each and every day and night by thousands…”  I decided to find out how this now famous “everyman” really feels about women—and maybe learn something about men in the process.
When I interviewed Al in his office, he was calm, gracious, mature, on his best behavior.  It was different from our initial meeting six years ago when he invited me to lunch and expected me to eat him for dessert.  At the time, he was on one of his never-ending diets.  “I experience life through my mouth,” he says later.  “That is why I love to eat pussy.”  He took me to the local coffee shop, ordered broiled filet of sole, no butter, then took me back to the dark cheater’s pad he kept near the office, and unceremoniously dropped his pants.  I begrudgingly bestowed a few lackluster licks on his penis just because it seemed the thing to do.  Then I came to my senses and hustled out of the apartment while he was still at half-mast.
“I did that?” he says now, all surprised.

“Do you feel like a pimp because of all the hooker ads you publish in SCREW?”
“I’ve thought about that.  But The New York Times makes most of its money from real estate ads.  Are they in the real estate business?  I am definitely plugged into the sex pipeline.”
During the course of the interview, Al mentioned romance and touching and intimacy.  “I am not looking to get married again, but it’s possible.  I am seeing a woman who I care about… But after you are 0 for 3, a three-time loser… I feel like the next marriage could be capital punishment.
“The advantage of being in love, which is what I am now, is that all things are possible.  I am probably really a romantic, which means that the woman is really very special to me.”
But a survey of SCREW, the heart of Al Goldstein’s work, does not reveal a hint of romance.  “I am a cock, but I am also a soul.”  SCREW definitely appeals to the cock.
“My readers come to me for fantasy.  Men stop me on the street because they think I have the key, that I get laid, that I have the answer to this very ambiguous mystery called sex.  But none of us has the answer.
“What I give my readers is, (1) The promise of all the experiences they think that everyone is having but them.  (2) I think SCREW validates their physical component.  It is okay to masturbate.  It is okay to have detached sex.  The reason SCREW is so hated is because we say, if you want romance, buy the Reader’s DigestSCREW is about coming.  Fucking is friction, that’s what SCREW is about.”


"Fucking is friction, that's what SCREW is about."

“Fucking is friction, that’s what SCREW is about.”

The image Al Goldstein projects through the media, waving an American flag in one hand and SCREW in the other, is very provocative and to some disturbing.  Al Goldstein, too, is about friction, and he likes it that way.
“You have fucked quite a few porn stars.  Tell me, what have they been like?” I ask.
“I was a tongue away from eating Marilyn Chambers on a photo set but Chuck Traynor (Ms. Chambers’s lover/manager) was there, and I thought it would be unprofessional.  Suddenly, I had a moment of ethics,” he says ruefully.
He had a good time with Seka in 1979.  “She is beautiful.  It was great.”  But again, her lover was present and Al felt somewhat inhibited.  He did publish the sex photos immediately afterwards in SCREW.  He sent me a copy of this illustrated interview after our recent second date.  In red magic marker he wrote, “Here, VV, masturbate to this!”  My favorite photo in the series shows a svelte Mr. Goldstein dropped to his knees beside Seka.  He smiles happily as he nibbles her underpants.
“Linda Lovelace was a lousy blowjob,” he tells me with glee.  “I have always been infatuated with (but not fucked) Annette Haven… I regret that I have not fucked Samantha Fox.”
“Perhaps if I had thought he could offer me a big movie role…” Samantha tells me when I mention my Goldstein interview to her on the telephone. 

Goldstein VV kiss

A few months ago, I again found the Goldstein charm irresistible and accepted his invitation to dinner and a movie.  His social schedule at that time was quite hectic, though I did get top billing in his Dictaphone notes:
“Veronica is firm for Thursday at 8.  So I have, Monday night is Amy and Randy; Tuesday night is Lesley, there’s some trickiness there.  I hope she gets back in time.  Wednesday night, I haven’t asked Lisa out yet.  I will do that Saturday night.  Thursday night is Veronica.  So I have Friday open.”
By the time Thursday rolled around and we had our date, Mr. Goldstein fell asleep in the movies.
“Gloria Leonard and I were great friends for years before we fucked.  I think that we finally did it just to get sex out of the way.  Gloria is a real straight shooter and one of the most honest women I know, but I couldn’t take her seriously as a cunt and I’m sure she couldn’t take me seriously as a cock.”
“Do you think you could ever have a serious emotional affair with any women in the porn business?”  I ask.
“No, I think the women in the business are as fucked up with who they are as I am with who I am.  And who can take Amber Lynn or any 21 year-old in the business seriously?  They giggle and they are bubbleheads and they talk about fucking Ron Jeremy to death like that is an accomplishment… You could fill Yankee Stadium with the people who have fucked Ron Jeremy.
“I don’t want to be half of ‘The Ozzie and Harriet of Porn.’  The people in this business feel the need to compensate or to justify that they have been in the porn business… I don’t think being a pornographer is so wonderful.  It is like saying. ‘I am the best leper on the block.’
“Being a pornographer is not a plus for me with women.  What is a plus is having a successful business for 18 years.  Women like that.”
“Name five women from any walk of life whom you really respect.”
Dead silence from Mr. Goldstein.
“Gee… There are two I would really like to fuck who I don’t respect.  Gloria Steinem has great legs but she is a moron on the porn issue.  I respected Jane Fonda when she was against the war in Vietnam, but she has turned into such a closet fascist with her anti-porn position…”
(Then, giving it some more thought),
“…I would even agree with her position about pornography if I could eat her pussy.”
“Diane Sawyer of Sixty Minutes I am impressed with.  I don’t know her politics, but she is so articulate.  I like women who are concerned with what goes on in the world.”
“Do you desire to have sex with every women you meet?  Do you always wonder ‘What would she be like in bed?’”
“Yes, all except fat women.”
“Have you ever been seduced?”
I remind him that he was quite notorious for trying the same thing with every starlet who ever crossed his path.  But now Mr. Goldstein feels romantic.  He’s been bitten by the love bug.  “I have a record going now, eight weeks of monogamy, and it is giving me cold flashes, headaches… I’m nauseous, a lot… But if a Ford model called me and I had a shot to fuck her…”
Thin, flat-chested, long-legged Ford models are Al Goldstein’s “ideal type.” The publisher of America’s raunchiest newspaper would rather masturbate to The Sunday Times Magazinesection.  “I look for the nylon ads.”
Al Goldstein is by necessity very well organized.  Each day he produces reams of Dictaphone notes which are transcribed by one of his secretaries and distributed to the employees involved.  During the past year, each time I had a reason to visit some minion in the Goldstein empire, I took home a copy of Al’s humorous, highly readable and eminently quotable Dictaphone notes.  Since his divorce two years ago, top priority for Mr. Goldstein has been to fill his social calendar and eventually find a new mate.
He and his staff composed many different types of personal ads, designed with various goals in mind.  One of the earliest, placed in New York magazine read:
“Can you handle life in the fast lane?  Controversial publisher with limo and East Side town house is looking for a model or actress or stewardess.”
“This was an ad to attract gold-diggers,” says Mr. Goldstein.  “It was right after my divorce.  All I wanted were 22 year-old bimbos, and I got them.”  According to his Dictaphone notes:
“I have a date for Saturday night.  I don’t have a date for Sunday night.  The people I’m going to want to see are: Enid is a possibility for Sunday; Margaret, though she is the flakiest of all the women I know… Lisa is the sweetest.  Marjorie, I’m interested in.  Chris, I’m interested in.  We know that girl Maria is out.  I’ve got to make a date for Sunday.”
“The subject is women,” I remind Al as we sit in his office, and Annie Sprinkle, with assistant, sets up the strobe lights for the ultimate Goldstein portrait.
“Women, you mean, pussies, tits, cunts…”
“Is that what women are to you?” I ask.
“Women are sources of amusement, bemusement, confusion,” he says.  “I think, like all men, I feel a lot of ambiguity: loving them, wanting them and probably on some level, hating them… We seek so much approval from women…”
In a moment of indignation from his Dictaphone notes:  “Lori sent me a snotty letter and I want to send her a telegram saying, “Dear Lori, the ad you responded to had all the subtlety of Rocky IV and all the sensitivity of Jumbo the Elephant.  (New paragraph.)  Re-read the ad or have someone help you re-read and you’ll see that my ad was crass, materialistic and clearly pointed out that I wanted a good-looking woman whose age would be 19-32.  You responded knowing exactly what I was looking for and now you have repeated the pattern of your life by becoming a victim, whining and complaining about my materialism.  If you read the words, you clearly knew what I was looking for.  Best regards, and hope that you quit blaming everybody else for your own dissatisfactions.  Signed, Al Goldstein of Marina Del Rey.”

I glance around Al Goldstein’s office.  There is not a bare space in sight.  He is an incurable collector, obsessive.  There are photographs, one of Jackie Kennedy that he shot years ago when he was a Hearst photographer.  A wooden chair in the shape of a hand, several dozen robots, toys, radios, gadgets…
“Maybe it comes from an innate fear of poverty,” he says.  “I still renew my hack license every year just in-case.”  His valid license to drive a taxi is posted prominently on the wall.
“How many women have you had in your life?”  I ask the insatiable collector.
“Less than Johnny Holmes, but probably more than Ronald Reagan.”
“The first year after my (third) marriage ended, I got about 900 responses to my ads in New York magazine and The Village Voice.  I probably had about 400 dates last year, sometimes three to five dates a day.  I was retired from running SCREW.  I would have a date at 10, at 1, at 5… My primary motive was to get laid, but I knew I could not succeed every time.  All the women knew I was the publisher of SCREW.  They expected me to be an animal, so I had to play that down and act normal.  If I was really horny, I would masturbate before the date, so that I would keep my hands off the women.
“Men and women fuck for different reasons.  Men just want to drop a load.  They want to ejaculate.  Men focus on coming.  I think that women do want to have sex and are orgasmic, but then they want to cuddle.  You show me a man who wants to cuddle after he comes and I’ll show you a nerd.  Women see the sex relationship as a totality and men see it as almost masturbatory.  Men fall in love but they are sort of suckered into it.”
But later, speaking of his own new relationship with an attorney:  “Now that I am in love, I have become very bourgeois.  I have sex to be with her.  It’s the connection.  It’s the touching.”
Like many men Al Goldstein had sex with a prostitute that very first time.  “She told me, ‘Anything you do in bed is good.’ It was like a family ritual.  My uncle set it up.  My mother knew about it.  My father knew about it.”
“You have had lots of sex with prostitutes since then.  Other men look to your magazine to help them find sex with prostitutes.  Do you prefer to pay for sex?”
“In the old days (read two years ago), I would rather pay for sex.  I cheated during all my marriages.  I liked paying for it because the sex had a beginning and an end.  It was clearly defined.  My $100-$150 clearly defined that I was buying a service.  I didn’t have to be responsible for anything afterwards.  I came and that is all that mattered.  I think the most honest relationship is between a hooker and a john.”
An example of the problems involved with “free love” comes again from the notes:
“While I’ve been here with Lisa Sunday night, I’ve gotten calls from Maria and Vicki in North Carolina so I want to call them both back, but I really need this answering machine to pick up that 04 number so when I’m with one girl, the other girls won’t be insulted.  I’m lucky I’ve been in the right rooms to handle it.”
Goldstein had just returned from one of his many trips to the Orient.
“Tell me what it’s like to be with the whores of the Far East?” I ask.
He issues still another of the consumer reports for which SCREW is famous:
“I hate massage parlors except for the ones in Bangkok, because in Bangkok your body is touched a lot.  It is like being in a Bendix washer.
“In Japan, the sex is boring.  The girls jerk you off like they are milking a cow.  They are very efficient, as if they were making transistor radios.  It is like having sex at McDonald’s.
“Hong Kong is such a greedy town that the pussy is almost as expensive as in Las Vegas.  I don’t want to pay $300-$400 for sex.  I can buy a dozen walkmen for that price.
“But in Bangkok, ah Bangkok, the women suds you up and they use their boobs to rub up and down your body.  I would book three women for an hour and a half.  It cost me about $15 per girl.  I got three girls for $35 and gave each one a $10 tip.  I thought I was in paradise.  The food is good too.”
“Do you feel that had you been born female and decided to be a prostitute, you would be a successful one?”

“Yes.  I would just tell the johns how wonderful they are, that their cocks are so big and that no one ever made me feel so great.  Men are schmucks,” he says, chuckling and by his laughter including himself.  “Men are really retarded twelve year olds.”

Rest In Peace Mr. Al Goldstein

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Club 90 DIVAS TO BE Doctors!

Club 90 Sexuality Innovators to Be Awarded Degrees

San Francisco—May 7, 2014

On June 26, four former adult movie stars who have become innovators in diverse fields of human sexuality will each be awarded the degree Doctor of Human Sexuality from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS) in San Francisco. Jane Hamilton (aka Veronica Hart), Candida Royalle and Veronica Vera will receive their degrees from Dr. Ted McIlvenna at the Institute. Gloria Leonard, who died in January, 2014 will receive her degree posthumously.


After a long and distinguished career in adult movies, working on both sides of the camera, Jane Hamilton now uses her expertise to educate women in the U.S. and China on issues of pleasure, aging and self-esteem. Candida Royalle created Femme Productions in 1984 and became known for pioneering erotic cinema from a woman’s perspective, encouraging other women to follow her lead. Veronica Vera founded the world’s first crossdressing academy Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, enriching the lives of trans people across the gender spectrum. Gloria Leonard debated some of the toughest anti-porn activists and toured college campuses as a self-described “stand up constitutionalist” enlightening students on the First Amendment. She was the first president of the Free Speech Coalition. In addition, all four women, plus Annie Sprinkle comprise Club 90, the first porn star support group, which began in 1983 and continues to this day. They credit the resulting deep and lasting friendship of their Club 90 sisters with helping to manifest their individual dreams and successes.

Annie Sprinkle was the first porn star to be awarded a Ph.D. which she earned from IASHS in 2002. Dr. Sprinkle will host the investiture and awards ceremony. The soon-to-be graduates will each present her life’s work at the Institute’s special “Days of The Divas” (June 24-26) as part of the curriculum. Most events are invited guests only, however, the afternoon of Thursday, June 26th will feature a “Days of the Divas Display—An Open House Meet & Greet & Show & Tell,” that will display Club 90 archival materials and ephemera to which the public is cordially invited.

Founded in 1976 by Rev. Dr. Ted McIlvenna, the IASHS was the first to award advanced degrees in the newly emergent field of sexology that grew out of the sexual revolution. Wardell Pomeroy a colleague of Alfred Kinsey was appointed the school’s first dean. (Chris O’Donnell portrayed him in the movie “Kinsey.”) Says, Dr. McIlvenna, “These Divas personify, what has always been, a primary goal of the Institute which is to spread the truth of human sexual experience in all its complexities. To acknowledge the Divas’ visionary work renews our shared commitment to that goal and helps assure our continued success.”

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2nd World Whores Congress, A Memoir

I have very mixed feelings regarding the editing of the recent interview I did with Siouxsie Q for Whorecast (Episode 39). My purpose in agreeing to be interviewed by Siouxsie was my attempt to contribute to the history of the sex workers rights movement and to share my part in that history. Since what I consider an inspiring story of the Second World Whores Congress was omitted, I offer it here.

(Originally published in Penthouse Forum, 1987)

Hookers of the World Unite
By Veronica Vera
Photos by Annie Sprinkle

Prostitutes get political at the Second World Whores’ Congress

WWC large group

Representing 17 nations, 150 hookers in headphones convened in Brussels (in October, 1986) to talk business. Their long-range goal: to decriminalize “the world’s oldest profession.”
The Second World Whores’ Congress was organized by the International Committee for Prostitutes Rights (ICPR), a global network of sex workers headed by two Americans, Margo St. James and Gail Pheterson. A founder of Red Thread/Pink Thread, the Dutch prostitute/feminist alliance, Pheterson—a university professor—has lived in Amsterdam for 10 years.
For Margo St. James, the Second World Whores’ Congress was part of a determined campaign for prostitutes’ rights, which began in 1973 when she organized COYOTE, the National Task Force on Prostitution. The acronym stands for “Cast Off Your Old Tired Ethics.” In March 1986, Margo left the directorship of COYOTE in the hands of former prostitute Gloria Lockett and NOW activist Priscilla Alexander and moved to the south of France. This has brought her closer to the source of her strongest support, the whores of Europe.
Annie and I were put up in the home of Maryaika, one of the WOE (women’s center) women. We shared a bedroom with Tatiana, a young lawyer from Ecuador who works with prostitutes.
Not surprisingly, when the Whores’ Congress opened the next day, a gaggle of reporters had gathered outside the European Parliament where the Congress was being held. Some of the delegates wore masks. They feared such recriminations as losing custody of their children. A few of the Third World women were afraid for their lives. But most of the whores remained unmasked. A press conference is scheduled for each of the three days of the Congress, but very few journalists were permitted in the plenary sessions. (Because Annie Sprinkle and I were delegates to the convention, as well as journalists), Forum was the only American magazine granted this unique access.

Day One
Two hundred participants filled the general assembly. Seventy percent of us were whores. Almost all were women. There were two gay male prostitutes: Danny from Canada, Geoff from Australia, and Dolly, an Italian transvestite – a platinum blonde in a backless black dress, clearly the sexiest outfit in the room.
“Do all the whores have head-phones?” Margo asked above the din. The translators enclosed in glass booths around the amphitheater made it possible for us to understand one another in nine different languages. ICPR provided the interpreters with lists defining slang terms like “blowjob” in many tongues. Representatives came from Austria, Australia, Canada, Ecuador, England, France, Holland, India, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, Switzerland, Thailand, United States, and West Germany, but not one whore from Belgium was in attendance.

Australian Delegate

Australian Delegate

We were grouped together by delegation. The U.S. group included French and Hampton from Atlanta, Lockett from San Francisco, and Sprinkle and Vera from New York, as well as Lottie Da, and Norma Jean Almadovar, an auburn-haired Los Angeles beauty who went from traffic cop to call girl and was, at that time, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of California.
“I have learned the big difference between a whore and a politician,” Norma Jean informed us. “There are some things that a whore will not do for money.”
The chief items on the whores’ agenda were the repeated violations of their civil rights. Even in countries where the exchange of sex for money is not considered illegal, many of the aspects that surround prostitution are illegal and make it impossible for a whore to live anything near a normal life. Italy gave the first report. The problems encountered by Italian whores were echoed by many of the prostitutes. Pia, a petite blonde, introduced herself as the secretary for the Committee of Human Rights of Prostitutes in Italy.
“In 1958, Italy’s legalized brothels were closed,” Pia noted. She continued her report: “This (closing) was due to the efforts of a female socialist who saw prostitutes only as victims. There was opposition to the closing of the brothels, but the opposition failed. Prostitution is not illegal in Italy. It is just not protected. Laws such as that forbidding brothels ultimately are used against whores. Two prostitutes who live together can be seen as operating a brothel. There are laws against ‘favoring the act of prostitution.’ Pimps are prosecuted and johns are liable for punishment, but any man who lives with a prostitute can be interpreted as being her pimp. Any hotel that rents a room to a prostitute can be seen as ‘favoring the act.’ A babysitter who takes care of a prostitute’s child runs the risk of prosecution. Prostitutes have no social benefits, yet they are expected to carry out the duties of normal citizens.
“Forty percent of street prostitutes are drug addicts. There are many part-time prostitutes who come from the ranks of students, housewives, women with dubious sources of income. Often street prostitutes are minors and/or foreigners.
“There is less and less control of the street work by organized crime because the racketeers are more interested in the drug trade. Genoa, Milan, and Rome are still organized by the rackets, particularly in the importation of foreign women. Transvestites and transsexuals work mainly in the streets and are often the victims of police brutality.” This was Pia’s report.
A common concern among the working women was that while governments expect tax dollars from whores, they do not observe their civil rights.
“Why can’t a prostitute be a mother?” asked Bridget, an Australian. “I had to give up prostitution to keep my daughter.” Bridget sat with Alfreda, who has been in the business for 11 years. Alfreda founded the Austrian Prostitutes Association.
“We want to build a life for ourselves based on proper social protection plans,” Alfreda said. “We are expected to pay taxes but we have fewer deductions, no pensions, no health insurance… no security.”
“Choice” was the operative word at the convention. Almost all of the women in attendance had made the choice to be prostitutes. Prostitution was their profession and they wanted more control over it. In some respects, the Congress was a guild meeting of middle class entrepreneurs. But there were other voices.
Lana was from the Philippines. She did not choose to be a prostitute. She was duped. A Philippine government official offered her a job in Holland working as a receptionist in a deluxe hotel.
When she arrived in Holland, she was immediately transported to a brothel in the province of Friesland, the boondocks of the Netherlands. There she was allowed to see none of the other workers in the brothel, only the boss and the clients. She was beaten and lied to continuously. She was told to forget about the police because they would not help her.
“You say ‘yes’ to prostitution,” Lana said. “I say ‘no.’”
The Western women complained of the compulsory medical exams. “If there are exams, we want anonymity,” the Austrians angrily affirmed. “We want to choose our own doctors.”
Lana’s voice was different. “I welcomed the regular health checks,” she said. “It was the only way that I knew I was still alive.”
Going to and from the Parliament, and during all of the press conferences, Een from Thailand covered her face with a scarf and dark glasses. She was afraid to be seen but determined to be heard:
“When I was 14 years old, I started working in a steak house that also offered sex. One day a group of men took me and a girlfriend to the beach. One of the men took me to a brothel. Every day I was forced to see 15 men. If I didn’t, the boss beat me. One guy helped me to get out. Now I work in a go-go bar until 2a.m. Tourists buy me drinks. They pay a fee to the bar owner and we go to a hotel. Many tourists do not understand. They think when they pay at the bar, that they have paid the girl. So sometimes the girl winds up with nothing. In one month we must have 10 men or our money gets cut. The boss does not help us if we are sick. If we have problems in the hotel, we get no help. The police do not help. The Thai people think of us only as whores… never worry, never care.”

Margo St. James

Margo St. James

The report of the Thai delegation showed that laws designed to “protect” women are ultimately used against them. In 1960, as a result of U.N. pressure, the Thai government passed the Prostitution Suppression Act. Previously, commercial sex was permitted in a brothel. To accommodate American soldiers during the boom years of the Vietnam War, a special entertainment act was passed that protected bar owners from prosecution under the sex laws. There is no penalty for the clients, only the women. Once again, the women were forced to rely on the bar and brothel owners. They must work 28 days a month or pay a fee to the club owner. There is no welfare or medical aid.

Raven-haired Miriam, of Lebanese and Cypriot extraction, asked the journalists to remember that one definition of whore is “stand-by friend.”
“How many prostitutes would you estimate there are in the world?” a reporter asked Margo St. James. She fired back, “How many tricks do you suppose there are?”


Day Two

Priscilla Alexander

Priscilla Alexander

The morning was devoted to health. Everyone’s biggest concern was AIDS. Gloria Lockett chaired the session. A few doctors were present, including Don DeJarlais, and American AIDS researcher, and Dr. Peter Greenhouse from England. The U.S. government funds AIDS research projects in several major cities, and whores are included on many research teams. But too much is not known about AIDS. In light of so much uncertainty, Priscilla Alexander’s comment makes absolute sense: “Testing does not prevent disease. Condoms prevent disease.”
For their own protection and that of their families, the whores all want to use condoms. But as the German whores noted, “Our clients refuse to wear them and if we press them, we will make no money.” In Germany prostitution is legal and controlled by the state.
The highlight of the Whores’ Congress was the safe sex demonstration.

Dolores French & Lynn Hampton

Dolores French & Lynn Hampton

Dolores French announced that she would show how to put a condom on a client without his knowledge. “This is my assistant, Lynn,” she said introducing Lynn Hampton. “And this is my dick.” Lynn held up a banana. Using sleight of hand, Dolores deftly pulled a condom out of her mouth. “The trick is to distract him,” she said. “Just before you slip on the rubber, you can slide down his belly, pinching his nipples…”
(The translators in the booths had a field day with this demonstration.)
“If after the ejaculation, the client happens to notice this thing on the end of his dick, a good tactic is to pretend that you have done that all the time with him and he has just never noticed. “

Another whore volunteered, “I tell my clients the fuck is for him, the condom is for his wife. They usually accept that.”
To the whores who feel that condoms will curtail their business, diamond-studded Miriam proposed: “We are the ones who provide this service. We should be the ones to determine how it is performed.”
Pornography, feminism and lesbianism were among the topics discussed in the afternoon session. Annie and I gave a report on pornography in the United States. We sat next to Jill, a pretty British whore in a black leather skirt. “I worked for peanuts as a porn model,” she said. “When I decided to go into business for myself as a prostitute, I considered it a step up.”
This amused Annie and me, who definitely thought that as porn stars we were at the top of the pecking order. But sets of hard-core movies are often busted in Los Angeles. The performers are subject to prostitution charges and the producers, with pandering. All sex workers are clearly in the same situation.
All of the women expressed anger that whores are not regarded as feminists, particularly by other feminists. “I wrote a book with five other whores about our experiences,” said Fiki from Berlin. “The women’s magazines gave us no publicity or support.”
As the Congress progressed, each delegation took on its own personality. The Italians were the best dressed and they loved to bitch about the food. The Austrians were definitely angry. The Dutch contingent had strong dyke support. And the Americans loved show biz. In addition to the safe sex demos of Lockett and French, Annie and I performed in the evening at the WOE women’s center, where we all had our dinner.
The first act was from Amsterdam. Betty Paerl played the role of whore and her friend Natasha was the feminist. They sat and called each other names, accusing each other of exactly the same things. It was a humorous illustration of how much they had in common. I was a bit nervous about introducing my new song, “Big Ben,” a country-western ballad about a man who comes and goes. But I figured that, after two days of politics, this audience would be grateful for any break. Annie brought down the house with her Nurse Sprinkle Sex Education class. She called on Danny from Canada to help her. “This is the first time I have unhooked a bra,” said Danny, a gay prostitute. “And that,” ad-libs Nurse Sprinkle, “is exactly why you are here in sex education class.”

Day Three
This was the day we planned for the future. Where would the next conference be held? What committees would be established and who would be on them? We endorsed the statements on prostitution drafted by the ICPR advocating financial autonomy, occupational choice and alliances between all women. A separate statement on health covered the issues raised at the Congress. (The publicity around the conference inspired others to participate). A Belgian whore finally arrived.

VV is Delegate

VV is Delegate

The final press conference was held in the general assembly rather than in the smaller room. A large banner hung from the dais. It read, “Outlaw poverty, not prostitution.” On display were funny Swiss posters advertising condoms as well as sexy campaign posters of Norma Jean Almadovar.

An Italian newsman wanted to know if the prostitutes discussed prices.

Where is the most expensive sex?” he asked. The answer he got was a collective sneer. I leaned over and the whore in me informed him: “You do not understand. The subject here isn’t rates, it’s rights.”


Photos that originally accompanied this article were by Annie Sprinkle.

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Corset Queen Feels the Pinch– Kinky Community Unites to Help.

This blog is a press release to help my friend Mistress Antoinette. It’s a great story.

Miss Vera helps Mistress Antoinette

Help Mistress Antoinette

Please post, forward, print.

Kinky Community Unites to Help Fetish Fashion Elder–

An online fundraiser is happening now at Mistress Antoinette Needs Your Help!

“I only hope that when I grow old as disgracefully as Ms. Antoinette has, there will be people who appreciate what I did with my life as much as I appreciate her.”

So writes latex wear designer Polly Superstar who is part of the campaign on to assist Jeanette Zinkan aka Mistress Antoinette, the fetish fashion pioneer, now in her 70’s whom those in the know acknowledge as the person most responsible for bringing fetish dressing out of dark closets and into the light, sparking the public’s imagination.

The campaign was started by Ms. Zinkan’s daughter Tiffany and former porn stars Annie Sprinkle and Veronica Vera.  Ms. Sprinkle, Ph.D., who is now an ecosexual artist and environmental activist, and Ms. Vera, author and founder of the world’s first Transgender Academy, are among those who acknowledge Mistress Antoinette as a muse.

Dr. Carol Queen, founding director, Center for Sex and Culture states,

“There’s not necessarily a retirement plan for culture-changing community leaders who have helped make our world more sexually diverse and positive. When someone like Mistress Antoinette needs help, it’s only the community she helped create and people who enjoy the world she influenced who will step up to make a difference.”

In the 80’s, Ms. Zinkan and her husband Dr. Richard Zinkan, aka photographer Master Zorro, created Versatile Productions (Orange Co. Ca.) which published Reflections, “The magazine of the exotic lifestyle”, and made videotapes that shed light on BDSM and fetish themes.  They paid homage to people such as Bettie Page and recognized them for their contributions to modern culture, long before Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon. “I referred to their company as a kinky conglomerate” says Ms.Vera, “but Dick, liked to call it “a mom and pop operation.”

Ms. Zinkan began designing fashions for their readership and before long, Ms. Antoinette’s Versatile Fashion label became the focus of the company, which specialized in skin tight pvc garments, for women, men and transvestites.  Their bullet bras and costumes influenced, and were worn by, rockstars, including Madonna.  The company became famous for its line of authentic wasp waist corsets which crossed over into the mainstream and were the first of that kind sold by Victoria’s Secret.  Ms. Antoinette created an annual Dress To Thrill Ball and fashion show weekend (DTTW) in California and later, Las Vegas.

A video produced by Versatile Productions that is posted by the Leather Archives and Museum on youtube documents that 1997 Dress To Thrill Weekend the striptease artist Dita von Teese is featured, as are latex designer The Baroness and sex educator Ducky Doolittle. The video illustrates the high energy and uninhibited erotic style of the times. It concludes with Ms. Antoinette, at the top of her game, taking her bows before a cheering throng.

Says Ms. von Teese,

“Mistress Antoinette and Versatile Fashions created my very first corsets and introduced me to the beauty of fetishism. She was among the first to inspire and encourage my career of creating retro-fetishistic pin-ups, and her events were some of my first burlesque performance stages, in the early 90’s. It is a pleasure for me to help give back to her for helping pave the way with her daring style for those of us that love retro-fetishistic glamour.”

In 2006, after a long illness, Richard Zinkan died, and medical expenses, plus a robbery, a flood, and other business reversals decimated the Zinkan’s finances.  Until recently, Jeanette Zinkan lived with her daughter Tiffany and family in Mormon country near Salt Lake City, Utah.  “My daughter and her family are not Mormons”,  said Ms. Zinkan, “but almost everyone else in the town is, so I’ve kept a low profile.”  

Ms. Zinkan began to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s that necessitated she move to an assisted living residence. The purpose of the GoFundMe campaign is to assist in paying for the medications and treatments that doctors say will slow the progress of Alzheimers, and as stated on the site, “Keep Ms. Antoinette’s beautiful memories alive.”

Now that word has begun to spread of their heroine’s predicament, members of the alternative lifestyle and fetish fashion communities are spreading the word and rallying support.  Ms. Zinkan is receiving calls from colleagues and friends with whom she’d lost touch.  Her spirits are lifted. “I feel humbled, grateful and overwhelmed,” said Ms. Zinkan.

“Jeanette had begun to doubt her choices in life,” says Ms. Sprinkle.  “She’d thought that because she was broke, her work had been of no use. The truth is, she brought many, many people lots of joy, sexy fun and liberation. The money will be a big help, but what is even more valuable is the rise in her own self esteem and human worth as Jeanette hears from fans and friends.”

In her professional life Ms. Antoinette signed all her letters with the words, “I care”, says Ms. Vera, “Now she is learning that others do.”

The campaign has also changed the dynamic between mother and daughter.  Until now, daughter Tiffany had only negative feelings about her mother’s career, seeing it as a hindrance to her own desire for a more traditional life. “I felt Versatile had sucked my parents dry, and after my dad died and my mom was so alone and left to her own devices, I thought her career was a fantasy and a sham.  Now, I am thankful.”

As contributions and heartfelt letters of gratitude arrive, Tiffany has begun to appreciate Ms. Antoinette and to see the benefits of life in the public eye, even if that life was in a catsuit and 8 inch heels.

Also supporting the fundraiser are Urban Tantra’s Barbara Carrellas, the author of the Ethical Slut Janet Hardy,  sex educator bondage artist Midori, former porn actress Veronica Hart, performance artist Sheree Rose,  sexologist Dr. Carol Queen, sex worker activist Scarlot Harlot,  Kinky Salon producer Polly Superstar, and many others.

Contacts for more info, interviews, more photos: Veronica Vera,,  Annie Sprinkle,

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Help Mistress Antoinette Campaign

Mistress Antoinette on Her Throne

Help Mistress Antoinette, Mistress Antoinette in Leather

Mistress Antoinette in One of Her PVC Creations

Help Mistress Antoinette Campaign

Mistress Antoinette, Creator of Reflections Magazine

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