Beginning in March, Slixa is proud to introduce a new feature to the Slixa Blog! Ask Andre will be a frequent feature inviting readers (of all races, genders, and affiliations) to submit their most personal sex, relationship, and professional questions to our new resident expert, Ms. Andre Shakti. Andre is a journalist, educator, activist and professional slut (her words!), who can be found crisscrossing the nation teaching workshops and classes in everything from non-monogamous relationships to vaginal fisting!
But if you're not lucky enough to find Andre in your town sometime soon, her work can be read in publications like Cosmopolitan, Thrillist, VICE, and more. And now, right here on the Slixa Blog!
We were first in line to #AskAndre some questions of our own about who she is and what's in store for readers and question-askers alike. Take a look:
Your resume is rather impressive! What's the abridged story of how one might come by the title of "professional slut?"
Personally, I was born a slut! Professionally, I’ve been receiving both recognition and compensation for my sluttiness for over twelve years. Not only do I authentically consider myself a “professional slut,” but the term also seemed like a breezy catch-all for the vast array of services I provide. I’m a sex worker, a sex educator, a sex columnist, and an intimacy coach. Rolling all of those off of my tongue when introducing myself has never gotten easier, haha.
To me, being a “professional” in any given field indicates that you are being actively sought after and routinely compensated for your expertise and time on a particular subject matter. I also wholeheartedly believe that if you claim the title of “professional,” you have a responsibility to perpetually pursue continuing education around that subject matter. I strive to meet my own qualifications every day. This is especially difficult within the sex industry because of the taboo nature of the material at hand. It’s hard to find intentional spaces to cultivate a specific sexuality-related skill set, let alone locate legitimate accreditation programs to further your career.
For these reasons - in addition to the financial inaccessibility of the accreditation programs that do exist - the vast majority of sexuality professionals are self-made, and it’s especially important (IMHO) to acknowledge how fucking AWESOME that is. You have to possess a number of invaluable qualities to make it in this industry, and most people can’t hack it. Sluts are survivors. Sluts are fighters. Sluts are hustlers. Sluts are pioneers. We’re highly capable individuals, yet most of us can never list our accomplishments on a traditional resume.
I want to be a part of a movement that lends mainstream authority, legitimacy and power to the title of “professional slut.” Or hell, START that movement! Although I’m not sure where I’d find the time...
What's something even regular followers of yours might be surprised to learn about you?
That I am deeply flawed. It sounds obvious, perhaps, but professing to be a supposed “expert” in the realm of sex and relationships places a suffocating pressure on your personal life to “walk the walk,” 24/7. I often get placed on a pedestal by those who follow my work, and yet I never feel deserving of that pedestal. I have lied in my relationships. I have cheated. I have made decisions that I regret. And all I can do at the end of the day is make my transgressions transparent, humble myself before those I love, strive to do better, and encourage others to do the same.
These events listed on your site! What can somebody attending your Vaginal and Anal Fisting workshop in Baltimore anticipate from an event like that? Purely an academic approach? Or live demonstrations? Both?
It depends on the venue! Ideally when I’m teaching skill-based workshops such as fisting (or strap-on sex, or impact play, or breath play) I prefer to create an educational environment that is ⅓ lecture, ⅓ discussion, and ⅓ demonstration. However, certain licensing requirements prevent some venues from explicitly sexual demonstrations, and I’d rather respect that and teach a PG-13 version of the class than opt not to teach it altogether.
And the Baltimore Playhouse is cool with all this?
Oh, absolutely. I’m based in Baltimore, and the Playhouse is an invaluable resource for alternative sexual communities here. I feel very grateful to have cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship with them! You can check them out further BaltimorePlayhouse.com
What does Andre Shakti do once she's clocked out from all this writing and educating? How do you unwind?
The concept of “unwinding” has always been a challenge for me. I’m a highly functional person, and my productivity level effectively masks the intense anxiety I experience on a daily basis. My anxiety has always been directly related to my perceived productivity, and this makes relaxing especially difficult. And, I’m getting better at cultivating my self care skills every day.
I really enjoy spending time with my animals (my household boasts five dogs, two cats, three snakes, a tarantula and a sugar glider), reading, watching anything “true crime” or “horror” related (like ZOMG I CAN’T WAIT FOR JORDAN PEELE’S US TO COME OUT!), and exercising. I’m also a big pothead. Weed FTW!
Any self care tips for readers who might be feeling overwhelmed just looking at your writing portfolio?
Wait, is my writing portfolio somehow the catalyst for readers needing self care?! Haha. Regardless, when I know I need some self care and I’m having difficulty carving out time for it, I like setting “accountability traps” for myself utilizing the people closest to me. I’ll literally text the folks I live with and will announce that I’m taking a day or evening to myself, and I’ll add it to our shared Google Calendar. That way I feel an extra layer of responsibility to follow through on my self care plan that I wouldn’t have otherwise felt if I’d kept my plan to myself. Allow the people in your life to help hold you accountable to your own self care!
What's your read on the way FOSTA/SESTA is or might be impacting your work as an educator and performer?
Oh Jesus. I don’t think there’s any way for me to succinctly address my feelings around FOSTA/SESTA. Instead, you’ll have to forgive me for using a cop-out and directing you to this article I wrote back in April 2018, about two months before the bill was signed into law.
What can Slixa readers anticipate in return for their oh-so-personal asks about sex and relationships?
When I’m working on an advice column, there are a number of things I pay strict attention to:
- Is the reader looking for validation, information, empathy, advice, or some combination of the four?
- Would speaking from my own lived experience be relevant and valuable, or would it distract from the reader’s quandary or detract from the quality of my advice?
- Am I speaking from an informed place, or am I only spouting conjecture?
- Am I exercising compassion?
- Am I speaking from an inclusive place that considers intersecting layers of access, marginalization and trauma?
- Are there any additional resources I could make available to the reader that aren’t my own?
Allowing for human error, this accountability process typically ensures that I’m providing the best possible advice that I’m capable of. I hope you’ll agree!
And, is anything off the table, as far as what you're willing to discuss with them?
Nada. I wholeheartedly believe that there are no “stupid” or “silly” questions, and when it comes to more sensitive subjects such as the intersections of race, class, politics, sexual orientation, gender identity, trauma, etc, I truly feel as though knowledge is the ONLY balm for the wound that is ignorance. The more we cultivate non-judgmental forums for folks to ask sensitive questions, the faster we heal the world. That being said, I have no problem admitting that I don’t know something. I’ll never posture otherwise, and I’ll never let my own unfamiliarity with a subject prevent me from finding the very best resources to refer people out to so that they can access the most qualified source to deal with their particular quandary.
Lastly, is there any advice you'd give to others looking to hone or develop their own expertise in similar fields?
At the risk of sounding unnecessarily grim, the vast majority of the advice I’d give to someone considering ANY of the work I do is always going to be safety and security related. You should first thoroughly investigate and develop a nuanced (and pragmatic) understanding of the risks inherent in being associated with the sex industry.
Working in this field can make you a target for those who’d prefer we live in a sex negative culture. If you have children, you may face custody issues. If your education and/or housing are currently dependent on conservative or traditional authority, you may experience unexpected instability. Your family of origin may disapprove, damaging your relationship with them. You could lose friendships, even with people you’ve known most of your life. If you cultivate an online presence, understand that you’ll be vulnerable to stalking, cyber bullying and “doxxing,” which is the malicious publishing of private or identifying information (your legal name, address, phone number, family members’ names) on the Internet. If you decide to pursue a “vanilla” career after working as a sex professional, many potential employers will decline to hire you, etc., etc., etc.
I wish I had something more uplifting to say, but working in the realm of sexuality can feel like a daily uphill battle. It’s a battle worth fighting, though!
We couldn't agree more. We're thrilled and proud to feature Andre and her new advice column #AskAndre on the Slixa blog. If you've got a question that requires some informed nuance (or that you're just afraid to leave in your search history), drop it her way! She'll answer them, keeping you anonymous (of course) and share thoughts and resources for more information.