Subverting the Binary and the Patriarchy: An Interview with Good Vibrations Executive VP Jackie Rednour-Bruckman
Pleasure to Meet You, Jackie!
Opportunities for safe, nonjudgmental sex and pleasure education are far and few between, even in 2017. O.school wants to fix that. We have a team of more than 40 experienced Pleasure Professionals for whom we seek to be an amplification platform. Our Pleasure to Meet You column introduces the brilliant folks you can engage with and learn from at O.school.
Executive Vice President of Good Vibrations, Indie Rock Star, Feminist Porn Producer. Jackie Rednour-Bruckman, a veritable San Francisco Bay Area legend, has shaped and been shaped by uniquely queer*, sex-positive** San Francisco over the past four decades. Jackie’s long list of impressive titles include Executive Vice President of sex-positive sex toy retailer, Good Vibrations (2009-current), front person of the 90s all-queer indie rock band The Hail Marys, and director and producer of S.I.R. (Sex, Indulgence and Rock n’ Roll) Video Productions, (including what’s known as a “cult classic” informational porn Bend Over Boyfriend, which instructs viewers on the art of pegging†), Jackie is a non-binary trans-masculine person††, meaning that they identify neither as a man nor a woman. Professionally, Jackie uses they/them pronouns, although in their personal life they are comfortable with she/her pronouns as well.
O.school Partner and Pleasure Professional. In between navigating multiple screens to manage the recent acquisition of New York City adult toy store franchise, Babeland, and meeting with caterers for a GV employee retirement celebration, Jackie was kind enough to chat with O.school. Over the phone, Jackie was serious and even-keeled; they were open about their fluid gender identity and their journey toward sexual liberation. Their frank, passionate discussion of feminist pornography, music and the magic of the 90s is wonderfully unpretentious. Thanks in part to Jackie, Good Vibrations is an official partner and supporter of O.school; audiences will now be able to livestream sex education workshops from Good Vibrations Educators via mobile browsers anytime, anywhere.
Activist and Ally. Casually dapper in a gray suit jacket, tie and jeans, Jackie took the microphone of the closing plenary session at CatalystCon in Los Angeles, a major sex and sexuality conference. Jackie was the epitome of cool-calm-and-collected, answering questions with the wisdom of a true sex industry veteran and the urgency of a passionate activist. The theme of the plenary was activism in the age of Trump, and when asked how they became involved with activism, Jackie answered: “I’ve been wanting to smash the patriarchy since I was a toddler.”
Indeed, Jackie is a model activist and ally. Jackie consistently invokes Black writers and activists as role models to take cues from. Passionate about supporting and advocating for youth, and queer and trans youth in particular, Jackie and wife Shar Rednour (who is a powerhouse in her own right) adopted and reared three boys: two are preteens and the third is 25 and openly gay. After the election Jackie promptly reactivated their foster parent status, so that they could assist children and youth whose parents might be deported.
Super-Parent. Earlier in the conference, Jackie and Shar spoke together about strategies for sex-positive parenting, which they have been doing for over a decade. Jackie’s wavy, brunette hair is styled with pomade; Shar’s blonde mane is voluminous. Dressed in subdued shades of plum and moss and sporting ink-adorned arms, the wise-seeming, butch/femme‡ couple appear to play off one another’s energy. They advised their audience to live their sex-positive family values loudly and proudly, to refrain from shaming kids for asking questions and to emphasize that there are many different ways to make a family. And many different ways there are.
At home with the kids, Jackie is Momma Daddy or Momma Papa. In the recording studio, on stage or on set, they answer to Jack Strano. At O.school, it’s simply Jackie Rednour-Bruckman, or Jack, for short. Keep scrolling to read O.school’s interview with Jackie!
[Note: All of the following “definitions” are just bite sized pieces of a much bigger picture. Check out the linked resources for more information!]
*Queer is used today in a number of ways, including to refer to the sexual orientation of a person attracted to multiple genders. Queer is also often used as an umbrella term to describe the plethora of sexual orientations that exist.
** A Sex-Positive attitude is one that celebrates sex (and gender and sexuality) in all its diversity — and that including asexuality and celibacy!
† Pegging refers to a person with a vulva using a dildo to anally penetrate a person with a penis.
††Non-binary genders transcend the traditional gender binary of woman/man, can incorporate both femininity and masculinity and may be subject to change, or fluidity. Transmasculinity refers to “transgender people who are assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than femininity” (Source: Gender Wiki).
‡ Butch and femme are terms used in the lesbian and gay community to indicate whether a person identifies with a traditionally masculine (butch) or feminine (femme) identity.
Maya: You are the Executive Vice President of Good Vibrations, (and now Babeland!), one of the first sex-positive sex toy retailers. Good Vibrations is famous for advocating that “Pleasure is your birthright.” Will you share with me your journey with owning your pleasure and your sexual freedom?
Jackie: It’s an ongoing journey. I’m 52, so I came out [as a butch-dyke] way before the internet, before social media. I moved to the city from small town Sacramento, where there’s more bar culture and where the entire gay community was very close knit because it was us against the world; there were no safe spaces except bars.
At age 17, I was pretty distraught thinking, “Wow I’m in the wrong body, who am I? I don’t know what’s going on!” I always felt like the ‘other’, because not only was I experiencing gender dysphoria* (although I didn’t know what it was at the time), but I also knew that I was different because of a not yet realized queer identity. It wasn’t until later that I really realized, “Oh I deserve pleasure, and no, I’m not broken.”
So fast forward, I move to San Francisco at the age of 21 after having come out as queer in a small town, and I experience that liberatory feeling of, “Oh gosh I can be myself! I can walk down the street freely!” Valencia Street at that time had like 10 different businesses that were women and/or queer-owned — Good Vibrations was one of them, and it played a huge part of my awakening that I am a person who deserves pleasure. I was a part of the original worker-owner cooperative when its founder, Joani Blank sold it to the workers in the early 90s.
*Gender dysphoria is distress that a person may experience if they have been assigned the wrong gender at birth.
Maya: It sounds like you witnessed and experienced San Francisco during an exciting time in queer and sex-positive culture.
Jackie: Well, this was a pivotal time after “the plague years”, as we called it, when AIDS really hit crisis mode in San Francisco. Every day in the Castro you saw young men being pushed in wheelchairs and notices by the drug store listing everybody who had just passed. So we became the ones who were nursing them, advocating for them, dealing with family drama. We were in the streets fighting and doing a lot of activism.
And then the dyke scene had its renaissance in the early 90s, which I was a part of. At the time, my wife was at On Our Backs magazine and Fatale Media. They were featuring [people who looked like] us. It wasn’t typical girl-on-girl type pornography and whatnot. In the face of a feminist, anti-sex backlash, we [queer dykes and lesbians] really came into our own.
My philosophy was that the power paradigm would shift a bit if more women could ejaculate and more men could be penetrated.
On the floor of Good Vibrations we didn’t even sell dildos at the time. It’s a big deal that we brought in dildos! A lot of feminists were like, “Why!?” And we were like, “Well, a lot of us like to have sex in different ways! It’s not about patriarchy. It’s about actually enjoying penetration!” And for folks like me, this was more than about sex toys — it was about gender expression as well.
Maya: Right on. And speaking of radical goings-on at Good Vibes, I’ve heard lore of GV holding sex parties during the co-op days!
Jackie: Laughs. It was a pretty crazy place back in the day. We were well known for throwing infamous anniversary parties. The time is still ticking on 2017 for a 40th blow-out party. But you know, I think non-staff members can be the ones taking off their clothes and having fun.
Maya: Oh good. I’ll be there!
Maya: You identify as transmasculine and trans-butch. Can you tell me more about what that means?
Jackie: The way I explain it to my kids is that I am a different way of being a woman, a different way of being masculine. With the help of surgery and therapy, I’ve made peace with gender dysphoria. And my kids get it: They know that Mommy’s really femme and Momma’s really butch. The funny part is that my nickname at home is Big Daddy, Momma Daddy, even Momma Poppa. I’ve had top surgery but I haven’t taken hormones. So I definitely stand out a little bit. I’m a very masculine-presenting butch dyke. I want to emphasize — especially for the lesbian world — I’m not your typical lesbian. I am definitely queer and attracted to high femmes, but my gender is really fluid. I am non-binary, gender non-conforming.
Bathrooms sometimes are a little weird to navigate; I’m really happy that people are doing more all-gender bathrooms. I’m really excited and happy that I’ve lived long enough to see something like the Canadian passport that will be issued tomorrow* and which includes “X” as a gender option. And California might vote that in for driver’s licenses as well, which is really amazing. That would really feel much more complete
[*Note: The Canadian passports that now include X as a gender option began issue beginning on August 31st, 2017, one day after this interview.]
Maya: How do you go about discussing sex with your kids?
Jackie: We kind of have the bookends: An older, sexually active, dating adult and then kids who are not quite teenagers but very curious and developing crushes and whatnot. Especially now that they are in junior high we’ve been having a lot more discussions. I have access to some great books, so we’ve had those for them to read. We fost-adopted our older son when he was 15. When he came to stay with us at first, he was just coming out as gay, so we helped him navigate his sexuality. He’s 25 so now we talk with him about boundaries and safety.
My wife is great at it. It’s so funny ’cause I’ll come home from work and I’ll think I’m all that, and then I’m like, “Oh my God, this is my child!” Shar is very good at being really clinical and direct and it’s awesome.
Maya: Speaking of Shar, you two founded S.I.R. video productions together. I know you identify as a feminist pornographer. For readers who might never have encountered the term — or the thing itself! — can you tell me how you would define “feminist porn”?
Jackie: My work showcases genderqueer, butch/femme sexuality. When I first started making movies, there wasn’t much else out there. Fatale Media had existed — they were the video arm of On Our Backs — but they stopped and hadn’t done anything for many years. So Shar and I kind of picked up the torch and ran with it. Before that we had done Bend Over Boyfriend, starring Dr. Carol Queen.
Our commitment with Bend Over Boyfriend really was to feminist porn and to changing the world. My philosophy was that the power paradigm would shift a bit if more women could ejaculate and more men could be penetrated. A lot of typical porn scenes revolve around male orgasm; we wanted to show authentic female orgasm and different kinds of lesbian sex. We also wanted to show full, embodied orgasms: In Bend Over Boyfriend men are penetrated anally; they might not have an erection and yet they still can have multiple orgasms. That was mind-blowing at the time.
Maya: I’ve heard you talk about the importance of ethical porn production as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what that looks like on set?
Jackie: There are no drugs or alcohol on set. Performers are paid well and treated respectfully. We ask and listen very carefully to what performers are willing to do, what they won’t do and what their hottest fantasies are, so that we know we’re working with somebody who’s actually turned on and excited to be here, rather than just going through the motions.
Maya: What advice would you give to folks struggling to figure out whether they think porn is ethical? Or who are maybe grappling with a desire to watch porn?
Jackie: There is so much shame associated with sex because of societal taboos or religious messaging. Depending on what kind of images someone gets off on, there could be self-judgment going on too. For example you might be a straight guy who gets off on gay porn or a woman who fantasizes about BDSM* — many people judge themselves or their partners for their fantasies.
I would start with porn that is feminist, women-directed and that showcases people having embodied and connected sex. A focus on female orgasm is always great validation for couples especially if they want to introduce porn into their sexual play repertoire but are afraid of rocking the boat. Erika Lust movies are very popular for this type of scenario. Good Vibrations has our own site, which I recommend starting with. It’s www.goodvibrationsvod.com.
*BDSM is a composite acronym that stands for: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism. BDSM covers a variety of activities and lifestyles between consenting adults. Learn more!
Resources for enjoying Porn as a Feminist from Jackie and O.school:
What is Feminist Porn? from Good Vibrations
Erika Lust Films
Pink and White Productions
“Five Porn Sites for Women that You’ll Really Really Enjoy”
The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure by Tristan Taormino
Coming Out Like A Porn Star ed. Jiz Lee
New Views on Pornography by Lynn Comella and Shira Tarrant
Resources for Sex-Positive Parenting from Jackie:
Scarleteen: Sex Ed for the Real Word (info for teens and emerging adults)
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris
S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties, 2nd Edition by Heather Corinna
The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper
The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Families and Professionals Supporting Trangender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney
Sex Is A Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth
What Makes A Baby by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth
The Gender Quest Workbook: A Guide for Teens and Young Adults Exploring Gender Identity by Rylan Jay Testa and Deborah Coolhart
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Maya Peers Nitzberg is a content writer and community support team member at O.school. Dislikes: trolls, false equivalences (💩). Likes: emojis, enthusiastic consent, constructive criticism. 🍆🍒🍑.