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Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary

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Over 13 years ago, Polly Whittaker began forging the new frontier of sexual expression. It began as a simple idea: to create an environment in which people could express themselves sexually in a social context in a way that’s not seedy or creepy, traditionally the case when talking about sexuality. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, she built Kinky Salon, a creative and sex-positive environment, that has since turned it into a global movement, with events happening in a dozen cities all over the world.

San Francisco is the home of the sexual revolution, and the community that has evolved around Kinky Salon over the past decade is an important chapter in that history. By spearheading this intentional community-building, Polly has laid down the foundation for an evolution of how we view sexuality in our modern world.

Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary, is a no-holds barred look into this incredibly creative world. It’s a book about modern relationships, counter culture, a quest for family, and a real-life glimpse into this little corner of the sexual revolution.

314 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Polly Whittaker

1 book21 followers
Polly is a 21st century sex culture revolutionary. She has dedicated her life to sexually progressive community as a latex fashion designer, a creator of arty, sexy parties, and a spokesperson for sex culture. Born in London, England, in 1974, she is the daughter of a hot air balloon pilot and a sex therapist. She relocated to San Francisco—home of the sexual revolution—in 1999. Her award-winning event, Kinky Salon, takes place in a dozen cities across Europe and North America. She recently joined forces with Christopher Ryan, Author of NYT Bestselling Book Sex at Dawn to create Kotango.com—a social network for global sex culture.

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
928 reviews2,734 followers
February 15, 2015
A different book is this one by Polly Whittaker. An adult read. A memoir that tells of her various rebirths, going from her first normal one and life in London, England, with then the 2nd birth was when she moved to San Francisco and took on the name Polly Pandemonium, began making and selling latex clothes, and throwing fetish parties to make a name for herself and collaborate.

The 3rd birth happened when she had an arc of rainbow stars tattooed on her belly. She becomes Polly Superstar, meets a unicorn and a guru and thought she could change the world.

Many stories about her eventual home and party venue, Mission Control, and lots of the crazy parties there over the coming years, some history of the sexual revolution in the area, and more.
Profile Image for AM.
158 reviews
May 16, 2015
I was gifted a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. That in no way changes my opinion of this book.

To be honest, this is not a genre I normally read, but the cover is eye-catching, and I figured I’d read something different for a change. I am not sorry that I opted for that, as this was an enjoyable read.

This book starts at the beginning, with Polly’s childhood when she was growing up in London, to her adventurous move to San Francisco. She originally went to California to visit a friend, fell in love with the place, the people, and the culture and opted to not leave. She finally felt at home, like she belonged, and thus, her life and career begins.

Polly was a latex clothing designer in London, but is finally able to have her own storefront in San Francisco. California offers a lot of “firsts” for her, and she is addicted, so to speak. She experiences Burning Man, and it becomes a yearly tradition for her. She creates Kinky Salon, think: sex club, but much more than that. Kinky Salon is more of a community of people who all come together and enjoy the kinky lifestyle.

You get behind the scenes in this book, from the fun, happy times, to the sex, drugs, love, sadness, and everything in between. Polly holds nothing back, so be fully prepared to read it all.
1 review3 followers
October 7, 2014
Hot, deep, raw...just my style.

This book is a glimpse into the life of a woman after my own heart. It's a must read for any woman who wants to see what it's like to live on the edge, be willing to take a deep look at yourself, and go for your dreams. This book isn't just about one wild woman's foray into swing parties and one-night-stands, it's about what can be possible when you open yourself to possibility and live in integrity.

Polly is the real deal. Bravo
6 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2014
Mind Opening!!

This is one of those books you start reading slower as you go because you don't want it to end! Polly has lived a vivid life filled with love, loss, and passion. Her ability to openly share these unique and very private stories has opened my eyes. It has given me the courage to finally take the steps towards my own sexual revolution! Take the step with me and read this unforgettable memoir!
Profile Image for Dav.
248 reviews19 followers
November 20, 2014
I suppose I was predisposed to like a memoir from someone who came to SF around the same time I did and sought out and experienced similar things (cacophony, folsom street fair, burning man, etc). All that was missing was the Werepad. Of course unlike me she was busy creating fantastic new things as well, and I've been a fan of her works for some time now. The book is deep, broad, intense, revealing and remarkably well edited. Yay for Polly!
August 12, 2014
We weren't sure what to expect: a lascivious tell-all, a series of anecdotes, or a manifesto...

What we got was the amazingly engaging story of Polly's life, and a unique, true depiction of the sex positive lifestyle.

All in all, a great read!
Profile Image for Jennifer Yee.
9 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2014
Very readable book about Polly Whittaker/Superstar/Pandemondium on her journey from childhood to the fabulous woman she is today.
Profile Image for Cooper Beckett.
Author 11 books70 followers
February 1, 2015
The book charts multiple journeys through Polly’s life, woven together Godfather II style. We learn about her upbringing with her non-monogamous parents, whose fondue parties had the rule that if you drop your bread into the cheese, you have to kiss everybody at the table. (A rule I’d like to institute at my next fondue party. [Note to self: throw fondue party.]) She takes us on her spontaneous journey to San Francisco at the behest of a friend, where she nearly stumbles into her community full throttle, designing latex outfits (her calling back in London) almost as soon as she leaves her apartment for the first time. As she learns about her newfound community, we drift backward to her adolescence and the discoveries and kinks of that time. The stories are woven together so well that one never loses interest, as the short chapters throw us in another direction before we might.

Polly speaks with a true “warts and all” approach, showcasing the great and the bad, the ideas that support and detract from the concept of true open sexuality. She never holds back, and allows us to see deep into her soul, be it a breakup, the death of her father, a nightmarish drug trip in the desert, the ecstacy of Burning Man, the first night that Kinky Salon allowed full on sex, attempting to create a (nebulous) game called Superstar Avatar with her partner, feeling joy, feeling pain, feeling shame, feeling love.

It’s really beautiful.

And oh so relevant. As I embark on the next levels, as I move toward turning Swingset into a brand, to releasing my work to more of the world, to hosting more events, to teaching, to really digging into the community more. Every bit of the book, even the things that I had never experienced in my life, resonated deep within me.

One sees the portrait of a girl, then woman, willing to throw herself into her chosen life. Willing to step off the precipice into the darkness, because maybe the darkness holds a better life, or a new experience. She even sees the true value in failing hard, at love, at life, for “When your ego is pulverized into an unrecognizable mush, it becomes compost for your future. You have the chance to reimagine yourself.”

I have had my ego pulverized, and have reimagined. I’ve been in a process of reimagining for the past two years in fact.

“Coop, you narcissist, this isn’t about you.”

Could someone please remove Dylan from the chamber?

The outcome of the individual threads of Polly’s life are almost inconsequential to us as a reader. (Though not, I imagine, to Polly herself. One must remember that a memoir includes [one would assume] a vast majority of truth.) Not because we don’t care, but because of the way the story is told, ends lead to beginnings, later chapters lead to earlier ones along the timey wimey timeline, and it’s all a Möbius strip, cycling through.

It saddens me that Mission Control was evicted from its space. That means I can never go back to a place that was central to my understanding of kink. I know I am not alone in feeling that loss. Polly mentions this in the final Epilogue to the book. (Spoilers!) But even then, she’s positive, because it’s not about the stuff, it’s about the people. It all comes back to community.

Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary gave me hope, made me recognize myself and my struggles, made me recognize us and our struggles. She allows that we may be crazy, we lunatic music makers and dreamers of dreams, but we can change the world in little pockets. So we ought to.

As an unknown voice assures her at the very end of this wonderful book: “Be brave, little one. You can do it.”

Thanks, Polly.
Profile Image for Minka Guides.
233 reviews
April 8, 2015
I originally read the sample provided for free on NetGalley and was very excited by it: such a strong, beautifully written opening, mixing personal journey with an academic context of San Francisco, queer and kink culture. I was like YES! Here is someone who really has something to say, an actual story to tell. Plus I knew enough about Kinky Salon to have some idea where this journey was headed (full disclosure: I've attended a number of the parties in London).

So I bought the whole book, and even re-read the start because I had liked it so much and wanted to immerse myself in the story fully. And then.... well, I really wanted to like this book. However, aside from the fact that it left me feeling quite sad and a little uninspired to organise any more sexually-orientated events myself, it also really needed a good editor. The story come across as if it was written in spurts when Whittaker had varying degrees of interest in telling the story. At the start it's beautifully detailed and perceptive; by the end it feels as if she just wants to be all over, which isn't very engaging to read, and the relationship which forms the central arc of the story basically becomes a footnote at the end. Meanwhile, we are given huge amounts of detail about this Superstar Avatar project which... goes nowhere, thus just making this whole element feel like padding.

Whittaker had obviously thought a lot about all the elements that went into creating the person she is and the parties that she started, but didn't seem able to talk about the events and community themselves as much. They are the reason people who don't know her want to know about her life but she always seems very much on the outside. She references a few times that her primary motivation for throwing the parties was financial and too often any detail about the parties is about how little she enjoyed them. It's totally understandable that these events were a big ask, that they were frustrating to organise for years on end; but these elements needed some balance, some more lightness to help us see why the international movement that the parties started was so important. The introduction throughout the story of some of the key people who would help to guide the parties on to their next stage would have helped the reader towards a more engaged ending. Instead, Whittaker just feels like she's on the outside looking in on everything she created.

This is a tough review to write, as it was initially refreshing to read a story about someone so inspiring and creative who was willing to be so honest. Maybe a few more years would have allowed Whittaker to be as perceptive about the creation of Kinky Salon as she had been looking back at her own life?
Profile Image for Kattie.
303 reviews43 followers
May 6, 2015
The cover of this book is beautiful! I love Polly! I love her ideas of sexual revolution. I got this book from Netgalley, and I was stoked to read it. I have always heard about San Francisco being more open to the gay and kink culture, and I was glad to read about it and someone who helped revolutionize sex culture and start a following around the world. That sounded cult-y but that isnt what I meant. This book jumps around from Polly's childhood where she grew up in London with parents who were not monogamous. Everyone who reads this is going to have awesome fondue parties from now on, am I right?!? Ahem, anyway... One thing I didn't like about all the jumping around was I felt like she wrote the ending several times. At the end of several chapters it seemed like everything was wrapped up and the book was over, and then it wasn't. I think at one point she even said something about it being the end of the book, and then there were more chapters. I thought that was odd. Polly's journey goes from home life, to moving to San Francisco, which was supposed to be just a vacation visiting a friend, and she never left. She realized she fit in very well with the people of San Fran. She becomes a popular latex clothing designer, which is what she did in London, but gets her own store now. She has a lot of friends, and they become a community really. She goes to Burning Man for the first time and gets hooked and ends up going back every year. She ends up creating Kinky Salon which is like a sex club, but so much more. It is a real community of kinky people, who all come together in this one place. She really tells everything in this story, you don't just hear super happy fun times, or just about the sex revolution, or anything. She talks about it all, (happiness, love, sadness, sex, drugs) even the ugly parts of her life, which I think is beautiful. Overall I really liked the book.
1 review
December 20, 2014
Polly's book is touching, warm, brilliant, funny, and cutting edge. She shares intimate details from her life, and I found myself saying; "Yes! Me too!" Growing up as a girl, whether in the UK or the U.S., presents universal challenges when it comes to arriving at adulthood intact, self-aware, and in charge of one's self as a sexual being. Polly's journey, which she shares in raw, graphic detail, resonated profoundly with me. We share the desire for love and validation, as well as that burning quest to expand, press boundaries, and squeeze the marrow out of this fleeting existence. Polly is whip-smart and insightful. I found myself crying at unexpected moments throughout the book... I cannot do justice to these moments by describing them... You must experience it through Polly's eyes to understand why moments such as donning a unicorn costume, a bad drug trip, or a ride in a hot air balloon could bring one to joyful sobbing tears. Polly's advocacy for a healthy, sane, sex-positive movement, self-expression, and open-relationships are inspiring and insightful. I found myself rooting for her happiness until the last page. Bless you for sharing with us, Polly!
Profile Image for E. Bast.
Author 1 book6 followers
January 23, 2017
This book rocks! I couldn't put it down... I stumbled across this jewel as I was on a memoir-devouring stint. It was like a box of chocolate truffles for my mind! Though this author is writing about racy "alternative" sex parties and radical ideals for the modern sexual revolution, there is still an innocence in her perspective that anyone from the "mainstream" could relate to. She provokes compassion and understanding for her highly unusual tale of self-discovery and pleasure. This book made me take a closer look at the puritanical attitudes still prevailing in today's American sex culture, and how it affects us daily like an oppressive smog that we've become too accustomed to. This was pure joy. Colorful. Brazen. A refreshing diversion from my mundane reality.
Profile Image for Sarah Wells.
1 review
July 10, 2017
This book was subtle and sincere, powerful and poignant.
I saw so much of myself in Polly and her words so easily and eloquently gave voice to so many things in my mind, psyche, body and experience.
Brought up some really awesome and pertinent talking points with me and my partner. Especially loved the chapter on Jealousy and the beautiful way her future and past speak with one another; how her badass, awesome, put-together future persona influences the present and heals the past.
Highly recommended!!!
Profile Image for Bill Ward.
81 reviews8 followers
November 21, 2015
I enjoyed the way this book was structured, weaving together the ups and downs of her life by splitting into three sections - growing up in England (Polly Whittaker), when she first came to San Francisco and embraced the hedonistic lifestyle (Polly Pandemonium), and after launching the Kinky Salon parties and spreading her message of sex-positive social change (Polly Superstar). It was interesting to see her evolution and I admire her courage in sharing it with the world.
Profile Image for Ella Drayton.
Author 2 books35 followers
December 19, 2014
Polly Whittaker has definitely led a very interesting life. It was interesting to read about her first landing in San Francisco and about her role as a revolutionary in the sex industry. I admire her grit and her adventurous personality. I can't say that I enjoyed Polly's book but I didn't necessarily dislike it either. I just don't think it was for me. It was well-written and draws you in right from the beginning but I just don''t think it was for me.
6 reviews
January 16, 2016
Great book

Not my type of book but pleasantly surprised! I couldn't put it down. Very eloquent writing to discuss a very taboo subject. At least taboo for this monogamous, religious, heterosexual! I felt guilty for enjoying this so much but it's a great story of a sub-culture I didn't even know existed.

Good enough read to allow me to cast my judgements to the wayside and simply enjoy the trials, tribulations, successes, and revelations of Ms. Polly Superstar.
2 reviews
October 30, 2014
What a WILD Ride!! Polly gives a fun, fresh look at an Underground scene, taking most, where they've never been before. Even though Polly's journey looks exclusive and wild, there’s surprisingly more to her journey that's accessible to everyone, admitting her fears, mistakes, and broken hearts. An Empowering book for both sexes. Just too bad there aren't any pictures.
November 19, 2016
La Petite Mort

I am not quite sure what to say about the book? I found the book to provide a point of view about sex or an attitude that was enlightening to me. What I know I learned from TV which is a cultural distraction and is in the way of relating sexually. Polly seems to thrive in a sex positive environment. There are lots of options to consider that work.
Profile Image for Ros Earl.
26 reviews
February 16, 2021
I devoured it over a quiet Bank Holiday. It was unputdownable - fascinating, shocking (only a couple of bits), sad, but mostly heart warming. I found some sections a little too long (the written descriptions of the parties probably didn't do them justice), but I admire the way she opened up her life like a book. It's definitely more than a niche read.
Profile Image for Susan Block.
Author 7 books23 followers
November 11, 2015
So real, so raw, so revolutionary. A wonderful, beautifully written memoir.
2 reviews1 follower
October 10, 2014
Want to know the ins and outs of the underground SF sex scene? Read. It's intriguing, honest and authentic. Polly is a pioneer in the SF sex scene and a wonderful person. Read.
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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