Ready for some great local news? A wife and husband team are going into business for the good of the community. Here is Andy Mueller giving us the scoop!
Kendra Holliday: What’s this I hear about a sex-positive community center coffee shop opening up in St. Louis?
Andy Mueller: Yes, you heard right. It’s called Shameless Grounds, and it’s sort of a café, a coffee shop, and a little bit of a community center, all rolled into one.
KH: Who are you and where did you come from?
AM: Hmm… most people reading your blog would probably know this already, but we’re happy to explain it if anybody is confused. See, we each had a Mommy and a Daddy, and they loved each other very much, and one day, they gave each other a special kind of hug…
Okay, a little more seriously, we’re just a couple of crazy kids, both born and raised right here in St. Louis, who got fed up a long time ago with hearing what seemed – to us – like a whole lot of misinformation, shaming, moralizing, and fear-mongering over a very natural human urge.
KH: What does sex-positive mean to you?
AM: Well, we think that the majority of American culture views truly “acceptable” sexuality in a very narrow way. Or current society defines “acceptable” sex as two married heterosexual partners, performing penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse, for the purposes of procreation. That’s it. Anything else that you might desire, or do, is subject to various degrees of scorn, ridicule, joking or shaming.
Think I’m overstating it a bit? Do you think American culture is okay with sex, because of the sales figures for “Girls Gone Wild?” It’s not. As a culture, we love sex, we crave sex, and we indulge in a lot of sex. But we still think it’s dirty, vulgar, or wrong even as we continue to desire it for ourselves. And we carry a lot of baggage over that conflicted mindset.
Consider the same two married people I talked about above. This time, they are engaged in that very same PIV act, but now it’s Saturday night, there were a few cocktails before hand, a few candles are burning, some Barry White is playing in the background – and this time, they are doing it just because it feels good.
After reading that sentence and picturing the scene, I guarantee that some sophomoric reader out there just made the “Bom-chicka-wah-wah” porno music sound in his/her head. Now, we don’t think about it often, but that boils down to ridicule. It’s a joke, making fun of the idea of sexual gratification outside of procreative purposes and equating it to pornography. It’s not all that horribly offensive as jokes go – but it clearly shows the underlying attitudes our culture has about any sexuality that isn’t part of trying to make a baby.
Well, as proponents of sex-positive culture, we think sex is good and right and acceptable for more than just making babies. Sex can create personal pleasure, bond relationships, promote spiritual growth, and enhance emotional and physical health. We believe that attitudes fostering shame or distaste for sexual expression between informed, consenting adults are ecclesiastical and institutional constructs. We feel that these artificially constructed sex-negative attitudes foster irrational anger and conflict between people and communities. So we hope to play some small role in changing those attitudes.
KH: What do you mean by “Radically Inclusive”?
AM: Everybody who acts ethically, lawfully, and respectfully is welcome at Shameless Grounds, from the vicar to the tart. I like to paraphrase from Spider Robinson when I talk about who’s welcome: “When you’re at Shameless Grounds, it’s alright to be bright, it’s alright to be dull, and it’s alright to be any damned thing you please, except a pain-in-the-ass.”
KH: What kind of coffee will you serve?
AM: We are working with Chauvin Coffee Company to offer a wide range of varietal coffees, traditional blends, and a few custom blends and roasts. But we’ve got things for non-coffee drinkers too. We’ll have teas (traditional and herbal), Steamers, Cocoa and drinking chocolates, Italian sodas, French Sodas, and an assortment of bottled soft drinks and juices.
KH: Gluttony goes so well with lust. Will you have food, too?
AM: Definitely. There will be the standard coffeehouse-style pastries and baked goods, but we’ll also have a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and simple entrees to choose from. We’ll feature locally produced, artisanal products in the menu choices, and we’ll always have a good selection for our vegetarian and vegan friends. We’ve already posted a couple teaser menu items on our Facebook page (Shameless Grounds, LLC)… so go check ‘em out.
KH: Where are you located, and what are your hours going to be?
AM: We’ll be in South City, in the general area of Soulard, Benton Park, and Lafayette Square. We’re on Sidney Street, just off the intersection of Jefferson and Gravois. Our full website will have directions and a map.
We’re planning to be open every day… 10am-10pm on weeknights, and 10am-Midnight (or possibly later) on the weekends.
KH: Are you modeling off of any other national sex-positive community centers?
AM: We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Allena Gabosch and the incredibly successful Center for Sex Positive Culture (CSPC) in Seattle. I think chief among the concepts we’ve borrowed from their work, is the idea of publicly promoting healthy attitudes toward sex, without shame, and without being raunchy or sensationalistic. Like the CSPC, our business plan does not involve maximizing customer visits and revenue by pandering directly to a predominantly het-male audience using lots of images of hyper-sexualized women.
KH: What will make your coffee shop different than others?
AM: We considered for a time, using the description “Café and Community Center” in the business name. It’s a bit long and unwieldy in many formats, so we ended up dropping it. But I think ‘community center’ is something of a key in what we’re trying to accomplish. Sure, we’re going to have great coffee, and delicious food – but other places have good coffee and good food too. What we’re trying to create is something that we haven’t seen anybody else manage in St. Louis so far – a warm, welcoming hub for social interaction, education, and community among people who find themselves constrained by the way American culture has defined acceptable sexuality.
So many businesses or gathering places that include sexuality as part of their makeup come across to the general public as “seedy” – a place you wouldn’t mention in a conversation with co-workers. We want to utterly destroy that stereotype. We want Shameless Grounds to be an open and welcoming place that’s easy for anybody to walk into without feeling like they are doing something “dirty”.
KH: My website is banned or blocked on the wi-fi networks of some other cafés and companies around town. Will I be able to view my site and content like it via my wifi connection at Shameless Grounds?
AM: Abso-fucking-lutely. Isn’t that incredibly annoying? You find yourself wanting to check in on a social networking site or other adult-related site, and BOOM… access blocked! We will not restrict or censor the wi-fi access at Shameless Grounds.
KH: Wait, you’re going to have a human sexuality library? What’s that all about? Are you accepting donations?
AM: Indeed, and we’re quite excited about it. The library is open to those 18 and over. Titles can be checked out, just like the public library, free of charge. We’ve already received and catalogued over 200 titles across a wide spectrum of topics, just in the last two days. We’d love additional donations. Anything that falls in the vast spectrum of human sexuality is welcome. Things like:
• Textbooks (Biology, Sexuality, Gender Studies, LGBT issues, Feminism Studies, etc.)
• Erotic Literature (Anais Nin, Anne Rice, Pauline Reage, Pat Califia, etc.)
• Pulp Fiction (“Head School Mistress” or “The Military Wive’s Club”)
• Audiobooks of any of the above
• Periodicals (Playboy, Playgirl, Penthouse, etc)
• Graphic Novels and Comics (including Japanese Manga)
• Porn (VHS, DVD, printed, old stag films, vintage dirty postcards, etc…)
• Computer software
Those interested in donating can contact us at email@example.com. We’ll make arrangements to pick up your donation, or for you to drop them off.
KH: Will these books just be lying around? Is the place family friendly?
AM: There will be two primary spaces within the main business area.
The first is the café itself – and it is meant to be open to all, and family friendly. We will not be displaying explicit artwork or library materials in this area, so depending on your family, it could be considered family friendly. However, the café space won’t be completely sanitized of sexual expression. There will be some sensual, non-explicit artwork on the walls, and somebody nearby may be reading a copy of “The Story of O”, or discussing plans for a trip to a polyamory conference with her husband and his boyfriend. So, our suggestion to parents is to visit first, before bringing their kids. That way they can be sure that in their opinion, the space is age-appropriate for their children.
The second space is the library space. The library will be restricted to those eighteen and above, and will display a range of artwork, literature, and other media items, ranging from mild to wild, including the highly explicit.
KH: Can SEX+STL host our events there? What about other groups? What kind of space do you have?
AM: Please! That’s what we’re here for. We’ll be hosting a number of group meetings, educational classes, and discussion groups – some on a recurring basis – and some just for a single occurrence. We’re talking about a lot of different classes for those who want basic information – like “Poly Parenting 101”, or “Bondage Basics”, or “Non-monogamy: Pleasures and Pitfalls”. We’re also looking at discussion and book groups, social mixers, and possibly even game nights; and we’d like to hear from people who are interested in organizing and leading these sorts of get-togethers.
For those who would like to reserve a space for their event or meeting (either single time, or recurring), we have a number of options as far as space goes. There is the couch/lounge area in the main café (10-15 people), the library space (15-25 people), or we can arrange for a much larger meeting space upstairs that can hold as many as 100 people. For general educational and housekeeping-type meetings in the café or the library spaces, there is no charge.
For larger social gatherings and the use of the upstairs meeting space, we need to charge a small per-person fee to cover the costs of that space. We can also place your meeting/group/discussion/gathering on our public calendar as well, if you are interested in attracting new members. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, or requests for more info.
KH: When do you open?
AM: We’ll be opening our doors to the general public for the first time on February 24th. That’s a Thursday night, and just happens to coincide with opening of the totally amazing Naughti Gras Erotic Art Show, held at the Koken Art Factory. For that whole weekend, we anticipate a LOT of people coming through, so we’ll be serving a limited menu. Starting the following Monday, February 28th, we’ll be open and serving our full menu daily.
KH: Are you hiring?
AM: Absolutely. We’re seeking bright, engaging people with open and honest attitudes. Experience is less of a concern to us than a mature and gregarious nature, and a fully accepting attitude toward our general mission and patrons. We currently have one manager position, and a number of general café positions available. Anybody wishing to apply can contact us at email@example.com, and we’ll send an application their way.