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• About David


I was born in New York City in 1944. I attended Oberlin College where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1965. I did graduate work in political science at Princeton University from 1965 to 1966, before dropping out of school to do full-time political work during the heyday of the civil rights movement.

From 1966 to 1969 I was director of Civil Rights and Community Action Programming at the U.S. National Student Association — a well-funded federation of student governments from colleges and universities around the country. I coordinated efforts to involve college students in the civil rights movement. This initially involved voter registration work in the South, later expanding to include community organizing in low income areas of urban centers in the North, working in conjunction with activists from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Students Organizing Committee (SSOC), and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). One of my programs was a successful effort to convince college and university administrators to give academic credit to students doing civil rights and community action work, on the premise that higher education need not be limited to students listening to lectures in classrooms. This practice is now common at colleges and universities throughout the country.

When the black power movement pushed white activists to work in their own communities rather than among black people, I was part of a small group of people that developed an analysis of institutionalized racism — the complex ways that racial power imbalances and attitudes are systematically incorporated into American politics and culture. We argued that racist attitudes and beliefs, institutionalized into the fabric of almost all aspects of American culture and social structure, were the real root of racial inequality in the U.S., as contrasted with the then more familiar notions of overt discrimination and blatant racial bigotry.

Working on the issue of racism led me to believe that meanginful political and economic change would not be possible in the U.S. without challenging a broad spectrum of interlocking political and social institutions that together worked to preserve the political status quo. Foremost among these, as I saw it, were racism, sexism, materialism, and sexual repression.

In 1969, my wife and I moved to San Francisco to immerse ourselves in the cultural and political upheaval that followed Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement and the countercultural explosion of the Haight-Ashbury and San Francisco’s Summer of Love. Together with another couple, we founded The Learning Place, San Francisco’s first alternative junior high school, run by teachers and students together, on the model of A. S. Neill’s Summerhill in England. My wife and I moved to Santa Cruz, California, in 1972, together with our one-year-old son, Dylan. I’ve lived in Santa Cruz ever since.

It was within this context of working for radical social change that I first came to question and reject sexual conventions like monogamy and heterosexuality, concepts that seemed as blatantly wrongheaded as insisting that women limit themselves to being dedicated wives and mothers, and men to being emotionless breadwinners. Looking deeper into issues of sexual fear and repression, I came to understand American antisexualism as a major vehicle of social control, and a root of personal unhappiness and confusion that was expressed politically through issues ranging from abortion to male supremacy, from campaigns against pornography to suppression of prostitution. Not all of my interest in sexual issues was political, of course. I was also gradually discovering the full range of my own sexual interests and inclinations. Sexual exploration, in practice, followed closely on the heels of theoretical sexual analysis. “The personal is political” was a common slogan at that time, one that I took very much to heart.

I began writing about sexual issues in 1985, when “Roots of Pornography,” a non-judgmental analysis of why pornography is so widespread among American men, was published in a local paper. I was quite nervous about writing publicly about sexual issues but, to my delight, the article was well-received and reprinted in a number of trade books and textbooks. Before long, I was leading workshops on “Eroticism, Pornography, and Sexual Fantasy” at conferences of feminist men, workshops that helped these men reconcile their sexual feelings and fantasies with their feminist politics.

From 1992 through 2006, I wroteComes Naturally, a monthly column on sex and gender issues — for Spectator, the San Francisco Bay Area’s sex-oriented weekly newspaper, and then for an online audience after Spectator folded, eventually distributing over the Internet to a mailing list of over 2700 people in 56 countries. From 2009 to 2010 I was a City Brights blogger for The San Francisco Chronicle.

My writing on sex and gender has also been published in a wide variety of print and online journals, including Salon, Playboy, Boston Phoenix, Los Angeles Weekly, SF Weekly, San Jose Metro, Arts and Opinion, Sexuality and Culture, The Sun, Libido, Cupido, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Transgender Tapestry, Clean Sheets, Scarlet Letters, and The Realist.

My books include This Thing We Call Sex:  A Radically Sensible Look at Sex in America (Booktrope, 2015); Divas of San Francisco: Portraits of Transsexual Women (Red Alder Books, 2008); Photo Sex: Fine Art Sexual Photography Comes of Age (Down There Press, 2003); The Erotic Impulse: Honoring the Sensual Self (Tarcher/Putnam, 1992); Erotic by Nature: A Celebration of Life, of Love, and of Our Wonderful Bodies; (Down There Press/Red Alder Books, 1988); Beneath This Calm Exterior (Red Alder Books, 1982); Fatherjournal: Five Years of Awakening to Fatherhood (Times Change Press, 1977); Welcome, Brothers (Red Alder Books, 1976); and Yellow Brick Road: Steps Toward a New Way of Life (Red Alder Books, 1974).

I am co-creator and producer of Celebration of Eros, a multimedia erotic theatre presentation, Associate Editor of Sexuality and Culture magazine, and U.S. photo representative for Cupido magazine (Norway).

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In 1999 I began taking fine art sexual photographs of couples in long-term, loving relationships. I wanted to see what I could capture on film regarding the aspects of sex that interest me the most — intimacy, vulnerability, personal connection, love, affection, passion, joy. I began photographing friends, then friends of friends, then (as more people learned of my work) people from a wider network — most often, people being sexual in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes.

I’m fascinated by the process of working with people in a way that allows them be comfortable and genuine in front of a camera while being sexual. It’s a true privilege to be allowed to watch and photograph these most intimate and personal moments. My hope is that some of my images honestly capture some of the emotional richness and complexity that lie at the heart of deep and satisfying sex — elements that are almost completely absent from the predominant network of sexual imagery: commercial pornography.

I’m committed to photographing as broad a range of people as possible, to challenge the common notion that sex and sexual desirability are reserved for the young, thin, glamorous people we see in advertising, in film, and on television. I’ve photographed people ranging in age from 19 to 73, heavy people as well as thin, disabled as well as abled. I’m interested in all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and sexual inclinations, and am always looking for interesting new people as subjects.

Since 2000, I have been especially interested in photographing disabled people being sexual. There are almost no photographic images in public circulation that show disabled people being sexy, let alone sexual, in any kind of genuine, non-fetishized way. It’s my hope to begin to fill this void by producing images that demonstrate the simple fact that people with disabilities are just as richly, emotionally, intimately, lovingly, passionately, and playfully sexual as everyone else.

Two books of my sexual photography, Loving Couples and SexAbility: The Unappreciated Sexualityof People with Disabilities, are in progress.