Writer Robin Rinaldi will be one of the featured memoirists on Thursday, Oct. 15, at TrueStory when she reads from “The Wild Oats Project: One Woman’s Midlife Quest for Passion at Any Cost.”
The self-described “sexual memoir” opens here in Sacramento, where Rinaldi lived for a time before moving to San Francisco. She now lives in Los Angeles. She recounts a time of sexual exploration and experimentation that she undertook after her then-husband decided they wouldn’t have children.
She writes often graphically about her numerous sexual experiences, including discovering seduction and self-pleasure techniques from Regena Thomashauer – Mama Gena – at her School of Womanly Arts in New York. Rinaldi hooks up on Craigslist and Nerve.com and hangs out with San Francisco sexual polyamorous subcultures such as OneTaste.
Since the book’s publication in March “The Wild Oats Project” has been translated into seven languages and published in 11 countries. She has also experienced vehement Internet backlash, which she addressed in last month’s essay “Coming To Terms With ‘Slut’ ” on Atlantic Monthly’s website.
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(Full disclosure: Rinaldi, 51, and I were colleagues for two years at the Sacramento News and Review).
Q: What prompted you to write the book?
A: I was a journalist who was used to writing about other people’s lives. Then I lived out something that I felt was universal: a midlife crisis and a marital crisis. I also lived it out in an uncommon way, being as it happened in San Francisco and I was exposed to some subcultures and ideas like open marriage and that kind of thing. After it happened, I was talking to friend of mine who is also a writer and he said, “You’ve got write about this.” Because I had just lived it out (and) it had taken so much energy, I wasn’t thinking of that, but then of course as soon as he said that, I realized, “Of course I do.”
Q: What was the hardest part of the writing?
A: What was really hard was writing about other people I was close to. My ex-husband. My current partner. My family. Even some friends who were in the book. I agonized over how to cover all that. It’s very scary when you know you’re touching on other people’s lives and other people’s privacy, and you’re trying to tell the truth without infringing too much on their side things.
Q: Why do people connect to the story?
A: The universality of it lies in the dilemma we all face, especially in marriage or any long-term committed relationship. The dichotomy between security and passion. … When people write to me about the book, what I find is that’s what they’re going through, that’s what they relate to: the need we all have for emotional security and steadiness and commitment vs. the need we have to keep feeling there’s something adventurous out there, there’s some new thing we can try.
Q: There’s also been a strong negative backlash that you’ve written about. Why do that?
A: I’m not stupid. I wrote a sex memoir. It’s not just about sex, but sex takes up a lot of the space. I knew it would be a love-hate thing. Sex, marriage (and) fidelity create a lot of passion in people. … You’re going to get a reaction. What I didn’t realize was how violent the reaction could be. How individual animosity could be stirred up against a person, particularly a woman, who writes about these subjects. … Even though I had a reaction like I wanted to throw up, I kind of had to (address it).
What: Pam Houston, Gabriel Callahan, and Robin Rinaldi read from their works
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15
Where: Shine coffeehouse at 14th and E streets