The Erotic Literary Salon TIME Restaurant 1315 Sansom St. Third Tuesday every month, 8 p.m. $8 for students and readers, Ages 21+

I wasn’t sure if I was facing new–age sex therapy or a pseudo–slam poetry reading for perverts. Even before the first sultry words were purred — “I shouldn’t. I must. My lovely, dissolve into a puddle of cream” — I felt a wave of liberation entering the low–lit upstairs room of TIME restaurant, a self–proclaimed bohemian absinthe bar.

The evening began with a welcome from the Salon’s founder, sex therapist Susana Mayer. After a call for submissions (no erotic undertone intended), she listed the readers — Emerald, ApathyKiss and a Reverend, among others — each with five–minute pieces of original erotica to share.

Surpassing my expectations of absurdity, a 90–year–old woman in conservative pastels recounted tales of her youth, stories of 1950s office lust and flirtation. Though she kept it mostly PG, I couldn’t avoid feeling hot and bothered listening to sexual fantasies read aloud like Walt Whitman poems. Then another author read a piece titled “Gotta Have It.” Hyper–physical, tongue–tantalizing words were not simply legitimized, but proven to be the only appropriate utterences in the low light. As the shock value of hearing aloud what I had previously read on the most explicit pages of Cosmopolitan wore off, I started to grow more comfortable. I was in the midst of losing my Erotic Literary Salon virginity, and I admit I was beginning to like it.

Faces in the crowd revealed that everyone else was feeling it too. 40–some audience members were participating in a one–sided sexual endeavor in which the performer’s satisfaction pended on the reaction of the crowd. Facial expressions ranged: eyes closed — I’m not looking, be yourself; eyes open and rapt — I’m curious, don’t stop; intense, almost tortured eyes — our love is primordial, timeless, so powerful that I’ve ceased filtering my expression. “Can’t you respect me and treat me like a whore?”

Unanimous laughter. The room lets out a sigh knowing that pent–up sexual tension was acknowledged and thankfully emancipated at once.

There’s a reason why a niche of Philadelphians eagerly awaits the third Tuesday of every month. More than art, the Salon serves as a meditation on power and desire, as well as a strangely cathartic release of those past sexual encounters you can’t believe are true. For amateurs, the experience diminishes a vulnerability that we feel when we first walk in the door; one of the only things excluded from the walls of TIME Restaurant is the concept of shame.

Perhaps, for these reasons, we should all open our minds (and our legs?) to XXX performers at least once during our college careers. But, just like sex in the back row of a dimly lit movie theater, The Erotic Literary Salon may be too sticky for me to try it again.

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