Eroticon, Part 2

by | March 31, 2018 | General | 2 comments

by Jean Roberta

Saturday, March 17, was a full day at Eroticon. The doors of the convention space at Arlington House opened at 8:45 a.m., with coffee, tea, and biscuits available. Molly Moore gave a brief welcome, followed by a keynote address looking back to Eroticon 2017 and ahead to next year.

With cups of tea (Twining’s English Breakfast for Mirtha and PG Tips for me, which I hadn’t tasted since I lived in England for a year in my youth, 1973-74), we had to decide which workshop to attend at 10:00. Actually, it wasn’t a hard choice, since we knew one of the speakers.

In one conference room, Remittance Girl (an academic) discussed the origins of the Tongan word “taboo” (something set apart), first used in English in 1777, and the history of taboo topics in literature: the discussion or display of behaviour which breaks the rules that control our relationships with each other and the environment. These are the topics which still carry a strong frisson.  

Three activities which have been traditionally taboo and are still largely considered “unspeakable” are incest, patricide, and cannibalism. Fiction about any of this stuff is likely to be controversial. However, taboo-breaking has traditionally been accepted in the ruling class and in a supernatural realm. As examples, the speaker discussed brother-sister marriages in the royal family of ancient Egypt, the Biblical story of Lot’s daughters (who seduce their father in order to have babies), the killing of the ancient Greek god Chronos (or Kronos) by his son, and the Catholic rite of Communion as the symbolic devouring of the body and blood of Christ.

The audience was invited to discuss what is still taboo, and how taboos have shifted over time.  Remittance Girl identified several taboos that seem to be weakening: class and race “miscegenation,“ expressions of female desire, same-gender sexuality, and transgenderism. At the same time, certain taboos seem to be growing stronger, particularly sex involving “underage” participants (although the exact definition of when childhood ends is not the same everywhere), and non-consensual sex. 

There was general agreement that fame, money, beauty, and cleanliness are highly prized in modern industrial society, and Remittance Girl asked whether the opposite of these qualities could be eroticised. For example, she invited us to imagine this proposition: “You’re fucking ugly, and it’s making me hot.” (I thought about how I would respond if this statement were addressed to me. I would probably invite the speaker to flake off.)

In another room, RMGirl gave a talk on “Record keeping in a gender fluid world (and the right to have your past forgotten).” Unfortunately, we could only be in one place at a time.

In a third space, “Kinklab” was going on: demonstrations of safe sex practices. A bed covered with waterproof sheets had been set up for that purpose. Between workshops, we saw the occasional person stretched out in comfortable-looking bondage.

After a break, morning workshops resumed at 11:00 a.m. In one room, Kayla Lords explained “How to make money from your blog without losing your soul or your audience.” In another room, a sex tech panel discussed the future of sex. Kinklab was still going on in the designated space.

Mirtha and I attended Victoria Blisse’s small, intimate workshop on “sex blogging for authors and other shy creatures.” She assured us that brief posts can attract audiences, and that a suggestive photo of an anonymous body part can be as alluring as something more explicit. She encouraged us to take out our cell phones and take photos of each other which wouldn’t be identifiable. I captured the red fingernails of another workshop participant while the Fluevogs on someone else’s feet were attracting attention. I discovered that Ashe Barker, writer of erotic romances and one of my fellow-bloggers on the ten-author blog “Oh Get a Grip,” was there in the room, having travelled from her home in Yorkshire.

We skipped “Vlogging 101” by Hannah Witton, and entered a packed room to hear a lawyer, Neil Brown, give “Essential tips for sex writers and bloggers.”  His legal discussion was geared to a UK audience, but he pointed out that the law in any jurisdiction is open to interpretation, and that citizen boards that have the legal power to classify and ban erotic material can often be reasoned with. As a former member of the Saskatchewan Film Classification Board, I found his talk logical and reassuring.

Then there was lunch! Mirtha and I were impressed that our registration fees covered a buffet lunch on Saturday and Sunday, spread out in the canteen in Arlington House. One table was labelled “Meat-Meat-Meat,” one was labelled “Fish-Fish-Fish,” and one was labelled “Vegetables-Vegetables-Vegetables.” A long shelf held a variety of dessert squares and fruit.

The salmon shishkabobs with sauce were to die for, closely followed by the desserts.

Jean Roberta

Jean Roberta once promised her parents not to use their unusual family name for her queer and erotic writing, and thus was born her thin-disguise pen name. She teaches English and Creative Writing in a university on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. Jean immigrated to Canada from the United States as a teenager with her family. In her last year of high school, she won a major award in a national student writing contest. In 1988, a one-woman publisher in Montreal published a book of Jean’s lesbian stories, Secrets of the Invisible World. When the publisher went out of business, the book went out of print. In the same year, Jean attended the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, where she read a call-for-submissions for erotic lesbian stories. She wrote three, sent them off, and got a letter saying that all three were accepted. Then the publisher went out of business. In 1998, Jean and her partner acquired their first computer. Jean looked for writers’ groups and found the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, which was then two years old! She began writing erotica in every flavor she could think of (f/f, m/f, m/m, f/f/m, etc) and in various genres (realistic contemporary, fantasy, historical). Her stories have appeared in anthology series such as Best Lesbian Erotica (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Volume 1 in new series, 2016), Best Lesbian Romance (2014), and Best Women's Erotica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) from Cleis Press, as well as many others. Her single-author books include Obsession (Renaissance, Sizzler Editions), an erotic story collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press), and The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). Fantasy stories by Jean include “Lunacy” in Journey to the Center of Desire (erotic stories based on the work of Jules Verne) from Circlet Press 2017, “Green Spectacles and Rosy Cheeks” (steampunk erotica) in Valves & Vixens 3 (House of Erotica, UK, 2016), and “Under the Sign of the Dragon” (story about the conception of King Arthur) in Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica (Circlet 2015). This story is now available from eXcessica ( Her horror story, “Roots,” first published in Monsters from Torquere Press, is now in the Treasure Gallery of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. With Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, she coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her realistic erotic novel, Prairie Gothic: A Tale of the Old Millennium, was published by Lethe in September 2021. Jean has written many reviews and blog posts. Her former columns include “Sex Is All Metaphors” (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas) for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, July 2008-November 2010. The 25 column pieces can still be found in the on-site archives and in an e-book from Coming Together, Jean married her long-term partner, Mirtha Rivera, on October 30, 2010. Links:


  1. shiloh

    Whoever was wearing Fluevogs won Eroticon.

  2. shiloh

    Re: the politicization of taboos, years and years ago (back in the days of newsgroups) I had a guy mansplain rape fantasies to me. He was woke before the term existed and, as a woke male, passionately insisted that rape fantasies among the fair sex are never, ever about violence; they’re just a means of coping with the sexual guilt inflicted on the poor gals by a hypocritical, judgmental patriarchy.

    I explained that some people do in fact enjoy rough foreplay/rough sex, which means that there are in fact people who are aroused by a certain level of physical violence. Some rape fantasies, therefore, are indeed about violence and forced submission. They’re about being dominated (and I definitely don’t mean being dommed here).

    But in an era when it’s politically unacceptable for men to be seen as “endorsing rape culture” or some such, what is the correct response?

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