Eroticon, Part 2
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.