Eroticon, Part 4

by Jean Roberta

On the last day of EROTICON: Sunday, March 18, the weather was still grey and sleety, but there was plenty to do indoors.

At 10:15, Mirtha and I passed up Natalia Grubizna on “Designing your sexy-sexy product,” more Kinklab demonstrations, and Cressida Dowling on “Is there a book in your blog?” to hear a Nigerian-British female blogger, Oloni, discuss polyamory.  The audience contributed comments, but we would have liked to hear more discussion of the history of long-term relationships involving multiple lovers, the challenges of maintaining these relationships, and ways to make them work.

At 11:05, we went to hear Jamie Lawson give a personal talk on “Becoming a queer anthropologist.” This speaker explained his early belief (common to many LGBT professionals) that he could keep his professional status completely separate from his general world-view, his sexuality, and his social status as a closeted gay man. His talk on the breakdown of this belief was poignant.

At the same time, someone from the site gave a talk on “Getting it up! How to raise your writing visibility on Google.”

The lunch buffet was as delicious as the one on Saturday. On Sunday, it was scheduled earlier to allow for the five-minute readings from 12:30 to shortly after 1:00 p.m.

At 1:15, we reluctantly passed up Nina Saini’s talk on “The adult industry in the 21st century,” to hear Kendra Holliday on “Shocking the System: When Your True Life Tales Cross the Line.”

Kendra Holliday from St Louis, Missouri, a sex-worker and the divorced mother of a daughter, told her cautionary tale of being publicly persecuted (and this word doesn’t seem too extreme) after blogging in social media about her actual sex life, including her experiences with other people. She talked about being slut-shamed on a blog, “The Dirty,” being threatened with the loss of child custody by her ex-husband, and being fired from her job with a non-profit organization. This speaker seemed surprisingly cheerful, possibly because at its lowest point, her life had nowhere to go but up.  Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter (novel about the public shaming of an “adulteress” in Massachusetts colony in 1640), this woman has survived.

At 2:00 p.m., we heard Lori Smith (a lingerie collector) on “The surprising history of the bra.” As an amateur seamstress, I was fascinated by her illustrated lecture. I had already known that in 1914, an American socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob had applied for a patent for the bra (or brassiere), even though she didn’t invent it. I hadn’t fully realized that the changing shape of women’s breasts under all clothing styles since then (and before then) were largely created by undergarments, or that the invention of rayon from wood pulp (called “artificial silk” or “art-silk”), latex, and lycra were crucial in the development of the bra.

Lori Smith debunked the myth that feminists in the 1960s were “bra-burners.” She explained that due to fire regulations, a symbolic trash-can filled with the trappings of femininity by protesters at the Miss America pageant of 1968 was not even burned.

The talks we missed were by Dr. Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock on “How to give responsible sex advice,” and Michael Knight on “Tech for Blog Success.”

At 3:00 pm, we had to choose amongst three workshops: “Photographing Eroticon” by Molly Moore, “Financial Wizardry for Sex Bloggers” by two Sarahs (Sarah Bryn Holliday and Sarah Jane), and Remittance Girl on longer (self-contained, novel-length) erotic fiction.

We went to hear Remittance Girl, who discussed the challenges of writing erotic fiction which can’t easily be read in one (one-handed) sitting. As she explained, the nature of erotic feelings is that they are short-lived (there is a cycle of arousal and release), and can’t easily be sustained over the course of a novel without boring the reader.

And there have always been cultural and legal prohibitions on publishing sexually-explicit work. RG pointed out that the big publishing platform,, has inconsistently slammed down on erotic publications which are not bestsellers.

She summarized the history of erotic publications, many of which predated the invention of the novel by centuries. She explained that the classics (the poetry of Sappho, the “satyr” plays of ancient Greece, largely destroyed, the first-century Satyricon, The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade) are generally episodic, containing a series of sex scenes. She went on to discuss twentieth-and-twenty-first century works of erotica: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita, Crash, Fifty Shades of Grey, all of which are about something besides sex.

RG discussed the “snowflake method” of writing a novel: to build a relatively simple central premise into a novel-length plot by adding complexity to the events, the characterization, the background and setting.

She explained the archetypal “Hero’s Journey,” as defined by Joseph Campbell, in which a central character becomes a hero by being tested: hostile circumstances give rise to cycles of despair, hope, resourcefulness, and psychological growth. She pointed out that many films from the Walt Disney studio follow this pattern.

RG circulated a chart detailing “The Pervert’s Journey,” an erotic version of the hero’s journey. This version of a traditional plot was both hilarious and recognizable. It showed brilliantly how suspense can be maintained throughout an erotic novel through the introduction of elements which on the surface seem to be anti-erotic, including the hostility of other characters, society at large and the “pervert’s” own fears as obstacles to the “pervert’s” self-actualizing search for sexual fulfillment.

At 3:40, we all gathered together into one room for prizes! Molly Moore explained that all the attendees were entered into a draw to win sex products which had been available for sale at the merch tables throughout the weekend. To our surprise, Mirtha and I both won items. Mine, a large clear diamond-shaped vibrator from a company named “Bijoux Indiscrets,” could possibly be passed off as a coffee-table ornament.

After hugs and photographs, we were off to our hotel room to have a quiet supper in the restaurant and pack for our trip home to Saskatchewan on Monday morning.

We wished we could have stayed longer, but work was waiting for us. Our four-day visit to the UK was an unforgettable break from the routine of our lives. 


Eroticon, Part 3

by Jean Roberta

Afternoon on Saturday, March 17, at EROTICON: Annabelle Knight, author of The Endless Autumn (with some television experience on Channel 5 in the UK), discussed erotica, and more specifically, erotic romance, as a genre of fiction that sells very well, but which critics disparage and few readers will openly admit to liking — as distinct from readers who openly read mysteries on the beach or on public transportation.

This talk was given in a large, packed room. Unfortunately, the speaker’s voice didn’t carry well, and she stood near a pillar. Giving talks to large audiences in large rooms is clearly different from performing for the camera.

At the same time, Miss Eve E was discussing disability and sex work in another conference room, but Mirtha and I couldn’t be everywhere at once. (Next time, we might split up, then compare notes later.)

AND there was a demonstration of vac play going on, followed by Kayla Lords on a podcasting panel.

At 2:30, Emmeline Peaches gave a talk called “Cracking the Whip? Different Approaches to Sex Toy Activism.” What does sex toy activism look like?

Alas, I never found out because we went to a workshop named “Self-Editing Tips and Tricks” by Anna Sky, with whom I had exchanged some emails about the anthology, Truth. She is “the brains behind” two presses: Sexy Little Pages, and Resonance Press. The editor of the anthology, Zak Jane Keir, was there, wearing a toque that labelled her a “DOXY” (the name of a sex toy company) in large letters. The speaker discussed some of the common mistakes made by fledgling writers of sexually explicit work (independent body parts, impossible actions, etc.)

I had brought along three handouts that I had used when I co-led a workshop on grammar for sex-writers with Shar Azade at the first annual conference of the Erotic Authors Association in Las Vegas in 2011. I offered them to Anna Sky after her talk, in case the material might be useful to her. Mirtha was amused by the passion that editors/English teachers/grammar nazis bring to the subject.

Later, there were more “Kinklab” demonstrations, but Mirtha and I felt the need for some rest in our hotel room before the Saturday night social event.

Beginning at 7:30, all the attendees were invited to a pub in NW1, The Edinboro Castle, where we had our own section. The place was packed and noisy (not really our scene), but we were able to order food there. We both had fish and chips, and the food was excellent.

Even though it’s possible to buy “fresh” seafood in Saskatchewan (flown in from a faraway ocean), there is something distinct about the taste of seafood in Britain. It was as amazing as I remembered.

Apparently the original plan was that the crowd from Eroticon could circulate in and out of the pub and the enclosed outdoor space, but the cold weather discouraged that.

We noticed a woman across the table from us sitting perfectly still, and then we saw why. A young woman standing nearby was busily using scissors on black paper to make a silhouette of her model. Silhouette-making is a Victorian art-form that the artist, Alison Russell, learned from her late grandmother, a painter and silhouette-maker for over fifty years. Mirtha and I were impressed by the results, and we asked Alison to make our silhouettes. We learned that she didn’t need to be paid because she had been hired for the event. (For examples of her work, see my silhouette below or check out her website:

A company named Eropartner was giving out free drink tickets and displaying “Zumio” sex toys which could be won, but there was such a crowd around their table that we couldn’t get close.

I drank Guinness all evening, but I didn’t hear a word about St. Patrick’s Day, and the few attendees wearing green didn’t seem to be doing it for any particular reason.

I found the women’s loo clean and quiet, but when Mirtha went in there after me, she came out looking annoyed. She told me that three women had been fighting over a man in there, and she didn’t stay long enough to find out who won. I had somewhat expected to encounter some alcohol-fuelled English vs. Irish hostility, but instead, sexual competition was apparently the trigger of the evening.

We old women were relieved to go home to bed.


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