On Saturday 3rd March, an interesting collection of erotica writers and sex bloggers gathered in Bristol for Eroticon 2012, the first UK conference dedicated to “writing sex right”. I had been invited by the organiser, Ruby Kiddell, to sit on a couple of panels and so arrived bright and early on Saturday morning to collect my speaker’s lanyard and start mingling. Having already grabbed breakfast at my hotel, I decided to turn my attention away from the table of pastries and towards the tables of toys that sponsors Lovehoney and Coco de Mer had brought along with them. It’s not often I can say I’ve been sipping coffee and asking a stranger questions about vibrators at 9am on a weekend! The results of that discussion will no doubt form the basis of another blog post.
After that, I headed into the main room for the first panel of the day – identity, ethics and sex blogging – which I was sitting on alongside Zoe Margolis, Molly Moore and Mina Lamieux. This hotly anticipated session was to be a discussion on the identity and privacy of both author and subjects. As you might imagine, we had so many questions for the four of us to discuss that we ran out of time before we ran out of ideas! Zoe’s unique perspective on the subject – which comes from writing anonymously for years and then being outed by a national newspaper after the publication of her first book – was fascinating to everyone, plus Molly and Mina had lots to share on the benefits and pitfalls of blogging their sex lives anonymously. My experiences have been rather different due to a lack of anonymity, but I did discuss how my choice to write about sex in more general terms stems, in part, from the fact readers know who I am.
The next two sessions were aimed at writers of erotic fiction, rather than us bloggers, so I’m afraid I can’t report back on how useful they were. Feedback from the blog posts I have seen following the event seems overwhelmingly positive though. Maxim Jakubowski hosted an interactive workshop to “help keep the erotic writing juices primed”, and the rather wonderful Scarlett French embraced the power of collaboration in her writing session. If I hadn’t been somewhat distracted by a journalist at the time, I think I would have had trouble deciding which session to go to. At midday I headed upstairs to a tech workshop for bloggers run by Michael Knight, to see if he could finally answer the question of why I should consider changing from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress install. Many people have told me that it’s better than my current set-up, but I had yet to hear exactly what benefits it would have for me personally. I think Michael has convinced me, so now I just need to find the time needed to make those changes!
After lunch, there was another panel with editors, publishers and established authors who were answering questions from budding writers on getting their work published. Having decided that I am not going to proceed with my erotica writing, even for my own enjoyment, I decided instead to go for the photography workshop. However knowledgeable John Tisbury was on the subject, I don’t think this session was quite right for its audience as most delegates who use images as part of their work were already pretty knowledgeable on the subject. However, it was great to see some of John’s fantastic images and get a few tips to help with inspiration. It was also nice to see a mix of different types of session at Eroticon and I think that Ruby did a great job making sure there was something for everyone at all times of the day.
The final panel of the day saw me back in the main room with Zoe Margolis, Monique Roffey, Rubyyy Jones and Matt Bateman to discuss how sex is written about and represented in the mainstream media. Monique, an author who was inspired by Zoe’s first book after her marriage ended, has recently published an extremely fascinating memoir. Sadly it was not as well received as her other books, largely because of the subject matter. It seems the media are still scared of sexual women, even in the 21st century! We discussed what the media think sex is, the stereotypes that society has become stuck on, and why women are still judged so differently to men. The event then drew to a close with a demonstration of sacred kink by London Faerie. By explaining in advance what they were going to be shown, and then facilitating a short discussion afterwards about what it was that the audience members saw and felt, Faerie helped many people through a potentially confusing new experience and I’m sure helped inspire many writers for their erotica.
It was a fascinating day and I was proud to be a part of it. I’m sure that the delegates will all have suggestions of what could be included next time – personally, I hope there are more demonstrations of other interesting and misunderstood aspects of sexuality – and I know that Ruby has already bombarded with requests to do it all over again. As soon as there are details of next year’s conference, I shall let you know. Or you could follow @eroticnotebook on Twitter for the news as it breaks. Hope to see you there in 2013!