Eroticon 2013, in review

Molly and I are planning to spend a little time in the next episode of the (It Girl. Rag Doll) podcast reviewing Eroticon 2013, and we want to hear from YOU. If you have a mini (30 seconds or less, ideally) review of Eroticon you’d like us to include, please record something and send it to us as an audio file! If you don’t want your voice aired but still have something to say, feel free to email us a few lines and we’ll read them.

Please send audio files and written reviews to harper (at) itgirlragdoll dot com. Thank you!

My Eroticon lanyard

Posts about and reviews of Eroticon 2013 are already springing up everywhere and I think it’s safe to say that even if it wasn’t all your cup of tea, everyone had a spectacularly inspiring and thought-provoking weekend. With a year’s build-up, this second round at Eroticon had a lot to live up to, and I’m happy to say it surpassed 2012 in almost every way.

The smokers started a small fire.Before I go on to my comments about the sessions I attended, I will say that it was a weekend that showed how much truth there is in that old saying: ‘Nothing worth having comes easy’. Despite how wonderfully inspiring it was, and how overwhelmingly happy I felt throughout the vast majority of the weekend, it was by no means easy. Running on adrenaline for 48 hours plus, I began to feel my armour slipping, and by Sunday night my emotions and my nerves were raw – as if the skin had been peeled from my body and the slightest touch of my red exterior would send me screaming. But the reason I ended up feeling this raw is just too wonderful to ignore and I would – will! – do it again and again, year after year, because I think it is that important: at Eroticon, I found comradeship, new friends, old friends; I realised just how much some people mean to me, and I felt truly accepted. I didn’t need the armour, because no one was there to attack. Everyone was there to learn and share. In essence, I simply opened myself up to something incredible; and the side effects of that, the intense vulnerability as I made my way home, were not easy, in the slightest. But, as I say, I would do it again in a heartbeat, because these experiences are so vital and ultimately nourishing to every part of my life.

Last year, at Eroticon 2012, I don’t think I realised just how much of a novice I was. I felt confident and present, and I wasn’t frightened by the prospect of being there, but I was wide-eyed and innocent; eager to learn and find my way into the larger community. In the year since that shining day in March 2012, my relationships with the people I met, or got to know better, there have flourished and I am no longer trying to find my way in: I am there. That’s not to say that the community is at all exclusive; it’s simply a matter of finding your place. Four people really stand out, as having welcomed me and become the backbone of my place at Eroticon: Molly, Michael, Remittance Girl, and Ruby. My friendships with the first three are extremely close, and in some ways deeply personal, but I will say something about Ruby.

Despite being a volunteer (who got off incredibly lightly!) at Eroticon 2012 and therefore having been in contact with Ru over email for much of 2011, the event itself was, in fact, the first time I met her, and I didn’t spend a great deal of time with her on the day. She struck me as someone to admire, simply by way of the incredible work she had done to pull the event together; she came across as extremely professional and exceptionally experienced. Having, as I’ve said, not spent much time with her on the day, I didn’t feel I knew her all that well, so it was a heartwarming surprise when she invited me to stay with her during the Summer. Over the course of two days, we walked around her hometown, played in her daughter’s ‘ship’, talked about mutual friends, and shared our thoughts on Eroticon (amongst many other things!), and by the time I was getting on the train, I was full of ideas and inspiration, feeling incredibly blessed that I had been allowed a glimpse into her life. And here’s the thing: she is professional, and I think the way she presented herself at Eroticon 2012 gave the impression that this all comes naturally to her; that she is a businesswoman who wears suits every day, and has hoards of people working for her. But she’s not. She is a businesswoman, and she is professional, but she doesn’t have a team at her beck and call. She created Eroticon from nothing! So when, during the run up to the 2013 conference, I saw people complaining about the price of the tickets, I wondered if maybe they had this extraordinarily professional image of Ru in their heads, and assumed that for her, getting sponsors and funding for the event was small fry; easy. Although I think most people know – if they think about it – that this isn’t true for anyone, there is something to be said about those subconscious ideas we get about people; those first, visual impressions can be very striking. But the truth is that it is by no means easy for her. She runs Eroticon out of passion and love and dedication, because she knows that it’s important; because there are those of us who need it. And I don’t think anyone there this weekend can be in any doubt of how their ticket money was spent: it was spent creating a phenomenal two day conference which afforded us all the kind of inspiration and friendships you cannot put a price on.

But onto the weekend itself.

As anyone who listened to IGRD 01: Get me to Coin Street will know, I had my entire weekend pretty much planned out before I got there, and I only made a handful of amendments on the day.

Day 1: Opening plenary: Brook: XES: We can’t go backwards (Brook)
The conference was opened with a talk on sexual health and sex education from a representative of the XES: We can’t go backwards campaign. The talk was interesting and informative, but I was left wondering if a talk about policies and sexual health was really the right way to start a conference for writers.

Myth busting: the submissive woman (Molly Moore)
This was the first of a few sessions which I attended for love of the person leading it. I was there to support my good friend and podcast co-host, but also because I knew a lot of the people attending it would be submissive women, and I very much wanted to be in a room with all of these inspiring people, some of whose exploits I get the benefit of reading about on their blogs. The session was brilliant, and Molly truly covered a lot in her 45 minutes! and very clearly and coherently. A great way to break the ice and get into the full swing of Eroticon.

Editing (Cressida Downing)
Being a firm believer in the editing process – and having read enough badly edited literature to know how often this essential process is done badly, or not at all! – this session was a must for me. Despite being mindful of my own editing, there is always something new to learn. Cressida Downing knows her business, and was an incredibly engaging and funny speaker. A joy and a lesson in one.

Huggy PopeCreative Writing: Eroticism and Romanticism (Remittance Girl)
Standing outside the door before this session with Molly, RG looked at us both and asked us what we were doing there, saying we already knew everything she was going to say. And whilst I had already talked to her about a lot of the content of her talk, it was still fascinating; besides which, when we’re having tea in her living room, I don’t get to take notes! Her brilliant session covered the fine distinction between eroticism and romanticism and discussed the importance of transgression in fiction, which anyone who has read my work will know is one of my primary concerns when I write. Oh, and she also claimed that “the Pope is not huggy!”

Writing for the Adult Industry (Ruby Goodnight)
Ruby Goodnight was another person with whom I spent a lot of time during the weekend, and I was thrilled to have the chance to get to know her better, and to attend her brilliant session. Ruby talked openly and frankly about how to get into writing for the Adult Industry, the pitfalls and how to find success. She is a very good presenter, and I sincerely hope she will run another similar seminar, where writers can get an even deeper insight into this world and how we might break into it.

Self-Publishing: Getting started when you go it alone (MK Elliott)
Unfortunately a lot of this session was used up trying to get Guy New York up and running via Google Hangouts and Skype (as he was supposed to co-present). However, once MK started (handling the sudden change to presenting solo with professional grace), it was a very comprehensive look at the difficulties and benefits of self-publishing. I will definitely be contacting her in the future, as and when I make my way into this world.

Day 1: Closing plenary (Ruby Kiddell)
I have heard from several people that they felt this talk was a little too negative and therefore not the best way to close day one, and I do understand where they are coming from in this respect. Perhaps it was badly placed in the schedule; however! what Ruby talked about – that sex blogging does not take itself nearly seriously enough, and is not up to date with policies and copyright and the laws of what it’s doing, and is therefore less able to effect change through the work it produces, – is really important, and I sincerely hope that the audience took what she was saying on board.

Day 2: Opening plenary (Ruby Kiddell)
I have to confess that when it comes to recalling the content of this talk, I am drawing a blank. It was a long weekend! I suppose something was bound to slip. But I do remember it being very interesting, and largely positive. My notes read: ‘About unbelievable things becoming believable by way of very real and natural characters. In favour of indie presses for ‘different’ voices.’

Lori Smith & Amanda JonesPolyamory 101 (Lori Smith & Amanda Jones)
In my Eroticon 2013 Meet’n’Greet I put this down as my Must Attend session. Having recently begun identifying as non-monogamous, I have done a lot of research on the subject and so I did know a lot of the content of this session. But I have found that all my doubts and fears and worries are very well addressed by being in the company of and listening to the wise words of other non-monogamous people, so being in this room was essential for me. Lori and Amanda presented an exceptionally well timed session with humour and fun, dispelling some hard learned myths about human sexuality, and ending with a quick-fire, timed, Buzzcocks-style question and answer section that had us delegates laughing and rapt. (This session is also available as audio.)

Porn ChallengePorn Challenge (Justin Hancock)
This was another session I had been looking forward to very much. I’ve been reading Justin’s work for a few months now, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to attend his session. We were all taken back to school days, split into groups and asked to address the problems in porn today. With big pieces of paper and felt-tip pens we began solving issues such as race, disability, and identity. It was refreshing to be in a session that was a little bit more interactive and great fun to work with the other delegates.

Storytelling and Sex (Alison Robert, Justin Hancock & Emily Dubberley)
Unfortunately this was the one session of the weekend with which I did not get on. The session covered the idea of writing safer sex practices into erotic fiction. Whilst it is an admirable idea, and it has (apparently) been shown to increase the use of protection amongst young people, it bore no relevance to my writing, as what I write is transgressive. Safe sex would not only undermine the story but be completely superfluous. When you write about rape and beastiality, condoms are not the problem. So, I will confess, I left this session early and skipped upstairs to…

SEO Love (Michael Knight)
Although I have pretty much had this session one-to-one with Michael – as have many other lucky people! – it was a joy to watch him gleeful with nerdy joy as he took the delegates through the minutiae of self-hosting, running, and promoting websites. This man knows what he’s talking about!

BDSM Tools of the Trade (Molly Moore & Michael Knight)
By this point in the weekend I was feeling understandably overwhelmed and so, although I had not planned to attend this session, I decided I wanted to spend some time with people I love, and listen to them talking about all the delicious things I crave. It was exceptionally well presented, informative, and fun – I walked out with a lovely red misery stick mark burning on my forearm; aren’t I lucky? If you want to see what it was all about, I made a good effort to live-tweet the session under #ToolsBDSMTrade.

Sex and the Media (Zoe Margolis & Nichi Hodgson)
Tweet about Sex and the Media
Last year, the Sex and the Media session was pretty much the highlight of my weekend. I learned an extraordinary amount about what it really means to be a sex writer, and upped my anonymity ten-fold whilst I decided whether or not to come out. Unfortunately, this year, the session was repetitive and very negative. Whilst I understand that sex is not well represented in the mainstream media, Zoe and Nichi offered very few ways to get round the problems and fix it, which I found disappointing. There were, however, some good comments and questions from the other delegates.

Day 2: Closing plenary (Cindy Gallop)

Tweet about Cindy Gallop
Having become aware of Cindy Gallop relatively recently, I have been watching her work carefully and, in fact, she was the person who – through a tweet of encouragement – pushed me to my final decision to come out as Stella. I’ve heard a lot of her talk before on the Savage Lovecast and Sex Out Loud, but it was a joy to have her address us directly, and to get to listen to her once again. She is a very money-motivated person, which I think some people find troublesome, but I actually really admire her ethos and I think her ideas are exceptionally well presented. She left the conference on a positive, but important note. In addition, due to the fact that she couldn’t attend the conference itself, she was streamed in on the big screen, but apologised for her absence, saying she would never usually give the closing plenary to a conference she had not attended and I greatly appreciated that she addressed this. It seemed to show a great deal of awareness and understanding. (This talk is available to watch online.)

And there you have it. Overall a wonderful weekend! My deepest love, appreciation and respect to Ruby Kiddell for creating this spectacular conference. TWICE.

Tweet about Thwank
If you’ve written about Eroticon 2013, don’t forget to link up on the Write Sex Right site. Also, I will write about Saturday night’s reading event, Aural Sex, in the next few days, so watch for that post. AND… don’t forget to send us your soundbites and mini-reviews for the podcast!

Edit: I’ve noticed, on twitter and Facebook, that a lot of people are experiencing what I identify as ‘drop’ in the wake of Eroticon. So just in case it’s helpful to anyone, I’m adding a link to my article on how to survive drop alone. ‘Drop’ is a BDSM term, but I do also address other forms of drop as well.

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2 Responses to Eroticon 2013, in review

  1. Mina Lamieux says:

    Very good write up and yes, drop applies to everything in life, not just BDSM. Having such a wonderful weekend away and suddenly finding yourself back into “normal” life can be jarring. In a way I am a little envious, in that I am not in the UK. I meet such wonderful people in person, but I can’t be with them in person for most of the year. I can see that there is a very strong community and friendship there.

    • Harper Eliot says:

      Yeah, I think we are very lucky, particularly here in London. I mean, there are always people out of reach whom I wish I could spend more time with, but we are still fortunate here. Would love to see you again some time.

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