Twenty-Seventh Post: Written for Girl on the Net

The fabulous Girl on the Net published my fourth guest blog yesterday – Giving Up Mainstream Porn For Lent

I’ve always wanted to try this challenge and so I finally committed to cutting out mainstream porn for personal use this spring. 

I knew this would be a challenge – and that this would make a cool blog. I emailed GotN early on in and said I’m thinking of writing this, would she like to publish it for Easter weekend? She said yes; it is always a goddamn pleasure to write a piece for her. 

To find out how it went check out my post on Girl on the Net’s site. 

Twenty-Sixth Post: Getting Past Sexual Assault When You Write About Sex

Today is a good day. It’s a strong day for writing. For being comfortable in my own body. For feeling like I can get back to who I was, or evolve into something different. Stronger. 

I wrote a piece for inews.co.uk entitled: I’m A Sex Writer Who Was Sexually Assaulted. I was going to publish anonymously but after a conversation with my editor, who gave me the option to be anonymous or publish under my name, I decided to give my name to it. 

Writing that piece was tough, but ultimately important for me to come to terms with not just what happened, but how it affected my identity as a writer. 

I’m a sex writer. I love it. I love the community of it, the voice I’ve found from it. My unique perspective and the fact that others want to read my words. For months I felt like a fraud because after the assault I completely went off having sex, dating, all of it. I would struggle to pitch articles because my sense of self worth was so low. How could I convince an editor that I was a sex-positive voice and that I deserved to be paid for my opinions? I barely had any left.

I started writing in earnest again after Eroticon. If I was serious about being a sex writer, about getting published I had to keep going – or accept that outlet wasn’t available to me anymore. I made myself do it and things started to feel better. I started to feel better. 

When I told friends I was writing this article they looked at me like I’d lost my mind. But I’ve often been advised that I should write a letter to my attacker telling him how I feel – even if its to burn afterwards, just to get the feelings out. 

I’ve never wanted to do that, address him, give him any of my words. I appreciate that might be a tried and tested method but why would I spend any time doing something I love for someone I feel nothing for anymore? Writing is my strength. My choice.

Writing this article may have been the catharsis I needed. Not that it has definitively helped me to close that chapter of my life, but that it has punctuated the narrative. Writing is my display of strength; my ability to describe and analyse the things I’ve done and the world around me. I am at my strongest, my most eloquent when I’m writing about sex. That moment threatened my ability to write about sex and when I realised that was slipping away from me I felt more vulnerable than the moments I couldn’t re-engage with my sexuality. 

I hope that you read my article and see not a survivor of sexual assault, but a writer who is choosing to describe and analyse her world again, because it is the best decision I have made this year. 
Jenny x

Twenty-Fifth Post: The Ultimate Sex Bucket List

Content warning: this is a completely fluffy blog because the sun was shining this weekend and I had a great time hanging out with a friend I don’t get to see very often. 

How nice was the weather this weekend?! First sunshine I’ve got to properly enjoy this year – it was so goooooood!!
On Sunday, after spending Saturday at BiFest, my friend and I lay in the park after brunch. I found an article by Good To Know entitled The Ultimate Sex Bucket List: 50 Things To Try Before You Die so we got paper and pens and I read each item on the list for us to score. What else do sex-positive girl friends do when the sun is shining and you find a listicle like that?

The list was a selection of sex acts for, I would guess, straight vanilla ladies – which we are certainly not. We’ve had some adventures and, of course, I’ve written about some of mine. We aren’t shy about sex. This wasn’t an article for us; we aren’t the right audience. This blog is not a critique of the list. It was actually quite comprehensive and I liked the gentle advice of ‘if this isn’t for you, don’t do it but if you think you might like it, try it, its fabulous,’ that accompanied some items. No beef here, its not my place to call anyone out. 

Because aren’t the right audience for this piece some items felt extremely pedestrian. Items like ‘kiss a girl’ was met with pure sass and items like ‘be a sex slave for a night’ was completely dismissed with “pffft! Just a night?” 

Submissives, am I right?

It was enjoyable to be dismissive of the list while we were scoring, considering ourselves sexually adventurous women. It was safe to be a little judgemental and it felt nice. I liked doing that activity with someone who has a similar life view to me. There’s nothing worse than say, playing Never Ever Have I Ever and getting absolutely hammered because you’re the only kinky, group-sex-loving, queer person at the party who’s done it in public (more than once) and everyone is treating you as this huge Other person because your life experiences and goals are so far removed from theirs. There’s pleasure to be found in saying “I’ve had a threesome with a couple I’ve met on the internet” and getting a “yeah, me too” in response. Find your people. 

I scored 37 out of 50 – pretty respectable. Some things like ‘have sex on a washing machine’ or ‘sex on the beach’ I have no interest in ticking off. That’s not a straight or gay thing – my washing machine is under my kitchen counter and I don’t want sand in my labia. Ever. End of. 

It was great way to chat about the things we’d done and we discussed our own tailor made bucket lists. I considered what would make it onto the lesbian bucket list – things like fisting, scissoring and strap-ons would be there for sure. Or the kinky bucket list – fun things like establishing a safe word, trying spanking or that really pretty rope bondage stuff (kinbaku). 
For my own bucket list I’m not certain if there’s anything specific I want to accomplish. I’m into exploring other people’s kinks so I rarely set the agenda for what I want to experience. One thing we did discuss was stuff we have already done which we would like to do more of – that was fun. 

I really enjoyed reading Good To Know’s list with my friend. Its the little moments when you recognise your world view in others that makes you feel less alone, especially when you’re a queer sex writer. 

Check out Good To Know’s Ultimate Sex Bucket List here. What would make it onto your list?

Twenty-Fourth Post: London BiFest

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Kingston attending BiFest, the sister event of BiCon. My friend, someone who identifies as bisexual, wanted to go so I went with her as an ally and interested-writer-type-person. Also Eroticon has increased my enthusiasm for conventions so I was keen to experience more workshops and break-out sessions on sexuality. 

A quick note on my own bisexual credentials. I wouldn’t identify as bisexual even though I enjoy sex with men and women. For me bisexuality is the attraction, and openness to a relationship with, men, women, people of all genders. I identify as lesbian, or queer, because my relationship goals are somewhat singular. I do enjoy the men, but as Doms or one night stands or fuckbuddies; I prefer the ladies for love and relationships. For more information, see anything I’ve ever contributed to a book – there’s a theme!

The sunshine was out in full force as we found the Quaker Centre in Kingston. Its a beautiful building, light and airy and there were spaces to sit out and enjoy one of the first warm days of this year. We attended the Coming Out workshop, facilitated by Hannah Bee, which was an excellent way to bring people with all levels of coming out confidence together to share happy and sad stories of coming out, best practices to come out and methods of self care when coming out. Hannah shared some great silent gestures which we could use when agreeing with others or wanted to make a point which followed on from the one just made. There was a wonderful atmosphere in the room and I think almost everyone felt empowered to contribute something to the discussion. 

Afterwards we attended the Non-Monogamy workshop, which had a huge audience. We were excited to see this one as my friend and I both identify as non-monogamous in different ways. For me the session wasn’t very helpful, so I decided to leave halfway through and sit in the quiet room. My friend stayed on and we met up afterwards to browse the stalls. 

We met Libby Baxter-Williams, who runs Biscuit, an online magazine for bisexual women. She was selling some gorgeous stickers and greetings cards so we stocked up on those. Then we looked at Jennifer Moore’s stall which was covered in beautiful button badges of all colours and messages. Some sassy like: ‘I’m bisexual, you’re the one that’s confused!’ and some very to the point such as: ‘Queer As Fuck’. There was lots of kinky identity badges too which was awesome. I bought a ‘Queer Girl’ badge in a teal colour. I met Jennifer later and we chatted about her badges. You can buy them online via her website and I heartily advise you to check them out because they are wonderful. 

There were also copies of Purple Prose on sale! I showed my friend the paragraph I had contributed to the book. She’s going to download it on her Kindle and devour it on her commute.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Libby at the activism workshop for working class people. This was Libby’s first workshop as a facilitator and she shared that she was nervous. Also due to laptop difficulties she didn’t have the notes she had prepared on the session so she wasn’t happy with how things turned out. But I found it really enlightening to understand how class in the UK is structured and how this can affect engagement with events like these. We also discussed how to overcome some of these issues and I had not considered some of this before. I found it a really worthwhile session to attend. 

We skipped the singalong (I’ve lost my voice) and got gelato in the evening sun. Then we returned for the No Stupid Questions panel which addressed questions that had been anonymously submitted all day. Lots of great discussion about the changing nature of language, how to share resources and more thoughts about activism. Marcus shared the “activism ladder” which consists of:

You Should

We Could

I Can

I Will

I’ve written it upside down so you can read how its climbed. I loved thinking of it in this way, considering which rung I might be hanging out on most of the time and how to keep climbing. 

Night had fallen so we got a train back to London proper. My friend was really glad she went, as it was heartening to see so many bisexuals gathered together in the same space in all their diversity. I’m really glad I went to as the sessions gave me some great ideas to consider personally and some exciting topics for future pieces. 

The next BiCon is being held on Thursday 10th – Sunday 13th of August 2017 at Leeds Beckett University, Headingley, Leeds. 

You can find more details online here, or follow BiCon on twitter

Twenty-Third Post: Happy 250th Issue, Diva Magazine!

Diva celebrate 23 years in circulation this month, with their 250th issue featuring stories of how lesbian/bi visibility, culture and politics have evolved in that time. This moment in the magazine’s history inspires their readers and contributors to reflect on their own history. At least it did for me.

Heather Peace, regular columnist for the magazine, shared her coming out experiences which coincided with the release of Diva in 1994. She describes how the magazine helped her understand her to identify as gay, go to events, meet other people and how it made her feel more at home in her sexuality. Her article felt like she was part of something exciting, something new. When I began reading Diva Magazine it was long established, but the thrill of something new, being part of something beyond your surroundings, resonated with me. 

I started reading Diva Magazine when I moved to London at the age of 22. I had just met the woman of my dreams, had my first kiss and lost my lezzy L plates all in one night. It was a step I had been waiting to take for years. In the months after that night, I sought out (what I considered) the trappings of being a lesbian. I enjoyed looking a certain way, going to gay bars and lesbian book clubs. Reading more lesbian oriented material was one of those things, Diva at the forefront. 

I bought Diva for those moments when I wanted to take care of myself, to engage with lesbian and bisexual culture and feel connected to something. Every long train journey back to see my parents, every evening plan of a bubble bath and a glass of wine (read: glass of whiskey) I picked up a copy of Diva to soothe me. I loved the articles, the photoshoots and the diversity of bodies and looks. I saw myself there, I saw women I would want to date there. It didn’t alienate me like the copies of ‘straight women’ magazines I had read in my teen years, idly flipping through glossy pages of clothes I would look awful in, diets I would never attempt and sex tips I despaired at.

It became a regular purchase every month. A girlfriend once gave me a years subscription to Diva for my birthday and I have piles of back issues in my wardrobe that I can’t bear to throw out. These magazines are part of my literary archive, my coming out narrative, my connection outside of myself. 

Five years on, I don’t buy Diva every month and my subscription, like the relationship with the girl who gifted it to me, are long over. But it is something I like to pick up when I want to engage in selfcare or a treat to read. Before every long journey, when I’m clutching a coffee and browsing the shelves of the newsagents for something to flick through on the train, I’m looking for those distinctive block capitals first. 

Happy 250th issue Diva Magazine x

Twenty-First Post: Vice Magazine

My first article for Vice Magazine was published today. I am thrilled to write for Vice and to take some of the amazing advice I received at Eroticon and apply it to making this happen. 

This article was a response to the fascinating session I attended with Myles Jackman at Eroticon. I’ve now become even more obsessed with the Obscene Publications Act than I was before. All the fun stuff is listed on that legal document so what does that mean for sexual expression? And now it also affects text messages? How are we not talking about this more?

To find out more check out my article, Your Sexts Could Be Criminal, here.

Twentieth Post: Saturday at Eroticon

This weekend I am at Eroticon, or as I refer to it, a sexy writers conference for sexy writers. 

Sex bloggers, erotica authors, kinksters, journalists and educators have all gathered together in Camden Town, London, to hear talks, see demonstrations and participate in workshops around sex. More specifically, how we talk and write about sex, how we educate others about sex and how to get this lovely information to the best audience possible. 

I woke bright and early this morning and got the tube up to trendy Camden – which is far too trendy to be awake at 8:30am on a Saturday. Molly, one of the organisers of this year’s event, greeted me at the door and gave me a lanyard with my name and online details on. She was super friendly and welcoming and we chatted a little bit about my online meet and greet. It put me at ease that she remembered what I had written a few days ago and it was a lovely way to be greeted when I was feeling slightly shy.

I had come to Eroticon not knowing anyone. I had maybe met Girl on the Net, another one of the organisers, once before (and I have corresponded often to set up guest blogs on her website) but other than that I was flying solo this weekend. Some names I recognised from Twitter and have admired their work from afar but that’s the extent of it. 

I collected my goody bag and chose a seat near the front to hear the opening panel discussions. We began with a discussion about sex and the mainstream media featuring Morenike Adebayo, Paisley Gilmour and Rebecca Reid which set the tone for the morning. As non-fiction writer hoping to work with magazines it was interesting to hear attitudes around this industry and how to work effectively to share your intended sex-positive message. 

First I went to session entitled Sex Blogging as Feminism and Social Justice by Sarah Brynn Holliday. Sarah began her work reviewing sex toys and now uses that passion to provoke change within sex toy retailers to ensure safe, ethical products. She offered some great examples and ideas of how we can keep our work actively feminist. I was encouraged by this as I’m striving to hold porn companies accountable for the way they produce films so I identified some helpful parallels. 

After a green tea I sat in on Myles Jackman’s talk about obscenity laws and writing – I was particularly looking forward to this as I’m really interested in legislation and how that affects discussions around sex. I actually got to ask a particular question that concerned me which was great. I’m going to publish a blog going into more detail shortly because this is something that interests me. 

Girl on the Net delivered a fantastic session on how to pitch written work to editors. She gave some really helpful practical advice on how to deliver the strongest pitch possible. I was inspired to put this method into practice, as I now feel more confident about approaching publications with my ideas. 

I bought a couple of books which I’m looking forward to adding to my bookshelf at home. A self help by Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock called Enjoy Sex and a copy of the Eroticon Anthology. I contributed a short piece on the theme of identity for the book and it gave me a lovely thrill to see my name in print. I also got a copy of Girl on the Net’s second book How A Bad Girl Fell In Love which she very kindly signed for me!

After a delicious lunch (kindly sponsored by Chaturbate) I wandered through to a Kink Craft workshop. We used a knotting technique to create a lovely collar – which I got to keep. It was really soothing after a busy and mentally stimulating morning to sit and knot things for a while. 

I decided to sit out of the final sessions as my head was reaching saturation point – so I sat in the break room and made some more notes for things to do and wrote up this blog. 

There’s the social tonight and then even more to enjoy tomorrow. Its been really encouraging to meet and speak to other sex positive writers and understand their experiences and build community with them. 

I’ll write some more tomorrow – I’ve got blogging talks, pitching workshops and a reading to look forward to so I should get some good rest. 
Jenn x