Ten Things I’m Taking TO Eroticon

Many of you may remember last year’s Ten Things I Took Home From Eroticon blogging meme started by the lovely Jenny. Well, I decided to turn it on its head and, with just a week and a half to go until this year’s ‘Con, tell you a little about ten things I’m planning on taking with me this year.

1. My name

Last year’s Eroticon, I wasn’t Amy Norton yet. I was using a haphazard mix of my kink scene name, a diminutive of my legal name, and just ‘Coffee&Kink’/’CK’. I’d toyed with different names but none of them felt quite right.

This year, though, I’m comfortably sitting in this identity (so much so that select people in my offline life now call me Amy, and I love it).

Hi. I’m Amy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

2. A schedule

Last year, I pretty much went in blind to Eroticon. I’d glanced over the schedule, but being a newbie I decided to mostly go with the flow and go to whatever felt right in the moment.

This time, though, I’ve got a much more curated workshops plan in order to get what I want the most out of the ‘Con. In case you were wondering, it is as follows:

Saturday:
Taboo (Remittance Girl)
Making Money from Your Blog (Kayla Lords)
Legal Tips for Sex Writers (Neil Brown)
Podcasting Panel (Kayla Lords & John Brownstone)
Different Approaches to Sex Toy Activism (Emmeline Peaches)
KinkLab

Sunday:
Is There a Book in Your Blog? (Cressida Dowling)
Getting It Up (Fetish.com)
Shocking the System (Kendra Holliday)
How to Give Responsible Sex Advice (panel)
Financial Wizardry for Sex Bloggers (Sarah Bryn Holliday & Sarah Jane)

Naturally, I’ll also be attending the Friday evening pre-drinks and the Saturday evening social. Other plans include a pre-‘Con run with Emmeline, dinner with Sarah, and food and recording a podcast with Kayla and John of Loving BDSM. Of course, my planned schedule is flexible if I find I’m really not in the mood for something at the time, but this is a good cross-section of stuff I want to learn plus all the workshops I consider ‘unmissable’ this year!

3.The signature kitty ears

I wasn’t expecting these to be such a hit last year! To be honest, I wasn’t even expecting to be the only person in feline-themed headwear! I just wore them because they make me feel more confident and they help me to tap into my kinky, sexy, sparkly self. But I got so many compliments on them and people remembered me for them (I literally pitched an article to Girl on the Net with an email that included a sentence along the lines of ‘if you don’t remember me, I was the one with the ears’.)

Yeah, they’re definitely coming with me again this year. I might even pack a couple of different pairs. Yes, I have daywear ears and formal ears. Doesn’t everyone!?

4. The Catsuit of Joy

Remember this one? It was a review item/gift from my friends at Latex Leather & Lace and the cause of The Boobs That Made Straight Girls Question Their Heterosexuality.

Yes, I’m planning on wearing it on Saturday night. Yes, I will also be pairing it with the aforementioned signature ears. And yes, you have my full consent to stare at my chest as much as you like.

5. (Small) sex toys

I’m not interested in hooking up at Eroticon, but I did realise last year that hearing so much glorious smut during the day would inevitably lead me to needing to have a quick wank back in my hotel room before bed. Couple this with the fact that citalopram withdrawal has made my sex drive go a bit haywire this last week or so, and… yeah.

I’m gonna be short on packing space but I think the Tango and MiMi will fit nicely in my case.

6. Fabulous femme things

I can’t wait to get my femme on at Eroticon. I’m already planning makeup experiments of the kind I don’t normally attempt. There will be glitter, for sure, because I need to make the most of this opportunity as I am no longer allowed to wear glitter at home (you get it in the sofa ONE time…!) There will also be jewellery, made for me by my sweetie The Artist, getting its first outing that weekend.

7. A portable coffee mug and good coffee

Um, hey. Have you met me? I’m obsessed with coffee and would probably replace my blood with it if I wouldn’t die. I just ordered myself an awesome new travel mug, which is coming with me and will be filled permanently with coffee in order to keep me going at top capacity through the whirlwind of the weekend. I’ll probably also bring a stash of coffee bags, because I find the coffee most venues serve leaves a lot to be desired. (Yes, I’m a snob.)

8. My Fuck.com notebook

This was in the goodie bags at Eroticon 2017 and it’s still my favourite notebook to scribble smutty notes in. I’ll be frantically taking notes and story ideas and sound-bites and hanging on every word my favourite presenters have to say!

9. Hugs to give out

There are so many people I want to cuddlepounce the fuck out of next weekend. I will be coming with my best hugging arms and ready to wrap them around anyone who consents.

10. Realness

Last night, I was panicking that I haven’t achieved all of the things I wanted to achieve ahead of this year’s Eroticon. I haven’t lost 50lb, or finished my novella. I haven’t quit my job to spend my days writing about dildos (okay, that one is a pipe dream rather than an actual plan) or completely weaned myself off my antidepressants. Hell, I haven’t even finished my PhD application!

But then I realised: it doesn’t matter. I can bring my realness to Eroticon. I can be a hot mess in all my hot, messy glory, and it will be okay. These are my people and this is my community and I can be both a fabulous, smut-loving sparklefemme AND an anxious wreck with a hefty dose of imposter syndrome. Both of these things can be true. It will be okay.

I think  the theme of this Eroticon for me will be: I am.

If you’re there too, come say hello!

I’m very friendly. Talk to me about BDSM, sex toys, smashing the patriarchy, what you’re reading lately, musical theatre, coffee, sex ed reform, feminist fiction, femme identity or non-monogamy. Or just tell me about your work and I’ll lap it up.

If you want to support my work and help me keep attending conferences like Eroticon, which are the highlight of my year but also expensive, you can buy me a virtual coffee, shop with my affiliates in the right-hand sidebar, or become a Sexy Patron to access some exciting bonus content. (I’m considering audio clips for Patreon supporters, so there’s that to look forward to!) Thank you to Oliver, my newest Patreon supporter.

Sex Educator Interview #6: Dr Liz Powell

Today’s interview is with Dr Liz Powell, who co-hosts Life on the Swingset the podcast as well as doing tonnes of other awesome work. Let’s dive in to what she had to say…

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I’m Dr. Liz from sexpositivepsych.com. I’m a sex educator, speaker, co-host of the Life on the Swingset podcast, and regular guest on several other podcasts as part of my mission to help people have more meaningful, pleasurable relationships in life and work, as well as the bedroom. I’m also a coach and licensed psychologist (CA 27871)  that works with thruples, couples, and singles to help folks be more of who they really are and communicate more effectively with their partners. Because being confident in who you are is the gateway to great relationships and great sex – and great sex can change the world.

Can you tell us (in brief) your “sex educator origin story?”

I’ve been out as queer since I was 17, had my first non-monogamous relationship at 17 (dating quad), and have been involved in kink since I was in college. I was always the person my friends came to for questions about sex or to take them shopping at the adult store. Once I was getting ready to leave the Army in 2015, I decided to transition to full time work with my favorite populations – sexual and gender minorities (SGM) – and issues – sexual problems, relationship issues, trauma. I then started presenting at different conferences and from there went into teaching at venues like sex shops and the Armory here in San Francisco. I love the work I do and I feel really lucky that I get to devote my time to topics I’m passionate about!

What came first: sex education or psychotherapy? How do they inform each other?

I’ve wanted to be a therapist since middle school because I loved figuring out how people work and helping people grow and heal and thrive, so I guess in some ways the therapy part came first. However, I did my first informal sex education work in college when I was president of my school Gay Straight Alliance, long before I ever saw any therapy clients, so maybe it’s that therapy was first in my heart, but education was first in practice. Regardless, I love them both and I think they go hand in hand really nicely.

Why do you think it’s so important for psychs and other medical professionals to be sex positive, and how would you like to see the medical community change in this regard?

In graduate school, the entirety of my training in sexuality was a one weekend class. 10 hours. That’s it. When I worked in multidisciplinary teams in the Army as a psychologist, I saw first hand how little education in sexuality and non-mainstream relationship/sexual practices most medical professionals have. In the field of therapy, most therapists never ask their clients about sex, even though most psychiatric conditions impact a person’s sex life. Medical professionals have often balked at the STI testing I request from them, and some of them haven’t had current information about STIs at all. When we, as those holding a position of power in a provider-client relationship, don’t address sex, we reinforce that sex is shameful and not welcome in our room. We prevent our clients and patients from sharing important information with us that is impacting their lives in deep ways.

I think most professionals shy away from sex because they’re worried that a client will view questions about sex as a come on or something inappropriate, but research shows again and again that our clients follow our lead when determining what they can and cannot talk about. If you bring your own shame or judgments about sexuality into your practice, you are harming your clients and patients.

For instance, I recently saw a Facebook post by a psychologist I knew in the Army outright stating that they would never approve someone’s request for gender confirmation surgery because they think trans people are mentally ill. The American Psychological Association has clearly stated that the research indicates that gender dysphoria is a medical concern, not a mental illness, and that the harm is in denying treatment, but this person, because of his own judgments, is comfortable publicly stating his intention to shame and harm any trans clients he works with.

Without sex positivity in our practices, we violate the first principle of almost every code of ethics in our fields – that we do no harm, and maximize benefit. We as providers must unpack our own issues so that we can serve those who entrust us with their well being.

What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

I’ll start with the worst because I like to end on high notes. The worst part of being a sex educator, for me, has been how hard you have to hustle to just start getting paid. I did a panel last year with Dirty Lola of sexedagogo.com and Rebecca Hiles, The Frisky Fairy, of friskyfairy.com, called Sex Positive and Poor where we all talked about how broke most sex educators are. Most of my friends who do sex education for their main income are constantly worried about paying their bills. Being a therapist helps with this some, as I can make a decent income from individual client sessions, but building up a private practice is slow and I went into a lot of credit card debt to get my business going. It looks way more glamorous on the outside than it feels on the inside.

The best part of being a sex educator, at least in my experience, is the amazing community of people I get to be a part of. I’ve got people in my life who I can send a message to about the crazy sex I had and they’re there to cheer me on. Or I can message them to talk about the grief I’ve been working through about my lover who died. The folks I’m lucky to call friends are some of the most kind, loving, smart, perverted, funny people I’ve ever met and I am thankful every day to have them in my life.

What’s your favourite project that you’ve done/been involved with?

My favorite is one I’m currently working on! Cooper Beckett, one of my Life on the Swingset co-hosts, and I are writing a book called Building Open Relationships. It’s a practical, hands on, nuts and bolts guide for how to actually DO non-monogamy. There are so many great theory-based resources out there (More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), but both he and I felt like some of the nitty gritty was missing. We’re creating worksheets, conversation starters, checklists, all kinds of nerdy goodness to help people learn from our mistakes and success.

Tell us about a book that completely changed your life/perspective?

I think this would have to be something by Brené Brown, probably Daring Greatly. Something most folks don’t know about therapists in general, and me in particular, is that we can seem super open and vulnerable, but most of us (or especially me) often suck at being really vulnerable. It’s like I’ve got this great facade of openness that keeps folks outside of the REAL walls. In the last couple of years, I’ve been working really hard on moving past perfectionism and self-judgment and developing my skills at vulnerability and honesty. It’s been a really really REALLY hard journey, but I feel like a much better human, leader, therapist, educator, friend, and partner because of it.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

I used to believe that you could use rules in a relationship in a way that could be healthy. Before I go further, I want to clarify that I’ll be using the terms Boundaries, Agreements, and Rules the way they are defined in More Than Two – boundaries are about myself, agreements are renegotiable by any involved party, rules affect parties that do not have renegotiation power.

Back when I first did some non-monogamy, I almost always had rules with my partners about what I would “allow” them to do with others or what I was “allowed” to do. Many of these rules involved sex acts, time spent together, or levels of emotional involvement. I think that most of the time these rules came from a place of feeling afraid or insecure and wanting to create an external structure to prevent those feelings from happening. What changed this for me was lots of failing in relationships to live up to rules I had agreed to or failing of partners to live up to rules they had agreed to. I also think that reading More Than Two and their clear ethically rooted explanations about rules made it really clear why using rules wasn’t within my values.

What’s the one thing that you wish everyone in the world could understand about sex/relationships?  

There is no “right” way to do anything in the sex or relationship realm, only ways that work better or worse for you and those you’re doing it with. Trying to do things by someone else’s rules or standards will only make you miserable. You have to do things the way that fits for you.

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

There are so many! I think the most toxic myth is that there’s one right way to do things, and you know you’ve found it when your relationship lasts until death. By that standard, I recently had the perfect relationship – we never fought, we were smitten with each other, and after dating for 10 days he died. We lived out ’til death do us part thanks to his sudden, unexpected heart attack. We need to find the success and lessons in relationships that don’t end in death (and those that do) and stop saying a relationship “failed” because it ended or because it was different.

What’s the best sex advice anyone ever gave you?

Never fake it, tell them what to do to help you actually cum.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

“Are you analyzing me right now?” As soon as folks find out I’m a therapist, I get this one or its companion “Oh, well I’m not going to talk anymore.” People think they’re being funny, but really, this is just silly. 1) Analyzing folks takes work and you’re not paying me. If you want to shell out some money then I’ll be happy to tell you about yourself, but otherwise, unless it’s flagrant, I’m just trying to be a regular human in the world. 2) Your discomfort around a therapist says WAY MORE than anything else that would’ve come out of your mouth. 3) These are probably the least original things you could say to a therapist. They tell me you’re paranoid, boring, and prone to subtle attempts at manipulation. So if you don’t want me to know things about you, don’t say these things.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: do you like coffee and how do you take it?

I’m generally more into tea, but I do like coffee on occasion, generally either sweet and light or a nice blended butter coffee (I know, I know, super hipster).

Thanks so much to Dr Liz for her time and expertise. Don’t forget to check out Life on the Swingset podcast and her business, Sex Positive Psych.

Sex Educator Interviews #1: Kate Sloan

Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to share a series of interviews with some of the sex educators and writers I admire who have been kind enough to agree to let me interview them.

First up is the lovely and extremely talented Kate Sloan, blogger, journalist and one half of the hi-fucking-larious The Dildorks podcast.  

 A picture of Kate Sloan, a white woman with long, wavy dark hair. She has her hands on the side of her head and her mouth open in a 'surprised' expression. She is wearing a blue jacket, blue gloves and a rainbow striped knitted hat.

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

Sure! My name’s Kate Sloan and I’m a sex blogger, sex journalist, and sex podcaster. (A whole lotta sex things!) I blog 2-3 times a week over at Girly Juice about sex, kink, relationships, style, and mental health. I write for various other outlets about those topics too (most recently: Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Kinkly). I’m also a producer and co-host of a show called The Dildorks; it’s a weekly podcast for sex nerds that I do with my best friend Bex.

What first made you want to write about sex?

I’ve honestly been fascinated by sex for as long as I can remember – to the point that I’ve had therapists think it’s weird and ask me “Why?!” I can remember writing erotica from about age 9, and researching sex and masturbation from my earliest days on the internet. I’ve just always found it an intriguing topic, socioculturally and psychologically. Sex is so much of what drives us and makes us tick as humans!

When I started Girly Juice, a lot of people asked me why I had chosen to focus my blog on sex – and my honest answer is that I couldn’t think of anything else I’d truly be able to write about forever. Now I’m more than five years into writing the blog and I’m nowhere near running out of ideas. Sex is endlessly interesting to me!

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a professional sex writer? How does one ‘make it’ in this field?

I went to journalism school, but that’s definitely not a necessary step for writers. I was fortunate in that my school, Ryerson University, was super supportive of my sex-journalism ambitions. My entrance essay, for example, was about a Grant Stoddard piece on massage-parlor handjobs and my final project was about kink and mental health. Yay for permissive institutions!

I started my blog 6 months before beginning that program, and then my 4 years at Ryerson honed my writing skills and also taught me how to do things like pitch stories, research properly, and do interviews. Throughout my time there, I pitched a lot and wrote about sex for various publications, mostly Canadian ones like Herizons magazine and the Plaid Zebra. Around the time I graduated last year, my career really started to take off, with my blog getting more attention and my pitches getting accepted at bigger outlets.

The reason I say J-school isn’t a vital step is that success in writing is really more about your skill, your portfolio, and your connections, in my experience. If you build up a great body of work, learn how to write good pitches, and can submit well-written copy on time, that’ll take you a long way, even if you have no academic credentials in the field.

What does “a day in the life of a sex journalist” look like for you?

Right now I have a part-time “dayjob” doing social media for a marketing company in the adult industry, and I do that work first thing in the morning because it’s time-sensitive. I get up at 8AM and spend about 2-3 hours in bed writing tweets about porn, phone sex, and cam shows. It’s pretty rad.

At that point, I get dressed and put makeup on. (I like to feel cute when I write; it improves the end result, I think.) I head out to a local café with my laptop, grab coffee and a muffin, and settle into a window seat. Writing at coffee shops helps focus me, because I’ve gone there with the specific intention of getting work done (plus I live with a rock band, so sometimes it’s too loud to write at my house!). I’ll work on whatever creative stuff needs to get done that day: writing or outlining a blog post, editing a podcast episode, putting together a pitch.

After a couple hours at the café, I come home and have lunch, usually while listening to a goofy McElroy brothers podcast. After lunch, I get a bit more dayjob work done, and/or work on administrative tasks (I find my capacity for creativity fades in the afternoon) like answering emails, scheduling tweets, and planning my editorial calendar. If I’m working on a journalistic piece, sometimes I do phone interviews with sources in the afternoon.

In the evening, I typically read articles online, catch up on my fave TV shows (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, and The Bold Type!), smoke weed and/or jerk off, ‘cause I’m classy like that. Sometimes I go see my boyfriend or a friend, or go to an improv show.

What’s the best thing about being a sex writer, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing is that I get to write about what authentically fascinates me. I get to chase that exciting feeling of “WHAT?!” and “OMG!” and “HOW THE FUCK?!” all the damn time. I pitch stories on whatever sexual phenomena are capturing my attention at any given moment, and I blog about whatever the hell I want, even sometimes stuff that isn’t strictly related to sex. My work honestly thrills me every day, even when I secretly wish I could be sleeping instead of writing. Few people get to be as excited by their work as I am!

The worst thing is that people don’t always take you seriously. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain to people that my blog is actually a serious endeavor and a major source of income for me, rather than just an embarrassing dalliance I’m doing while I look for better work. However, for every person I meet who’s judgmental of what I do, I meet at least five people who think it’s awesome, so whatever. Fuck the h8erz.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever written?

Yikes, hard question! I’m proud of a lot of my print work and fancy research-heavy journalism, but I think the piece of mine I honestly love most is a blog post called “You’re Vanilla. I’m Not. But I Love You.” It was sort of the culmination of an enormously difficult unrequited love I endured, and how that got tangled up with kink and depression and self-worth. Writing is often cathartic for me, but I think that piece, especially, helped me get over that intense love by processing all these moments and details I hadn’t talked much about or known what to do with. I think sometimes organizing your thoughts into a cohesive narrative can help you understand them better, and thereby understand yourself better.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Some of my favorite writers, sex-focused and otherwise: Alana Massey, Rachel Rabbit White, Caitlin Moran, Allison Moon, Tina Horn, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jillian Keenan, Katie Forsythe, Brandon Taylor, Rachel Syme, Helena Fitzgerald, Alexandra Franzen, Gala Darling, Epiphora, Esmé Wang, Sean Michaels, Clementine Morrigan, and C. Brian Smith. Woof, that’s a lot!

Other people who inspire me: my mom. My best friend, Bex. My other blogger friends (the incredibly brave Lilly, of Dangerous Lilly, and Sarah, of Formidable Femme, come to mind immediately). Revolutionary kink educators like Mollena Williams and Princess Kali. The ladies of The Blogcademy. Musical theatre composers Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown. My friend Brent “Brentalfloss” Black, a fellow creative weirdo. Artists whose music has changed my life, like Regina Spektor, Nellie McKay, Nathan Stocker and (gulp) Nick Jonas. All the ex-partners who have made me into the specific sexual eccentric I am today.

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take one vibrating toy, one dildo, one anal toy, and one miscellaneous sexy item of your choice, what would your picks be?

Vibrator: the We-Vibe Tango. Can’t live without it. (Does this island have outlets?)

Dildo: the Fucking Sculptures Double Trouble, with which I would like to be buried someday.

Anal toy: the medium Njoy Pure Plug, simply the most perfect plug that has ever graced my butt.

Miscellaneous sexy item: my Lexan paddle from the now-defunct KinkMachineWorks. I love being spanked (and occasionally spanking people) and this is probably my favorite tool for the job.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

(Content warning for fatphobia and toxic thoughts about weight, y’all.) I used to think a chubby, not-conventionally-attractive-lookin’ lady like me was unloveable, or undeserving of good sex, or incapable of attracting people.

That is bullshit. I cannot overstate how much that is utter bullshit. True story: in 2014, I worked hard and lost a fair amount of weight, because I fundamentally believed I would not be able to find love (or good sex) unless I did that. And I literally had NO SEX and went on NO DATES while I was at that weight, because frankly I wasn’t confident at all and wasn’t pursuing people. It wasn’t until I gained back all the weight, and then some, that people started being openly interested in me again. Since then, my sex life has been absolutely hoppin’, and that has nothing to do with weight and everything to do with confidence and self-love.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got?

My grandmother – a very wise woman – used to tell me all the time, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” I don’t think she ever expressed this in a sexual context, but it’s fantastic sex advice nonetheless. As a meek, anxious submissive, I’ve wasted a lot of time silently hoping someone would do [x thing] to me, instead of just asking for [x thing]. It’s silly. If someone likes you and likes having sex with you, they’d probably also like making your fantasy come true, so you might as well ask!

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

Gosh, there’s so many! One that particularly bugs me is the idea that women are fundamentally different from men – an alien species, a foreign entity. There’s so much discourse out there along the lines of “What do women like?” and “How do you get a woman to ___?” and it’s all based on the dangerous myth that women are a monolith who all respond identically to stimulus, like a horde of robots. We’re just people, who each have unique desires and preferences and motivations, like people do!

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

“So do you just, like, get paid to masturbate?”

I review sex toys on my blog, but toy-testing is honestly about 2% of the work I put into running my biz. I’m not gonna lie, my line of work is pretty sweet, but no, I do not “get paid to masturbate”! (Well, except when people pay me for cam shows, but even then, a lot of what I’m getting paid for is emotional labor, not my own pleasure.)

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: do you like coffee? If so, how do you take it?

Love it! My fave is an Americano with soy milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Or a hazelnut soy latte. Or, in summer, an iced peppermint latte. Or just inject caffeine directly into my veins; that’s fine too.

Thank you so much to Kate for taking the time to speak to me! Don’t forget to check out her work. Upcoming interviews include Cooper S Beckett and Kayla Lords, so watch this space…

Kate kindly provided the featured picture for this post. She owns the copyright and this picture must not be reproduced or copied without her express permission.