The event was hosted at Newspeak House, a political community space dedicated to helping technologists improve the way that we make collective decisions as a country. It has regular communal meals and there's lots going on, so if you can get to Bethnal Green and this sounds like your cup of tea, I recommend looking it up.
Tickets are now on sale for SEXIT: What the Fuck is Happening with UK Porn Laws? an event taking place at the Birtish Film Institute as part of BFI Flare, the LGBT+ film festival. SEXIT will question the new wave of censorship which disproportionately targets queer pornographers, performers and portrayals of alternative sexualities. What does it mean when a feminist UK business is forced offline, but hardcore free American porn will still be readily available?
I'm delighted to be sitting on the panel along with the brilliant Myles Jackman - and I've heard some exciting rumours about other front-line activists and filmmakers who may be joining us to. This promises to be a great discussion, and it's great to see the BFI making space for this conversation amongst queer and kink community members.
Last night I attended the second Naked Truth Film Club screening, a new adult industry event organised by Terry Stephens, chair of UKAP, the UK porn producer trade association. Like most of us who organise within the adult industry, he's interested in destigmatising porn and raising public awareness about the realities of porn, combating the myths and misconceptions that percieve erotic labour as exploitative. The film club screens relevant documentaries in Central London, with a panel of sex workers hosting a Q&A after the screening.
The first event was a few weeks ago, and showed UnSlut: A Documentary Film, an American documentary about slut-shaming and teenage sexual bullying. It doesn't mention the adult industry but examines slut-shaming more broadly, looking particularly at the way that it affects young people. The documentary was born out of The UnSlut Project, an internet initiative that invited people to submit their own stories of being bullied or shamed because they were perceived as being slutty or sexual. The project brought people together to share experiences - some who had never told anyone before - and offer support, solidarity and healing.
The documentary follows a number of women telling stories of sexual assault, slut-shaming and bullying. It's a serious subject, and the film is powerful; definitely not light viewing. One girl, Allyson Pereira, was asked to send a nude photo to her ex-boyfriend, who then shared it with the rest of her school without her consent. She was bullied and ostracised by her town as a result of this violation. The most harrowing story was that of Rehtaeh Parsons, who was drugged and gang-raped at a party. Her assailants took photos, shared them, and she was labelled as a "slut" as a result. The subsequent slut-shaming and bullying followed her despite changing schools several times, compounding the trauma of her assault. Eventually, at the age of seventeen, she took her own life.
Last weekend I was at Eroticon 2014, the conference for sex bloggers, sex writers and writers of erotic fiction. I travelled to Bristol on Friday night to attend the meet and greet, and avoid a crack of dawn start on Saturday morning, as I was scheduled to speak in the opening keynote at 10am. Conference organiser (and all-round good egg) Ruby Kiddell had kindly offered to let me stay in her hotel room on Friday night, to make things easier. Given we had never met this was incredibly lovely of her. Ruby is a very impressive woman and it was an honour to get to know her this weekend.
She had sent me the room number by text, so when I got off the coach I found the hotel, made my way up to her floor and just knocked. She opened it and without bothering to introduce ourselves we leapt into each other arms for a massive hug: "HIIII! It's so good to meet you!" Travelling to a random hotel in a new city and opening the door to hug someone I'd never met before: I love that these things have become normal in the world of the online sex community.
That surreal combination of newness and familiarity continued all evening. I walked into the bar and a dozen unfamiliar faces lit up with recognition. Total strangers waved me over: "Pandora! Hi!" I had no idea who any of these people were, but they knew me, and I was looking forward to getting to know them. Most erotic writers and sex bloggers protect their anonymity online, so as one of the few people present whose face is attached to my name, I stood out. I'm actually pretty shy in groups of people I don't know yet, so this suited me fine. In fact I was grateful when people came up and introduced themselves; it made me feel instantly welcomed, and was so much easier than standing around trying to work out who to approach. When no-one was coming up and saying hello, it gave me the confidence to do the same, and so I got chatting to a lot of new people that night.