Sex and disability – Eroticon 2016

As I said in this post, I promised a long while back that I would put my Eroticon slides up here, for the benefit of people who weren’t able to attend, as well as those who want to refer back to them for any reason.

The slides can be accessed by clicking on the link below, and the bullet points underneath summarise what I said in the session. Below that, you’ll find the reading list I handed out, a TED talk I think everyone should watch, and below that, two posts that I know were written after my session. If anyone else has written anything disability related as a result of my session, or if you choose to have a go at the exercise at the end of the presentation, please do let me know and I’ll link your piece up to this post, if you’d like me to.

Session notes and slides

Sex and disability – Eroticon 2016

  • Start by trying to identify what the author is trying to say about disabled people in each of the books/films on slide 2. The answers are on slide 3. All of these are ways in which disabled people have historically been portrayed in fiction which should now be avoided.
  • Look at the TED talks on slide 4. All, with the exception of ‘I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much,’ have the keywords inspiringfascinating, courageous, beautiful. These are the words able-bodied people tend to associate with disability – but ‘inspiration porn’ is just as damaging as any of the old-fashioned stereotypes, because it treats disabled people as examples, not as people.
  • Slide 6 shows why The Theory of Everything is a great example of how to write disability (although it’s important to be aware that some disabled people object to the use of an able-bodied actor to play Hawking). Stephen Hawking has more than one challenge in his life – the conflict in the story centres not only around his disability, but also his relationship and job. i wrote about the film in more detail here.
  • Don’t be tempted to make disability the character arc in your novel – very few disabled people do get cured, or end their lives, or completely come to terms with their body in the space of the time period covered by a novel or short story. Make disability part of their character, but not a part that necessarily has to be resolved or changed. Give them a plot other than their disability.
  • Slide 11 is the intro to a writing exercise using this amazing Girl on the Net guest post as a prompt. Look at how in the post intro, Girl on the Net doesn’t focus on the disability at all – the writer is disabled, but the focus is the lift, the snogging, the botanical gardens. Do any of these things inspire you? Can you take the post as a starting point and flesh it out to make it a full length short story or piece of flash fiction with a plot arc, rather than a vignette, as per the original post?

Recommended reading

10 Things Fiction Writers Need to Remember About Disability (1-5) http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/10-things-fiction-writers-need-to.html

10 Things Fiction Writers Need to Remember About Disability (6-10) http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/10-things-fiction-writers-need-to_10.html

Dear able-bodied partner…
http://www.autostraddle.com/dear-able-bodied-partner-331837/

Disabled gentleman
http://rebelsnotes.com/2015/06/disabled-gentleman/

Every body: glamour, dateability, sexuality & disability | Dr. Danielle Sheypuk | TEDxBarnardCollege
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PwvGfs6Pok&feature=youtu.be

Getting it wrong – writing disability in fiction
http://visibilityfiction.com/getting-it-wrong-writing-about-disability-in-fiction/

I am not here to inspire you
http://starsandspirals.co.uk/not-your-inspiration/

Kaufman, M, Silverberg, C, and Odette, F. The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness, Cleis, 2007

Kink praxis
https://xanwest.wordpress.com

Know me where it hurts: sex, kink, and cerebral palsy
http://www.autostraddle.com/know-me-where-it-hurts-kink-cerebral-palsy-226077/

Leandra Vane – disability & sex stigma
http://www.hotoctopuss.com/guest-blog-leandra-vane-on-disability-and-sex-stigma/

Moving beyond the stereotypes
https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/moving-beyond-the-stereotypes/

Silent stares and rude questions: the disability minefield
https://ninachildish.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/silent-stares-and-rude-questions-the-disability-minefield/

Why we have to create more disabled characters in children’s fiction (yes, it’s about children’s fiction, but the advice at the end applies more widely)
http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/dec/08/why-we-have-to-create-more-disabled-characters-in-childrens-fiction

Writing the Other
http://meloukhia.net/2012/06/writing_the_other/

Stella Young: I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much


Posts inspired by the session

Unusual Liaison – Rachel Kincaid
http://rachelkincaid4.blogspot.fr/2016/05/unusual-liaison.html 

Disability and sexuality – writers we love: Hot Octopuss
https://www.hotoctopuss.com/disability-and-sexuality-writers-we-love

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Sex and stuff: what if aspirational meant something different?

I’m not blogging much at the moment, because I’m mainly focused on a novel. And, for the last few weeks, I’ve been working on pulling together a synopsis for that novel, not because it’s finished, but because an external deadline requires one. So, in short, I started thinking about how I’d market it, and was quickly reminded that, in the real world sex might sell stuff, but in fiction, stuff sells sex.

I could write yet again about FSoG here: about helicopters, fast cars and penthouse apartments. But I don’t want to. Instead, I want to talk about Maestra, which, truth be told, is not really that different.

Rags to riches is, if you believe in that kind of thing, one of only seven possible basic plots, so it makes sense that people are still writing about it. Things haven’t changed that much since Dickens was writing about it – being white, male and ablebodied, or, if you can’t be those things, marrying them – is still the smoothest route to an easy life, and therefore the key component of any HEA.

I don’t know if Maestra ends with an HEA. I hated it so much I didn’t get past the sample chapters. But what I can tell you, just from those sample chapters, and from the reviews I’ve read, is that the sex and stuff link is alive and well. There’s a lot of champagne, many yachts and women who are desperate to lose their regional accents in favour of something posher. There’s some graphically-written sex. There are not, thankfully, any ‘inner goddesses’ and there is liberal usage of the word ‘cunt.’

Nobody has any feelings.

In a Guardian piece, called, promisingly, Time to be grown up about female desire, Maestra’s author, LS Hilton, makes some valid points, like this one:

‘From Colette to Pauline Réage to Catherine Millet, the French appear to have no difficulty accepting that a woman can write about sex without being reduced to it.’

The problem is, in the book itself, while she may not reduce women to just sex, she does, according to the Guardian’s review of the book, reduce them nonetheless:

It’s shocking because the world it portrays feels so depressingly regressive. Men have money, power, yachts and hedge funds. Women are disposable accessories, frantic for material gain; they might use their wiles to outwit the men, or manipulate them to their own advantage, but the essential balance of power remains unchanged.

Being grown up about desire – male or female, to me, means divorcing it entirely from status and material goods. It means separating it from body type – because not only beautiful people have sex – from race, and from ability level. In the real world, while relationships and sex might sometimes be driven by the quest for material gain, I really believe that desire is the one thing that isn’t. I don’t believe, or at least I hope – that nobody gets wet or hard over the thought of a hedge fund.

And erotica, by which I mean the type that people reading this are likely to be writing, rather than the mainstream titles mentioned above, has the opportunity to change this. Already many of us are writing characters who aren’t model-like in their looks, physique and/or age range. Not many of us feel the need to make our characters outrageously wealthy. And I think we can take it further. 

As you may know, I’m doing a workshop on writing disability in erotica at Eroticon this Saturday, and this question of aspiration is really the one I want to tackle. We spend a lot of time in the erotica/sex-blogging community reminding people that sex is a valid and worthwhile thing to write about – that sex and body positivity stand to benefit everyone. We’re doing as much, if not more, than most other genres to challenge gender and other societal norms, which makes me very proud and kind of emotional. And I want disability to benefit from that willingness to go against the status quo, too. 

LS Hilton says her book isn’t ‘precisely a feminist polemic’ and that’s fine, but if she thinks she’s being grown up about desire, I’d disagree. She says:

I merely attempted to write about a modern female character who is unapologetic about desire and who feels no shame or conflict about its fulfilment.

I’m sorry, but don’t we all feel shame and conflict sometimes? Isn’t that what gives desire the complexity that makes it such a joy to write about? Especially since she goes on to play down desire/sex as the book’s main theme: ‘Besides, it’s not a “sex book”, it’s a thriller.’ 

I want to write “sex books”. I want to write about the way sex makes people feel – both the good and the bad. And more than anything, I want to write fiction that represents the way we actually live, rather than the way the rags to riches plot tells us we should want to. If you feel the same, please come along on Saturday.

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Eroticon live 2016: Come push my buttons

NAME (and Twitter name if you have one)
Charlie Powell. I think I’ve got to the point now where Charlie feels enough like my other name that there’s a good chance I’ll respond if you shout it at me across a crowded room.

If you had the opportunity to rename yourself (or your blog) what would you pick?

Yeah, this is never going to happen because of how heartbroken I was when I found out a week or so ago that Twitter had permanently deleted my account and taken all my followers with it. I have no intention of returning actively to Twitter any time soon, but I’d had some good times building up that many followers and now they’re all gone *sigh*

Anyway, long story short, I have reclaimed @sexblogofsorts, so you’ll notice the account is active again – it’s just that now there are no tweets or followers! 

What are you most looking forward to at Eroticon Live and/or is there anything you are nervous about?

I’m super excited to finally meet Hy and Tabitha, and to catch up with lots of good friends, especially those who live overseas, like this lovely lady, and this one, too. 

Have you planned which sessions you will be attending or are you more of a spur of the moment kind of person?

You can probably safely assume I’ll be at most of the sessions relating to either blogging or writing fiction.

What essential items to your life will be bringing with you to Eroticon Live? (you can have a maximum of 5)

Bath oil, so I can chill out after my session, a notebook (because I forgot last year and had to buy a new one (shame!)), my novel-in-progress, in case I’m inspired to write, and my slides. Please god don’t let me forget my slides!

The fifth item is obviously copious amounts of white wine, though I’m hoping Bristol can provide that!

A new cocktail has been made on your honour, what would be the key ingredient and what would it be called?

I’m a bit hung up on one with lychee juice and rose syrup at the moment, so maybe ‘Every rose has its thorn?!’ Maybe I’d open a cocktail bar for other grouchy pessimists like me, too!

And finally… Complete the sentence; I have yet to…..

… ever actually use PowerPoint! So please do come along to my session, not only because it’s going to be really fun, with lots of chances to be creative (and probably prizes), but because I might need someone to help me push the right buttons!

Eroticon 2015 Meet & Greet

NAME (and Twitter name if you have one)

Charlie Powell, and on Twitter, @sexblogofsorts.

Is this your first time at Eroticon? If No, what is your favourite memory from a previous Eroticon and if Yes, what are you most looking forward to at Eroticon 2015?

Ah, so I was actually going to lead with this, but I’ll answer the question here, instead. No; 2014 was my first time and to say that anxiety got the better of me would be putting it mildly. I had a Sunday only ticket last year, but I only made it to Kristina Lloyd’s session, and then had to be almost physically dragged back by her to the readings and afternoon tea. At one point, away from the conference, I pretty much downed a glass of warm wine to try and get my nerves under control. I spoke to very few people, don’t think I really introduced myself to any, and so, yeah, hopefully this year will be better. Please be gentle with me, and if I run away, it’s almost certainly me, not you…

Which 3 sessions have you already earmarked as definitely going to?

There’s a definite theme coming through in my choices, the top two of which are Remittance Girl‘s Writing Jouissance: Pleasure, Pain and Madness and Stella Ottewill‘s On Edge: Writing the dark side of eroticism. Molly‘s photography session also features high on my list.

What drink will you be ordering at the bar on the Saturday night?

The Saturday night drinks is the one thing I’m not currently planning to attend, as I think I might need some down time by that point. If I’m not there, you may find me wallowing in your bath tub, should you be lucky enough to have one. If I am there, Sauvignon Blanc, please.

If you wrote an autobiography what would it be called?

Er, I think maybe I already have one.

Where are you writing this post and what 5 things can you see around you (not including the device you are writing on)?

Currently my living space has begun to resemble my old student room from my uni days. The clutter includes drying laundry, a half-drunk bottle of white wine, some chocolate chip brioche, a large pack of Duracell AA batteries and the latest Judy Blume novel.

And the last one… If you could go out to dinner with any 5 sex bloggers or erotic writers, regardless of whether they are coming to Eroticon or not who would they be?

Meeting Girlonthenet is something I’m really looking forward to, since she was kind enough to host a guest post for me when I first started blogging. Aside from that, I don’t like having favourites, so I’ll stick with my other 4 (non-erotic) fantasy dinner guests: Gary Barlow, Jarvis Cocker, Nigella Lawson and Max Irons (sorry, GOTN!)

Charlie? She’s a fucking letdown

When I wrote about Eroticon a couple of posts ago, I was kind of hoping my nerves would settle before the day itself. Instead, the complete opposite proved true: I spent last night wide awake with nerves until 3.30, and I had to get up at 6.30 to drive to Bristol. Where I spent the whole day in a state of permanent terror.

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Butterflies

It’s a weird week to be admitting that I’m more nervous than ever about what I write. Last weekend saw my highest number of blog hits ever, along with endorsements from both Girlonthenet and Alison Tyler. For me personally, it doesn’t get much better than that. Then, yesterday, I also got a lovely email from a reader who, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have realised was in the readership demographic for this kind of blog at all.

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