This year I was officially diagnosed with social anxiety disorder – a pronouncement so obvious to me and anyone who knows me that it was hardly necessary at all. My friends have seen me hyperventilate on the stoop outside a party, walk around the block six times before feeling ready to enter a gallery opening, smoke weed on my way to a networking event to make my presence possible, and break down crying in a busy Starbucks because I physically couldn’t walk into the newsroom at my school. Suffice it to say, events can be hard for me.
While social anxiety is moreso a curse than a blessing, it does make me extra grateful for events where I actually feel comfortable. It helps to have friends accompanying me who understand the anxieties I deal with, and I’m fortunate that wonderful friends accompany me to events more often than not these days. All my favorite events this year were favorites because of the fun, kind, welcoming people I got to hang out with – some of whom may not even know how much I appreciated having them there. Here are those events…
#HaveDildosWillTravel is the official name and hashtag Taylor, Caitlin, Bex and I gave to our cross-country road trip in the springtime, after rejecting other options like #CarOfQueers, #RoadTripOfBabes, and #HitTheRoadJackOff.
Planned meticulously in Google Drive documents (mostly by Bex, my hero) over the course of several weeks, our trip began in New York, then meandered through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, until we reached our destination, Minneapolis. Along the way, we attended a sex conference, bought kink implements at a toy store, oohed and aahed at the Leather Archives, introverted at queer cafés, ate artisanal donuts for breakfast every day, shopped at the Mall of America, ogled Colin‘s sex toy studio, and visited multiple queer-owned sex shops. On the morning of my 24th birthday, I woke up in Bex’s sister’s femme-as-hell bed in a Pennsylvania farmhouse; that night, I went to bed in a swanky hotel in Chicago.
The cast of characters on our wacky trip included, among others: a diner owner’s mother who didn’t understand our collars, an enthusiastic leather archivist who complimented my vulva ring, a helpful moustachioed hotel clerk, a hot domly dude who owned a kink-themed coffee shop, a beardy Tinder boy who owned far too many nerdy snapbacks, a self-identified radical fairy named Dragon who had once made “consent-based vegetable porn” on a commune, a friendly Tinder stranger nicknamed Face Tattoo, and a lifelong hero who kissed me on a sunny side street.
Although I’m 24 and have therefore theoretically been an “adult” for quite some time, it’s only within the past year and a half that traveling without my parents has become a frequent and normal thing for me. This feels like a rite of passage, a bastion of grownupdom, a milestone in my journey toward self-sufficiency. But though it makes me feel independent, I don’t have to do it all alone. Traveling with friends is so damn much fun. We laughed practically all day every day during #HaveDildosWillTravel, about everything from sex to scenery to selfies, and it’s a trip I will always remember fondly.
Smut in the 6ix sounded like a literal dream come true when I first heard of it. A collaboration between Playground and Spit, Smut was a day-long celebration of the burgeoning indie porn scene in my hometown of Toronto. During the day, porn nerds gathered for panel discussions about the technical, social, artistic, and political facets of porn creation. At night, there was a big gala with live performances, porn scene screenings, and lotsa dancing. Told you: a dream come true.
I was lucky enough to be asked to moderate a panel at Smut, and was also invited to perform some music at the gala. It was a terrific honor to be involved. I’m so grateful to Caitlin K. Roberts, Samantha Fraser, and Claire AH for organizing the whole shebang; as always, it was a delight to convene with my fellow sex-positive weirdos and get nerdy together!
In 2015, it made me super sad to see my favorite sex bloggers social-media’ing about all the fun they were having at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. I resolved to do my very best to make it to the Summit in 2016 – and I managed to save enough money to make it happen. Hooray!
I flew to Washington by myself without having an anxiety meltdown (success!) and checked into the hotel, where I was sharing a room with Sarah and Artemisia. I hadn’t met either of them in person before, but they were so delightful, and totally ideal roomies for me!
Sex-positive events are where I feel most able to be myself. My anxiety mostly melts away and I throw caution to the wind: I dress weird, speak my mind, laugh loudly, and go on adventures. It helps that people actually know who I am at these events, making me feel like a powerful little starlet! Woodhull had also thoughtfully set up a “bloggers’ lounge,” perfectly appointed with coffee galore and sex toys to fondle. I felt truly in my element.
I wish I could’ve gotten to know everyone at Woodhull, but like many bloggers, I’m an anxious introverted weirdo and could only do what I could do. Luckily, though, I did make several new friends. April offered to let me borrow her lipstick for blowjob purposes; Mandi‘s laugh lit up my life; Lorax‘s dark sass slayed me; Sarah was so adorable and clever I wanted to high-five her constantly; I quaffed wine with Mary and Harry; I cooed over Crista‘s killer eye makeup and bought an Ethical Misandrist sticker from her; Polly‘s sex stories kept me on the edge of my seat; I finally got to ogle (part of) Lunabelle‘s epic dildo collection in person; I delighted in Girl on the Net‘s hilarious sexy poems; and Sugarcunt frequently made me laugh so hard I thought I might choke to death. Plus I got to spend time with several treasured blogger friends I’d met before: Suz, Piph, Lilly, Caitlin, Hedonish, JoEllen, and of course, my bestie Bex.
I spanked a beautiful butt, learned about sex ed and sexual freedom, attended a fancy gala, and snapped selfies with femme friends. It was truly – to steal a phrase from Lilly – “like sex-blogger Christmas.” I’m already daydreamin’ about Woodhull 2017, and it can’t come soon enough.
Bex wanted a spanking party for their 25th birthday, and so, #BirthdayBruises was born. It was lovely to celebrate this milestone with sex-savvy friends both local and far-away. I put on a ridiculous outfit and pranced around our cozy Airbnb playing hostess – a role which involved everything from serving drinks to administrating the livestream to spanking the birthday bean. When Bex had taken all they could take, they were accosted by cuddles on the couch and I brought them some refrigerated mint-chocolate truffles. Sex bloggers really know how to party, y’all.
I’m so glad that this experience was affirming and uplifting for Bex. It was for me, too, even though I barely got hit at all. It’s always comforting to marry my sex blogger life with my IRL/offline life, to blend those two friend groups together, to embody all my favorite parts of myself without needing to compromise or hide any of them. This party also demonstrated my friends’ immense generosity: guests helped us with tech troubles, took over hosting duties when Bex and I were otherwise occupied, and (of course) harnessed their brawn to make Bex’s birthday-spanking fantasies come true. Gosh, I love my friends.
What were your favorite sex-positive or sex-adjacent events in 2016?