Identity

This post arises from the happy coincidence of two books I have been reading recently, books which, at first sight, don’t seem to have much in common. The first is Maya Angelou’s “See How The Caged Bird Sings.” We discussed it this morning at the monthly Birmingham Feminist Book Club. Part of a wide-ranging discussion revolved around literature as a means of self understanding, this arising from Angelou’s won discussion in her book of what reading the classics of English literature, and especially, Shakespeare, meant to her, and how she was able, by engaging with the texts, to make sense of her own experience.

This was a concept that was made real for me a couple of years ago when I was a volunteer buddy for a Community Interest Company that worked with adults experiencing mental health difficulties, in particular by encouraging them to read literature and sharing their experiences. To get a flavour of what they did I was invited to attend one of the meetings. We were reading Rose Tremain’s novel The Road Home. The group consisted of people of varying ages, many of whom lived in considerable isolation, an isolation made worse by anxiety and phobias. Some of them only left the house for the weekly meeting in a local library. Most of them had little experience of serious reading. From the discussion, however, it became clear that the book was opening doors for them and all of them were able to use the text to make sense of their own lives, at the same times bringing their won experiences to bear in interpreting the text. As they talked they gave me new insights into the book. This experience was both illuminating and humbling.

These experiences and thoughts are particularly relevant to the other book I have been reading. This is an anthology called Identity, whose contributors all attended the recent Eroticon conference. I have to declare an interest. I was one of the contributors. But that is now why I am writing about it. The content is pretty eclectic, some of it personal reminiscence, and painful reminiscence at that, some of it fantasy, some of it opinion, some of it seriously hot, you know, the stuff you read one handed.  And then there was Meg-John Barker’s piece on erotic fiction as means of self understanding which got me reflecting again on my own identity, or in this case my sexual identity and what it means to me. This short essay was in my head as I read the other pieces and enriched my reading experience.  This really is as a wonderful anthology and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Erotic fiction has changed my life. I really don’t know why, one day in 2012, I felt the urge tio write a story about a carer in a elderly person’s home who has a relationship with a gay man whose carer he is. Other stories followed. I went online, I set up a Twitter account, I read voraciously, I discovered Eroticon and became part of a community. And a new Eve emerged, an Eve who is kinky, bisexual, who is proud to know sex workers she can call friends, an Eve committed to the freeest possible expression of human sexuality (subject to consent). In short an Eve I could not have imagined even existed only 6 years ago. It is through erotic literature that I have discovered what was previously latent, and been able to articulate it.

The main protagonist of my first story was Eric, an Oxford graduate who had been jailed for “gross indecency” in the dark days before 1967 and who experienced late sexual joy with a younger man. I killed him off at the end as the younger man had to move on and make his own way as a gay man in a different age, but acutely aware of the debt gay men, indeed all of us who are in some way not heteronormative, owe to those who suffered for daring to be different. I made sure, however, that Eric died happy, at peace with himself. I knew then that I owed him that. I know now that I owe him much more.

Ten Great Eroticon Moments 2017

Was it really a week ago that I walked out of the Grafton pub into a horrible night feeling the famed Eroticon drop? In truth the drop only lasted until I tucked ravenously into a pasty at Euston. On the train home I felt tired but elated. Eroticon just gets better and better. I have needed a week to take it all in and reflect but here are my thoughts.

2017 saw the event back in London after three years in Bristol. Much as I love Bristol, and much as I loved Armada House as a venue, I think London is  really where the event needs to be, not least because it is so much easier for overseas delegates ( of whom there were quite a few). I loved the vibe of Camden and loved Arlington House. And the proximity to Vivien of Holloway is, of course, another plus 🙂 And yes Anna Sky, we are going to buy frocks next year!

A few familiar faces were missing this year but we had a lot of new faces. A number of them admitted to anxiety and trepidation beforehand but they took to it like fish to water and made a huge contribution to the success of the event. It was great to meet you and I look forward to seeing you again next year. And if anyone is reading this who didn’t come because of anxiety please do come next year. We are more than people who come together once a year, we are a community and we want you to be part of it. Any event needs the renewal that comes from having new participants and it really bodes well for the future.

Others have written about ten things they took away from Eroticon 2017. I am going to write about my ten favourite moments (in no particular order)

  1. As I was enjoying a pre-Eroticon cigarette outside Arlington House I was joined by one of the residents. came to chat.

“This conference, what is it?” she asked.

“It’s a writers’ conference” I replied  vaguely.

“Only I’ve just been downstairs and I’ve seen them putting all penises out on a table.”

“Oh yes it’s an erotica writers’ conference” I said with more than a hint of relief.

2. Kate Lister’s run through the history of obscenity, .She mentioned Catullus who I had to read at school and who, oddly enough, is in a story on this blog here and here. And I never tire of Chaucer’s Miller’s tale

3. Being tied up by Screw Taboo at DJ Fet’s rope workshop and going all floaty and spacy. A lovely experience and a lesson in the power of rope.

4. Talking sex work politics. Can we have more on this next year please?. .

5. Girl on the Net’s riotous Listeresque poem. She fucking loves fucking in London ( although I may have worked that out already)

6. My train journey to work has not been quite the same this week after Confess Hannah’s tale of a train journey in Scotland.  But I still await my moment. Come on Chiltern Trains, lift your game!

7. Being asked for my autograph. This hasn’t never happened before….and may never happen again. For you Livvy it was a pleasure.

8. The Saturday evening social and particularly the burlesque show which will stay in the memory for a ling time.

9. Cigarettes with awesome people. You know who you are. I know I ought to give up but  I would surely be missing out on so many interesting conversations if I did.

10. Leaving on the Sunday knowing we will do it all again next year.

Read other reflections on Eroticon 2017 here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Off to Eroticon 2017

There are just two weeks until the most awesome weekend of the year. Erotioon is the sex writer’s conference to end…….Ok cliche over. Here is my online Meet and Greet. Please check out the other awesome posts by following this link

NAME (and Twitter if you have one)

Eve Ray @EveRay1 although I attended last year under a different name. This is the name I always wanted to attend under and now I finally am. As such this is the closure of a significant chapter in my life. If you really want to know why I didn’t come as Eve before buy me a cocktail and I will tell you.

 What are you hoping to get out of Eroticon 2017?

Just as last year I just want to spend time with awesome people, a number of whom I can call friends. This is actually a precious opportunity to talk freely about aspects of my life I simply can’t tell many people about. Even on the local kink scene I don’t feel anything like the freedom I do at Eroticon.

I am also looking to learn and be inspired. I have not had anywhere as much time for writing as I would like but if I came away with my head full of ideas it will all have been worthwhile.

This years schedule at Eroticon is pretty full on but which 4 sessions do you already have marked down as ones you want to attend?

Myles Jackman is always worth listening to. I will go to Kate Lister’s Sunday session. Sex work is something that I once write about extensively and it remains a significant interest and campaigning focus for me. Sarah Bryn –Holiday’s session sounds interesting and I hope I have made the cut for DJ Fet’s rope class. I was totally awed by her scene with Lola Day at Eroticon 2015 and determined to learn even though it had never particularly been a kink of mine. I am a slow learner though!

Tell us one thing about yourself that not many people know?

I am a published poet under my real name.

If you made the papers, what would the headline be?

Revealed: Saucy secrets of the cocktail drinking pin-up girl (News of the World if still existed)

If you could have one skill for free (I.e. without practice/time/effort) what would it be?

I would love to be able to swim

Complete the sentence: I love it when…

Gentlemen stand up and offer me their seat. ……..I may be debauched, I may be a feminist but I’m an old-time gal at heart