#YVRBloggers Meetup: The Sexy Panel (A Night In Review)

by Dave on February 10, 2011

Last night was an interesting night.  It was my first visit to the Vancouver Bloggers’ Meetup Group. It was hosted by my good friend Raul Pacheco-Vega (@hummingbird604) at the wonderful Network Hub venue.  I struggled with the title of this blog – depending on the perspective I took, it could also have been called:

  • “There are like 6 million words for ‘penis.’”
  • “Sex is emotive and vast.”
  • “I was a dominatrix in Amsterdam.”
  • “I love Teemu Selanne.”
  • “When they checked the inventory, they found a trophy for Best Anal.”

Based on these alternative titles, if you are my grandmother, like my grandmother, or have ever wished you were my grandmother (seek help!), give some serious thought before reading on.

The Sexy Panel

(Left-to-Right): Phaedra McEachren, Monica Hamburg, Danielle Sipple, Raul Pacheco-Vega (Photo by @arianecdesign)

So it was my first visit with my meetup and the title was “The Sexy Panel.”  The Sexy Panel consisted of (from left to right with bios from the meetup site):

  • Phaedra McEachren: Phaedra has been a local blogger since 2007. Her blog style is deep and personal, with a smattering of humour, about her trials and tribulations in this game called Life. A trained professional counsellor, she spends her spare time doing yoga, working out and learning new cooking tricks from The Food Network. She has been involved in the local kink scene on and off for 10 years and is currently working on her memoirs about her life as a professional dominatrix.
  • Monica Hamburg: Monica Hamburg is a writer, actor and social media consultant. She is fascinated by sex and sexuality and has worked as a porn theatre projectionist, trained to be a dominatrix and seemingly blogs a fair bit about porn. Her humor blog is: Your Dose of Lunacy.com, work is: Monica Hamburg Work Blog at work and she’s on Twitter: @monicahamburg
  • Danielle Sipple: A self proclaimed word nerd and queer femme, Danielle Sipple is a writer, performer, media shaker and more. In her free time she aptly cultivates discussion around gender, sexuality and online identities. Having spent 4+ years in the sex industry, Danielle desires to bring the ideas of sex positivity to the tip of everyone’s tongues. Notably she also speaks fluent cat and was named as an honorable mention in Violet Blue’s Top 10 Sexiest Geeks of 2010. She tweet as @FierceKitty.

I joked with Raul that losing one’s virginity (never having been to a YVR bloggers’ meetup) couldn’t have been easier.  He remarked that having 3 amazing women to guide me through it probably made it more pleasant. :)

Despite having posted one photo of me in drag on this site, it’s been pretty vanilla.  Today’s post goes a bit past that and I don’t think it’s that big a deal, really.  Three notions or questions came out of the night’s conversation for me:

  1. Consent.
  2. Why blog about sex?
  3. Why are there so few straight male bloggers that discuss sex?

I’m going to work backwards.  At the time of writing, I’m still not sure how to handle the first one on the list, but it was the first to come up in the discussion and the one that moved me the most.

1.  Why Are There So Few Straight Males That Blog About Sex?

I wish I knew.  The discussion yielded no conclusive results.  I tweeted that the discussion was “Making me wonder why I don’t write about sex on my blog. I’m not very inclined, but also don’t know why I don’t.”  I believe it’s also true that straight males don’t talk about sex on the same level that women and gay men often do and, as someone who was ostracized and eventually forced to leave a class on gender studies and sexuality in university, I don’t think we’re often welcome to the mainstream of that discussion.

Melding my own opinions with those voiced during tonight’s discussion, there are two processes at work specifically in blogging:

  1. Writing
  2. Reaction

Straight male bloggers who want to write about sex need to contend with both of these probably more than women or gay men writing on the same topic.  My perspectives as a woman and/or a gay man are limited, so please weigh in if you have more perspective than me and disagree.

On writing, Bev Davies probably put it best when she built off of Monica Hamburg’s comments.  She discussed the fact that men already have a world where Hollywood and popular culture cater to their sexual desires and they feel limited in what they can immediately contribute.  She’s right – it’s stifling. Monica, and the rest of the panel, had discussed the fact that women are often more emotive then men when it comes to sex and that makes it easier to access for them.  Between being less emotionally connected to the topic and and having a seemingly less clean canvas, men may feel limited in what they can contribute and feel good about.

In addition, when men write about good ol’ heterosexual sex it can be taken a number of ways.  As Monica said tonight that a woman who writes about a man coming inside of her is perceived radically different than a man writing about that from his perspective.  As a straight man, I understand that thoroughly.  If I write about sex, I believe I’ll be handicapped more than others who write about the same topic from their points of view.

Between writing and follow-up, I’m not surprised there are so few male sex bloggers.  I wish there were more though – straight male sexuality is evolving as quickly as anyone else’s, but it’s doing so much more privately and that’s not a great thing in my opinion.

2.  Why Blog About Sex?

I loved this area of discussion.  The panel was asked how they came to be blogging about sex in whatever capacity they happen to blog about it.  Their stories were unique, but also the same:  Being themselves in their writing resulted in not hiding their sexuality.  That made me worry a bit – I tend to be myself in my writing, but I never write about sex…

In addition to being themselves online, each panelist discussed their respective boundaries.  As examples, Phaedra has a private blog with a limited readership, Danielle doesn’t publish everything about a particular experience, which leaves opportunities for further in-person discussion with people she feels inclined to share with and Monica doesn’t write much about personal experiences.  Diverse boundaries and content with each woman, yet they all got invited to this panel and that speaks volumes about the breadth of the topic.

I didn’t have this perspective heading into the night, but writing about sex is like writing about anything else online – you write about what you know, share what you deem appropriate and you learn from your mistakes in terms of sharing.  And you need to manage your reputation – though many social media people will tell you that customers own your brand, you control what they get to play with and controlling your reputation is key.  Those who think that people who blog about sex have no reputation left to manage are dead wrong.  Everyone has personal constraints and obligations outside of social media so that kind of management is paramount.

On another note, Danielle discussed in detail the idea that she tries to meet the people she engages right where they’re at.  Monica echoed this by implying that people are often in different spaces in terms of sexuality and that’s cool.  Each of the panelists was keen to respect their audience or the people who wouldn’t dare become their audience and I loved that.  They write on what many people might consider to be “the edge” of online publication, but they’re happy to respect where people are at and let them be.  A brief personal reflection on the fact that people may go out of their way to engage them out of hate, fear or over-active irrational disagreement makes me wonder about who’s got the best perspective on these kinds of confrontations really…

3. Consent.

Consent. Ahh. This is a real challenge for bloggers that write about sex.  Really, unless someone who blogs about sex is engaged in all kinds of masturbatory acts, which, although possibly fun, they may be limited.  Inevitably, someone else or several someone elses, real or fictional, are often involved with entries.  Consequently, blogging about sex involves consent or seriously clandestine prose.

Danielle was clear from the beginning that consent was a non-negotiable component of the evening.  We were to be conscious of who we tagged online and make sure they were cool with being publicly outed as attending the event. I’m not sure anyone tagged anyone outside of Raul and the Panel during the event after that discussion.

In addition to making consent part of the night’s theme, Danielle remarked that consent for online engagement (such as photo tagging, etc.) often doesn’t happen.  Monica followed that up asking when it is that we consent to not requiring consent for such things and that happens, too.  Consent is a weird thing – it’s explicit, implied, required or not required in all kinds of various scenarios.

This whole conversation froze me.  Well, I wasn’t entirely frozen because my stomach formed a weird pit and my writing hand began to shake (as evidenced from the state of my notes).  At one point in my life, a friend referred me to some things about me written and published online by someone else that included things that I hadn’t given consent to disclose.  Some were sexual, which was the reason for my sort-of-paralysis, and the rest were deeply personal and their disclosure just made me sad.  As I told Raul tonight – before this happened, my 15 years of being online had always seemed at least somewhat virtual, but in the moment I read that content, my online world became very real.  When the the criterion of consent was driven home at the event, I was certain I’d never felt more violated by my previous experience.

Wrap-up

I suppose that blogging about sex tests us.  Those on the outside of posts on sex may have very many assumptions about the author and the content.  The panel taught that respect, boundaries and commitment to whatever values one holds make quality online experiences universally interesting regardless of the content.  The online world gives us the opportunity to engage people outside of our own periphery with ease and it’s how we respond both internally and in public that demonstrates our true values and sense of who we are.

  • http://twitter.com/hummingbird604 Raul Pacheco

    This is an amazing blog post, Dave – and one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time.

    • http://www.davemacdonald.ca davemacdonald

      Thanks, Raul! I appreciate your time in checking it out and sharing with others.

  • Pimping 4 Art

    I might volunteer that, while the culturally-mainstream depiction of heterosexual male sexuality is limited to a subset of the total heterosexual male sexuality, still to many heterosexual men our sexuality seems under attack by everyone else. This discourages public discussion of the subject.

    • http://www.davemacdonald.ca davemacdonald

      Thanks for that. You hit it on the head more succinctly than I did. Bev talked about that and someone else mentioned that it was, in fact, just a sub-section of male sexuality in the mainstream. It feels as though the attack on the stereotype that’s mainstream is something that will result in backlash on any discussion of male sexuality.

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