Friday, 28 March 2014

Food and Sex and a Side of Misogyny.

When I was a nipper (well, a young teen) one of the Rules of my School was 'Girls wearing their uniform may not eat in the street, or on public transport.' Though we were solemnly informed by our form teachers that, actually, if your train journey home was longer than 20 minutes, you wouldn't actually be expelled for eating a biscuit or two. There's certainly a school of thought to the effect that eating in the street is at least proletarian, if not downright skanky.

But an ice cream on a hot day is jolly nice, and it really won't wait until you get home. 

Chowing down on public transport can be a touch antisocial, it's true. I did once have to get off a bus due to someone else's eyewateringly stinky supper, and the pervasive honk of chip fat on the trams at the end of the school day is not exactly lovable. Add in the way some people consume food - groaning, slobbering, chewing with their mouths open, tossing the debris over their shoulders and farting with appreciation - and you can see some justification for someone starting up a Facebook group to take the piss.

Bet the oral sex technique is interesting....

However, calling your Facebook group WOMEN Who Eat On Tubes does rather imply that you're bothered by more than the decline in modern dining etiquette, somehow. Centuries of misogyny 'culture and tradtion' have reinforced the message that women shouldn't eat too much, shouldn't enjoy their food, should never forget that being hungry is far less important than appearing attractive to men. Even now, British and American women are expected and encouraged to talk about food in a way that emphasises guilt and shame rather than pleasure, and it's treated as natural that women hate their own bodies, have to be told what to eat and, if they are not thin, they are fair game for anyone who wants to point this out to them. In domestic settings, it's always been accepted (and often still is) that men get given food first, get the most food and the best of the food. So for the smug cock who set up WWEOT to claim that it's all about 'human' behaviour is tiresome and dishonest. The W and the P are not next to each other on your keyboard, mate. You've set this group up to take the piss out of women, because you are, at heart, an immature tosspot who thinks 'Girls, eeew!'

 The writer Fiona Pitt-Kethley was quoted as saying she liked to eat bananas on the tube as a way of freaking out men, which strikes me as quite a good way of dealing with the whole issue, really. Anything phallic-shape can be tenderly sucked and licked and toyed with until you've got the attention of every loser in the carriage, at which point you bite it brutally in half...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

My Eroticon, oh my oh my....

Time and distance lend perspective, and all that. Waiting about ten days to put up my thoughts on the Eroticon 2014 weekend is about time and distance and NOTHING AT ALL to do with being a lazy sod whose past week has involved a three day hangover and a lot of staring into space grinning while the concept of a new trilogy begins to gain shape. Oh no. Course not.
So, how was it for us? Mighty fine, since you ask. I got myself to Bristol after a not-too-awful coach trip and found my pleasant little B&B was, usefully, on the main bus route into the town centre. So, quick cuppa and a scrubdown later, I hit the bar of the Radisson Blu hotel, wondering if I should have worn a red carnation or something. I did have my ‘Mr Grey is a Lousy Lay’ badge on, but there isn’t exactly an erotica authors’ uniform (no matter what some MoPs might think). Luckily I recognised Jilly Boyd and Molly from encounters at Sh! And knew I was in the right part of the bar, at least. There were loads of new people to meet, as well: some of whom I ‘knew’ from Twitter and some I’d met at Tobacco Dock last year and – as always – a brilliant atmosphere of instant friendship and shared worldviews.
All the time, though, I was aware that I was going to have to talk and be sensible first thing in the morning, so I actually moderated myself a bit in terms of pints of cider consumed, and got a reasonably early night.

Saturday was lovely and sunny; the conference venue a gorgeous, stately old gaff in the town centre with a welcoming atmosphere and I got there in time to have a quick huddle with my co-speakers Myles Jackman, a truly righteous lawyer who I would love to have at my back if I ever do get myself in proper trouble and Pandora Blake, who is doing an awesome job of reinventing and revitalising porn that works for women. The three of us were doing the opening session on censorship and how it affects us, and I think I can say we went down well (and you are welcome to reinterpret that in ways that please your imagination…)
Further talks and workshops followed, some of which made me yearn for Hermione Grainger’s Time Turner so I could actually be in two places at once. As it was, I picked Emily Dubberly and Mia Moore’s advice session on dealing with the press and Lily Hastings’ enthralling lecture on anatomy – yes, if you’re going to write about sex you need to know your body parts. Unlike a long-ago dipstick who once submitted me a manuscript containing the unintentionally terrifying line ‘I parted her clitoris’…
After lunch – and lunch was as awesome as the rest; none of your own-brand crisps and soggy sarnies here – I had a prowl round the bookstalls and caught up with various friends before being enthralled and educated by Michael Knight and Ruby Goodnight on the subject of traffic-building and all that new technological stuff that still tends to bemuse me. I know a lot more now and just need to apply it.

Saturday night was party time at the Elephant Bar with some serious dressing up going on, lots of fizz, a little flirtation and various schemes and plans for future projects. Unsurprisingly, when we all got back to Armada House on Sunday morning, several of us were on the pale and trembling side of things. Lavish applications of tea and coffee got people into gear, though, and I spent the morning focussing on flash fiction with Kristina Lloyd. Using nail polish and paint colour charts for inspiration is unexpectedly effective. Once again, when it came to the afternoon’s choice of workships I struggled to decide and settled on Harper Elliot and Gryphon’s tips for reading your work aloud followed by the Ask An Editor Session. We finished off with readings and delicious cakes, and suddenly the weekend was over. Way, way too soon: more than one attendee was a little misty-eyed and miserable when it came to saying goodbye. Those of us with enough time to kill before trains and coaches home did nip into the nearest pub for a farewell pint or so, but if it’s true that the best entertainments always leave you wanting more, then you can safely say: job done, Ruby Kiddell and co.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Shiver with antici..........pation.

There's definitely excitement in the air this week (which is a pleasant change, for me anyway, after last week's whingefest) as we count down the days to Eroticon 2014. Maybe it's because I feel like I've finally got the hang of Twitter, or at least finally seem to be able to participate in an ongoing discussion without confusing the crap out of myself, but I'm bouncing around in a way I haven't done for years. It's not quite like kid-revving-up-for-Xmas, more the chattering, buttonholing-people, spreading-the-word vibes I've had before going to particularly good gigs or parties.

I don't think I ever got this worked up before the Guild Of Erotic Writers conferences. Runup to one of those was generally a matter of deciding what butties to make and how many boxes of wine to buy from Tescos, and how to make whatever damp community centre we'd booked for the event look a little more cheerful.

Even though our conferences were generally enjoyable once they were actually happening and usually ended with me getting to sleep with yet another of the editors from a particular arthouse publisher I don't recall quite such feverish anticipation beforehand.

It could be just another example of How It's All Changed These Days. We ran the Guild via photocopied newsletters and (in the independent part of its existence) a PO box that letters had to be fetched from once a week. While there was an Internet, it was still rather esoteric and not many people knew how to use it: there was no Twitter to whip up a feeding frenzy, no Facebook to create a group and invite everyone you could think of. I think I like things better the modern way. Better outreach, more fun, faster access and all the rest of it. So I'm counting the number of sleeps till Eroticon. And if I get to sleep with any publishers over the course of the weekend, well, I'll probably keep that to myself, if you don't mind.