In praise of the erotic…?

Friday night was… Erotica night. And while I suspect that’s not the sort of admission you’ll see your average parent making out publically, I have an excuse, in that I was covering the event for the national press.

Too, since I do seem gradually to be achieving the long hoped-for migration towards the status of mainstream writer on sex and relationships (and will be appearing in yet another national mag fairly soon as their agony aunt), it feels like a good place to drop by. To re-acquaint myself with what’s going down (er, not quite literally) and to catch up with other writers and campaigners in the same sort of sphere.

So: hi to Cat Stephens, national co-ordinator of the International Union of Sex Workers. Hi, too, to Sarah Berry, who is rapidly carving a niche for herself as one of the UK’s foremost commenters on women’s sexual health. And hi, to self-proclaimed erotic author, artist, poet and, er, “tease”: Annie Player. Just gutted that commitments on the child-care front meant I couldn’t stay on for drinks (and gossip) after.

They really ought to run a crèche (although I suspect in our moral panic-stricken country, the chances of that happening without all children present instantly being impounded by the local authority are slight).

As for “take your child to work day”: well, I suppose I could just about manage that through the simple expedient of only taking the boy to London when next I’m covering some particularly tedious parliamentary committee (Home Affairs might be suitably dry)

But I’m sure he’d prefer somewhere with loud music (and girls). Should I be worried that at the tender age of almost 7, the two role models he seems to have picked up from all his too-much-TV-watching are Bart Simpson and Father Jack?

But back to Erotica. It really isn’t my favourite event of the year – and that’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by most of the grown-ups who have anything much to do with researching, writing about, or otherwise interacting with the UK’s various adult enterprises and sexual minorities.

It is loud, shamelessly commercial and seems to be very much the answer to the question: what do you get if you let a load of blokes in pinstripe suits loose to inflict their erotic fantasies on the rest of the world? Brash lads mag sexuality, and all told, a very poor advert for the idea that there can be an erotic that does not exploit and objectify women.

Not there this year (as far as I am aware) wasn’t Anna Span, the UK’s first and leading feminist porn producer. Nor Suraya, founder and editor of Filament Magazine, which attempts to create erotica from the woman’s point of view.

Instead, those of us who believe that sex isn’t always bad, and that there is room for an alternative view of the erotic in between the laissez-faire of mainstream porn and the tut-tutting of church and traditional feminism are left, year after year, feeling very let down by this event.

There has to be a better way: but Erotica probably isn’t capable of becoming it.



3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    There you go again, that’s another bunch of things that I’d like to chat about in private. Can’t really imagine actually wanting to go to Erotica, sort of oxymoron of a name, but you’re there in a different capacity than simply spectating….
    After the performance we have had this week dealing with some ghastly little semi pro pornographer I’m finding nothing at all to like about this industry and I’m an atheist who is definitely not rad fem.

    • 2

      janefae said,

      Indeed…i think the answer is that i enjoy being alongside sex and sexuality issues, both as rapporteur and occasionally researcher. My motivation is pretty similar to that for most of my lifetime’s politicking, which is i truly dislike people being penalised just for being themselves…but…if you pick between what i write, you’ll find a sharp divide.

      On the one hand, i’m in favour of people being allowed, on the whole, free expression where there is both consent and a lack of exploitation: on t’other, i prefer to remain mostly agnostic on the nit-picking disputes between various sub-groups within each scene, which often seem to be as much about personality as any sort of politics.

      Erotica, for me, COULD be a really sex-positive event: a celebration of sexual diversity. But it isn’t: and while i enjoy the fact that there are enough bods who turn up each year that i know well (and can head off for a drink with afterward) to make it worthwhile, i am constantly depressed by the aimless commercialisation of it all.


  2. 3

    There’s that O-word again. It leaves me scratching my head over why it is that I’m supposed to be seeing a woman as an object if I see her starkers in the centre spread of some lad’s mag, but not if I see a photo of her walking fully clothed along Oxford Street. It’s all supposed to add to my guilt feelings, of course, only it doesn’t anymore. I am perfectly capable of appreciating that a woman either naked in a lad’s mag or walking fully clothed along Oxford Street may also be a mother, an airline pilot, a checkout operator or whatever (except, of course, a RadFem).
    Having bodies is part of the human condition. Get on with it.

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