Screwing the System at Arse Elektronika 2011

As much as I consider myself a geek, I am pretty isolated generally from the geeky 'verse. A lot of my friends are certainly dorky/nerdy/geeky, in a multitude of ways, but we're usually meeting at altsex or Burner spaces, not hacker ones! I guess I'm a little intimidated by the techspeak, which I'm not a native speaker of.

Well, this last weekend was spent surrounded by smart sexy geeks at Arse Elektronika, a sex, tech, class and culture conference thrown by monochrom that goes on every year in San Francisco. I had two talks to give, one called "TLC: Sex Work, Disability, and Stigma", and one with Maggie Mayhem called "Pervertables: A Hands-on Workshop in Being a DIY Deviant". I didn't get to see all the rest of the talks as my spoons were kind of few and far between this weekend, but I wanted to at least give a bit of a writeup of what I did!

So first, on Saturday at the Center for Sex and Culture, I had my talk on sex work and disability, how people from both groups can help each other navigate through stigma and how mutual respect is healing for us both. It was important to me to address the catch 22 that insists that people with disabilities should be able to find romantic and sexual partners without sex work and yet refuses to acknowledge that not every PWD has access to social spaces/information about where to meet people/the spoons to make all that effort. I wanted to talk about how independent sex work can create space for therapeutic sex work, if that's what people want to do, and how that can have amazing results. I wanted to address how social media has helped both stigmatized groups have a voice. Mostly, I wanted to really get through to the people at the conference, people who may not have thought much about sex worker *or* disability rights.

This is a subject that's really close to me, as I've had multiple clients (never mind many friends!) with various disabilities or mental health issues; I take my work seriously, coming from my heart to help them navigate the scary, triggering and sometimes painful world of sexuality to figure out how they want to engage with it, and if they can engage with it. I'm incredibly happy when a client contacts me to let me know they've moved forward in their relationship or their life to feel more fulfilled, as it's never been my interest to keep someone dependent on me. I want to help them grow and develop.

And it kills me that because sex work is illegal in the US, that even sex surrogacy is dying out because people are afraid of arrest. It pisses me off that surrogates have statements like "I acknowledge this session series is not for the purpose of sexual gratification or entertainment and may or may not include sexual intercourse, manual, or oral stimulation" as part of their contracts... first of all, because it suggests that paid sex for pleasure is a less worthy cause, and secondly because that's not going to protect you in court (what's more likely to save you is being the "right" race, the "right" class, with the "right" work environment). Never mind that the special certificate is only seemingly available from southern California, costing you $1500, time, and lodging- something that makes it only accessible to wealthier sex workers.

All of this also affects people with disabilities, who may want to seek out sex work to help gain confidence in bed or to learn new techniques, but who can't afford the sort of sex worker who has the training needed and an accessible space. So we both end up fucked over by this system. Thankfully, social media has made it possible for us to connect, for us to rant and rave and have our voices heard, so we can ask "so what're you suggesting then?" and demand answers. We can share what's worked in other places and what hasn't. We can challenge these stigmas and expect better. And we can actually help people be happy and feel sexy. What's better than that?

Anyway, that's sort of an angry "wtf is wrong with America" version of my lecture. I have notes/an outline if you're interested in reading them. :) It went pretty well, I think, and I got some great questions and some excellent, inspiring, heartening feedback. More importantly, I made some connections with other people interested in the work I'm doing, and I'm hoping to get out there more and actively change the way people view sex work- as work, as a service, not as some perverted slavery.


So the next day, Maggie and I did our DIY Kinky Toys talk, which was kind of neat to do after listening to maymay's talk about class, social status and the BDSM scene- I had kind of hoped he would come out for it, especially as it was super inspiring to see lots of people getting excited about the things they could make with the supplies we had! Maggie and I had gotten all sorts of stuff, mostly from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. This one happened at the local hacker space Noisebridge.

Rather than do a big lecture and talk at people, I kind of just ushered them over to the table, where we had all manner of potential kinky stuff- pipe cleaners, zippers, wooden spoons, rubber pipe, bike inner tubes, hot glue, floppy disks, circuit boards... fun times!

Here's a few of my own personal projects:

"Pinkie Pie floggers"- Time to make: 7 minutes each. Cost: about .75 each.

I made these out of some handles (not sure what they were for, they had areas to screw things in the ends, shush you) I found at the depot, along with some pink zippers, electrical tape, and a bit of shiny silver aluminum tape for decoration. I used the tape in a long strip and spaced the zippers so they were all the same way, about every 1/2" or so, and then wrapped it tightly around the handle with the electrical tape with some extra wraps for a solid attachment.

What's fun about these floggers is that you can zip them up for a harsher feel, or unzip them for a lighter sting! Plus, they're sized in a way to be like cheerleader pompoms, which I just thought was super cute. And I love matched sets!

"Pinkie Pie big flogger"-Time to make: 10 minutes. Cost: about $.75

This flogger was made in a similar way to the one above, except I used a nerf bat handle for the handle on it. I also wrapped the tape all the way down the handle to make it look even. I might paint the blue bit so it matches my other floggers.

The longer strands means they'll have a bit more force when used, and I'd be careful with both of these designs about drawing blood- zippers can be sharp, so use with caution!

Also, always make sure to have at least a half inch to an inch of the zipper ends solidly and tightly wrapped to your handle via the tape- this will give you a stronger foundation and make it less likely your toy will fly apart mid-scene, which is possibly dangerous and definitely embarrassing.

"CyberSmacker"- Time to make- 5 minutes. Cost: $.30

This was a fun project that came about cause I wanted a cute smacky thing using a circuit board. I found a tiny one, and thought "awww!"

The materials for this one are chopsticks, the circuit board, hot glue, aluminum sticky tape, and a bit of electrical tape.

It's got a bit of sting to it, thanks to the plastic and metal circuit board, along with the fun sensation edges- you can use this for scratching lightly, or maybe a bit harsher if you prefer to dig in your claws.

"The P4DDL3"- Time to make: 10 minutes. Cost: $1.50

This is kind of my favourite of the toys I made at the workshop! It's my totally L337 paddle, and it has kind of a nasty bite on the other side where it has a textured rubber covering.

To make this toy, I used an old ping pong paddle, some sparkly paper, hot glue, a floppy disk, and some ethernet cable. I put down the sparkly paper first, then the disk, and finally wound the ethernet cable around the handle and solidified it with some electrical tape.

It has a really great oomph to it, and a lovely weight!

I was also really happy with the creativity of others at the workshop- a couple other people made zipper floggers, someone made a beautiful inner tube flogger with wings (!), there were reuses of whisks and feathers and bits of copper scrub brushes to make some fantastic toys! You don't have to be super crafty or creative, have fancy equipment or skills. I feel like we managed to communicate that very well to people at Arse, so yay!

Can't wait for next year. :D

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