Erotica Out in the Open – BlogHer 2012

The first Saturday morning session is starting out with a bang – pun intended – with Erotica Out in the Open. Our panel today features Twanna Hines, Arielle Loren, Lauren Fleming aka Queerie Bradshaw, and Sienna Jae Fein. If you are uncomfortable with the subject of “dirty books,” or if you’re my mother-in-law, please find another post to check out. May I recommend my post about Martha Stewart’s keynote?

Erotica Out in the Open - BlogHer 2012

We are going to have a conversation about sex in America. Show of hands for 50 Shades of Grey readers. This session is writing about sex, not about that book except the fact that everyone in the room it has heard of it. Twanna says that eBooks are most of the fuel for 50 Shades of Grey‘s popularity. People could read the book discretely on their Kindle in the privacy of their own homes, with no one ever knowing.

“Last week, I had a terrible dream that, when it was my turn to speak, all of you got up and left, because no one wants to hear about geriatric sex,” says Sienna. Much laughter. Her audience is made up of women aged 58-74, women who want sex, and “not the polite kind.”

Where are you creating your content about sex, and how are you engaging your audience?

Sienna: She used to tell her university students, “Write what you know.” She’s a widow. She’s not a doctor, and she’s not a psychologist. Your audience appreciates when you talk about what you know about with authority.

Queerie: She writes about things she doesn’t know about all the time, because she interview experts. She finds answers from experts to questions her audience wants to know. Blogging for Curve magazine was too limited. She started Queerie Bradshaw to let people tell their personal stories about sex in an honest way when they can’t do it elsewhere for thousands of reasons.

Arielle: Coming out and being public about what she writes about helps her connect with her readers. She has a close relationship with both her writers and her readers.

What’s the heaviest thing you’ve ever written about?

Queerie: Her brother is dying of cancer right now, and she has been writing about that for two years. Her grandmother died the day she graduated from law school. It wasn’t about sex, but depression affects sex.

Arielle: She wrote about having HPV. People are scared to write about it when they have STDs, but she did it because she’d met so many women who were going through it, it’s helped her to connect with others. No one wants to get personal about it, but that’s why she did it.

Twanna: We all deserve to know that we’re not alone. No matter what we’re going though, someone else knows what it’s like and wants to talk about it.

Sienna: She tries to keep things light on her blog. “Can you talk dirty when you’re old?”

(Giving away vibrators and sex books for trivia questions now.)

How have you dealt with haters?

Arielle: “I actually read my comments, which can be bad…” It’s not so much from the women, but male trolls will call you everything from slut to hoe because we’re women who talk about enjoying sex. “And I think, really? You took time out of your day to write that about me?”

Queerie: The only real comments that we get are when she forgets to mention a letter in the “LGBTQIABCDLMNOP” or calls someone by the wrong gender pronoun by accident. When she writes for Nerve, she gets the men who want to turn her straight. She doesn’t let anyone leave hateful comments on her site; she deletes them. On the bigger sites, she just ignores them.

Twanna: She deletes hateful stuff on her own site. She someone starts talking crap in her house, she’s going to kick them out. If someone’s going to trash her on another site, that gives her more publicity.

When people you have sex with find out you are a sex writer, do they expect you to be extra awesome in bed?

All panelists: YES!

Arielle: “Just because I’m your friend on Facebook doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you.” She wishes sex didn’t come with that sort of expectation.

Sienna: She gets a lot of propositions from male readers. Women commenters say, “Well, that’s fine for you, but I have arthritis.”

Queerie: Some people have told her they want to sleep with her just to get in her blog…there’s something definitely wrong with them. The expectation people have of her is that she’s always going to be emotionally detached, because that’s how she writes.

Twanna: The fact that people even think that writing with sex goes along with expertise speaks to the fact that we don’t really talk about sex. We talk about sex passively. “We say, ‘I got laid,’ not ‘I invaginated him.'” (Uproarious laughter)

Privacy and sex blogging

Sienna: She gives the men she dates pseudonyms, and she  never writes about them cruelly. Sometimes she changes details, like where they are from, to protect their privacy. When you write about other people, you have to protect their privacy. She is also sensitive to what her kids think of her blogging.

Queerie: She lost a friend who wanted to be the first black lesbian Supreme Court justice because that friend was afraid of the effect on her reputation of having a sex blogger as a friend. (She has that friend back now.) She maintained Queerie Bradshaw as a completely anonymous pseudonym to protect her privacy until she was asked to speak at a symposium at Yale. From that moment on, she was proud to let people know that Lauren Fleming was Queerie Bradshaw.

Twanna: She had a similar experience where she used Funky Brown Chick anonymously until she was asked to make speaking appearances, and now she’s embraced her identity.

Arielle: Being open is nto something to be most afraid of.

Question from the audience: So, I’m a bit of a prude. What do I do about that?

Sienna: Blogging implies an audience. Think of your audience. If you’re not writing for an audience, you’re writing a diary. When thinking about how to establish a tone, think about your audience. You can’t write to the whole world about sex, so you have to carve out your niche…people who will follow you regardless of the niche, tone, and vocabulary you use to talk about it. She uses words that resonate with her audience, not necessarily the words she would use herself.

Twanna: Playing devil’s advocate, she writes as if no one’s going to read it. She says there’s nothing wrong with being prudish.

Aside from the eReader, how do you explain the 50 Shades phenomenon? What’s wrong with women?

Twanna: There’s nothing wholly wrong with women that are making them devour this book. People were talking about sex, reading about sex, and writing books about sex before 50 Shades.

Queerie: There was a built in audience of moms who were Twilight fans, and too many women identifying with the insecure heroine in an unhealthy relationship.

Is it possible to be really anonymous?

Answer from the audience: Yes, there’s a truly anonymous site,, you can write about. Violence Unsilenced is also out there.

Sienna: Writing under a pseudonym is a real solution.

Twanna: It can be naive to think that your pseudonym is going to remain anonymous forever. Image Googling and IP Tracking make it impossible.

Christina Gleason (972 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Empire: Four Kingdoms. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


  1. Thanks so much for this! I was really bummed to miss this session, and this helps lessen the sting. I used to teach Human Sexuality, and it’s so important to be comfortable asking and talking about sex. I hope you enjoyed the session as much as it sounds.

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