Eroticon 2019: How Accessible Was It?

Image is of Morgan, a blue-haired nonbinary human with facial piercings, smirking and holding their Eroticon delegate badge up to the camera. The badge reads "Eroticon, Morgan Peschek, @KinkyAutistic, Pronouns: They/them, Delegate".

(To those of you who follow me on Twitter and are bloody sick of hearing me talking about Eroticon, worry not! This is the last blog post I’ll put up that directly relates to it. Next week will be a continuation of last month’s stalkery Smut Saturdays story, and after that I have posts about why there are so many autistic people doing kink, how I feel about receiving cunnilingus and plenty more in the pipeline!)


It’s been just shy of a week since Eroticon 2019 came to an end, and I have to say: I loved it.

For those not in the know, Eroticon is an annual conference held in London all about sex, sex writing, sex blogging and sexy, sexy search engine optimisation. This was my first year attending (and was, in fact, my first experience attending any kind of conference) and I was anxious about every element of it, but I particularly wanted to discuss its accessibility since my whole Thing™ is about being simultaneously slutty and disabled.

I’ll start with the good things, and then mention areas for improvement, but I want to stress that Eroticon was an unbelievably positive and welcoming environment and that I could sense the whole time how much thought and care was poured into its planning and into making it as accessible as humanly possible. I already have plans to attend again next year and I’m even toying with the idea of pitching a session, so you can rest assured that even the things that were less than ideal weren’t nearly enough to ruin the fantastic experience I had. I’m also only going to talk about the accessibility of the conference itself, not the Friday night Meet And Greet or the Saturday night social, because those were hosted in a Holiday Inn entirely beyond the control of the organisers and because this post is running at too many words already.

The Good:

  1. Whilst trying to assuage my ever-growing anxiety about the fact that I was going to fucking London for a fucking conference, I spent hours studying the Eroticon website and was pleasantly surprised to find both a floor plan and a virtual tour of the building in which it was taking place. This is, as far as I’m concerned, an accessibility feature – being able to visualise a space before I have to navigate it in the flesh realm is anxiety-reducing and makes it marginally less likely that I’ll get lost. (I did get lost, but that wasn’t for a lack of signage in the building – I just get overwhelmed easily and forget how to read sometimes.)
  2. The aforementioned building, Arlington House, features a step-free entrance and both lifts and stair lifts to make all the rooms stairlessly accessible. I was thankfully having a good weekend in terms of my joint pain and stability, but knowing that I could have foregone the stairs if I’d needed to was a huge comfort.
  3. This only tenuously fits under the heading of “accessibility”, but the toilets were all gender-neutral, including the larger, wheelchair-accessible one. I suppose this is only an accessibility feature if you, like me, have debilitating anxiety that is worsened by dysphoria, but then again, all accessibility features are designed to accommodate specific needs that not every disabled person will have.
  4. The lunch options available were, as far as I could gather, brilliant for anybody with particular dietary needs – food that had to be allergen-free was stored separately from food that didn’t, and there was the opportunity to request vegetarian and vegan options and other such specialist things. Unfortunately, there was no “I am a fussy bitch baby” option, so the only things I could face eating were the fruit and the cake, but I can’t fault anybody for that – I have such particular, limited tastes in food that I wasn’t expecting to find much I’d like. I can heartily recommend the red velvet cupcakes, though.
  5. There was a room labelled the “Silent Sanctuary” where people who were overwhelmed, needed to rest, etc. could go to lie or sit down, and it even featured the thoughtful touch of colouring books. As I’ll go into below, it wasn’t perfect, but it was an enormous relief to slip into when I was finding myself somewhat burnt out and in need of some quiet crocheting time.

The Bad:

  1. Like most of the things I’m about to list, this was beyond the control of the Eroticon organisers, but it’s still worth mentioning for future attendees: the Silent Sanctuary was not silent. All of its occupants, when I visited, were exceptionally quiet and respectful, but its doors opened right onto the vendor area, so even when they were shut, a continual murmur of noise leaked through – and whenever anybody opened them, it was like being right back in that busy corridor. I appreciate that it was probably a priority to keep the Silent Sanctuary close to the busy vendor area precisely so that overwhelmed people like me could access it easily, and I’m not sure how anybody could have soundproofed it, but it’s worth bearing in mind so if you’re the noise-sensitive type you can consider bringing earplugs or ear defenders.
  2. The vendor area itself was the only place I ever visited where seating wasn’t readily available. I don’t know how they might have crammed seating in there for attendees, as it was situated in a corridor that saw heavy footfall most of the time, but my knees, hips and ankles were not best pleased about the fact that I had to stand for the entire duration of my (genuinely fascinating) discussions with various vendors. I can only suggest knowing your limits and maybe popping an ibuprofen before visiting the vendor area; the breakout space and all the talks had chairs available, so you could always duck out and plant yourself on one of those, but if you wanted to hang out with vendors and learn about exciting new products, it was standing room only.
  3. Again, I can’t blame the Eroticon organisers for this, but there were a lot of scents making appearances over the weekend. I’m not sure whether it was the rooms themselves that were scented with some kind of air freshener or whether attendees were wearing scents, but as a hypersensitive autistic baby, I found myself suffering bouts of nausea as well as more frequent overwhelm as a result of scents seemingly coming from all directions. I’m hesitant to suggest a no-scent or low-scent policy for next year because I don’t want to be entitled and demanding, but some people have migraines and other physiological conditions that are triggered by scents and others, like me, find them overwhelming even in small doses.
  4. I fully understand that hosting Eroticon in Camden makes it accessible to a lot of people who are arriving by public transit, and I also understand that finding an accessible venue that will host sex-related events is an unimaginable ballache. However, Camden is on the cusp of being financially inaccessible: even if you receive one of the tickets funded by sponsors, finding affordable accommodation and food in Camden is a whole task in and of itself, and if you choose to stay in an area of London outside of Camden you have to account for the price of public transport to get over to Arlington House. Again, I have no suggestions for where to host Eroticon instead, especially since Arlington House are an excellent organisation doing excellent work, but I have to mention financial accessibility, especially since us disableds are some of the people most likely to experience financial difficulties.

The Overview:

I had a brilliant time at Eroticon. I really, really did, and I cannot imagine a better first-conference experience than the one I had. The minor criticisms I have are all things that don’t fall directly at the feet of the Eroticon team and are near-impossible to remedy, but they’re things I wish I’d been aware of before I attended so I could make sure I had ibuprofen and earplugs – which is why I’ve mentioned them here! I’d love to meet even more members of this loving, supportive, truly incredible community, so I figured I could do my bit by equipping potential 2020 attendees with some knowledge that’ll make their Eroticon experience even better.

What Should I Do With My Body Hair?!

Image is a close up of a white person's skin with dark brown curly hairs growing out of it. It is unclear what body part the image is of.

I grow a lot of body hair.

Not a truly atypical amount for an assigned female, estrogen-influenced person’s body, just kind of… a lot. My hair is thick and dark, so it’s noticeable as soon as it grows in – on my legs, under my arms, along my forearms, between my tits, in a trail down to my mons pubis, and all over my pubic area itself. These are all very typical places for an adult mammal such as myself to sprout hair.

The conundrum is whether I should keep it.

The obvious answer, the one that everybody I ask defaults to, is that it’s my choice, and I should do whatever makes me most comfortable. But therein lies the problem – what makes me most comfortable is changeable and confusing. There are so many components to my comfort that it’s almost indecipherable, and I’m easily overwhelmed – so I figured I’d break down these components in a blog post, partly so that people in similar tangles can come to their own conclusion about their own hair, and partly as therapy for me.

First of all, there’s the gender thing. My gender is… unpredictable. Sometimes I’ll have a masculine-of-centre phase so long, so intense and so dysphoria-laden that I’ll genuinely consider medically changing my body through HRT or surgery… but then the pendulum will swing and I’ll find myself watching hours of makeup tutorials, dressing exclusively in skirts and contemplating growing my hair back out to shoulder length.  Equally, sometimes I’m just indifferent to gender and I simply want to do whatever is most convenient. As far as I can tell, my genderswings (y’know, like moodswings, but trans) aren’t linked to any environmental factors (though my masc phases sometimes coincide with lower mood, but that may well be because the low mood is caused by the dysphoria that accompanies my masculinity). There is no way for me to anticipate them, so I just have to maintain a level of androgyny that can be accessorised with to match my moods. Of course, body hair isn’t inherently gendered, but it’s perceived by other people as masculine and it feels masculine to me – so when I run into a masc phase the day after I’ve shaved my pits bare, I’m disgruntled. Luckily, my body hair grows fairly quickly, so as long as a masc phase lasts longer than a few days, I can revel in my hairy armpits for at least a little while.

That is, until the sensory side of it becomes unbearable. Autistic people can be acutely sensitive to particular stimuli – and, in my case, I’m hypersensitive to some tactile inputs. It’s not usually the hair that bothers me, though. I barely register my leg and arm hair, noticing them more by sight than by feel. The two big problems I have are my pits and my pubes. I use stick antiperspirant almost exclusively (due to my lack of proprioception making it inevitable that I’ll get spray deodorant in my eyes or mouth, as well as having lived with an asthmatic mum and then an asthmatic housemate for most of my deodorant-wearing life) and when you apply that stuff to a hairy armpit, it takes an age to dry, and feels slick and slimy for a ridiculously long time. Application to a bare pit, on the other hand, means that it dries in moments, as well as getting all over the actual skin I’m trying to deodorise, so I don’t have to deal with sweaty pits either. (For the record, I like other people’s sweaty armpits just fine, especially if I’m being sorta headlocked into them – but my own sweaty pits give me the bad autism somethin’ awful.)

Meanwhile, the pubes issue is rooted in a deep hatred for the way that menstrual blood interacts with hair, but is also complicated by vaginal discharge, lube and other people’s sexual fluids whenever those things enter the region. I hate having wet and/or clumped-together hair anywhere, but I have some particularly vivid memories of my labia literally being tangled together by menses-soaked pubes back when I used pads (and had heavy, birth-control-free fourteen-year-old periods, rather than the more manageable ones I have now), so now I keep my pubes trimmed out of habit and fear.

The third and final component of this conundrum is the feminist one. I’ve spent this evening researching criticisms of neoliberal, uncritically choice-oriented feminisms for a module I’m doing at uni, and it solidified what I’ve felt for a long while: that blindly advocating for personal choice in all matters is a woefully lacking feminist strategy, since all our choices are going to be influenced by patriarchal bullshit. To painstakingly remove all my pubic hair in an emulation of porn performers’ genitals (which are, as I understand it, hairless for cinematic convenience more than anything else) and insist that I’m doing it solely for myself, without pausing to consider why I think that emulating porn produced by cishet men counts as an act of self-care… it would be naive at best and wilfully ignorant and apolitical at worst. So instead, I have spent many, many hours agonising over what I should do with my body hair, well aware that I’m taking into account my own aesthetic preferences (influenced by pop culture, porn and patriarchy) and those of others (including people who don’t even see my genitals any more!) alongside the factors I deem more “legitimate” like transness and autism. Then I get myself into a spin about why I don’t prioritise my aesthetic preferences (regardless of where they come from) and whether disregarding what I want to spite the patriarchy is still letting the bastards win, and, and…

And it barely matters. It’s a few square inches of hair that always grows back. The people who get to see my genitals are ones who already understand and respect my feminist principles and who understand that free choice under patriarchy is virtually impossible, so, while we should all be as self-aware as we can, we should also be kind to ourselves and to each other, and save our energy for things that have more real-world consequences than “I have once again had to dredge pubes out of the shower drain in order to prevent overflow”. At the end of the day, in this case, I really should do what makes me feel best – and if that means spending a few minutes before each shower doing a little introspection, feeling around for my confused and abstract gender, and prioritising my sensory needs over the bold statement I could make with my underarm hair, then I think I’m okay with that. I don’t need to have a fixed body hair policy.

I just need to be self-aware, and to be kind to myself.

Eye Contact During Sex – Eye’d Rather Not

A white person with blue hair (Morgan) lies in bed, making direct eye contact with the camera. They have a neutral facial expression and their face takes up most of the frame.

A little while ago, somebody on Twitter asked their followers what their feelings were on eye contact during sex. As the existence of my sex blog suggests, I cannot resist oversharing on the internet, so I gave this answer:

“I’m autistic but unlike a lot of autistic peeps, eye contact doesn’t feel toooo invasive or uncomfortable for me, I just… don’t see the point in it? I struggle to focus on looking at one area at the best of times and there are so many amazing visual distractions happening […] during sex that I have to make a conscious effort to make (or fake) eye contact if it’s something my partner wants/needs. I find it distracting & sometimes overwhelming to try to rein my focus in like that so I have more mindful, enjoyable sex without eye contact involved.”

Yep, that’s right – I don’t hate eye contact, but I avoid it where I can nonetheless. This may come as a shock to some of y’all, but not all autistic people are the same. I don’t actually have any particular aversion to eye contact as such, but what I do have is an aversion to focusing on anything at all for longer than three seconds – and that includes other people’s eyes.

Stereotypically, eye contact is a feature of ‘romantic’ sex. I have a lot of sex that probably doesn’t look ‘romantic’ from the outside – y’know, the kind of sex that involves meat tenderisers, breath play, spit and slapping. I’d argue that a lack of ‘romance’ isn’t an intrinsic quality of the sex I’m having, though, because I’m still forming intense and loving connections with the other person or people involved and we’re still spending quality time together in the same thoughtful and attentive way that is supposedly intrinsic to rose-petals-and-candles, mass media-endorsed romance.

The problem with eye contact is that it detracts from romance in my experience, because it’s a big ask for a lot of neurodivergent folk (myself included) and it distracts from so many other romantic things you could be doing. Introducing blindfolds into sex, for example, obviously eliminates the possibility of eye contact completely – but it encourages the blindfold wearer(s) to pay more attention to other sensory inputs like touch and sound, making for mindful and deeply connective sex. Similarly, if I’m not making eye contact with you during sex, it’s almost certainly because I’m staring at some other part of you that I deeply enjoy – your lower lip quivering as I curl my finger inside you, or the neat crescent of teeth marks I’ve probably just left on your shoulder.

…this got real sexy, real fast.

And therein lies my point! Mass media tells us over and over that the truest romance involves staring into the squishy jelly orbs set into one another’s skulls, but there are so many other sexy things that I could be looking at! Maybe it’s an autistic thing that I don’t find eye contact connective in the way that other people seem to – or maybe the autistic thing is that I find eye contact exactly as not-connective as plenty of other people, but I’m too indifferent to social conventions to keep quiet about it and pretend that I love orb-staring.

Of course, if a partner expresses to me that eye contact is a big factor in their enjoyment of sex or their sense of connectedness, I’ll take that into account. (I only experience eye contact as weird or invasive on particularly bad anxiety days, because on those days I worry that I’m doing it wrong, and just because things set me on edge more easily on those days. As a result, I have been known to fake eye contact by looking at the bridge of someone’s nose or at one of their eyebrows – mostly in non-sex contexts, since I usually don’t do sex or kink on those anxious days anyhow.) Since it doesn’t usually feel invasive and weird to me in the way that it does for many other autistic people, if a partner requests it, I can make an effort to make eye contact during sex or scenes – but it’s always going to mean that at least 5% of my attention is diverted away from the sex or scene itself, since I have to remind myself constantly that eye contact is important in this context.

As with all things I write about doing sex and/or kink whilst autistic, the biggest takeaway from this post is that every autistic person is different. If you’re planning on playing with an autistic person, it’s worth asking them their feelings on both brief and prolonged eye contact to gauge whether or not those feelings align with yours, and what you might do about it if they don’t. And if you’re an autistic person yourself, it’s worth taking a moment to ask yourself how you feel about eye contact during sex (and outside of it!), since it can sometimes be difficult to remember that we don’t have to feel the way mass media instructs us to feel. Feel around for your boundaries, because you’re always well within your rights to have boundaries – and then, if you like, you can go and have awesome sex, with or without staring at orbs.