(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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.