advice: yours and mine

Today’s is a two-part post. Well, maybe three. Sort of. Part 1 is some news. Part 2 is a few questions for you as a reader. Part 3 is some writing, but it relates back to part 2. Anyway. You’ll get what I mean as you go.

***

Part 1: News! Or shameless self-promotion, your pick.

Some cool Xtra! articles…

I’ve done some fun writing work lately and thought you might be interested in some links! For starters, I’ve had articles in the last three issues of Xtra. On May 7, a piece about Kinkalicious, a new annual kink-positive weekend event run by an old acquaintance of mine who, like me, spends a lot of time in both Montreal and Toronto. On May 14, the first article in a three-part series about the newly launched Rainbow Health Ontario organization. The series takes a look at the realities of queer health care in Ontario’s 14 different LHINs, or Local Health Integration Networks, each representing the interests of a region of Ontario. Expect the next two instalments between now and mid-June. Lastly, a piece about the first-ever Trans Pride March to be held in conjunction with Pride celebrations in Toronto.

… and a magazine launch…

In addition to the Xtra! stuff, a few months back I wrote an article for Women & Environments International Magazine about the website Safe2Pee.org, a hacker-run website that provides a Google Maps mashup where users can submit listings of safe bathrooms for trans people and, in some cases, people with disabilities. It covers over 400 cities worldwide. The mag has now been published and it’ll be launched Thursday night (May 28) at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (73 Harbord St.), with a panel featuring several of the contributors, myself included. It starts at 7 p.m. Come say hello!

… and a trip to Australia! Yay!

In other news, I’m going to be spending almost the entire month of July in Australia. I’ve got a couple of speaking gigs in the works, but nothing confirmed yet. If you’re a reader in Australia and you know of an establishment or group that might like me to speak, drop me a line at veryqueer3 at yahoo dot ca. Also, if you just want to meet up, that’d be great!

***

Part 2: Questions for you.

I’m in the process of doing some thinking about what I want this blog to be all about. And while I certainly reserve the right to make final decisions based on what I feel best about, I’m very curious to have your input as a reader. Feel free to respond in the comments section, or send me an e-mail at veryqueer3 at yahoo dot ca. I would really appreciate anything you have to say!

1. Product reviews. I’ve always resisted doing product reviews here, because I feel this is a place for intellectual engagement, not so much for my opinions about the latest trendy dildos or lubes. But I’ve been approached by three or four different sex toy companies in the last few months who’d really like me to review their stuff. I’m still feeling lukewarm about the idea, but I’m interested in your take. Would product reviews be a bad plan? If so, why? On the flip side, would you be interested in hearing my (totally uncensored) opinions about the latest in sex toys? If so, any comments as to how you’d like to see that happen (format, frequency, etc.)?

2. Newsletter. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how they can be notified about my upcoming workshops and talks. I keep telling them to check my workshops page here for a list, but I realize that’s not the most efficient manner of spreading the word since I update it as things get confirmed rather than on any predictable basis. Also, it puts the onus on you to do the legwork. I’m thinking it might be a good idea for me to start sending out a monthly newsletter for interested parties. What do you think? Good idea or that much more spam?

3. Advertising. How would you feel about seeing advertising on this site? Again, I’m resistant for a long list of reasons, but I’m also hesitant to turn down a way of earning some income from the work I do here. The economy sucks and I’m going back to grad school soon. Y’know what I mean? Editing jobs are good and all, but if I were making a bit of cash on the blog, I might be able to drop a couple of boring contracts and post here more frequently instead. Of course I would be super choosy about whose ads I might accept. But I’m asking in principle.

4. Advice columns. A few times now, I’ve used this blog to post pieces that could most accurately be called advice columns. As in, someone sends me an e-mail with a burning question about deviant sexuality, and I post the question and my answer here. It’s been totally sporadic, but I’m wondering what the response would be if I did it more frequently. Does that sort of thing interest you? Or is reading about people’s personal problems a great big bore? Rest assured that no matter what, I have no interest in eclipsing the other writing I do with advice stuff, but taking a few questions once a month or something… I dunno. What do you think?

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer, folks.

***

Part 3: An example of that advice thing I was asking about.

The following is a note sent to me by george, a 54-year-old Southern gentleman who’s finally coming to terms with his desire to, in his words, live “a life of discipline and service.” Read on if you’re curious. (The entire thing is posted here with his explicit permission, of course.) His capitalization drives me a bit nuts, but I respect that for some people, this is intended only as a sign of respect and as an expression of their own identity, and not as an unbridled assault on standard English style.

Dear Madam: Please know that i am NOT trying to “hit” on You. i was perusing profiles in a group that includes male & female. i send this missive, because You are one of the few people who write with clarity. i came to fetlife hoping to conncect with someone/anyone who could accept me as i am. Several Women have been in touch, but for reasons of distance, or otherwise, i’ve yet to inspire anyone. If You don’t mind, i’m going to pose a question or two & ask Your advice. 1) i feel that my age might be a deterrent–i’m 54. What is the best way for me to approach a Dominant Woman? i can assure You that sex is NOT a primary motive. What i enjoy is a Woman’s power. i am more about service & being used in any capacity. 2) There are so many more men, here, than Women. Generally speaking, i suppose this is true for the “kink” lifestyle. i want so much a life of discipline & service that i am now ready to consider same sex encounters/relationships. i am initially quiet & shy, so this avenue is somewhat frightening. Do You have any advice about groups,here, & how i might proceed? i do so appreciate Your time & consideration…george(real name)

Hello george,

Thank you for clearly stating your intentions from the get-go.

To answer your questions…

i feel that my age might be a deterrent–i’m 54.

I wouldn’t worry about that terribly much. The BDSM scene is home to people of a huge age range, and you’re by no means at the outer edge of it. I’ve seen people old enough to be my grandparents enjoying the heck outta themselves in this little world of ours, and not just a few of them. As long as you don’t let your age become your own self-created deterrent, you should do just fine. If your local scene seems weighted toward a younger crowd, keep looking – the shiny young sexy things are perhaps at times the most visible face of the community, but they are not the whole of it.

What is the best way for me to approach a Dominant Woman? i can assure You that sex is NOT a primary motive. What i enjoy is a Woman’s power. i am more about service & being used in any capacity.

Respect (not fawning). Genuine listening (and that includes reading someone’s full profile before messaging them, and avoiding a cut-and-paste approach). Honesty and clear communication – like the words you have just written above about what you seek. Good boundaries (minimal expectations, maximum openness). These are the things I would say are worth keeping in mind when you approach someone. Beyond that, warmth and a genuine statement of what you are interested in will take you far.

There are so many more men, here, than Women. Generally speaking, i suppose this is true for the “kink” lifestyle.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. There are tons of women in the kink scene, and I’ve never seen anything that would lead me to believe the numbers are skewed toward men. What is true is that dominant women are more rare – our culture discourages it. The peril of being a hetero male submissive is that you’re up against an enormous number of other guys who want something similar to you, and you’re all facing limited resources to meet the demand. Set yourself apart by your quality above all – self-awareness, authenticity, reliability and so forth. Most of all, respect. Women (dominant or otherwise!) tire of being approached again and again by men who are besotted with a vision of who they want her to be, and worse, a sense of entitlement to her embodiment of that fantasy. See her for who she actually is, don’t try to make her something else, and don’t let your desires get in the way of that clarity.

i want so much a life of discipline & service that i am now ready to consider same sex encounters/relationships. i am initially quiet & shy, so this avenue is somewhat frightening.

I must say, that’s an interesting idea. You could potentially acquire some valuable experience this way, and who knows, perhaps you would develop or discover a sexual interest you didn’t know you had. I’ve seen it happen! Still, I would caution you to nonetheless be absolutely clear about what you’re seeking if you approach a male dominant: do not pretend to be interested in gay sex if that’s not your bag, and be sure to indicate that while you might be up for serving in that capacity (if indeed you are) it is not your primary interest. Watch carefully that your potential dominant is not seeking that above all else either. “Pure” (?) (i.e. not primarily or necessarily sexual) dominance is fairly rare regardless of gender, but it’s definitely out there.

Do You have any advice about groups,here (i.e. on Fetlife), & how i might proceed?

I would advise that you join a few of the Master/slave groups – the discussions there seem to be quite rich, and you will certainly encounter like-minded individuals there who may be able to provide further advice. But while you’re waiting for your future dominant to show up, take the time to work on yourself. Read up on leather traditions and protocols (I can suggest some books if you like). Take care of your physical/medical, emotional, financial and intellectual health. Learn about and practice various types of service via mundane means – books, workshops, training (massage therapy, cooking, wine, household arts, basic repairs, bookkeeping, cultural awareness, etc.). Experiment with creating your own structure and discipline to see how you respond to different approaches. Pour your efforts into making yourself into a shining example of a well-adjusted, self-aware, healthy individual with a strong penchant for service. That will make you a worthy prize for a dominant with a keen eye!

9 Responses

  1. I have read your blog for some time and never comment, but I have to respond to this one. I’d strongly urge you NOT to start doing sex toy reviews, for a few reasons. I’ve been in the industry and followed a number of other sexuality-focused blogs in the past, and have seen many of them eaten up by this after they start down the path of reviews and sex toy company sponsorship. You have one of the few intelligent and continually interesting blogs I have found out there, and I’d like to see that survive without the encroachment of sex toy industry politics and influences.

  2. Here’s my own opinion on your questions (obviously!)…

    For product reviews, while I’m not so keen on having them be a regular fixture, if something particularly catches your attention, I wouldn’t see why you wouldn’t be able to write about it.

    Why not simply make announcements here when your engagements are confirmed? I was under the impression that you were already doing that, at least to some extent… If you’re careful about tagging them in a consistent way, you could link to just the list of announcements (for example, although I’m not sure why they are shortened: http://sexgeek.wordpress.com/category/sex-geek-teachings-speakings/), which can also be obtained as a feed (following in the same example: http://sexgeek.wordpress.com/category/sex-geek-teachings-speakings/feed/), which you could use with Google FeedBurner (http://feedburner.google.com/), which can provide you with the means to let people get your posts by email (you could do that with your main feed, by the way, more on that later). Quick disclaimer: I work as a software developer for Google, so I’m most familiar with those offerings (and even then, not very much, there’s a lot going on there that I’m not aware of).

    On advertising, I guess it depends how it’s being done. My salary is paid with advertisement, so I suppose I’m not entirely against it, but then, it’s all in the “how”. I’ve heard of some people making some money with AdSense, which provides ads matched to your content (although sometimes in surprising ways, it is all done automatically), and FeedBurner can embed them in your feed (when it’s filtered through it), as well as some “AdSense for Feeds” feature. I like the content matching of the ads, and I also like the ads being text-only, which I find less distracting. A possible downside for you is that you don’t get to choose which ads, since they are algorithmically picked from potentially hundreds of thousand relevant ads… There is an “ads review center”, that allows you to block advertisers or ad groups (according to the documentation, never used it).

    Ok, enough with the turbo-nerd mode… ;-)

    On running this as an advice column, I’d go along what I said about product reviews. Once a month sounds fine to me, which should let you pick interesting situations, rather have to run “fluff”, as someone forced to run a column on a regular basis might have to do.

    While you’re in “looking for feedback” mode, I’d volunteer some more. I’ve often had to postpone reading some of your posts because they were too long to read in one sitting, while still keeping them unread in Google Reader, since I did find them interesting nevertheless. And I’d like to think I’ve got a reasonably long attention span, looking at the length of this comment! I think you wouldn’t need to cut down on the amount written that much, but rather just split it up along convenient lines. This post, for example, could have been three separate posts, and otherwise left pretty much as-is. This would allow comments to be more focused, let you spread them over time (WordPress allows for keeping draft posts around, and post-dating them, I think?). If you’re thinking about so-called “monetization” (what an awful word!), it would help focusing the ads, rather than having the algorithms believe that this post is, somehow, about Australian BDSM newsletters, say.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, experience and ideas with us all!

  3. 1. Product reviews.

    If you were to start doing product reviews, I would appreciate them. I read reviews on many other blogs (notably sugarbutch.net), and take them into consideration when purchasing new toys.

    2. Newsletter.

    I would not read this and would not want it in the regular blog. However, it could be useful for those people who want to know when your events are…perhaps via email? I don’t accept the “it’s just more spam” argument when a publication is optional and people can opt out if they like.

    3. Advertising.

    I use an RSS reader and almost never visit your actual site, so I don’t care. Sorry. I realize this is beyond unhelpful, but that’s the internet. However, the layout of your blog is peaceful and stylish and it’d be a shame to mar that.

    4. Advice columns.

    Yes please! They would be interesting and entertaining. I enjoy reading these in other places (e.g., mistress matisse’s blog) and think yours would be a great asset to my reading list.

    As a note to accompany all of this…I’ll preface this by saying I am a devoted reader and I truly appreciate the intellectual content of your blog. Critical discussion of kink topics is so often missing elsewhere. So I want to emphasize that I mean these comments with the greatest respect.

    However… I think that having separate categories might make your blog easier for readers. To be honest, the sheer quantity of text here is sometimes offputting. Content is one thing, but format counts as well. Visually your blog is beautiful, but web writing is different from print writing and I think often miss some interesting content simply because it’s too difficult to scroll through extensive text. Different categories, as separate posts, would go a long way towards readability.

  4. I’m going to agree with a previous commenter. Blogs that review sex toys too often end up sliding into a pattern where the reviews slowly becomes all they do. And really? They’re not that interesting to read, most of the time.
    I read sex geek because the content is always intelligent and thought-provoking.

    As for advertising? I’d say go for it. The content here is worth looking at a few ads. They’re so nearly omnipresent on the web now anyways that very few people would kick up a fuss. There’s good writing here, I don’t see why you shouldn’t actually make a bit of money from it, and I trust that you wouldn’t go for anything too in your face.

    I think advice columns are best left as an occasional thing. Save them for interesting questions. I read a couple different sex advice columns already and again, it’s not what I come to sex geek for.

    ~vistana

  5. Hi Andrea,

    I’m not super-keen on the idea of product reviews. A few blogs that I read do them and honestly, most of the time I skip over them. The occasional one, especially if you had a really strong reaction to the product, could be fun. But I would skim past them if they showed up on a regular basis.

    A newsletter sent out via email seems like a great idea to me, mostly for those folks who are wanting to be kept abreast of your workshops. It makes sense from a professional perspective to keep things easier for potential clients.

    Advertising? Well, I don’t like it, but do know there are ways to do site design that make the ads less conspicious. And I think getting money back for the effort you put in is valid. Your blog is important.

    Advice-column advice: As long as we still get to read your critiques and analyses, I could get behind the occasional question-and-response post.

    Anyway, this is all just to get on board and give you some feedback for what I already consider an awesome bi-weekly read. Thanks for all the effort you put in.

    -Kira

  6. Here are my preferences: No to product reviews, yes to advice and newsletter. Advertising doesn’t matter to me either way. I’ve subscribed using rss so I just get text anyway. Cheers!

  7. I’m not keen on product reviews, I would love to receive your newsletter, I have nothing against advertising and I’m a huge fan of advice columns.

  8. I’m an Aussie, who greatly enjoys your blog, and if you’ll be around in Canberra, there’s a conference called Queer Collaborations from July 13 to 18, so the city will be crawling with bright eyed, overly optimistic, and extremely passionate queer uni students. You can email QC09@anu.edu.au for more details. (I’m not an organiser, just an attendee).

    Also there’s a splinter conference the week before called Queer Diliberations in Queensland. (Yay for uni student politics, always full of drama!) I don’t know much about this one, it was only announced yesterday I think.

    Other wise, if you are in Canberra, and at a loose end at any time in July, I’d be happy to meet up for a coffee. :)

    – Ryan

  9. 1. I doubt I’d be all that interested in sex toy reviews. I’d probably rather they were in a separate blog – or very rare, or indicated in the title so I could easily skip over.

    2. If you were based in the UK and had a newsletter announcing events, I would probably consider subscribing to it. So I don’t think it’s a bad idea, just probably irrelevant to me.

    3. Ads is a tricky one.

    All other things being equal, I’d rather not see ads here. But I understand why you’re thinking about it, and in principle I’d consider it a trade-off for getting more of your writing.

    The question is what ads? AdWords is a bit of a pollutant i.m.e., because you can’t entirely keep dodgy stuff from popping up, like e.g. if you mention fat then you’re inviting the diet industry onto your pages. You can ban specific advertisers one at a time but there are always more, and I’m not sure there’s any way to ban a whole category.

    On the other hand if you go to the trouble of negotiating ads with individual advertisers whom you know to be sound, that’s a different kettle of fish. But that’s a lot more effort for the money.

    I don’t know if you ever read Steve Pavlina’s blog. He’s talked a lot about how he made the blog pay, and his main thing for the last few years has been partnership deals with people he agrees with. He’ll recommend something that he genuinely thinks is really cool, and then take a cut of the referrals. You might find this post a worthwhile read.

    (Maybe you could talk about a deal like that with one of the sex-toy makers? Then you could just review a thing once and after that have an ad linking to the review, or something like that – similar to what Steve does.)

    At any rate please don’t have any ads with graphics that flash on and off! I find that really distracting.

    4. I generally like reading advice-column type things, and I would welcome those as another avenue for you to write interesting stuff :-)

    Also,

    5. I agree somewhat with Pierre in comments above, in that I’d rather see posts on one topic at a time. The ones I’m most interested in are the “Here is an interesting thing to think about” ones, whereas the “So-and-so does a cool event somewhere in Canada” announcements are rarely relevant to me. So for me it would be more convenient if those types of writing weren’t combined.

    6. I’m not in Australia! But if you ever came to the UK I would love to meet up!

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