As a sex educator, I feel a constant dichotomy. Sure, it feels great to be out with my sexual desires. I enjoy a freedom of expression that too few allow themselves. Most people walk around in this world so constrained by the 'shoulds'. Their beautiful and unique parts get hidden away for fear of what others may think. The sadness and pain this brings is incalculable. The frustration, lack of fulfillment, shame and simple avoidance of being exactly who we are can be emotionally crippling.
In my particular field, it feels absolutely amazing to help people let go of shame and embrace their desires. My heart is filled to the brim so often when I read emails from people who have traveled down that path of releasing the shame and owning their sexual interests. I hear stories of healing, stories of relationships revived and deepened, and stories of self-exploration and the confidence it brings. We all crave acceptance without judgement, especially around sexuality.
Some people seek out or stumble upon the right resources. Whether it's erotica, a specific sex educator, a phone sex operator, a sex worker or any of many other sex-positive professions, they find solace and acceptance there. Expression, finally, of those hidden parts they never dared let out to anyone. They also find reassurance that they are good and worthy human beings, despite not fitting in society's box. The people who find my work tell me about the delight and excitement of exploring parts of their sexuality that they had previously only fantasized about. The stories are touching, poignant and real. They sustain me and let me know I am on the right path.
I don't feel constrained by the 'shoulds'. No one is going to get offended if I talk about sex or masturbation or kink because that's my job! The freedom feels good. Not everyone can handle it, so it sorted my friends pretty quickly, especially because I teach about pegging. The remaining group of friends, acquaintances and people who have been helped by what I put out there in the world tend to be people who share more deeply, are more open, less judgemental and more accepting than most people. I call those people my tribe. And I love them all.
I have always known that I'm just fine. I am on the right side of this sex-negative charade. I don't need reassurance about any of that. Despite knowing I am absolutely in the right place doing the right thing in this life, I have to say that sometimes it's really fucking hard.
Spiritually, I do believe that there is a grand plan of sorts, though I'm not sure who's in charge. But whoever is in charge, at times I try to embrace a positive re-frame of my situation by thinking that this particular wave of sex educators who are doing their awesome sex-positive thing right here and right now (in whatever form that takes) were chosen because we are strong ass motherfuckers. We have to be. Things could change tomorrow.
Why else would we do this? Seriously. Here are the downsides.
- The pay sucks. I am expected and constantly asked to teach for free and write articles with all my expertise...for nothing. If I am paid, it is a token payment to pay my gas or cover my costs. Payment as a sex educator never truly represents one's knowledge and worth. Except for the top 2%, perhaps, and even they struggle sometimes.
- Automatic alienation from a large portion of the population. The sex-negative portion. These are the people who think sex is not a topic that should be talked about in public, and perhaps not even in the bedroom. Sometimes these are the people who think sex is for procreation only (you know, the ones that masturbate like crazy, have large, hidden, porn collections and patronize sex workers).
- Dating is difficult. My ability to be clear about what I want and talk easily about taboo topics is either too intimidating, or I find myself constantly facilitating, or I am automatically assumed to be down to fuck. None of these offer the cozy union(s) I seek.
- There is no safe harbor for my work.
That's what's happening right now; no safe harbor. I can hang with the difficulty dating, the people who don't want to have anything to do with me (I don't want to have anything to do with them, either), and the struggle to pay the bills. Because I love what I do and I am helping people; a lot of people! This is my path and my passion. And yet... there is no safe harbor.
I thought I'd found a safe harbor in Patreon. I was reluctant to sign up when I saw that they used Paypal (who is notorious for censorship). They reassured me they had lobbied Paypal hard for adult content providers and had reached an understanding.
Patreon caved earlier this year. And you know, the Patreon story was predicted. This is a pattern we adult content creators are quite familiar with. Platforms welcome us with open arms, we get comfortable, and then there is a slow, persistent increase in censorship until all our content is banned and we have to find somewhere else to set up shop. This happens over and over again. YouTube channels of sex educators (completely educational, no nudity) were completely pulled down with no explanation and no warning. This pattern has been going on for a long time, and now with SESTA/FOSTA it's gotten much worse. Add to that the consolidation of companies (Verizon bought Yahoo who bought Tumblr), and the rules are definitely changing.
Tumblr and Facebook just caved. Links to the specifics are here. In fact I've given you many, many links about censorship, pretty much all recent, written by a wide variety of people. Seems like the war on Eros is in full swing. Let's be clear here, this is not just a war on sex trafficking and prostitution, it's a war on all things sexual.
Sex education for our youth has been impacted. Young people need good sex education to better understand their roles, their responsibilities, and the potential pleasure in owning their sexuality. Sex education for our youth is so, so important and sadly neglected in this country. I can't speak for other countries, but the US does a piss poor job of preparing young adults to enter the world as a sexually healthy being. Too often young adults default to porn because it is so ubiquitous. As many fans of pegging know, porn distorts real world sex. Parents often don't do any better at educating their young adults, often times because the modeling they had was even worse. Some parents still believe that not talking about sex is the best choice. Here are some link to resources if you are a parent.
Communities of marginalized groups have been impacted, too. Whether because of sexual orientation, gender identification or sexual kinks (I qualify here), Tumblr and the book both provided places for like-minded people to congregate, know that there were others like them, and not feel so alone. These groups were places to explore themselves and learn about themselves without being judged or scorned. The impending censorship is basically destroying all of those communities.
Erotic art and photography have been impacted as well. As Photographer Michael Stokes discovered, the censorship is heavily weighted to the straight male gaze. In other words, it is being applied quite unevenly against nude males and any evidence of homosexuality.
Zuckerberg, in a phone call transcript, said, in part, this:
We're working on reducing the spread of sensational and provocative content. Social networks face of big challenge, that people naturally engage with more sensational content. And this isn’t unique; we certainly see this with cable news and tabloids too. But in our systems, what we see is that as
content gets closer to the line of what is prohibited by our Community Standards, we see people tend to engage with it more. Interestingly, this seems to be true regardless of where we set our policy lines. A lot of our work is about addressing this basic incentive problem to ensure that borderline content that doesn’t quite violate our policies but is close gets less distribution and not more. We’re doing this across all out systems, from reducing misinformation on Newsfeed, to the recommendations that we make for groups and pages. And addressing this basic incentive problem will create a virtuous cycle by reducing sensationalism. We’re going to create a healthier, less polarized discourse where more people will feel safe participating.
Ever hear of the movie Pleasantville?
"Impressed by high school student David's (Tobey Maguire) devotion to a 1950s family TV show, a mysterious television repairman (Don Knotts) provides him with a means to escape into the black-and-white program with his sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). While David initially takes to the simplistic, corny world of the show, Jennifer sets about jolting the characters with doses of reality that unexpectedly bring a little color into their drab existence."
Seems that Facebook intends to turn our experience into a black and white, bland experience of a 1950's TV show. And look, I know the book has a lot more to deal with than just sex educators, erotic artists, porn purveyors, and sex workers. The sheer numbers on the book have caused it to be problematic and unwieldy, to be sure.
Nd yet...in this slice of the sex-positive world where I have found such passion and joy, watching it be systematically dismantled and discriminated against is quite upsetting. When I think about all the letters I have received telling me that what I put out in the world helped them truly embrace their sexuality and let go of the inherent shame so obscenely wrapped around sexuality in this country, it tells me that we need more of this type of thing, not less. More acceptance, more support, more encouragement, more information and especially more celebrating of whatever safe, consensual sexy thing you enjoy that frosts your particular cake. Because when you own your sexuality and embrace it, that is indeed cause for celebration. Wouldn't that be a cool thing if , say amongst your group of friends, you had celebrations around sexuality? Like discovering that you love spanking and having a party to celebrate that you discovered an exciting new facet of your erotic experience! This is the world I dream of. Not a world where any mention or image of sexuality is automatically seen as bad by all social platforms. That is fucking up so many people and providing so much business to therapists; sex-positive therapists, anyway.
I offer you my first post as a contrast. These words of mine are so full of excitement and purpose:
Watching the crimson clouds of the sunset decorating the sky outside my window, at long last I ask myself the question it has taken me years to consider.
What better job is there than writing...about…Sex?
Sex! In all its warm, wet lusciousness and hard, quivering pleasure.
Erotica has always been the furtive lover I held close to my curves during steamy evening tête-à-têtes but lacked the courage to embrace and caress in the brightness of day. Relegated to a dark drawer for years, my stories, all hot and bothered, waited impatiently for me to ask that question. Today…I finger my way to the back of the filing cabinet and tease out my collection of tantalizing tales, each like a ripe mango offering juicy sweetness and tart surprise, needing only a sharp knife to expose the treasure. My pen is my knife now, and the dark drawer has been conquered. I caress the pages, stroking them, tweaking them until they gasp and moan under the bold strokes of my pen. I apologize to them with my attentions.
Some years ago I told someone close to me that I wanted to write erotica. Admittedly, my choice of who to divulge this information to was not a well thought out one. The response I received went something like this…
“Really? I always thought that people who wrote erotica were sort of like people who did porn movies because they couldn’t make it acting in real movies…that if you could be a ‘real’ writer, why would you write erotica?”
Now, let me reply to that comment, if for no other reason than my own joy in having come full circle, back to the pulsing, passionate, sweaty messiness and intrigue of sex-filled tales, and knowing without a doubt that this is where I belong.
Erotica is the sublime seductress of the literary world.
Erotica has an absolute juiciness that no other genre does. There is a profound intimacy in knowing my words have the power to conjure up images that fill readers with hard, wet hungers which demand release. Just the thought of that brings a warm tingle to my nether regions! I believe the world needs more sexiness…and of course more erotica.
The world needs extra-large erotica sections in libraries and bookstores where readers fidget in their chairs. The world needs erotic book club meetings guaranteed to spice up coffee shops and living rooms. And the world definitely needs lovers reading spicy stories aloud to each other as they share that extra glass of wine after dinner, still sitting at the table…the dishes are ignored as, inspired, they create erotica of their own.
So…I offer you my erotica. My stories explore the cravings, the desires, the kinks…the pain, the pleasure and the longing. They are designed to make you gasp, squirm and wonder.
Come along for the ride…
It's been quite a ride so far, and it seems we've hit a patch of rough roads here. I'm going to keep on doing what I do. I'm going to keep unabashedly celebrating sexuality in all its amazing, curious and delightful manifestations. I am still filled with excitement and purpose. What I have added is resolve.
What can you do? How can you make a difference?
- Support the sex-positive people who have made a difference in your life, who have contributed positively to your experience as a healthy sexual being. Support the people who are trying hard to hold onto and provide a foundation of sex-positivity amidst all of this, with words and with funds if you are able. Sex educators, erotic artists, erotic photographers, writers of erotica, and sex workers - which includes strippers, cam workers, traditional sex workers, sexual bodyworkers, sexual surrogates, adult film actors and people who offer online adult content like photos and clips.
- Support those who have been swept up in this slash and burn mentality - massage therapists, cuddle professionals, LGBTQ groups, marginalized communities having anything to do with sexuality, basically. Many have lost their places to congregate and be a part of a group who understands them and doesn't judge them. So much loss in the sex-positive communities right now.
- Call out sex negative attitudes whenever and wherever you come across them. Sex is normal. Sex is okay. Never forget that. Know it in your mind, in your heart, and in your body. Live it, speak it, embody it. Be it.
I remain hopeful that we will persist. We will prevail. And the generations that come after us will speak of us with respect and a touch of reverence for fighting the good fight, the necessary fight and the right fight when the fight was fucking difficult.
Here are all the places you can find me, if some of the larger social platforms end up kicking me off for talking about cock and asses and all that good stuff. Because I am not gonna stop. No fucking way.
Twitter - @Ruby_Ryder
Facebook - Ruby Ryder
Reddit - RubyRyder
FetLife - Ruby_Ryder
This, too, shall pass.