Cultural Junkdrawer – How I Got to be the Sole Male Panel Member at a Sex Conference.

GameStop, Inc.

Cultural Junkdrawer – How I Got to be the Sole Male Panel Member at a Sex Conference. Or #Paletitskin

Wow, I bet that got your attention.

Would it be even better if I said that I was up at a table performing with Porn & Cosplay queens Tanya Tate and Ela Darling?

You bet it would.

How ‘bout if I said that my girlfriend was also there egging the whole thing on?

“When is your Showtime after-hours series coming out?” is probably your reply.

Well… all that did happen but, I hate to burst your bubble, I made that a lot more salacious than it really was; the four of us weren’t involved in some sticky mass of flesh and sinful actions straight outta your X-Men/Gilligan’s Island/ST:TNG slashfic story, we were just talking.

Now that I might have lost your interest (because your lurid tale of Wolverine, The Skipper, and Warf doing a group grope deserves accolades, man, not derision!) I’ll start at the boring beginning…

My girlfriend works in the porn industry.

Oops, did I get your attention back?

It’s true; she writes for AVN magazine. AVN is an industry/retailer periodical that provides feature stories about people and events within the prescribed industry; sales charts, business info, and product reviews. It’s a trade magazine, just like “Dentistry Today” except with bondage toy ads and tits. So when I say she works in the porn industry, I’m (slightly) misleading you AGAIN because AVN is tangentially related.

Bye again! And really, try to at least explain how that Gorn got onto the island before it killed a post-coital Mrs. Howell and Jubilee!

Now for those that stuck around; my girlfriend does a lot of group events and I occasionally join in.

Shit, I did it again. 😉

What I mean is that being a person whose job it is to cover the sex industry and related events my girlfriend (hitherto to referred to as Sherri) finds herself moderating a lot of panels at conferences. It’s part of her job and she does it damn well too; a great moderator has to juggle a lot of things including keeping questions and answers somewhat coherent, encapsulating, clarifying and restating what’s being said, and keeping the panel within a civil and/or sane tone. I don’t envy her with this task. Especially when she has to wrangle people like me, or worse. One of the cons she covers is Catalyst Con (both east and west) and this year she pitched a panel; Fantasy Girls: The Perils Women Face in Geek Culture. Her idea being to address what issues women, fans in general, and professional writers/illustrators and cosplayers in particular, have to deal with. She asked me to participate because: 1 – I’m a lifetime (semi) professional geek, 2 – I basically initiated her into geek culture making her (among other things) a rabid Doctor Who fan, and 3 – I can talk in front of a crowd and not seem like a gibbering idiot (mostly). She also got Tanya Tate and Ela Darling on board. The Catalyst Con people loved the idea and it was a go.

I’ve done panels before including one with Axel Braun and Brad Armstrong at AVN 2013 about superhero porn parodies where I represented the fans so I wasn’t really a stranger, but Catalyst Con had me a bit worried. A lot of the panels read like this: ECOSEX! Make the Earth Your Lover: Heat up Your Sex Life as You Slow Global Warming. Look, imminent ecological crises and sexy time make bad bed partners, unless you’re Kevin Costner or Al Gore. Sounds pretty granola too. Or PRIDE & Prejudice: Confronting Homophobia in Communities of Color. I’m staunchly against homophobia but I’m simply not in either demographic. There was also a panel on the Canadian sex worker too which came as a big surprise because, apart from that girlfriend I had when I was a freshman in high school, I didn’t know Canadians had sex.

Bianca and Ariane

TYPICAL CANADIAN

Fooled you again.

tandp

TYPICAL CANADIAN, really.

But I also felt that there should be some male geek representation. I don’t live in my parent’s basement, have trouble talking to members of the opposite sex, or spend most of my free time playing World of Warcraft (I did just get 100% on Lego Lord of the Rings, though. Man what a sausage-fest that was!) Just because I have a sixteen foot long multicolored scarf and can talk at length about the elemental symbolism of Dark Knight Rises doesn’t mean I’m socially maladjusted, I’m just passionate about things. That’s why I define myself as a geek and not a nerd. I am also sex positive and have a big tent philosophy on the culture, my culture. My culture is suffering from growing pains; with the unfortunate events at SDCC this year, and other reported incidences at cons over the years it is apparent there are issues that need to be addressed. And, damnit, four people talking to a baker’s dozen of alternative lifestyle advocates and porn bloggers in a hotel room adjacent to LAX were gonna do jus’ that!

Still, talking about comics and geek culture in an environment where there is excitement about vegan personal lubricant made me, understandably, a little nervous. I was worried about unintentionally detonating social land mines and making Sherri and the panel look bad.

I shouldn’t have worried too much; before the thing even started I was sharing experiences with an audience member over the types of insanity displayed by regional drivers (DC drivers have very horn-based aggression, apparently. Angelinos rate well, at least in comparison to a good chunk of the northeast.). The room was filling up with mostly female attendees, which makes sense, and a couple of guys, both bloggers covering the alternative culture. Tanya was there; statuesque, sweet with her lovely Brit accent and a prototype vinyl doll of her Cosplay character “Lady Titan”.

Tanya is a top tier performer in the adult industry splitting her time between London and LA. She directs and performs, mostly girl/girl scenes but not always. She is also a confirmed geek girl. Her passions include Funko pop bobblehead figures and cosplay. She makes multiple con appearances across the country (Geek Media Expo and Comikazi are next up) either as Lady Titian or other comic characters. No offense to January Jones, but she’s a dead ringer for Emma Frost just without the aloof sarcastic attitude.

Ela Darling came in rocking a “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” varsity sweater and a sweet disarming demeanor. If there ever was a porn parody of “The Guild” Ela would be substantially overqualified to play Codex. She looks like she could share the same DNA as Felicia Day. Her geek cred ranks pretty high; she loves Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals, was a cast member in the porn parody of “The Room”, claims “Slytherin for life”, and literally embodies the “hot librarian” fantasy by having a Master’s Degree in Library Science. She even has the dewy decimal number for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” tattooed on her back. Suck on that “fake geek girl” whiners.

The panel moved along well; Tanya described how she handles people getting fresh with her at cons and the differences in attendees behavior and attitude from Comic to Adult conventions. You might be surprised to learn this but attendees and fans are better behaved at adult cons. This is because 1 – the fans have a different mind-set; they’re seeing celebrities they fap to, 2 – A slightly more pronounced security presence, and 3 – Clearly prescribed codes of behavior which are, by the way, standard at most events and gatherings, not just places with giant banners of naked women.

You also might be surprised to learn that there is more skin shown on average at comic conventions than most adult cons. Weird huh? (This was verified by Sherri, a veteran of dozens of porn industry and sex-oriented shows before her first Comic-con in 2011.)

Being someone who straddles both worlds this comes as no surprise but talking about the differences brought a few things to light; why ISN’T there clearly prescribed codes of behavior for comic conventions, or if there is why aren’t they being enforced by the organizers and moreover re-enforced by the attendees in general?

I’m not saying it’s a rampant problem, and there is a certain amount of grey area in a few cases, but as geek culture has grown into the mainstream (make no mistake geek culture IS mainstream culture. If you don’t believe – Top three movies of the year so far 1 – Guardians of the Galaxy, 2 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 3 – Transformers: Metal Loudly Smashing Metal for Three Hours… what the HELL is wrong with you people!?!?!?) There is a greater number of people participating. A greater number of people create a greater number of problems and conflicts. Codes of behavior that weren’t needed before need to be established. I’m more inclined to think that, due to growing numbers, the influx of “dude bros” are more responsible for the groping and harassment than the “nerd who has been scared of women”. But the other group, the “Nerds” could be blamed for the exclusionist attitude. One audience kinda supported this theory saying that tech cons are even worse as far as attitude towards women. I’ll have to research that but first I have to learn DOS. Regardless nobody should be harassed for expressing themselves as fans, and the expectation of respect and civil behavior isn’t wanting too much.

As the panel went on some of the audience members were more concerned and had more personal instances of being grilled about their claim to being a fan. This brings up the whole “Fake geek girl” fallacy; the old guard grumbling about all the poseurs in their midst. Ela responded that she doesn’t owe anybody an explanation for liking something. Which is spot on. Got a problem with that let’s see YOUR Dewey decimal tattoo!

I followed by, once again, citing the growth of the geek culture and the pitfalls of being mainstream. Geek isn’t the first sub-culture either; punk rock, indie film, Hip-Hop, and every other sub-culture that is swept up and embraced into the mainstream has the same problem; questions of legitimacy and status after the fact. Or, put plainly “I was here first! So I get to judge!”

Nope.

Any culture, if it’s to stay vital, needs to evolve and grow. New voices and interests add to it and if they’re different that’s even better. One audience member thought that Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy was the coolest thing (she is after all), she wanted to read more characters like Gamora in comics but had little idea of where to start. I was more than happy to give some suggestions and I hope she finds stuff she likes by just exploring. Now you tell me; would the comic industry benefit from bringing in new diverse readers who dig something about the medium but are novices? Would it make sense from simply a sales perspective to have greater inroads to a market that makes up more than half of the population? Would it sour this woman, who was very cool and even cosplays as Voldermort sometimes, if some old school fan scoffed at her being a noob instead of saying “Well, try Ms. Marvel.”?

That’s just someone who wants to be a customer. How about some girl that is a brilliant writer who is dying to tell stories in the medium? What could be lost if she is discouraged? This is the beauty of geek culture evolving and getting new blood and fans; every person that wants to be part of the culture is someone who has passion about things, be it watching Harry Potter, reading Batman or dressing up as Princess Leia (or “He who shall not be named” for that matter). It’s their culture too, now, so welcome. Playing the Fake geek girl card is sour grapes and it is tied up in more than just sexism. I finished with this (which was to my surprise retweeted as I was saying it)

twitccon

The panel wrapped and I think the consensus was that everyone enjoyed themselves. Sure we didn’t solve the world’s problems but there was a feeling of movement in the right direction. I felt I acquitted myself well considering I was a dude talking about women’s issues in front of a bunch of women. But maybe it wasn’t that complicated after all. A lot of what we talked about weren’t just women’s issues but people issues. Also there was a lot more common ground that you might first think; I may not be the same gender as Ela or Tanya but we all share a love and passion for entertainment like X-Men, Doctor Who, Zelda, and other nodes in the geek matrix. So did most of the people attending the panel. In that respect we all reside under the same tent. To know that there are people who love to same things I do is of incalculable value.

It means I’m not as alone as I used to think.

So my final fake out isn’t salacious but it’s the setup of worrying about the differences I was going to have to deal with.

Turns out we all had more in common.

We’re the same tribe.

That’s all that matters.

Oh, yeah the #paletitskin thing comes from the woman that does the Voldermort cosplay. She dropped that line and everyone decided to trend that sucker.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about with Tanya or Ela check them out at www.justalottatanya.com and www.darlingela.com

Though you might not want to check out Ela’s at work.

Tanya and Ela

YEAH, you wouldn’t want girls like this hanging around, would you?

You can go back to figuring out how Picard and Xavier work it out.

 

 

Anytime Costumes

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