Nov 102016
 

Note1: This is a post about bloggers, for bloggers. Readers you can probably feel free to skip this one. Note2: The majority of this post was written prior to November 8th. As warriors and activists for underserved groups, we have our work cut out for us. We feel defeated right now. We don’t know where to put our energies. I’ll do my best to keep American politics out of this but I will say: a world where Trump is president scares the shit out of me, and I suspect many of you reading this feel the same. So let’s do our best to stand together, not apart.

Blog Squad - Truth, Justice and CaffeineI’m not the authority on this. I’m not the gate-keeper, the mafia don, or anyone of power. I’m simply the person who has chosen to write about it since I embrace the term “Blog Squad” so strongly. I’m writing this in the hopes to bridge divides and correct a lot of wrong assumptions I’m seeing amongst bloggers. I may say “we” and “us” a lot in the post, and it’s only because those of us who have been to Woodhull and are “blog squad” have had long talks about the accusations of exclusivity, the divide, and what we need to do to bring down the “wall”. If they disagree with anything I’ve said here, I’m sure they will comment and correct for themselves (please do!).  I’ve tried my best to organize my feels here, and this post is partly about Blog Squad in general, as a global thing, and it’s in part just about Woodhull. Some of this may not apply to you.

Blog Squad Origins

August 2015 – A dozen sex toy bloggers attended a new-to-them sexuality conference, some with great trepidation. Some had had bad experiences at a different sexuality conference1, some had just heard about the negativity bloggers had dealt with at another conference, and still others were just anxious little bunnies about getting out from behind their computer. In part because of our collective anxieties and in part because without each other we felt lost, we bonded and stuck together at that conference. You were fairly unlikely to see just one blogger; we mostly traveled in packs. It was because of this that an employee of Smitten Kitten dubbed us all “The Blog Squad”. We’d never had a thing like that and it felt so superhero-badass that we jumped on it. So yes, it referred specifically to those bloggers at that conference, originally. And then with SFS16 the Woodhull Blog Squad grew with at least 2 dozen of us in attendance. It was glorious and I know we made a difference. Our social media posts, blog posts, tweets – they all educated someone.

What Does Blog Squad Mean To You?

Before I continue on with thoughts on accusations, cliques, inclusion/exclusion, and more, I want to include some words from Woodhull folks. I explained my post to them and asked them what “Blog Squad” means to them; who is the blog squad, etc. Ricci Levy is the Head Founding Honcho, and blog squad mama – her effusive inclusion of us at SFS15 made all the difference.

The #BlogSquad is a group of bloggers who were all at Woodhull together and who adopted a twitter hashtag and name to describe themselves. It’s not a formal group, there’s no application process, no membership dues, no real requirements.  In fact, anyone who wanted to say they were a member could – because there’s no governing body to say “nay.” It is our strongest hope that our bloggers and social media warriors will expand every year – both in terms of diversity and in terms of focus.

Metis Black of Tantus is on the board of Woodhull and created a Bloggers Lounge for us starting with SFS15.

The blog squad was so spontaneous in its becoming. I remember at other events, bloggers questioning if they were really sex educators, if they were just toy reviewers. Whatever it was at Woodhull SFS – respect and acknowledgement from the Executive Director (Ricci) and staff; sessions that had larger human rights themes; or just the battle scars from earlier events that made the camaraderie binding, the bloggers bonded in a unique unifying way. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t exclusive, no one coordinated it- it just happened. And the content for those initial writings also changed. There was more reflection of society, more consent issues, more writing about illnesses, more talk of personal journeys that brought the writers to bigger cultural issues.

Sandra, of SheVibe, (my sponsor) for SFs16 did her best to help bloggers feel at home by sponsoring a PJ Party. The SV crew also drew a Blog Squad design which gave me such sheer joy I don’t even have words. The original superhero trio is included in this post, and their comic-book cover for SFS16 is shown here.

Blog Squad did not (and does not) at all seem exclusionary to me. Any blogger in good standing (and I don’t know any who aren’t) is part of the Blog Squad. In good standing means to me: respected within the community who is working hard at their craft, contributing and learning. Someone who is producing quality work that is meaningful to sexual health and justice.

On Feelings of Exclusion

Over the last year, but particularly recently, we’ve seen folks complaining about the name “the blog squad”. They have felt that it’s purposefully exclusionary, and wonder if they’re a member, or assume they’re not. I’ve seen folks getting salty about it on social media.  But here’s the thing: It wasn’t a name we came up with ourselves, it wasn’t a thing created to exclude – it was created to celebrate. It was not born of malicious intent; quite the opposite. Yet it’s being used against us. Maybe you’ve never had the privilege of attending a conference, or maybe you have but it was just a different one. Maybe you have, or have not, felt the camaraderie that comes from spending the weekend learning, hearing uplifting words, and being around Your People. Woodhull wasn’t the first time I felt it, but it was the first time it was felt so strongly.

There seems to be this bizarre divide, a growing divide, and I don’t know what started it. There seems to be the Blog Squad who is willing to include anyone and then there are folks who are almost anti-blog-squad, who complain that we are a “clique”, who assume there is purposeful exclusion. If you were to talk to us and really listen, without prejudice or paranoia, you would understand that it wasn’t something we named ourselves but it IS something we’ve embraced because we needed the community and support. We needed each other to lean on. I would love to see it be a unifier, not a divider.

How to Be Part of the Blog Squad

There will still be the Woodhull Blog Squad, but I think that the term is important and very descriptive of what so many of us do – unrelated to the Summit. It’s not a club, with dues or criteria, really. It was born out of Woodhull but doesn’t require an invitation. Maybe you live far outside the US and will never be able to afford to come to Woodhull. Well, SFS16 Blog Squadders are working on a way to extend the education from Woodhull to everyone, but there’s not much we can do to extend the in-person experience and I’m sad for that. I really am. I wish you could experience this bonding. It’s so life-changing. But I think we can find other ways to bond and relate.

So you want to know who is blog squad, who isn’t? How to be part of it? Embody the Spirit of the Blog Squad. That’s it. You’re in. As I’ve said before, as a group we get shit done. We’re loud. We are mighty. We can accomplish so much more if we just support each other. This doesn’t mean everybody will be chummy friends; disagreements will happen and personalities will clash. But overall we can support each other in so many ways and elevate the community to a true Force To Be Reckoned with.  Also? The Woodhull Blog Squad isn’t limited to American bloggers. Firstly, there’s a number of Canadians that attended Woodhull. Poor overlooked Canadians! You definitely don’t have to attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit to call yourself “Blog Squad”, but you’d better believe that the moment you step foot inside the Summit bounds, you’re Blog Squad. You will be thanked, you will be honored, you will be mentioned as part of the mighty group of social media warriors.

I’ve already seen so much Blog Squad Spirit from many of you. When you write posts about companies who fat-shame in their marketing. When you call out a company on social media for shitty behaviour of any kind. When you educate others against toxic toys and irritating lube. When you feature interviews with other bloggers on your site. When you share each other’s important posts on social media.  When you review a sex toy and talk about flame testing, or encourage silicone over porous materials.  Really, it’s pretty open-ended. Take the name, freely, if you feel it suits you and be fucking proud of yourself because you’re awesome. The name has begun to evolve, to be synonymous with Bad Ass Blogging and Taking No Bullshit.

On Friendship, Anxiety, and Assumptions

I don’t know WHY this is the case, but man a lot of us are anxious bunnies. A lot of us, and by us I mean the bloggers in general, sometimes assume the worst of other bloggers. We are scared they dislike us; this is sometimes easy to assume when you’re in the context of text-only social media. If your mentions timeline is always busy, you don’t have the time to reply to every person who @s you. Maybe you just have time to favorite their tweet. Maybe their reply doesn’t really need a response. I can’t speak for everyone about everyone, but as someone accused of being part of the exclusionary clique, I can tell you that most of the time my non-response isn’t a signal of my exclusion of you – it just means I didn’t have a good response or didn’t see your tweet.

However, something that comes from meeting in person and hanging out is a bond – I’m sure that some of the UK bloggers have experienced this with ETO or Eroticon. There’s simply a stronger bond of friendship that forms, and it’s not against others, it’s not to hurt them. But it’s a fact of life. I feel that I can speak for those viewed as blog squad when I say that we are not closed off to making new friends, but out of comfort we can be more likely to talk to each other. That’s normal. But when folks starting making jabs to each other publicly on social media about the blog squad, accusing us of exclusionary tactics, of being a clique, of being this or that….take a moment to think of how that feels for us. How hurtful that is. It is tiring to frequently be told you’re a bad person for having some friends closer than others. For embracing a bonding, unifying “code name”. It is tiring to constantly assure people that there’s no evil clique, merely varying levels of kinship. If we were to send out engraved invitations, I feel that that still would not help some folks. Yet here I am, trying regardless. The very definition of the word “clique” means that those in it put up walls and refuse to let others in. We may not be handing out roses but that isn’t a good definition. We are friends. Some of us are close friends. Some of you are close friends. But purposeful exclusion on a large, group level? That’s simply not the case.

So many folks said “I wasn’t sure if I was part of the Blog Squad, you guys were this little group” after Woodhull. Or even, that they didn’t feel as much camaraderie or felt on the fringes. Confession: I had a mini break-down to Sugarcunt on Saturday before dinner. I had no dinner plans; I wasn’t sure if anybody wanted to spend more time with me. Yes, I felt like Everybody Disliked Me for a little bit. Why? No real reason, actually. Just my anxious, paranoid brain sticking it’s nose where it doesn’t belong. That doesn’t mean that it was right, though, you see? You may get worried that you’re being excluded but I feel I can speak for us all when we say “it was never intentional, we were doing our best which maybe isn’t all that good”. And I know that unintended hurts don’t erase hurts. Which is a great segway to this next topic…

Assume Good Intentions

Speaking here mostly for myself (they’ll chime in if I’m wrong) but when you’re anxious, nervous and feeling really overwhelmed by being around more people than you usually are – is it not normal to seek out a friend, use the buddy system? We often say we’re socially awkward – yes, around folks we don’t know well. Not around those we’ve already bonded with. But because we’re all up in our own heads, trying to read other people’s faces and words, trying to figure out where we’re going next, battling a lack of sleep, battling our introversion….it’s damn hard to be A Good Host. It’s really fucking hard to remember to find people and purposefully include them if they’re not right there. If you stand on the very outskirts and don’t introduce yourself? I’m not going to come talk to you. That sounds horrible, but I’d probably vomit if I had to do that. I saw a number of folks at SFS16 that I know by sight because they aren’t anonymous online, but they may not remember what I look like. And a bunch of them never spoke to me. I didn’t take it personally; how could I? I didn’t have the guts to go say hi and tell them who I am. I’ve been told that some folks at SFS16 felt that I gave them the cold-shoulder. I can assure you that I didn’t on purpose. Maybe I wasn’t as socially confident and proper as I should have been, but I was doing the best I could. Maybe I had somewhere to be next. Maybe I just had to fucking get out of that loud room, NOW. There’s plenty of reasons and I can pretty much promise – it wasn’t you.

So when we start tweeting pre-conference about how excited we are to see our friends but also all the anxiety, maybe try believing us? Try assuming that we’re sitting there unsure if YOU dislike us. That we’re terrified we’ll say something dumb. We all have battle scars, we’re all trying to support each other. Come sit with us in the Blogger Lounge. Throw your cents into a conversation. Put your name on the list next year for lunch buddies2. But mostly, understand that we’re individuals, not a mob. We may have a lot of similar views, but we are not the same. We don’t all agree on everything, and we don’t expect to.

Assume. Good. Intentions.

Stand together. Be kind to each other. Understand that friendships take time and many times need more than just tweets. If we support each other and ask as often as we offer, can you imagine the changes we can be part of for sexual health justice? To better the industry? Assume good intentions, and have good intentions.

  1. I won’t go into that whole story here, in part because it would take 1000 words, but if you really want to know, feel free to contact me
  2. yes it’s a thing we’re gonna try to do
 Posted by at 2:49 pm
  • Livvy Libertine

    I loved reading this. I haven’t really felt like part of the sex blogger community online and I recognize that much of that has to do with extreme anxiety and social awkwardness (even online) and the fact that I feel like my blog isn’t good enough, but this makes me want to try harder and be better. I may never be able to make Woodhull and meet all you wonderful people in person, but there’s no reason I can’t try to be more present online.

  • Molly

    I think this is an excellent post. I think we need to hold on to the fact that we are a good community, yes mistakes are made, but we need to work those out together in a way that is productive and tolerant. For me you have summed it all up perfectly in that last paragraph. I did tweet a whole bunch of stuff about it this evening which you mentioned you wished I had written here so I have storify it and am posting the link. Hope that is OK with you?

    https://storify.com/domsigns/on-cliques

    Mollyxxx

  • Suz

    Completely agree with all of this.

    I’ve only been blogging just under a year (11 months now) and when I first started I saw a community that I was not yet apart of. Not a clique, a community. I recognized that, as a new blogger and as someone who hadn’t made an effort to connect (yet), I wasn’t apart of the group. Blog Squad, to me, represented a community filled with people who all had the same passion and generally wanted to be around one another. They’d go to Dildo Holiday or Woodhull together, but I didn’t feel left out or offended because it would be ridiculous to be mad at people for hanging out with their friends.

    Since I admired this group so much, I decided to do something about it. Even though I was never 100% sure I would fit in, or had the right credentials to be considered blog squad, I still went for it. I built an audience and started interacting with the people I admired, and over time I found myself in friendships. It happened naturally, but it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t try. I eventually went to this years Woodhull and found myself among the friendships I had made online.

    Yes, there are groups within the blogger community that are closer friends. That’s something that just naturally happens. You can’t force anyone to be friends with you, because humans aren’t made to love everyone (although it would be so much easier if that were the case). I think this is easily forgotten, and many are quickly blamed for these friendships.

  • The Palimpsex

    Lilly, you know my feelings on this. Even with the extension and recent welcoming into the “Blog Squad” that I have received, I still value my outsider status a lot. Like right now, I feel nervous to make this comment, I don’t want to upset you or further alienate myself from anyone in the group because I am a pretty well-acknowledged shit-stirrer, but at the same time I still have that “what can I really lose by being honest” attitude. So what I will say is hell yes, assume good intentions, don’t assume you know what people are really thinking about you. But in making this post, there is definitely further silencing happening. Wonderful advocacy and further bonding, an olive branch for sure, but I see a bit of gaslighting (salty is a bit dismissive, is that what you were tweeting about?) on what may be very valid feelings that bloggers are experiencing towards the exclusion aspects of the community. Please, please keep in mind that I am not trying to attack but rather clarify. Perhaps I am just speaking for myself, and if so, I am sorry for the redundancy in my narrative. But as you know, and some folks have read about in my blog post covering SFS16, I did experience exclusion at that event. I DID try sitting in the Lounge, and nobody would talk to me. I would try going in and the room would be fully packed: people just stared at me uncomfortably and I turned around and left. I made comments in actual workshops regarding my own social anxiety with known Blog Squad members in the room and expressed publicly how desperately I wanted to connect, even waiting behind after the workshop ended only for nobody to approach me. I lended a pin to a Squadder in attempts to connect, only to have them tell me at the end of the conference what a shame it was we didn’t get to talk. I texted with a well known Squad “leader” and attended Joellen’s evening event which was DESIGNED for socially awkward bloggers, and maybe one or two trickled in before leaving for the Spoken Word event. I was not invited to the Dildo Party, the Squadders which were invited to my, Andy, and Aida’s play party did not come (in fact two non-Squad people left the Squad party for ours specifically because of the gossip and negativity they were feeling at the other party). I didn’t RSVP to the She-Vibe party but messaged them on Twitter asking if I could still attend with no response, so I walked to the door only to have two large men and a staff member look my name up on a clipboard to tell me “you’re not on the list” (literally) and turn me away when there was plenty of room at the party. I understand there were expensive giveaways, but I would have PAID to be in that space judging by how bloggers spoke about how amazing the event was. So just by going on SFS16 alone and no other context, it wasn’t a great experience in inclusivity. For me, it’s one thing to feel exclusion via social media, but to physically take risks, enter IRL spaces, and attempt multiple conversations only to be shut down for several reasons (some absolutely very legitimate, two sides of the same mental health coin), felt even worse. Driving from NJ to DC alone, even tweeting to “Blog Squad” members I was looking forward to hanging out with them with no response…it made me feel invisible. Which may have something to do with why I still aggressively pursue the subject because I do think the discussion still has merit and I hope that, even though I assume your best intentions in making this post, that it does not shut down other bloggers from continuing a dialogue on what a more welcoming space (in person and online) might look like. Again, I am very sorry if this comment is upsetting, am willing to continue (or cease) this conversation elsewhere, but wanted to take you up on the invitation in your post to disagree (because we can still be a Squad and do that) on those points. This is not solely directed at you or one person in particular, after all, the subject being addressed is group mentality. I don’t want you to feel jumped on (and if you do, my approach needs dire re-working), as I know other bloggers are going to read this post and hopefully my comment. It’s not all negative, not all rainbows and friendship, but I appreciate you providing a space for us to talk about this in a blog setting. Thank you. Seriously. For everything you’ve done and continue to do.

  • jo_1982

    I have me extremely anxious to respond, let’s face it, not many bloggers will say no to you. That’s not an insult towards you, you do hold a lot of influence in this blogging area and that’s damn well earned through hard work but let’s face it, people are more fickle than honest, these days (not you).

    I may well receive heat from all this but i’m speaking up (this isn’t about the blog squad, i was actually oblivious to that name).

    I have personally experienced being cast aside, being made to feel unwelcome and social media lynched, for no actual reason but because someone decided they no longer wanted me around. I was even uninvited to an industry event.

    When 2 national papers interviewed me, about my blog, i got a shit tonne of online abuse, facebook, twitter DM’s and my blog email. Telling me i was copying the blogger mentioned above, that i was nothing but a weasel, that i should drop dead, many other things. I took a big step back, it put me off blogging and it hurt like hell.

    It’s nearly 2yrs and i’m only just getting back on the ball. Let me point out that i actually didn’t do anything to warrant this.

    I’ve felt like i wasn’t accepted, that i wouldn’t be welcome and that no matter what effort i do put in, i’d always fail. I started blogging as an outlet, i didn’t start to be popular and i don’t want to be but the negativity, at that time, broke my heart.

    My distaste of cliques comes from experience.

    Being acknowledged would be good, instead of being ignored. Involvement too. I am hopefully attending a trade conference next year but with the above experience, i am bricking it. I suffer with anxiety issues and i’m hoping my worry is over nothing.

    There are some good bloggers out there who do talk to me, dm me and are generally supportive. I’ve been in bits since yesterday, simply over this because i fear i’d be further rejected for being honest and open.

    I doubt my reply will be received well but how are we suppose to move on when people don’t talk? BTW we are not ‘butt hurt’

  • jo_1982

    This is terrible but i hope it’s not put you off blogging. I am so sorry you experienced this x

  • The Palimpsex

    It’s actually brought me a lot closer with some Blog Squad members because I’ve been so vocal…it’s given opportunities to engage at more personal levels just by speaking up. But it’s a delicate balance, as is life in all its complexities…I’ve found that continuing the conversation while maintaining my loner status (in other words, owning the sensation that “I don’t fit in”) has kept the lines open (because there is a lot to learn from them, they ARE brilliant individuals) and also enabled me to continue my writing with confidence. I appreciate you reaching out. Thank you.

  • The Palimpsex

    I was actually taught by the Blog Squad the horrible meaning behind the term “butt hurt” and it’s a little uncomfortable that it’s being exchanged on Twitter without question regarding reader reactions with seemingly no contention. This is particularly concerning in light of other activism surrounding Kiiroo.

  • jo_1982

    It seems it’s 1 rule for 1. I think it’s ignorance tbh but can be sorted out with a little education. Maybe people aren’t realising the impact they have? However, being able to discuss the subject, shows that there are issues that need to be ironed out.

    It’s not acceptable to treat anyone, the way people have described in these comments.

    A little unity would go a long way x

  • jo_1982

    That’s fantastic! And i’m glad you’ve been able to be vocal about your experience. I do believe that once we let go of what we’ve experienced, we can move forward and progress.

    This topic can be unsettling, people don’t want to hear these things and rightly so but hiding, does no one any good x

  • Under what context did they refer to you as blog squad?

    I guess I don’t know how else to say things. There has been a big discussion among so many Woodhull blog squad members about this term, and a large part of this post is to say it’s not a “cool kids” group. This is officially your “invitation” to say “hey, I’m fighting the good fight, I AM BLOG SQUAD”.

    This “clique” crap and “blog squad” need to be surgically separated. Because we can all do a fuck ton of good under this umbrella but if you stand there and insist against my (and others) assertions that there’s nothing wrong with you, we don’t dislike you and hey apropos of nothing, did ya know you’re totes under that blog squad label? How can we move forward?

    A lot of this is your own insecurities which WE ALL HAVE my god, yes, ME TOO. Seriously. I think we need to recognize these monsters in us and squash em and not listen to them. Don’t project your monster onto reality.

  • I can’t speak to some of these things, but I can say that SV didn’t enjoy having to turn folks away, but they had to. The reason being that the open bar was a charge PER PERSON. Not per drink, but per person. I didn’t drink, but the hotel charged them anyway. And so yeah, it was not a cheap little party, but they were throwing it for their reviewers and RSVP’s were totally necessary. It’s not uncommon in this world for an RSVP to be necessary and if you didn’t, well, sorry. I can tell you its very unlikely it was personal. But you’d have to ask them, because I don’t speak for them.

    I do recall coming up to you after Likes and Liberations, and a few other bloggers were with me too, but right after a session is not a good time for either of us. Folks tend to want to exit the room, get on towards their next session, etc.

    when you went into the blogger lounge, and were ignored, had you said anything? Was there a conversation already going on? I’m just trying to get an understanding of the situation and suss out what may have been going on.

    As for JoEllen’s event? I already went over what I felt about it in my Woodhull post, but can tell you a whole bunch of us felt the same: we walked in and it was LOUD. It felt jarring to us. We thought it would be more quiet, and we saw very few folks we knew. We felt anxious, and unsettled, and awkward. Our reaction wasn’t “ew, we’re too cool for this” it was “OH MY GOD FLEE, THIS IS AWKWARD, WHERE TO SIT, WHAT TO DO, OMG PANIC” and we went to get stoned to ease our collective anxiety. *shrugs* and by the time we did THAT, Bedpost Confessions was starting, which was amazing and moving last year, so most folks went to it.
    I tried to go back in to JoEllen’s thing. Twice. I stood on the fringes of conversations, nobody said a word to me BUT I ALSO didn’t say anything to them. I saw a few folks who dislike me and I didn’t have the balls to nudge into existing conversations. I felt like an outsider. But I didn’t blame any of them, either. It was MY issues, MY anxiety. Maybe if I’d tried to get into conversation it would have been just fine. But I also can’t blame them for what I didn’t do.

    And I’m not saying this to invalidate your feelings, but sharing my thoughts.

  • I’m really sorry that all that happened to you. I’m feeling though like you’re holding the North American bloggers as a whole responsible for your feelings of exclusion, unless I’m reading your words wrong. But really my main dissent is simply “cliques”. Maybe you’re too this or too that for a few folks to like you. Not everyone likes me. I can point out 3 or 4 that I know HATE me. There are groups of friends and if we’re being honest here, and we are, the UK bloggers do it too. A few years ago I was pounced on, ripped apart on Twitter because of disagreements about stances on porous and toxic sex toy materials. I was called names and then unfollowed by a bunch of UK bloggers. So hey, maybe I’m also assuming you all hate me, too.

    I do also want to point out some words. You said you’re expecting to be ignored. You say “I don’t think I’d be welcome”. Try assuming you would be. Don’t paint the bad guy before he shows his face.

  • jo_1982

    I understand your points, i also realise i came across negative and i shouldn’t paint everyone with the same brush, that’s my issue. I agree the UK bloggers have this issue and my experience has tainted me. But after this discussion, i’ve now realised it has to be put behind me.

    I respect you for your opinions, i’ve learned alot from yourself over the years and i’m thankful for that x

  • Thanks so much for writing this Lilly. I think your ‘assume good intentions’ sums up so much of what I want to say about this whole thing.

    For a long time I was very solipsistic – I never met up with any other bloggers, and I tended to stick to my own little world. Then when i started doing things – attending events like Eroticon, for instance – I became aware of a whole lot of different currents running below the surface. I’d deliberately excluded myself for a couple of years, so was sad to see that some people felt they’d been excluded on purpose. But people did feel like that – left out or hurt if they weren’t included, or if they didn’t get recognition from other bloggers and… It’s hard, and I can see why it’s hard for people if they see certain groups getting on and feel like they’re on the outside of those groups. At the same time, I can honestly say I have rarely (never? I want to say ‘never’) seen anyone deliberately choosing to exclude people. In fact, in sex blogging above any other area of my life, I see much more effort to include people. To be aware of people’s needs. All that stuff.

    Confession: the first day of Woodhull SFS16, I was so anxious not only did I barely speak to anyone, I didn’t actually eat anything either, because I kept worrying that if I went to eat alone that’d look weird, but I was too shy to ask other people if they’d eat with me. The whole of the first day I sort of hovered in the background trying to work up the courage to speak to people, and then when I did I’d walk away from those conversations thinking ‘argh, I think I sounded like a total nob. The Blogsquad probably think I’m a nob. Argh.’ When I tried to speak to people, I sensed a lot of other people were also anxious like me, and so conversation wasn’t always easy. Over the next few days, I swallowed some of my anxiety and also met some incredible people who spoke to me, made me feel welcome, and introduced me to others. At times I felt left out, at times I felt included, and at no point do I think that anyone was deliberately excluding or doing anything wrong. I think that meeting strangers, and making all those strangers feel equally welcome, is a difficult task. Scratch that – it’s an impossible task.

    In the UK blogging community we have similar issues. There are people who have attended past Eroticons who felt left out, and have told me they felt left out, and that breaks my heart. It’s something I can try and help with – by introducing people to others, and by working with other confident and/or connected bloggers to try and get introductions and conversation going. But ultimately it is never going to be perfect, because humans aren’t magic and we all have our own stuff going on. In some situations I am in a more confident place, and am better able to introduce people and chat and all that stuff – but in those situations I also often have a hell of a lot of other stuff I am juggling. Similar to my Woodhull ‘I barely ate any food’ confession, here’s one from Eroticon: at Eroticon this year I spent at least one full day absolutely desperate to pee, but not able to break off conversations to do it. I didn’t want the people I was talking to to feel like I was leaving them, because someone had previously told me they were hurt that I only spoke to them briefly at a past event and they’d have liked to chat for longer. I got the impression they thought I’d abandoned them and my rubbish brain’s reaction to that was ‘OK so I now just need to let other people break off conversations.’ So yeah. This isn’t me saying ‘poor me’, just ‘humans are weird and life is tricky.’

    There’s definitely something in the ‘physical meet’ thing: like people are more likely to bond if they have met/spent time with each other. It’s a fact of life, and it’s a pain in the arse fact of life given that we can’t all fly to have a big sex blogger party in one place where we all get the time to chat and bond. But maybe one day when one of us makes it really massive, we’ll get a chance to do just that. And in the meantime I (and I know Molly and Michael too) are working our arses off to try and get companies to help bring bloggers to events where they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make it before. I’m hoping I can persuade someone to send a new UK blogger to Woodhull next year too, because I think the more bridges like this we can build, the easier this stuff should become.

    Sorry, I’m waffling now. To end: thank you for writing this post. It’s great to get your thoughts on things, and I do hope that people take your ‘there’s no deliberate clique’ message to heart. While I see a lot of hurt and frustration in lots of places, and I understand why people are often unhappy, I also see lots of people trying their best to help bring people closer in to the community. We are none of us perfect, we can only try our best. And for what it’s worth, I think my turning point at Woodhull when I got a bit more courage to talk to people came when you cracked out your jar of melted sex toys and we all bonded over laughing at how gross and gooey they were. Anxiety might push us apart sometimes, but horror at melted sex toys brings us all together =) So thank you Lilly. I think your good intentions shine through, always.

  • Sara Testarossa

    Interesting to see the perspectives in this, both in the original post and the comments. I’m not a blogger (at the moment, I’ve done some activist-y and kink-education blogging a few years ago) but I do work as a sex educator (among other retail responsibilities) full time. I also am a socially awkward/anxious butterfly who has coworkers and friends who are (at minimum) internet famous (published authors, podcasters, people in bands, skilled cosplayer whose photos went viral) and sometimes fangirl over friends. So when I read blog posts by folks I know identify as part of the blog squad, about cons and such, there’s so much that resonates with me. As in, you folks sound like me and my people, if that makes sense. I like the inclusive idea you’re presenting here, Lilly, and the positivity. Food for thought. Also hopefully this makes sense with all the parentheticals.

  • So the first day, was that Wednesday or Thursday?

    I got there Thursday and asking where you were was one of the first things I did, haha. I think everybody was looking forward to meeting you!! Plus hey, we’re Americans, we’re dazzled by accents. You could say ridiculous things and we’d probably like it.

    I very much understand the feelings about not wanting to eat alone. It’s a big anxiety of mine. It took me awhile into adulthood to be okay with going shopping in department stores and malls alone because I grew up never going shopping alone – either with friends or parents. I tend to feel like if I’m alone, people are more likely to stare at me and judge but if I’m with someone, suddenly they’re my magical invisibility cape? Eh, makes no sense I know.

    I agree, making everyone feel equally welcome is impossible, since most of us seem to already have our own anxieties and feels and even assumptions.

    I really hope to see you at another Woodhull!

  • It’s text, so perhaps you’re reading things wrong.

  • Oh blimey I’ve just read my comment back and realised the not eating bit looked like I was saying people didn’t invite me or whatnot. I only mentioned as a counterpoint to the fact that Woodhull was pretty much amazing, and the difference between day 1 and the last day when we all hung out was huge – basically the difference between me hiding a bit b/c of anxiety, then a combination of intros and warmth from ppl over the weekend (i.e. bonding over your jar of toys, getting to know each other etc).

    Ooh, also another thing I should have mentioned in my comment: SheVibe’s poetry slam. It helped me get over more nerves by having the chance to read/do something that wasn’t just me trying to nudge into a conversation. Weirdly, I find performance waaaay easier than socialising, and it’s really helpful to have an ice-breaker. Good way to start convos with others too – I got to chat to Sugarcunt for the first time because I had a great opener in ‘I loved your reading!’

    And also Ruby G – she is the absolute queen of introductions, and I think her spidey-senses tingled that I was a bit shy, so she marched me into the blogger lounge to say hello =)

  • Also sorry I am a little bit baked so if this comment doesn’t make any sense I’ll come back tomorrow and make it make sense

    ps re: accents – I’m going to practise a new one for Woodhull next year just to surprise you

  • Caitlin M.

    I don’t have the energy to reply to all of this, but I did just want to add one thing: all of the trips that bloggers have gone on together have not been at the request, payment, or encouragement of companies. Some have been “sponsored” with items for goodie bags, but as far as I know, not with money.

    They have never been specifically to tour companies, though some of us would definitely be interested in doing that, and the cases where we have gotten together, there has been an effort to reach out to companies nearby, but mostly it has been “we’re in the area, lets go to the sex stores!” or the leather shops, etc, public places, with very few exceptions. For example, I got to go to see Hole Punch’s Studio (it’s literally a studio, he’s also an artist) when I roadtripped in spring. The original and largest #dildoholiday was in Portland and I don’t think they went to a big company, but had managed to personally pay to go to a glass shop and make toys.

    The gatherings among sex bloggers in the last few years all came about because of the alienation felt after CCON East ’14. After the fallout from that conference and people not feeling welcome there anymore–it had previously only been the only place bloggers who weren’t physically nearby one another could meet up–and wanted an alternative that didn’t have the potential for the harm felt (and the actual harm done) at that con. The idea was to be able to get together, bond, and maybe skillshare on a small private level, and it was something that has again, as far as I know, always been funded privately by the attendees, and has ALSO generally been the case of friends getting together.

    The one “trip” blogger get together I took a part in was #HaveDildosWillTravel where Bex, Girly Juice, Taylor and I went cross country to The Smitten Kitten. This was a trip Bex was going to do anyway and asked if we wanted to tag along, and it was all at our expense; gas money, food, hotels, AirBnB, etc. The whole concept behind hashtagging it was, hey, we rarely get together, we’re going to have fun, and we live on social media: this will be fun to share and we want to hashtag it so people can follow along. This was, in my opinion having seen talks planning some of them, also the case with #DildoHoliday. More about being creatures of social media and also potentially profiting off of something that was individually being funded at great cost.

    While there has been talk of maybe trying to do larger events for bloggers in general, it’s incredibly difficult to fund something like that. Imagine a hotel takeover like Swingset Desire, for example: that would be glorious, but most of us are marginalized in some way and struggling, like myself and many other sex bloggers I personally know. I’ve been party to talks about a blogger conference and similar, but we don’t have the money to do something like that and companies are not often willing to sponsor even individual attendees to conferences, which is how many of us (myself included) have figured out how to attend conferences we could not otherwise attend. We have even supported one another in that pursuit; I would not have been able to attend Woodhull this past year were it not for Lilly’s help getting a sponsorship.

    Bloggers are not some big homogenous organization; we’re complicated, some of us have found friendships but many of us are merely acquaintances, and even more of us don’t know one another at all. We come from all walks of life, with a variety of experiences, opinions, and more. There are no rules governing bloggers, there is no organization, there are just some of us being very anxious at events and clinging to others we know for a feeling of safety. Treating the hashtagblogsquad as an organization or something that makes concerted movements is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nebulous nature of the thing. Though sometimes, bloggers will come in to support one another and have started sharing information privately, we are still all individuals who make individual choices and have individual levels of participation, and we all still maintain that right, to be nothing more than our individual selves. A lot of discussion has been going on in the past months as people have treated the nebulous grouping as an organization, and what should be done about it since it’s alienating people, but since we’re all individuals, we’ve all been working in our individual ways–I by reaching out to people, Lilly by writing this post, people having discourse on twitter, etc.

    I hope that clarifies some things. I’ve always appreciated your work and contribution, Kitty, so I apologize if you’ve felt like you haven’t been included. While I do try to include people where I can, I also don’t have the time or energy as someone who has chronic illness and depression, and whose poor and resource-limited, to go looking for people, and I have every right to self determine how involved I am with my blog–not very, these past few years as I navigate self employment–and the community. I think that’s true for everyone and should be; we’re not an organization, we didn’t volunteer for anything more than our individual blogs, and so many of the bloggers deal with chronic issues, hard lives, anxiety, depression. This ended up being a bit longer than intended and kind of wanders a bit, but I hope there’s something of use to you and others reading here; I know that with the gatherings, they’re not always transparent and it’s hard to know what’s going on there from the outside. But I also don’t think that they are required to be, as gatherings of friends to bond and support one another.

  • I’ll admit, seeing Woodhull posts and the Dildo Holiday adventures is always a bit bittersweet.
    Most of me is super happy to see my friends having so much fun. I get excited for everyone involved and smile along with the adventures. I’m still able to engage through Twitter and just generally get pumped and inspired to seek out more of that sex positvity and engagement in my own life. But then another part of me gets sad because I know that my situation won’t allow for this and that, even if it did, there’s no guarantee that people would like or want to have me around or that it would even be possible (every event has a max capacity).

    However I know this is just human nature and it’s my own personal beef.

    We all crave community, we all create structures to meet our needs, and we all share stories about these communities because they matter to us–they’re part of our core values. But that doesn’t mean that doing so is in any way antagonistic.

    My sadness comes from lacking that but the solution isn’t in being bitter to those who have it. It’s in being proactive, taking positive steps towards reaching my own goals and using other people’s examples as a way to reassess what matters to me and how I can best achieve it.

    I can tell you right now I wouldn’t have met wonderful people like GOTN and ILB or agreed to go to Eroticon if not for Blogsquad. My nerves outweighted my desire for community. But seeing just how positive, friendly, engaging, and accepting everything was via your tweets and posts changed that. It changed me for the better.

    In this way Blogsquad can be an incredible conduit for positive personal and community change and I think that’s what shines through the most for me personally.

  • Hi Kitty! SUPER interesting post here. It’s been so thought-provoking seeing all the different experiences and views here. Some have made me feel so sad but others have been a community boost. It’s always great to have a dialogue in place!

    With that in mind I’d love to address some of your points and keep the conversations rolling.

    I’m so sad that you’ve felt excluded. I have to confess it’s only personally that I’ve found you to be more visible myself, which just goes to show how tricky and partly to chance these things can be. I think we just weren’t crossing the exact same streams and no one’s at fault for that, especially when larger followings of Twitter can make monitoring everything insane. It’s my own personal blush-worthy fact that I only recently learnt about Scala, simply because I’d never managed to bump in to it before a certain point *blushes*

    I think equally it can just be a coincidence or a matter of time and media management that some people can end up feeling left out. No one is at fault in such situations. If a person doesn’t know they’re making someone feel a certain way then they can’t engage and if the suffering individual is internalizing their conflict or doesn’t feel comfortable approaching the individual/s in question then it can create a wall that built itself purely through situation.

    Alternatively even if they did approach the person who they felt excluded them it can still slip through the nets. It’s tragic but I rarely think it’s deliberate. I mean there’s a reason why so many big Youtubers make a point of saying “I do read your comments and read your mail but I just can’t respond to them all. I’m sorry” and maybe we can find a solution by turning to such individuals and seeing how they manage community engagement. Just a thought there, I don’t personally know but at the end of the day we can all only give so much, even collectively. Have we reached that limit? I don’t think so, but it will take time and conversations like this to consider how to reapproach things.

    Signal boosting marginalized individuals= Fantastic, however I think this could become divisive if seen as a ‘token POC/trans/lower-class individual inclusion’ thing. On the one hand it’ great to problematise and address this issue but not at the expense of suddenly thinking of others in terms of the marginalized status rather than as fellow bloggers (which is much more how I’m inclined to see people and how I promote them as a result. On individual merit).

    For me one of the big ways that I felt more motivated to engage in the community is/was through seeing events like Woodhull and Dildo Holiday, which is why I find it surprising that you personally felt these things were performatively exclusionary. Of course your feelings are valid but here is why I personally see tweets about these events as a positive:

    *By seeing other bloggers engage with each other I was reassured that if I ever did meet people I wouldn’t be immediately excluded and would be given a sense of security. I’m a naturally paranoid person so part of me always worries about meeting people I only know via the netter. But knowing that other people I trust have met with them in person and can vouch for the safety of it all made me feel more secure in reaching out, just from a ‘they’re not a serial killer’ perspective. Silly, I know, but it still kept me from meeting people IRL for the longest time.

    *The degree of enjoyment and acceptance shown by the Blogsquad through tweets affirmed my sense of community and the notion that, should I visit, it would always be an option to me. Of course I’d be ‘the new kid in school’ but that school has shown itself to publically be full of the nicest people I’ve ever known, if that makes sense.

    *By tweeting about such events I was able to get ideas on where I wanted my blog to go and the motivation needed to achieve it. If there’s one thing to be said about thinking “I wish I could have that” it certainly makes you think “Okay, so how can I achieve it?”.

    *Because of the tweets any companies that are involved get signal boosts which, in turn, makes them more likely to encourage and fund future events. This means more chances for more bloggers, such as myself. I feel like Blogsquad has paved the way for me to at least consider Woodhull now, even if I ultimately can’t afford it. There’s hope.

    *On a fundamental level it’s just incredibly self-affirming to know that people like you do exist, do meet, and can find happiness in their passion. That’s honestly fantastic to me.

    On the point of being open to critique. I am very much in your camp, and I am the type of individual who will often try to stand back and consider someone’s side of things before responding (case-in-point: how long I took to write this post XD). But, at the same time, I don’t know if we should penalize those who are naturally more reactive or have a harder time taking a step back from engagement.

    Some people are inherently passionate and that passion can be a good and bad thing. Are we not doing them a disservice if we don’t take the time to consider their approach and try to factor it in ourselves? I’m reminded of the Myer’s Briggs personality type test here in that no type of person or approach is better than the other simply different. We do better when considering and factoring in these differences, I feel, even when they don’t align with how we’d like to or would approach things.

    That’s all I can think of for now, and this ramble is already long enough as it is, but I really look forward to your response. This is all so engaging!

  • Those were excellent tweets about it, and thank you so much for storifying them all together!! <3

  • I think it’s really easy to feel like your blog isn’t good enough. I’ve felt it often over the last 8 years. I felt pressured into showing my face and doing videos, thinking it was holding me back in some way. That people respected me less because I was so anonymous. In part, too, I was sick of feeling forced by circumstance to be so vigilant about that aspect of my anonymity.

  • Thank you for this, Cailtyn, and for the emotional labour doing it xx

  • I definitely hear all of this, and yes, what works as an advantage to one can be a disadvantage to someone else, which is worth remembering!

    I am concerned about the “individual merit” thing because so far in every group I’ve witnessed that’s been very exclusionary of marginalized folks. Meritocracy typically serves those with the most privilege and access best, and that’s why I think bloggers collectively need to support each other and step back/step up so that no one IS being tokenized.

    It might help to have more transparency- like, having a lot of this stuff about sponsorships and how the various toy trips happen really helps!

    Finally I don’t want to police how people blog, or respond. But I do think there is value in taking a step back. I’ve seen some critiques be compared to lynchings and like… no. Absolutely not. That’s absurd. If we’re going to support each other, we need to be able to hear when we’re wrong, when we’ve hurt someone, and able to offer up an action plan to take care of each other. That’s a vital part of a healthy community – mutual care. <3

  • Kathy

    I am very curious what these vague “toy trips” are that you’re talking of. If there are specific hashtagged events then you should call them out and be transparent. From what I’ve seen of #dildoholiday, plus the road trip that Caitlin mentioned, and a recent Philadelphia meet-up a month ago they all have one thing in common – it’s a group of friends doing something and talking about it on Twitter. Gather up your own friends and do the same. I looked back at the hashtags and blog posts today. At Dildo-holiday there were two Asian folks, many queer folks and I think Aerie is non-binary. At that road trip Caitlin mentioned, one person is trans. I read most of their blogs and they deal with mental health problems. But whatever because the point is–they’re friends. To shame them for talking publicly about their fun time and shame them for not including strangers seems way off-base to the entire spirit of the original post and really entitled of you and policing who is allowed to have fun or who is considered “marginalized enough”. If these are not the “toy trips” you’re speaking of then clarifying will help narrow down the conversation.

  • The Palimpsex

    <3

  • Sexbloggess

    I think it’s also worth noting that besides the “toy trips” actually just being friends deciding to get together and do shit, in the rare event a company is somehow involved with it – they almost certainly didn’t OFFER to be. Same goes for sponsorships/scholarships/aid to conferences and other events. We (bloggers) BEG for this shit, even at some of the ‘favourite’ companies, nobody just blasts out an email to these ‘cliques’ on a friday and goes “you know, we were just thinking about how much we love you more than the other bloggers, y’all wanna get together and do some shit with/for us? our treat!” – they need to be chased down and contacted first. At the VERY least bloggers have to put out some sort of call for involvement and hope someone helpful sees and responds.

    We are forever contacting companies asking for aid and being turned down at best, ignored more frequently (and that’s the company deciding who’s worth what and IF they can do anything at all. not us against each other. Alternately it was a randomized contest they didn’t control the winner of) Usually It’s no different than asking to be an affiliate or asking to join a toy review program or pitching an article, applying to perform or present…few few bloggers get approached, we put in the work. That work is both the work they do to convince these companies they should help (writing convincing emails, being persistent, etc), but also the work they’ve done on their blog/in the community that shows the company there’s some sort of beneficial return for their help. Again, this is the same as affiliates/reviews, the company needs something in return. A 1month old blog with no viewers will not have the same benefits to a company as Lilly’s blog, so they wont get the same consideration from a company offering something. Someone who aggressively treats their blog as a business will not have the same experiences as someone who writes a post once every 6 months as a hobby. The people doing all this envious stuff are the people doing the most work – whatever work that is – to make it happen.

    Not everyone has the time or energy or know-how to put in the same amount of work and yes if the people who do *also* have the means to help out others, they should, let’s also just be careful not think of these things as being ‘hand-outs’ to the popular girls because they aren’t. Marginalized folks should absolutely get better inclusion, yes 100%, they don’t make up the entirety of the folks saying they’ve been excluded though, for some people this is just FOMO, or jealousy, or just not understanding what’s actually going on behind the scenes at these things to make them happen and thinking it was a big gift to someone’s handful of favourites.

    A lot of these things people want in on are things they could make happen for themselves. If they just haven’t had that idea yet, or they don’t know the best way to go about it, or they don’t know how to approach others to get them involved, that can be solved and yes we should help and yes I think we’d be happy to ( and to echo a few other’s perspectives, IF the person being asked has the means to help, not everyone is a teacher)

  • Lexi

    Late af reply sorry.

    I can’t remember exactly, they might have linked to me and described me as such. It was a while ago.

    My whole point was, though I’m not sure I worded it as well as I could have, that even if I/they/we might FEEL not one of the group, that it doesn’t mean it was intentional on anyone’s behalf, so blaming them as if it was is silly. Like, sometimes I feel like the THE WORST HUMAN but logically I know it’s not true. I think some people, especially those who aren’t used to challenging those kind of thoughts, find it harder to accept that their feelings aren’t always true representations of what’s going on. They’d rather blame other people than work on themselves to change it.

    My position on it has always been “I don’t feel like part of it but it’s my own bullshit problems so whatever yo I’ll work on it at a later date probs maybe”. It never bothered me like it apparently did some other people. And tbh I have higher priority shit to unnecessarily be upset out over than whether other bloggers like me ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    But yeah yes I agree

  • April

    As a person who was also in a situation very similar to yours, Lilly (with the “in crowd” of a group, mostly created in a time of a need for togetherness and camaraderie, but became very close friends and began to get accusations of exclusion and “cliquishness”), I have to say that I feel for you a lot. In just reading the comments, I’m getting so much straight up bitterness from some people… Silencing? Seriously? Offering a well-meaning explanation without any malice or hard feelings is nothing close to silencing. Defending yourself from harmful (and, frankly libelous) accusations does not mean you are silencing the people who have had those concerns.

    And those calling your use of colloquialisms “gaslighting” not only seems like a misappropriation of the term, but also villainizes you for simply using a word that they have attached their own upsetting connotations on to. That word use, and the use of similar buzzwords, is actually rather manipulative in itself. And for what? Because of a group of friends who happened to be known as such?

    I know it’s not my place, since I’m no blogger, but this is entirely unfair.

  • April

    I understand not feeling included, but to say that this group went out of their way to not include you comes across as egotistical, and reeks of you taking this personally, when it was never and will never be that way. Again, I’ve been in this situation where my group was considered the “clique” and that we “weren’t being inclusive” because we were friends together, happened to be well known in the community, but weren’t openly throwing our arms out to invite everyone in, and it’s upsetting. It’s upsetting when you feel the need to have to defend your friendships simply because some people are too self centered to see that others have lives that may not always include them.

    I understand feeling nervous in a new place (and it seems this was how theblogsquad was born in the first place), but you can’t put the burden of action on everyone around you. They cannot read your mind. You can’t just enter a space and expect them to all be ultra welcoming to you when they might be as nervous as you are. Their stares might be in hope that you’ll come over to them, rather than the judgmental eyes that anxiety can make them out to be. They all have contacts and friends they have been looking forward to seeing at this event as well, I assure you. So them not taking a being able to catch you has nothing to do with them being exclusive and all to do with how busy their weekend was. Keep these things in mind, rather than jumping to the blame of everyone else for not immediately accommodating your need for acknowledgment.

    I understand feeling left out, especially at a large party with giveaways and popular bloggers, but if you go to an event that was RSVP only and try to walk in without having RVSP’d, then you have no one to blame but yourself. It sucks, but that is not a crime of their doing and to attribute theblogsquad to your misfortune seems like an attempt to absolve yourself of blame. You really need to work on handling yourself in these situations. It’s good to speak up after the fact, but it’s better to speak up during the situation at hand. Had you been as vocal then as you’ve been afterwards, I assure you that your experience would have panned out differently.