Smutlancer Spotlight: Nikki of Love is a Fetish
It officially feels like fall. The leaves are falling, pumpkins are back, and Halloween is around the corner. As a kid, I remember being told that holidays won’t mean as much as I get older. However, I’m proud to say Halloween still means a lot to me and many adults I know. So, it doesn’t surprise me that it was the inspiration for making October National Kink Month. Yahoo News reported that “October has been declared National Kink Month by Stockroom.com, a leading designer and retailer of fetish sex toys and gear…October seemed a logical choice for Kink Month because Halloween is such a popular adult holiday.”
Even though I love this time of year, some people may not feel the same, especially if they struggle with seasonal depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Many people go through short periods of time where they feel sad or not like their usual selves. Sometimes, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours. In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities…” I wonder if that was one of the reasons World Mental Health Day is celebrated in October or if that’s a convenient coincidence.
Since October highlights both pleasure and mental health, it is the perfect month to talk to Nikki of Love is a Fetish about her journey as a smutlancer. Nikki (she/her) is a photographer, writer, designer, and general creator of art (digital and physical). She lives on the beach in Mexico with her husband and youngest child, where she loves to garden, cook and take lots of photos. She’s also an advocate for radical self-love, sex positivity, and mental health care.
During our interview, Nikki discussed how she started writing about sex and mental health. She also talked about how she transitioned from a pseudonym to using her real name, her progress with having a positive relationship with her body, and how her husband is one of her biggest supporters. Check out our interview below:
How do you make money as a smutlancer?
I write product reviews (sex toys, apparel, personal care items, etc.) and sponsored articles on sexuality and mental health. I also [create and] sell erotic art, which I’ve recently been adding to Redbubble (This means stickers! Yay!).
How long have you been a smutlancer?
I started writing about my mental health, sexuality, and relationship with my husband around five years ago. I was in therapy, and I felt like the more I talked about things, the more I learned. So, I started writing the pieces I needed to read and created the art I needed to see. I felt like I couldn’t talk to my therapist about my sexuality, so finding a community and space to talk about those things was incredibly beneficial for me.
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer?
I’m a full-time freelancer and run Love is a Fetish. Not all of my work is smutlancer specific. Most of it falls under the same mental health awareness, sex-positive, self-love umbrella I’ve worked hard to tend and cultivate. I also do product photography for my husband’s tech reviews, which is a nice change of pace sometimes.
Are you open with anyone about the work you do?
One good thing about not having any close family is not being overly concerned with who knows what [my husband and I] do. I’ve mentioned to a couple of people we know that I’m a sex toy reviewer, and I write about mental health and sexuality. But I never [give] the website information or talk about specifics because, frankly, no one has asked.
I started with a pseudonym but the more vulnerable I got, the more I felt like me. So, I shifted into a tongue-in-cheek version of myself (Darling Nikki) that I could embody and draw some confidence from until I felt like I outgrew [that] persona.
I’m just Nikki. That really is my name. I’m grateful I’m in the position of privilege to be authentically and unapologetically me. I [also] reserve the right to hop back into the closet, guilt-free if I feel like it’s in my family’s best interest.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
When it started to make me feel better about myself and people were reaching out to thank me for my words. That was a profound moment, the realization that I could actually help people.
Finding the ability to be vulnerable, sharing the things I was going through or had experienced, and having others relate was a total game-changer.
I felt like I was doing what I should be doing, and it evolved from there. Looking back now, my career has really been a journey of trying to help people feel better about themselves. It turns out that’s always been important to me.
I spent over fifteen years as a stylist, and my favorite part of that job was always the glow people got when they looked in the mirror after I’d done their hair. Something so simple resulted in what felt like real, tangible magic in their increased self-esteem.
Then as a photographer, I watched the transformation happen when people saw beautiful images of themselves that allowed them to view their appearance from a totally new perspective.
Fast forward to now, that’s the same magic I witness when someone says they feel better about their body or their brain because of something I helped them see.
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it”?
I think the first time I felt like people were actually paying attention to what I’m doing was landing on Molly’s top 100 list in 2019. It was a really cool moment that allowed me to see past the imposter syndrome for the first time. It made it real for me.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started creating content about sex or became a smutlancer?
I think I was lucky because I started smutlancing organically. It wasn’t something I saw other people doing and thought, “Oh, that’s a cool way to make money!” I just started writing and sharing my photos, and [then] people started responding.
If I was to go back and start all over again, I would have more confidence in my work rather than feeling like my work wasn’t as powerful, important, or worthy as folks who’d been [smutlancing] longer.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I’ve got ADHD. My husband and I both work from home, and we have a five-year-old. So, finding the time during the day where I have quiet and the right frame of mind to talk about sex and mental health can be a juggling act that rarely looks the same.
Sometimes I am able to sit down and write while other days it takes me all day to format a post and still never get any words into it.
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create or type of smutlancing work to do?
I just love to create: words, paintings, photographs, all of it. To get something out of me into the world that didn’t exist before.
I enjoy helping someone feel something, even if it’s as minor as, “Hey, I like the colors in this!” That’s a positive feeling and it makes me feel good.
In a perfect world, what would you want your legacy to be as a smutlancer?
If I could help one human genuinely feel better about themselves then I would consider myself a success.
I’ve worked so hard to come from a place of complete self-loathing to now. I have my struggles but I no longer hate myself. I would love to help anyone else who desperately wants that feeling. I wanted it bad and I brute-forced my way there.
I don’t necessarily think that’s the most pleasant or productive path, so sharing my experience could help someone else avoid some challenges I faced or help prepare them for the parts that are difficult and unavoidable.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work to be productive?
I laughed out loud at this question because the only thing I prefer to have around/indulge in while I’m writing is cannabis. Sometimes getting dolled up in full makeup and hair can inspire me to get some writing done by giving me a little boost of confidence, but I don’t really have a routine.
Who or what inspired you to become a smutlancer?
My husband, honestly. When I started writing and doing photoshoots, he was so encouraging and supportive. [He] gave me pep talks about how my work was important [and] that kept me going in the beginning.
Are there any social/charitable causes that are close to your heart and connected to your work as a smutlancer?
It breaks my heart when I think about all the young people with no support who feel like there is something wrong with them because the people they are surrounded by are so scared and confused by anything outside of a neurotypical straight-cis box.
So many times, I watched my oldest child’s friends get crushed by people who were supposed to be on their team [and] watched them fear for their safety for simply trying to live their truth. We always tried to make sure they knew our house was a safe place.
I think BIPOC, queer and neurodivergent youths are the ones most in need of allies. They’re some of the most vulnerable among us. The Trevor Project is an important resource.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest (you pick) thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer — from a client, someone online, anyone.
It might sound silly, but it feels super weird to feel okay about my body. The fact that I no longer immediately feel disgusted when I see my fat rolls or photos of them is weird to me. It still feels foreign sometimes. I feel so differently about myself and my body. I think smutlancing had a lot to do with that.