Smutlancer Spotlight: Quinn Rhodes
It was challenging to start writing the introduction to this month’s spotlight interview with Quinn Rhodes (he/him). So, rather than my usual “Happy [insert day here], asking a question or tying in a season or an awareness topic for the month, I decided to go with the truth. It was challenging, not because he’s boring. He’s anything but boring! He’s an activist. I mean, look at his bio:
Quinn Rhodes is a queer, trans, disabled sex writer. He’s a sex nerd with vaginismus who blogs about his vagina anxiety, mental illness, and adventures in learning to fuck without fucking up. Quinn can usually be found wearing stomp-on-the-patriarchy boots while falling in love every time he fucks. He can talk non-stop about trans inclusivity, “queering” up sex, and figuring out what it means to be a feminist as a trans guy.
That’s interesting AF! It was challenging because my interview with Quinn was an uncomfortable reminder of how little I know or fully understand about the lives of the disabled and trans community. While shows like Pose have helped raise awareness of LGBTQ+ experiences, celebrities like Elliot Page have come out as trans, and authors like Keah Brown have written books about being disabled, I haven’t fully dived in to learn about both communities yet.
So, interviewing Quinn unearthed some feelings I didn’t know were there and allowed me to see life through a very different lens. Talking to Quinn also prompted me to question some of my lines of thinking personally and professionally. If you weren’t prepared to reflect on your journey as a smutlancer or how you look at the world (and yourself) up until this point, get a notebook and a pen. You may want to journal about what comes up for you as you read this interview or take notes on what you want to research later.
In our interview, Quinn talks about trans-inclusivity, mental health, mental illness, depression, suicide, disability, anonymity, identity, and how it informs his smutlancing journey. He also talks about being outed as a smutlancer to his parents, coming out as trans to his family, and why he almost quit blogging all together.
According to Medical News Today, transgender people often experience disproportionately high levels of mental health conditions due to cissexism, discrimination, violence, and barriers to healthcare. If you or someone you know is looking for mental health resources for trans people, contact The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, (nqttcn.com), The Trevor Project, trans lifeline or the Samaritans hotline. You can also share other resources and your thoughts in the comments below. Check out our interview below:
How do you make money as a smutlancer?
I’m recovering from a period of burnout and extreme mental illness. So, I do my best to only pitch things and work on projects I genuinely care about because even if I’m having a rubbish day, mental illness-wise, I can still find the enthusiasm to work.
Right now, I’m pitching different places, writing articles, writing erotica, and making a tiny bit of money from [my] Patreon. I also do a little bit of trans inclusivity consulting. I have a couple of people [for whom] I proofread their posts if they are talking about trans issues and want someone in the community to check [them] first. I’m working with a couple of sex toy shops at the moment to increase the products they’re offering to include for transmen. I’m working [also] with [publications] to make sure their content is as inclusive as possible and that they’re bringing on different voices in their guest writers.
How long have you been a smutlancer? When did you get interested in sex and creating content about it?
I was very disconnected from my own body growing up. There were a couple of reasons why, like [my] roman catholic upbringing, so I have a lot of internalized sexual shame. Also, I’m trans [so] looking back at my childhood, I see possibly early signs of dysphoria and discomfort. I’m [also] in the process of getting a diagnosis for my autism. All of these things looking back, I can see how they manifested in my childhood so I really disconnected from my body for a long time. I had no interest at all in sex. I thought sex and dating were things that I had to do and were forced on me.
When I sorta got to 13 or 14 years old, I realized that [sex and dating] is a choice. I assumed I would always choose to not have any interest in boys. And then I discovered the words to describe my sexuality through Harry Potter fan fiction. I found the words queer, bisexual and asexual at the same time.
If I look back into my childhood, knowing everything about myself I know now, I was actually a young autist boy obsessed with maps, numbers and weird things. The fact that I have tits and was presenting as a girl is probably why that didn’t get picked up early. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 years old that I was like, “Okay. I’m queer.” At first, I thought I was a lesbian. Then I had a crush on my gay male swing dancing instructor and that was like, “Oh, maybe I’m bisexual.”
I had no interest in sex at all because I assumed sex was heterosexual PIV (Penis In Vagina) but then just before my 19th birthday, I made a new years resolution to teach myself how to masturbate. I never touched my body and I never looked at my own vulva. So, I brought The Whole Lesbian Sex Book by Felice Newman, read it and touched myself for the first time. I actually got turned on. It’s the first time I was really connected to my arousal as something happening in my body and a thing I understood. Later that year, I found sex blogs for the first time. I’ve been reading fanfiction erotica for a few years and then I read The Whole Lesbian Sex Book. I’m like, “I need more of this!”
I looked on the internet and I ended up finding sex blogs. I ended up buying and reading both Girl on the Net’s books. I read literally everything on her site. I have consumed almost every piece of content she puts out in the world.
From her site, I found people like Molly’s Daily Kiss and others. I had my first kiss around that time and a couple of months later I had sex for the first time with someone else. I feel like I went from 0 to 100 very fast so, within about four months of having had my first kiss [and] two maybe three orgasms, I set up my sex blog.
I wanted to write about it. I wanted to do this really cool thing which I saw everyone else doing. I wanted to understand myself more and I have always understood myself by writing. I wanted to challenge myself to write more regularly and I’ve never stuck at a writing project longer than I stuck with my sex blog.
Ultimately, I set [my blog] up because I was in a really bad place. I was having an awful depression. I was very suicidal. I’m like, “What do I need to do to get through? I need a project I need to focus on which isn’t how much I want to die.” That’s quite bleak but that was ultimately what I did. I set the whole thing up on my own. All self-hosted without knowing anything. All in a 12 hour period of feeling like rubbish. I stayed up all night doing it so I started posting content the next day.
I actually got paid for my writing only a couple of months later. I did a guest blog for Girl on the Net about discovering my sexuality and the process I’ve been on over the last year and I got paid for that. [It] was the first time I’ve ever been paid for my writing and I still have that 20 pound note [sent] to me. I’m now getting paid quite a bit more than that for some of the writing I’m doing over PayPal and bank transfers. [But] that’s physical money and I want to hold on to that as much as I can.
Then I started within the edge of the sex blogging community and I went to Eroticon about six months after I started my sex blog. That’s the point when I’m like, “I want to do this. I genuinely care about what I’m writing and I want to get better at it and keep doing it.” My sex blog has been running for about three and a half years.
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer?
I can’t say full-time smutlancer because I spend little time doing it at the moment and I’m bringing in very little money at the moment just because of my mental health, mental illness, and disability. That’s the focus on my life. Keeping myself alive is my full-time job at the moment and then I have a part-time job as a journalism student and then a part-time job as a smutlancer but my mental illness is my main job at the moment.
Are you open with anyone about the work you do?
Quinn Rhodes is my pen name as a writer. The name on my birth certificate is my dead name and it’s only used with people I’m not ready to come out to yet. In most of my life, I go by my trans name and then in sex blogging circles, I go by Quinn Rhodes. A lot of my friends I met through sex blogging.
Depending on different settings, I will introduce myself as different things. Older friends, who predate my sex blogging, know I write for different places but they don’t know my name. So, they couldn’t google me and find me because they don’t know the pen name. I like to keep it that way for anonymity.
My family does not know [but] I was essentially outed to my family as a sex blogger nine months in. I was still staying at home with my parents over the summer between university and someone outed me to my parents. So, Quinn Rhodes isn’t the name I started sex blogging under.
I shut down my site [and] transferred most of my content over to a new site because I couldn’t not keep doing it. I totally had fallen in love with it. My parents do not know that I’m still doing it [but] I’ve taken more protection. Like at the time, I wasn’t using a VPN [and] I wasn’t using a second phone, so now I try to keep it separate.
The problem is Quinn is just as real as the other parts of me. Quinn is almost in some ways the most real part of me. I try to keep everything Quinn does separately from everything else in my life. Sometimes those lines get a little blurry and that worries me a lot so I spend a lot of time being anxious.
Honestly, it’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve been able to answer calls from my parents without having an anxiety attack. Like, what [if] they say, “I found your sex blog” because that was truly a couple of the worst weeks of my life. But you know, still here. Still going.
I haven’t come out to my parents as trans either because their reaction when I came out as queer wasn’t the worst possible but it wasn’t exactly, “We’re super happy for you.” They basically told me not to come out on Facebook or be publicly queer kind of thing. So I feel that [since] I want to change my name, start taking testosterone and maybe get top surgery, they may have a problem. So, I’m waiting until I’m in a more secure place in my life before I tell them.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
Honestly, I think it was after I was outed to my parents and I had to [decide] to start again. I think at that point, I sort of decided that I am genuinely loving this, and lots of the people who I love are doing it in monetizable ways. Even at that point, I was listening to the smutlancer podcast, which I think Kayla created at the point when I started my sex blog. So, I’ve always known it was a possibility. I was seeing people do really awesome things. I just wanted to do that [too].
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it”?
I totally have not made it and I’m a complete mess in every sense of that word. I feel like a lot of the time when I talk about this stuff, it sounds like I’m just plugging the smutlancer’s Patreon. But the first thing I did when I realized I want to do this professionally [was] upgrade the smutlancer Patreon tier to the $25 level. I get a one-on-one call with either Kayla or Molly once a month. But that was the first step and I feel like [I’ve] taken so many steps back since then.
I’ve hardly been blogging since last August because of my mental health. I think I was at a point last August when I was very burned out between the pandemic, depression, and university stuff. And I’ve now got over my burn out but I haven’t gotten over my mental illness, so I’m still not really blogging. But I am in the process of pitching places so I haven’t made it [yet] but I now had bylines for Refinery 29, Huffington Post, and Autostraddle.
With my Refinery 29 article, my Facebook friend shared [it] and my real name. The Huffington Post is a publication my parents would’ve heard of but I can’t tell them I’ve been published in it. But it’s still a huge deal. So all of those little moments of having made it but I’m so not there yet. I have so many huge plans and so much further to go and that’s okay because I’m 23. I mean, there are people who make it by 23 but I’m not rushing anything.
When I was 18, I wanted to rush everything and be amazing straight away. Now, I’m slowly learning the value of not rushing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the most impatient person ever but I have to honor my body and honor myself to keep going.
[But] because of all the transphobia, I considered quitting my blog and walking away from the internet. But I suppose in a sense that making it and having made it is making the decision to keep going.
Again, I’m only 23 [but] I’m already a pretty good writer and I have a pretty solid sense of who I am, so things can only grow. I can only understand myself by becoming a better writer by doing it more. I’m really excited to see how I’m doing when I’ve been sex blogging for 5 years [or] for 10 years. I have so many plans and ideas. I’m gonna keep working until I make it.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started creating content about sex or became a smutlancer?
One thing I wish I’d known when I started sex blogging is that you don’t have to be perfect before you start putting yourself out there. You can be a flawed mess and still put yourself out there. I still don’t feel ready to do that but I’m doing it anyway and it’s still the best fucking thing ever.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I think it’s important to normalize doing this part-time, not only because I’m doing other things but I’m very depressed at the moment. Honestly, my smutlancing has to fit around everything my mental illness is doing.
So that means that every smutlancing day is different. I will try to have one thing I may need to accomplish [like] write or plan a piece of content or send one particular pitch email, spend some time to [see] how my body feels and do my rhythms around that.
I love working in coffee shops now that they’re open again. I will go in, order a hot chocolate, sit with a mask on and write for like 90 mins.
I will do emails at my desk in the mornings most often. I love being outside, so I will take my laptop and sit in parks and gardens, where there are wifi hotspots. I will link up my laptop and get so much work done outside.
I often get most inspired when I’m listening to podcasts or audiobooks when I’m walking. I walk roughly about 7 miles a day and that’s hugely important to me mental health-wise.
I’ll stop and pause the podcast [to] write things down on my phone, or I’ll use the voice notes [on] my phone to record [ideas] while I’m walking. I try to always have my planner and laptop with me.
[Regardless], if I’m outside or I’m inside [or] whatever I’m doing, I will sit down and listen to my body. So, if my body tells me I want to work [or] write, I listen to that as well.
And I had to be flexible. I’ve had to email editors and be like, “I need an extra day on this.” Sometimes I say it’s health issues [rather] than mental health or mental illness issues because I don’t often think mental illnesses are taken as seriously as physical health conditions. [Or] I will say, “I’m having a mental illness flare-up. Can I have an extra 24 hours to write this piece for you?”
I often find [editors] coming back to me [say], “Yeah, you can have another 24 hours. Get this piece to me when you can.”
So, none of my days look the same because I don’t have any structure. I try to capture all of my ideas and work on them when I have time.
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create?
I genuinely enjoy creating educational content, possibly because I’m so fascinated by it, I can’t stop talking about it and because I know they’re aren’t exact answers. There isn’t always a perfect answer. But I would like to help people find what the most [trans] inclusive thing to say is even if it’s not perfectly inclusive. I’m really passionate about that.
In a perfect world, what would you want your legacy to be as a smutlancer?
I want to educate people. I want to make people understand the importance of inclusivity. I want to change the world with my writing and that sounds super egotistical, but I do want to change the world.
[For example], I want to work around charities strictly around “women’s health” because that’s inaccurate on many levels. I want to encourage more cis-people to put their pronouns in their bios and email signatures. I want to make people stop and question why [it’s] needed to [put] someone’s gender on a medical form. Is someone’s gender relevant to the information they’re collecting?
I also want to champion the voice of people who aren’t often heard within the sex blogging community and the sex industry.
I talked about this at Eroticon but if we can’t have good representation of queer people, disabled people [and] people of color in erotica what are we even doing? Erotica is supposed to be a little bit transgressive and filthy and to be good at that you have to include actual real people.
I know so many trans sex bloggers who have almost deleted their blogs and just walked away within the last year. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work to be productive?
I’m productive best when I have a water bottle on my desk. The more I drink water while I’m writing, the better [my] writing actually ends up being. I also need a really strong playlist. I can’t work to no noise in the background. I usually have headphones on and a playlist that makes me feel empowered and inspired.
Who or what inspired you to become a smutlancer?
Girl on the Net’s writing. Her blog, her books, all of that. That was my first point of inspiration, my first introduction to this community. She made me feel normal in so many ways and she’s such a huge inspiration to me even now.
Are there any social/charitable causes that are close to your heart and connected to your work as a smutlancer?
I’m that transperson who will not stop talking about trans issues, so general inclusivity of trans people, which should be a given in the sex industry but is very much not.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, OR wildest thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer.
I think just being paid. The fact that I’ve been paid to write about the shit I really care about is the most amazing thing to me. People pay me money to be really angry and passionate about things in words and being paid to write. That’s literally what I wanted to do since I was 8 years old and that’s amazing.
And join his Patreon –to show your appreciation of his writing and especially if you’d like to hire him to do some consulting work for you.