Smutlancer Spotlight: Rebecca Blanton
I graduated from college in 2014. It was seven years ago, but it doesn’t seem that long. There are times when I look at my life as a college student, look at my life now and see how I left little breadcrumbs behind during undergrad that informs where I am now as a smutlancer.
I got my first vibrator in college thanks to the sexual health advisor on campus. I coordinated an annual valentine’s day raffle for an org I was a part of that included vibrators, lubricants and condoms. I would encourage friends to get vibrators and advise them on how to articulate their needs to partners. I even gave suggestions to a cab driver that drove me to campus about how he and his wife could go about having a more fulfilled sex life after she had multiple surgeries on her stomach and genital area.
I picked up a creative writing minor when I started to self-harm again. I knew writing kept me grounded, but I needed to make it part of my curriculum to write consistently. So, I went to my academic advisor, got approved for the minor, and pursued tracks in nonfiction and screenwriting. I mostly wrote about my sexual experiences and fictionalized sexual experiences based on real stories in both genres.
I thought about those two aspects of my life as different parts of me that I used to either help others or as an outlet. I never thought about combining the two until 2017. I wrote an article about my sex life and got paid for it for the first time.
Most times I imagine what my life would’ve been like if I not only stopped to see the breadcrumbs I left behind earlier but also if I saw more representations of people combining sex and writing other than Carrie Bradshaw, especially in the academic space. People like this month’s smutlancer spotlight, Rebecca Blanton.
Rebecca Blanton (aka Auntie Vice) is a freelance writer and performer. Their work focuses on kink, power exchange, and gender. They hold a Ph.D. in Political Psychology and a BA in Psychology. They have worked as a college professor, researcher, and Executive Director of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. At the age of 40, they developed a set of severe autoimmune conditions necessitating leaving the 9-5 workforce. They began writing smut and academic smut, which took off! They are now dedicated to bringing a thoughtful, feminist approach to kink and the work they do.
During our interview, Rebecca (who uses all pronouns) talks about how it’s easier to be a smutlancer than an academic or politician. They also talk about an unexpected kinky conversation they had with a political associate, how storytelling is critical to changing lives, their pivot from academia and policy to smutlancing, and more. Check out our interview below:
How do you make money as a smutlancer?
I have a variety of income lines. I have two nonfiction kink books (Love Letters to a Unicorn, The Big Workbook for Submissives) which provide monthly royalties. My blog, Love Letters to a Unicorn, is monetized with ads and sponsored content. I have a regular column with Wellcelium.org, a sexual health blog based in somatic psychology. I also teach a variety of courses online. I have picked up ghostwriting gigs for erotic novels and just finished my 23rd novel in seven years.
How long have you been a smutlancer?
I was always that person people went to for questions about sex. There were actually rumors in my grad school dorms [about how] I was paying my way through school by working as a pro-Domme. I was doing something much less ethical and working as an assistant to the Philip Morris, USA Political Action Committee (yes, the smoking people).
My work prior to grad school was largely in HIV/AIDS, including a stint as the Executive Director of the Bakersfield AIDS Foundation and a sex educator with Americorps. It was part of coming out and growing up during the first wave of AIDS and sexuality. Health and community was always [my] passion.
When I became disabled at 40, I wanted to do something to continue my work in research and advocacy. So, I wrote Love Letters to a Unicorn: A Book About BDSM, Kink, and Nonmonogamy. It’s a nonfiction work that explores kink identity and intersections with feminism and policy. A beta reader suggested I create a chapter describing a kink scene. It was the first time I wrote a fiction story. The story got a lot of positive attention. It was after that I discovered I could make a living doing this.
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer?
I am a full-time smutlancer!
Are you open with anyone about the work you do?
I work mostly under “Auntie Vice” at public events. It’s not for confidentiality. It’s because it is easy for people to remember. My entire world knows what I do. I live with my 70-year-old mom and she is well aware of how I make a living. My friends and family are all aware and often ask for advice or free products.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
Like most of my career, this was an accidental turn of events. I wrote the Love Letters book because I did not know what else to do with myself at the time. I was sleeping or too weak to get out of bed. I needed assistance with daily living stuff.
I needed an outlet and wanted to keep doing work to better the world. When I got as positive of a response as I did, I started to think about this as a possible career. It has taken me a while to get comfortable doing something that isn’t recognized as a legit profession by many. However, I have come to understand [that] the power of writing about sex, passion, connection, pleasure, and gender is a radical act as a fat nonbinary queer assigned female at birth.
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it”?
I am not sure if I totally feel like I have “made it.” However, a few years ago, I saw that Race Bannon (a writer and activist I deeply admire) was doing the Bawdy Storytelling show. I applied to the show pretty much as an excuse to meet Race. When I introduced myself, he turned to the friends he was with and said, “Auntie Vice is a great writer.” It was pretty much then that I knew I could do this.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started?
I wish I knew I could make a living at this! People so often say, “The arts don’t pay,” as a way of discouraging folks from pursuing a career in the arts. The reality is [that] you can make enough money to live. You have to hustle and work your butt off, but it is not as bad as trying to make it as an academic or politician.
How is trying to make it as an academic or politician harder than a career in the arts or in kink education for that matter?
As an academic, I was looking at an oversaturated market and a shrinking number of jobs. The year I finished my Ph.D., there were approximately 3,000 grads in Political Science and 1,200 tenure track jobs. Colleges have shifted to hiring adjuncts [as] teachers because it is significantly cheaper. It is so bad that folks joked, “every time you hear news of a tenured professor getting sick, update your c.v. before you [send] a get-well card!”
The expectations were that you teach a full course load, do full-time research, present at conferences, and do department work. It works out to 60 to 70 hours a week for a small salary.
In politics, I was expected to not have a life outside the office. The last two years [I was in politics], my social media accounts were monitored and approved by committee staff. I had dictates on how to dress. I was expected to be available all the time. My days began at 6 AM and rarely concluded before 10 PM. It was physically and mentally draining. The electeds were difficult to deal with [too].
Every job has its own problems. As a smutlancer, I have to hustle and the income is not guaranteed. I deal better with that than insane hours and nonstop competition. I also find most kink educators supportive and kind. It is the first career I have had where there is genuine support from colleagues.
Your bio states that you write academic smut. What is academic smut?
Academic smut is erotic writing which incorporates a worldview or philosophy based on academic theories. This would include third-wave feminism, anti-capitalism, Afrocentrism, and other similar work.
Recently, I have been adding psychology, trauma and healing to my stories to capture how intimate relationships involve a person (including their past and their psychological needs) and how that plays into desires. We come into every intimate relationship with our own histories, healing, and pain. Many of us are seeking more than physical interaction [so] I want to capture [all] this in the erotica I write.
I have been working on a series of stories, both erotic and not erotic, [and] looking at reconceptualizing gender and bodies. This is informed by both my academic and political work. Even [with] writing characters of different races, I have read dissertations on the psychological impact of sexual tropes and stereotypes on sexual development in people. I think good erotica can address these in a productive way and still get someone off.
Much of this stems from my own lived experience. I follow the Alice in Bondageland mantra, “Create the porn you needed.” I have been gender nonconforming/nonbinary even before there were terms for folks like me. I live with Bipolar (diagnosed in 1994) and a slew of chronic physical illnesses. I am fat and over 45. Making people with one (or several) of these characteristics and making them desirable and real (not fetishized) is an act of rebellion. It is a direct pushback to social standards of beauty and rules on sexuality, especially as someone assigned female at birth.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I keep a relatively stable routine. I wake up about 9:30 (NOT a morning person). I have my coffee, take my first round of pills. Then I work in my garden or house for about 90 minutes. I have breakfast and a second round of pills. By that point, my arthritis pain and other physical issues have calmed enough to work. I then write for a couple of hours, [have] lunch, and then [do] administrative work (email, social media, etc.). I teach in the evenings, so once or twice a week I will have a late class.
What, if anything, is your favorite work to do?
I love writing really weird erotica. I have been hired to write giantess porn, shapeshifter porn and sci-fi stuff. The ability to create weird universes that operate on a different set of rules is really fun for me. I also love killing off characters in bleak and awful ways.
In a perfect world, what would you want your legacy to be as a smutlancer?
I have coached a couple of folks through their first book. [So], I hope I leave a legacy of people who are writing about their truth, their pleasure, and encouraging the generations to come to love themselves and express it to the world.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work to be productive?
I scored a new home about two years ago. It has a library with a huge south-facing bay window. [So], sitting in my oversized chair with my laptop and looking out the huge window surrounded by my books is hard to beat.
Who or what inspired you to become a smutlancer?
There are really three parts to my inspiration:
I discovered Pat Califia’s work at 18 in a gay bookstore/coffee shop. Their work really changed what I thought could be written about as legitimate content. Their book, Macho Sluts, is the most well-worn book in my erotic library. Their essay, “Slipping,” has been a touchstone in my sex ed work. I strive to be half as good as they are!
I am also obsessed with James Baldwin. As a Black gay man, he wrote about gay men, the Black experience, and more. He was also a huge activist. His ability to write about his world in a way that also encourages social change continually inspires me. While not “smut,” his work is about topics [that] were not lovingly embraced by the wider public. [Baldwin’s] ability to combine writing, identity, and activism is the cornerstone of how I want to build my career as a writer.
The third part is the power of storytelling. While I was working as a policy researcher and later the Executive Director of a state agency, I did a lot of legislative testimony. Generally, this testimony is pretty dry. I discovered early on that the ability to bring in personal stories and build a real picture of the impact of a policy made a huge difference.
This culminated in the panel on women and aging I put together for the State of CA. I pulled in three women of different ages to testify and I set the ground with the statistical outlook. One of the women was my then 80-year-old grandmother. She told the legislative committee about what it was like to be an elderly woman caring for her husband, who died of congestive heart failure. At the end, the committee chair asked her what she needed to help make that experience easier. My grandmother outlined three things. The committee gave her a standing ovation and then passed policies to put the various things into place in California law. That wouldn’t have happened with just the statistics I laid out. Storytelling is critical to changing lives.
Are there any social/charitable causes that are close to your heart and connected to your work as a smutlancer?
I am a huge believer that representation matters. I have spent a lot of time learning how to write about diverse characters. I focus not just on race, but gender, sexual orientations, abilities, and desires. I want to make sure there is smut for people who are not “mainstream.” [So], portraying sexy consent talk, interracial relationships (which don’t involve a white person) people with varying disabilities, and more as “sexy” and “desirable” is my passion.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer.
Shortly after the Love Letters book was scheduled for publication, a political acquaintance approached me about a job. He was starting up a new veteran’s organization (my work on the needs of women vets is highly regarded). As part of the interview process, I disclosed that the book was forthcoming and could prove to be a political liability. He smiled and said, “Oh my God! You’re kinky? I have been in a relationship with Congressperson so-and-so, and they are my pony.” This was not what I was expecting when I started the conversation.
Want to know more about Rebecca Blanton?
Plus, he’s written a few articles for Smutlancer that you can read here.