The V-Spot: Watching Porn in Public with Bella Vendetta

It’s not what you’d expect — this whole watching porn in a room full of strangers with your friends thing. On Saturday night, in an expansive room of the Eastworks building, about 50 of us did just that. And it was a wicked good time.

The Training of Poe is an award-winning documentary-style erotic film shot in the beautiful hills of Western Massachusetts. The indie porn/documentary hybrid (docuporn?) follows the two-day BDSM submissive training of Chelsea Poe at the instruction of local professional and lifestyle dominatrix Bella Vendetta.

Heavy on power play, and low on overt penetrative sex acts, the film takes viewers through a lovely arc of intentional consent negotiations, playfulness, tenderness, sexiness, and really at many points, downright humor.

Vulnerable and self-assured in both their work and in person, Chelsea Poe and Bella Vendetta nearly charmed the pants off us, and watching the film in their company complete with a Q&A was one of my favorite things I’ve done this fall. Lucky me, I got to have a little chat with Bella Vendetta afterwards.

Yana: What are three things you hope people take away from watching the Training of Poe?

Bella: 1.) That BDSM doesn’t always have to look like Fifty Shades of Grey.

2.) That sexuality and sex can go far beyond traditional orgasms.

3.) The natural beauty of Western Mass and how unique fetish films made here are.

Yana: How did you get started doing this work and what motivates you to keep doing it?

Bella: I got started by doing a formal training at the world’s oldest BDSM training chateau. Messages I get from students and retirees alike thanking me for opening their minds up to new ways of thinking about sex and sexuality is what makes me want to keep going.

Yana: What’s the hardest part of this work?

Bella: It’s just so much WORK — actual labor that’s exhausting. The stigma that goes along with this work because you’re a sex worker can get overwhelming. Then, most folks don’t view your work as actual work, so it’s a constant fight for legitimacy.

Yana: In what ways do you think watching smut is positively sex educational?

Bella: For the queer community, it’s one of the only places where we can see our sexualities being played out in an authentic way.

Yana: How do you prioritize consent in these projects and how can we apply that to our real, everyday sex lives?…continue reading on where you can also watch a NSFW trailer of the Training of Poe…


Let’s Do Munch!

Hey Yana,
I am totally new to BDSM [bondage and discipline/sadism and maso- chism]. Someone told me about a “munch” happening locally tomorrow night. They found it through the FetLife website and suggested I go. Do you know anything about these “munch” meetups? How safe are they? I am Northampton based, looking to connect with other BDSM folks. Do you have any suggestions on how else I can do this?

— Curious Munchkin

Hi Munchkin!

A “munch” is a public, non-sexual gathering of folks interested in kink and/or BDSM. It’s typically held at a restaurant or cafe where attendees can casually talk. If the munch happens in a private section of the restaurant, topics of conversation may be directed towards matters of kink and BDSM, but if the munch is, say, at the big communal table in the middle of The Roost, topics of conversation will generally be PG-rated.

Most munches have a dress code to protect the group from unwanted attention or accidental outings of members, including no overt fetish wear. (Some munches allow obvious fetish collars for submissives and others don’t — check in with the host.) Despite the no-fetish-wear rule, some munch-goers dress up in what might look like sexy clubwear. In other words, save the latex bodysuit for a play party, and opt for something you might wear to a casual dinner party.

Other common munch protocols include no touching (beyond the socially acceptable handshakes), and that the munch is not a place to pick up a date (take that to FetLife).

This brings us to your question about safety, Munchkin. Something I know about the kink and BDSM communities is that they really value consent. Like, a lot. I myself just attended the Northampton Munch to teach a consent workshop and they taught me more about the topic than any other group of participants I’ve presented to before.

So, if a member of the munch is coming onto you, trying to low-key Top or Bottom to you, or certainly if they are touching you, they are violating both your boundaries and the boundaries of the munch itself.

Common consent language, or “safe words,” in the kink community are “Green” meaning “yes, go!,” “Yellow” meaning “you’re approaching my limit or a place where I want you to stop,” and “Red” meaning “stop!” If a member of the munch is making you uncomfortable you can draw on this language as a tool, and you can and should report the unacceptable behavior to the host of the munch…continue reading…


Is Being Basic in Bed a Bad Thing?

Dear Yana,

Recently my partner and I have talked about sexual exploration- or lack thereof – in our relationship. I don’t have any fetishes or kinks or fantasies. At least, I don’t think I do. I’ve never even owned a sex toy. Not that this is a problem, but I sense from my partner that he wishes otherwise.

He finds my “vanilla” preference for the sexual experience “interesting”- his words. Read: boring. Now I’m questioning if I’m suppressing a desire to expand my sexual horizons or if I really just don’t get off from a sexual experience separated from reality. I guess the only way to know is to try exploring or I’ll never know, but I wanted to hear what you have to say and what you recommend for proceeding.


Basic in Bed


Dear BinB –

There are a few reasons why I tend to use the term “pleasure-positive” to describe my work rather than “sex-positive” (though I’m truly a mix of both): on the one hand the “sex-positive” movement has been really, well – positive! Sex-positivity counters slut-shaming, casts sex as a natural, albeit complicated part of our lives rather than inherently risky or negative, and has opened many doors for people that had been previously barricaded by shame, stigma, and repressive social norms.

Pleasure-positivity is sex-positive. However, it’s more heavily focused on what brings us pleasure as unique individuals. The reason I bring this up, BinB, is that while sex-positivity may help your partner feel empowered and excited about his kinks and fetishes, it may feel simultaneously disempowering to you as someone who finds pleasure in what feels, as you describe as, based in reality and/or vanilla.

Though your sexual pleasure may present as vanilla in comparison to his triple-chocolate chip with whipped cream, cherries, sprinkles, and handcuffs, your unique experience of sexual pleasure is just as valid as his. For some, intimate pleasure has nothing to do with sex at all!

Kate McCombs, MPH, my sex education colleague, states so gracefully; “There’s a huge variety of what’s ‘normal’ when it comes to sexual desire. Often people with lower desire for sex feel broken or weird. If that’s you, you’re not alone. In my opinion, prude-shaming is just as problematic as slut-shaming. As I like to say ‘I’m sex-positive – not sex-mandatory’”. Similarly, being kink- or fetish-positive doesn’t mandate it be a part of your sexual experience.

Of course, there are always two sides to every coin and endless sides to the complex shapes our sexual and romantic lives can take. If you would like to explore some other sides, there are a couple places to dig into.

You seem overwhelmed at the idea of exploring this wide realm of other-than-vanilla sex – understandable! A simple Googling of “kinky sex” can lead you into quite the overstimulating rabbithole, to say the least. Sexual exploration can be an extremely personal process and may look like fantasizing about something new for a few minutes while you masturbate, taking a vibrator for a spin, or diving headfirst into the porn pool. Some feel safe and comfortable exploring with their partners present and others need some solo space to process, feel awkward, or to just throw that new vibrator on the floor and swear them off for life.

For others, sexual exploration can mean a deeper process of unpacking what makes us feel hesitant about moving beyond the sex we know or the sex we’ve been granted social permission to have. I’m particularly interested in what you might discover by thinking about what makes reality-based sex feel good and safe to you.

Your partner has a responsibility to not pressure you into any kind of sex that you don’t feel consensually and enthusiastically YES about and also if you do decide to explore new sexual things with him, to be patient and supportive if certain things just don’t float your bangin’ boat.

Some suggested reading includes When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match by Sandra Pertot, Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, and Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel.

No matter what, keep in mind this mantra by sex writer & educator Emily Nagoski, PhD: “Pleasure is the measure”; not your kink-o-meter, not the flavor of your freakiness, but your genuine pleasure.

This sex column appears in print on the back page of The Valley Advocate every week!

Email me your sex & relationship questions to be anonymously answered in the V-Spot!



Upcoming Workshop! KINK! June 27th. Northampton, Ma.


KINK: a workshop about kinky sex

A collaboration

Oh My Sensuality Shop, 122 Main St., Northampton

Monday, June 27th



10% off same-night purchases for participants

18+ // Limited seating


Workshop Description

This demonstrative workshop will cover the essential basics of exploring kinky sex (topping, bottoming, ropes, cuffs, paddles, floggers, sensation play, and how to deliver the perfect spank!) as well as some more advanced practices (gags, collars, role playing, and more) to look forward to or begin playing with.

Going against the problematic version of BDSM portrayed in the blockbuster 50 Shades, this workshop will focus on safer kink practices including consent, negotiation, and aftercare. Participants will leave feeling more confident in their kink practices with the tools and resources to bring kinky sex into their own relationships and sex lives.

Workshop participants will be able to touch and learn about all of these kink products in a clean, comfortable educational space. The workshop presenters will demonstrate certain techniques in a way that is consensual and educational with each other for attendee viewing only (no attendee participation required in demos!).

Nervous? Watch this video about what to expect from a workshop about sex!


About the Workshop Presenters! 

11401179_771921860468_9034498346160463912_nYana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer & educator living in Northampton, Ma where she teaches consent-based sex education to teens and college students. Read more about her & her work on the About Me page.

This worimage1kshop will be co-taught by fellow local sex educator Deana Tolstunov! Deana is a sex educator and recent Smith College graduate where they studied women, gender, queerness, sex, and art, as well as the intersections of all of the above. They spend their time studying herbalism, concocting their own medicine, teaching workshops on consent, sex, and kink, applying copious amounts of glitter all over their body, and working at Oh My Sensuality Shop in Northampton!



Workshop Rules:

This workshop aims to be open to all sexual identities, orientations and bodies & is taught with the belief that our sexual experiences & selves exist on a spectrum. Yana’s workshops work to create a welcoming & comfortable space for all to explore crucial aspects of our holistic, sexual selves such as pleasure, communication, consent & the body.

All participants are reminded to help in the creation of this safe space by refraining from substances & come-ons during the workshop and to use mindful language when asking questions or making comments. Participants who choose not to follow these rules will be asked to leave the workshop without refunding workshop fees.


Tying to Get Kinky

My girlfriend and I are in college and we’ve done some like really, really basic BDSM: blindfolding, a little handcuffs, and some bondage stuff, but nothing serious. Now we want to do some tying down. What would you suggest?

Like a bad sex columnist, I just watched 50 Shades of Grey for the first time (and never read the book). Like a good sex columnist, I read the countless reviews and critiques of the material, in which many people panned 50 Shades as partner-abusive, non-consensual garbage — which it is. Continued…