Why I Started Smutathon by Amy Norton
It came to me, as the best ideas often do, at around 3 in the morning. I’d been wanting to do something in aid of charities and organisations that are important to me, but the idea of running a marathon, hiking a mountain or jumping off something high didn’t exactly appeal. I was lamenting to myself the fact that my particular interests don’t exactly lend themselves to charitable events, when the idea hit me, more-or-less fully formed, from nowhere. What if a multi-hour, intensive, sponsored writing challenge with all my amazing sex blogger friends?
I did what I always do when I have an idea that might be a stroke of brilliance or might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever come up with, and put it on Twitter. The response was swift and overwhelmingly positive. A number of writers immediately registered their interest in being involved and even better, EA and Livvy offered their place in London for some of us to meet up in person. I don’t remember who came up with the name (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me,) but Smutathon was born.
The first year, I wanted to support two organisations. The first was Backlash, a non-profit I’ve been supporting for quite a while. They campaign to change laws around sexual freedom, particularly those which disproportionately affect people with more marginalised sexualities such as BDSM (laws which, in practice, are most often applied in a way which specifically targets gay men. Obscenity Lawyer Myles Jackman, one of my personal heroes, has described this phenomenon as a “homophobic witch-hunt.”)
The second organisation was Rape Crisis England & Wales.
I’m a survivor of sexual violence. I’ve written about it before and we do not need to go into the details here. Suffice to say that I was experienced coercive sexual assault by a former partner on a number of occasions (beginning when I was underage) and that I have also experienced a not-insignificant number of instances of lower-level sexual violence before and since.
Sadly, a large majority of women and girls have experienced sexual assault and rape, and so have a surprisingly large number of men (estimates sit around 1 in 4 women/girls and 1 in 7 men/boys, depending on which statistics you believe – but I would wager the actual number for women is closer to one in two.) Whichever way you look at it, sexual violence is endemic, conviction rates (even reporting rates) are lower than for pretty much any other type of serious crime, and support for survivors is shockingly limited. Most survivors, if they do speak out, encounter disbelief, silencing and victim-blaming. Certainly, that was my experience. People I thought would have my back didn’t believe me. People who did believe me still kind of wanted me to shut up, because confronting the reality of sexual violence makes waves and destroys social circles and makes it impossible to play the “not taking sides” game. (If you refuse to take sides in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the perpetrator. Period.) One person even told me that since I had spoken out, it was my fault if my attacker took his rage out on his wife.
I’ve spent a very long time angry (something I intend to write about further for Smutathon.) But amidst that, I wanted to make something positive out of it. Something that would support other survivors.
It blew me away that my friends ran with this idea. It blew me away even more that our community rallied around it and helped us raise more than £3000 over the first two events.
Smutathon supports a different organisation each year, and 2018 and 2019 have had a bit of an accidental theme. In 2018 we fundraised for Abortion Support Network, who help women primarily in Ireland to travel to England to access abortion care, in honour of the Repeal the 8th campaign. And in 2019, we are supporting the National Network of Abortion Funds, because Goddess knows the state of reproductive healthcare in the USA is terrifying right now.
Abortion rights are human rights. Reproductive healthcare is a matter of life and death. If things continue the way they are, with more and more and more restrictions on abortion access, women and other people with uteruses will die. We’d like to raise $5000 if we can. This money will literally save lives.
I look at my amazing friends and what they’ve done with this, and I can hardly believe all this good has come out of a silly idea I put on Twitter at 3am. I am so fucking proud to be part of this community and I am so proud that Smutathon has grown into something so incredible.
Whether you’ve joined us for our in-person events, dialled in remotely, donated to our fundraisers, given a prize to the raffle, signal-boosted our efforts on social media, or sent us a cheesecake by post to fuel us through our writing (yes, this actually happened in 2017!) – we love you. Thank you.
I don’t know what we’ll support in 2020, but I hope we’ll still be here, writing smut and doing our little bit to help change the world.