The Pleasure Curator: Wolf and Stef Get Steamy with Melissa Saavedra - Securing Sexuality Podcast Episode 46
Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Addressing Responsible Content Creation and Promoting Representation
The romance genre has long been a popular and beloved category in literature and media. From classic novels to modern films, romance stories have captivated audiences with their tales of love, passion, and connection. However, it is crucial to recognize the importance of representation and responsible content creation within this genre. This blog post will explore why representation matters in romance and how creators can ensure their content is inclusive and ethical.
Why Representation Matters
Representation portrays diverse experiences, identities, and perspectives in media and literature. In the romance genre, representation significantly shapes readers' and viewers' understanding of love and relationships. By including diverse characters, authors and creators can challenge stereotypes, promote empathy, and provide a sense of validation for underrepresented communities.
First, representation in romance allows individuals from marginalized communities to see themselves reflected in the stories they consume. This validation can be empowering and affirming, demonstrating that their experiences and identities are valid and deserving of love. Moreover, representation can help combat the feelings of isolation and otherness that marginalized individuals may experience daily.
Additionally, representation in romance can educate and promote understanding among readers and viewers. By depicting diverse relationships and experiences, creators can challenge harmful stereotypes and misconceptions. This can lead to increased empathy and a broader understanding of the complexities of love and relationships.
Responsible Content Creation
While representation is essential, it is equally vital for creators to approach content creation responsibly. Responsible content creation involves being mindful of the potential impact that stories can have on individuals and communities.
It requires sensitivity, research, and a commitment to ethical storytelling. Firstly, responsible content creation entails conducting thorough research and consulting with individuals from the communities being represented. This ensures that creators have an accurate and respectful understanding of the experiences they are portraying.
Engaging in dialogue and seeking feedback from individuals with lived experiences can help avoid harmful stereotypes and misrepresentations. Moreover, responsible content creation involves actively challenging harmful tropes and stereotypes which are historically pervasive in romance narratives. Creators should strive to break away from the traditional binary gender roles, heteronormativity, and ableism that have dominated the genre.
By subverting these tropes, creators can create more inclusive and authentic stories that resonate with a broader range of readers and viewers. Creators also have a responsibility to address and avoid cultural appropriation. This requires understanding the cultural contexts and nuances of the represented communities and ensuring that their stories are not exploitative or disrespectful. Researching, consulting with experts, and acknowledging one's own limitations can help creators navigate this complex issue.
Representation and responsible content creation are essential in the romance genre. By including diverse characters and experiences, creators can promote empathy, challenge stereotypes, and provide validation for underrepresented communities. Responsible content creation involves conducting thorough research, seeking feedback, challenging harmful tropes, and avoiding cultural appropriation.
By prioritizing representation and responsible storytelling, creators can contribute to a more inclusive and ethical romance genre that accurately reflects the diversity of human experiences.
Stefani Goerlich: Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality. The podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy-
Wolf Goerlich: -and information security. I'm Wolf Goerlich.
Stefani: He's a hacker, and I'm Stefani Goerlich.
Wolf: She's a sex therapist, and together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
Stefani: Today we are joined by Melissa Saavedra, the creator of The Steam Box, a subscription service that pairs a monthly romance novel written by Bipoc or other marginalized authors with a variety of self and body care products, sex, toys, and other goodies. Melissa is a Navy veteran, a romance novel aficionado, and is here to tell us all about her work and her upcoming event, SteamyLit Con. Thanks, Melissa. I'm so excited to have you.
Melissa Saavedra: Thank you for having me.
Stefani: So how does one build a romance novel empire?
Melissa: I am fascinated, uh, back in the year 2020 when we were all stuck at home. Um, I really just turned to romance novels. I spent the pandemic year by myself. I was married at the time, and my spouse was deployed, and, um, I've just really turned to romance books for happiness. And as I was reading them, I was like, hey, is nobody else horny like, are we not talking about this? Um, and I don't know, Something in my head. It was like romance books, vibrators like, how do we bring the two together? And a friend was like, Why don't you start a subscription box? And I was like, Huh? And that's kind of how this took off.
Wolf: One of the things that surprised me because I feel like I live on the Internet. And so, uh, physical books, right? That surprised me like, uh, what was the calculus there? What was the idea of, Well, not another, you know, online service. Let's actually get something physical in people's hands.
Melissa: Um, I think because I'm such a reader myself and I have a big collection of books. Um, I typically prefer to read an actual, like paperback or hardcover book versus, um, an E-reader. And just depending on where I go, sometimes an E-reader is a little bit easier. But, um, it never even like occurred to me that, like ebooks would be an option Or audiobooks. We have done some partnerships, um, where we've included, like a code for an e-book. Um, but I just feel like there's so much potential for that, like, code right to, like, get lost. Um, for people to not access the books, but when they're actually there, um, you know, they just can't ignore it.
Stefani: One of my happiest memories or giggliest memories, uh, was my friend Sarah and I discovering romance novels in middle school. And we went to a very, very conservative school. You were Girls were not allowed to wear pants, and there was no dancing. It was like footloose in a school form. And she and I stumbled across Kathleen widow books because they didn't have the, um, cheesecake beefcake covers. They were very plain and so we could read them at recess. And I can't imagine trying to do that with an E-reader because part of what we would do is write notes to each other in the margins and pass them back and forth between classes. And you. I love a kindle, but you can't do that on a Kindle, right?
Melissa: Right. That's awesome.
Stefani: When you're you know what, 12, 13 and be like, Oh, my goodness. Wait till you see what comes next or turn to Page 28. And it it's a really formative memory for me and for her. We're still friends, and we still giggle about, you know, our romance novel margin notes. So I love that you're doing this. So what goes into building a steam box? What do you think about How do you pick your books? How do you pick the products that go with the books?
Melissa: I do a lot of reading. Um, I try to read if it's not me, somebody on my team. We read every single book that comes in the box. Um, and we try to be very intentional about our representation and what identities were showcasing. What identities were, um, amplifying through the books, um, and then also like, a spectrum of spice. Like I think people think, um, because we're called Steamy Lit or the Steam Box that we are like – I don't know if you're familiar with the terms like open door or closed door when it comes to romance, but, um, open door means that you know, you have sex scenes that are, um, very descriptive within the story. And closed door is just kind of fades to black, right? And so, because there are folks who experience romance and sexuality in such different ways um, I am very intentional too about that, right? Like sure we can have a book that's very descriptive. But like, steam doesn't just mean description. It could also just be those, like, charged moments between two people. Right? So, um yeah, and I just read a lot. And I, I just know when, like, a book is for the box. Like I hit on something that I'm like. Absolutely everyone has to read this for the vibrators. It kind of depends. Um, there's, like a kind of mixture of if there's something particular that stands out to me in the books. Um, maybe there is some kind of, like sex play with a toy or something, like maybe we'll try to include something similar, But sometimes it's just at this point, like last month, I think I got, like, 40 samples of vibrators, and I was like, I don't have that many holes. Um, I don't know, like, um I guess I'm just – Everyone's getting a vibrator for Christmas this year. Sorry, Mom. Um and so You know, sometimes it's just things that I try that I think are like, amazing. And I'm like, Oh, absolutely everyone needs to have this in their nightstand drawer.
Stefani: We were just recently in Berlin with Caleb Jacobson at the School of sex therapy for a training that he was doing, and at the end of it, we were hanging out, and it was just us over dinner and I looked at him, and I'm like, I feel like you're the Jewish Santa of sex toys like everybody that you meet walks away with a vibrator. This is amazing. And now I feel like we're meeting his American counterpart. Everybody should get a vibrator. I am committed to this cause.
Melissa: So funnily enough, I went to a book convention. It was a romance book convention this weekend, um, in which we were sponsors and we brought a bunch of stuff to give away, and something that I had seen done at this particular convention before was like authors or other readers would bring little like swag bags or something and kind of drop them throughout the hotel and tell people where they're at for people to go find them. So I was like, Great, I'll leave vibrators like, you know. So I brought, um, vibrators. I brought tote bags, I brought books, and then children started finding them… So, um, there was a really nice post that went up on the Facebook group. That was, like attention, the hotels asking, you know, like, Please don't leave sex toys. And I'm like, Ah, fuck, my bad sorrows, sorrows, prayers.
Wolf: Well, that does bring up a good point. Like one of the things that I gather, and you'll have to tell me if I'm right or wrong on this. But I gather from looking at your site and looking at some of your work. You know, this pushback against the stigma surrounding sexuality is a key part of this project, right? I mean, obviously, kids in the hotel room know, but more broadly, I think there's a lot of, uh, a lot of areas where we need to be a little more comfortable.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean again, right? Like no to the kid. But also like if a kid picked it up, why why can't that be a chance for a conversation about sexuality with their parents, right? And so, like, I never had those. Those conversations never happened for me. It was kind of like, Here's your HPV shot in case like you get cancer one day when you have sex. And then it's like, here's your birth control and that was it, right? And so, um, a lot of the work that we are trying to do is that is de-stigmatizing and embracing your sexuality. However, that looks like for you. But I feel like the topic is still so taboo, especially when it comes to women like you cannot express your sexuality without being sexualized. Um, or it being something that, um, is trashy or, you know, things like that. And so, um, really saying like, we're gonna take this back and own it, Um is something that's really important for me.
Stefani: I have my next book coming out in October, and it is, um, for couples and mixed desire relationships where one partner is kinky and the other partner is not. And I have an entire chapter on using, um, erotica and the erotic content as a way to bridge that communication divide and as a way to build comfort, just having those conversations and using that language so that you can just talk to one another because to your point about not getting sex at or just being told, here's your birth control. Here's your vaccine. Go um, a lot of my clients don't have a vocabulary to even talk about what they want or to even conceptualize what the possibilities are that they could choose from to maybe want. And, um, one of the things that I talk about in my book is the importance of romance novels and how that is a primary vehicle for so many women to learn about their own erotic map, the erotic landscape in general to think about what is possible within a relationship or even, you know, outside of a relationship, and think about what appeals to them. What resonates to them, what makes them curious or excited?
Melissa: Yeah, definitely.
Stefani: It's funny that you mentioned the term closed-door romance because we actually have friends who, um, the wife writes closed-door romance for har liquid. That was the first time we'd ever learned that term, because again, I cut my teeth on Kathleen widow who is kind of turns out later in life. When I was the chapter known for really breaking down the explicit walls, she was like, I'm gonna lay it all out there. So I wasn't familiar with the idea of closed-door romance, and I thought that that was fascinating that there is the spectrum of spice I loved how you put that in what people can, um I don't wanna say expose themselves to, because that sounds like building an immunity. But what people can choose for themselves and where they can go with thinking about relationships and sexuality and intimacy. One of the things that you mentioned is that you try to, you know, really center authors from, um, different perspectives and different communities. And I'd love to hear how that plays into, um your vision of the purpose behind this work and how you see that as an extension of the education that you're doing.
Melissa: For me, it was just really important to see myself represented in media. Um, I didn't see if at all really any like Latina characters in books growing up. And so, um, when I started reading romance heavily. I sought out those books, and I realized that there was like a few issues within publishing right where, like, um, authors of color just don't have as much opportunity. They're not getting the same contract deals. Um, and marketing budgets are just not there. And so that was big for me to be able to just provide a platform to amplify their work. And, um, it's literally me putting the books in your hands like you don't even have to do research. You know, that's part of it. It's part of, um, just learning and opening yourself to different things, different cultures, different people. I think it can only make you a better person. And then, for those folks who have just not seen themselves or their relationships or the way they experience love or sexuality, um, like, represented in media, there's nothing more powerful than that. And, um, being able to put something together that gives that power back to someone I think it's amazing.
Wolf: And how do you find authors? What is your process for connecting? And, uh, you know, vetting and before you even get to promoting?
Melissa: Various ways, um, it deepened the reader space as well on the romance side. So, um, you know, I'm on social media a lot and see what people are posting. Um, who they're talking about. Um, but then there's also, like, just bookseller platforms online where you can see what books are coming out. Um, the only downside to that is that a lot of that is traditionally published, not independently published. So, um, for, like, independently published books. Usually, they're, um, first released on, like, Amazon or something like that. So I'm having to, like, filter through Amazon and seeing what things come up and then researching right, Which is, like, part of I think, where things can get icky because you also don't want to reach out to somebody and like that hasn't expressed what their identity is and be like, what is, like, how do you identify? Right. So, um, trying to do as much research on our end without having to, like, have those conversations of, like, are you XYZ? Um because I also think that's something that's very personal, but also just having conversations with people and, like, what are they reading? Maybe the person doesn't, um, identify as a particular identity, but they have really good representation in their books where they have thoroughly researched, Um, what they're writing about someone that's a great example of that, I think, is Kennedy Ryan. She always writes about folks that are part of different identities, but the research she puts behind that is like, incredible, um and so that's kind of a little bit of like the process and then just reading and making sure you know, that it's a good fit.
Wolf: As this has gone on and you've been able to connect with these authors and to get the books into people's hands. Uh, are you building a community of authors? I mean, I. I know that, uh, you have a conference coming up, I. I don't know how that relates. So is there a community developing and how does that relate to the conference that you're putting on?
Melissa: Yeah, I think there's definitely a community developing, um, in in that they like, I like to call them like Stevie or steam Box authors. Um and we've made connections by, you know, like we had a booth at the LA Times festival of books, and those are the people that I invited if they were able to come sign our LA Times festival of books. Um, but then it's kind of led into the convention phase, right? And so who are getting ready to host her first, um, romance book Convention. SteamyLit Con. Um, and it's, like, phase away. So, um, uh, I'm getting, like, Clowney just talking about it now, but yeah, I mean, that was our whole purpose behind the convention as well. It was, um, celebrating diversity and romance. Not only the folks who read them, but the folks who write it, Um, and the folks who celebrate it. Right? And so, um, a lot of the authors coming are authors that have been in the steam box or that I learned about because I was reading work for the steam box. And so, um, that's been really incredible. We have about 195 authors coming. Um, and about 1100 attendees and just very excited for it all.
Wolf: That’s some impressive numbers.
Stefani: That is phenomenal. We are, um, doing the Securing Sexuality conference this fall in Detroit. And we are for a first-year event, perhaps not aiming at 1100. But I can definitely, definitely empathize with the stress of those final months and those – you're getting down to the final days leading up to it. What has that experience been like for you of planning out such a huge event?
Melissa: Stressful. Um, luckily, I have a great co-organizer. Um, her name is Cookie. She's someone I met through the like romance reading book space, and we kind of started this process. Um, like a year and a half ago when we started going to other conventions just to kind of see, like, What else is out there? What's happening? What's missing from the space? She's amazing. I could not be doing this without her, but I mean, it's been, um, it's interesting because as a reader first, you know, it's like an exciting thing. And then, um, when you become kind of part of the industry, right? Um, it's all business. And so I think, unfortunately, it takes some of that, like initial like, so excited to do this because, like all of these authors I love are coming because now it's on like a business industry side, and I'm like, Oh my God, I have to pull this event and, like, I have to order XYZ things. Um, but overall, we've been really fueled by, like, the support and love, Um, and just excitement from people for the convention. Um, especially when we said that we were celebrating diversity and romance. We didn't know how it was gonna be received. We did a fundraiser to be able to kick off. Um, the event. And we, um, raised about $186,000 in a month. So, like, I mean, I feel like if that doesn't speak to the power of just how much this was needed in the space, um, and how much people are excited about it, You know, I don't know what else can So exciting things. Um, now I just got to see it through.
Stefani: That is exciting and especially, you know, we the technology world, is full of conferences. That's AAA huge part of how hackers especially build community and socialize. And the idea that somebody is able to pull off $186,000 in funding is amazing. And it really, really speaks to the community that you build and their belief in you. That's that's incredible.
Wolf: Yeah, I almost think we shouldn't release this because you're gonna get inundated with How did you do that? How do I do that? Guys, please check out the website. But leave her alone with the fundraising she's got enough going on.
Melissa: Yeah. Remind me, um, or ask me, like after the convention? Um, no. I. I think just a lot of it has been building relationships. Right. Um, that's something that I'm very big on, and I think that that has really created our path forward. Um, And then what's helped is that you have people who are believing in us, and then those people who believe in us bring more people who believe in us. So it's it's been wonderful to watch, and yeah, we're almost there now.
Wolf: Well, I'm sure it's just gonna be amazing. Uh, I do have a question, though, in terms of, like, word of mouth and getting the word out. How has it been to promote Steamy Lit? I know sometimes it can be challenging doing Instagram ads or, you know, Facebook ads or any number of ways that traditional businesses get the word out.
Melissa: Yeah, so all of my ads get denied. Um, and I have to appeal them every single time. Like they never get approve. Actually, for the convention page, Um, I don't think they've, like, linked us together. So, um, the convention page gets the ads approved, but if I post on any other platforms, we always get denied and we have to appeal it, which is, um, really annoying somewhere where we've been able to do a little bit more promotion has been tiktok and just, um you know, those conversations have kind of gone viral a little bit about promoting the event, so that's been really great. I think the hardest thing has been getting word out there that we exist because there are other conventions that are popular and people already know about them. Um, but, you know, as the newcomers, it was how do we let people find out about us? So every order we've had, we've, like, started putting in little, um, like pamphlets about the convention. Um, any space that we've been able to go to. We hadn't done any, like, in-person appearances, like boots or anything. So we started doing that this year just to like, get the word out there. And then again, the social media space I mean as much as they like deny us and we have to appeal it. It's also been a way to just promote the event because there's no other way. I mean, people are getting their social – Their, um I think information mostly from social media nowadays, so we just have to kind of keep pushing with that.
Stefani: Would you say that your draw is mostly industry people? Is this a business conference, or is this a fan convention? Are you? Are you hoping to draw more insiders or more? Um, readers.
Melissa: This is a fan convention. We do wanna aim to create one day for industry, um, where it would be more of like aspiring authors meeting or being in spaces with like editors and agents and just people in the industry, and then creating like craft to writing classes for authors. If it's something that they wanted to do, which would be a whole other day from the convention, but like the main convention would be, it's always gonna be for the readers.
Stefani: So then that leads to my next question which is a little bit more personal. I know that there is, like, you know, vidcon for all of the YouTube and tiktok and the online fans. And there are true crime conventions based around people that really love, like the thriller Mystery Real Life stuff. How did you come to romance novels? I mean, obviously, it comes from a personal love. But of all of the things that you can read of, all of the things that could lead you here, how did you start with romance novels?
Melissa: I've been reading from- since I could read. Um, I've always been obsessed with books. Um, but I realized probably in, like, middle school, um, that I always had a strong affinity for anything that had a romance subplot. Like, if there was a stare between two people, if there was, like, the possibility of two people ending up together, that was my jam. Um, but I didn't realize so much later on That, like, romance, was a whole genre on its own. That, like, I could literally just eat up a book with people like staring at each other, the whole book, you know, um and so I would say I came to those. Probably like 2012, 2013. Um, around the time that, um, the 50 Shades of Grey series came out and I was in the Navy at the time and again, it was like another form of escapism for me. I would go to my rack at the end of the day and just, like, devour a book about happy people, which was not what the people in the boat were. Um, so yeah, I think, um, I think E.L. James and Colleen Hoover were like my, like, real heavy introduction to like, Holy shit. There's, like, full books of just romance and just sex, and just like, where was I all this time? And it was wonderful. It was a wonderful time.
Stefani: Is it OK with you if I ask, um a a tricky question that might rain on the wonderful a little bit?
Stefani: So, as a sex therapist, my specialty is BDSM and kink that's my wheelhouse. That's what I write about. Those are the clients I work with. That's what I teach about. And I was fascinated by the reaction within the kink community to 50 Shades of Grey because as much as mainstream readers loved it, actual kink practitioners hated it. And I will say in my own, you know, in my own work, the only time I ever referenced 50 Shades of Grey is actually in a class I teach on differentiating between consensual kink and abuse. I'm curious, is how, when you are reading romance novels or when you're thinking about an author to bring in, I mean, romance is a huge spectrum. And you know, there are lots of fantasy elements and lots of king elements and all sorts of things that play out within the genre. How do you decide what is uplifting content, I'll go with, versus something that might be platform something a little bit more problematic?
Melissa: I think that's a great question. So, um, when I first read EL James, I was not aware of, um, I mean, I wasn't in the BDSM or King community, so I had no idea, right, Like again, I was It was mainstream content for me, so I was like crap, like, people are out here doing this, and some of it is kind of sexy like, and then it was later when I really started getting back into the reading community that I found out how damaging some of the portrayal. Or if not all of the portrayal was to the BDSM community. You know, that kind of sucked because you you're reading, thinking you're reading correct representation. Um, and then you find out you're not, and then you're like, So what is correct representation? Right? And I think that I also have this issue with Colleen Hoover, where some of the portrayal of abuse in her books could be seen as romanticizing abuse to the point where, like you have young girls who are making Tik toks about, like getting thrown down the stairs and like them romanticizing that right? And so I feel like as an author, there's still a level of responsibility. When you're putting out your writing, you don't know who these books are reaching right? There has to be a level of responsibility to what you're writing, and so that is part of my research. I think if I read something, I think now I can tell more or less, Um, when things are like going sideways. But I also like to ask authors like What was part of your research process? Like, was it something that, like you researched? Or was it, you know, you just read another book and you thought you wanted to include it Type of thing? Um, because I also think as a bookseller. There's also a certain level of responsibility when you're putting books out there. At the end of the day, it's the readers. It's up to the reader, right? But there's also a reader responsibility in that where, like you can't expect for everyone else to have done the work for you. Like if you want to pick up a book, there should be something that, like, if you're reading maybe do some research, I think this comes up a lot, too, with, like readers who are reading books about culture not like their own. And should the author have to translate, um, like writing in their dialogue? Um, and so usually my answer to that is like, Why can't you just google the fucking word? You know, like, why does the author have to now break down what that means? And so I think there's different portions to this conversation, but I think it is important to have because, like, you don't want to damage other people and you don't want to hurt other people. Um, and you don't want to bring a light to, um, things that you are passionate about that are negative, right? Um, just because you didn't do your proper research and I think from my understanding EL James never like, addressed it, just kind of let it be. And that's another thing, right? People experience things differently. So let's say EL James had been part of the BDSM community and that was her experience with it. OK, but like, there has to be some kind of conversation. I think there just couldn't be silence because silence makes it seem like you are correct versus all the people in this community who are saying you're not and it could be hurtful.
Wolf: Yeah, I definitely can. And I I think about all the thoughtfulness that comes across as we're discussing this about how you select authors and select materials and, you know, it's it's so tricky because you could have a great piece of literature and this I'm not. I'm stepping aside from 50 Shades, but we can have a great piece of literature and have a problematic author or vice versa. I was wondering because, you know, the obviously the opposite side of your boxes is the Tech, is the toys and similarly right. We want to make sure that the toys are safe and that they're they're fit for use and I got to imagine much like some people, like this type of book or that type of book. Some people like this type of toy versus that type of toy. What is your process for figuring out what to ship? Besides having apparently dozens upon dozens of, uh, things shipped to you?
Melissa: Some a portion of that is, um, like we can reduce waste in the environment. Um, we've worked with a company, uh, love, not war that creates these really cool toys where, like, you can just change out the head. But you keep the battery so you don't have to, like, have a different vibrator. You just have one battery and you just change out the head - it's It was fascinating to me. We also try to source from smaller businesses that are making vibrators and um, it sometimes those are a little bit more expensive because, you know, you're not gonna get the same deal as you would with someone like satisfied but being able to also like, there's two Latina-owned companies that we source from Maudy and Bloomy. That was important to me because, like as a Latina selling sex toys, I can imagine what the conversation with their parents was like telling them that they were making sex toys. Um, but I think there could definitely be a lot more into our process of, like what we're buying what people are putting into their bodies. Um, and it's something I wanna expand on. Hopefully soon. Um especially on, like the side of just, like educating, right? A lot of people just don't know. Um, what again, right? Sex is such a taboo topic. So, like just educating on, like, not only how to, like, maybe use a different device or things like that, but, um, also like cleaning. Um, can you keep sex toys together - like there's so much to it that I feel like you just don't know. So anyway, I'm hoping to expand on that later. We brought in a sexologist, a couple when we first started the box to have just more conversations on that a little bit, but it's definitely something that I wanna grow.
Wolf: I know, Stefani, you got a lot to say there about being a sexologist yourself and toys, but before that happens, I want to say something else. So one of the things that is exciting to me about this so yeah, obviously I'm not your core audience, but I do have boxes I like. And there's this one box. And I've driven Stefani crazy about this because this one box that I had came with a martini kit and it had a certain type of vodka. Mhm. And I have been trying to find that vodka for two years. One of the things I like about what you're saying is oftentimes I mean, you're right. The satisfiers are a great toy from what I hear. But you can get those anywhere. What I find really intriguing about what you're saying is the ability to discover new things to find things that are not going to be available at your local store. I really like that.
Melissa: Often I feel like the other items that we put in the box kind of get forgotten about. But we also include like 3 to 5 self-care items are just like bookish items, and we try to source those as well from like small businesses. And some of those are like body oils. But we're not, you know, probably purchasing your regular body oil. You can get it like we're sourcing from small business. So there are a lot of, like, little fun things in the box. I think that, like you might just not get anywhere unless you're really like sourcing. Um, so that's always fun, too. I think putting the box together is the funniest part for me, like sourcing the different items and where they're coming from.
Stefani: And that's half the fun. I. I have a couple of subscription boxes. Um, Wolf and I compete over who gets the cooler stuff every quarter. Um, I. I did have to give up my monthly subscriptions. He was like, Baby, you have way too much random stuff coming in. So we've reined ourselves into quarterly subscriptions. Um, but that is half the fun is finding the things that you wouldn't get to see otherwise and discovering those indie brands and experiencing maybe a smaller quantity of something much more luxe than what you'll find at a big box store. And I think that that's phenomenal, as we, you know, as you head into the final few weeks before your conference. As we head into the final few moments of our conversation, what do you think is next for you? Where do you want to see Steam Box and Steamy Lit grow? What is the next evolution of your romance/Self-care empire.
Melissa: So I'm toying around with the idea of an actual like brick-and-mortar store, which would be the same thing, like we would have romance books and then we would have a vibrator we recommend with the romance book. I think my only issue with that is that there's so much stigma still around just sex toys. And I mean, we talked about this offline, But like at the LA Times festival of books, I use clover, um, as like our merchant to sell things, and we strictly sold books and bookish merch like LA Times Festival books is like a family thing. I'm obviously not bringing vibrators. You know, um and they can they, like, cancelled our, um, our account because they said they saw vibrators on our website and they just don't agree with that. And it's those things that kind of terrified me. And it's like as I continue to do this work, how many more hurdles do we have to go through to be able to, like, keep an account, to be able to process payments like – That's insane, you know? So anyway, um, a brick-and-mortar store and then really continuing to grow the community. Um, I actually just went back to school to, um, get a second bachelor's in women, gender and sexuality because I have so many of these conversations and I feel like, sure, I talk based of experience, but I feel like there's so much that I want to learn to be able to bring more to the community that we're building. And so, um, I just took, like, some really cool classes this past summer and like, it was so fun to actually be in school because, like, I wanted to learn, you know? So my hope is to as I get this degree and learn more to be able to build the community more on kind of the things we spoke about, like just sexuality in general and, um, sex, toys and different things, and create a safe space where we can talk about these things together and learn together. Um, because I don't think there's many spaces out there that are not on taboo-free, I guess, um, while still talking about romance books. And I think the lovely part about romance books is that, um, you are having people now creating whole like Tik Toks and reels about like a guy choking somebody and like that's their new kink And like, that's sensational like Go you You know, um, so I just want to be part of the change and hope that it continues to grow and flourish and really screw the patriarchy, you know.
Stefani: Totally down for screwing the patriarchy. Although, as the kink therapist, I do want to make sure that people are safely engaging in consensual breath play
Wolf: Disclaimer. That is risky.
Stefani: Absolutely. I celebrate everybody rocking out with whatever they find. That brings them joy. But guys pause. Read the nonfiction, too. Take the class, learn the lesson do it safely for you.
Wolf: So now I really wanna thank you for coming on. I love your attitude. I love the fresh take that you're bringing to this. I'm so excited to see toys and books and items that people would not ordinarily be able to find, make it into the hands of people who need it. And, of course, I, I think everyone who is on this podcast and hopefully everyone who's listening is well aligned with reducing taboo and breaking down stigma and increasing access. So thank you so much. I appreciate you taking a few minutes in those last stressful days up to your conference to join us today.
Melissa: Thank you so much for having me.
Wolf: And for those of you joining us, thank you for being here. Thank you for tuning in to securing sexuality. Your source of information you need to protect yourself and your relationships.
Stefani: Securing Sexuality is brought to you by the Bound Together Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit. From the bedroom to the cloud. We're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Wolf: Be sure to check out our website, securing sexuality dot com for more links to the information we discussed here today, uh, everything you need to get a box yourself and uh, as well as our live conference in Detroit.
Stefani: And join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week.