Two years ago, attendance for the interactive portion of the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas surpassed the music event on which SXSW was originally founded. Approximately 11,000 techie types descend annually on the Austin Convention Center to pitch new products, seek out investors, attend panel discussions on emerging technologies, and as it turns out, score.
South by Southwest Interactive has more of a reputation for hooking up than other conventions, according to Internet sex educator and ZDNet columnist Violet Blue. Appropriately scheduled on Friday, SXSWi’s opening day, Blue’s "Sexual Survival for Geeks" presentation is part of the new Health category added to the event, known since 2008 as "Spring Break for geeks."
"There’s a lot of sex and a lot of hooking up," Blue said, adding that the addition of her talk in the Health category is an acknowledgment that hooking up here at SXSWi happens and "it needs to be addressed."
Key topics in Blue’s "Call Boot Camp" included:
- Sexual health basics, including Safer Sex 101
- Exactly how to have a smooth negotiation about safer sex
- Rules and tips for geek flirting
- Do's and Don'ts of picking up on geeks
- Sex etiquette and social media
- How to have a great one-nighter and feel happy saying hi in the halls the next day
- Navigating honesty (and health issues) when someone is cheating
- Consent: saying yes and no to sex with clarity and coolness
- How to have a hot time without pissing off your hotel roommates
Blue, it should be mentioned, is also promoting her latest book, "Total Flirt: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques Every Girl Needs to Get the Guy," and hence, her talk included specialized info for attracting geeks.
Turns out, females are often the instigator when it comes to geek love, though the male of the species may tend to remember it differently. "Flirting with geeks is really different than flirting with regular people, "Blue pointed out with more than a little sense of humor. For example, "if a geek likes you, they might be doing this a lot," Blue said, pantomiming furious texting on a mobile device.
Also, "when they start to get signals, they might think you’re interested in the person next to them."
Another thing about geek dudes, says Blue — the kind of geek dude really into the technology — is that they don't want to be mistaken for the other kind of dude demographic at SXSWi — the kind really into the money. These slick characters are at SXSWi looking for investors, and looking to pick up the ladies with lines such as "Hey, wanna ride on my boat? I just got backing."
So can you blame a geek dude for not making the first move, lest you think he's one of those guys?
There really weren't a lot of those guys at Blue's talk, though there was a wide assortment of all ages (and a 60/40 male-to-female gender mix) that met in one of the larger meeting rooms at the Austin Convention Center, though only half the seats were filled. (To be fair to Blue, there are a lot of things going on at the same time here at SXSWi, and choosing which event to attend is not easy.)
Skinny guys in their 20s mixed with paunchy men in their 50s, all with iDevices, both pad and phone. Interestingly, there was a 50-something man reading an actual paperback book. Also, a Border Collie — someone's service dog. And lots of 20-something girls with pink or green streaks in their hair, a punk-rock aesthetic much like Blue's own.
So anyhoo ... those shy geeks. That’s where icebreakers come in handy, such as shared experiences and alcohol — both in plentiful supply here at SXSWi. "You find all these things you have in common, then suddenly you’re faced with sexual opportunity," Blue said. "People who aren’t planning for it should really think about it. Decide what you’re going to do should you encounter sexual opportunity." And by that, Blue means much more than "just go for it."
Blue busted out detailed info on how to have safe, sane hook-ups, and presented a boatload of local resources for sexual health and safety. SXSW’s free Wi-Fi filter blocks Blue’s own website, TinyNibbles.com, but links to the resources — many of which adults outside of Austin may find helpful — are available on the "sxsexy" page of her "Total Flirt" book’s website. Included is a mobile-friendly safe sex risk assessment chart and … um … SXSWi-themed erotica Blue commissioned especially for the occasion.
Especially awesome were Blue’s tips on sex etiquette and social media — which should be mandatory education for geeks and non-geeks alike: Don’t call out your "conquest" the next day on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t make your date from the previous evening a location on Foursquare, Blue advised. "You’re not the Mayor of Cindy."
As for SXSWi-specific tips, don’t ask your sex partner if he or she can hook you up with a job. Blue said she hears that SXSWi story a lot, if you can believe it. Oh, and "one Golden Rule: Do not have sex with anyone tonight that you’re not OK seeing in the hallway tomorrow. Because you will see them."
Speaking of flirting with geeks, Blue posted on Twitter that following her talk, a TV news reporter asked her if women at SXSW are "gold diggers."
"He won't be able to use my answer."
Seeing as Blue is sex positive and feminist and whatnot, I take that to mean she gave that reporter what for. But you know what happens when we assume.
More from SXSW:
- Famous Internet cats commemorated in cheddar
- Can the Internet and pop culture be friends?
- 100K Facebook 'Likes' for dogs sends $100K to Japan
- Vote on your 'Social Network Users' Bill of Rights'
Helen A.S. Popkin is not hooking up at SXSWi, let alone lookin' to snare her a rich venture capitalist husband. As you (and Helen's boss) can clearly ascertain via Facebook and Twitter, she is chugging coffee and writing blog posts.