One year ago, Vanessa Pinto was a paralegal at the Law Offices of Daniel A. Conrad.
But by night (and by weekend), she was Fleur De Lis: an anonymous, kink-positive sex blogger who documented her experiences online. Curious about alternative forms of sexuality, Pinto had decided to explore all that the San Francisco sex scene had to offer, and took readers along for the ride.
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Shortly after she began blogging, Pinto was awarded the title "Sluttiest Blogger" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian's September 2010 sex issue--a true honor in the sex community.
"I was only about a month into blogging when the Guardian called me," she told The Huffington Post. "It was such a surprise!"
In the story, Pinto explained her goals: "I want to educate people to embrace sex and sexuality. I want people to accept who they are, and who we are sexually is a huge part of who we are as people."
Pinto was invigorated with validation, and glowed with a new drive to spread her goal of sexual liberation.
Until she returned to work.
Shortly after the release of the Guardian story, Pinto's boss called her into his office. "He asked me to take a seat, and said, 'I found out about your blog, and I'm really happy you have a great sex life. The pictures are great,'" she recalled. "And then he said, 'Now here is your last check; please give me your keys.'"
Pinto was beside herself. "It was surreal. I was so shocked--especially that this happened in San Francisco," she said. "And I was outraged. If I had been a man, no one would have cared. But it's like the old saying: A woman loses 50 percent of her authority once people find out whom she's sleeping with. I had been fired for being 'that kind of girl.'"
And with that, Pinto had a new mission: publicly championing sexual liberation and gender equality, free from anonymity. "I felt like it was important," she said. "People shouldn't be afraid to be who they are. Perhaps my talking about it would keep someone else from getting fired."
Freshly unemployed, Pinto decided there was only one thing to do -- sexual sabbatical. She spent the next year exploring every sexual experience, fetish and taboo: group sex, bondage, whipping, secret parties, electrocution play and more, all while spilling every saucy detail in her blog.
The reaction was overwhelming.
"People started emailing," she recalled. "Soon, I was hearing from all of these people. They wanted to ask questions, and they wanted to tell me everything: their fetishes, their fears, their personal stories. I found that people are really interested in these things but they are terrified of telling anyone. Many are terrified of even admitting it to themselves."
Besides her regular blog posts, Pinto also put it all down in a book that explored her experience in greater detail (on shelves in August 2012.) "The blog never mentioned anything negative -- I wanted to keep that as positive as possible," she said. "But the book explores everything: the good, the bad and the scary."
When the year was up, Pinto decided to throw a party to put it all out in the open: a Sexy Circus. "I invited comedians, dirty storytellers, electrocutionists, sex writers, sex workers and all of my friends I'd met along the way," she said.
The result was a twelve-act variety show exploring sexual fetishes and freedoms. Acts ranged from a deep-throat demonstration to heart-pouring spoken word performances, and everything in between. "I wanted people to see what's out there," she explained.
It worked. Tickets sold out immediately and the show was standing-room-only. Afterwards, audience members begged her to make it an annual show. "People came up to me and thanked me for the show," she said. "They said it made them feel better. They said it made them feel normal."
Now, Pinto's taking her message on the road, with a yearlong trip around the country, experiencing what the nation has to offer. While traveling, Pinto will host sex workshops and discussions, spreading the good news that "it's okay to be a slut."
And she's hoping to get even sluttier. "I want to see what else is out there--how they do it in the rest of the country. In the Bay Area, we live in a bubble. I want to see it all."
Pinto will document her experience and turn it into another book before embarking on the ultimate sexual journey: the world tour. "I'm especially excited about that," she said. While the national book is in production, Pinto will travel the globe, experiencing sexual fears, fantasies and fetishes in international cultures. (Surely she'll need plenty of research for her third book.). Of course, she'll discuss sexual equality and liberation with whomever will listen.
"I want to tell people my story in places where people might be even more terrified," she said. "People are embarrassed; people don't know. I want them to know that's it's okay to be yourself."