Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota


I’m a solid mix of quiet and loud. I’ve recently started dating someone new and am more aware of my noises and another person’s noises than usual. Or I should say in a different way. I’m quite noise sensitive- I sleep with earplugs and wear earbuds at the gym mainly to drown out the sounds of others.

When I live above people, I’m clued into how loud I am in my daily life- barking dog, stomping feet, smoke alarm, sex toys, typewriter, laughter and music.

I live in a quiet part of the country. Folx work and play hard, in comparison they don’t have a lot to say about everything. In northern Minnesota, we love our quiet. It’s hands down the thing I have in common with almost all of neighbors, community, co-workers, fellow citizens. I also want to qualify that I live in one of the country’s bluest counties. We stand up for equity- racial, gender and environmental justice- on the regular. While there are a handful ready to take the mike at any rally, many of us are very comfortable lending dedicated support in the crowd.

We also navigate the line between silence (especially white silence) and quiet precariously.

For a while, as a person not originally from Minnesota, I was judgmental about this quiet or was it silence?! The powerhouse, feminist writer Rebecca Solnit speaks brilliantly about how to tell the difference in her piece "Silence is Broken." It's a helpful skill- when I'm judging, my head is a madhouse, noisy. In this state, I can't recognize the power and steadfastness in my people all around me organizing a strong, broad-base movement with every moment. Beautiful quiet folx are working together, loudly, to change the dominant narrative or how things “have and should be done”.

Again to be discerning between silence and quiet is key- which brings me to sex. How strange to work for sexual health in a community that is so committed to wellbeing yet silent. Silent about who we are as sexual beings. In the north, in this country, as our gendered beings, as political people. In bed recently with a new lover, I’ve noticed my noises in comparison to hers. Her loud laugh and enthusiastic vocal response to all touch- biting, hair pulling, fucking, kissing- is delightful!! I can tell she’s having a damn good time when we’re together.

SO much is about asking for what we want. Especially as queer folx and womxn. Because of my work and identity as a “sexual outlaw” (Thanks forever to Kate Bornstein the original gender outlaw and a mentor of mine- check out her New Gender Workbook for more juicy goodness), I don’t think of myself as a sexually quiet person.

I talk about sex as much as possible in the community and after orgasm often laugh vociferously for minutes. However, I’m noticing my “sexually quiet” self, no judgment here, more in comparison to this loud person I’m loving. It’s powerful to not put myself in any boxes. I want to be open to having loud and quiet experiences. It’s interesting when folx find out what I do for a living, it leads them to think I’m this barn calling dominatrix 24/7 in bed.

Similarly, relationship requires conversation. Lots of them-especially when one chooses to challenge the status quo and create new ways of designing romantic connection. For me boundaries and limits are not assumed or chosen by society but decided consciously. I’m in the place with this new relationship, where I’m craving to use words to make our loving even more dynamic, intentionally great, exactly what we want it to be.

Which brings me back to quiet. I’ve been quiet about bringing up the “design” I want to create in this relationship. I love these conversations, moments of shared awareness used to make something out of the attraction, pleasure and desire I feel about and with another person. However, timing is a thing. Too soon, talking can take us out of the moment. Too late, silence and assumption can become patterns. It’s a sexy dance and one folx sometimes feel they’re not up for.

I often take the lead- using words to draw boundaries and castles and new oceans with someone is pretty spectacular. This noise, alongside breathing, fucking, screaming, moaning for more, feels so good to make. When I discover it’s time to open up, become louder and more intentional about what I want, I also notice my discomfort. What if I’m asking for “too much, not enough?”, “what if they get hurt?”, “what if this changes the goodness we’re already experiencing together?”. So I tap Sexual Outlaw confidence. Fight the inner bully. I wake up to the possibility and power I hold to make this exactly what I want it to be.

For me, it’s key to claim that space proudly. So many folx who have come before me have fought to have the freedom I have to love in a creative, fun, glittery, radical, Queer way. Trusting that I can be loud in bed and noisy in negotiations, vocal cerebrally and raucous physically with this Lover is an enormous part of the equation.  There is no right or wrong way to have this initial conversation. The most important part is to create safe space, a solid platform, and have fun doing so. And to remember quiet isn’t always shy, silent, dissatisfied. Quiet can be noticing, feeling, observing, wanting, loving, creating, imagining.

As I sit here excited to ask for this conversation and let go of expectations, I take a deep breath. I’m aware of the rising and falling of my chest. The noise of breath flowing in and out of my body. I smile and stretch. All of this is a subtle part of being in the moment too. And part of the noise of coming back to the center of who I am.  Which is what sex and conversations about sexual relationships also do for me. So this weekend, know I’ll be making some noise in the bedroom and boardroom of love. It’s all scary and fucking exciting!



Yes! Witches