Cheers Sexy People!
Another year, another Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit (SFS)! And another confirmation that I love this conference! Wow! Last year was my first year at this incredible, information-filled, jam-packed-full-of-fun conference that happens to be only 10 minutes away from me in Alexandria or Arlington, Virginia. How could I miss this epic-ly cool event when I am so fortunate to have it right in my own backyard? Yet I can say with certainly that if you do not live near Washington, DC, your travel dollars would be well-spent to come join us next year. Both times I have attended, I have been blown away by all of the awesome, by the kindness and generosity of the presenters as well as the attendees, and by the sheer joyful fun of the evening entertainment. This year was no exception.
For me personally some of the highlights were:
- Deepening relationships with newer friendships and wonderful people I adore such as Shadeen Francis, Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, and Myisha Battle. These amazing ladies I met for the first time in person at last year’s SFS, and I had the good smarts to connect further with each of them. Dr. Sheff and Myisha have both been on the podcast already (episodes 29, 30 & 31 and 40 respectively). And Shadeen will be on very soon. All three of these lovely women have inspired me, cheered me on in my work, added to the awesomeness of my life, and been gracious in all of their interactions.
- The opportunity to meet authors of the book Designer Relationships, Mark A. Michaels, and Patricia Johnson. I read this book about a year ago (book review will eventually appear here on the blog – how do we manufacture more time again? 🙂 ). I had no idea that the authors Mark and Patricia were at the conference – my colleague and friend Myisha informed me. Saturday evening, I mustered up my courage to walk up to them at the specularly fun burlesque show. I asked them to sign my copy of their book and take their picture. They not only graciously agreed, they also offered to give me a copy of their latest book: Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy, and Long-Term Love. Wow! What a bonus! I can’t wait to dig into this book! Yes!!!! Mark and Patricia also agreed to come on the LWB podcast as well. Yay!!!!
- Just like last year, the sessions, the speakers, the quality and diversity of the presentations was just fantastic! Allow me to give you a brief write-up of the sessions that I attended…
Sex and the Constitution by Geoffrey Stone – An incredible look at how sex and its intersection with religion as well as politics has occurred through the ages. Geoffrey pointed out that we need to uphold separation of church and state. “We must have the open-mindedness, courage and integrity to question the government’s involvement in our bedrooms” = YESSSSS!!!!! We need this right now given the abominable state of our nation’s political environment! Nice!
Messaging the Movement: Is it possible or even realistic by Cathy Renna – As a blogger, author, podcaster, and voice representing our consensually non-monogamous community, I found this session highly informative and valuable. Cathy pointed out that as Americans, we absolutely suck at talking about sex (compared to say, Europe), and that American sex education is also appalling . She also pointed out that every executive order affects the LGBT community, because every single community has an LGBT person among them due to intersectionality. Lastly Cathy recommends telling personal experiential stories to make our experiences less abstract to those outside of our community. Talk about real people with real challenges to create a bridge, as personal stories are what reach people.
Love Outside the Lines: Polyamory for the rest of us by Jules Purnell – In this session, we explored the many aspects of intersectionality between polyamory and different communities. We had group discussions that covered enjoying sex despite disabilities, race and class issues, handling kids in poly families, and even covered identifying as solo poly as well. On the latter, Jules mused “why do relationships – or even friendships for that matter – need to GO somewhere?” (referring to the Relationship Escalator that so many of us find ourselves on). Jules also touched on that “we need to be open to being in uncomfortable conversations about subjects we may not wish to discuss due to intersectionality.” Lots of food for thought! Thanks, Jules! Podcast with this remarkable person is being recorded TODAY! Yay!
Five-Fingered Free, Open & Unfettered Access by Twanna A. Hines – Given the current state of the country lead by whom I refer to as “the orange man” (or at the conference referenced as “He Who Shall Not Be Named” ala Harry Potter), here we discussed ways to get involved in contacting our representatives to express our views and/or displeasure at the State of the Union. Some great suggestions were 5calls.org, ResistBot (text #Resist to have letters created and faxed for you), ResistanceManual.org, and the Table Tribes app as well as Day of Dinners to create local gatherings to discuss political agendas and movements. Great stuff!
Making Pleasure Political: How to be politically-engaged while representing your pleasure-based business by Myisha Battle – I had the honor of cheering on and assisting Myisha Battle with this super interesting workshop. Myisha reminded us that no matter what we are doing in our pleasure or sex-based business, given the state of our country right now – it’s political! No getting away from it! We discussed discrimination against those in the sex health field, as well as we pointed out that we have a sexual predator for president. Ugh! I did my best not to get depressed but to get inspired to do something! One thing I did was join the Facebook group Women Against Trump. Check it out!
Keep Giving A Fuck: A conversation about prioritizing sex during trying times by JoEllen Notte and Indira Dutt – I attended several of JoEllen Notte’s sessions last year and was really impressed with her jam, her vibe, and her blunt way of speaking. This year did not disappoint. I mean just look at the title of the session! In this session, we discussed and brainstormed on how devaluation of sex shows up in our lives, what ways we can combat and work with these issues, and what things we all find pleasurable as a brain-storming session. We also noted that it is also totally OK to not be interested in sex. JoEllen pointed out the trying times we live in by highlighting that ”govvies call women who talk about birth control ‘whores’”. WTF! She also mentioned the military ban for communities such as transgender where folks are told to “just turn that shit off, you know, who you are, that lifestyle stuff” as if it’s a switch to turn off versus an identify and expression of who we are. Yikes! One comment I found both humorous and insightful was when JoEllen suggested that when we are enjoying sexy times with our partners, consider not “jumping right to holes”, take your time, and enjoy your collective sensuality. Nice! Lastly, they suggested to date people with the same political views, unless you have an “extreme frustration kink” Hahaha! Awesome! PLEASURE AS RESISTANCE! YES!
Centered at the Margins: Decolonizing our approaches to trauma by Shadeen Francis, MFT and Zelaika Hepworth Clarke, PhD – I was stoked to watch my great colleague and friend Shadeen co-create and present this workshop that focuses on trauma, resulting depression, social control and accountability in our society. First we defined trauma as “surviving intense, painful, difficult experiences”, yet it is also subjective as it shows up differently for different people. They also noted the use of social control in that our feelings and experiences can become invalidated with statements such as that “didn’t happen long enough, wasn’t bad enough, you aren’t strong enough.” This belittles and shames us for our experience of trauma, and thus deters healing. They pointed out that our feelings are MESSENGERS that help us connect with our humanity. All emotions are organic, and are sources of feedback that need to be honored (not suppressed). Shadeen and Zelaika gave us great new insights on how to view trauma, our feelings, and how they show up in our lives. Fantastic!
Visibility in a Time of Peril: Come out, come out, wherever you are (or not) by Lola Houston – Lola did a fantastic job moderating this session that focuses extensively on the polyamorous, transgender, and kink communities as well as others in regards to when, if, and how to “come out”. Lola highlighted for us that we are all sexual freedom fighters! Yes!!!! Lola (transgender herself in transition wearing an adorable leopard print mini-skirt. Can I borrow it? So cute!) cautioned that if people can’t make sense of what they see, they make up a story. When you get to tell your own story (by coming out), you get to control the narrative (otherwise other stories creep in and obscure your message). One attendee soberingly pointed out: “if you don’t fit in any longer with a community, then you are often labeled a deviant and thus excluded and no longer fit in (based on her experience in her communities). Lola reminded us that when any of us are discriminated against, we all suffer! UNITY is our best path forward! Terrific!
Family Matters Roundtable Brunch by Ricci Levy, Liz Lani, Loretta Ross and Conchita – This session was great last year and this year was no different. Ricci pointed out first that the core unit of society is family. We form families on our own, and family means many things to many people, whether biological or chosen. The panel consisted of a woman with a disability, an adoptee, and a woman of color who was a rape survivor. Loretta pointed out the often overlooked privilege of coming from a large family with lots of history that can be traced back. But also there is another side of the coin in that she had to endure sexual abuse due to older male relatives having easy access to young female family members in large houses. Family reunions are quite challenging as she struggles with how to show love to past abusers in her family. Lastly Loretta points out that “these imprints from childhood, they don’t go away.” Sobering.
What a fantastic, amazing, inspiring summit! I cannot wait until next year, including deepening my friendships with some of the spectacular peeps I now see here every year, as well as new friends. To round out my weekend, I got to have my picture taken with famed porn star from the 80s, Nina Hartley. Yes!!!! I have a special place in my heart for her, as she comes from the same stuff I do, and wore a gorgeous dress that she bought back in 1986, when I was in high school. Oh my goodness, I am stoked to enjoy this event again next year! Put the first weekend of August in your calendars and come say hi to me at the Sexual Freedom Summit in 2018!
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)