A sex ed blog with more
EVERYONE NEEDS TO ATTEND THIS CONFERENCE! I was one of a handful of Canadians at “Catalyst Con East: Sparking Communication in Sexuality, Activism & Acceptance” In essence, it was a sex conference for educators, activists, sexologists, sex workers, and people who like to talk about sex. So basically, it was a perfect place for everyone. This blog post will discuss #ccon overall (feel free to check out that hashtag on various social media sites), while other posts you read about will look at particular sessions and opinions.
CatalystCon was started by a wonderfully inspiring woman named Dee Dennis, who wanted to get lots of information for her sex blog but realized there wasn’t one place to bring together a whole slew of experts. She had to attend numerous conferences about each topic to get all this information. Thus, Catalyst Con was born! There is no other conference like this: topics ranged from Living with an STI to Blogging About Sex, from Consent to Sex with Disability, and so many more.
It was an action packed, info-filled weekend. My brain is fried. With the possibility of attending pre-conference workshops (I went to BOTH of Tristan Taormino’s Sex Ed Bootcamps), followed by the need to choose between 5 very different sessions for each time slot, you can imagine a certain level of mental and physical exhaustion. THEN, add in emotional exhaustion from the non-threatening sexually charged atmosphere of the most sex positive individuals imaginable. You you want to talk to all of them. And the crazy thing is, you can.
I don’t know of any other industry in which it is completely acceptable and expected to approach the biggest names for a random chat about anything that suits your fancy. Dee was able to get people from across the US simply by asking if they would be interested in taking part in this kind of conference. And it seems like they ALL said yes! And when I say big names, I mean trailblazers. People who have written hugely popular books, been on CNN, started organizations, created various types of media (like feminist porn or podcasts or radio shows, for instance) and people who have shaped the sex industry as we know it, Legends, these people are. Legends.
Also, I don’t know of another industry, except maybe professional speakers, who don’t see other sex industry workers as competition, but as people able to further spread and share knowledge. Tristan Taormino says “collaboration trumps competition”; this was reiterated at various points by numerous people throughout the conference.
Catalyst Con was a life changing experience for me. First, I recognized my privilege: cis, hetero, monogamous, white, educated, able bodied. I mean, whoa. Second, I was able to have real conversations with sex workers, trans* people, and poly people for the first. time. ever. How on earth did all of that take so long?! Also, I found myself attracted to a trans* woman, which I found super intriguing. Third, when I told Hernando Chaves that I work with teens a lot, his immediate response was “You should be a speaker! We need more people to talk about youth.” Um, pardon?! Hernando, an incredibly nice guy and very intellectual human sexuality professor and marriage & family therapist in LA, is telling me to get more involved and share my knowledge. COOL. #rockstarstatus
I would love to organize a Catalyst Con North in Toronto or Montreal, if Dee would be onboard! Kara, another Canadian, and I were discussing how great it would be to have Catalyst Con be a quarterly event for 2 years. Then have one MASSIVE conference the 3rd year. Not gonna lie, I can’t afford to spend $1000 on a conference every year. It was absolutely worth it, but certainly not sustainable.
To sum up, here are some important things I learned at Catalyst Con East:
1) Everyone at Catalyst Con is approachable and wonderful. Yes, there are some obvious cliques (particularly among the sex toy reviewers), but I steered clear and was so incredibly welcomed and appreciated by those I met.
2) Sharing is caring: let’s share our knowledge and experiences to create more sex positivity.
3) There is room for everyone. Collaboration is more important than competition.
4) Just like every industry, we have different opinions; and it’s much preferred to address dissenting ideas and potentially problematic areas or topics immediately and face to face rather than with malice online.
5) Asking questions is okay. Admitting ignorance is okay. Admit your ignorance before asking your ignorant questions, and some of those questions could be “Am I using the right terminology? Was that offensive?”
6) Show appreciation for the hard work, time and effort that people put into what they do.
7) Tell everyone what you do, even if you’re just starting and have only done something once.
8) No one wants to know what you can’t or won’t do. We all care about what you have done, can, and will do.
9) Lots of people have reclaimed the terms whore and slut. I think more of us should.
10) Creating sex positive spaces is SO important. Sex positivity leads to a potential increase in everyone’s comfort level.
Thank you, Dee Dennis & team for such an awe-inspiring, life-changing, monumental event.