I had such an amazing experience at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, put on by the incredible Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. Thanks so much to Tantus and Njoy for the blogger scholarship that helped me get there and to Bex for graciously allowing me to stay with her and drive to the conference together, and for taking me to the beach, helping me acquire bacon, and watching Supernatural with me, among other things.
1. The Sessions Were Informative, Moving, and Motivating
The sessions at Woodhull were a perfect blend of vital information, important stories, inspiring speakers, and calls to action.
The first one I attended was The How’s and Why’s of Sex Education in Blogging, Retail, and Manufacturing, where we heard from two of the first champions for safe sex toys in the industry, Jennifer Pritchett from Smitten Kitten and Metis Black from Tantus, as well as leading sex toy safety blogger Dangerous Lilly and blogger Caitlin Murphy. The industry has come a long way thanks to these amazing folks, but we still have a lot of work to do. Many people are still unknowingly buying toxic toys that can potentially leave them with infections or chemical burns. Most people still aren’t getting pleasure based (if any) accurate sex education.
There were so many important points made during the session, but the most memorable moment for me was listening to Jennifer talk about a married couple they helped in the store. The wife was unable to orgasm, and they’d seen therapists for decades trying to change that, and until then, somehow no one had thought to ask if she knew where her clitoris is. The second session I attended on Friday was The Monster Under the Bed: Starting the Conversation About Sex and Depression. JoEllen Notte, Crista Anne, and Stephen Biggs talked about stereotypes surrounding depression and sex, the lack of education from healthcare professionals on the sexual side-effects of medication, the importance of feeling pleasure during depression, and more. JoEllen also shared some of the things she’s learned during her research for her upcoming book on sex and depression, which I can’t wait to read when it comes out. It was an emotional and oh-so-important session.
The most information packed session was definitely Lube! An In-Depth Look at Personal Lubricants–we were all in awe of Sarah‘s incredible lube research and knowledge. Basically, we learned that most water based lubes that are widely available at drugstores are hyper-osomtic and can cause irritation and increase your risk of infections and STIs. If you want to learn more, check out Piph’s notes. The good news from this session was that Sliquid (the lube I use) is one of the few that is safe for most people’s genitals.
On Saturday, I wasn’t sure which sessions I’d go to, but I wandered in to Punishing Pleasure: Legal Updates from the Trenches of Adult Entertainment, and I’m glad I did because the information about adult entertainment and censorship was really interesting. First Amendment Attorneys Lawrence Walters and Luke Lirot talked about how vague “obscenity” charges are and how modern censorship politics link erotica with human trafficking to create hysteria.
The second session I went to on Saturday was Yes, All Genders: How to Normalize and Include Trans Bodies with Alex Morgan and Monique Darling. There was a lot of important discussion and information, and the biggest take away for me was to stop making assumptions about people. Don’t assume someone’s gender or whether they’re cis or trans based on their appearance. Don’t assume that everyone will fit into the binary and make space for those who don’t. Don’t assume people you’re talking to can’t handle inclusive discussions–challenge your audience, peers and friends. It’s all easier said than done, and I know for me it’s easier in sex positive spaces than in the “real world” but it’s important to constantly challenge ourselves to do better.
The last session I went to was Let’s Talk About Senior Sex by the amazing Joan Price. As was the case last time I attended one of her sessions, many of the things she talked about applies to people of all ages, though her focus is on senior sex. She covered a range of topics from how sexuality changes as we age to specific sex toy needs for seniors to the importance of safe sex and how to put a condom on a soft penis with your mouth (no more, I can’t get hard with a condom on excuse!) We’re all hoping she’ll do a post about that soon. Oh, and I won’t go into it too much because I’m sure Epiphora will write about it, but someone tried to mansplain vibrators to a room full of sex bloggers. Nope.
2. Bloggers Were Welcomed and Appreciated
It’s easy to feel lost in a huge conference, but Ricci Levy encouraged bloggers to attend, thanked us for coming, and was so welcoming and supportive, we were blown away. Tantus also sponsored and set up a blogger lounge where we could gather, feel safe, and get our coffee fix, which made all the difference. The attitude from all of the retailers I came in contact with, including the wonderful folks from SheVibe, Smitten Kitten, and Tantus, was that review feedback is necessary and helpful, that negative reviews are just as important as positive ones, and that the Blog Squad is mighty and valued in the industry.
3. I Met Big Name People (and It Wasn’t a Big Deal)
I got to have lunch and spend some time with the fabulous Sandra and Thor from SheVibe. I listened to Metis tell industry stories. Ricci Levy offered a phone number in case we needed anything. Peyton helped us figure out the espresso machine and was so sweet and easy to talk to. I met the genius behind Njoy. Smitten Kitten picked me up some gluten free snacks from a nearby Whole Foods. Buck Angel sat and listened to the Yes All Genders panel and danced with us during the gala. I didn’t actually get a chance to talk to Nina Hartley, but I listened to her talk about why she got into porn during BedPost Confessions (and she retweeted me a couple of times, *squee*.) I never felt like I couldn’t talk to or approach someone–everyone I encountered was friendly and welcoming.
4. Internet Friends Became Real Life Friends
No conference would be complete without bonding time, and I was so glad I got to see close blogger friends like Bex, Epiphora, and Reenie from Dildo Holiday as well as meet others, some of which I’d known for years on the Internet and some new.
Lilly had warned that she might be shy or hard to approach but that wasn’t actually the case at all–she was super easy to talk to and was equal parts passionate and silly. Since Caitlin was staying with Bex as well, I got to spend extra time with them, and they’re really kind and fun, not to mention fabulously femme–one night they cooked for Bex and I in a pin up dress *swoon.* Artemisia was as awesome as I imagined– she’s gorgeous, sweet, and of course had ALL the glitter nail polish, and I had a lot of fun geeking out over photography with her.
One of the things Lunabelle is known for is her huge, eclectic collection of unique dildos, and I must say I was not disappointed with the sampling of literally 50 dildos she brought along to show us–seriously, she’s my dildo hero, and she’s also really down to earth and cool.) Also, she brought a traveling bar so…she’s pretty much winning at life.
Mandi was just as sweet, cute, and smart as I thought she’d be, and as she mentioned in her post about Woodhull, we bonded over books and cats. I really wish we (and all of blog squad) lived closer because I would definitely call her to hang out on the regular. Dizzy was also really nice and easy going, and I’m glad I got to have drinks with her and the rest of the Blog Squad Thursday night. Speaking of drinks, when her, Lunabelle, and Lena, a new (and super cute) blogger showed up at the hotel pool with some strong “coffee” (which I naively took a sip of thinking was actually coffee), I thought, yep, these people know how to party.
Some other bloggers I got to meet were Crista (who gives awesome hugs and is an overall bad-ass), Mary and Harry Contrary (Texas peeps, woot!), and Beck (who I wish I had more time to bond over Buffy with.) If I’m forgetting anyone I apologize–it was a whirlwind of smiling sex positive faces!
5. Blog Squad Unite: Magic Happens When Sex Bloggers Gather
One of the most fun parts of conferences for me is getting the opportunity to be with my peeps–there’s a magic that only happens when I’m with my sex blogger friends. Like Epiphora doing an impromptu photo-shoot of Bex and I wearing nothing but Joque harnesses and Vixen dildos while jumping on the bed. Like it being no big deal to shoot naked self portraits in Bex’s Eleven. Like getting sharpie tattoos on my butt by the babely Artemisia, and Reenie asking if she can send dildo dick pics. Like standing up to a mansplainer. Like snickering in unison at the mention of “sil-a-gel.” Like singing our lungs out to this song and chuckling as we passed a school called Poly Prep. Like talking about vagina feelings, comparing butt plugs to pizza, and using dildos as telescopes. Like getting the best hugs and feeling inspired by the amazing people you’re lucky enough to be friends with. I miss all of y’all so much already!
Want to read even more about Woodhull? Check out the event from Artemisia, Lilly, Mandi, Dizzy, Lunabelle, DeAnn, Lena, Beck, and Ruby‘s point of views.