Catalyst Con

Speaker Spotlight: Rebecca E. Blanton, PhD

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Aug 262016
 

Rebecca is presenting Claiming Female Sexuality Through Performance. Check out her bio here.

Rebecca E. BlantonHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I don’t really think of myself as a “Catalyst for Change.” That idea seems to big for what I do. What I am concerned about it the growing need for everyone to be certain about everything at every moment. This leaves little room for growth or change without being painted as a dilettante or flip-flopper. I have long been concerned with both identity and sexuality in a person’s life. Both healthy identity and healthy sexuality require an ability to explore and grow and change — which is antithetical to the current need to certainty in identity at all times.

I have opted to live as open and authentically as I can as a way to free people from the need to pretend to be something they are not. I have used my sexual and emotional path to illustrate things on stage through comedy and burlesque performances. I think the boom in burlesque and the growth of women in comedy allow women a new and unique way to talk about the constant “becoming” that is the human experience.

Who or what was a catalyst for you? 

My biggest catalyst to this day was The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. I saw the documentary when I was 11 years old on PBS. Milk’s statement that “If a bullet should ever enter my brain, let it blow off every closet door,” became my mantra. I have been out and proud as queer since I was 13 and realized I was gay. I am out about my kink and my mental illness. People, much braver than I, came out before me so I didn’t have to fight the hardest battles. I owe them being open and out an it is my gift to the next generation.

What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

I think the ability to talk more openly about sexuality is, by and large, a good development. I see us as still a nascent culture when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality and there are growing pains as we open the culture. However, the ability for people to connect with community and get information about things is a good thing.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today? 

I see the pushback against changing ideas of gender and sexuality as dangerous. As much as we have pushed to decriminalize and de-pathologize queerness and trans folks, we are still based in a medical model for sex and gender identity. Medicine is a field of late adopters for any ideas. The fact that we conflate sex and gender to what sex is assigned at birth by some doctor and that we still require trans folks to prove things like “gender dysphoria” to multiple medical professionals before getting any help will always slow and limit the development of new ideas of sexuality.

Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

I know hundreds of female and female-identified performers who have used the stage to claim who they are sexually and with their gender. I find it absolutely fascinating what parts of their sexuality and gender they choose to claim on stage and how they go about doing that.

Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

I was raised on a farm in southeast Idaho by parents who were escaping their role as Baptist missionaries.

Mar 312016
 

Liz Powell is presenting Naming, Shaming, And Victim-Blaming: Practical Safety with a Sex-Positive Spin and Military and Veterans 101 for Sexuality Professionals. Check out Liz Powell’s bio here.

Liz Powell

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I’m working on keeping the sex-radical spirit of San Francisco alive through my work in my private practice and with the collective I helped found, the Embodiment Arts Collective. I also value being out about myself as polyamorous and kinky because, especially in the world of psychology, not many people are out openly. This can make clients feel like no one out there understands their life. I want to lead by example and show that normal everyday people can be successful and non-monogamous/kinky.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

When I was first stationed in Savannah, GA I was looking for a couples’ counselor for myself and one of my partners and there were only 1 or 2 therapists in the whole state who spoke openly about non-monogamy; none of them were in Savannah. I knew then that part of my work had to be in reaching out to the less mainstream folks and providing a safe space for them to seek help.

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

I’m really loving the push to normalize all consensual forms of sexual expression, especially regarding low and high desire. Asexuality and Megasexuality are not problems, they’re just expressions of our variance as a species.

4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

Right now, I think it’s important for us to remain intersectional in our work. Empowering people sexually is always, for me, build on a foundation of social justice. Without this understanding and awareness, it can be hard for us to create true freedom of expression.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

I’m really passionate about both of my panels for very different reasons. For my panel on military and veterans, I’m a disabled veteran myself and I’ve found that so few people know anything at all about what life in the military is like. That experience can be very alienating and make it hard to transition out of service. While I was in the service, the regulation of the UCMJ made it challenging for me to express myself sexually as there could be repercussions (legally and professionally). For Naming, Shaming, and Victim Blaming, I’m someone who feels very strongly about the need to address rape culture and to also empower everyone to help keep themselves safe. I’ve struggled myself with how to handle “missing stairs” in the communities I’ve been a part of and I think this is one of the most important conversations we can have, especially in the light of the allegations against people such as James Deen.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.

I was a figure skater from 8 to 16 and still love when I get a chance to get back on the ice.

Mar 252016
 

Mark Michaels & Patricia Johnson are presenting The Dark Side of Tantra. Check out Mark Michaels’s bio here and Patricia Johnson’s bio here.

Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

We have been active in various alternative sexuality communities since 1999; Mark started exploring polyamory a couple of years before that. We see our role as one of empowering people through sharing information and community-building. We feel that these efforts have helped people realize that there is no “right way” to be sexual.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Even though we’ve moved away from identifying as Tantra teachers, Dr. Jonn Mumford (he still teaches people personally via his online courses – www.jonnmumfordconsult.com) was a major catalyst; our first book is based on his material, and his influence is there in all of them. The friendships we have developed with amazing colleagues (many of whom are presenting at Catalystcon) are an inspiration too. That list would be so long!

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

Cultural attitudes toward what constitutes a happy relationship are changing rapidly. More and more people are looking to create and nurture relationships in an intentional rather than a reflexive way – whether they’re monogamous or have some other relational orientation. We see the act of consciously and consensually creating relationships is good for individuals, their partners, and society.

4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

Well, climate change and ecocide are the biggest ones. In the face of such monumental challenges, it sometimes feels like talking about sexuality is inconsequential; we can only hope that helping people develop a more integrated and authentic way of being in the world is a small step toward inspiring a more respectful attitude toward the planet.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

There is a lot of mythology around Tantra. The meaning of the word, and the history of the tradition are hotly contested. The popularization of Tantra in the West has been problematic in many ways, and we’ve made our own mistakes over the years. While these issues are difficult and potentially painful to discuss, we thinks it’s important to examine them.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

We’re both active in conservation. Mark is a leading expert on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (www.projectcoyoteIBWO.com), and Patricia has rehabilitated hundreds of Native New York turtles (www.TurtleAdvocate.org.) We’ve also spent the last five years writing, touring and generally working too hard. This year, we’re focusing on having more fun!

Mar 162016
 

Mr Blk & Ms Pomegranate are presenting “What does consent look like; Practicing consent in kink”. Check out Mr Blk’s bio here and Ms Pomegranate’s bio here.

Mr BlkMs Pomegranate

1. ​How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

​At The Black Pomegranate our credo is, “Talking the Taboos” and that philosophy permeates everything we do. In a sense, that credo is emblematic of the manner in which we’re catalyst for change. Sexual alternative lifestyles are still considered to be taboo.

Coming out as kinky can have very real consequences, professionally and personally even in 2016. When someone is kinky, the prevailing thought still exists that you’re different at best, potentially harmful at worst. The message is, if kink is your taboo, perhaps that should be hidden.

We define taboos differently. We think the taboos of sexual alternative lifestyles can be incredibly nutritive and affirming, something to be celebrated in life. In essence, we’ve redefined taboos as a positive instead of a negative. We want people to talk about the taboos of sexual alternatives with candor, acceptance and security, yet without shame or fear.

“Talking the Taboos” is a prelude to learning about the ways we can all participate in healthier, safer and more fulfilling alternative sexual lifestyles. We see ourselves as facilitators, working to demystify kink and BDSM and help make it more accessible and approachable. We want to initiate the ideas and changes in our communities which promote informed consent, openness and confront abuse. In our teaching, we want to advance play techniques, so participants learn a better way of doing things. We want people to acquire the tools to get the most out of their kink journey. Therefore, by that metaphorical act of talking about the taboos, we aspire to be catalysts of change.

2.­ ​Who or what was a catalyst for you?

​Our catalyst grew organically, from our separate and shared experiences in the kink world. Over time, we shared our perspectives with each other and remarked about the conversations we didn’t see occurring often enough.

One problem in the kink community is that it can be very hierarchical and dogmatic. Kinky people often joke about “the one true way” of doing things when it comes to BDSM play and
relationships. This dogma is based less on what’s best and more on long held conventions, even if they are wrong.

Over time, Ms.Pomegranate and I saw things that bothered us, both in our local kink community and from our experiences. We reached a point where we realized we had something to share,
that we could use our skills and knowledge to address the problems we saw. From that point on, we became advocates and teachers in the kink community, often being able to give new people the advice we didn’t receive early in our journey. Finding our agency and our voice to create positive change became our catalyst.

3. ​What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

The effect of technology on kink culture has been undeniable over the last twenty years. For example, in the 1990’s, the local kink community in Baltimore was linked by small ads in the
City Paper. Any actual networking was a long process with a negligible chance of leading to a play partner, never mention an actual kink relationship.

Today, the information revolution has fundamentally changed kink. Websites like Fetlife have moved BDSM networking from a small newspaper ad to become a global endeavor. People can
stream kink classes on any subject and learn from their living rooms. Thousands of bloggers and writers share their sex positive thoughts, culminating in events like Catalyst Con.

Technology has had other effects on kink culture. Gear is better made, with an easier learning curve. There are whips with flexible cores, which make them easier to throw. Sex toys are
ergonomic and body safe now. Haptics offer us genuine virtual reality experiences. To say nothing of the effect technology has had on the discourse surrounding the emotional and physical factors regarding kink participation. Technology has made kink, sex positivity and sexuality a very different place in 2016, with much more to come.

4. ​What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

BP­ ​The plethora of misinformation about kink. As we stated, there is more access to kink information then there has ever been. But this also means there is also more access to bad kink
info. It’s inevitable that we mention the book and movie, “50 Shades of Grey”. Various “50 Shades” media exposed millions to BDSM, it became a guide of sorts for kinky curiosity. The
problem is, it was never intended to be that. “50 Shades” was written as fan fiction by someone who had no practical knowledge (or desire) to exhibit a reliable manual for how to live a kinky
lifestyle.

The danger is when people new to kink take this misinformation as fact. When people read lack of consent and breaking boundaries in a book and think it’s ok, there is a danger. When
someone views slip knots used for bondage in a movie and don’t realize that can cause an injury, that is another danger. Because the topic is kink, that doesn’t make the content reliable.

Part of our collective jobs as sex positive kink and sex educators is to debunk bad information and strive to offer timely, credible information. That is the responsibility we’re charged with and should always uphold.

5. ​Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

​Our CatalystCon topic is about practicing consent in kink. It’s appropriate, because consent is the true catalyst of everything that occurs in BDSM. Consent provides the framework which allows participants to negotiate and the parameter that sets any kink scene. Simply, without consent, healthy BDSM can’t exist.

Consent violations are all too common in the kink community. The scene all to often struggles with consent violations in a manner that helps victims and holds violators accountable. We need
to reframe the dialogue surrounding consent and kink. Consent has to become dynamic and applicable in order to address the unique paradox of kink interactions. Elevating the conversation on practicing kink should be important to anyone who cares about building a better, safer sex positive kink community. That’s why our topic is important to us.

6. ​Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself

​Ms.Pomegranate is actually a very good dancer, with a skill and physicality she takes full advantage of as an experienced rope bottom. Mr.BLK once considered becoming a Catholic priest and considers his kink teaching another type of vocational calling.

Mar 142016
 

Jera Brown is presenting Christians Kink Too: Repairing the Relationship between God and Desire. Check out Jera’s bio here.

Jera Brown

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I consider myself an ambassador for the progressive Christian Church and the alternative lifestyle communities, hoping to build better relationships between them.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Meeting individuals who value authenticity: the woman that introduced me to polyamory, the amazing retired minister who taught a Sunday school class I was in and debunked the idea that homosexuals were somehow sinning. So many people who have opened my eyes to the limitless ways I can be authentically me if I break down my list of “supposed to’s.”

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

Non-normative forms of sexuality, such as fetishes and BDSM, are becoming de-pathologized and studied as healthy sexual practices. I think we’re also moving beyond “born this way,” and claiming the agency in our sexual and romantic choices. This is happening because we’re becoming less on the defensive, forced to say that what and who we desire is legitimate. When it’s morally and politically okay to have choices, you’re allowed the space to really “choose” how to pursue what you desire. It’s even okay if it changes!

4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

Maintaining a sense of community and camaraderie. Queer, gay, transgendered, straight, heteroflexible, furries, dominant cis-men, sadomasochistic women—it shouldn’t matter. If we’re fighting the patriarchal heteronormative construct that defines how we should live, we should be in this together. These are the only “shoulds” I feel comfortable subscribing to.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

Because I’ve met so many people in the kink community who are “closet Christians” or, conversely, people who grew up in Christian homes who don’t understand how to feel comfortable with their desires. Anyone who has been impacted by a conservative Christian view of sexuality could potentially find some peace or justice by understanding how much more radical a Christian perspective of sexuality can be.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

My favorite piece of jewelry is my vulva necklace from the Venus Emporium. I’ll be wearing it the entire conference.

Mar 092016
 

Laura Rademacher is presenting Pleasure is Primary. Check out Laura’s bio here.

Laura Rademacher

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I became a sex therapist through a somewhat “non-traditional” route (selling sex toys and creating pleasure based sex education for adults) and I feel lucky that from the beginning of my career in sexuality I was able to focus more on pleasure than pathology. Now I want to be a catalyst for prioritizing pleasure in sex therapy and education to help students and clients find empowerment, combat victimization, have better health outcomes, and bring them closer to their goals. This also means valuing the sometimes stigmatized work of porn performers, sex workers, hands-on sex educators, and sexual surrogates; the people in our field who work directly with pleasure.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Betty Dodson’s book “Sex for One” was a catalyst for a lot of my own personal growth. For many years it was the book I went to for reassurance whenever I needed to be brave and bold as a sex educator. I would say to myself, “If Betty could do it, you can too.” Also, all the people who attended the home sex toy parties in my first few years as an educator. Their questions and comments helped me grow as an educator, identify my blind spots and biases, and instilled in me that there is always more to learn in this field.

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality? 4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

Recognizing and dismantling white bias and racism in the field of sexuality. Adjusting sex education for people of all ages away from a hetero-normative and reproduction centric framework.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

I believe in the power of pleasure. When pleasure is left out of the work of sexual health professionals all people are disadvantaged, but most of all people with vulvas and people who identify as LGBTQ. Including pleasure helps keep people safer by helping them negotiate for the experiences they want to have. Normalizing pleasure helps people expect that experience and realize they don’t have to “just put up with” pain or discomfort during sex. Don’t get me started…I can talk about the importance of pleasure all day long!

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

It is probably an overstatement to say I was once a professional puppeteer, but a long, long time ago I was paid to make and perform with puppets.

Mar 072016
 

Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale is presenting “Finding Good News about Sex, Pleasure, and Diversity in the Bible”. Check out Beverly’s bio here.

Beverly Dale

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

Hey! I am bucking 1700 years worth of sex-negativity in the Western Christian Church. How’s that for being a change maker?!

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Either we seek healing or we die. I choose to seek to find healing and wholeness in my faith even when the church was part of the illness!

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

Reliable contraception and the approval of Plan B that liberates women to more freely make their own significant life decisions and frees families to be more carefully planned. Yet invasive legislation is attempting to roll back such contraceptive access and to control women’s reproductive lives.

4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?  

We have to change the misogyny and ignorance of our male-run Congress and counter the backlash of the leadership of the Republican party as it proudly flaunts its anti-woman bias.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

We need empowered people to stand up to religious ignorance, theological misogyny, and Christian sex-negativity that spreads so much guilt and shame about sexual pleasure and diversity.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

While I am, in some ways, truly avant-garde, in others, I am pretty traditional. But ya gotta know me to find out which is which.

Feb 252016
 

Kate is presenting Talking about it: Porn literacy as media literacy. Check out Kate’s bio here.

Kate Sinclair

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I’m working in a smaller Canadian city, out of touch physically with the big urban centres, but using the internet and human connection to prove that we can do what we want without paying excessive rents in big cities. I’m creating art in that smaller city that challenges the ways that those folks interact with porn, and with concepts around sexuality.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

A big catalyst for me was Annie Sprinkle visiting the University of Winnipeg in about 2004, when I was living across the street from there. Her unapologetic sexuality and sexual agency really made me start to understand the concepts behind sex positivity. Even if I wasn’t as overtly sexual as Annie, knowing that our energies could exist simultaneously without harming each other was a real “wake up” moment.

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

Some of the most important changes made in recent memory are actually some negative ones for me. The recent changes in the UK porn laws, and recent changes to Canadian sex work laws being at the forefront. It’s all based in morality-policing, kink suppression, and quite frankly the suppression of (all) women’s sexuality. And boy, does it irk me.

4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

The biggest challenges that we face right now are centred around concepts of morality. I’ll specifically be talking about what makes imposed morality so dangerous in my session “Talking About It: Porn literacy as media literacy”.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

My topic is so important to me because I honestly wish someone had taught me these things while growing up. I wish that there had been someone there to remind me that when I was consuming bits of porn here and there, that these things were produced, cast, and utterly created – and that that’s ok. It just means that things won’t actually look like reality. I also wish that the shame could be eliminated, especially for the sake of those that were raised in very morally judgemental homes. I feel like their lives could be so much freer.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

Gee whiz. I’m a bit of an open book on twitter, but I’ll give it a go. My hobbies outside of porn include birding, sewing, hiking, gardening, and curing meat from the ceiling of my unfinished basement like a total creep.

Feb 242016
 

Monique Darling is presenting The Art of Accepting No with Monique Darling and Reid Mihalko and Overwhelmed and Overworked? Self Care IS a Priority. Check out Monique’s bio here.

Monique Darling

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I am the deepest catalyst by using my vulnerability. I am willing to express in real time my challenges and my enthusiasm, the things that are hardest for me and the things that are sooo good that I can’t even believe they are true. AND I spend 9/10ths of my life traveling and touring and offering workshops for people to transform right along with me.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Reid Mihalko and Cuddle Party. Ten years ago I walked in to my first Cuddle Party and it began the journey of reclaiming my voice, my choice and my power. And it awakened my own passion of being a role model for others to have permission around those things.

3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

That its more and more common conversation. That more and more people are willing to talk about it. That it is becoming a less taboo subject and that there is a wider spectrum and playground that is nationally accepted as to what is acceptable discussion around sexuality.

4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?

That as much as it feels like conversations are opening it also feels like the greater the conversation and the greater the permission for people to be more sexually expressed the greater the fear from those who are unwilling to face those things in their own life. SO the more it is talked about the more it is opposed at the same time. The greatest challenge finding us today is to find a wider spectrum in the middle so that its not black and white expressed or repressed, but to find that middle ground where we can all be respectful of one another.

5. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

My topics are the “art of accepting no”, and “self care” which are both life lessons that I have learned and I am continually learning in my life through living every day. In order to serve anyone else you need to serve yourself first so you are full and ready to serve anyone else and its important to have useful tools to use in a daily practice. Your ability to accept no gracefully is what gives others the gift to ask you anything in life. So it gives you greater access to resources in every aspect in the field of sexuality, and life transformation in general.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.

I have no idea who my biological father is. There is a whole mystery surrounding that so come ask me. 🙂

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