Mar 262014
 

Founder Dee Dennis Announces CatalystCon West, September 11-14, 2014

Over 350 attendees gathered in Arlington, VA March 14-16 for the CatalystCon East sexuality conference. Created to inspire exceptional conversations about sexuality, the event featured 40 sessions and workshops on topics such as sex education, sacred sex, sex work, and sex positive art, as well as live podcast recordings in the CatalystCon Studio. Described by founder and organizer Dee Dennis as a “melting pot of sexuality,” CatalystCon unites sex educators, sex workers, health advocates, writers, activists, and others with a passion for creating change.

“A movement is underfoot at CatalystCon! A movement where open and courageous Sex Positive conversations, advocacy, action, and FUN happen. This exceptional happening will inevitably flow over into the world at large,” said Mo Beasley, who spoke on the Opening Keynote plenary, moderated the panel PRIDE & Prejudice: Confronting Homophobia in Communities of Color, and hosted UrbanErotika during Saturday evening’s entertainment.

During the CatalystCon East Opening Reception, Tristan Taormino was presented with the Catalyst Award by Dee Dennis. “Tristan has been a catalyst for me and for so many others in the CatalystCon community and beyond, and I wanted to recognize her for her inspiring career and all that she has done to spark communication and change in the field of sexuality,” said Dennis.

CatalystCon returns to the west coast September 11-14, 2014 at the Westin LAX. CatalystCon West is accepting speaker submissions until May 15, 2014. The conference welcomes anyone who has something to share and the desire to spark conversations about sexuality, activism and acceptance. To apply to speak at CatalystCon West, visit catalystcon.com/call-for-speakers.

CatalystCon West will also mark the debut of the CatalystCon Film Series, which will take place on Thursday, September 11 and will feature screenings of documentaries on topics related to sexuality. The call for submissions for the film series will officially open next month.

“CatalystCon is like the TEDx of Sex,” said Jackie Strano, Executive Vice President of Good Vibrations. “For queer folks it’s like their Michfest or how it should be. Academics, writers, bloggers, educators, performers, industry professionals, and others come together for a weekend of potent concentrated mash-up of ideas, conversation, workshops, panels, keynotes, training sessions, and connection. I have thoroughly enjoyed and have been deeply inspired by every session I attended and not just the panels I was on or participated in, every aspect reminded me of why I do the work I do and confirmed my belief in education and activism as the road to freedom, liberation, and justice.”

 Posted by at 4:25 pm
Mar 132014
 

Robin Mandell is presenting The Nuts and Bolts of Accessibility. Check out Robin’s bio here.
Robin Mandell

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

The mere fact of my existence as a visibly disabled woman in public spaces is a reminder of disabled people and the real and equal role we play  in this world. While I don’t publicly express myself in explicitly sexual ways, I’d like to think that in talking about sex I’m challenging assumptions about the role sex plays in disabled people’s lives.

As a disabled person, I can freely, as a peer, enter spaces inhabited by disabled people, both cyber and in-person, to talk about sexuality and relationships, to provide support and education around sexual trauma, to promote reproductive justice activism, and more. As a voice in the sexuality field, I can and will continue to bring the lives of disabled people to the forefront of discussion and education in spaces like catalyst.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

So many people; so many things. Of late it’s been the articulate voices of disabled activists on social media. There are so many smart, creative, active folks there. You can follow Gimp Girl (@GimpGirl on twitter) to find a small sample of what and who I’m talking about.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

Most of what we hear or read in the news, or watch on TV and in movies, about sex, whether it’s consensual sex or sexualized violence, is sensationalized to the point of being wrong, insensitive, misleading, or all three. There have been too many reports of the criminal justice system not treating sexualized violence as the serious crime it is. Mainstream society isn’t a safe place to talk about healthy, pleasureful sexuality, to seek support as a survivor of sexualized violence, or to coalesce around reducing the incidence of violence. While sex, and violence that is sexualized, are two different things, I think that society’s inability to coherently talk about either is what is at the root of a lot that is wrong right now.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?

I’m hopeful that the FDA’s decision to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter for everyone will improve access to it and result in increased knowledge about what EC does and doesn’t do. It’s a valuable tool for reproductive justice and for people’s health care.

I’m also really pleased to see activists calling universities and colleges to task for the way they’ve historically handled (or not handled) student safety and sexual violence prevention on campus.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic The Nuts and Bolts of Accessibility to CatalystCon East?

This is going to be a little bit of a ramble; it’s too important to me to work up soundbites.

Disability is something a lot of people fear, and that fear can translate to uncertainty around people who have disabilities. This is often a gut-level fear, one that people may not be consciously aware of. There are also a lot of misconceptions and prejudices out there around living with disability and being a sexual being; there’s overlap here with reproductive justice and sexualized violence concerns.

As professionals in sexualities and relationships fields, we’re not immune to prejudices and misconceptions.

Ensuring that people with disabilities or illnesses can access our sexuality and relationships related services or products isn’t as simple as just deciding to include us and—poof–it happens. It’s not difficult, either. Including people with disabilities does often require changes which typically have not been part of the way mainstream society goes about its business. In other words, making services available isn’t just about shedding prejudices and expanding philosophies; it may take real changes in how things are done.

Changes to laws and  requirements for institutions to comply with those laws are terrific. I want to take it down to the individual and small business level. My goal is to take the realm of disability “accommodation” from something “special” to something run-of-the-mill.

In other words, I want for all of us to build the things we would do to give disabled people access to our services or materials into everything we offer, whether we know for sure it’s being accessed by someone with any given disability or not.

I don’t have all the answers, but I will raise the questions and provide practical tools.

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

Not many people know that I have an excessive fondness for the baby corn cobs often found in stir-fries at Chinese restaurants.

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here

Mar 132014
 

Mona Darling is presenting The Business of Blogging About Sex. Check out Mona’s bio here.
Mona Darling

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
I am creating a sex positive community of women who can embrace their sexual interests and limits. I want to help them build self esteem in the bedroom, (and beyond!) I also want to create a healing space for women who have experienced sexual abuse.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?
Ages ago Mistress Ilsa Strix and Mistress Sabrina Belladonna started a web site called ProDomination. It was a pay site that raised money for Pro Dommes who encountered legal trouble. I was young and fairly new to sex work and in awe of their ability to gather so many women to work together for such a noble cause. I loved the community that they created. I loved being involved and feeling like I was a small part of a much bigger movement.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
In my ‘glass half full’ kinda way, I think this is a great time for sexuality. People are talking about sex a lot more and the internet offers easy access to sexual exploration and sexy education. Not that there aren’t still challenges. We need sex education more then ever! Not just education about the physical aspects, like avoiding STI’s, but also the metal aspects, like being ok with who you are, and what your interests are and how to negotiate them.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?
I feel like in the last year there have been some great movements forward in body acceptance. Still a long way to go, but I loved seeing several lingerie companies, like Forever Yours Lingerie, vow to use real women in their ads.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic The Business of Blogging About Sex to CatalystCon East?
I’m speaking on a panel about the business of blogging. The three of us, Epiphora, Queerie Bradshaw and I, have approached the business of blogging differently and we look forward to sharing what we have learned about our respective approaches. Personally, I think the business of blogging is an important one right now because it provides a great way for women to stay home with their kids, yet still bring in some income.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.
As a kid, my mom and I were members of The Peoples Temple in Northern California.

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here

Mar 122014
 

Francisco Ramirez is presenting Entrepreneurial IQ: 10 keys to designing an unconventional career in sexuality. Check out Francisco’s bio here.
Francisco Ramirez

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

We are all radiant sexual beings with unlimited potential. Yet, society often steps on our sexual selves and quiets us unnecessarily. And perhaps just as often, we quiet ourselves and our own voices. I know I sometimes do. (In fact, I get scared all the time.) But when I’m feeling strong enough, I find the courage to say, “f— it,” and I push through whatever’s holding me back. I see part of my role in life to inspire others to identify whatever beliefs and fears might be holding them back from being their sexually fabulous selves, and to then say “f— it” as well.

My team and I use various platforms–primarily television and online media, but also trainings, research, advocacy work, a mobile app, and chats with strangers on park benches in New York–to promote sexual well-being for all people. My core belief is that we all have a right to lead sexually healthy, fulfilling lives, however we choose to define them. And I will battle ’til the end to see this happen.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Sue Johanson–my inspiration for talking sex on TV! Margaret Cho. Dan Savage. UC Berkeley. Carol Queen. Good Vibes. The Rachel Maddow Show–that is how broadcast and hosting should be done! And everyone who comes to see me at Free Sex Advice in the park: these New Yorkers are constant proof to me that human beings are capable of taking great risks and finding even greater payoffs.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

No hesitation on this one. That people in the US (and around the world) are still not in agreement that we should have gender equality as an agreed upon baseline. This is bananas. That some people believe that the lives and livelihood of some human beings are somehow more valuable, worthy than others astounds me. If we can’t agree that we all should be afforded the same rights how can we ever move forward?

4. Why do you feel it’s important to bring the topic of your session Entrepreneurial IQ: 10 keys to designing an unconventional career in sexuality to CatalystCon East?

So many of us sit on our dreams. But when you really want something, when you really have a dream, there’s a good reason why. If I can inspire just one person to create the next big thing in sexuality, I am elated.

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

I start every morning at 4:00am, salsa dancing around the apartment in my pj’s while listening to Celia Cruz. ¡Azúcar!

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here

Mar 112014
 

Ritch C. Savin-Williams is presenting “Mostly Straight”: A New Sexual Orientation Group. Check out Ritch’s bio here.
Ritch C. Savin-Williams

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
By presenting a positive view of being young and having same-sex attractions, of being proud and happy with your sexuality, of being able to live a “normal” life of your choosing, of having unique talents and perspectives because of your sexuality, I hope to counter the “woe-is-me, suicidal view of gay youth.” I do this through my research, teaching, speaking, and books.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?
The early researchers of sexual-minority youth who said it could be done.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
Accepting the range of sexual diversity that is increasingly apparent and to find a safe place for those of all gender expressions.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?
The various ways one can be nonheterosexual and the visibility given to these possibilities.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic “Mostly Straight”: A New Sexual Orientation Group to CatalystCon East?
To illustrate that not all straight people are totally straight, that having a bit of gayness is common and acceptable, and perhaps even an advantage. It gives added credence to the reality of the sexual continuum. Between straight and gay is a large range of nonexclusivity.

 

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here. Register for CatalystCon East here.

Mar 102014
 

Walker Thornton is presenting The White Picket Fence and Midlife Sex. Check out Walker’s bio here.
Walker Thornton

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

By writing and talking about midlife sex I am able to help women feel more comfortable about sex. There’s so much misinformation out there, or lack of information, about sex for the over 50 woman that women don’t really know where to turn. I write openly about sex in an accessible way, including my own experiences when appropriate, and I encourage women to reach out with questions.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Divorce and dating was the catalyst for me—I began to look at how I approached sex as an older woman and decided to embrace my own sexuality. Once I started reading and writing about sex I’d have to say Betty Dodson has been and continues to be one of my main catalysts.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

One of the biggest challenges for all of us, particularly young women, is the current political atmosphere. Shaming and the lack of sex education is damaging to women’s self-esteem, hampers the ability to disseminate information and creates a negative attitude towards sexual freedom. Challenges for older women are more ingrained and subtle. Midlife women are products of an environment that denied women’s ability to experience sexual pleasure. There aren’t enough resources or professionals who are sex-positive and knowledgeable about aging and sexuality.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?

There seems to be more literature and information about sex in the mainstream media. We’re seeing prominent public speakers talking about sex in venues like TedTalks. The conversation about older people and sex is seeping into the media, even if it’s something as foolish as Miley Cyrus saying that no one has sex after age 40.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic The White Picket Fence and Midlife Sex to CatalystCon East?

The women I write for and work with are mothers and grandmothers—they are often overlooked in sex education and in conversations about sexuality. By encouraging this age group to embrace their sexuality, learn more about their bodies and how to ask for what they want we are also helping to ensure sex education for younger people. The older woman can be a strong role model and offer political, financial and emotional support to the work of promoting a healthy sexuality. And, imagine a world where orgasms and sexual pleasure become the norm regardless of age!

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

When I was in college my part time job was driving a transit bus for the University. And, I’m pretty proud of the fact that my 6-year old granddaughter asked me how to spell vagina.

 

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here

Mar 092014
 

Red Emma‘s will be selling books at CatalystCon East, including several titles by some of our speakers and we have arranged to hold book signings as a special treat for our attendees. The signings will take place in the Washington Room Exhibitor Hall.

Saturday, March 15:

10:15am – Melissa Gira Grant

11:45am – Dr. Yvonne Fulbright & Rachel Kramer Bussel

1:15pm – Dr. Melanie Davis & Mona Darling

Sunday, March 17:

10:15 – Dr. Carol Queen & Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence

11:45am – Tristan Taormino

1:15 – Mo Beasley & Minister L. Renair Amin Covington

*Schedule is subject to change

Mar 092014
 

Ruby Ryder is presenting The “Ass Panel”: The Ins and Outs of Anal Pleasure. Check out Ruby’s bio here.
Ruby Ryder

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

I teach about subject that is fairly taboo outside the rarefied walls of CatalystCon and sex geek circles; pegging. I engage regular people in conversation about heterosexual strap-on sex, support their desire for it and attempt to normalize it so that pegging is just one more incredibly pleasurable thing in their sexual treasure chest of choices.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

The men who are brave enough to pursue their desires for pegging really do inspire me every day! You guys rock.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

The two biggest challenges I feel are first, sex work being illegal and second, sex education in schools being worse than laughable – it’s actually harmful in a lot of places. In a perfect world sex work is legal and sex workers have protection and respect. In perfect schools, sex education is very informative, accurate and teaches about pleasure as well as safety and protection.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?

Hands down the Supreme Court decision on DOMA and Prop 8. Until everyone is automatically granted the right to love and marry whomever they want all across the United States, we have more work to do. Those SCOTUS decisions were tremendous victories.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic The “Ass Panel”: The Ins and Outs of Anal Pleasure to CatalystCon East?

I feel the topic of pegging and prostate pleasure is a much misunderstood sleeper in the world of sexuality. Not only are there health benefits, but the potential for reviving sexually stale partnerships, men discovering orgasms equivalent to women’s G-spot orgasms, multiple orgasms and a marked deepening of a couple’s intimacy is without compare.

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

I live on a 12 acre horse ranch where the street lights are far away and I can see all the stars at night. In the distance I hear horses whinnying occasionally at all hours of the night and day.

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here

Mar 082014
 

Dr. Yvonne Fulbright is presenting The Hijacking of Healthy Sexuality. Check out Dr. Fulbright’s bio here.
Yvonne Fulbright

1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
My mission as a sexuality educator has been simple: to equip people with the information, skills and tools they need to make their own decisions, within their own value system, about sexuality-related matters. A major message I try to convey is that to be sexual is healthy and natural – something so many in our society still don’t grasp or support. I stand on the shoulders of giants in the field of comprehensive sexuality education, continuing their work to change the way we handle sexuality in our society, e.g., making it less taboo and shameful. This has included taking on efforts that others wouldn’t dare touch, like penning a sex column for Foxnews.com and getting behind my own line of sexual enhancement products.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?
When I moved to the States (from Iceland) at 10-years-old, I recognized the mishandling of sexuality matters almost immediately. As the first girl in my class hit puberty, I received lots of unwanted attention and felt scrutinized by peers’ parents, fearful that their child was next. In 6th grade, I was given the opportunity, for a class project, to give a 5-minute presentation on the female reproductive system, conception and menstruation. As I spoke, using a model of the female reproductive system made out of junk, my classmates’ eyes were the size of saucers. I realized that I was comfortable with something many aren’t. Never having heard of Dr. Ruth or the field of sexuality education, I knew that teaching others about sex was something I had to do more of as an adult.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
In a nutshell: Far Right conservatives are still enemy #1 when it comes to any sex ed and sexual and reproductive health efforts, including funding for such. What we saw take place last election year highlights the fact that women are still considered second class citizens in this country, which is very related to a lot of the issues that sexuality educators take on daily.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?

Sexual wellness products have become less taboo in the marketplace, with more stores recognizing that they need to carry certain products in enabling customers to take care of their sexual and reproductive health. The sexual wellness industry is booming more than ever, and will only get bigger, enabling us to educate more people, who otherwise wouldn’t get information, about healthy sexuality.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic The Hijacking of Healthy Sexuality to CatalystCon East?
I pitched the “Hijacking of Healthy Sexuality” topic because I’ve been concerned about who has had the mic (in the media) in steering conversations around sexuality. Often, there’s a personal agenda, e.g., self-promotion, or a business one, e.g., the pharmaceutical and porn industries standing to make tons of money, with the information that’s disseminated often misguided, based on personal values vs. facts, and/or incomplete. While people have greater access to sexuality resources than ever, a number of those resources are problematic, e.g., people with zero creds in sex ed. People, especially parents, need better guidance when it comes to scrutinizing their resources and learning how to communicate their values about healthy sexuality to their families.

6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself.
For as public as I’ve been in my sexuality education efforts, I’m a very private person (it’s the Icelander in me).

 

Learn more about all of our amazing speakers here.

Mar 072014
 

Melanie Davis is presenting Shattering Assumptions about Sex and Aging. Check out Melanie’s bio here.
Melanie Davis

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

As co-president of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium, I’m able to call attention to the need for sexuality education, healthcare, and advocacy related to older adults’ sexualities and expression. As this organization grows, we’re fostering change by training professionals, paraprofessionals, students and consumers. It’s an honor to be a leader in this area of specialty.

2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?

My experiences as a Planned Parenthood patient educator and sex educator for my church inspired me to earn my PhD in Human Sexuality Education at Widener University and switch careers from marketing to sexuality education.

3. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

The continuing onslaught from sex-negative groups with the money and power to convert harmful agendas into legislation.

4. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?

Increasing numbers of states recognizing marriage equality and greater numbers of people entering the sexuality education field.

5. Why do you feel it is important to bring this topic Shattering Assumptions about Sex and Aging to CatalystCon East?

I’ll be addressing age-related sexual privilege, i.e., the assumption that sexual attraction, interest, and pleasure aren’t appropriate for people over middle age. It behooves us to honor the sexuality of older adults and to ensure that sexual rights and privileges remain everyone’s to enjoy throughout their lifespan.

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

My husband and I took first prize in a ballroom dance competition’s “Over Age 40 Paso Doble Show Dance” category. We were the only competitors, but still…

Learn more about all our amazing speakers here