Speaker Spotlight: Lynn Comella

 CCON West 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Lynn Comella
Jul 222013
 

Lynn Comella is presenting Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters, The Feminist Sex Wars and Beyond: “Sisterhood” and Sex and the Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Dr. Joycelyn Elders.  Check out Lynn’s bio here.

 

Lynn ComellaHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I’d like to think that I’m a catalyst for change through both my teaching and my writing. A lot of academics – if not most – get stuck in their own little bubbles of talking to other academics, attending academic conferences, and publishing their research solely in peer-reviewed academic journals. While these things are certainly important, they can also be very limiting in terms of impact and reach. I love the fact that I have a monthly column in Vegas Seven where I get to write about sex and culture for a popular audience of readers. I’ve also started to do some writing for Pacific Standard Magazine. Moving discussions about gender and sexual politics outside the often insular world of academia is really important to me. That’s also why I love CatalystCon so much. It’s rare to have a conference where there’s such a great mix of sexuality scholars, educators, and activists who are all talking to each other. This kind of cross-pollination of people and ideas is crucial if we truly want to build sex-positive coalitions.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

There are so many people and books that, over the years, have inspired me: Our Bodies, Ourselves; Betty Dodson’s Sex for One; and On Our Backs magazine, to name just a few. I have a lot of respect and admiration for sex-positive feminists who were writing books, holding workshops, and opening sex toy shops in the 1970s and 1980s – long before there was anything called “the women’s market.” This includes Dell Williams, who started Eve’s Garden in 1974, Joani Blank, the founder of Good Vibrations, and Nan Kinney and Debbie Sundahl, who started Fatale Video. There’s a rich history of sex-positive feminism that often gets overlooked by people who equate the 1970s with anti-pornography feminists. Sure, those forces existed but they are far from the whole story. I think we owe a great debt to the sex-positive pioneers of the 1970s and 1980s who made it possible for many of us – including myself – to do what we do today.

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

I am writing this on the day that the Texas legislature begins its second special session in an effort to pass SB 5, which, among other things, would ban abortions after 20 weeks and put in place restrictive regulations that would lead to the closure of all but five of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics. Like many people, I was riveted by Wendy Davis’ filibuster and stayed glued to my Twitter feed reading updates. That Governor Rick Perry felt the need to call yet another special session to stamp out women’s access to safe and legal abortions in Texas is just stunning. But why the debates over abortion rights and these kinds of draconian measures should matter to everyone is that it all boils down to sex and the question of privacy. I want the government out of my uterus, out of my bedroom, out of decisions that are frankly none of their business to begin with. So the biggest challenges facing us, I think, continues to be the religious right’s desire to legislate sexual morality, and make their ideology the law of the land.

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 was really heartened to see how effectively feminists mobilized to push back against the war on women, as well as rampant anti-gay and anti-immigrant sentiments, during the 2012 election season. There’s no doubt in my mind that feminist activists played crucial roles in helping to defeat conservative Republicans in a number of key elections in important battleground states. I was especially impressed by the role that social media played as an organizing tool. While I certainly don’t think all feminist organizing can be done online, the 2012 election season showed us that the power of social media can’t be ignored. And of course, the recent Supreme Court decision regarding DOMA is just huge.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your sessions, The Feminist Sex Wars and Beyond: “Sisterhood” and Sex and Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters, to CatalystCon West?

One of the sessions that I’ll part of at CatalystCon is titled “The feminist sex wars and beyond: ‘Sisterhood’ and sex,” with the lovely Carol Queen. As someone who came of age as a feminist at the height of the feminist “sex wars” in the 1980s, it’s been fascinating – not to mention unsettling – to see the various ways that battles over pornography, prostitution and BDSM continue to resonate, creating some awfully strange bedfellows between supposedly “progressive” feminists, the religious right and conservative politicians. In this session, Carol and I will offer a bit of history about the feminist sex wars, as well as discuss some practical strategies for feminist intervention.

I’ll also be part of a panel with Tristan Taormino, Nina Hartley and Jackie Strano that discusses feminist porn – what it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters. The topic of feminist porn is hot, but there still remains some confusion – at least in the popular press – about what feminist porn is. Is feminist porn the same thing as “porn for women?” If not, how is it different? And what about those naysayers who argue that feminist pornography is nothing more than a clever marketing scheme? We’ll discuss these topics and others in what I’m sure will be a really lively and fun session.

As if these panels aren’t exciting enough, I also get to moderate the Closing Keynote, an afternoon tea with one of my heroes, former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders.

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

I own a vintage 1950s Kotex napkin dispenser.

 

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

Speaker Spotlight: Robert Lawrence

 CCON East 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Robert Lawrence
Feb 282013
 

Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence is presenting Why Talk About Sex And Disability Anyway? and the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence. Check out Robert’s bio here.

 

How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I’ve been teaching basic concepts of sexual anatomy, consent and freedom of sexual identity since 1979.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Dr. Maggie Rubenstein, San Francisco Sex Information, my mother, my grandparents. My mother taught sex classes, My Grandmother was a suffragette and Grandad was a drag performer in the 1930’s thru the 1950’s.

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

A willing lack of care and organized knowledge about our history as sex educators, no national consistency in educational standards. Media mythologies and bias which are unsupportive of adult sex education in the US.

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?

Publication of research done on the human brain.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Why Talk About Sex And Disability Anyway?, to CatalystCon East?

I am 100% disabled, permanently and completely. Yet it is still possible for me to have sex, even if you don’t recognize it as such. Let me tell you how.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, to CatalystCon East?

As a lecturer for the past 40 years I’m not published much but some bits of my original work are in use by nearly everyone who teaches adult sexuality.

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

I once turned down Rudolf Nureyve for sex.

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

Speaker Spotlight: Carol Queen

 CCON East 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Carol Queen
Feb 272013
 

Carol Queen is presenting How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive CommunitiesThe Fifty Shades Phenomenon and Its Effect on Our Social Sexual Behavior and the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence. Check out Carol’s bio here.

 

Carol QueenHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I’m really fortunate to have a platform (or several) for discussing issues of sexual diversity, acceptance, sex-positivity, and all the other things I’m known for as a commentator and activist. I work with Good Vibrations, the Center for Sex & Culture, Robert, and solo, writing, speaking, and interfacing with the media, to try to give more complex and nuanced information about sexuality to anyone (consenting) I can get my hands on. I think that by both modeling lived sexual difference/diversity and also addressing these things in academic and lay terms, I can help catalyze others’ understanding of their erotic and relational choices as well as their abilities to act on those choices.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Becoming sexual as a teenager, with very little access to any kind of resources that would make that process easier, AND coming out as queer were the two huge issues that catalyzed me when I was young; just a little later, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and my move to San Francisco were huge influences on me. Finally, meeting Betty Dodson and Joani Blank, getting involved with Robert, and attending the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality majorly shaped my work, my perspectives, and my adult experience.

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

I want to call out four things to answer this, though in reality I think this is a huge and important question with possible answers that go beyond what I’m going to address.

One: I think the world/field of sexuality is in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and others, and I believe a new battle in the so-called “culture wars” has begun; it’s especially obvious in the attention being given to porn, prostitution/trafficking, and “sex addiction.” Look at all the outrageous things being said about women’s sexuality, LGBT issues, etc. by right-wing politicians in the last political season and you’ll see that we are far from comfortable with sexuality in the US. It’s not impossible to imagine a really significant backlash, and I think we should all have our eyes on that as a possible challenge over the next few years.

Two: WAY more people are now interested in making a living doing sex education of some sort than there are jobs to held them. So we have to develop them, and people have to develop entrepreneurial skills. Obviously the health of the economy will make a difference in how easy this is to do, as will the “culture war” questions I mentioned.

Three: I don’t think we always do as well as we could about diversity issues within our community–things like race, class and culture, and in some cases more philosophical things. (See below.) I especially think this is an issue of access to the ideas and opportunities associated with sex-positive education; not everyone gets access to this information and these ideas. (This issue could certainly dovetail with my #2 issue, as well.)

Finally, I think there’s currently a really interesting generation gap in our community as younger activists come into their own and begin to establish some ownership and/or altered perspective over the issues we all work with. Most notable to me about this is the backlash against the term “sex-positive.” I find this really fascinating and also possibly a source of discord that could sidetrack us, as well as affect younger activists’ access to (and interest in) the history of our community/ies and movement/s.

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 really love the discourse that happened about slut-shaming, LGBT issues, and rape/consent after the pack of right-wing politicians and commentators went off on their entertaining and scary tangents last year. The calling-out of those awful perspectives didn’t just come from us — lots of people in the culture were part of it, which is great. If our ideas *don’t* find their way into the mainstream on some levels, it marginalizes us in ways that may make our community/ies feel special, but also limits our ability to affect change. I also LOVE the new Feminist Porn Book and think it’s going to make a great splash. And though I’m not pro-marriage, I *am* pro-marriage equality, and this has been a pretty amazing year for that issue.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive Communities, to CatalystCon East?

Even without Rush Limbaugh and the guy who talked about women holding aspirin between their knees, the slut (or, more precisely, slut-shaming) has been part of the political discourse recently, and the SlutWalks have really made an impression. But when slut-shaming happens among us, it’s really a vital issue to talk about, and talking about it unpacks one of the core elements of sex-positivity: each person’s right to their own sexuality (that isn’t necessarily the same as others’ either in specific practices, frequency, or context).

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer, to CatalystCon East?

Getting one’s work published is such an important part of establishing a voice about sexuality, whether it’s erotic work or other kinds of writing like essays, how-to, etc. Especially on the heels of 50 Shades of Grey, I think many people dream of hitting the big time as erotic writers, and getting more information about this field will be a great inspiration AND reality check! (And people who attend this should also come to the Saturday night reading that Rachel Kramer Bussel is organizing: In the Flesh.)

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, the CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address: Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, to CatalystCon East?

I am really excited to share this discussion with Robert and tell attendees more about our history of activism — and the sex-positive community in San Francisco, which is such a substantial influence on both of us. We’ve had amazing adventures that people will, I think, love hearing about. And we both have a great interest in the way this community is developing and how we move forward, and it’s a privilege to have this forum to share some of these thoughts. Plus, Robert doesn’t have as much verbiage in print as I do — and there will be people at Catalyst who haven’t met him or his thoughts before. They’re in for a treat.

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

I was once going to study historic preservationist architecture, which explains my dream of owning a chain of tattoo studios specializing in images of notable architectural detail from the city where the studio is based. But who has the time?!

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

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