Speaker Spotlight: Tristan Taormino

 CCON West 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Tristan Taormino
Sep 232013
 

Tristan Taormino is presenting Sex Educator Boot Camp with Tristan Taormino, Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters, The Politics of Producing Pleasure: Feminist Porn in Industry and Academe and the Opening Keynote Plenary Address: Sparking Communication in Sexuality, Activism and Acceptance. She is also recording Sex Out Loud with Tristan Taormino live at CatalystCon West. Check out Tristan’s bio here.

 

Tristan TaorminoHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I am committed to educating and empowering people around their sexuality, and I do so through several different mediums: my books, lectures and workshops, my radio show Sex Out Loud, and my feminist porn movies.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

For sex education, there are so many people who paved the way for what I do today: Betty Dodson, Jack Morin, Carol Queen, and Nina Hartley immediately come to mind. In the arena of porn, one of the very first porn films I saw was How to Female Ejaculate starring Deborah Sundahl and produced by Fatale Media. Fatale Media (which was made up of Sundahl, Nan Kinney, Susie Bright, and the folks at On Our Backs) produced some of the earliest feminist porn, and that film showed me that it was possible to make revolutionary, educational porn.

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

Abstinence-only sex education is still a dominant model in schools; not only has it been proven ineffective, it’s very disempowering to withhold information and give misinformation to young people about sex. The lack of comprehensive sex education is the U.S. is appalling. The campaign by the right wing to pass anti-choice legislation throughout the country is an ongoing problem. When women do not have control over our own bodies and health, we cannot be equal. As a feminist pornographer, one of the biggest challenges I face is the rhetoric of anti-porn feminists like Gail Dines. Dines gets a lot of air time arguing about how awful all porn is; she does not allow for the possibilities of alternatives nor will she listen to sex workers who don’t fit into a victimization narrative.

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?

Quite frankly, it’s been a rough year for sexuality. If I had to point to some glimmers of hope, I’d say that the landmark Supreme Court decisions striking down DOMA and Prop 8 have really propelled the GLBT rights movement. I also think that the increased public discussions about sluts and slut-shaming have been productive, and I hope they continue because they have the opportunity to affect real change in the way our society represents and seeks to control women’s sexuality.

Why do you feel it is important to bring your pre-conference workshops, Sex Educator Boot Camp with Tristan Taormino, to CatalystCon West?

I feel very passionate about my Sex Educator Boot Camps. As I developed a career as a sex educator, I had very few role models. There are plenty of people who have incredible ideas and are amazing thinkers, but there are few people out there teaching business and marketing skills to the next generation of sex educators. It’s so important to me to pay it forward and share my knowledge and experience to help the sex educator community learn how to create sustainable businesses.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topics of your sessions, Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters and The Politics of Producing Pleasure: Feminist Porn in Industry and Academe, to CatalystCon West?

Since the publication of The Feminist Porn Book, there has been a huge increase in curiosity and awareness about feminist porn. I feel really lucky to be a part of two different presentations about feminist porn at CatalystCon West. Feminist Porn 101 is really a primer for folks about the history and context of it and The Politics of Producing Pleasure puts porn scholars and porn producers and performers in conversation with one another to discuss feminist porn as a philosophy, a practice, a movement, and an industry. These are such vital discussions to have, especially right now. The challenges we face in feminist porn—activism, accessibility, visibility, censorship, sustainability—are core issues that I think lots of people at CatalystCon West are interested in.

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

I am severely allergic to perfume and cologne—if someone’s wearing it, I usually cannot even hug them.

 

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

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: Jackie Strano

 CCON West 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Jackie Strano
Jun 252013
 

Jackie Strano is presenting Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters, Lesbo Retro: A Dyke Porn Retrospective and the Opening Keynote Plenary Address: Sparking Communication in Sexuality, Activism and Acceptance. Check out Jackie’s bio here.

 

Jackie StranoHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I have dedicated my life’s work to changing stigma around pleasure, sexual health, gender equality, gender roles, and sex and giving more people access to trusted information. I have worked hard at changing the way people think about sexuality in general whether that be as an independent film maker, performer, producer, or as an Executive at a Sex Positive Feminist retail company who also does product development.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Creating the movie Bend Over Boyfriend after helping couples pick out sex toys while working at a feminist sex toy store… working at Good Vibrations changed my life in so many ways…it’s where I met my future wife, some of my life-long friends and colleagues, where I experienced my own sexual awakening and identity so many years ago. It was quite a life changing lesson to be a big bull-dagger teaching men how to be penetrated… very feminist.

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

I am fearful of anything that calls out ‘female sexual dysfunction’ and prescribing a pill for it paid by big pharma and insidious slut shaming going on with mainstream rape culture especially with our young adults in this country and youth abroad. I am also devoted to getting more information out there regarding the rampant transmission of HIV among the young African-American male population.

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?

More mainstream conversations about vibrator use, masturbation, self-pleasure, as well as more access via Obamacare for health and reproductive rights for women… defeating of right wing women hating conservatives who ran for congress.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Feminist Porn 101: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why it matters, to CatalystCon West?

Being a sex positive feminist informs everything I do and say. I care for my sons and family, the earth, my staff, my company, my town, my country and I want to be a force of good and an agent of social change.

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

I wasn’t born in this country and my father and his side of the family are holocaust survivors.

 

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

Speaker Spotlight: Dylan Ryan

 CCON East 2013, Speaker Spotlight  Comments Off on Speaker Spotlight: Dylan Ryan
Feb 152013
 

Dylan Ryan is presenting Feminist Porn: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. Check out  Dylan’s bio here.

 

Dylan RyanHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I have been lucky enough to be a part of the ever-growing wave of feminist adult performers who are impacting the way people see and think about the adult industry and adult performance.  I also continue to progress with my personal mission to connect women to unique and authentic female sexuality through my pornographic and multimedia performances.  I have always felt it important to show a woman enjoying sex, expressing her sexuality in an empowered and thoughtful way and I strive to do that in my work, writing and when speaking to people about porn and sexuality.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

Not coincidentally, I have been inspired by so many of the presenters at Catalyst Con.  I think back to my start in the industry and the people I looked up to are the very same people I will have the honor of presenting with at the conference this year.

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

I feel that there is still incredible stigma around female sexuality.  There is still far less money available for research in female sexuality.  There are still far fewer films, books and sexuality resources created with women in mind.  It is still much more heavily stigmatized for a woman to be sexually open and promiscuous than when a man engages in the same behavior.  Women in sex work are still villianized.  Hell, sex work is still criminalized!  Though we have made great strides I still feel that female sexuality and women’s sexual rights are a mostly unconquered equality frontier.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Feminist Porn: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, to CatalystCon East?

I think that the concept of porn as an educational tool and a tool for empowerment is still a very relevant one and especially interesting when explored within the context of feminism and feminist movements, both past and current.  As a porn performer and academic, I’m excited to sit on the panel with some of the foremost performers and scholars in feminist porn to discuss porn and adult performance, the politics of pleasure, education, identity, relevancy and the future of both the adult industry and society as it continues to progress toward a more open understanding of what it means to be a feminist that creates, thinks performs and works in sexuality.

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

I’m not sure that it’s little known at this point but it’s my favorite personal fact that always cracks up Dee Dennis:  I LOVE BACON.  Love.  Love it. And that tends to rile people up.  Which I kind of like since I’m a bit of a rabble rouser. I also like tea.  Almost as much as bacon.

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