WARNING This Post may contain links that may take the reader to adult themed websites. We discuss sex, sexual freedom and personal sexual expression in this post. NO sexual images or content are hosted on this site or this post. LINKS NSFW with exceptions.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way……
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit was amazing, exciting, and informative. I must say, one of the best conferences I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many. I have to stop and say though if it were not for Tantus I would not have been able to attend. They hosted a scholarship for admission via a Twitter contest. I entered and happened to win! Thanks TANTUS! I owe all this to you!
Now,Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit (SFS from now on), is held in Virginia by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. ” The Sexual Freedom Summit features human rights activists, sexuality educators and researchers, professionals from the legal and medical fields, authors, sexual freedom movement leaders and organizational partners all working toward the time when sexual freedom is fully recognized as a fundamental human right. This Summit is for EVERYONE interested in learning about the issues in the realm of sexual freedom, advancing their current knowledge and in gaining the tools to actually create the change we need to accomplish.” And advance my knowledge they did.
Friday I arrived in time for the lunch break and I got to catch up with friends I had not seen in some time. Of course I did some networking with new folks and made connections that will hopefully bring new and exciting opportunities for all of us in the community. (More on that another time.) It became apparent quickly that I was a little fish in a new, large, expansive ocean. Most of the people I was meeting had LOTS of letters and titles behind their names. I became pretty aware that I was in a new class of conference. None the less, I was treated fairly, and on par with everyone. At no point did anyone talk down or act as if they were “dumbing-down” the content or conversation for me. It was ok to stop them and ask to have something explained or expanded in detail to make sure I understood it.
As the classes got started for the afternoon session, I was torn on what to go to. There were so many exciting classes it was difficult to choose. Finally I settled on Sex, Laws & Videos: Legal Updates from Woodhull’s Free Speech Advocates (#SFSLegal)
Presented by: Luke Lirot, Lawrence G. Walters, Esq. This class was not all legalese and lawyer speak. It was a real world look at how the current laws are affecting sex work and sexuality across the US and where the laws are heading. I’ll be doing a recap blog post of each of the classes I participated in (with exception of one). This class had lots of great insights into the current state of laws and sex.
Next I went to the Friday Keynote. Keynote: From Slacktivism to Meaningful Action: Using Tech to Fight for Freedom Presented by: Aida Manduley, MSW, Trina Scott, Cindy Lee Alves . This was by far one of the best keynotes I have even been to. This group of women from the Women Of Color Sexual Health Network presented this in a way that made me think, made me uncomfortable (in a good way) made me open my mind to view things differently, and then made me cry with the empowerment of a people. This was inspiring and incredibly powerful. Thank you WOCSHN!
After the Keynote it was dinner and social time mostly. There was a carnival themed dance and entertainment, but after being awake since 4AM for my flight, I was in no shape to stay up and party. I crashed out at about 10:30.
Up early in the AM on Saturday for a 3.5 mile run on the treadmill. It was a run day and there’s no cheating on run day, even if I’m traveling. So up, run, and grab some breakfast before the first set of classes. Breakfast was provided by one of the sponsors,
First class of the day, It’s Different for Men: Masculine Victims of Sexual Assault (#SFSAssault) Presented by: Sebastian Sprague M.Ed.. This is the class that I will not be posting a blog entry / review on other than what I say here. We discussed the effects and causes of sexual assault on men. Men as victims and why most men don’t come forward to report abuse and assault. Patriarchy, misogyny, and macho-ism. Systems that harm women, also harm men. This was a very good class and discussion . We asked that the specifics of our time together be kept confidential. However personal statement will not be included. Not even my own. I did take some photos of the presentation which we were told we could share so I may post those with a bit longer description. This class set the tone for my Saturday however, exploring uncomfortable topics.
A short coffee break, sponsored by Chaturbate. and then back to the learning and brain work.
Decolonizing Sex Positivity – Re-thinking Inclusivity (#SFSInclusive)
Presented by: Sonalee Rashatwar, Nafeesa Dawoodbhoy . This was a very interesting introspective class that really left me thinking about all the ways we colonize things in our lives. It challenged the thought that things are like my experience everywhere. That just because I see the world like X doesn’t make it so. And in order to be truly accepting and inclusive we must accept that another’s view of the world is not only different, but also equally valid as our own, at times even more so. I have said it in classes about other things but its the idea that Different is no more right or wrong, it is only different. Of course there is a lot more to it … and Ill expand in my post about this class.
This brings us to the Lunch break that was catered by the hotel and provided by the conference. I could not believe that the day was already half over. As I joined everyone for the Vicki Recipients’ Roundtable Luncheon Presented by: Carmen Vazquez, Scout, Kenyon Farrow, Carol Leigh AKA Scarlot Harlot, Megan Andelloux, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yea, its a round table and the award recipients will most likely speak that part I got. What I wasn’t expecting was the level of impact that these award winning social justice warriors have had on the community over all and specifically in their areas of work. Remember I am a little fish in a big new ocean. I’m used to local level organizers. This is where it began to strike me just why I was here. More about this epiphany in my detail Round-table post.
After the round-table I was in brain overload. I had so many concepts and thoughts sparked alive that morning, I needed a break. so I wandered around, played a little Pokemon Go, went to my room and vegged out. A nice, much needed break.
As the next round of classes was getting ready to begin, I felt a lot better and decided to head back down to participate some more.
The class selection was again challenging, but I saw one that looked very interesting.
Just Don’t Talk About It: The Current State of Men’s Sexual Health, Expression, and Exploration in the United States (#SFSMen) Presented by: David Mandell, Dr. Andrew Siegel, Paul R. Nelson, CCMA, Robert Heasley, PhD, LMFT, Leo Donato . These men and the way that they talked about mens health, they engaged and questioned beliefs and explained issues in a way that was, beautiful. These men were well educated on their topic, they have good resources and sparked a lot of conversation. My biggest take away from this class can be found here on my twitter. “When educated about sex from porn you aren’t learning how to have sex.” Men learn how to fuck. But not how to have meaningful, loving sexual intimacy. More in my SFSMen Post coming soon!
After SFS Men it was again dinner time. The day was almost over. Other than the nighttime entertainment and dance later on there wasn’t much more to be done. I wandered here and there caught up with some new friends, watched some of the Olympics, talked about relationships, ate cheese and bacon fries at the bar… it was a good time. I decided to head up to the room and pack my bags. My 615 Flight meant I once again had to be ready to go at 4AM to the Airport. Sheesh, will I never learn? LOL But I digress….
The evening party time was more award presentations and acceptance speeches from activists. One of whom made a remark that was so impcatful on me it it is still ringing in my ears today… “Bisexual erasure by the LGBTQ community isn’t even a microaggression- it’s a macroaggression. Why are there still LGBT organizations that are run only by L or G people? Why aren’t there bisexuals at the helm too?” –@Scoutout Scout’s story is amazing as well. But he makes a good point…..
I headed to bed about 10:30, settled in and had everything ready to go , set the alarm. As I lay down, my brain starts processing everything I have taken in this weekend. ALL AT ONCE! I am racing with ideas, topics for discussion, new classes, blog posts… DAMMIT BRAIN SILENCE I must sleep… 11 comes and goes, still wrenching my brain as it hits a new idea. 11:30… then 11:45. I am finally able to stop it and that’s when it hits me like a ton of bricks. You are here to experience the next level of activism. You are here to see what a national organization can do to affect change, and support different communities while promoting a single root cause. You are here to be inspired.
Not a day has gone by yet where I have not done something related to my experience at SFS. Be it a blog post., Facebook outreach, building new workshops in other cities, reaching for our brand, starting new recognition programs, or just a thoughtful conversation about sexuality as a human right. SFS16 lit a fire under me and in me that I hope isn’t extinguished, ever.
I am again very thankful for the opportunity provided to me by TANTUS for the Membership and by Relationship Equality Foundation for paying my travel expenses. Thank you to the amazing presenters, speakers, moderators that lend their knowledge to this conference. Thank you to the Organizers, staff and board of WoodHull. This was a life changing experience.
If you would like to support more individuals having these types experiences, perhaps even yourself, then I highly recommend joining REF as a supporting member today.