Thursday, September 20, 2012

CatalystCon: celebrating sexuality


I'm basking in the joy of CatalystCon, a weekend of learning and sharing with other sex educators and self-proclaimed sex geeks. The mission of this event was "Sparking Communication in sexuality, activism and acceptance." Oh yes, mission accomplished.


Though most attendees were younger and I was the only speaker on senior sex, there were other people with grey hair (or they would have had grey hair had they not colored theirs). I felt total acceptance from all the people I met, even those decades younger. The sex-positive nature of the event conveyed this message to everyone: "I celebrate my own sexuality, sexuality in general, and your sexuality, no matter how different from mine yours might appear to be."

Megan Andelloux
I tried to choose from 40 sessions presented over two days, wishing I could attend them all. For every session I attended, there were four I had to miss.

Charlie Glickman
Some of my favorite sex educators featured in Naked at Our Age were speaking:  Carol Queen, Charlie Glickman, Megan Andelloux. There were names that inspire recognition and awe, such as Dr. Marty Klein.

 (Want your own "Sex Geek" shirt?  Order from Reid Mihalko here.)

I attended sessions where I'd learn information that you, dear sex-positive senior readers, would benefit from knowing, and others where I'd come away with plenty of "huh! I didn't know that!"


For example, the "Toxic Toys" session with Metis Black, founder of Tantus, high quality silicone sex toys; Jennifer Pritchett, founder of Smitten Kitten; and feisty educator and author, Ducky Doolittle. I was amazed by their stories of activism in an industry where sex toys used to be cheap, easily broken, and made of noxious materials that leached chemicals into our mucous membranes.  We have women like these three activists to thank for the safety and quality of sex toys today.


One of the most memorable speakers I heard was Buck Angel. Buck calls himself "a man with a vagina" -- he's a transgender man who elected to have top surgery but not bottom surgery.

As a child named Susan (but everyone called him Buck), he was a “total tomboy” and thought of himself as a boy. “Occasionally someone would say, ‘You’re a girl,” and I’d beat the crap out of them, and they’d say, ‘OK, you’re a dude,’” he says. “Everything was fine until at 15, puberty hit. Not puberty as a boy – but puberty as a girl. Here I am bleeding, my boobs are growing, I’m turning into a woman.”

He had his sex change 20 years ago, before female-to-male changes were done. He was the "guinea pig" for the surgeon who removed his breasts. “For years I hated what I was, and now I love it," he says.

Now Buck is 50 years old, a porn star (“the man with a pussy”), transgender activist, and motivational speaker. His past includes alcohol and drug addiction, modeling, hustling, attempted suicide, and death threats. “I should be dead," he says. "Why am I still here? Because I have a message to give the world: Deprogram yourself, and love your vagina.” Buck Angel's story is worthy of a  book. (Buck, do you need a ghostwriter?)


Carol Queen & Robert Lawrence
Another provocative session was "Why Talk about Sex and Disability?", co-presented by Robin Mandell and Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence (who also gave a fascinating talk on "The Anatomy of Pleasure" with his partner Carol Queen).

Robin Mandell
Robin referred to people without disabilities as "temporarily able-bodied" and made the point that we have much to learn from sex-positive people with disabilities. Robert, who referred to himself as “old and crunchy,” jolted us all when he spread out all the medications he has to take for myriad medical challenges including pain that limits mobility. He has had to make many accommodations sexually as well as in other ways. “It took being crippled to realize that sex wasn’t penetration," he says.”


I had fun at a workshop learning to use the new version of the female condom, called the FC2. If your experience was with the first female condom, which felt and sounded like having sex with a shower curtain, you'll be happy to know the material is completely different now. It's great for folks of our age, because the penis can be inserted even if it’s not erect, and lube in the condom doesn’t dry up or get absorbed.It can also be used for anal sex for either gender, just remove the inner ring. One man in the workshop said it was a way "to feel bareback sensations while staying protected." (This video shows how to insert it and gives lots of info.)


Okay, the female condom does look funny (especially in this model with a dildo in it that we passed around -- should I not have shared this?), but the workshop leaders, Planned Parenthood sex educators Alma de Anda and Mayra Lizzette Yñiguez, advised us to give it three tries to discover how comfortable and empowering it is. They gave me a bunch of samples (three in a pack, to prove their point) to share with my workshop attendees!


My own session was titled "Senior Sex Out Loud," the story of my journey from high school English teacher to fitness professional/ health writer to sex educator/ senior sex advocate, with experiences along the way that were sometimes amusing, sometimes amazing, occasionally appalling. I started out wearing a jacket, but shed it when I talked about body acceptance. (Want to hear this speech yourself, or offer one of my workshops at your venue? I have a suitcase packed, would love to come to you. Please email me and let's talk.)


But CatalystCon was more than the knowledge, more than the networking, more than the opportunity for me to share what I do and how I feel about it, more than learning what other sex educators do and how they feel about it. It felt like a brave new world was possible, one in which acceptance and celebration reigned.

Imagine living in a society free of closed-minded people and repressive attitudes and policies, where we celebrate our similarities and our differences and are truly kind to each other. That was in the air at CatalystCon.

I applaud Dee Dennis, who conceived and birthed CataystCon; the sponsors who made it possible and affordable; the extraordinary speakers who were willing to donate their wisdom and incur their own travel expenses; and the attendees who were eager to absorb new knowledge, communicate openly (even those who wore the "I'm shy" wristbands that Reid gave out), and take our messages home. CatalystConWest will become a yearly event, and CatalystConEast will rock your world March 15-17, 2013 in Washington, DC.


As always, I welcome your comments.

3 comments:

  1. There is so much to learn and share about sex. This conference sounds like a great opportunity to do that. Thanks for sharing your recollections.

    ReplyDelete
  2. pethanks you Joan for your work. Reading/loving your book.
    Do read Rosanne Olson's This Is Who I Am...54 naked women are photographed and talk about their bodies, body acceptance. Yes, I'm a sex geek, too; at 64 even. In church even. Let's come out about this. It's time.
    Good reviews here:

    http://www.amazon.com/This-Is-Who-Am-Beauty/product-reviews/1579653634/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

    -Dan, a Joan Price fan in Scotts Valley

    ReplyDelete
  3. Joan,

    Thank you for such a great write up of CatalystCon and especially for speaking at it. You have a very important voice and I was thrilled to be able to include it and the topic of Senior Sex at CatalystCon.

    Dee
    xo

    ReplyDelete

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