So I am right now in an airplane that is shaking around so much I feel somewhat certain we are all going to die tonight. In which case, I need to get this out there before I die. Please have an orgy in my honour, kittens. With tea. And crumpets.
This weekend I was at a feminism and sexuality conference called Momentum- surrounded by all sorts of sex geeks like Audacia Ray, SWOP members from all over the US, Reid Mihalko, Carol Queen, Charlie Glickman, Allison Moon, the Mayhems, Bianca Stone, Ava Solanas, Sinnamon Love, Cunning Minx... I could keep going. Seriously, so many amazing people, and a whole lotta brain going on.
I have to admit, though. I was a little bit disappointed at how sparsely attended Saturday's consent related discussions were. Safe/Ward on Sunday was... reasonably well attended, but at a conference which must have had 150-200 people, having under 20 in each of these discussions (maybe under 30 for Safe/Ward) was depressing. I mean, sure. I get it. Talking about consent and abuse and how to be accountable and create a safe container isn't sexy like porn or sex toys are, but goddamn it, talking about these issues is what's going to save sexually liberated people from being completely marginalized by the government, the police and the radical feminists. This is about survival and sustainability. I worry that I'm going to keep pushing the consent culture agenda and be dismissed by the people I most need as allies- sex educators and community leaders. I can't hold this up on my own, you know?
I also have a lot to reflect on as it pertains to conferences and privilege. I appreciated (as did much of the audience) when Audacia Ray, who was in the opening keynote, pointed out the difference between the ideals of which we all speak and how they play out in real life:
Intent is not enough - it is vital that we examine impact.
For example, I know that sex positive feminists value inclusivity. And yet, this panel that we’re sitting on is, to my knowledge, made up entirely of white, cisgender women and men with advanced degrees.
It is not enough to say that all are welcome and all voices are respected. The reality of this community does not reflect that intent, and we must examine how we each contribute to that.
I no longer consider myself a sex positive feminist largely because people in my life, my collaborators and friends, have told me about the ways sex positive feminism doesn’t service - or worse - actively harms and excludes them. And though i have spent plenty of breath derailing conversations and being in denial about that while arguing the value of sex positive feminism, I think ultimately it is important to listen to the critiques of people who do not benefit from the sex positive feminist framework.
You can read the rest of her State of the Sexual Union here, and I recommend you do. I feel she set the stage for people to feel even a little more comfortable calling out privileged attitudes and language, which was awesome. At the same time, I was very aware of who wasn't really represented, and spent a good portion of the weekend pondering how "sex positivity" could in fact embrace marginalized populations- and if that would even be the best move forward. Sex liberation was another way people discussed these issues, and I like that term more- it seems more active and political.
I also became very aware of two conflicting personal issues, both of which made me feel awkward.
1) Get a bunch of sex geeks in a room, they'll often at least flirt with each other, and probably bed each other. I felt very left out of flirtation. I flirted myself, so it wasn't that- I just felt very self-conscious as a sexual fat girl at the mostly conventionally attractive conference. I wonder if this is a Thing (ok, I don't really wonder, I know it's a thing- see: cotton ceiling for another example)- while we, as a community, talk a lot about the sexiness in theory of a lot of different bodies and diversity, in practice, who do we choose to flirt with and fuck? We say it's just about who we click with, who we find attractive- but isn't it interesting how that tends to follow certain prescribed "attractive" party lines- white, slim, able-bodied, cisgendered. Not *always*, of course. But when you go to a conference like this, look around at who's making eyes at who. Maybe it was shyness. But maybe, too, we're not as body-positive as we like to think we are.
2) I really hated the prude shaming and the laughter at the expense of people who only have sex 11 times a year/related comments. Sex is not always a positive for everyone. For some people, sex is scary, shameful, uncomfortable, dull, or just not relevant. When these spaces make it seem like the only way to be sexually liberated is sexually compulsive, I feel like that's really problematic, especially as a sex worker who has a variable libido. My interest in sex ebbs and flows. Doesn't mean I can't be in the club, too, or that my voice as a person with a relationship to sexuality is less valid or important.
My laptop's about to die. But expect more on this later. I know this all sounds really negative and critical- I had a great time, really, and have a notebook filled with thoughts and blogs that are waiting to be birthed. But I also feel these things are important to say and have out there. It's the difficult work that will get us where I want to be- beyond shame, whatever your experience, body, or ability.