I recently had an amazing time at the March 2014 Catalyst Con East conference held in the Washington, D.C. area, and wanted to share the details of my experience with other AASECTers.
The purpose of this con is to stimulate discussion about ideas in order to provide a catalyst for change in how sexuality education occurs in the United States. Since I am a sexuality educator, I thrive on exposure to new ideas and to having my own perspectives questioned.
Catalyst Con did just that.
There were a wide variety of people at the conference, and the attitude was one of acceptance and camaraderie. There were attendees who wrote erotica, blogged about sexual issues, made pornography, and sold sex toys. Other attendees published sex research, had university positions or radio shows, or were sex workers. Others provided education on life with an STI, taught sex education formally, or taught sex ed to whoever would listen. And then there were those who changed the conversation simply by being themselves.
The presentations on offer at the conference were just as varied. Catalyst Con opened with a panel discussion on Sexuality, Activism, and Acceptance and ended with Carol Queen and Betty Dodson having tea while discussing Betty's amazing life. As Betty's book was fundamental in my emerging sexuality as a preteen, I was thrilled to see her. (If you want the highlights of that particular session, you can go to Twitter and search the #cconck hashtag. 100 people were live-tweeting that session alone!)
As for the rest of the presentations on the schedule, there were three to four 70-minute breakout sessions to choose from each day, allowing plenty of time for speakers to present their ideas and then moderate a more in-depth discussion. In many of the sessions I attended, the speaker also had online resources available. And all speakers made themselves available for follow-up conversations.
I was impressed by the quality of the sessions. Many of the presenters were not academics, but had perspectives that were not usually heard, which I appreciated. I myself gave a presentation titled "Birth Matters! How Denying the Sexual Significance of Birth Negatively Impacts Men and Women." But I felt lucky to also have the chance to attend a number of other presentations.
Among my favorites was one in which Jessica Drake and Carol Queen discussed how "reel sex is not real sex." I know this. I teach this. But there were things they brought up that hadn't occurred to me. Beyond this, the big surprise was the podcasts being recorded by Tristan Taormino and Tina Horn. I enjoyed being able to listen in on a good discussion about sexuality between two intelligent people. Other AASECTers who presented include Amy Gilliland, Roz Dischiavo, Melanie Davis, Jim Fleckenstein, and Carol Morotti-Meeker. In addition, I saw Joan Price diligently live-tweeting the event!
And the action didn't stop in the evenings. Saturday night included several hours of erotica readings hosted by Carol Queen, Robert Morgan Lawrence, and New York's Urban Erotika. These readings were really hot, and it was fun to experience them in a group setting.
The main sponsors of Catalyst Con were Aneros and Wet, but there were many other sexuality-enhancing product sponsors, and the bookstore was excellent as well.
On the whole, Catalyst Con was extremely well run. Scheduled events remained on schedule, and the facility was perfect for the needs of the conference. All of the AV setups worked and the size of the rooms was just right for each session. In addition, there was always plenty of hot water, tea, and food on hand for attendees. Having been to a few poorly run conferences over the years, I know this is no small feat.
For those who are interested, Catalyst Con West will be held in September in the Los Angeles area.
Many thanks to Dr. Gilliland for providing a small snapshot of Catalyst Con East. If you, too, would like to submit a blog post or news tip to AASECT Express, please email me. As far as conference coverage goes, if you're attending this year's AASECT conference and are interested in providing some live coverage for this blog, I encourage you to send along any ideas you have! Thanks - Steph Auteri, Senior Writer