Ruby Goodnight WoodhullIt’s been about a year since I’ve moved back to the US from England, and part of the adjustment has been getting to know the convention and trade show scene here all over again. The Sexual Freedom Summit had been in my ‘hmm, this looks interesting, I should find out more’ list for a few months. Part of the direction that I’m looking to take my work into – especially when it comes to the Doxy brand – is education and activism. SFS was just that – an intermingling of not only educators and activists, but sex workers, mental health experts, doctors, lawyers, pleasure product retailers and manufacturers, bloggers, students – you get the idea. It is the “the event where everything comes together in spectacular conversations about sexual rights”, as the tagline reads. The focus this year was on sex and aging – an area that I’m eager to learn about and bring to the Doxy table, but I was growing a bit burned out of shows and travelling to teach, and though that maybe I’d add it to the 2016 list.

Then JoEllen Notte, a sex educator and mega Doxy supporter knocked on my email door asking about working together for the event. I knew that JoEllen would be a great ambassador for Doxy, and I could judge through her if the Sexual Freedom Summit would be someplace that I’d want to be a part of – but still thinking next year. While attending the ANME trade show, I got a chance to speak with Metis Black of Tantus, along with Ricci Levi, the executive director of Woodhull, my mind was made. My ‘I’m not going to do any more shows for 2015’ list had grown by one, and I’m amazingly glad it did.

While the majority of the shows I’ve been to in the last ten years or so all have something to do with sex, they’re usually a very narrow niche. I’ve been to porn industry shows that zero in on the goings on in that microcosm. Toy trade shows are all about selling your wares. Erotica writer’s shows usually go over the latest trends in marketing and whatever ‘it’ thing is going on in the publishing world. Blogger events develop strategies about monetization and the ever-changing issues surrounding keeping your anonymity. The common thing I’ve also seen with these more niched shows is that you tend to get the same participants – middle-to-upper class, English speaking, able-bodied, cis-passing white folks. While diversity is getting better, I’ve never seen inclusion done as well as I have at the Sexual Freedom Summit. Woodhull is the first place where I’ve seen a true intersection of the various aspects of sex come together in an incredibly cohesive unit, and for me, this made a more well rounded and fulfilling experience.

Here’s a brief rundown of the sessions I attended, to give you an idea of the offerings:

The How’s and Why’s of Sex Education in Blogging, Retail and Manufacturing – discussing why sex ed is becoming an almost necessary aspect of those three outlets, given the history of poor mainstream sexual education across the age spectrum

The Monster Under the Bed – Starting the Conversation about Sex and Depression – bringing up the struggles that those living with depression face when it comes to medical communities that shy away from discussions on sexual pleasure, coping with medication side effects, and finding ways to readjust their relationships during difficult times

Lube! An In-Depth Look at Personal Lubricants – a very scientific yet very accessible review of how lubricants work, why some of the mainstream options are dangerously inappropriate for most populations (with one popular brand being dubbed ‘vagina poison’) and what to look out for when choosing a sexual lubricant

The Argument for Decriminalizing Sex Work and How We Can Get There – On the heels of Amnesty’s stance, the panel discussed why the decriminalization of sex work needs to happen, with lessons now both mainstream media and even criminal justice system skews the numbers in their favor

Sex, Dating, Kink and the “C” Word – Breaking apart society’s (and sometimes your doctor’s) expectations of sex during treatment and recovery from cancer, with a focus on kink-related challenges

Yes, All Genders: How To Normalize and Include Trans Bodies – A basic 101 course on vocabulary, including various types of surgeries and common mistakes educators make, so that your sex-related lessons are inclusive of transgender, agender, genderqueer and gender variant individuals

Let’s Talk About Senior Sex – Addressing the needs of the over-50 crowd when it comes to dating, changes in libido, choosing the best sex toy and communicating with your partner as your bodies grow and change. (I also learned an amazing technique to putting a condom on a flaccid penis which I hope Joan Price will blog about!)

Of course this is just a small selection of the 50+ workshops, plenaries, social events, and academies up for offer. Keeping in mind that the focus of my work is education surrounding sex toys, my choices centered on that. There were dozens of other sessions including Sexual Freedom and Christianity : Dismantling the Hostilities, Beyond the 10 Steps to Use A Condom: The Influence of Machismo in Condom Use in the Latino Community, Making Monogamy a Choice, and Reclaiming the Narrative: A Storytelling Approach to Building Community within Sex Positive Activism. This gives you a feel of the opportunities there, but feel free to check out what else was on offer. I will be going to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit in 2016, and I hope to see you there as well!

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