When it came to past conferences, I wrote about my experiences and it seemed to all flow out – whether it was that first year when it was still good, or that last year when I knew I wouldn’t be returning to Catalyst (and thought I’d never go to another conference again). But Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit 2015 was just…so…
When I think of moments, of people, I get all emotional and I cry. I can’t find words that will do justice to the amazing time I had. How much it transcended past conferences. How much I love the Blog Squad1, Shevibe (my sponsor for the trip, I cannot thank them enough), Tantus and Smitten Kitten. Rather than being a ball of nerves and gluing myself to the side of one person for the whole thing, I was able to relax and just hang out with various people thanks in large part to the overall atmosphere at Woodhull and in large part to the Tantus-sponsored bloggers’ lounge. Having a place where we could all relax and talk to each other and hide during/between sessions was amazing and vital. It was simply the start of things for us, as bloggers, as we kept being thanked by Ricci and others for being there, for tweeting, for the publicity, etc. When the collective Twitter reach is at least 25,000 (not taking into account Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and our blog readers without social media) I cannot imagine why bloggers would NOT be welcomed with open arms and treated kindly. Suffice to say this was new territory for us all, this gratitude and welcoming. No longer merely tolerated, flat-out ignored or chastised, we felt respected, and that we matter.
This post is long and I’m not sure all of you will care to read the whole thing because so much of it is personal. But I have to write this whole thing because I need to be sure in later days that it happened, that it wasn’t a dream and it wasn’t Oz (although when it came time for me to leave, I certainly thought it had to be Oz). I also need you fellow non-blogger sex geeks (or fellow bloggers who haven’t attended a conference) to understand what it’s like because I think you should attend the next one if you can. Find a fellow sex-geek friend to hang out with and then revel in the workshops and the brain sex and the glory that is being able to have these discussions with a big bunch of other like-minded individuals.
I registered, which had some funny moments. In the bags they hand out many people had some interesting items from Lelo but my bag had none. I’m sure that’s how Lelo would have wanted it, anyways, so it all worked out but I found it funny. Then they hand me a lanyard for my ID based off of my photo preference – I don’t want my photo taken so I’m given this florescent yellow lanyard……that has Pipedream all over it. Slowly, others came in and I got my first looks at new Tantus dildos and the glory of the Tantus coffee mug. Dizzy2, Luna and a few others like myself with Pipedream lanyards moaned about how it felt like punishment because if there is one company we wouldn’t want around our neck, it’s Pipedream. I could almost feel the burning on my neck, like water on the Wicked Witch. Thankfully Lunabelle3 packed a Sharpie so I was saved. Since I was the sex toy mule for Reenie’s4 Woodhull giveaways, a few of us ran up to her & Lena’s5 room to help her fill goodie bags and squeeze silicone from Damn Average and Frisky Beast. I wanted to steal one of the FB squishy paws and DA squishy cubes but I was good! Once we’d spent a lot of time in the Blogger Lounge we headed for a room and hung out awhile, with Bex6 finally rounding us up to order Chinese delivery (she was a lifesaver because getting us to agree and do something was like herding cats). The only sex toys I brought were the horrific ones, like the Rockbox Finger because really….seeing people’s reactions in person is just priceless. When I explained that I needed to run the batteries down because the battery cap was stuck, it was passed around the group like the Sword in the Stone. Artemisia7 proved to be the most cunning and mighty and finally killed the beast. Then it was off to Bedpost Confessions. Ricci Levy – after thanking the bloggers for attending and tweeting and being awesome8 – told a story of her lifelong struggle with weight and accepting her weight. For those in the audience also battling the F word and the stigma around it, it was a particularly emotional story. After Ricci received a standing ovation Epiphora9 , on the other side of Artemisia, says to me “Do you need a hug?”. I did and I got one right then and there, an awesome healing hug that I will not forget. We eventually all headed back to the hotel room and loudly talked about everything under the sun, including (shocker) shitty toys and toxic toys. It was a good day.
I got up early to eat and stress out about my upcoming session that Caitlin10 helped bring to light. I felt like I said weird things and talked too fast during our panel but no one seemed to agree (at least to my face). The session was amazing and powerful. Having some of the Blog Squad up front11 was super helpful, giving me friendly faces to focus on if I felt like I didn’t know where to look when I was talking. A true testament to the fact that millions of grown-ass adults walk around right now with a limited understanding of the anatomy of their bodies and their partners bodies as it relates to pleasure was evident in Jennifer’s story. They told us of an elderly couple who finally came into the store after trying everything they knew (and advice from doctors and therapists) to bring her to orgasm and nothing worked. Jennifer asked the simple “Do you know where her clitoris is?” and he replied that he must, for he rubs in that general area. She educated them and he called her the next day saying that, while they didn’t reach their goal in one night they finally knew they were on the right path and finally had been told the key piece of information they’d been missing for years. Jennifer sobbed at the end of the story, we all cried, and it was a powerful session. I collected the tweets from our session and plan to reread them whenever I need strength and reminders that what I am doing matters and I need to keep doing it. We cried during Monster Under the Bed. We felt all sorts of horrified, angry feelings about the lube industry at Sarah’s lube session. After so many feels, and then an awesome dinner with Shevibe12, Metis, Piph, Penny13, JoEllen14…. I’d had enough for that day. I ran out of spoons, as did many. Many of us crashed early that night, but woke up ready to learn and socialize for Saturday.
Other awesome Friday things: passing around the Hello Touch X in the blogger lounge and griping about the user manual; me toting around the Pleasure Purse and showing people the Jar of Horrors in person; I got to see the shiny gorgeous metal Doxy and feel the Doxy Skittle in person, both of which I will be reviewing when they come out.
I slept in and missed a morning session I wanted to attend, but got my afternoon session – Yes All Genders. Afterwards I stopped at the Njoy table and saw prototypes that I cannot share publicly but I feel they need a signature petition to be made for public consumption. Greg has all these ideas that he deems “not good enough” and so they don’t see the light of day which is SAD because his “not good enough” is already many times better than many exisiting sex toys. I also got a great cleaning tidbit from the “don’t do this” files and I’ve added the update to the Care & Cleaning Materials Guide. Then onto a pool & pizza party with Smitten Kitten and the blog squad. Then we stopped in at the Liberty Ball for a little while, long enough for a few dances and long enough to see Buck Angel go all Magic Mike XXX on us which, if you missed it, I’m so sorry you missed it. Soon though a group headed up to Piph’s room for the blogger PJ party. There were so many conversations going on at once and fun things happening and I finally got to spend good quality time with Mary and Harry15. Next year we need a sound-proofed room away from sleeping quarters for this shindig where we can cackle as loud as we want after midnight (boy are we loud). I saw Luna’s dildo collection and just was in awe of colors, sizes, and squish factor. Reenie tried on a harness and dildo and was adorable. I stayed in Piph’s room just past 3, not long after we were finally reported to hotel security for aforementioned loud cackling. As I walked back to my room alone I couldn’t help but cry already missing those I just said goodbye to. Despite being tired and knowing I needed to sleep for my drive the next day, my brain wouldn’t let me sleep.
Waking was painful. The hall where the sessions and vendors had been was empty, and sad like a ghost town. I went to the brunch but didn’t eat and realized I needed to go pack and get on the road. I said goodbye to those I didn’t say goodbye to in Piph’s room and packed and checked out. I ran into JoEllen and Elle in the hotel lounge and got to say goodbye to them. Leaving was hard. The drive home was filled with tears (partly because my car and my GPS turned against me, partly because the 6 hour drive turned into an 8.5 hour drive, but mostly because I didn’t want to leave my friends). Here’s how I really and truly knew that the conference was the best I’d ever attended: I wasn’t ready to go home. As much as I’ve loved events in the past, my limit was right about around the 4 day mark – the few times I’d stayed til Monday I ended up cranky on Sunday night and Monday morning, ready to be in the comforts of home. But this time I wished I’d stayed, I wished I’d arrived earlier.
Ok but what was it REALLY like?
There were actually a number of sessions I thought were interesting enough to attend besides the 3 I did attend and the 1 I fully expected to attend, but I also knew that I had to be picky and limit myself. To jump from workshop to workshop would have worn me down much faster. For the first time since my very first conference, I felt that the array of sessions was diverse and interesting. For those looking to really educate themselves, the longer 3-hour academies were probably wonderful – but I know myself I don’t have the attention span to finish a movie in one sitting, much less a 3-hour academy. I don’t like leaving/entering when one has already started, though others did this, however I would consider it if the subject were a necessity to what I do on this blog. But there were many choices for workshops (maybe too many during some time slots?) and everything was kinda fast-paced – I would have liked more time for lunch break and maybe a little more time between workshops BUT that fast pace allowed for the workshops to be 90 minutes; the past conferences I’ve attended it was 50 minutes and that just felt too short. 90 minutes was pretty necessary to fully dig into the topics in the sessions I attended. In fact, Caitlin, Jennifer, Metis and myself had so much to say that I don’t feel we took enough questions/feedback from the audience. I was hoping to hear from store employees about their attempts/successes/failures at educating customers. If anyone was at that workshop and wants to chime in on things, please feel free to do so in the comments.
The hotel was, I think, better than the Crystal City hotel of prior conferences if only for layout, design and the fact that where we were put, the hall of meeting rooms we used, didn’t feel like we had to hide. In the hotel used for Momentum and Catalyst the registration area was right outside the elevators and we shared a floor with the hotel pool, so there was a lot of “think of the children and the offended adults” hiding of stuff. There were some issues with the hotel front desk staff and confusions (due to the hotel apparently changing ownership?) but overall (despite my room being used for someone’s smoke break) the room I was in was great and the hotel was great. Of course there was an issue with the pipes? I think? Causing some very loud whale-song noises during workshops which made it hard to hear and pay attention. Yes, we had less food options vs Crystal City but I think we still made it work.
I would like to be in another workshop next year, if possible, despite how stressed out I was about speaking in front of people. Or, maybe not, maybe I’ll just listen and learn next year. We’ll see. You can expect posts from me over the next month inspired by what I learned about trans inclusivity, sex & depression & anxiety, and of course LUBE. Something else you can expect: A renewed commitment to supporting my fellow bloggers. I was reminded that weekend that Jennifer’s motto “It’s good business to do good business” also means that as a community there is no harm to support others. I will not support my Blog Squad any less because, what, they may get an affiliate sale that I didn’t? No. Invalid. We are all mighty individuals but together we are loud, we get shit done and we are fucking fabulous. We are changing the world.
When you’re a sex blogger and especially an anonymous blogger you may not have the ability to have these conversations often about sexuality and sex toys. Any of you can imagine – find something you’re passionate about, something that 95% of the people in your everyday life don’t get or you don’t want them to know about. Now imagine you are in a place where EVERYBODY is passionate about that and it’s like an oasis of wonder. It’s brain sex. So you’re excited and happy and overwhelmed and then….then it’s over. Con-drop is a thing and in these situations it’s so hard to return to your boring life, where you can’t just rattle off things about the subjects you’re most passionate about to a room of others who are just as passionate and you certainly can’t talk about burning dildos in everyday company or admit to just anybody what the state of your bed looks like. And I don’t know that I’ve ever had a “vanilla” friend admit so freely how alike our bodies are in what sex toys we like and ask if my clit is a lefty or righty but Mandi and I just talk about it like it’s coffee16. A whole entire long weekend of being my “authentic self”, able to say anything I want, is freeing.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Shevibe.com for sending me to Woodhull; to Ricci Levy & The Board for making the Summit so amazing and welcoming; to Tantus for the blogger lounge; to the Blog Squad for letting me hang out with ya.
Everyone has a different perspective of the conference and attended sessions I didn’t, so if you’re curious to hear more please read their posts:
- Calvin of Smitten Kitten came up with this since we all seemed to travel in a pack. Being the geeks we are, we embraced it with glee – Artemisia, Penny, Caitlin, Bex, Epiphora, Mary, Dizzy, Mandi, Reenie, Lena, Lunabelle and me ↩
- Quiet but easy to talk to, Dizzy was among the first I was able to sit down with and it was great to ease into social-ness with her ↩
- Smart, funny, kind, amazing Luna packed the most useful stuff, from Sharpies to a mobile bar to a suitcase of dildo brands many of us have never seen in real life ↩
- Reenie is just as cute and sincere as you would imagine. I adore her completely. She says fabulous things, like after donning a Spareparts harness and a dildo says “OMG! Does this mean I can send dick pics now???? And she just walked around, waggling fantasy cock dildos in the halls and hotel areas like NBD. I can’t wait to see her again ↩
- SASSY. That is Lena. Well, after some vodka. Pre-vodka Lena is still sassy and awesome, friendly and sweet, I can’t wait to see what her blog will bring ↩
- She of cleavage and fabulous smile, full of energy and hugs, so easy to get along with and so caring. ↩
- Caring and kind, beautiful and easy to talk to, rolls with anything – whether someone wants to call her Jill because she looks like a Jill or Piph thinks her avatar isn’t nearly as hot as she is in reality and needs to be changed, pronto ↩
- Yes, we were all shocked at that, and it ended up being only the first time of many that weekend where all bloggers were thanked ↩
- True story, I was intimidated to hang out with her but she’s great – sweet and funny and adorkable, unapologetically honest, she will not hesitate to say exactly what she’s thinking – Piph will be the friend who will tell you what you need to hear, the whole “not sugarcoating it” stuff applies to all aspects of her which is fabulous ↩
- I had a lot of femme-clothing envy this weekend but Caitlin raised the bar. Their outfits? ON POINT like whoa. Head to toe fancy and “put together” and retro and so awesome. Having them moderate the panel was a great help to my anxiety. ↩
- I remember most the faces of Bex, Penny and Lena but my mind was so hyper and messed up, I know others were in my viewline but my brain didn’t register them in the memory banks ↩
- As a company, you know I love them but as people? Sandra and Thor are gems and I am so amazed I get to consider them friends ↩
- I really wanted to learn some photography stuff from Penny because she is amazing, but there wasn’t any time. Penny in wonderful; sweet, funny, down-to-earth and fun to be around. I think she’s great ↩
- Joellen takes more introvert-time away to recharge, so I didn’t get to hang out with her nearly as much as I’d wanted but I already knew that she is fabulous and smart and bullshit-free. She is eloquent and amazing ↩
- a fabulous couple, I really loved talking to them and having them around. Mary thanked me for being her inspiration to leave her toxic-toy-slinging ex-company and finally love what she is doing, and that was both weird for me to hear yet awesome ↩
- Mandi is damn awesome and so fun to talk to, she is pretty and funny and sweet. At first I didn’t know who she was because I wasn’t wearing my glasses enough to see her nametag and she looks different from her avatar so I kept wondering “Who is this cool blogger?? Why don’t I know of them yet?? Must remedy” ↩