This is a viewpoint of Catalyst from a person with serious social anxiety issues which sometimes manifest into mild agoraphobia. Add on top of my social awkwardness a “neutral face” that makes me look forever pissed off + food allergy issues turning me into a manic panicked individual minus the cool hair color….and yeah. I got through this as best as I could, albeit I wasn’t at my best this year. It bothers me, it has made me feel like shit about myself, and compounded my self-doubts. I tried. I failed a lot. I fucked up. Hopefully next time is better?
I’ve been trying all week to put my finger on what went wrong for me at CatalystCon this weekend. I’m not saying it was bad. It just wasn’t exceedingly awesome for me, as awesome as Momentum had been the two years prior. I think it was me. I mean sure, there were issues, we don’t like in utopia. The restaurant, while being extremely willing to make me a safe meal, was still having the same major issues as last year: a 30-45 minute wait on your food. When the weekend is so jam-packed, that’s a big problem. I didn’t eat there much, and in fact snarfed down a sandwich alone in my room every day. There are the catacombs of Crystal City, under the hotel, but the fact is that they’re large, confusing and not at all accessible to someone who can’t do steps – or someone with a baby stroller (forget if you are in a scooter or wheelchair).
I wanted to attend Dirty Bingo, since it seemed to be the thing to do and I enjoyed it last year, but when we got there it was about 90 degrees in the room and jam packed. At least 3 times as many people as last year. I was NOT dealing well with overcrowded spaces this past weekend, which happened a lot. A “Sexy Soiree” party after dinner Saturday was the same – crowded, loud and too warm. I ran away fast.
Lest I sound like I took nothing away from the weekend, I want to sing the praises loudly of the session I’d waited for since CatalystWest had announced it last fall, Toxic Toys of course. This session alone made it worth my while and that session has lit a fire under me like nothing else. And even though I felt kinda invisible the whole weekend, I was still appreciate of the wonderful people that exist in this bubble of the world.
I decided to hang out this time and put that over sessions. There were sessions I had wanted to attend, but I only went to Toxic Toys. I tried a few others, which were popular and/or the room was way too warm (the panel that the Swingset crew did I saw about 1.5 minutes of before I had to either exit the room or pass out).
Highlights included a truly lovely dinner with Tantus and fellow Tantus reviewers; hanging out with my beloved Crista and her wonderful boys; having my brain filled with geeky facts from Lorax of Sexand SexualScientist; chatting with MarvyDarling/Sarah – she is tiny and energetic and freakin cute, she is wonderful; I got to hang out with Sandra from SheVibe, and her crew, and I love her so hard; ohgodtoxictoys talk about my ultimate thing right there; Metis introducing me to Tom of Sportsheets who really wanted me to see a rusty metal ben-wa ball (and that’s going to be a post, oh boy, will that be a post); all of the time I got to spend with Jenna of Tantus, and just general awesome conversations with friends. I wish I’d had more, though. I had hugs from some of my favorite people (good lord Tim can give hugs like nobody’s business, I heart that man) and just talked about sex toys so very much. This was wonderful.
I think Catalyst outgrew that hotel. Which is a good thing, on so many levels. But it became so difficult to find people, to move, to talk. And that all led to me becoming more introverted than I wanted to be. I couldn’t handle it. I was so overwhelmed, that by Sunday’s (fucking awesome) closing keynote with Carol Queen and her husband Robert Morgan Lawrence, when Robert said that the whole room was filled with sex educators, that we were all educators my first thought was “Can I put that on my business card?” but instead I tweeted and wondered if he really meant us all, if me with just this blog could use that term too, I couldn’t stand up and ask the question. Lorax did it for me when I shied away. I simply did not have the ability to speak up and stand up and have everyone look at me, in case I would say it wrong or dumb. My social agoraphobia was just in full swing by then. After the closing keynote was over, I wished I had had the ability to go up and say something to Robert and Carol, but I did not. I retreated and shrunk. *sigh*
The dynamic of this year compared to previous years for me was SO different that it has a small part of me questioning if I’ll attend next year, if there is another CatalystEast. I have an idea for something that might make Saturday evening more my style, but I have a feeling that it isn’t something that can be pulled off by me. I would like to take the ideas that have been done this year and past years for a “party” gathering, where food is served, but those were held in rooms that are on the hotel room floors called Presidential/Executive suites – they are small, and end up being so crowded that you can’t hardly move and so loud you can’t really hear. And hot. And overwhelming to people like me. So my idea then is to have something on Saturday evening for a few hours, extremely casual. Pizza. Utilize one of the meeting rooms like the sessions were in. I’m thinking a few hour event for sex bloggers of all types, hosted by the Sex Blogger Co-Op, sponsored by a lovely store/retailer, where the bloggers can all talk to each other about bloggery things and sex toys, and the sex toy manufacturers that are in attendance can talk to us casually and we can talk to them and it’s all just….casual. Networking, sort of, but mostly just being able to hang out with and geek out with our crowd. Perhaps a trivia game thrown in with some prizes of sex toys. I think there were a number of sex bloggers there that I never even got to meet this time. Anyways, since this idea of mine isn’t as big as the other things that go on, like readings and Cinekink and bingo, I doubt I would be able to make it happen the way I envision.
Am I wrong in assuming that many of the bloggers who are bloggers like me are social “misfits” like me? Not everyone, of course, but many? Or am I really just that much of a special snowflake? ;)
Oh, and to update those who were wondering: I had planned on doing the big silicone lube vs silicone sex toys testing at Catalyst. But when Jenna and Lorax and I started talking about it and doing it, especially after hearing about the bio-cumulative effects of cadmium, we wondered if perhaps there could also be a cumulative effect of the silicone lube. Like that maybe a few minutes wouldn’t do much, and maybe 24 hours wouldn’t do much, but what about doing it all over time, again and again? So IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE I plan to hack up various brands of silicone and start performing even more in-depth tests. The results won’t be done for a few weeks. But it will happen!!
And finally I’d like to send a really huge thank you to Laura and The Tool Shed, my latest site sponsor who heard my last minute “Oh shit, life fucked me over and my funds for Catalyst are dangerously low” moans, and their banner resides over there in the sidebar. I was so sad that Laura was too sick to attend this year herself, because in addition to running a freakin awesome sex toy shop in Milwaukee, she is an awesome lady all around. The Tool Shed is super sex-positive and is a member of the Progressive Pleasure Club. Anything that The Tool Shed carries is a safe item.Read More
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I mean “aftermath” in the best possible way, but yet my brain is a freaking mess. “Overstimulated” is the best way to describe my current state. I go from leading a fairly boring life to a jam-packed weekend full of sex geek fun, feminist conversations, sex-positive atmospheres and 50-some hours with “my people”. It’s funny to me how different Mcon 2012 was from Mcon 2011 – a lot of the same people were present (but yet a lot of new faces) and a lot of similar sessions/discussions but my experience was very different. This year I co-presented a session on Blogging (the only session not to focus on anything sex-related, I think), I found slightly fewer sessions that interested me and/or applied to me personally, I hung out with different people. Last year I think I really only spoke with 1 of the vendors but this year many hours of conversation was had whether it was in the vendors rooms or over drinks in the hotel bar. It was enlightening, empowering and validating. I think I have a better idea of what road I’m going to be taking now that my time in the sex bloggosphere has hit a multi-path fork in the road.
I will continue to remain “Lilly” and mostly anonymous. I will not be telling my family anything, unless it gets to a point where I simply have no choice. It’s not easy lying about my whereabouts but it’s been done so far. All that matters is that my husband is incredibly supportive of me and loves what I’m doing, loves that I care. That’s really all I need. He had a supremely shitty work week and was just depressed and exhausted; I felt guilty, a bit, for having fun at Mcon when I felt the pull to be a supportive partner to him but he wouldn’t let me go there. He insisted numerous times that I deserved this fun weekend and that I needed it, that he was proud of me and wanted me to soak it all up. And I did.
I was still my same socially awkward self, but less so. I started up more conversations. I put myself into conversations. Yes, I panicked when I realized that the “oh hey meet us at the bar for drinks” turned into “Oh, we’re sharing a table with Dr. Carol Queen, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Lynn Comella and Metis Black” but hey, I didn’t speak. I let the grown-ups talk while I sat on the edges in awe with the lovely Jenna of Tantus. Crista (my amazing partner in crime for the weekend, and roommate) and I hung out with Ducky Doolittle, Jenna and Metis; had conversations and intelligent discourse on the ethics and practices of the sex toy industry. It was a dream. I got enough hugs from friends to last me weeks. I felt pretty in my big Victorian skirt. Nobessence is no longer an entity, a luxury company – I know them now to be a spectacularly amazing couple leading a fairly normal but wonderfully sex-positive life committed to making excellent sex toys. I’m trying so hard to keep all the memories and words said in all these amazing conversations fresh in my memory but my cursed brain is leaking out things. I hate that. I wish I could have just been wired all weekend, recording everything like a spy. For my own personal use, of course, nothing else!
You all know I’ve never thought much of the Big 5 companies of the sex toy industry, but I know think even less of them if possible. While I can’t repeat some of what was said, suffice to say you should just take my word for it. Support the smaller companies whenever possible, you’ll never regret it. But I also learned that I’m wrong sometimes and while I still say JimmyJane is overpriced, Jacq from Sugar in Baltimore told me things that changed my opinion a bit. I finally held a fully-charged Form 2 in my hands and noticed it only once had that wonky motor issue other reviewers had mentioned but I also noticed that it was perhaps a little more powerful than I expected and it certainly surpassed the (still hate it) Form 3.
I think I’d like to consider the possibility of hanging up my shingle as an official consultant. Now to narrow down who I can help and what I can do and how to go about making this a reality. But there are a number of smaller sex toy companies/manufacturers/adult industry people that need a better SEO presence and need more information on social media but don’t know how to get it. I think I have something to offer. I have the experience of being on both sides of the coin.
Not everyone will be walking away from MomentumCon with the glowingly positive experience that I had. Some people are hard to please, some are argumentative, some are just simply looking for absolute perfection from everyone and every word said. It won’t happen. Nobody is perfect and people don’t always do/say the right thing – but we tried. We all had good hearts. But the first person to gripe about my “privilege” and “checking it” just because I was able to go to Mcon? Will be told where to go. I was not handed my trip to to Mcon on a silver freaking platter, I worked MY ASS OFF to make the money to get there. I made sacrifices and I worked hard.
So read everything with a grain of salt.
I can only hope and pray that there will be a Momentum 2013 because we all need more – more instruction, more discussion, more debates, more affirmations – and we’re not done learning. If you are reading this and read my posts about last year’s event and say “I wish I could have gone”, here is my advice to you: Do whatever you have to do to start saving up now and get yourself there next year. You have no idea how it will change you. It changes you. It’s amazing. Thank you, everyone, for making this weekend the best weekend I’ll have all year, hands down.Read More
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If you thought I was
intimidated freaked out excited by the list of presenters, you should have seen me when I viewed the list of sessions. The one that caught my eye and I Will. Not. Miss1. is just….oye I’m so verklempt. Read this.
Sex toys, or “novelties,” are a billion dollar business. It’s an industry that thrives on creative (and not so creative) minds and ethical (and not so ethical) business practices. Get an insider’s look at a few company’s core values, and talk about material safety, creative rip offs, labor relations, financing and politics. Hear some stories on the challenges that have arisen and how very important you, the sex educators, bloggers and the consumers, are in moving and shaping up the industries ethics.
I’ll probably have to be bound and muzzled so that the panelists and other people can actually have a nice session. I mean, you all know I have opinions on this stuff. Oh….opinions. I has them. I’ll be sure to pack a panty liner in case I piddle a little. Seriously now. The Founder of Tantus (yay silicone!), the Founder of njoy (yay Pure Wand!), a co-owner/co-founder of Babeland and Dr. Carol Queen. It’s like a goddamn sex toy reviewer’s wet dream.
Other sessions that I am really looking forward to:
- Being the Change you Want to See: Helping Stem the Tide of Silence about Sexual Abuse in Sex-Positive Communities
- Chewing the Cyberfat: Body Weight, Size, and Sex Online
- Citizen Science: Breaking Sex Science Out of the Ivory Tower
- Erotica 101
- Queer is a Verb
- Self Expression: A Discussion on How to Be Yourself Online and Offline
- Staying True to Yourself
So yeah…I’m seeing all this serious but awesome stuff and thinking “Gosh these are some intelligent people” and yes. I’m intimidated.
Our session is a lot different; Blogging 202: Take Your Site to the Next Level is definitely more “teach” than “discuss” although there will be a lot of discussion and questions. The geek in me will likely overprepare and have way more info than we can squeeze into our 40? minutes. A little less than 40. We want to let brave souls share their site link and get our un-sugar-coated 30 second opinion on it *grins*
(I might need a bodyguard)
I’m really excited to work with AAG on our presentation and see what we can teach people.
Now accepting volunteers to sit in the front row in their undies to help break the ice and my fear of public speaking!
- I am not above bribing the ladies who make the schedule with rich chocolate cakes to ensure my session isn’t going on at the same time ↩
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So Sunday I had both breakfast and lunch with AAG and her awesomely funny roommate Heidi (I first mentioned her here) and others. More good conversations and laughs. And coffee. Jesus we drained pots of coffee that morning.
The Sunday sessions started out with theby Lillith – she’s also a really great educator. I went into that session thinking “I’m not really a feminist” but yeah. She changed me. She changed my whole outlook on things. Again though, that’s a whole other post. But I want to say here (and will repeat) a fact that hit me hard from her session:
Research has shown that you get more of a happiness-boost from being with a group of your friends once a month than having your salary doubled (obvs paraphrasing here as I can’t recall the exact wording, and note that the salary thing doesn’t apply to poverty or the rich).
YES. This is what’s been wrong with me and why I haven’t truly enjoyed the last couple NYC events like I feel I should have AND why I’ve been feeling disconnected from the blogging/twittering community lately. At those events I didn’t get the cerebral connections – it was too loud, too chaotic, and too triggering to my anxieties. They were parties where it felt kind of like a collision of egos and pomp; where being dramatic and trying to hit on everyone was all but expected. That’s not me. But this? Momentum was like a dream. It changed me. And yes, it recharged me. It made me happy. I now more than ever need this move and need to surround myself with sex-positive, supportive, nurturing friends who care about me, who include me, who make me a better person and vice versa. Not once at Momentum did I feel like I was outside of a circle looking in, tagging along, invisible. I’m at the point where yeah….I’m a sex blogger and I love sex just as much as everyone else but Momentum wasn’t *about* filling up your fuck card and I liked it like that. I’m not dissing those other events; if that’s your thing and you feel comfortable in that, great. But it’s not for me anymore.
Another panel I went to that day was the; the panelists brought up some really good points. (broken record time: this will get it’s own post) I learned a lot from them and will be making some changes with my blogging and my blog itself.
The time for check-out and the closing remarks came too soon. I needed to get home to my hubs and take care of him and his poor impending root canal the next day but yet I wanted to stay in the bubble of the con. It was actually a good thing that I rushed to leave right after the closing remarks because if I lingered on the goodbyes I’d have cried.
I am usually very introverted and prefer to blend in. But this conference did something else…..I feel like I want to be part of it next year even more. I’m truly considering submitting a session proposal. However I’m still not entirely convinced that I have enough to share that people would actually want to listen to. I keep bouncing around a few ideas but I’m afraid they fall short or wouldn’t fit in with the conference. And of course I couldn’t possible do it alone, no way in hell would I stand up in from of a room full 7 people by myself no no I’m draggin somebody else’s ass up there with me. Or maybe someone else will create a panel type session on which I might have something to add to. Who knows. Any thoughts?
Also: If you took notes at sessions I didn’t go to, can you email me? I might be interested in reading your notes.Read More
Like so many others, going to Momentum has sparked a lot of things in me. There is so much I want to talk about; the conference itself, the people I met; the discussions we had; the things I learned in sessions. It’s almost overwhelming, really.
It wasn’t just a conference for bloggers, or sex workers, or feminists. Sure there were a lot of niche-related sessions going on but it was about more than the sessions, even. It was about being in a place where you looked around and felt….normal. Welcomed. Accepted. Understood.
I had a really good roommate, too. He is more outgoing than me and so by proxy I let down my social anxiety guards more and through his easy-going friendliness I had meals with people I didn’t really know and one hour (or two) later knew I’d gained another friend or three. The event was kicked off on Friday first with an ice cream social – where people sat at big tables and either knew some, or knew of a person, or knew no one. And we sat there and probably each privately wondered and worried if we’d be liked. (I was actually shocked when someone else admitted it to me the next day because I’d pegged her for being a fearless, confident woman. Knowing she’d felt intimidated at first made me feel better.) Then things kicked off with a wonderful comic who does sex ed talks to colleges and comedy clubs, Maria Falzone. She had me laughing so hard I was crying. Then there was the perfect opening keynote panel of Tristan Taormino, Carol Queen, Jenny Block, Reid Mihalko and Lynn Comella. The discussions and stories from the people on the panel further opened everyone up. At some point after that a group of us stumbled off to a nearby diner where we relaxed and had good food. Unfortunately, my brain was so wired from the night and for looking forward to the next day that I stupidly didn’t take my sleeping meds – I thought I was exhausted enough to sleep without. So I didn’t get much sleep that night, and ended up looking exhausted most of Saturday (and oh joy, I retained my “I just woke up 5 minutes ago” hoarse voice all day, too).
Saturday’s sessions for me kicked off with awesome sex educator Megan Andelloux‘s “Odd Girl Out: Straddling the Fields of Sexual Health and Sexual Pleasure“. I learned a lot, and I think some of what I learned I’ll be able to use when I host my sex toy education parties – I’ll have to realize that the people I’ll be talking to aren’t toy reviewers like us who are fully at ease discussing sexual pleasure. After that, I had an interview with Tristan fuckin Taormino and her partner, Colten (for a job that I don’t actually expect to get, realistically, but it was fun to talk to her and god she’s amazing!!). Afterwards, a last-minute replacement session where Greg from Njoy rattled off on tangents about the toys he’s created. Guess what? Those who know and love the Pure Wand and are all enthralled at how it feels like the weight and the weight distribution perfectly aid and enhance the toy? It’s a fluke. He was simply trying to design a better dildo for G- and P-spot stimulation, thought that the curve would make it more accessible to people with different bodies (like me!) and would aid in massaging those spots. He thought it was dumb to have both sides be the same size, which just happened to lead to the weight balance thing. We finally got to see at the end some really interesting prototypes that I hope he gets to work on, soon!!
Jay and I then went out for lunch with an amazing couple he met in a session, they’re on Twitter as _Uncensor and _missalex_ and I just love them to bits. Between Friday night and Saturday I got to meet/hug/love so many people that I hope I don’t miss any. Crista.Ann is SO cute and sweet and so is @spunquee, who’s shirt topped me on Saturday. We hugged and laughed and bonded. Lillith Grey and her partner, Synn (I think I have a crush on them both) were amongst the Saturday night dinner companions. The food wasn’t great but the conversation fucking rocked so we stayed there 2 hours – talking about so many facets of gender, butch/femme identity, perceptions, cooking, sex, disabilities…wow. So much sexybrain intelligence and laughter and fun. @b_playful and Ten and others for Friday’s late night dinner and Ten was passed around like a doll on Saturday night in the bar, lol. I met AAG! Famous AAG! Saw my NYC friends Mia and @Insomnias_Bitch and N (her and Lillith did a Fabulous session on Burlesque) and Missy and Brandon. Finally met SilverDreams and oh! Shanna Katz! Another Famous! She’s so adorable and funny and a great teacher. (her and Lillith fuckin made me blush during the keynote speech twittering about my boobs) She gave Lillith a lesson on how to store things in your bra while we were at the hotel bar. Shanna was also responsible for numerous people being caned on the ass (or tits) in the bar, too. Of course by then many of us had started drinking (some more than others, ahem) and things got a little rowdy, a lot sexy and terribly fun even if I was half asleep for the last hour of it.
*deep breaths, Lilly*
whew. That’s a lot! And there’s more. I didn’t even get to mention the session I attended Saturday afternoon on, but that’s going to be a whole other post. The panel was awesome and gave me a LOT to think about. I’ve never been to a conference of any sort so it was just…unreal. And the twittering! jesus! I sucked at twittering during sessions because I’m not a good multi-tasker like that. I left it to the pros. Shanna tweeted a lot of really great tidbits, so did Reid and others.
That was all so rambly and disjointed, I’m sorry. But there’s just so much. So many wonderful people, wonderful conversations, jam-packed into 48 hours that it felt like it was longer than that (in a good way). The “real world” felt so foreign to me, even my own kitchen felt foreign when I got home Sunday night. But my point.
My point. It’s epic.
A good friend was assuring my stupid social anxiety nerves on Friday evening (he wasn’t there, I was just hyperventilating via IM) by telling me to just relax, lighten up and have fun – that these were my people and it would all be okay. That sunk in Saturday. YES omg THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. *wistful sigh* YOU are my people. Don’t you all see that? Sure, as a collective we may disagree with each other be it one on one or bigger events. But we are all intertwined and like-minded; we should be building each other up and supporting the collective as a whole, not competing and eating our own.
Part 2 will come soon, as will a number of other #mcon related posts. More sexy people to tell you about, more wonderful conversations. To be continued…..Read More