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Apr 072012

A week ago I was at the Momentum conference. I brought home some fabulous memories, copious notes, some books and a bottle of lube,, and a lot to think about. Processing it all will take a while.

There are many things I want to write about.
Jaclyn Friedman’s talk about the importance of authentic sexual liberation in combatting the harm of sexualization.
Charlie Glickman’s “queer is a verb”, which you can read here.
The connections between sex education and health promotion.
Other gems hiding in my notes.

I did however want to say something about Audacia Ray’s State of the Sexual Union which she presented at the Friday evening opening panel. I would imagine that Audacia felt some trepidation questioning the role of sex positive feminism at a conference that bills itself as being about “sexuality, feminism, and relationships”. I know that her words received notice. My partner Scott, who came to the sessions on Saturday, asked me about the questions being raised about the meaning of sex positive. I hope that Audacia’s contribution was met with inquiry and conversation, not malice and backlash. The other part of Momentum’s subtitle is “making waves”.
We’ll never have much movement if we don’t make waves within our own community. New voices need to speak; old voices need to say new things.

I have been a feminist for many years, but I learned early on in my feminist career, as an undergrad student in Women’s Studies, that the feminist voice, both academic and social justice, excluded part of me. Now, twelve years later at Momentum, mine is finally not the only voice talking about bodily difference related to disability. From a question raised by an audience member in the Opening Keynote panel, to comments throughout the sessions, to positive feedback to “ready, sexy, able” the session I co-presented on sexuality and disability, to another question at the closing keynote, sexuality and ability had a voice at Momentum. That is the first feminist space I’ve been in where I haven’t been the one raising all the questions. It’s also the first space I’ve been in where, as someone with a visible disability, I felt fully and completely equal to other conference participants.

While all of this requires much more exploration and discovery, I thought I’d share some of the Momentum highlights, in no particular order of significance or occurrence.

  • Francisco Ramirez, in explaining the hows and whys of giving free sex and relationship advice in New York City parks, says “Serving doesn’t have to have a dollar sign on it.”
    Having started out with a host of educational materials, Francisco now utilizes compassionate listening and the occasional diagram scratched into the dirt.
  • When discussing the benefits of brick-and mortar sex toy shops over online shopping, namely the ability to look at and handle toys, Carol Queen offered this gem: “What is your sexuality asking you to give it as a present?”
  • Greg–founder of NJoy Toys–thinks, looking at his sale figures, that he can “take credit for a couple of million orgasms.”
  • Leela Sinha encourages us to find joy and easefulness by connecting with our bodies. The body is a “compass” that directs us towards what we need; as we grow from childhood to adulthood we are taught to disengage from our bodies, to ignore what they’re telling us in favour of what we’re “supposed” to do. The easeful option isn’t always the easy option; easy is often a quick fix, while easeful can bring us towards comfort and joy. I sum up Leela’s session in this way: WE can tell ourselves whatever we want, but our bodies don’t lie. Check out more of Leela’s work at Body Of Pleasure.
  • Charlie Glickman highlights the difficulty of not holding any assumptions and advocates a shift to the willingness to let go of assumptions we do hold when we learn that they are wrong, or even harmful. He acknowledges that this is tricky. That it’s a process. WE may not be able to let go of all assumptions at once—may need to accept that there are some that just need to be left alone for now, but know that in looking at the assumption we have altered our relationship with them.
  • Browsing (and shopping at) the BlueStockings table full of books with Ducky DooLittle. Oh, and enjoying her sassy, saucy party games as Saturday evening’s entertainment.
  • Hugging Joan Price on the fly between sessions, and watching her fill the room with her marvelous personality during her own session Senior Sex Out Loud. Joan explains that she started writing books about sexuality for seniors because what few books were available were boring, not interesting, not sexy, and not funny. Touting the benefits of senior sexuality (while recognizing the differences) Joan says: “What could be better than sex between people who know themselves, know each other, and delight in each other?”
  • Watching the incredibly powerful Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the United states and vocal sexual health advocate proclaim: “We are not a sexually healthy nation.” And that the “best contraceptive in the world is a good education.”
  • And to follow up on that, Ester Pereldiscussed the power of eroticism, how it isn’t something that can be measured the way we measure sex, and, again about the U.S., how”this is not a nation that flirts very much; it likes to score.”
  • and of course there’s Maria Falzone whom I wrote about last year. She really did make me cry this year. I laughed too, but was so deeply moved that there were tears.

I could go on and on, but this has gotten long enough. I’m looking to the future, seeing how I can move with the Momentum.
In planning the sex and disability session (which I will write about another time), my co-presenter Dr. Ruthie and I wanted the talk to carry into the future, so we developed this resource list that people can add to. I would be remiss in not sharing it here.
Reay Sexy Able: a sex and disability resource list.

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