Recently I had the pleasure of attending CatalystCon, a conference put together by Dee Dennis and her dedicated supporters. Dennis first created its east coast predecessor MomentumCon that took place in March in DC. MomentumCon looked to make waves in sexuality, feminism and relationships. The list of presenters was staggering and included a closing keynote plenary with Dr. Jocelyn Elders.  The growing success of MomentumCom, in its second year, brought many requests to bring the conference out west. With so much interest and so many possible presenters located nearby CatalystCon was born. Less focused on feminism than MomentumCon, the goal of CatalystCon is sparking communication in sexuality, activism and acceptance.

The concept of the conference is to bring together sex educators, therapists, sex bloggers, activists, sex workers, writers and like-minded individuals to start a dialog that will spark change in how we view and treat sexuality.  This is vitally important with so much at stake lately regarding women’s rights, sex education and sexuality. Dennis has brought together an impressive array of speakers; Carol Queen, Dr. Marty Klein, Charlie Glickman, Meghan Andelloux, Reid Mihalko, Joan Price, Sex Nerd Sandra Daugherty, Buck Angel, Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence, Maggie Mayhem, Francisco Ramirez and Shira Tarrant are just a few of them. Check out the site for the complete listing.

The conference was held at the Hilton in Long Beach. A pre-conference party “Gloryhole: The Pleasure Chest uncut” was held Thursday night at The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood. There was also a pre-conference CE seminar: When Sex Gets Complicate: Working With Couples Around Affairs, Pornography and Cybersex with Dr. Marty Klein. While the pre-conference seminar was geared towards professionals, non-professionals were invited to attend.

The opening reception started out with some delicious food. Several tables had different stations with pastas, salads and hors d’oeuvres. The room was set up with tables so you could dine and chat. Reid Mihalko led a little “social lubrication” ice breaking session. During the session people asked each other what they are into and what brought them here. It was a way to meet new people and to get the energy going for the weekend. As if that wasn’t enough fun, it was followed by “Sex Rules” with Maria Falzone.  It was an abbreviated version of her act and talked about sex in a way that was hilarious and thought provoking. She mixed in her own “Sex Rules” with the rules of the conference giving a reading of the privacy policy and standards of conduct that was unforgettable.

The opening keynote plenary started after opening remarks from Dee Dennis. Moderated by Lynn Comella, PhD, the panelists Dr. Marty Klein, Megan Andelloux, Maggie Mayhem and Francisco Ramirez, MRH introduced themselves to the audience then took on a number of subjects.  Hearing about what inspired them to start their work, what they see as goals and which battles they invest in was an inspiring way to start the weekend. The audience asked very interesting and provocative questions at the end. Each panelist shared great personal stories and powerful statements that will stay with many in that room for a very long time. The panelists left us with lots to ponder such as talking about the emotional element as well as the facts, that what makes sense to a sex educator might not make sense to the average person, learning to listen and acknowledge and that we should find our own catalyst.

Saturday had a full day of sessions that were scheduled five at a time. There were a variety of subjects to choose from such as relationship models, politics, writing, censorship, educations, gender, sex work, media, safe sex and the business side of sex education. I attended Dr. Marty Klein’s War on Sex in America. Dr. Klein was a dynamic and funny speaker with a wealth of knowledge about 1st amendment rights and dealing with the government. I followed that up with Sex Education: Out on the Classroom and into the Streets. Moderated by Carol Queen, the panel consisted of Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence, Ava Mir-Ausziehen, jessica drake and Sex Nerd Sandra Daugherty. They discussed the different ways to help educate and inform since we can’t rely on school, church or family. I missed the next two sessions but I returned to When Is An Orgasm A Political Act with Meghan Andelloux. This session not only had a wealth of information but also was quite provocative.  Good quality sex education is suffering because of antiquated ideas of morality and an inability to be honest and informed.  Her videos really challenged a couple of people in the session. The session period ended with two offerings. You could attend the Safe Office special demonstration about online security and privacy or the Aneros Evi debut with an entertaining and informative sex education presentation Girl Gasms with Ducky Doolittle.

Saturday evening started after the dinner break with an overlapping selection of entertainment. It started with a screening of “How To Lose Your Virginity” by Heather Shechter. The documentary looks into how virginity loss and how it is linked to morality and self worth. Later you could find Dirty Bingo with Ducky Doolittle. She had titillating bingo cards and tantalizing prizes all combined with Ducky’s stories and funny banter.  Overlapping with this was Bawdy Storytelling. Dixie De La Tour brings several conference presenters on the stage to tell their personal stories. Allison Moon, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Sarah Dopp, Carol Queen, Sex Nerd Sandra, Meghan Andelloux and Reid Mihalko all shared personal stories that where hilarious and revealing. Proving that sharing stories is a great way to educate as well as entertain.

Sunday also had sessions scheduled five at a time but they did not last all day. Sessions were scheduled until the lunch break. They consisted of another enticing selection of topics with amazing presenters such as sex in the media, how to start as a sex educator, sex and disability, senior sex, talking to kids, online activism, 50 Shades and feminism and having a successful online business. I enjoyed Sex in the Media with Shira Tarrant, PhD, Lynn Comella, PhD, and Charlie Glickman, PhD. The session gave suggestions on how to fight misinformation and the tendency towards sound bites in the media that lack complete and credible information. After the lunch break was the Closing Keynote Plenary. John Stagliano, Constance Penley, PHD and Allan Gelbard, Esq, discussed defending pornography, what constitutes obscenity and intellectual property violations. They share all they’ve learned while defending Stagliano and other cases.  Learning about these cases can help others who have to defend their work in the future.

The entire weekend ended with a heartfelt thank you from Dee Dennis and the announcement of the winner of the Scarleteen Fundraiser that had been going on all weekend. Sunday afternoon people made their way to either the bar to unwind or to await taxis to bring them to the airport.  Attendees talked about how much they were inspired, energized and validated. If Dennis’ goal was to spark change and inspire conversations about sexuality that goal was met and surpassed.  The next conference will be CatalystCon East next March in DC and CatalystCon should be returning to Long Beach next year.  One can only hope CatalystCon can to continue to challenge, enlighten and inspire the sex positive community for quite some time.

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