LOS ANGELES—CatalystCon—a conference created to inspire conversations about sexuality—finished a successful but bittersweet West Coast run this past weekend. As speakers and attendees gathered for the closing keynote address Sunday afternoon, event founder and organizer Dee Dennis announced the event would take a hiatus for 2019, but return once again to the West Coast in 2020.
“I’ve organized 13 conferences in the past seven years; 11 of those have been CatalystCons, and this has been our seventh year on the West Coast,” Dennis told the crowd. “I don’t want to get into a rut of doing the same thing over and over again, so we are going to take a year off, look at everything and change some things up and come back in 2020.”
The seventh annual CatalystCon, which this year took place on new dates and in a new host hotel—the Los Angeles Marriott Airport Hotel, kicked off May 4 with meets-ups and an opening reception, with the opening keynote address delivered by Allison Moon, Constance Penley, Ken Cosby and Meg Valley. The address was moderated by Carol Queen. The panel touched on everything from academia to giving back space on all areas of activism to marginalized people and groups.
Speaker sessions filled the agenda May 5 and 6, with topics ranging from the need for platonic touch and using kink as a way to heal from trauma to how to self-publish and a new way to think abut sexual disability.
Among Sunday’s session was “Porn Tasting 101: Consumption for the Curious,” led by Traci Medeiros-Bagan, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and Kristen Penn, marketing and editorial director for Grooby and founder of Ikigai Marketing + PR. The pair presented through their company Meld X Mend. In the discussion, the two talked of an ideal world, where those who want to view and explore porn can do so safe from judgment and shame, including self-shame and shame from partners.
Medeiros-Bagan suggested porn consumption could be treated as a fine wine.
“There is a stigma associated with porn and sex work,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to get together with our friends and treat it like, ‘We have here a nice vintage from the San Fernando Valley … with nice robust bushes.’”
Penn noted rewiring our brains to change the dialogue about sex, sex workers and porn could change the way we accept porn.
“It could lead to a change in the way we value, accept and protect sex workers,” Penn said.
Getting rid of shame would allows consumers to start exploring porn in a safe environment, which could lead to reflection on sexual identity and the ability to connect and increase intimacy between partners.
During the session, the documentary Real Fucking Doc 2 was screened for attendees. The documentary is a follow-up to Real Fucking Doc, which was a companion piece to Mona Wales’ directorial debut Real Fucking Girls. The documentary interviews performers on what goes on behind the scenes before a shoot takes place, and highlights how performers were allowed to choose their scene partners and explore the sex they wanted to have before the cameras ever started rolling.
The session also offered practical tips for consuming porn: pay for your porn, be mindful of pirated content, go to the source (studios, performers) to support them and give yourself permission to explore.
The weekend closed out with the closing keynote address, “Don’t Talk About It, Be About It: Creating Inclusive Sex Positive Spaces.” The address was presented by Jimanekia Eborn, Lola and Zyra Lee Vanity.
The talk hit on some of the same themes presented in the opening keynote, including about making conferences, events and activism accessible and diverse.
The trio noted event organizers need to make real efforts to ensure participants and attendees are diverse.
“Don’t let it go until the last minute,” said Jimanekia. “If you call me and say, ‘Hey, I’m having this event tomorrow, what are you doing?’ Not coming to your event is what I’m doing.”
Zyra noted having other peoples’ voices involved in the planning stages can help when it comes to curating participants at all levels.
Lola also noted that there needs to be room for criticism, and understanding that criticism is not an attack, but addressing of concerns.
“I’ve had people come to me and talk to me about my events, where they weren’t accessible,” she said. “I didn’t make excuses, I made a change.”
For more about CatalystCon, visit the official website at CatalystCon.com, or follow the official Twitter hashtag #ccon.