Chronic Sex at Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit


We’ve wanted to attend Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit for a while. So this year we were chuffed to be invited to co-sponsor a day in its Bloggers’ Lounge along with friends from Doxy and Sheets of San Francisco. We were lucky to have Ruby of Doxy demoing Hot Octopuss’s toys on the day, but we also wanted to get a perspective from one of the bloggers attending. So we asked Kirsten Schultz of Chronic Sex to report on her Woodhull trip for us.

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I’m fairly new in the sexuality world, only being on the scene for a little over a year. Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit is only the second sexuality conference I’ve attended, but I certainly took a lot away from it. Meeting people, learning new things, and getting great swag was only a part of it. Here are my top takeaways:

1) Sexuality educators are about more than sex

This was my first time attending Woodhull, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Attending the initial sessions, I felt like I had found a conference that was about everything I was – social justice, sexual health, and fun. Woodhull brings together human rights activists, sex writers, educators and researchers, legal and medical professionals, and others – all working towards “the time when sexual freedom is fully recognized as a fundamental human right”. True to the idea of intersectionality, from Kimberlé Crenshaw, we spoke about how various marginalizations can affect how our sexual freedoms are seen, advocated for, and understood.

2) Activists have to practice self-care

One of the things we activists tend to do is keep going and going as though we have unlimited energy and resources. That isn’t sustainable, regardless of ability, but can also serve to leave out introverts or those of us with disabilities. Thankfully, for those of us who are more introverted or overwhelmed, JoEllen Notte hosted the Sex Geek Salon. This was an opportunity to color, make Doxy necklaces, play games, and just hang out. There were even props for a photo shoot, including a vulva! It was a great space to spend time, unwind, and connect without a lot of pressure or structure.

And, sometimes? Self-care is ordering pizza and eating it in the bathtub.

3) Meeting blogger pals is the best

The Digital Creators’ Meet ’n’ Greet, hosted by Dangerous Lilly and Red Hot Suz, was a blast. It was wonderful to meet in person people I’ve admired and been talking to on the interwebs for a while. There’s something special about meeting colleagues in real life that makes things feel more real. It definitely helped my imposter syndrome!

4) High quality swag

The Blogger’s Lounge was a great place to unwind, grab some snacks, and even color thanks to Ducky Doolittle and Sola. It was a fantastic place to talk about the various sponsors’ toys and tools – especially if, like me, you snagged some goodies from Doxy, Sheets of San Francisco, and our own Hot Octopuss.

5) You may just run into some of your heroes

Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, gave a wonderful talk about fighting Prop 60 in California. He spoke about the hurdles they faced, tools to use, and more. Perhaps most importantly for me, he touched upon the importance of starting or connecting with a non-profit when you’re fighting against a legal issue. It’s also important to know who your allies are and to tailor your message to them. For instance, the California Democratic, GOP, and Libertarian parties all supported FSC and their effort to get Prop 60 turned down – but there’s no way you can use the same message for each of these groups.

6) The Blog Squad is the future of our world

During one of the workshops, misinformation about what is and isn’t body-safe was shared as though it were fact. One of my favorite things about Woodhull, though, was that the Blog Squad – a group of badass bloggers – was all over it on social media and in person.

7) Disability is often forgotten in sex positivity

Unfortunately, as a disabled person, there were things that happened at Woodhull that made me and others uncomfortable. While the event was physically accessible, there were other areas of inclusion that weren’t always tackled – for example, ableist language was used, and some speakers showed a lack of recognition of how disability or chronic illness affects sexuality (or didn’t feel it was important to take this into account). At one point, the sexual agency of disabled people was discussed by abled people without bringing a disabled perspective in. This exclusion of disabled people is a wider issue in the sex positive community and sex industry that I hope to cover in more detail for Hot Octopuss in future.

This wasn’t the case for every session or workshop. Some, like Jules Purnell’s session on polyamory, focused on how the common narrative often excludes a number of people – including us disabled or chronically ill peeps. Jessica Mijnssen presented about sexuality and activism with IBD, especially around ostomies. The workshop I ran with Hedonish also touched upon the vastness of illness/disability and sexuality.

All in all, I enjoyed my time at Woodhull. Like most conferences, it still needs more work to be inclusive, but I really loved spending time with like-minded people, discussing how to make the world a better place. I came away with even more of a fire in my heart for change. If you haven’t gone, I highly suggest it!

Kirsten Schultz is a genderfluid sexuality educator, activist, and writer from Wisconsin. Through her work as a chronic illness and disability activist, she has a reputation for tearing down barriers while mindfully causing constructive trouble. She runs Chronic Sex, which openly discusses how illness and disability affect our relationships with ourselves and others including – you guessed it – sex! Kirsten also hopes to further research on the intersections of illness/disability and sexuality with ORCHIDS – the Organization for Research on CHronic Illness, Disability, and Sexuality. You can learn more about Kirsten and her work at her website.

 

 

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