Momentum: Sexuality, Feminism, and the New Media
|Tess Danesi and Dee Dennis|
This conference is unique in many ways. It’s truly grassroots, the product of two bloggers, Tess Danesi and Dee Dennis, who realized that people who were devoting their work lives (and often personal lives) to making waves in sexuality, feminism, and the new media needed a place to gather, share ideas, have their voices heard.
I interviewed Tess about how Momentum came about and why it’s so important now:
Who are Tess Danesi and Dee Dennis, and how did Momentum get started?
As Tied Up Events LLC, Dee and I produce MOMENTUM. I
was an accounting type person for over 20 years but have always been the go-to
person when anyone I knew had a sex question. In August 2005 I started writing
a blog, called Urban Gypsy, as a place to put the erotic fiction I’d been
writing, and, well, that was the beginning of a journey that somehow wound it’s
way to this amazing conference. In February 2009, Dee and I attended a
symposium, put together by therapist and best-selling author of Mating In
Captivity, Esther Perel, called Sex in America: Can the Conversation Change?
that planted the seed for MOMENTUM. We saw something we loved and we wanted
more, much more, of it and we figured if we did, others must feel the
Why do presenters and attendees consider Momentum such an important and prestigious event?
For presenters, MOMENTUM gives them the opportunity,
not only to preach the messages about sexuality they are so passionate about,
but to get together with fellow educators, therapists, writers and to
cross-pollinate. It allows them to learn about areas they don’t specialize in
and expand their own knowledge. The cross-pollination we promote is unique to
MOMENTUM. It’s not a conference for just one discipline but is rather an
interdisciplinary think tank where somehow, despite the fact that others may
approach sexuality from a different perspective, everyone feels supported, like
they’ve found their tribe, found others who get them and they leave feeling
invigorated, energized and ready to take on the world.
As for attendees, why wouldn’t they want to attend? With the
list of prestigious, fabulous presenters we have gathered together, anyone with
an interest in the world of intellectual sexuality would be crazy to miss this
event. MOMENTUM is also unique in that while we consider it a feminist
conference, we welcome sex workers and we welcome open talk, not rhetoric,
about pornography. Our first concern is that everyone feel welcome and
comfortable at MOMENTUM. You don’t have to agree with everything you hear, we
welcome healthy debate, but we ask everyone enter the conference with an open
mind and most of all respect for every participant.
How lucky we are that Dr. Joycelyn Elders will be speaking! How did you approach her? What’s the story behind this?
We are crazy lucky to such an esteemed speaker as part of
our closing plenary. I spoke to Dr. Elders on the phone and actually found
myself holding back tears because how the hell did I get on the phone with Dr.
Joycelyn Elders! It was mind blowing. We owe Lara Riscol, who along with Esther
Perel and Dr. Elders, comprises our closing panel, for approaching Dr.
Elders. Lara, an excellent journalist, and I met at MOMENTUM 2011 and have kept
in touch. Lara had met Dr. Elders at another convention and contacted her
about being part of MOMENTUM and to our unmitigated delight, she said yes! To
have both Esther Perel, who stoked the fires that resulted in MOMENTUM and Dr.
Elders participate in MOMENTUM feels rewarding beyond mere words and my
heartfelt thanks go out to both of them, and to Lara, for believing in this
I’m personally honored to be presenting “Senior Sex Out Loud.” Is this the first time Momentum has offered a session specifically about aging and sexuality? Why was it important to you to bring this topic to Momentum?
We’re honored to have you! And yes, last year we didn’t have
anything on sex and aging. Personally, as a woman in my 50’s, who, by the way
doesn’t feel like a senior anything (well most of time I don’t), I know that
things change. At least I’m educated about sexuality and these changes aren’t
unexpected, but with an aging population in a youth-centric culture, where many
women still feel the need to lie about their age, and sexuality is still
whispered about, people need acceptance of the facts of aging and knowledge to
empower themselves. And like the title of your book, they need it out loud not
whispered about like a dirty little secret.
What else would you like my readers to know?
We are so insanely blessed this year. Many of our presenters
have written essays to be included in the first MOMENTUM anthology. It will be
published as an e-book and available on Smashwords and Amazon. We hope it helps
spread MOMENTUM’s message beyond the walls of the conference. These are words
that need to be heard and we are thrilled to be able to publish this work. And
if that isn’t enough, there’s a foreword by Dr. Elders! It should be available
by next week and we’ll definitely be selling it at the conference.
Anon, thank you for your thoughtful comment. It is "tough and complicated being a woman," you're right — but I think it's tough and complicated being a man, too, especially one who thinks for himself and is sensitive to and respectful of others. No one shied away from controversy at the conference! Overall, sex work and porn were seen as positive when women were making their own choices about their involvement. People were extraordinarily accepting of everyone else's choices at Momentum, and this was wonderful.
"MOMENTUM is also unique in that while we consider it a feminist conference, we welcome sex workers and we welcome open talk, not rhetoric, about pornography."
I was always a little torn about this issue. On the one hand sex-positive feminists say it is a good thing for them to have control over their own bodies and power in their sexuality. The sex-negative feminists say that pornography is exploitative. Frankly, I can see it both ways. I always kind of leaned toward the negative end because I'm a little doting but I guess what you do with your own body is your business.
The double standard among women themselves is also odd to me. Female comediennes who are somewhat less attractive doing stereotypically attractive things is seen as parody, but if a stereotypically attractive woman did those things it could be seen as either tasteful or exploitative.
As far as elder women are concerned in pornography, it always seemed to me to be more about worship of a sexual fantasy come true and seems less exploitative. The younger female performers always have to one-up themselves and do have more stamina than older female performers and probably take the risk of appearing in rougher sex that looks degrading or is specifically marketed as degrading.
Was there any talk or controversy over the subject at the conference? Although I doubt anyone was disrespectful.
From a man's perspective, I'm glad I'm a man because it sounds needlessly tough and complicated being a woman. : )
I thought I'd check in on your blog. I've been away for a while, but I wanted to tell you that I just turned 60 at last! You have helped me so much. Thank you!
I'm happy to read about Momentum and their important work.
fond regards, "Paula"