Dr. Joycelyn Elders speaks at Momentum 2012

I’ve been promising you more tasty morsels from the Momentum conference since I wrote Part 1. Momentum was full of amazing people and ideas from start to finish — and afterwards, because I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had learned and the people I had met.

The high point had to be Dr. Joycelyn Elders — former Surgeon General of the United States under Clinton, 1993-1994. She was born in 1933, making her a vibrant 78 now.

I met her shortly before my “Senior Sex Out Loud” speech. Dr. Elders exited the elevator and sat down across from me, where I was making last minute changes to my notes for my talk that was about to happen. I introduced myself to her and told her about my upcoming speech.

“That sounds very interesting,” she said. “I think I’ll follow you to the room.” I don’t usually get stage fright — I love interacting with audiences! — but I admit my hands shook and my toes tingled at the thought of Dr. Elders — a role model for talking out loud about sex with a “bring it on!” approach to controversy! — would be in my audience. (Read about my speech here.)

Dr. Elders, if you remember, was fired for advocating that schools teach children about masturbation in answer to a reporter’s question.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Elders was part of the closing plenary. I wish you could have been there! Some of her memorable quotes:

  • “80% of men masturbate. 70% of women masturbate. And the rest lie.”
  • “95% of Americans didn’t wait until marriage. We need to teach them to be responsible, rather than telling them, ‘Don’t have sex.’” 
  • “The best contraceptive in the world is a good education.”
  • “The vows of abstinence break far more easily than latex condoms!” 
  • [about sex-positive activism:] “When you’re dancing with a bear, you can’t get tired and sit down.”
  • “We’re sexual beings from the day we’re born until the day we die.”
  • “If you think babies aren’t sexual beings, you’ve never changed a baby boy’s diaper.”
  • “When I am 95 I will still be a sexual person.”

Although her speech at Momentum was not recorded, this video of a speech she gave in 2006 is similar and will show you her intelligence and sassy style.

Momentum 2012: Part 1

That hardest part about writing about the Momentum conference in Washington, DC, is figuring out what to leave out so I don’t write 20,000 words.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders

I want to quote all the bon mots, tell you about the presenters and their topics, rave about the exhibitors, describe the awe I felt meeting and learning from the amazing Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General under Clinton (yes, the one who was fired for advocating teaching young people about masturbation) — and eagerly describe my own presentation and the response I got.

I’ll start with that, and write more posts later.

I spoke on the topic “Senior Sex Out Loud.”If you worry (as I often do) that we have a long way to go before senior sex is accepted as normal and wonderful, a sex-positive conference like Momentum is the place to recharge!  I’ve been speaking for years, and the Momentum audience was the most enthusiastic ever in my career. They not only applauded, they cheered!

The loudest cheers came when I removed some of my clothing.

I’d better explain that.

I had been recounting some of the highlights of my 6-year journey as an advocate for ageless sexuality, and I was telling the audience some of the things I’d been called. When I got to “wrinkly sex kitten,” people laughed, as I did, and I added, “I’m still trying to grow into that one… not the wrinkly part — I’ve got that down — but the ‘sex kitten’ part. But I’m trying!” With that I removed my polka dot jacket and presented the rest of my speech in a red camisole.

I then explained, “I’m not doing this to show off. It doesn’t matter what my body looks like. What matters is that this is the body I live in. It gives me pleasure. I  own it.”

I talked about much more than body image, of course. No, we didn’t make a video. But I’d love to come to your area and give this talk for you live! Contact me if you want to talk about that.

Instead of trying to pack in far too much information in one post, I’ll call this one Part 1 and write again soon about more of Momentum.

If you work in any area of sexuality, I hope you’ll make a point of going to Momentum next year. I’ll be there for sure.

See my interview with the organizers of Momentum here.

Momentum: Sexuality, Feminism, and the New Media

I am thrilled to be presenting “Senior Sex Out Loud” at Momentum in Washington, DC, March 30-April 1, 2012. My session is Sunday, April 1, noon to 1 pm.But my own presentation isn’t all I’m excited about — the whole Momentum conference sounds amazing. The presenters list reads like a Who’s Who of Sexuality — outspoken sex educators, writers, bloggers, political activists, sex toy retailers, sex workers, and even celebrities like former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders!

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
, 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.

Tess Danesi

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.

If you can’t come to Momentum this year, read the Momentum anthology by this year’s speakers, available as a Kindle ebook.