I’m basking in the joy of CatalystCon, a weekend of learning and sharing with other sex educators and self-proclaimed sex geeks. The mission of this event was “Sparking Communication in sexuality, activism and acceptance.” Oh yes, mission accomplished.
Though most attendees were younger and I was the only speaker on senior sex, there were other people with grey hair (or they would have had grey hair had they not colored theirs). I felt total acceptance from all the people I met, even those decades younger. The sex-positive nature of the event conveyed this message to everyone: “I celebrate my own sexuality, sexuality in general, and your sexuality, no matter how different from mine yours might appear to be.”
I tried to choose from 40 sessions presented over two days, wishing I could attend them all. For every session I attended, there were four I had to miss.
Some of my favorite sex educators featured in Naked at Our Age were speaking: Carol Queen, Charlie Glickman, Megan Andelloux. There were names that inspire recognition and awe, such as Dr. Marty Klein.
(Want your own “Sex Geek” shirt? Order from Reid Mihalko here.)
I attended sessions where I’d learn information that you, dear sex-positive senior readers, would benefit from knowing, and others where I’d come away with plenty of “huh! I didn’t know that!”
For example, the “Toxic Toys” session with Metis Black, founder of Tantus, high quality silicone sex toys; Jennifer
Pritchett, founder of Smitten Kitten; and feisty educator and author, Ducky Doolittle. I was amazed by their stories of activism in an industry where sex toys used to be cheap, easily broken, and made of noxious materials that leached chemicals into our mucous membranes. We have women like these three activists to thank for the safety and quality of sex toys today.
One of the most memorable speakers I heard was Buck Angel. Buck calls himself “a man with a vagina” — he’s a transgender man who elected to have top surgery but not bottom surgery.
As a child named Susan (but everyone called him Buck), he was a “total tomboy” and thought of himself as a boy. “Occasionally someone would say, ‘You’re a girl,” and I’d beat the crap out of them, and they’d say, ‘OK, you’re a dude,’” he says. “Everything was fine until at 15, puberty hit. Not puberty as a boy – but puberty as a girl. Here I am bleeding, my boobs are growing, I’m turning into a woman.”
He had his sex change 20 years ago, before female-to-male changes were done. He was the “guinea pig” for the surgeon who removed his breasts. “For years I hated what I was, and now I love it,” he says.
Now Buck is 50 years old, a porn star (“the man with a pussy”), transgender activist, and motivational speaker. His past includes alcohol and drug addiction, modeling, hustling, attempted suicide, and death threats. “I should be dead,” he says. “Why am I still here? Because I have a message to give the world: Deprogram yourself, and love your vagina.” Buck Angel’s story is worthy of a book. (Buck, do you need a ghostwriter?)
|Carol Queen & Robert Lawrence|
Another provocative session was “Why Talk about Sex and Disability?“, co-presented by Robin Mandell and Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence (who also gave a fascinating talk on “The Anatomy of Pleasure” with his partner Carol Queen).
Robin referred to people without disabilities as “temporarily able-bodied” and made the point that we have much to learn from sex-positive people with disabilities. Robert, who referred to himself as “old and crunchy,” jolted us all when he spread out all the medications he has to take for myriad medical challenges including pain that limits mobility. He has had to make many accommodations sexually as well as in other ways. “It took being crippled to realize that sex wasn’t penetration,” he says.”
I had fun at a workshop learning to use the new version of the female condom, called the FC2. If your experience was with the first female condom, which felt and sounded like having sex with a shower curtain, you’ll be happy to know the material is completely different now. It’s great for folks of our age, because the penis can be inserted even if it’s not erect, and lube in the condom doesn’t dry up or get absorbed.It can also be used for anal sex for either gender, just remove the inner ring. One man in the workshop said it was a way “to feel bareback sensations while staying protected.” (This video shows how to insert it and gives lots of info.)
Okay, the female condom does look funny (especially in this model with a dildo in it that we passed around — should I not have shared this?), but the workshop leaders, Planned Parenthood sex educators Alma de Anda and Mayra Lizzette Yñiguez, advised us to give it three tries to discover how comfortable and empowering it is. They gave me a bunch of samples (three in a pack, to prove their point) to share with my workshop attendees!
My own session was titled “Senior Sex Out Loud,” the story of my journey from high school English teacher to fitness professional/ health writer to sex educator/ senior sex advocate, with experiences along the way that were sometimes amusing, sometimes amazing, occasionally appalling. I started out wearing a jacket, but shed it when I talked about body acceptance. (Want to hear this speech yourself, or offer one of my workshops at your venue? I have a suitcase packed, would love to come to you. Please email me and let’s talk.)
But CatalystCon was more than the knowledge, more than the networking, more than the
opportunity for me to share what I do and how I feel about it, more than
learning what other sex educators do and how they feel about it. It
felt like a brave new world was possible, one in which acceptance and
Imagine living in a society free of closed-minded people and repressive attitudes and policies, where we celebrate our similarities and our differences and are truly
kind to each other. That was in the air at CatalystCon.
I applaud Dee Dennis, who conceived and birthed CataystCon; the sponsors who made it possible and affordable; the extraordinary speakers who were willing to donate their wisdom and incur their own travel expenses; and the attendees who were eager to absorb new knowledge, communicate openly (even those who wore the “I’m shy” wristbands that Reid gave out), and take our messages home. CatalystConWest will become a yearly event, and CatalystConEast will rock your world March 15-17, 2013 in Washington, DC.
As always, I welcome your comments.
Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) in Austin, and I’d like to share some interesting morsels with you.
AASECT Book Award for Naked at Our Age and I read the inscription on the plaque:
“For a major contribution toward understanding the sexuality of
seniors.” Can you tell from the photo how thrilled I was (and am!)?
and all the experts who provided answers and advice. This is not just my book –
it’s yours, also. Senior sex is
not only out from under the covers, it’s receiving major attention now. I loved hearing this from the therapists: “I bought your
book and love it. I keep it on my desk to show my clients.”
share just a few tidbits that apply to our age group.
find her savvy tips all through Naked at Our Age. Ellen, co-owner of A Woman’sTouch in Madison, WI, works with cancer survivors
to help them reclaim their sexuality. “Oncologists are there to treat your
cancer and save your life–it’s not within their job description to talk about
sex,” Ellen told us in her session on Sexuality and Cancer. So it’s up to people like Ellen to do the talking about sex. (Her PowerPoint outline
is available here.) A Woman’s Touch is a superb resource for sexuality topics, especially for our age group.
See the list of educational brochures here. You’ll learn cutting-edge information that your doctor didn’t tell you about Penile Rehabilitation after Prostate or Pelvic Surgery or Radiation, for example, and the complete Vaginal Renewal program that I referenced
several times in both Naked at Our Age and Better Than I Ever Expected.
desire alive and empowered in an ongoing relationship, focusing on pleasure and engagement rather than performance. “Sexuality is sharing pleasure in a team sport,” he said, giving several strategies for developing comfort, confidence, and connection.
read my shirt and told me, “You sure look good for
– whatever age you are.” Struck me as funny!
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.