Bright and early on the morning of August 12th, my partner, myself, and a lovely friend of ours loaded up our tiny road-tripping hatchback and set off on the 9+ hour drive to Alexandria, VA for Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. You may recall that in my list of goals for 2015, I expressed a desire to attend my first sexuality conference — and with the shared travel expenses & the amazing
generosity of Tantus and njoy‘s blogger scholarship, that goal suddenly became much more attainable.
I didn’t know what to expect from my first conference. And to be honest…there was a part of me that was panicking, fearful of being an outcast among a group of super accomplished bloggers & sex educators. I’m a dangerous combination of introvert & perfectionist by nature, with social anxiety that kicks in during new and/or crowded situations. What if I couldn’t handle the pressure to be “on” all the time? Or what if nobody understood my special brand of weirdness?
As it turns out, I had no reason to worry; I have never felt so completely understood and, as a result, so comfortable in my own skin. Woodhull went out of their way to make us feel welcome, Tantus was amazing enough to sponsor a special Blogger’s Lounge that served as a calming oasis (and a place to squish their fabulous new dildos), JoEllen Notte (aka the Redhead Bedhead) made an encouraging video to remind everyone about the importance of self care, and there was an abundance of hugs all around. It honestly felt like I was part of a magical little sex-positive family.
I cried while Crista Anne shared her experience with depression that so closely matched my own. I rallied behind Lilly when she declared, “As a group, we are loud. We make shit happen. We don’t shut up.” I felt unease at the intersection of sexual consent & dementia, examined my own language for both offensiveness and trans* inclusivity, and found acceptance of my lingering sexual shame thanks to the unique way that Charlie Glickman approaches the subject. I got hands-on experience in zine-making thanks to the very talented Pleasure Pie and learned about the super impressive lube research that Sarah Mueller of Smitten Kitten has been conducting.
But most importantly, I made connections with amazing individuals that all share a common passion for sexual freedom & education. I got to meet many inspirational people in person for the first time, including Metis Black & Peyton from Tantus, Sandra & Thor from SheVibe, and the original “sex geek” Reid Mihalko. I danced with the ever-beautiful Nina Hartley and got a little teary as I thanked Buck Angel for helping me learn to love my vulva.
And then…there was the “blog squad.”
Dizzy was the reason that I was brave enough to venture out of my room the first day, and meeting her in person felt so natural and easy that the first few hours in the blogger’s lounge flew by. Honestly, I think that I was better at keeping up a conversation with her than I am with some people I’ve known for years, and that proved to be a good indicator for how the rest of the weekend would go.
Lena was a complete riot. I thought I was going to die when she presented a member of the Woodhull Board of Directors with a tiny dildo as a consolation for missing their floor. (It only got better when a very confused businessman that was sharing the elevator with us asked, “…What do you intend to do with that?”) She is one of those rare, super-authentic individuals that, in turn, makes you feel more free to be yourself.
Lilly, with her infamous reputation for being “100% bite,” was actually one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She’s passionate, she holds nothing back, and we desperately need more people like her in the world. I loved every moment of ranting with her about the absence of accurate electro-safety information and first-toy horrors. I never did tell her this, but…she’s my biggest blogging role model. Hers was one of the very first sex blogs I started reading, long before her focus was on toy safety. My other favorites have all disappeared over the years, but she has continued to grow and create change.
In contrast, I didn’t know a whole lot about Lunabelle before the summit, but I quickly learned that it’s impossible not to adore her in all her sex ninja glory. She may have even done the impossible and turned me on to the fantasy genre with her epic suitcase full of bright & colorful dildos (which we, of course, dug into like it was Christmas in August). As sex toy reviewers, we’ve seen a lot, but this collection had all of our jaws on the floor.
Reenie was a fucking champ. As many of us were freaking out and wanting to hide, she was walking through the hotel waving around dragon cocks and inviting people to win dildos. I know she was nervous about starting conversations with so many people, but she really did make it look effortless. And when she did quiet down…I enjoyed waiting for her to pop back into the conversation in adorable & hilarious ways, like with her first dick pic.
Epiphora hosted an epic sex blogger pajama party on the last night of the summit, where we surprisingly discovered that we are post-puberty Hanson soulmates and she introduced us all to the now extinct Mr. Man. This, of course, inspired an impromptu DIY dildo brainstorming session — because some of us (like myself) are very intrigued, and the disappearance of a legitimately innovative sex toy simply isn’t fair, dammit. But seriously, Piph’s just as awesome & snarky as you all had hoped.
And then there’s Bex. Without her, there’s no way I would have been brave enough to dance with Nina Hartley — and none of us would have managed to make dinner happen that first night. She is a force to be reckoned with and has one of the brightest (and most seductive) smiles I’ve ever seen. Her use of the term “vagina feelings” is totally contagious and, at the risk of sounding creepy, I may have watched one of her video reviews during con-drop because it’s impossible to be sad with that glorious east coast accent.
Penny was just as sweet as I imagined she’d be. When I first found myself in a loud room full of bloggers and was feeling overwhelmed, she was the first one to come over & strike up a conversation. I’m pretty sure that she’s my kindred spirit when it comes to cats & books — except I’m not nearly cool enough to pull off this dress. Oh! And if you haven’t already checked out her Etsy shop, get on that. How else are you going to cover your coffee table in dildo coasters?
If the weekend was a roleplaying adventure, Artemisia was the glittery hero among us as she successfully defeated the Rockbox monster by spilling its battery-guts all over the hotel floor. And if that wasn’t enough… By the end of the weekend, she was able to regale us with the epic tale of obtaining not one, but two njoy Elevens (one for her; one for Bex) before sharpie tattooing perfect sex toy silhouettes on Penny’s bum. She’s totally the chosen one.
I love discovering new bloggers, and Mary & Harry were no exception. In fact, I found them to be some of the most inspiring individuals at Woodhull. Listening to the stories about how their relationship has grown over time was simply amazing and it made my heart smile, knowing that it is possible for love to embrace major change.
If I have one tiny bit of sadness from the summit, it’s that I wish I would have had more time to talk to Crista. She was the one person that I couldn’t stop myself from running straight up to for hugs, and I absolutely loved hearing about her “outlaw dildo peddler” days. She is a huge inspiration of mine and one of the most warm-hearted individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I didn’t get to talk to Caitlin or Beck much either, but I still feel honored to have met both of them. Caitlin’s fashion sense is simply to die for. I’m convinced that there’s never a moment when they don’t look absolutely stunning. And although I only got a moment’s time with Beck, I was so happy that she was able to attend the Summit after working so hard to get there.
I honestly could not have asked for a better group of people to spend my weekend with, shenanigans & all. It was such a uniquely freeing experience and it inspired me to not only become a better blogger & sex educator, but a better person in general. I realize now more than ever just how lucky I am to be a part of this online community.
I want to thank njoy & (my affiliate) Tantus again for granting me one of the blogger scholarships. If you’re in the market for stainless steel or premium silicone toys, please consider ordering some of their beautiful products.
I’d also like to thank Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance for all of the amazing things they are doing to make the world a better, more sex-positive place. If you’d like to find out how to donate to their cause, simply click on the banner above.
If you’d like to read more highlights from the Sexual Freedom Summit, check out the tweets from #SFS15 or read what my fellow bloggers had to say about the experience…
- Woodhull’s SFS 2015 or, How I Overcame Fear by Dizzy
- Woodhull’s SFS 2015: The Trip That Almost Wasn’t by Beck
- Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace: We Are Woodhull by Lilly
- Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2015 by Lena
- 5 Reasons Why Woodhull Was an Amazing Experience by Penny
- Woodhull SFS 2015 – Adventures in Blogging by Lunabelle
- Woodhull SFS 2015 – The Saga Continues by Lunabelle
- Confession: Woodhull #SFS15 – I Left My Husband by Mary Q. Contrary
- Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Sumit 2015: Best Conference Ever by Dr. Jeana (An amazing local blogger & sex educator that I can’t believe I forgot to mention!)