CatalystCon West: Best Little SexCon!


I’ve been to a good many sex-related conferences in my time, and I’ve never liked one better than Catalyst, which was held last weekend (in its West Coast incarnation) in the greater LA area. I’m not just saying that because impresaria Dee Dennis surprised Robert and me with matching awards — I say it because Catalyst draws a truly splendid mix of people, and the conversations sparked by the panels and presentations are always super-interesting. Talking about sex: the next best thing to having it! (And dare I say that when the convo is reaaaaallly good, they’re practically the same thing!)

Catalyst attracts bloggers and writers, academics and educators (including the on-the-ground “sexpert” variety), sexuality community organizers, adult industry folks (especially small sex toy companies), and more. Many conferences related to sex are pretty uni-dimensional: mostly sex therapists, or porn folks, or BDSM practitioners, or what-have-you. So Catalyst, at its best, feels a little like shaking all that up and rolling it like dice: familiar conversations with new participants, newly-mixed perspectives. Dee and her Evil Slut Clique (the indefatigable gang who helps her make it all go) like it that way. And the con is fairly small, so it’s not as overwhelming as some big professional and industry shindigs. Anyway — love it lots, and I always look forward to meeting new people and digging  in to interesting topics.

This year Robert and I had to cut it a little short (Folsom Street Fair weekend — we had to get special permission to leave San Francisco, basically). We missed the closing keynote by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, but thank goodness Jackie was there (who, by the way, rocked the opening plenary panel along with Yosenio Lewis, Shira Tarrant, Sinnamon Love, and moderator Tristan Taormino). We had time to get in a day of sex ed, theory, and debate, though! We opened Saturday’s long day of workshops with our Anatomy of Pleasure talk, catching everyone up on the neurology of erotic response. Then we caught most of Metis Black’s talk about Toxic Toys. My friend from the University of Nevada/Las Vegas Lynn Comella joined me for a quick-and-dirty history of the feminist sex wars, we went to lunch with Feminist Porn Book co-editor Constance Penley (and had a drive-by visit with my longtime sex journalist pal Anka Radakovich, whom I’d never before met in the flesh! she was cruising the con to see what was up).

I closed out my workday with Charlie Glickman, tackling the question of sex-positivity (much-needed — I just read a reference in Vanity Fair today that defined sex-positive feminism in such a way that I asked myself, “Don’t they have any actual editors at that magazine any more?”). Then off to the closing panel on feminist porn (including sightings of the lovely April Flores and Danny Wylde), and then to the airport, exhausted and sorry I’d missed so many other great presentations. Next time! Catalyst East is held in the Washington DC area in the spring — see you there!

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at

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