Archive for May, 2008

Interviews about Sex 2.0

May 15, 2008

These interviews were conducted by me as part of an upcoming Huffing Post piece (will post link when I have it) about Sex 2.0:

Name: Amber Rhea
Title: Organizer, Sex 2.0

Why did you decide to organize Sex 2.0 and how did the event match up to your expectations?

Honestly, Sex 2.0 was borne out of frustration. I had been going to a bunch of social media unconferences, and there was always this persistent discussion about how to present oneself online. People – especially women – were very concerned with presenting a “professional image” of themselves and not doing anything to tarnish that image. Whenever they would give an example of what it means to be unprofessional, without fail it would be something sexual… for example, “…so I’m not going to go around posting nude photos online!” And everyone would laugh, because of course we all understand that being openly sexual online (especially as a woman!) it totally unprofessional.

I would push back on this assumption, and I always felt like the lone voice of reason in the crowd. I wanted people to question why being openly sexual is seen as unprofessional. I wanted the woman who declared, “If you work nights as a stripper, you deserve to get fired from your day job!” to examine where that idea comes from. But instead everyone would, basically, try to shame me into silence, and eventually I’d shut up, because it was too much to deal with.

So I wanted to have a conference geared toward people who have gotten past that very 101-level stuff, and who understand that “sexual” and “professional” are not mutually exclusive (especially if your profession is sex!). Women in particular are doing some really amazing things online in the realm of sexuality, and I wanted to highlight and explore those things.

Did the event accomplish this? Definitely so! It exceeded my expectations, and I think this was due to the energy and enthusiasm the participants brought with them.

What was your favorite part of the event?

It’s really difficult to pick a favorite part, but if I’m forced, I’ll say that my favorite part of the conference itself was Elizabeth Wood’s session, “Creating the Sex Commons: Sex Blogging as a Feminist Project.” There was some really great exploration of a variety of issues in that session.

My favorite part of the entire weekend was, without a doubt, Ellie Twittering while onstage during a somewhat sketchy “boob contest” at the Flesh and Fetish Ball. And with all of us sex nerds cheering her on, she won by a landslide!

I liked that there was a mix of people across professions, orientations, levels of outness, etc. What were you trying to achieve by bringing this group together? What can people who were there (or wanted to be there) do now to foster that sense of community both where they live and online?

I wanted to show that no matter what our various differences are in background, profession, age, race, gender, sexual expression, etc., one thing that we share in common is an interest in advancing the cultural dialogue about sexuality. I think it’s safe to say that no one at Sex 2.0 felt that people should be shamed (or fired!) for how they experience their sexuality.

How do you see the “sexual community” where you live vs. the community you’ve found online? What do online communities offer that offline ones don’t regarding sexual openness?

It’s not always a simple matter of delineating “online” and “offline” community; the beauty of social media is that those barriers are breaking down. My online community is my offline community. Maybe not all the time, when things like geographic distance comes into play; but all these people who knew of each other thanks to the internet came together at Sex 2.0 and had a really kick-ass time in Atlanta.

But speaking of geographic barriers, online community can fill the gaps when people aren’t able to get together IRL. If you live in an isolated area, you might feel pretty cut off from others who share your sexual interests; but with access to the internet, suddenly you’re not so alone anymore.

Also, online, people may feel more comfortable talking about things that are painful or embarrassing for them to discuss face-to-face. This is a useful facet of online community regardless of what one’s offline community looks like.

Is there any post-Sex 2.0 organizing going on?

Elizabeth Wood has created an online forum at Sex in the Public Square to continue the discussion begun in her session. And several people have been inspired to start new blogs, join Twitter, or get involved in others ways with social media.

Are there plans for another one?

Yes! Even before this one had ended, people were already brainstorming about next year. The idea is to move it to a different city every year, and have different organizers to put their own spin on it. Locations proposed so far for next year are Washington, DC and Burlington, Vermont.

Anything else to add?

I am blown away by the positive response to Sex 2.0. I’m still kind of in that post-orgasmic bliss stage! The only complaints I heard about the conference were that there were too many awesome sessions going on at once. So, next year, we’ll make it two days!

Name: Viviane, librarian
URL: www.thesexcarnival.com

You host teas in New York for what you lovingly call the “perverts” amongst us. Why was it important to you to foster this sense of community, largely bringing online personalities together in real life?

Why did I start this? Because there’s so much nuance that’s missing if you only engage with a person online. I started my blog in May 2005. By early 2006, thanks to what I was contributing to the Fleshbot Sex Blog Roundup, I knew there were a lot of bloggers in NY, was curious about who they were, what they were like in real life. With a blog, you only see what the author wants you to see. At the first gathering, we were all pretty nervous – it was a big risk. I remember scouring my living room and hiding everything with my real name on it! We may be sexual outlaws, but it’s important to know we’re not alone.

Also, when I travel, I make it a point to try and meet the bloggers I’m in touch with or read online.

What is the relationship between the online and offline sexual communities you’re part of?

There’s lots of cross pollination. Being a part of the online communities led me to check out what was available in NY. For me, the catalyst was going to Dark Odyssey in 2006 (with Jefferson, Selina Fire, and Marcus), where I met Lolita Wolf, who’s a NY based BDSM educator. Through her, I started reading her Livejournal, joined The Eulenspigel Society (TES.org) and Lesbian Sex Mafia. And the Pleasure Salon, created and hosted by Mark and Patricial Michaels (www.tantrapm.com) and Selina Fire. I was just at Dark Odyssey Winter Fire and there were a number of sex blogger who I’d convinced to attend – including you.

How did Sex 2.0 fit into this vision of sexual community?

I didn’t know what to expect. This conference was a year in the planning and Amber Rhea had invited me to give this talk when we met at BlogHer in Chicago last year. Many of the sessions I attended were about activism and learning how to represent yourself online. Turns out my talk was one of the few nuts and bolts sessions and was the last session of the day. The vision and energy are there, but people need help understanding how to use the tools to get them on there and how to protect themselves online.

Speaking of tools, many of us were on Twitter, before and during Sex 2.0. I used Twitter to ask questions of my following me when I was updating my presentation, to learn more about my co-presenters, to follow everyone during the day and to coordinate when we were traveling somewhere.

What would you want to see at the next Sex 2.0?

I wanted to go to all of the sessions – perhaps scheduling less sessions in each slot, for longer time periods. And if the wireless is as good as it was at 1763, we could do more hands-on tech sessions, similar to what you do in your erotic writing workshop.

Name: Twanna A. Hines
Title: writer | editor | blogger | sexpot

Why did you attend Sex 2.0 and what did you get out of it?

I attended Sex 2.0 because I was giving a presentation titled “A Brief History of Sex.” I blog FUNKYBROWNCHICK.com, and I have an online column over at Nerve magazine. I also write freelance articles about sex, dating and relationships. So, I wanted to meet other people who were penning and keystroking pieces on the same theme. Of course, I already knew you and some of the other New Yorkers such as Elizabeth from “Sex in the Public Square” and Viviane from “The Sex Carnival.” I had yet to meet Valleywag’s Melissa Gira Grant, Wired.com’s Regina Lynn and others.

What would you like to see at a future event?

I’d like to see even more people of color and additional folks who self-identify as “vanilla” sex lovers, that is, people who practice so-called boring sex. From sodomy laws that are still on the books to discrimination against our LBGTQ friends and laws governing reproductive rights, this stuff effects all of us. Every sexually active person — regardless of kink, or relative lack thereof — could benefit from further discussion about the politics, laws and social dynamics of sex.

Do you feel you’re part of a “sexual community,” online and off?

I’m definitely a sexually active, heterosexual single woman. If we define the term community as a group of people sharing a collective social environment, yes, I think we’re all part of the sexual community. I’m not a fan of segmenting public discussion. For example, I’ve never believed conversations about race should be limited to people of color — nor, for that matter, should women be the only folks talking about sexism or feminist ideas. Likewise, why should sex positive discussions be restricted to our lovely perverts?