The first Good Vibrations Sex Positive Summit was held last weekend, in downtown San Francisco. Good Vibes is a local sex toy company, that celebrated it's 35th anniversary this year. While Good Vibes, sponsors many sex positive events, this was the first year that they have hosted their own summit. Sex positive summits are now becoming more and more popular. You can find them all over the United States. In keeping with the Good Vibes tradition, of giving the consumer everything he or she needs or wants to know about sex, Good Vibes really pulled out all the stops when it came to there panelists and key note speakers. Throughout the course of the day, experts gave their opinions on politics and issues that specifically impact the sex positive community. It speaks volumes to me that our sex positive community has come so far, that more and more summits about sex-positivity and sex-education are taking place. The experts that they had in attendance, were very knowledgable. Dr. Carol Queen the Good Vibrations Staff sexologist and Chief Cultural officer started the summit off with opening remarks and introduced us to our first keynote speaker, Debby Herbenick, Ph.D, M.P.H. Beyond being a research scientist, Herbenick is a sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institue. Herbenick had some interesting and troubling studies to share about how men and women enjoy sex.
When 6,000 Americans were surveyed in 2010, the results showed that 30 percent of women reported some degree of pain during recent sexual experiences. The same study also reported that 15 percent of women were having un-pleasureable sex. Herbenick wants that to change, and wants to help people who are experiencing no arousal or pain during sex. She also explained that part of the problem is lack of proper sex education. People are not taught how the pleasure centers in their bodies work. After Herbenick's key note was over, the first panel on Sex, Politics & Censorship began, that panel included: Judith Levine, Maggie Mayhem, Carmen Vasquez and moderated by Charlie Glickman. Mayhem, a porn performer and sex educator, told us how Visa & Mastercard labeled a photograph of her with two rosaries in her vagina as blasphemous and her site stopped working. It seems Visa & Mastercard, deemed her content blasphemous, essentially shutting her and her content down for longer than she would have liked. Censorship is alive and well explains Mayhem, especially if your offense is deemed blasphemous. The panelists discussed that corporations, can create more problems for censorship than the government can. You can fight the government, corporations not so much. But all of the panelists were clear that is the duty of each and very one of us, to help change that by way of voting. In the words of Mayhem: "We need to be civically minded perverts." All of the panelists made it clear how careful they have to be in order to keep funding and credibility. When it comes to sex educators, they have to walk a fine line, or things can be taken from them very easily.
The second panel "Sex & The Media" included: Brian Alexander, Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, Chauntelle Tibbals and Ph.D, Jaclyn Friedman. They were asked how mainstream media, including TV Shows are responsible for the body image and sex stereotypes that exist. Miller-Young pointed out: "Media is entertainment, not sex education. Media is designed to make us consumers, it is not designed to make us creative sexual beings." The panel was clear that is not necessarily media at fault, but the publics lack of training, when it comes to how they interpret "the media". "People aren't trained to learn how to read "the media" anymore: this is a real social problem." says Alexander. Friedman said: "Most media is advertiser-driven; most media is produced to be friendly to advertisers. Creating damaging ideas regarding what "normal" is." After this we were all adjourned for lunch, to digest all of the content we had just received. It became very clear, early on and starting with Herbenick, this summit is reminding all of us to get involved, not just politically but in every way, so that we can make informed decisions without being so manipulated by media, politics and religion.
After the lunch break, we were welcomed back by a panel on: Sexual Health & Pharmaceuticals. Panelists included, Dr. Debby Herbenick, Heather Corinna, Liz Canner and Yosenio V. Lewis. This panel was there to discuss the impact of pharmaceuticals on sexual health and sexual experiences. Who I found most insightful on this panel was Lewis. Lewis is a trans man, who educated us all, on what it is like for a trans person medically. First of all, to even begin the transition from being male to female, or female to male, you must be deemed sane by a Psychiatrist. In the words of Lewis, "As an adult, you have to be given a permission slip, just to live your life the way you want to." The trans community, has to walk a fine line with how they present themselves, in order to receive the care they require. And, if somewhere along the line, the powers that be, fell you no longer are mentally stable, then that "permission slip" you were given, can be taken away. Lewis also talked about quality of life on certain pharmaceuticals, while we have these amazing drugs for HIV positive patients, it robs them of quality of life. Where does being alive and quality of life come into play? People are living longer lives, but are those quality lives, or are they simply living? I wished this panel had a Q & A section, because I really wanted to ask Lewis a lot more questions.
The last panel of the day was on: "Sexual Stargazing: Sex & Pop Culture" They had Tracy Clark-Flory, Lynn Comella, Abiola Abrams and Emily Morse. The moderator for this panel, was sex educator Reid Mihalko. This panel's job was to discuss the effect of popular culture on society as a whole. Mihalko brought up a good point, that "we are not allowed to talk about sex, until we see it on TV." When the panel was asked where they found information on sex as kids, all of them had different responses. Dear Abby, the scrambled porn channel, penthouse forum, but yet none of them mentioned parents. The need for parents to do more than shelter there kids from sex, is hugely needed. Mihalko did what none of the other panels did, and that was allow a short Q & A period.
After this we ended this summit, with a closing Key note from Brian Alexander. Alexander is an award winning journalist and author. He has written for the New York Times, Esquire, Outside and others. He was by far the most main stream participant this summit had, and he had some valid points. Alexander said: "My opinion is that it's not about the sex; not anymore. Sex as a cultural issue is no longer important." Alexander went into his history from being a journalist, to having a variety of odd jobs. Alexander's theory is that everyone is interested in sex, they just express it differently. Alexander feels, the more we divide ourselves, the more as we shoot ourselves in the foot. Most people have a relationship with sex, and they want to learn more, but others are given the freedom to be more public with it than others. "Freedom is really difficult. It is much harder to live with than repression. Freedom requires more self-control & more self-discipline, not less"says Alexander
Freedom, requires permission and how many people give themselves permission to live how they want sexually? The one thing that everyone at this summit had in common, was the permission they gave themselves to attend something like this. Sexual health and well being, is the responsibility of the individual. But, summits like this one let us know how many people are available to answer all the questions a person may have. Maybe you want to know about masturbation, or how your body works, perhaps you want to know what sex toys are new and exciting. All in all, this was a great day for San Francisco and especially Good Vibrations. People were inspired and filled with questions. I hope that next year's summit will come with more Q&A, because all of this talk creates questions, which then gives us more conversation. The sex positive summits are important, because it gives every person an opportunity to see a view about sex, that doesn't come from a TV show, but a variety of people from all walks of life. It helps us all to feel more normal, about however different we may think we are. Good job Goob Vibrations, let's see what 2013's summit will have in store for us.