In just a few weeks I'll be hopping on a plane (okay, two planes, the first from Philadelphia to Boston) to Southern California--Burbank, to be exact--to attend one of the best conferences I've ever been to, one I judge other conferences by (yes, I really do): CatalystCon. It's an event focused on the wide world of sexuality, and when I say wide, I really mean it. Look at the breadth of session topics being presented! I've never attended and not learned so much, often things that changed how I consider a topic or given me deep insights. If you're anywhere near Southern California or deeply interested in how people are changing the world of sexuality, I encourage you to attend.
A few sessions I'm especially looking forward to: Is Kink a Sexual Orientation? A Panel Discussion, SEX AND LOVE AFTER 50 — Rewriting the Rules, Toys For a SexAbled Life: Fun, unique and adaptable ways to give and receive satisfying pleasure with erotic toys, Slut Shaming in Sex Positive Communities (and Elsewhere). It's also a place where I look for people to profile in my sex columns; they can't all be about dick pics. In fact, it was while attending CatalystCon West last year that I got asked to write my Philadelphia City Paper column, and I launched it writing about The UnSlut Project and Emily Lindin, whose documentary sneak peek I saw at Catalyst.
It's also one of my favorite places to teach writing, as I'll be doing on September 11th, with two workshops, three hours each, on Erotica Writing and Sex Writing. (See also, "How to make money writing about your sex life and 5 times I did" and "6 reasons I encourage my erotica writing students to submit their work.") These classes are a chance to dig deeply into the topics and, I hope, encourage students to get their work out into the world, because people attending CatalystCon have fascinating things to say about sexuality, activism, art, relationships, values and so much more (although you do NOT have to attend CatalystCon to attend my workshops, though I highly recommend it). I love getting to update my handouts with new venues to pitch and submit to, and to enter into a room where there's a base level of trust and eagerness. Yes, people may be strangers, but I've found there's a camaraderie that forms around the conference that is special and helps further the spirit of the classes. Plus I now have a private Facebook group for my writing class alumni, so hopefully if people join and do publish pieces as a result of the class, I'll get to hear about it and proudly share their work. I started the group because often I teach one-off classes and when they're done I never hear what people are up to, and I like to see people's progress develop as they gain confidence in their writing and continue to pursue it, whether that's the following month or following year. So I'm really looking forward to that.
I'm very much looking forward to the panel I'm moderating (details below) about how to navigate some of the issues around sharing your sex life whether in writing, onstage, in podcast form or in YouTube videos. It's the same topic as the one I moderated at CatalystCon East, but with different panelists. One of my goals with my panels has been to include people who haven't been to CatalystCon before, in this case, the amazing Gaby Dunn, and also to work with people I haven't worked with before. I learned so much last time, and this is a topic near and dear to my heart as someone who continuously writes about her personal life, and continues to grapple with the impact.
I have a print piece coming out in a dream publication, a magazine I subscribe to, whose founder is a household name, right around the time of CatalystCon. I'm excited and honored, but the truth is, also nervous. Will people think less of me because of what I reveal about my sex life? Will I be misinterpreted to sound like I have disdain for a certain kind of sex that used to be a bigger part of my life, but isn't as much now? Will my partner, who is very supportive and proud of me, face any discomfort by my writing about our sex life in such a large venue? Will family members, who are wonderful but I would rather not discuss my sex life with, see it? Hence, I need and am excited for this panel just as much as anyone.
September 13, 11 a.m.-12:10 p.m.
CatalystCon panel Sharing Your Sex Life on the Page and the Stage
Whether on the page, stage or podcast, sharing personal sex stories means making public what’s often deemed private and inviting audiences to read, hear—and judge. What are the biggest challenges and rewards of airing our “dirty” laundry? How do we decide which sex stories are worth telling? Is there such a thing as TMI? How can we be deeply honest while honoring others’ boundaries (and having ours respected)? How can we tie our lives into what’s happening in the larger world and further social and political change? Is writing about your sex life different than sharing it live or via podcast? This panel will explore what it’s like to invite readers, listeners and audiences inside our bedrooms, and beyond. Featuring Anaín Bjorkquist, sex educator and host of the Sex Love Joy podcast, Gaby Dunn, writer, comedian, YouTuber and co-host of web series Just Between Us, and Dixie de la Tour, founder, host and curator of long-running live storytelling show Bawdy Storytelling. Moderated by Rachel Kramer Bussel, Philadelphia City Paper and DAME sex columnist and author of the personal essay collection Sex & Cupcakes.
CatalystCon West, Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport, 2500 North Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA
I will also be seeing lots of old friends, some who live far away, some who live "nearby," but that's all relative. Now that I live in what feels like the boonies, I rarely go to New York, and don't anticipate being there often in the future unless I'm doing an event. So geographical closeness is a bit moot, and even then, I wouldn't be around so many fascinating people at once. But for me CatalystCon is also a chance to meet new people, ones maybe I've interacted with online, often ones I haven't but who become familiar faces by the end of the weekend.
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