Archive for March, 2013
Greetings lovely readers. I am posting today to say that over the weekend, as I returned home from Florida, my laptop was stolen. It was my primary computer, and one of the things it had on it was the list of links I regularly compile for future installments of Recommended Reading. Since I lost them all with the computer, I am going to put Recommended Reading on break this week while I aim to reorient and reorganize the information I have and work on procuring a replacement computer. This is the first week since I started the RR feature in June of 2010 that I will skip a week of posting it, and I hope and plan to be back next week with the next installment.
Thanks for reading! :)
-Jason Mraz “Curbside Prophet”
Admittedly, I expected it to be fabulous. Every sexuality-oriented conference I have had the privilege to attend the last few years, from the first and second Momentum conferences to the Erotic Authors Association conference in Las Vegas to last fall’s 2012 Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, has struck me as resounding with rejuvenating energy, inspiration, and insight. It has been my utter pleasure to attend all of them.
I experienced this one as a little bit different. I won’t say I enjoyed it more, but the energy was slightly distinctive. I suspect the biggest reason for this was that I was participating as a speaker at this one. It was my first time ever being in a speaker position at a conference like this, and it was quite a new perspective to be at the front of the room during the panel on which I sat. Even before the panel took place, the energy of being at the conference in this capacity felt enhanced in some way to me, in a way I am not sure how to articulate.
Our panel was titled “How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer.” I was deeply flattered when editor Rachel Kramer Bussel asked me if I would like to be on a panel about erotica writing at CatalystCon East. (Incidentally, the gratitude I feel for the degree to which Rachel has supported my writing is probably unknown even by her, and I want to take the opportunity right now to express it.) When I found out the panel was also to include Carol Queen, I felt stupefied for a moment or two or 10,000. Actually, I was still stupefied by it when it was time for the panel to start. In addition to Carol Queen and myself, Rachel also asked editor and author Kristina Wright, whom I adore, to be on the panel with us. It was an honor (and in fact a bit surreal) to be speaking about writing in such company. At the last minute, Bethany from Blushing Books joined us as well to speak from the publishing side of the business.
I won’t rehash everything we talked about here, but I truly hope those who attended our session found it useful or helpful in any way (even though we ran out of time and didn’t get to take as many questions as we would have liked!). I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to speak for their benefit and am honored they spent the time they did to listen to us. Our hashtag was also #cconwriter, so if you’d like, you can see the Twitter stream here.
Following the panel, I got to meet a representative of the new Pique online erotica zine, which bills itself as “sexy. smart. shameless.” I was very excited to meet her and learn more about the Pique venture. Do check out their site—and if you feel so moved, submit!
Overall, I found CatalystCon East stupendous. I saw people I haven’t gotten to see very often (and in general have only seen at conferences like this) like Greg DeLong (co-founder of njoy), Charlie Glickman, Reid Mihalko, Robin Mandell, and the conference organizer herself, Dee Dennis. There were also those I’ve gotten to see more frequently but am delighted to get the chance to again whenever I can, such as Robin Sampson and Susana Mayer of The Erotic Literary Salon (as well as Rachel and Kristina, who were on the panel with me). And there were some I’ve long admired from afar to whom I personally spoke for the first time at this conference, including Tristan Taormino, Metis Black of Tantus, and Constance Penley (more on that in a bit). Many other people I didn’t get to personally meet but vastly appreciated the commentary from (like Dr. Hernando Chavez during the opening keynote).
One of the highlights of this conference for me was personally connecting with Constance Penley. (It still took my breath away a little bit to type that.) I learned of Dr. Penley’s existence at the first Momentum conference in 2011 when she filled in at the last minute for a session speaker who had canceled. Constance teaches a class on pornography in the film and media studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2010, she was called as an expert witness in the U.S. government’s indictment of John Stagliano on obscenity charges. This is what she spoke about at 2011’s Momentum, and I found her account of the process riveting. I was all the more enamored of her experience and contribution given my interest in public policy and fighting censorship. Had I not been leaving for Florida early the next morning, I would have loved to talk with Constance a lot more (probably about as long as she’d let me!) this past weekend. Ever since I saw her at the first Momentum, she has been one of the people I admire most in the sexuality professional field.
Another highlight (and I very much guess not just for me) was the closing panel titled “Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen & Robert Lawrence.” In gathering for the erotica panel Sunday morning, I got to meet Carol’s partner, Dr. Robert Lawrence, for the first time. I would later experience him during the closing panel as one of the most extraordinary individuals I’d personally witnessed in some time. I admit I do not know what to even say about this closing session because it feels like an experience all but impossible to capture in words, but, of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
I found the format of the closing session very accommodating to what was presented. It was informal, and Robert and Carol simply alternated back and forth speaking conversationally about their decades of experience in sexual subcultures and sexuality education. I already knew I found Carol Queen a pioneer and an inspiration. That was reiterated tenfold during their session. This conference was my first time being exposed to Dr. Lawrence in person, and to be frank, I was blown away. I have rarely had the delight of observing and receiving the words and energy of a more genuine, aware, unassuming, astute individual in the context of sexuality education. It was tremendous. I felt the following tweet from the official conference photographer summed the experience up well:
— Tyler Keegan Grigsby (@TKGPhoto) March 17, 2013
I also won the awesome raffle prize in the picture in the middle of this post thanks to conference sponsor Sportsheets, and I decorated my own mask courtesy of ArtPulp, who was there offering them as a fundraiser for Scarleteen. I really don’t know how to thank CatalystCon organizer Dee Dennis, her support staff, and all the volunteers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees more for their contributions to the weekend. It was, as I experienced it, a beautiful conference.
“For just one fleeting moment, the answer seemed so clear, heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear…”
-Garth Brooks “Belleau Wood”
“What We Are Missing in the Trans-vaginal Ultrasound Debate” by Tracy Weitz (Reproductive Rights, Health and Body, Public Policy) 3/1/13
I feel a lot of social conversation about abortion tends to be “more nuanced and not so easy to turn into sound bites” than what we have engaged in in the years since I’ve been an activist in the area. At the same time, I personally don’t think abortion should be a political issue at all (beyond being a part of health care in general and concomitant discussions of laws around overall health care provision, licensure to practice, etc.), so as I see it, ideally there would be no call for sound bites on the subject. I will say that while I wholly agree that “trans-vaginal ultrasounds are not medical rape,” I still feel very uncomfortable with legally mandated trans-vaginal ultrasounds when the legal mandate comes from people who are not qualified physicians and are not proposing the legal mandate with any interest toward improving health care. This does seem to me tantamount to a physical violation, and I respond to the idea viscerally as such. However, I appreciate this piece because 1) it discusses from a medical viewpoint the purpose of trans-vaginal ultrasounds and when they may seem helpful—I do find it relevant to recognize that they do not represent a unilaterally unnecessary or exploitative procedure; 2) the author points out other problematic supposed justifications for these (deplorable, as I see it) laws; 3) I agree with her that this kind of discussion seems less divisive and reactive than many on the issue and addresses considerations in a non-sound-bite-filled manner.
“Birth Control & Obamacare: Religion Escalates Its War On Sex” by Dr. Marty Klein (Reproductive Rights, Public Policy, Religion) 2/2/13
While I read this as stated fairly harshly, I agree with much of it and the general sentiment. I especially find disturbing the degree of power some religious institutions seem to have in the political/governmental realm in this country. I too find it wholly inappropriate and indeed in some cases unconstitutional.
“I Want A Ceasefire On The Mommy Wars” by Kate Fridkis (Non-Sex-Related, Sociology, Parenting, Gender, Media) 5/15/12
I appreciate the tone, approach, and offerings of this piece—recognizing that there is rarely a single “right” way to do things and that differing perspectives does not need to involve the word “war” seems of great value to me and an offering well-taken at this point in human evolution. In particular, what I may love most about this piece is summed up in its third- and fourth-to-final paragraphs.
“The Wolf Reader” by George Szirtes (Non-sex-related, Poetry, Creativity) 3/9/13
I was struck by this poem, and I additionally loved the author notes that followed it. The river analogy and attendant descriptions represent one of my favorite perspectives about art, creativity, and indeed, life!
“Ecstasy For All or Hell on Earth” by Jean Roberta (Sociology, Psychology, Gender Relations, Sex and Culture) 2/26/13
I appreciate this contemplative view of writing and erotica. I do feel that embodying joy and love inherently supports and increases its presence in the world, but I also feel I understand what Jean is saying in this piece. I too have tended to feel drawn to incorporating “reality,” including challenges, into some of my erotic stories. Most of all, I love Jean’s articulation of her recognition about sensory experience and grounding in reality.
“The Death of the Erotica Webzine?” by Donna George Storey (Erotica, Publishing, Sex and Culture) 2/18/13
As I see it, Donna has a way of grounding and reminding us of the true (potential) significance of exploring and expressing sexuality via the written word. She has also set rather a profound example of such, and I appreciate and find refreshing her steadfast perception of what I see as one of the abiding truths of what we do.
“We Found Our Son in the Subway” by Peter Mercurio (Non-sex-related, Parenting) 2/28/13
This is just one of the more beautiful, extraordinary things I’ve read in a while. (Thanks to Kristina Wright for the link.)
“Mar 1, 2013 5:22pm” via Baltimore County Public Schools (Recommended Watch, Non-sex-related, Youth) 3/1/13
I so deeply, dearly wish this would magically have the effect of eliminating young people acting deliberately hurtful to each other it almost hurts. I experience poignancy and gratitude watching it and knowing that a high school psychology class created it.
“A BEAUTIFUL RESCUE STORY” by Jennifer Nendza (Non-sex-related, Animals) 3/6/13
(When you start reading the caption on this lovely picture, you’ll just need to click “See more” when you get there. This is viewable even to those not on Facebook.) I’m not sure how anyone could not find this precious, but I certainly did. Knowing there are people like this that care so much about animals heartens and relieves me so much it almost feels overwhelming.