Two weeks ago I arrived in Washington, DC for a four-day event called the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. Woodhull, or SFS as it’s commonly referred to, is an annual sexuality-focused human rights conference in Arlington, VA. The summit is home to a plethora of people working towards making sexual freedom a human right, including human rights activists, sexuality educators and researchers, sex bloggers, legal and medical professionals, authors, sexual freedom movement leaders and organizational partners.
Over the past three years, sex bloggers have found a home at Woodhull, using the conference as both an opportunity to expand our sex-education, and to connect with our online community in person. Last year was my first year attending the summit, and because of the amazing time I had, I knew I would be going back. Thanks to my sponsors, b-Vibe, Sutil and SheVibe, I was able to attend SFS for its 2017 iteration and I’m happy to report that my experience exceeded my expectations. I encountered a lot of strong feelings throughout my weekend away, so I’ve decided to share my Woodhull experience through six emotions.
Anticipation. I was a big ball of enthusiastic energy leading up until my arrival at the Sheraton Hotel. The night before my flight I kept breaking out into quirky dances in the middle of packing; my body sometimes literally can’t handle the amount of hype Woodhull brings to me. I met Taylor at the airport the next day so, luckily, I had someone to share my anticipation with before take off. We both let out our energy by giggling about Woodhull crushes and hoarding free airport cookies. Our plane ride was quick and smooth, landing us in DC in no time. Taylor and I were extremely impatient navigating the airport and going through customs; we just wanted to be at the hotel with our friends.
— Taylor J Mace (@taylorjmace) August 2, 2017
Excitement. I’m an easily excited person in general, but when I go to Woodhull, I am ecstatic. When Taylor and I arrived at our hotel on Wednesday afternoon, we were welcomed by SugarCunt and Sarah. We saw each other from across the restaurant/lounge and ran at each other while shrieking in exhilaration. I talk to at least one member of the blog squad every day, so getting to see my distant friends in person is always a treat. The welcome shrieking proceeded to happen with every friend I encountered throughout the weekend. Seeing my online besties wasn’t the only thing I was excited about though, meeting new bloggers was also an amazing part of my weekend. I got to hang out with Taryn, Indigo, Carly, Insert Trans Here, and Veronica, among other budding blog squad members. I absolutely love the amount of new and unique voices being brought to sex blogging. Of course, my excitement didn’t stop there. I was pumped to network with fellow sex educators and companies, sleep in a comfy king sized bed and flirt with hottest babes.
Rage. My fellow sex bloggers and I are often prone to getting angry online. Our rage is usually directed towards company fuck ups, misinformation and gaslighting, all of which are, unfortunately, prevalent among our day to day internet activities. We notice the problem, gather the squad and tweet until our complaints are resolved. This year at Woodhull, we had the opportunity to experience live tweeting a fuck up together, in person, at a panel called ‘The Truth About Body-Safe: a frank, evidence-based discussion of what body-safe really means.’ As sex bloggers, we advocate for body-safe sex toys and the whole panel was an attempt to dismantle a lot of the work that we do. #SFSBodySafe was run by Anne Hodder, a PR rep, Erika Martin, a biologist, and Jarret Wright, a chemical lab manager. While most bloggers went into the panel with an open mind, throughout the course of the patronizing lecture, hell broke loose. I was originally in a different panel, but when I saw the Tweets and Slack messages pouring in from my friends, I had to duck out to see the shitshow for myself. I arrived to a battle that mirrored so many of the fights we try to conquer online. Brave bloggers Ruby, Sarah and Lola raised concerns of the misinformation, only to be shut down with evading and gaslit responses. After the panel ended on a heated note, the grand group of pissed off group of bloggers headed towards a hotel room to vent. We debriefed, compainaed, and yelled at the bullshit we were put through. We Skyped in missing-in-action Sarah (of Marvelous Darling) to give them the low down on the situation. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced being in a room with that much anger. While I wish that panel didn’t happen, I’m glad I got the chance to feel the rage in person for once, because it allowed for me to properly feel the heat and verbally vent about it to people who actually care.
Inspiration. When I attend Woodhull, it’s like someone is consensually adding gas to the fire under my ass. My ideas are challenged and changed, making way for new thoughts and added perspectives given to me by my peers. Throughout the weekend, my activist energy, sex-educator principles, and feminist virtues receive a fresh ignition of spirit and determination to take home to my own communities. Being around a full hotel of sex-positive people makes me inspired, and the panels themselves didn’t disappoint. The #SFSFemme panel in particular caused me to think about my presentation of femme and how I carry my identity in today’s society. Taryn did a lovely job recapping the panel, so go check out her post if you’re interested in the topics we discussed. I’m upset I missed the Building Communities panel, but I am confident that I took home many skills that I can use to help Hamilton be more inclusive and sex-positive.
Pure Joy. As the saying goes, work hard, play harder. While the summit was a space for education and growth, it doubles as a sanctuary for people to decompress. Relaxing at Woodhull happens in between attending panels, over meals, and, at peak shenanigan time, during the evening. My nights were filled with binging Big Brother, multiple make out adventures, and schmoozing with IG famous babes. One of the most joy filled moments of the weekend for me, was the impromptu stoner blog squad hang on Saturday night. A group of 20 or so bloggers slowly took over a meeting room on the hotels Mezzanine. Most of us had vaped a bit, or were drinking wine, so the group as a whole was a giggling gaggle. We bitched about the weekend, tested out an inflating swan dick, re-told the Ballad of Jan, and played the Fucking Game. Some of us were tearing up from how hard we laughed throughout the evening. As I sat back and looked around the room at all my dear friends, I couldn’t help but recognize how lucky I am to have a community that gets me. There was a special energy that night; nothing short of the purest joy I’ve ever experienced.
— Kate Sloan (@Girly_Juice) August 6, 2017
Exhaustion. On the last day of Woodhull, I was a bit of an incoherent mess; I don’t think I’ve ever been more burnt out in my life. The weekend drained me, and if you count travel, an increased amount of high intensity social interactions, and various emotional labour endeavours, you can’t blame me. The burnout was inevitable, and I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t as prepared for it as I should have been. I was barely able to hold conversations with my friends, opting to give myself mental rest while they chit chatted in the final moments of the Summit. I had a peaceful breakfast with Kate, where we both debriefed our thoughts and feelings about the weekend. I rallied some last wicks of energy to say my goodbyes to my friends, and then Taylor and I made our way back to the airport. Luckily, a good friend of Taylor’s offered to drive us, so our tired selves didn’t have to try navigating the transit. I managed to get some sleep on the plane, but fell into a deep sleep as soon as I hit my bed hours later.