It’s time for me to make a confession. I have to admit, dear readers, that even though I look forward to all the amazing panels we at GeekGirlCon offer each year (seriously – so many different topics! So many incredible panelists!) there is one category that I await with an almost feverish anticipation, and that is the sex panels! There is maybe nothing I love more than smart, cool, thoughtful people getting nerdy about one of life’s most confusing, awesome, weird, and wonderful topics: sex.
This past year, GGC17 was graced by the incredible Sex Ed Super Friends! panel. Presented by Planned Parenthood, this panel amassed a slew of the raddest sex nerds around to delve into the complicated, emotional, embarrassing, and oftentimes difficult to talk about world of sex. Whether it was offering compassionate insight, providing recommendations, clearing up misinformation, or much more, the panelists took on attendee question – both anonymous and not – with thoughtfulness, wit, and utter aplomb.
Before delving into questions, the panelists began by introducing themselves. Comprising a veritable murderers’ row of sex education, the panelists represent a variety of experiences and identities. Moderator Liz Andrade is a sex-positive graphic designer who works for Planned Parenthood and has co-founded All Cycles, a grassroots Outreach Project for community members to bring menstrual supplies to folks in need and is a member of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network. Andie Lyons is a Health Educator for the Seattle & King County Public Health department, where she provides direct sexual health education, support and training for teachers providing sex ed, as well as a variety of resources to promote sexual health and wellbeing in the community at large. Forever Moon is a Community Outreach Educator and Teen Council Facilitator at Planned Parenthood in Olympia, Washington, and a self-professed nerd who has been educating about topics of sexuality since she was 17. Dawn Serra is the creator and host of the weekly podcast, Sex Gets Real, and of the annual sexuality summit, Explore More. She also lectures at colleges and universities on sex and relationships and works one-on-one with clients who need to get unstuck around their pleasure and desire. Tobi Hill-Meyer is a multiracial trans woman with well over a decade experience working with feminist and LGBTQ organizations, and one of the few people in the world who can claim to being both an award-winning porn creator and a children’s book author. She currently serves on the board of Gender Justice League and works as Communications Director at Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center, along with operating her own media production company, Handbasket Productions, and releasing the recent anthology Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic. Cy Enseñat is a queer pleasure-based sex educator, full spectrum doula, and curandera who works with Babeland, a Seattle-based sex toy boutique which works to create an approachable space for people to explore their sexuality with high quality, body safe products and accessible classes on a myriad of pleasure based topics.
After introducing themselves, the panelists answered attendee questions on a variety of topics. First up was a question about how to support a friend who is doing sex work? The panelists recommended education about sex work and sex workers, including the ways in which many anti-sex work policies are incredibly harmful to sex workers. Like other work, sex workers experience a range of working conditions, and preconceived stereotypes about sex work can fail to adequately represent real-life experiences. Ultimately, resources like the amazing Whorecast podcast – run by queer sex worker Siouxsie Q – can help educate, which, alongside involvement in sex worker advocacy, is a crucial way to support sex workers.
Another panel attendee asked about ways in which to delve deeper into body positivity and fat-positive media. In response, the panelists noted that the more we see representations of ourselves in media, the better we are able to feel about ourselves. In this way, finding community and representation online and in person can be crucial. Some examples of resources to look into included the Instagram hashtag #bodieslikeoceans, the store and community Fat Fancy in Portland, the queer No Lose conference, the porn performer April Flores, the Oh Joy Sex Toy webcomic, the More Fats More Femmes quarterly event in Seattle, and Curvy Girl Sex, an amazing book by sex educator Elle Chase.
Another question centered on the difficulty of accessing sex and having a sex life while facing homelessness, dealing with public and group housing, living in poverty, and other related issues. The panelists pointed out that sex can look many different ways for different people depending on their various situations. It doesn’t have to follow one particular model to provide pleasure. Ultimately, though, there are many barriers in place for marginalized people around their own bodily autonomy and access to fulfilling sexual lives. Because public sex is criminalized and private space is commodified, access to money so often means access to sex in our capitalistic culture. Additionally, sex and sexuality can be hugely important to mental health and general well-being, so devoting energy to these aspects of life are in no way a waste of time, resources, or energy for marginalized people facing such barriers, but rather a necessary form of care and wellness.
Another panel attendee asked about how to figure out if they are asexual or just having bad sex. In answer to this question, the panelists offered tips and resources to help explore asexuality., graysexuality, demisexuality, and many more identities. They also urged people struggling with whether they are asexual to engage in thoughtful individual contemplation of what sex mean to them and the place it has in their life, since sexuality is incredibly individual and cannot be dictated or defined by anyone but yourself. Perhaps the most important element to keep in mind when going through this kind of questioning is so allow space to change with time, to recognize that identity does not have to fixed, and that changing your mind is incredibly valid.
Another question asker shared their experience of having come to terms long ago with being a lesbian, and feeling uncomfortable in queer spaces now that they are currently in a relationship with a man. They wondered how to participate in queer spaces while feeling like they no longer quite fit. Dawn Serra, one of the panelists, empathized with this question, sharing that she too had gone through a similar experience and grappled with the same questions of belonging, She – along with the other panelists – advocated for finding bi-specific spaces rather than monosexual queer spaces, recognizing that queerness isn’t defined by a current relationship, behavior, type of sex, or experience, and that many people find themselves in the position of feeling isolated in queer spaces for a variety of reasons.
Lastly, one question centered around how to explore sexuality while working through guilt from growing up in a deeply religious family. The panelists offered a variety of fascinating and thought-provoking responses to this question, including the possibility of finding erotic possibility in their own internalized guilt by exploring taboo, kink, and shame. They also spoke about the intrinsic elements of embodiment and sensuality in many religious traditions, and the potential power of exploring the latent queerness and erotic potential of even the strictest of traditions. One panelist also suggested the Our Whole Lives curriculum offered through the Unitarian Universalist church as a way to explore sexuality and sexual education as a religious person.
Thanks to Planned Parenthood and this amazing group of panelists, I left feeling comforted, inspired, and excited by the potential of nerdy, queer, fat-positive, inclusive, empathetic, and fun sex education to truly transform the ways that we engage with and experience sex and sexuality!