by Lauren Moore

If you have ever wondered what “sexual freedom” truly is, you need to attend the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit.

You can just tell it’s a unique experience from the beginning—a bowl of small containers containing clear, semi-liquid sat for first day completely untouched until a clarifying sign was placed next to it “LUBE—NOT hand sanitizer”. Then the bowl was empty. People wore what they wished, and got complimented for it. In between in-depth examinations of sex toys, someone would pop-by with first-hand testimonials. People asked personal and professional questions about sex; shared gritty, beautiful, intimate narratives; and, all the while, had an eager listener. Everyone wants your buttons, stickers, shirts, pamphlets—anything to support the sexual freedom team.

Like any other conference, the schedule is broken down into workshops, sessions, and panels but it could be better described as declaring your sexual freedom battle cry and getting applauded afterward.

This year, Woodhull teamed up with the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University to bring many attendees Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and all the workshops highlighted a topic within sexuality and aging and dared to ask the question “what now?” Possibly the greatest issue is nursing and residential facilities policies on sexual interaction. Gayle Appel Doll is nationally known for her contributions on sexuality and aging. In a presentation of her latest work, she clarified that the issue rarely lies in the tenets of these homes but in other people’s reactions to jarring (and frequently totally innocent) incidents. You could feel the tension as audience members made personal plans to talk to their loved ones and secure their sexual freedom until death.

Each conversation demonstrated the 4 C’s we boast at the Center for Positive Sexuality—walls of care, communication, consent, and caution framed while the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance gave us foundation and the presenters sheltered us from the storm. With 4 C’s, people in the Butch-Femme conversations were able to share and challenge with each other. Even when they communicated disagreement, the participants were cautious in their delivery and cared when they heard response. With consent, they were able to embrace at the end.

Positive sexuality breathes within the sexual freedom space. In this controlled and safe environment of the Summit, people can watch positive sexuality in action. In a workshop on radical adult intimacy (for those curious, this expands sensate focus and Tantra exercises to foster connection in ways that are effective for older adults) some ask for others hands to practice massage techniques and get declined while others take the opportunity to give full back massages; most fall in between. Everyone is in the same space—happy, healthy, learning, and not bothered by what the next person is doing. Actually, the fact that the next person has the same freedoms as you do gives you a sense of relief that we all have been given the space we need and we can all still breathe. The refreshing feelings of being included and valued both calms and charges you—sex positivity and sexual freedoms is possible, necessary, and wonderful.

In an overall evaluation of the summit, Woodhull asked if I felt more energized about sexual freedoms. I said I was not and added the comment “I don’t believe the purpose of the Summit is to make someone dedicated to this cause. We’re all dedicated—that’s why we’re here. I believe the Summit is designed to harness those passions and channel them into real, invigorating solutions.”

Truly all sexual freedom fighters need to go to Woodhull. If it doesn’t dispel any doubts that sex positivity isn’t realistic on a grand scale, at the very least it allows the individual to truly breathe their sexual freedoms. As a two-time attendee, I’m confident that Woodhull is the one of the rare places with care, communication, consent, and caution executed in a wonderful harmony of sexual advocacy.

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