Want to hear about my general experience at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit? Check out Raising My Voice as Quietly as Possible- Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit
It’s been almost a month since Stephen Biggs, Crista Anne and I presented The Monster Under the Bed: Starting the Conversation on Sex and Depression at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit and, frankly, I’m still processing the experience. I wanted to devote a recap exclusively to the session but I haven’t been able to get my head around it. I thought it over and realized that what was flummoxing me was that I while I wanted to talk about the moving conversations, the touching revelations and all that wonderful stuff, the truth is the main feeling I had then and am still having now is, well, “stunned”. I know that sounds strange but the thing is going into the session I was actually a bit scared. Seriously, if you look at any of the pictures of Stephen, Crista and I you can see that I look freaking terrified (we all met for breakfast that morning and everyone seemed a bit bemused by my state) and what ended up happening during it was kind of a shock to me. Why scared? Well, there are a whole bunch of reasons I started the sex and depression project and since starting it I have been told a whole lot of things about why people thought it wouldn’t work. Over the last year and a half or so I let the volume get pretty loud on the voices telling me why this project would fail- so loud that they were starting to drown out the important stuff (and Stephen’s constant assurances). So when we spoke at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit and in the space of 90 minutes disproved all of those of voices and confirmed all of the things I had originally suspected to be true I came away grateful, relieved and more than a bit stunned.
So, what had I been told and what happened? Let’s take a look:
I was told the topic wasn’t “sexy” enough for a sex conference, people wouldn’t come.
Not only did we fill the seats but people stood in the back and sat on the floor (I had to focus on Elle Chase in the front row to keep from getting overwhelmed). People definitely came.
— Mary Q. Contrary (@MaryQConfesses) August 14, 2015
I was told that people don’t want to talk about sex and depression.
The Storify social media round up of posts on the session contains 283 posts and we omitted a lot of the ones where people were saying the same thing – the session was 90 minutes long and people posted nearly 300 times. People want to talk about this.
I was told that talking about sex and depression would be too triggering for people.
As if people dealing with depression are best kept safe by not having anyone directly address their experience. As if ignoring it will make it go away. To be fair, this is something people often tell themselves about topics that make them uncomfortable.
One of the most dangerous lies we tell ourselves is that we don't discuss taboo topics out of respect for the privacy of others.
— JoEllen Notte (@JoEllenNotte) March 4, 2015
I was told no one would care about the information I was collecting.
It was “anecdata”, not scientifically helpful and thus useless. The moments in the session when we discussed the experiences our participants had with doctors, with medications, with shame- those moments reinforced the purpose of the project. When I read that data out the room was full of nodding heads, sighs and occasionally even sympathetic laughter. People were hearing their experiences reflected back to them and that was powerful.
— Smitten Kitten (@SmittenKittenMN) August 14, 2015
I was told that I wasn’t the right person to do this work.
I lacked the qualifications to research and discuss mental health and consequently was running a huge risk of backlash. No joke, I was totally afraid someone was going to call me out on this “j’accuse!”-style mid-session (yes, now I hear how absurd that sounds). So, perhaps obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead people listened, asked questions and got excited by the work- you know, just like if a “real” person had done it ;-) To top it all off my amazing colleague Stephen Biggs surprised the heck out of me with some incredibly kind words at the start of the session that kind of set the tone for the whole thing:
— Alex S. Morgan (@Alex_S_Morgan) August 14, 2015
I was told all of these things but still I thought this was a conversation people wanted to have and presenting The Monster Under The Bed at Woodhull showed me that I was right. People are desperate to talk about this topic, they want to share their experiences (though it’s totally cool if you don’t want to share your mental health experience that’s always a personal choice), they want to hear that other people are experiencing similar things, that it’s not just them, that this is real, that they are not crazy or broken or alone. What struck me the most though was how the conversation extended beyond those 90 minutes and outside of that conference room. People listened and joined in from far away:
— Tristan Taormino (@TristanTaormino) August 14, 2015
People got together to continue talking at the Summit:
— Lilith (@LilithReviews) August 14, 2015
People went home and wrote about their experiences:
— Kitten Karlyle (@KittenKarlyle) August 18, 2015
The session was so obviously just the beginning.
In the month since presenting at Woodhull many people have thanked me for the work that went into our session and for being willing to take on this topic but what I don’t think I’ve said enough is thank YOU. Thank you to all of you who showed up, listened, tweeted, asked questions, nodded, smiled and let me know that we’re on the right track with this work. Thank you for taking this project past the first phase – the phase where I’m worried about all of those things listed above and into the second phase, where I can make it into something more. Thank you all so very much. Thank you again to the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance for having us, to Stephen for the unending support and Crista for adding so much to this session. Thank you also to Metis Black who gave us a great introduction and whose kind words have stayed with me since (and who apparently gave me a new title while I was writing this) and a big thank you to Elle Chase who kept me stable, brought me water and also (fun piece of trivia) came up with the title “The Monster Under The Bed”. So much love to all of you.
Curious about what’s next? Sad that you missed the session at Woodhull? Just really want to talk about sex and depression? Stephen and I are bringing The Monster Under the Bed to Toronto’s Playground Conference in November!
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