Unbelievably, it’s already been over a month since I left Germany for Woodhull #SFS16. I’ve already written about the sessions that I was able to attend, and you can check that out here. Today I want to talk about what I experienced and, most terrifyingly, how I felt.
Photo shows two SheVibe stickers (one logo, one Blog Squad), a Doxy Wand keychain, a dildo from Funkit Toys, two bundles of blue Twisted Monk rope, and a Tantus Rumble, all on top of a white faux sheepskin.
#SFS16: The Experiences
Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit was my first con in 3 years, so I tried to pack as much into it as possible. As a result, I kind of wore myself out, both physically and emotionally. My experiences ran the gamut from rejuvenating to deeply challenging, and some were just surreal.
I was a Little Tied Up
One of the highlights of the weekend was being tied by Mr. BLK from Black Pomegranate. A few weeks ago, it kind of just randomly popped into my head that I might enjoy being tied up. At the time, I had no rope and no experienced friend or partner to try it with. So, I put it on the back burner until I arrived at Woodhull.
On Friday afternoon, thanks to Artemisia’s recommendation, I tracked down Mr. BLK and we had a talk about rope basics, safety, and the importance of communication when setting up an experience. Immediately, I felt like I was in good hands. We made plans for a demo later that night that would be an educational and sensory experience1.
Mr. BLK started with a single cable tie on one of my wrists, making sure that I felt comfortable and that the rope was sitting correctly and not cutting off my circulation. Then, he bound my wrists together. When I confirmed that that was comfortable and that I was interested in trying another tie, he untied my wrists and started on a series of ties that bound my arms behind my back, created a chest harness, and bound my legs together.
Until he started tying, I really didn’t know how I would feel about rope bondage. It’s always possible to be cut out with safety shears, but I thought I might experience some panic. On the contrary, though, I found it super relaxing. It was a situation in which I really didn’t have to think – I only had to communicate if I was comfortable, mentally and physically.
Also – and this part is difficult to articulate – I thought it was hot. The physical sensation of being tied was super hot. The imagery of being tied was super hot. I felt comfortable and confident, much of which can be attributed to Mr. BLK’s expertise and manner.
After the demo, I hooked up with Twisted Monk, who generously gave me some of their beautiful rope to practice with. Rope posts coming soon!
Experiences in the #Blogsquad
Oh man. It is so good to be with your people.
I remember walking into the Bloggers’ Lounge (thanks, Tantus!) and recognizing only a few folks. As we introduced ourselves, we put Twitter handles and blogs to faces. It was magical, because we’d built this connection – some over months, and some over years – and finally we were in the same room.
Some parts of the experience were a little strange. First, I had to get used to being the one who was recognized; not because I think I’m a big deal, but because I’m non-anon and I like a good selfie. (Someone did get excited when I introduced myself, though. It was really surreal and very flattering.) It was also strange to be on the go all the time. If I wasn’t in a session, I was tracking someone down to chat. The weekend went by in a blur of amazing company.
On Friday night, SheVibe even threw us a Blogger pajama party, which I feel I could best describe with emoji but you’re going to have to settle for text. Imagine an open bar, a poetry slam, and a bunch of sex bloggers. A unanimous favorite of the evening: Girl On The Net threw down a fantastic limerick so dirty that it was met with an ongoing chorus of “YES!”, riotous laughter, and a few moans. Plus, we all left with some pretty sweet swag (some of which is pictured above).
#SFS16: The Feels
I’m going to talk about The Feels. I haven’t talked about Feels in forever, because there’s always a voice that says “No one wants to read that!” It may surprise you, being that I talk about my opinions about sex toys on the internet, but I have some vulnerability issues. I fucking hate vulnerability.
I did finally finish Daring Greatly, though, and I’m trying.
What happened at Woodhull was that I was confronted with a lot of vulnerability, and also a lot of caring. Part of that happened in the session I spoke about in my last post, #sfsconsent. A lot of it was outside the sessions, with my fellow bloggers or other industry folks.
Pleasure & Vulnerability Feels
As mentioned in my first Woodhull post, #sfsconsent was the most vulnerable session for me. It’s weird, because prior to being confronted with all the awesome and terrifying things Elle and Jaclyn had to say, I wouldn’t have assumed I had issues with pleasure. (I knew I had issues with vulnerability. Like, that’s totally a foregone conclusion.) After all, I write about sex toys! I write about orgasms! I take baths, drink wine, and eat all the foods! But it’s more than that. Pleasure involves vulnerability, and it’s seriously dampened when self-criticism joins the party.
This is the part of the post where I wish I could tell you how I beat my inner critic. But, I can’t. She’s still there, being a little fun-sucking bitch. Anything that I enjoy is grounds for analysis and criticism. She’s a perfectionist while I’m trying to be happy with ‘good enough’.
I can’t tell you how I got rid of her. I can only tell you how I’m muddling through. I’ve decided to identify her as a separate entity, a tactic that my therapist suggested. Sometimes I recognize what she’s saying and accept it as a thought without responding. Sometimes, I tell her to fuck off. I also try to pay attention to things that bring me pleasure but don’t catch the attention of my critic, like fresh sheets or Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
It’s a work in progress. Even folks who make pleasure their business aren’t immune to the struggles faced by much of humanity.
The entire time that I was in the US, I had a combination of jet lag and anxiety. Jet lag makes me nauseous, nausea makes me anxious, and anxiety sometimes makes me physically ill. So, I was in a vicious circle. If you’ve never experienced anxiety or panic attacks, what you need to understand is that it can be a very, very vulnerable experience. It can be so scary to have anxiety or panic in front of people.
As much as I’ve learned in therapy and by working on myself, sometimes I don’t have the tools to stop it, and then all I can do is ask for help.
And when I asked, help arrived. Swiftly and in many forms, like Lilly, Ashley Manta, Sugarcunt, Formidable Femme, and VivaLaSexy. I commiserated with LilithReviews and Hedonish. Plus, Caitlin had the foresight to book us a room way off in the retreat wing. In essence, I knew that #blogsquad had my back.
Someone said that finding a person that you can fall into mutual weirdness with is love. If that’s the case, then I completely understand why this group of bloggers feels like chosen family.
At the same time, it did come to my attention that some folks felt left out by the formation of #blogsquad. Those of us who had been blogging and particularly active for a long time perhaps took for granted that we’d be included. Why wouldn’t we be? We’re the bloggers. It didn’t really occur to me that anyone would assume they weren’t in the Blog Squad. I think it’ll be important to be mindful and to be actively engaging folks on the sidelines next year.
Thank you to everyone who made my trip to #SFS16 possible. This includes my wonderful sponsors, Sliquid and Holistic Wisdom. Many, many thanks to the readers, friends, and family who contributed towards my trip. It was an incredible experience and I hope to make it back next year.
- “Educational” as opposed to “play” ↩