SEXx Interactive is a four-day celebration of sex-positive culture organized by members of Philadelphia’s queer community.
The event, billed as a “Journey for the Mind, Heart and Body,” is modeled on the popular TED talks. More than 60 speakers will appear from May 7-10. The presentations and workshops will take place at the First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. In addition, related comedy, dance parties, performance art and more will be held at various venues in and around the Gayborhood.
According to Elicia Gonzales, executive director of GALAEI, a queer Latin@ social justice organization and a principal sponsor, SEXx Interactive is unique.
“It’s the first event of its kind — definitely in the region, but we feel bold and confident to say in the country — that really intersects the heart, mind and body dimensions of sexuality,” she said.
SEXx Interactive differs from academic conferences devoted to human sexuality in two important respects, Gonzales explained. First, it is intended to be accessible and enjoyable, as well as informative. Second, it is open to everyone — not just experts — no matter what their gender identification or sexuality.
The welcoming atmosphere and open-minded approach are intentional. For the past few months, Gonzales and a core group of local artists and activists have been working together to make SEXx Interactive a reality. The organizers include David Acosta, Susan DiPronio, Tara Lessard and Katelyn Regan.
What they’ve come up with is a smorgasbord of sex-positive offerings that attendees can sample in a safe and supportive environment. Among the many topics being covered are “Picking a Sex-Positive Therapist,” “Rope Bondage Basics” and “Demystifying Asexuality.”
Gonzales said she’s excited about the lineup and especially curious to check out Katie Starrantino’s talk, “Cancer and Sex.” That’s not a perspective we hear often; as Gonzales noted, not everyone in society has “permission” to be sexual, and that includes sexual minorities, the elderly and those who are ill.
“One of the things I’ve heard from people who are cancer survivors is that they just don’t feel sexy, because maybe their bodies are different, or because they actually are really sick, so they don’t necessarily feel sexy in that way. So I’m really excited about that one,” she said.
SEXx Interactive evolved from a similar but much-smaller event held last May. Gonzales was inspired to do a TED-style talk after hearing Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, speak at TEDx Philadelphia. She mentioned it to local author and sex educator Dr. Timaree Schmit, and the two quickly pulled together a three-hour event featuring 19 speakers.
At the first event, which took place on a weeknight, they had a packed house. In fact, many attendees stood the entire time. That got both women to thinking.
“We just realized that we were really on to something and that it would be wise to do something even bigger and better,” Gonzales said.
The organizers have succeeded in expanding the size and scope of SEXx Interactive — and without losing sight of what originally brought them together. The activists, academics and artists participating in SEXx want the event to act as a corrective to what they view as a generally sex-negative culture, said Gonzales.
“This is a space that really shines light on the need for having sex-positive conversations, sex-positive spaces and really helping folks not only learn through their mind but also experience it through their bodies and through their hearts, because sexuality is dynamic,” she added.
SEXx Interactive is designed to engage attendees on many levels. One example is the way that presentations are identified as Body, Heart and Mind, three broad categories that represent primary ways in which sexuality affects everyone.
Another way organizers are attempting to connect with attendees is by including cool, sexy events in the schedule. They hope people will come for the talks and stick around for the fun. After a day of learning and networking, participants may want to get their groove on at Back 2 Basics, the Stimulus dance party at Tabu; others can explore darker desires at the Aviary, a kinky play party taking place at William Way, to name just two ancillary events.
What unites the disparate elements of SEXx Interactive is the goal of sexual empowerment. As Gonzales sees it, that concern extends from an individual’s personal sexual pleasure to matters of social justice affecting everyone.
“Sexual empowerment also means giving people permission to have agency over our own bodies and to experience and express sexuality in a way that is appropriate for each of us,” Gonzales said.
To register for SEXx Interactive or learn about volunteer opportunities and scholarships, visit www.sexxinteractive.com.