Sometimes it feels easy to answer the question “What is SEXx?” “It’s community events we do throughout the year on sex and sexuality,” I often reply. But that reply doesn’t fully capture our work.
Let me start from today and journey back. This year, we named ourselves the SEXx Collective, added the brilliant Feminista Jones and proclaimed our vision as: dedicated to ensuring the protection and promotion of sexual freedom as a basic and fundamental right afforded to everyone. Our work is connected to human rights, gender, race, equity, and social and economic justice. We focus on furthering a framework that speaks and lends agency to the complex issues that drive human sexuality. We are deeply rooted in the principles of liberation, pleasure, education and the self-determination of individuals to make informed decisions for their own well-being, as well as that of their communities.
On May 17, we will host SEXx: Sex as Resistance. The current sociopolitical climate, though intense, is not new. This country is rooted in related systems of oppression, domination and discrimination. Our society hinders sexual and reproductive justice for people living in the margins. People of color, LGB and especially T individuals, people living with disabilities, immigrants, folks in the sex trade and people living with HIV continue to face discrimination and violence, and are constantly denied the basic human right to sexual liberation. SEXx: Sex as Resistance will highlight the authentic stories and performances of people whose mere existence is resistance and advance the idea that pleasure is a right, not a privilege.
Now let’s go back. Who am I? I earned a master’s degree in human sexuality and am a licensed social worker in Pennsylvania. I was the proud director of GALAEI for six years. My purpose in life is supporting individuals and communities to be sexually healthy and whole. One day in 2014, I sat watching a dear friend and community leader, Chris Bartlett, doing a brilliant TEDx talk. I was so inspired I texted my friend Dr. Timaree Schmit that very moment to ask “Hey, whattya think about doing a ‘TEDx’ event based solely on sex?” “Awesome, let’s do this,” she exclaimed. SEXx was born.
Cut to several weeks later when we hosted our first event at William Way to a standing-room-only audience. We chose to host it in May in honor of National Masturbation Month. Yep. It’s an actual holiday. It started in 1995 by the amazing folks at Good Vibrations in California in response to Dr. Jocelyn Elders, then-U.S. Surgeon General, being fired for merely suggesting masturbation be taught in sex ed. SEXx exists to uplift the voices of those who, like Elders, believe we must do more to ensure youth have access to comprehensive sexuality education. Most of the crowd at that first SEXx stayed the entire three hours to watch the 19 presenters talk on everything from blow jobs to tantric sex.
We were on to something! We invited more sex-positive community leaders to join us so the collective expanded to include Katelyn Regan, David Acosta, Susan DiPronio and Tara Lessard — artists, poets, academics, sexologists and all-around badasses. Our vision expanded too. We have the opportunity and obligation to combat sex negativity by creating spaces for our communities to learn and heal. The three-hour event grew into SEXxInteractive, a four-day conference that spoke to the heart, mind and body, as sexuality is so much more than sexual intercourse. We intentionally centered it on underrepresented communities and were honored the keynote speakers included Jones, Ignacio Rivera and Carlos Decena. The staple “TEDx” presentations were joined by dance parties, an art exhibit, live performance art, lectures and hands-on workshops.
In 2016, we hosted a “TEDx”-style event where, similar to previous years, presentations showed sexuality as complex, important and beautiful. SEXx creates spaces for communities to talk and learn from the real, lived experiences of people who claim that everyone has the right to healthy and pleasurable sexuality regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, immigration status, class, age or ability. Last fall, we also hosted an intimate gathering with two women who survived breast cancer: SEXx member Susan DiPronio, who is dedicated to giving voice to the unique life experiences of women, transgender and genderqueer individuals; and Ericka Hart, who is a self-proclaimed kinky, poly, cancer-warrior, activist, sexuality educator and performer.
The SEXx Collective will continue working to create spaces where our communities can grow, heal and resist. Read more at www.sexxinteractive.com.
SEXx: Sex as Resistance takes place May 17 at William Way LGBT Community Center and Franky Bradley’s. Tickets at: https://sexx-sexasresistance.eventbrite.com.