Why I Do Not Support CatalystCon and Probably Never Will
The audio of the closing keynote has been posted since the publishing of this article. You can find it here.
This is a long one. tl;dr I’ll not be attending or supporting CatalystCon until its leaders prove to me and the rest of the sex positive community that they actually stand behind the things they claim to believe, and are not just paying them lip service.
So we all know I didn’t actually attend CatalystCon (CCON) this year, right? I mean, I’ve never been. I’ve never really felt invited or welcome. Something about a drunk hooker joke, and my unpopular opinions.
I considered going this year anyway, because some really cool people that I really enjoy working with and talking to online were going to be there; like the crew over at SheVibe, and Tantus, and a couple bloggers we all know and love. But when it came down to it, my social anxiety and the knowledge that M would be so incredibly bored (and probably incredibly annoyed) won out, so I didn’t attempt to talk him into it beyond bringing it up once or twice in passing. “Oh, we could stay at Mom’s and drive into the city every day. Make a week of it at Mom’s, and end it with the con, ya know?”
Turns out, it wouldn’t have worked out, anyway, because his back’s all fucked up. He’s had an MRI, and they’re calling it a disc extrusion. The disc is pushing on a nerve that runs the length of your leg. They gave him a Cortisone shot but it only sort of worked, so he went back for another one (that didn’t work) the day after my birthday. Ultimately, we would have wasted a whole shit load of money because no way would I go without him, and no way would I let him go with the amount of pain he’s in. So it’s good I didn’t try to talk him into it.
But doubly so because Jesus fuck, there’s a lot of negativity surrounding the conference, this year. I mean, there’s been negativity surrounding the conference in years past, but a lot of it was he said/she said, and not the blatant disregard of the people paying the money to attend (who are ultimately the only reason the con continues to exist) that has been exhibited this year by the con’s founder, Dee Dennis, and her crew.
Here are the facts as I understand them in no specific order. I could be wrong on some counts, and invite all those involved to tell me so. I will make any changes necessary upon request, as long as there’s evidence the changes are accurate, and I apologize in advance if I’ve stepped on any toes not worthy of being stepped on.
1 — Someone waited until Sunday to tweet something based on something that happened on Friday. That tweet made someone else look bad. Instead of taking it up with the first someone, CCON “uninvited” her (but didn’t ban her! Let’s make sure we keep that straight! No one has been banned. Not even the groups CCON is mad at. The uninvited comment was deleted. Unfortunately, that is a fact of which I do not have proof. I didn’t expect to need to screenshot an uninviting. My bad. But as you can see from the screenshot I linked, I’m not the only one who saw it.) from future CCONs and then badmouthed her in a vague way on a thread she was not involved in–or, presumably, able to see–that was about not badmouthing people in a vague way on threads they’re not involved in. I’m told the actual issue was resolved between tweeter and mentioned, but it’s possible Dee and her crew aren’t privy to that information.
I don’t have names of the involved (not that I’d give them, anyway…you can probably find them if you do some research) because the thread was vague and the first someone has since deleted their Twitter account (or at least changed the handle). That she waited until after the con and didn’t speak to the person she tweeted about personally was her downfall, but apparently, the whole “speak to the person you disagree with in a timely manner” thing only applies to con attendees, and not Dee and her crew.
2 — A whole slew of other someones who were not involved in the agreed-upon offensive tweet were badmouthed in the same thread–that can only be viewed in its entirety by Dee and her friends–over a hashtag that was created a year or more before the con. There were very few tweets, and they and the hashtag were taken down prior to CCON, so there was literally no reason for them to be brought into the issue. This badmouthing, too, was done in a very vague manner, but everyone knows who they’re talking about. Apparently, you’re only allowed to criticize someone if they’re young and haven’t been a part of the sex pozzie community since forever.
3 — There seems to be some issue with those of us who use a pseudonym or hide our faces. Apparently, those of us who can afford to be out have forgotten what it can cost for those of us who have more to lose. But it only applies to those of us who are “bad” sex pozzies. The rest can hide their faces and use fake names all they want.
4 — According to Dee–who has, to my knowledge, been the single outspoken person involved in the situation aside from a few who seem offended that they were not included–some people took offense to their likeness being used without consent on the “Spirit of CCON” poster SheVibe made (a version of this poster is pictured above) with the intent to sell solely to raise money for the Center for Sex and Culture. In the month leading up to the event, Dee and almost all of the other people depicted in the poster expressed their approval via various social media sites. Many of those approving posts have been deleted since Dee first began stirring this particular pot, including Dee’s.
Despite the fact that SheVibe was legally within their right because the likenesses are not true-to-life, they removed everyone Dee claims has expressed to her that they have issues with being included in the poster. They also removed “#CCON” and added “removed upon penalty of death” which was probably a little snarkier than they had to be, but if I’m to be honest, I have to admit I’d have done something similar.
SheVibe is now being labelled a bully, and is being accused of trying to strong-arm the people who were originally in the poster into backing down. From where I sit, and knowing the folks at SheVibe like I do, it’s more likely that SheVibe was insulted that something they did to try to raise funds for a sex+ organization they believe in was flung back in their face, and reacted in kind. And before you try to tell me that doesn’t matter, remember that intent is everything, right down to the difference between an accidental death and homicide.
All in all, though I have no doubt there are actually some people who are upset by their images being on a poster without first being consulted about it, the fact that almost everyone whose image was comic booked kept it to themselves until much larger problems that threaten the core of CCON came to light makes the whole #POSTERGATE thing feel like a red herring.
5 — People who had nothing to do with #POSTERGATE were dragged into #POSTERGATE and subsequently shunned by some simply for being seen speaking to SheVibe at CCON around the time people in the poster were signing said poster.
6 — The closing…oh, the closing.
The closing keynote included a frank interview between Carol Queen and Betty Dodson about Betty’s experiences as a sex positive activist, and sexuality in the 60s. At some point, the topic turned to bestiality, and Betty said, “I don’t know about you kids, but in the sixties, we were up for anything,” and instantly, the mood of the con changed.
Later on, Carol said something about Betty grabbing her ass, and then said something like, “She [Betty] will probably grab your ass, too. If she does, just tell her to stop.” And from there, a harmless conversation between two old friends became two sex positive heroes (and eventually a whole bunch of others online once it was clear people were bothered by the situation) telling a room at least half-full of survivors that they did not have the right to tell their heroes not to touch them.
Betty suggested that if people didn’t want her to grab their asses, they should keep them in their seats. Then, when someone mentioned maybe that’s not how consent works, Betty told con-goers to “get over themselves.”
And then, Carol lectured the room on Betty’s “obvious understanding of consent” and their inadequacy as sex pozzies that prevented them from getting the joke.
I’m with Heather Parker on this one. She says, in her post on the situation, “This was a flagrant abuse of the power dynamics between the older, more experienced generation in the movement and those newer to the movement, something that I had hoped someone who had just given a workshop on consent earlier in the day would have recognized.”
Since then, CCON has mostly refused to speak about the subject, completely ignoring the implications the closing holds for survivors (who they claim they’re trying to help). They just keep promising those of us who didn’t attend that the triggered survivors and other uncomfortable con-goers are making mountains out of molehills. They keep promising audio that had yet to surface by the time this was posted will prove this.
And ya know, even if it does, the fact remains that the closing keynote TRIGGERED SURVIVORS. Dee and her crew don’t get to tell survivors how they’re allowed to react to their sex positive heroes asserting that they (the heroes) are exempt to the rules of consent. Period.
(Much of my knowledge on the closing at the time of this posting came from this post by Heather Parker, this post by Mona Darling, and conversations had with people who were actually there and took issue with how the subject of consent was handled.)
7 — Since the conference, the idea that people who took issue with the closing keynote (including survivors) and didn’t speak up at the keynote are not allowed to speak up now has been bandied about by Dee and her crew. They’re particularly upset that people took their issues to Twitter, instead of raising their hands during the keynote, or after during the Q&A, and have outright said that those people gave up the right to be heard when they chose to speak out on Twitter rather than confronting two sex pozzie icons in a room the two women dominated completely. They continually brush off con-goers’ assertion that con-goers (and especially survivors) didn’t feel comfortable even asking a question during the keynote because of Betty’s gruff, matter-of-fact tone, and the subsequent lecture from Carol sufficiently silenced any that considered questioning the consent violation.
8 — This may be wholly unrelated, but shortly after CCON, affiliates and reviewers of GoodVibes received an email that ultimately tells bloggers to be less sex negative in their reviews and consider how other people might use a sex toy. The email from GoodVibes used a lot of the same language found in a thread led by Dee that eventually devolved into a discussion of “negative” sex bloggers, and included a section by Carol Queen on how to be sex positive. From what I understand from those in attendance at CCON, the section by Carol Queen had similar assertions to the ones Carol made in the closing in defense of Betty, which makes this email feel like it was sent as damage control. Both of these things make Dee’s tirade over consent (while ignoring other issues of consent brought about by her keynote speakers that are at least as pressing, if not more so) and negativity seem awful coincidental.
For the record, I don’t care what the sex pozzie heroes say. I’ll be sex positive in my own way, please and thank you, and that will not include formulating my sexuality and opinion on sex toys around how someone else may feel about them, or telling survivors that sex pozzie heroes get a pass from the rules of consent because they’ve been on this wild ride longer, and they do sex differently. There is a difference between “doing sex differently” and “violating the rules of consent,” and as far as I’m concerned, the comments from Betty and Carol at CCON were the latter.
At this point, I am all for the movement, but I have no faith in the leaders. I keep hoping they’ll prove me wrong. I asked them to address the issue I find most pertinent (point blank in an email to the con’s fearless leader), and they have not. Others have asked them to address the issues they find most pertinent, and they have not. And this #POSTERGATE stuff is just…what the hell?
I mean, I understand changing your mind about something, but how about just say that, instead of, “I never gave consent,” when clearly, you did, because you handed over a picture and then publicly bought the finished product. But that’s neither here, nor there. However that goes down, it’s an issue far greater than my understanding of the law, and is in far more capable hands than mine.
Then people began telling me in private that most people aren’t comfortable discussing the issues surrounding CCON in a public forum because they’re afraid of the repercussions.
I don’t blame them, and I completely understand. For some people, this sex blogging thing is their life. For others, it’s their livelihood. And for still others it is their salvation. And the fact that some folks are afraid they’ll lose those things if they speak their mind about an organization that is supposed to care about the thoughts and feelings of the community it has “built with blood, sweat, and tears” infuriates me.
I don’t have a brand, but if I did, it would have a lot to do with the fact that I speak my mind no matter who gets pissed off about my opinion. I was blogging before I had readers. I’ll continue to blog when even my haters stop reading. And I regularly hang myself with my blunt honesty. There is literally not a fuck to be given about what these people may or may not be able to do to my blogging reputation. So I’d feel remiss if I kept my mouth shut. And in the end, I just can’t get behind an organization that handles valid community concerns by brushing off the issue, and belittling and bullying the people expressing concerns. I mean, it’s why most of us left EdenFantasys. Two can play at that game, Dee. Winky face.
There may have been other issues, but I’m at 2400 words, already. If I missed something you think is pertinent, please feel free to leave it in comments or email me at rayne(at)insatiabledesire[dot]com, and I’ll add it to the list.
Posts About CatalystCon East That I’ve Read
All of the posts included here are about CatalystCon East. Some were linked to within the post. Some are negative. Some are positive. Some speak to the issues I’ve mentioned here, and some don’t. Read what interests you and leave the rest. I’m not a shepherd. Formulate your own opinions.
- AUDIO CatalystCon Closing Keynote Plenary Address – Afternoon Tea with Betty Dodson (at the top of the page)
- CatalystCon East Declared a Success; West Coast Dates Announced
- Holding Our Heroes Accountable
- CatalystCon 2014 — Incredible End-Cap to A Year of Discovery and the Start of a New Year
- Top 5 Things I Learned at Catalyst Con East
- Snippets From My Weekend at Catalyst Con
- Why Were The Six-Es at CatalystCon?
- Celebrating Diversity, Collaboration and Conversation-CatalystCon
- Catalyst Con East
- CatalystCon and Titcircles with Betty Dodson
- Dee Dennis on practicing self care – this is mostly here for the comments
- Dee Dennis on the issue of the poster and consent – if you have time, you should read the comments here, too.
- The #CCON Poster – The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth
- WTF Happened To Consent?
- My First Time…at CatalystCon East