For many adult writers, the annual Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit is the definite US conference-going event of the year. This is a sentiment I definitely share, and it’s one that I took with me when I made my own voyage ‘across the pond’ to meet my US blogging friends earlier this year.
But, although I attended Eroticon as a professionally successful (and totally stoked) adult writer, is was absolutely miserable in my personal life. I was in the midst of an emotionally abusive, co-dependent relationship that I allowed to continue for far too long, largely because I didn’t know any better and kept my struggles from my partner and I’s shared friends.
By the time I left that conference I had realized that my relationship was not healthy, could not continue, and had gained the bravery to end things for good.
This would never have been possible without the safe, opening, and accepting environment fostered by the conference and its many wonderful attendees. I say ‘attendees’ but, come the end of the conference, our communal relationship went beyond this by far.
What Is It About Conferences?
What is it about conferences that often leaves us walking away with such a mental boost?
In theory conferences, such as Eroticon, are primarily professional: They allow people in a shared industry to meet up, network, and share useful industry insights which can help foster professional improvement.
Eroticon certainly does all of this. Having attended last year I left thinking about authorial techniques and legal considerations that had never even crossed my mind before (plus I got to exercise with a whip while dancing around a pole, but I digress). You don’t have to just take my word for it either: fellow reviewer Candy Snatch has authored her own post about how her Eroticon ticket practically paid for itself in terms of professional development and I’ve talked to many attendees who have shared this sentiment.
But, beyond this, many Eroticon goers have also conveyed to me much more. They’ve shared with me how much better they feel after every conference – how much surer they are in themselves, their writing, or their lives. Many leave Eroticon (and similar events) feeling that their lives are improved because of it. Some, like myself, even make decisions beyond the professional, ones that have a long-reaching personal impact. So what gives?
I can’t speak for any other Eroticon attendee when it comes to why they feel this way. That being said, I have heard some recurring reasons when discussing the ‘post-con high’ with others. Combining these with my own sentiments I’d like to offer my opinion on how and why adult conferences offer so much more than just the professional angle.
You’re Meeting Your Friends
When you walk in to Eroticon it may be the first time you’ve ever seen any of the people there in person, but that really doesn’t matter at all. Chances are, you already know at least one third of the people there and the formalities of name giving that follows is purely about putting names to faces.
Last year was my first Eroticon and I had no idea what to expect, but the moment I shared my name with anyone there and they did the same we’d both have that ‘light bulb’ moment and end up beaming huge smiles at each other. Soon after we’d be smiling, laughing, and sharing sex toy stories together because we already knew each other – we were already friends.
And, let’s face it, being around your friends in any setting is pretty bad ass. Let alone a huge get together where you all get to geek out about your favourite shared hobby. Speaking of which…
No One Yucks Each Other’s Yums
When going to an adult conference you pretty much expect any topic to be on the table. Fetishes, relationship preferences, that one time in the sex maze where you bit down a tad too hard on the peeking penis. You name it. Sex and relationships, usually two hugely taboo topics, are the name of the game and the sense of liberation that comes with sharing anything you feel comfortable with regarding these topics is indescribable (and can even spark some new ideas or revelations).
The key word above being ‘comfortable’: I share openly and freely at Eroticon because I feel like I can happily do so without judgement, and usually get solidarity in return. At the very least I know that everyone respects each other’s boundaries, and is genuinely interested in fostering a positive environment.
How often do you get a two-day event where that’s the case? It’s like sexy soup for the soul (sploshing optional).
There Is a Genuine Sense of Mental Awareness and Compassion
And, finally, due to the intersectional and relationship-driven aspect of sex writing, many people at adult conferences tend to be aware of mental health and wellbeing concerns and have a strong investment in making sure that these are at the core of their personal ethos.
Sex writers are often, at their core, caregivers. Even those that present themselves as the most formidable social and sexual justice warriors do so because they firmly believe in people’s right to have their emotional and physical needs appreciated and nurtured in a safe manner.
Get a group of people together who are all on the same page regarding the importance of mental and physical health and you’re going to find that the vast majority of people will walk away feeling personally validated in addition to being professionally valued.
This was certainly the atmosphere I felt when I spoke on a panel about sexual health issues and adult writing at Eroticon 2017 and I imagine I’ll feel the same this year too.
Those are a few of my thoughts when it comes to the many emotional benefits that a conference environment can foster, but what are yours? If you’ve had a positive Eroticon experience please do share it in the comments. I’d love to know what helped you leave with the warm fuzzies. Perhaps in doing so we can even take the strong sense of solidarity that Eroticon promotes and stretch it out to last us between the agonizing wait that follow post-Eroticon each year (a Peach can dream!)