Continuing education – The benefits of classes and conferences.
It wasn’t too long ago when I overhauled both my relationship and my life. Having spent years trying to fit into the conventional mold, I finally had to break through and be myself. This meant opening up my marriage for the first time and exploring kink again. I had already scoured the internet for information by this point and found a near endless supply of helpful sites. I accumulated podcasts, blogs, tumblrs, websites and e-newsletters to help me on my journey. I also devoured books. But I am a bit of a researchaholic so I just couldn’t stop there. I wanted to find something that combined all those learning possibilities with the added benefit of finding a community. I found all that by exploring classes and conferences.
No matter what your journey there is much to be gained from these events. You can find everything from small individual classes at your local sex shop to large weekend long conferences where you can meet the rock stars of sex education. There are events that cover a broad selection of subjects and others that cater to a specific theme or community. Identifying what you really need can help you figure out which event to attend, but a willingness to explore new paths could be beneficial as well.
I started with a smaller, somewhat local class at The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood. I was too shy at the time to interact with anyone but it was nice to sit in a room with others who shared the same interests. It was also refreshing to hear people speak openly about sex and sexuality in a way I didn’t often hear back in my suburban community. Shops like The Pleasure Chest have lots of classes and special events. If you are lucky enough to have one of the larger shops in your area, you can even get some important names too. Shops like Good Vibrations, Babeland, Smitten Kitten, Early to Bed and The Pleasure Chest will have classes weekly, while some might have one once a month with periodic special events. If you don’t have a large store in your area and your local store does not offer much, say something. Tell them you’d like a class on better oral sex or an introduction to kink. Expressing demand can help to get classes in motion.
You can find classes in BDSM/kink at stores but also at local dungeons or play spaces. Dungeons will have weekly or monthly classes about everything from how to use a flogger properly to the use of safe words and after care. There are BDSM/kink conferences and weekend seminars too. Events like International Ms. Leather, Dom Con, Dark Odyssey, Fetish Fair Fleamarket, Leather Leadership Conference, Kink Fest and ShibariCon offer demos, classes and presentations.
There are non-monogamy conferences too. You can find events for Swingers, Polyamory and open relationships in general. Swingers can go to Naughty in N’Awlins or SwingFest. Poly folk can attend Poly Living and Atlanta Poly Weekend. A conference that includes all types of relationships is OpenSF. You can also find many other variations like Tantric and Sacred Sex organizations. All of these events have sessions and workshops to help advance your knowledge or work on specific issues. Keep on the lookout for events like the Bil Conferences and The Farmhouse that are not specifically sexuality conference but often will have sessions that cross over.
There are also sexuality and sex education conferences. These might seem intimidating at first if you are not a professional but lots can be garnered from these events. Most of the ones I’ve looked into do not require certification or experience before attending. These events are an excellent way to expand your knowledge. While some are specifically geared towards counselors, therapists and educators, others are interested in passing on new ideas, recent research and ways to benefit your community. Attending these events could help you as a parent, a couple or even as an individual. CatalystCon was an excellent example of a conference that brought together professional and non-professional alike. Other events you can try are Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality meetings and conference, Good Vibrations Sex Summit, The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, and Transcending Boundaries conference.
There are lots of other options for education. You can find local support centers that provide workshops and resources. The Center for Sex and Culture, The Center for the Research and Education of Gender and Sexuality, Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, Planned Parenthood, local LGBT centers and other sex positive organizations provide everything from classes to support groups. You can try contacting local organizations like Sex Positive St Louis, Sex Positive Los Angeles, Sex Positive Portland, Sex Geekdom LA and other groups and meetups.
There are so many options I can’t begin to list them all here. Attending a conference or workshop could be a fun way to meet new people, exchange ideas and expand your knowledge.