WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. — CatalystCon West hosted its second annual conference at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills this weekend, where industry luminaries, activists, bloggers and consumers gathered to exchange knowledge and support for sex positivity and better sexual health awareness.
CatalystCon West kicked off Friday with daytime pre-events and two opening keynotes attended by more than 200 attendees, organizers said. On Saturday, the crowd scattered among five seminar sessions that were simultaneously held approximately every hour. The sessions had something for everyone, and covered everything from sex toy materials and safety to the legalities of porn, and depending on your focus were on a non-conflicting schedule, CatalystCon organizer Dee Dennis said. “We’ll never have two of the same seminars at the same time.”
While some panels were based on discussion, others served as workshops where attendees could — for example — learn how to monetize writing erotica or sex toy reviews. Panels such as the “Talkin’ About a Revolution” panel had a business-to-business angle in discussing how adult retailers could benefit from establishing a relationship with sex educators.
CatalystCon West’s exhibitor room, Sportsheets Discovery Center and the Wicked Sensual Retreat presented opportunities for manufacturers to connect with consumers.
“It’s evolved on so many different levels,” Dennis told XBIZ. “On the speaker angle, the session angle … We had over 120 sessions and for every one that I picked I had to turn down three sessions so I think there’s a lot more people that have now heard about CatalystCon and have heard about me. With our exhibitors, I think we’ve boosted the amount of interaction. This year especially – we have the Aneros lounge and We-Vibe giving away free Thrills for tweets, the Sportsheets Discovery Center, the Wicked Sensuals Retreat — so this was a huge growth. Everybody’s loved the event, We-Vibe has already committed to next year.”
Aneros, a continued sponsor of CatalystCon, unveiled the redesigned Evi kegel exerciser to attendees this weekend.
“CatalystCon really brings together a lot of open-minded people that can spark conversations toward change,” Aneros CEO CT Schenk told XBIZ. “With Evi being such a unique product in a very large, saturated market where products can be really similar, Evi stands out so we wanted to tap into the source that would really help give us support, give feedback and spread the message without necessarily having to sell the product. It’s a way to develop relationships with people rather than build sales. As a manufacturer, we spread education to our distribution channels already and sex educators are a good source for consumers not necessarily for product knowledge but for their use.”
Schenk also participated on “The Ass Panel,” speaking candidly on boosting the acceptance of prostate play among men with fellow industry luminaries Sportsheets founder Tom Stewart, sexologist and XBIZ Premiere columnist Charlie Glickman and pegging blogger/erotica writer Ruby Ryder.
“I found out about CatalystCon because I went to the first Momentum conference a couple of years ago and it morphed into Catalyst,” Glickman said. “As a sexologist and sex coach in this field, it seems that the buzz has grown more and more each year. If you’re involved in human sexuality it’s a great place to be.
“I was booked on two panels — one on sex positivity with Carol Queen, which it’s always a pleasure to talk to her and there was a lot of great questions so it turned out to be a lot of fun. It has been a jam-packed weekend, and a great time.”
This year, CatalystCon also presented attendees with a bookstore operated by Stories Books & Cafe that sold books and hosted book signings with CatalystCon speakers.
“The bookstore here sold out of my book,” Glickman told XBIZ. “This is a crowd that understands the value of sex education and sex positive information and I feel so honored to be recognized by my community.”
Saturday night featured entertainment that included sex trivia games hosted by Sportsheets’ Tom Stewart and Tantus’ Metis Black that featured a “Jeopardy” theme complete with buzzers for contestants. Stewart told XBIZ he called in a game show software expert to ensure the games were professionally played.
“Metis and other friend of mine had attended the one in Long Beach and told me about it, and I had to get involved,” Stewart said. “Dee Dennis is a phenomenal person that had this great concept of a sexuality symposium to open up discussion among a diverse group, and so we sponsored the last one, took a chance and we got a great response.”
Word of mouth also encouraged We-Vibe to participate at CatalystCon West 2013.
“Tom from Sportsheets called me up and told me I had to be here,” Standard Innovation CEO Danny Osadca told XBIZ. “The value I see is that we’re reaching a different community of bloggers and sexperts in person. It’s an opportunity to improve our relationships with them. We’re committed to continue to be involved with CatalystCon East and West on a continuous basis.”
Nature Labs also is among the new sponsors of CatalystCon.
“I believe that through social media I connected with Dee about a year ago and after learning about the event, I decided to come on board this year,” Nature Labs CEO Lou Rivers said. “I like this show because it’s a grassroots show, we have therapists and bloggers and writers. It’s getting to the heart of the business.”
The closing keynote attracted up to 200 guests, all eager to hear Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who achieved iconic status as the Surgeon General of the U.S. appointed by Bill Clinton, who was forced to resign after publicly stating that masturbation was healthy and should be taught to young people. The Q&A session was preceded by a tearful thank you from Dennis and her team of event organizers and volunteers, and concluded with the Sportsheets executive team honoring Elders with an award for Outstanding Leadership, Hard Work and Dedication to Sexual Education and Safe Practices.
The next CatalystCon East is set for March 14-16, in Arlington, Va.