Un­buck­ling the Bi­ble Belt

Inau­gu­ral sex con­fer­ence comes to At­lanta

GA Voice - - Georgia News - By DYANA BAGBY

“I want peo­ple to know we are here, we are judg­ment free, we are learn­ing about our sex lives, and to push peo­ple to be more ac­cept­ing of their bod­ies and sex­u­al­i­ties.”

— Marla Re­nee Stewart, founder of Sex Down South

Peo­ple from across the coun­try are com­ing to the Deep South for a one-of-a-kind sex con­fer­ence that com­bines ed­u­ca­tion with plenty of play­time.

Sex Down South, the inau­gu­ral con­fer­ence founded by two At­lanta women, is set for Oct. 15–17, and will in­clude work­shops rang­ing from mas­tur­ba­tion to fist­ing while also of­fer­ing safe spa­ces for par­tic­i­pants to learn more about heal­ing from sex­ual trauma.

“We have these other sex con­fer­ences, on polyamory and also Froli­con, but we want At­lanta and the South to be on the map as a place of learn­ing and be­ing ad­vanced in our sex­ual learn­ing de­spite liv­ing in the Bi­ble Belt,” says Marla Re­nee Stewart, who founded the con­fer­ence with Tia Marie.

Stewart has stud­ied hu­man sex­u­al­ity for 13 years and is a pro­fes­sional sex, in­ti­macy and re­la­tion­ship ed­u­ca­tor, and owner of Vel­vet Lips LLC. Tia Marie has been study­ing sex­u­al­ity and eroti­cism for more than a decade.

ATL not un­der a ‘re­pres­sion cloud’

New York and San Fran­cisco are known for their ro­bust sex­ual com­mu­ni­ties, says Stewart, who iden­ti­fies as queer. And it’s time for At­lanta to be in­cluded with these cities.

“I want peo­ple to know we are here, we are judg­ment free, we are learn­ing about our sex lives, and to push peo­ple to be more ac­cept­ing of their bod­ies and sex­u­al­i­ties,” she says.

Close to 300 peo­ple are ex­pected to at­tend the con­fer­ence, many from all over the South, but also com­ing from as far as Canada, Cal­i­for­nia, Texas and Michigan.

Marie and Stewart say it’s time for the rest of the world to un­der­stand that liv­ing in At­lanta and the Bi­ble Belt is not about liv­ing un­der a “re­pres­sion cloud.”

“In At­lanta, there are a lot of sex­u­al­ity groups. They may not know each other. We chose to have this con­fer­ence here, where we are, so these groups can meet each other,” Marie says.

Sex for those with dis­abil­i­ties

Of­fer­ing work­shops on sex to those with dis­abil­i­ties was core to de­vel­op­ing the con­fer­ence.

One work­shop will teach those with dis­abil­i­ties how to “adapt and use cool prod­ucts to get your groove on and be SexAbled!”

Dr. Mitchell Tep­per of At­lanta, who broke his neck in a 1982 div­ing ac­ci­dent and is now a sexologist, re­cently pub­lished his book, “Re­gain That Feel­ing: Se­crets to Sex­ual Self-Dis­cov­ery.” He will be pre­sent­ing a work­shop ti­tled, “You Don’t Have to Break Your Neck to Be a Great Lover!”

Stewart says he is a pre­em­i­nent re­searcher on plea­sure and or­gasm for peo­ple with spinal cord in­juries.

“Some­times folks with dis­abil­i­ties get left out of main­stream au­di­ences. We wanted to make sure we cap­tured all sex­ual be­ings,” Stewart says. For dis­count tick­ets, en­ter GAVOICE in the pro­mo­tional code box when pur­chas­ing

From kink to re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice

More than a year in the mak­ing, the con­fer­ence’s work­shops of­fer a wide va­ri­ety of top­ics: sa­cred/spir­i­tual/tantric sex­u­al­ity; BDSM/kink; polyamory; re­li­gious/Chris­tian sex­u­al­ity; trans­gen­der sex­u­al­ity; les­bian/ gay/same-gen­der-lov­ing sex­u­al­ity; bi­sex­u­al­ity/queer sex­u­al­ity; sex­ual heal­ing spa­ces; ag­ing and sex­u­al­ity; sex and dis­abil­ity; and re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice.

The con­fer­ence will also be sep­a­rated from the gen­eral public at the host ho­tel, al­low­ing for hands-on work­shops to take place.

“Fan­ta­size No More: Tips & Tricks for Ex­plor­ing the Trans Body” is an in­tro­duc­tion to how to have sex with a trans per­son, and will in­clude a live demon­stra­tion.

Another work­shop, “DIY Mas­tur­ba­tion Party,” in­vites par­tic­i­pants to bring pil­lows, blan­kets, toys and more to take part in this “hands-on event ded­i­cated to the de­lights of shar­ing each other’s sex­ual energy while touch­ing only your­self.”

“I do hands on work­shops [with Vel­vet Lips LLC]. I wanted to bring that to our con­fer­ence,” Stewart says.

“We wanted our con­fer­ence to be more than just talk­ing about some­thing,” she says. “We wanted to give peo­ple some­thing prac­ti­cal they can use in their ev­ery­day lives.”

“You know, you go to a sex­u­al­ity con­fer­ence and they might have some di­a­grams on a board. I put it out there that, ‘Hey, this is what I do.’ I want other pre­sen­ters to bring it here.”

All work­shops are ed­u­ca­tional but not bor­ing, stresses Stewart. Oth­ers in­clude: “En­gag­ing Men in End­ing Sex­ual Vi­o­lence”; “From Sex­ual Trauma to Health”; “Mak­ing Open Re­la­tion­ships Work”; and “Nav­i­gat­ing Your Sex Life with Re­pro­duc­tive Jus­tice.”

The con­fer­ence closes with a “Big Bang” party.

“We wanted some­thing that was sex­u­al­ity based and en­ter­tain­ing. We also wanted peo­ple to learn from it,” Stewart says.

“There is not a sex con­fer­ence quite like ours,” Marie adds. “Other con­fer­ences may fo­cus on some­thing spe­cific. Ours spans the gamut of what sex­u­al­ity can bring to the ta­ble.”

Mem­bers from Sex Down South Con­fer­ence. (Photo via Face­book)

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