The 2013 Conference Preview

Article excerpt

AASECT membership spans the globe. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of individual and regional representatives, members find opportunities to meet locally throughout the year. But the highlight of the AASECT calendar is the annual conference.

Now in its 45th year, the conference provides an opportunity - for a few days - to not be the only "sex person" in your work place, community, or town. The very act of coming together, sharing ideas, meals, and stories can give us the energy we need when we return to our own communities and continue the challenging work of supporting sexual health. It can also offer plenty of inspiration! And after 45 years one thing is guaranteed: at an AASECT conference the sparks will fly.

For those who already registered we thought it was time to start getting excited about what awaits you in Miami. And for anyone still on the fence, we turned to this year's conference co-chairs, Carey Roth Bayer (CB) and Bethany Stevens (BS) to learn more about why this year's conference is one not to miss.

When did planning begin for this year's conference?

CB: We started back in spring 2012. It's about a 1 Vi to 2 year process from securing a site to envisioning a theme and taking submissions - which were way up this year (we had more than 170 submissions) - to the conference itself, then finally working through the feedback.

Can you tell us a bit more about this year's theme? What does it mean to embrace the sensuality of diversity in identities and cultures?

BS: Well, what's great about the AASECT conference is the opportunity it provides for members new and old to connect and share their experiences, knowledge, and perspectives. This year we wanted to infuse that coming together with ideas of diversity and multiplicity of identities.

CB: We want to talk about how intersections of identity are places of strength and are really beautiful. As professionals, we can't pick one part of a person and say we're just going to address gender or race but not this other 'stuff.' It's about how we can help people bring more of who they are together.

BS: It's not about telling people they are or are not doing it right. It's about the ways that learning about different experiences expands everyone's base of knowledge.

CB: And it's about framing the work from a positive perspective, moving beyond disease, disaster, and dysfunction toward overall well-being, a positive sense of self, and pleasure.

What You Bring and What You Leave With

Bayer and Stevens take their responsibilities seriously. They understand the significant investment of time and money involved for members to attend the conference.

In addition to the formal educational opportunities, there are a variety of planned social events and planned breaks during which informal networking can happen. They are also building on the use of social media at previous conferences, with plans to use multiple platforms, including YouTube and Twitter, so that members who are at the conference have opportunities to connect with those who are not able to be there in person.

Both organizers agree that getting the most out of the conference means showing up with an open mind and a willingness to engage with and learn from colleagues, new and old.

Bayer explains, "the conference is an opportunity for members to challenge themselves to grow in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitude, to explore new ideas in a comfortable and collégial space that's open for dialogue, and to make connections."

Stevens adds, "As a new AASECT member I found the networking at the conference to be incredibly rich, and a real sense of friendliness and welcoming. For people new to the field, the conference offers a way of learning about all the different arms of sexuality work. You can spend time with a Tantra practitioner in the morning, learn about research and therapy in the afternoon, and check out one of our Special Interest Group meet-ups at night. …