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April 6, 2012

10 Things About Momentum '12

This past weekend (March 30-April 1) we attended the MOMENTUM Conference in the Washington, D.C. area. Just like last year, we had an amazing time! Here is our recap... 10 things about MOMENTUM:

#1. The Backstory

This was the second annual MOMENTUM Conference on sexuality, feminism and relationships. The conference was organized by Dee Dennis (@deedennis) and Tess Danesi (@urban_gypsy) of Tied Up Events. Although MOMENTUM's main focus was sex, it was not a sex event. There was no public or organized 'play' (although attendees were obviously free to make whatever private arrangements they wanted). If you haven't already been reading along on Twitter, you can join the conversation at hashtag #mcon or follow @momentumcon.

We had nothing but praise for Momentum last year (which, if you know us, says a lot - we rarely rave about anything). We expected some beginner mistakes and mishaps, considering that it was their first year, but everything went as smoothly as possible and it was easily one of the best conferences we have ever been to. (Read about our experience at last year's MOMENTUM Conference here.)

#2. The Sessions and Keynotes and Performances

Maria Falzone (@mariafalzone)
Description: A hilarious and inspirational performance that addresses serious sexual subjects in a frank and funny manner. Through lecture and audience participation, Falzone speaks to students about topics from safe sex to self-sex and everything in between. The message behind “SEX RULES” is that sex should be fun and satisfying emotionally, as well as physically.
Quotes: "If someone calls you a cunt, respond with 'that's juicy cunt to you, now move on and don't make me slap you with it.'"
Reactions: Maria Falzone is loud, over-the-top, honest, open, engaging, and totally hilarious. She performed at last year's conference and we loved her just as much this year. Even when some of the material was the same as what she said last year, we still found ourselves laughing and nodding as if we were hearing it for the first time.

The Opening Keynote Plenary:
Making Waves in Sexuality, Feminism and Relationships

Dr. Charlie Glickman (@CharlieGlickman), Dr. Logan Levkoff (@LoganLevkoff), Bill Taverner (@sexedjournal) and Audacia Ray (@audaciaray). Moderated by Carol Queen (@carolqueen).
Description: The keynote panelists, all of whom have made significant impact in their own spheres, discuss the role of sexuality in today’s culture, how they make waves that help change perceptions about sex, feminism and relationships and what attendees can do to carry forward the momentum by generating conversations about sexuality.
Quotes: 'I have problems with the term sex toys because it makes them sound like novelties, when for many they are necessities.' - Logan Levkoff

"If we continue to treat adult sexuality as something dangerous, our young people don't stand a chance." - Logan Levkoff

"Be excellent to each other." - Charlie Glickman
Reactions: We admit that this panel is a bit of a blur of sexy goodness in our minds since we were still in 'OMG we're finally at MOMENTUM!' mode, and we were too busy eating meatballs to live tweet (more on that later). But it was a really interesting discussion and a great way to kick off the weekend. And honestly, any panel moderated by Carol Queen is an automatic winner in our book. We loved Charlie Glickman's suggestion that we all try to bring "fierce compassion" to the debates about reproductive freedom and sex ed and other hot button issues, and also Logan Levkoff's honesty about how incredibly fucking hard it is to do that sometimes.

One part of this discussion that we didn't entirely agree with was Audacia Ray's talk about why she no longer identifies as a sex positive feminist. (You can read a version of her comments on her blog.) She raised some really important questions and critiques of sex positive feminism, but at the same time it also felt a bit patronizing to us, as if she was saying that since she's decided that the term "sex positive feminism" no longer has value to her, we should all agree or we're just unenlightened and wrong. We're sure she didn't mean it that way, but it just came across a little weird to us. But one thing we will say is that we could see that it sparked a lot of discussion and debate in the room, and in a room full of super smart and creative MOMENTUM attendees that's never a bad thing.

Sexual Freedom and the Law
Diana Adams
Description: Why is sexual pleasure treated as 'dangerous' by the religious right? How can we activists use political messaging to defend our rights to sexual freedom and privacy? Adams, a sexual civil rights attorney, will educate you on the current state of the war on sexual pleasure and facilitate a discussion about the best political and legal strategies to create positive messages about sexual freedom.
Quotes: "In Alabama today, the fine for selling a gun to a child: $500. The fine for selling a dildo or vibrator: $10,000 and one year in jail."- Diana Adams
"Explicitly, 'let's get these single moms married.' I think a single mother needing to get married to be able to support her children and have health insurance is the government being her pimp. You should not need to enter into a sexual relationship to get your basic economic needs met."- Diana Adams
Reactions: This was a great discussion about the ways that the government and the law recognize, promote, and protect certain types of families and behaviors and what those of us who might fall outside of that mainstream can do to challenge this status quo while also taking steps to protect ourselves and our relationships. It also made us glad that we don't live in Alabama, because we could easily be arrested for the "intent to sell" sex toys based solely on the number of free vibrators that we've collected at conferences over the years. (Someone mentioned that the number is six or more. We definitely have more than that and many of them are still in their original packaging! We should have a vibrator yard sale.)

Sex and the Media: Who Wins?
Brian Gross (@bsgpr)
Description: The relationship between sex and the media is a love/hate one. The industries of sexuality see incredible response when spoken of in the media, but what's the cost? The media loves to use sexuality to sell publications, bring ratings, and increase advertising revenue. However, they don't necessarily paint the prettiest or most accurate picture. We discuss the relationship, the dos and don'ts, and how you can come out ahead.
Quotes: "One word I never use is the word 'pornography'. It's a bad word, unfortunately. When I deal with media people I never use that word, I use 'adult film'. And when you think about the pieces you read and the things you see on TV, things you read on the Internet... pornography is looked at as a bad word." - Brian Gross
"With sexuality, now we can break it down and have all these great discussions of what everyone's involved in -- but to the media as a whole, it's sexuality. And they are either gonna support you or they're gonna say 'no thank you.'" - Brian Gross
Reactions: With the word 'slut' in our name, we know what it feels like to have people who won't work with you, so it was interesting to hear about how the media looks at businesses that are sex-related or 'adult' content.

Sexuality and Social Media
Stef Woods (@citygirlblogs), Dr. Jennifer Gunsaullus (@drjennsden), Maggie Campbell (@asimple_melody) and Carmen Rios (@c_rios)

Description: This workshop examines the interplay between sex, sexuality and social media. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the growth of social media as it pertains to sexuality? How has the evolution of online communication and social networks encouraged sexual expression, sex education and activism? How has social media increased fear, misinformation, prejudice, and harassment with respect to individual and group sexuality? What is the impact of social media on relationships and forming identities? What role can bloggers, sex educators and sexual health advocates play in helping to answer those questions?
Quotes: "Sometimes people prefer to call it 'new media' or 'digital media' because we can be as social or as anti-social as we want. We can be as authentic... or not. These are all choices that we can make. What's going on out there we can't control, but we can control what we put about ourselves online. What we're doing personally and professionally to control our reputation, our online presence, our personal brand." - Stef Woods
Reaction: This was a great panel and a really interesting discussion about the ways that we all negotiate social media differently. There was a debate about whether blogging anonymously means you have less credibility - the group didn't come to a consensus, but we think most people came down on the side of 'if you have good content it shouldn't matter'. There was also a lot of talk about compartmentalizing your social media identity, whether that means expressing different parts of yourself on different sites or just adjusting your Facebook privacy settings so that your family doesn't see all of your status updates about how Rick Santorum is an anti-choice douchebag and 50 Shades of Grey isn't the best BDSM erotica out there.

The Pleasure Revolution: Feminist Subversives Then and Now
Rebecca Chalker (@clitoraltruth) and Lara Riscol (@larariscol)

Description: Feminist sexuality activism after 1968 created a dynamic, profound and far-reaching shift in sexual values and practices that recast the heteronormative, androcentric paradigm to include the sexual needs, interests, problems and preferences of women. Chalker coins this movement, “The Pleasure Revolution,” in which feminists critiqued Freud, wrote subversive novels and sex advice books, popularized masturbation, demanded respect for lesbians, opened their own sex shops, did their own sex surveys, rehabilitated the clitoris, challenged male-centered psychology, made “cunt art,” created their own porn, and in the process, reinvented sex for women and their partners! Chalker evaluates the work of these “pleasure activists,” in the 1970s and 80s, with respect to their legacy. Riscol captures today’s historic Pleasure Revolution revived over recent years to combat politically potent mainstreamed Christian fundamentalism against female sexual autonomy and gender deviance. New media has not only enabled pleasure activists a reverberating voice in political and cultural debates mired in purity vs. perversion nostalgia, but also a more intersectional feminism to include men, sexual and gender queers, people of color, and immigration and sex workers rights activists. The revolution will be tweeted!
Quotes: Press covering Judy Chicago's iconic feminist art piece The Dinner Party used the term "butterfly plates" because they couldn't or wouldn't reference vulvas in print. - Rebecca Chalker
"Everyone here hopefully knows feminists never burned their bras. That never happened. It was never a part of history, except for a PR event. It was a PR stunt, but that was not what feminism was about. But that's how we grow up learning ... that is the story. The history-makers, the victors are those who tell the best story. And they maintain and they keep that story to marginalize and belittle the feminist movement. Pitting the housewives and working women against the lesbians and the marginalized women of color, dividing within." - Lara Riscol
Reaction: We both felt like we were back in our college women's history and gender studies classes with this one. It's easy to be preoccupied with everything that's going on now and looking to the future, but this session was a great reminder that we can draw so many lessons and so much inspiration from the "pleasure revolutionaries" who have blazed a trail for us.

Feminist Porn as Cultural Critique
Lynn Comella, PhD (@lynncomella), Carol Queen, PhD (@carolqueen), Tina Horn (@tinahornsass and Sinnamon Love (@sinnamonlove)
Description: It’s not uncommon for sex positive feminists, including those who make, watch, study and write about pornography, to be accused of lacking a meaningful critique of the mainstream adult industry. This session discusses how we can reframe the very idea of what counts as “feminist critique” and “sex positive” by focusing on the ways in which cultural producers use media texts, sexual images and ethical production practices as modes of political intervention that challenge ideas about “business as usual” within the adult industry.

Quotes: "Before we can critique porn for it's lack of appropriate sex education, we have to look at how are we educating (or failing to educate) young people that then become adults that are poorly educated when it comes to sex and look at why porn is used as the primary of sex education for adults that have been poorly educated by the system." - Sinnamon Love
"I think that anyone who is against pornography in any way, because of the images and the kind of stuff that people could learn from it, must be an advocate and activist for good, comprehensive, pleasure-based, thorough sex education. If not, they are talking through their hat. They are partisan. Because if they care about that, we've got a world in which this is such a crucial question and everybody's work is needed to help make sex education better and where are they at that table?" - Carol Queen
Reaction: We attended Lynn Comella and Carol Queen's session last year and it was fantastic, so as soon as we saw that they were teaming up again as part of this panel we knew we were so there. This session took an interesting approach to the topic of feminism and porn by looking at the ways that feminist porn itself can serve as a critique of sexism in "mainstream" porn - respectful and fair treatment of performers, choosing a diverse group of performers rather than one stereotypical 'porn star' look, allowing performers to express themselves in ways they're comfortable with and to do what they think is sexy rather than what the audience may expect to see, and so on. We also thought it was interesting that both Tina Horn and Sinnamon Love stated that winning Feminist Porn Awards made them more likely to identify as feminists themselves and think about their work in feminist terms.

How To Lose Your Virginity
Therese Shechter (@trixiefilms)

Description: Another presenter was unable to attend at this last minute, so Therese Shechter filled in with a preview of her documentary How to Lose Your Virginity:

I am not going to tell you how to have sex for the first time. I do want to know why, in our hyper-sexualized American culture, we're so obsessed with virginity.

Our goal for How To Lose Your Virginity is to undo centuries of myths and contradictions around virginity, and to encourage an honest conversation with people navigating the confusing process of deciding when and why to become sexual. What do a rock violinist, an Ivy League blogger and an Ohio engineer have in common? They're all subverting the virginity narrative in our film.
Reaction: We were really impressed by the preview and we're looking forward to seeing the finished film. If you'd like to learn more and support Therese as she finishes the project, check out her page on Kickstarter.

The Closing Keynote Plenary:
Sex in America: Changing the Conversation Beyond Smut and Sanctimony
Dr. Joycelyn Elders (@eldersrev), Esther Perel (@estherperel) and Lara Riscol (@larariscol)
Description: Adultery, abortion, homosexuality, transgender rights, teen sex, female promiscuity, virginity campaigns, sex ed, pornography, prostitution and family values all clog public debate, especially in an election year. Despite America’s hypersexualized consumer culture, the practice of policing and demonizing sexualities continues unabated, while an Ozzie and Harriet, Sandra Dee nostalgia binds us to sexual myths that harm us as individuals, as lovers, as a society. As today’s infotainment era churns out a “smut and sanctimony” narrative that divides our nation regardless of sexual lives lived, how do we change the conversation? When we’re taught that sex is dirty but save it for the one we love, is it any surprise that so many couples become erotically alienated? How do the politics of sex enter the bedroom? Join three bold thinkers–known for challenging the sexual status quo–in a thoughtful and provocative conversation about sex, pleasure, desire, eroticism, infidelity and monogamy.
Quotes: "We're talking about very serious issues - personal, political, cultural, societal issues - that need to be addressed. that we need to talk about. And MOMENTUM is addressing these issues by talking about sex." - Lara Riscol
"This is part of a strategic, powerful, well-funded relentless decades long attempt to capture the soul of America. It is an all-out war... cultural warrior, theo-conservative. Those who want to take us back to a biblical world view. And so it serves them well to play up the scary stuff of modernity, the toxic pop culture and hypersexualization and dump all of that toxicity on those who are working towards reform and change and rights. And their mission is ultimately to take us back to an America before we had those rights." - Lara Riscol
"If you can't control your reproduction, you can't control your life." -Dr. Joycelyn Elders

"The best contraception in the world is a good education." - Dr. Joycelyn Elders

"The vows of abstinence break far more easily than latex condoms." - Dr. Jocelyn Elders

"In this country, Puritanism and hedonism collide every second." - Esther Perel

"Monogamy used to be one person for life, now it's one person at a time...I want one person to give me everything a village used to provide." - Esther Perel
Reaction: This panel was absolutely amazing and the perfect way to finish off the conference. Dr. Elders, Esther Perel, and Lara Riscol are rock stars and together they created an engaging, inspiring, and thought-provoking discussion. People were tweeting up a storm because there were so many quotable lines, and we think just about everyone left the room recharged and ready to go out there and create some momentum of their own.

#3. The Sponsors and Vendors
The premier sponsor of the conference was Masque™ (@yourmasque), a brand new company with a really cool product designed to "bring you and your partner closer together—inside the bedroom and out." Based on the idea that, for some people, the taste of semen can make the act of fellatio less enjoyable, Masque's orally-dissolvable, flavored gel strips take the intimacy between you and your partner to the next level by blocking the flavors associated with oral sex.

We think this is just a really interesting product, because while we personally don't have a huge problem with the taste of semen, we know countless women and men who do... So anything that helps make giving oral sex a more enjoyable experience is a good idea in our opinion. We want to give them a very big THANK YOU for sponsoring this conference because we truly are very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend such an awesome event for such a low price. It's really awesome to see companies support something like MOMENTUM and the concept of sex positivity, especially those that can help make sex more positive for more people. We went home with a few samples and we're looking forward to trying the product out soon. (Stay tuned for a review when we do.)

Additional sponsors of MOMENTUM included:

Gold Level Sponsor: Tenga, the manufacturer of the male masturbator “TENGA”, the most popular masturbator in Asia.
TENGA’s stylish design is meant to offer the user an experience of sensual sensations like never before while avoiding any visual imitation of any sexual organ. This modern, non-obscene approach helps to overcome the taboo factor and the combination of materials and ergonomic shapes offers innovative technology in the market of male pleasure.

Recharge Room Sponsor: Trigg Laboratories manufactures premium sexual wellness and consumer healthcare products and is parent company to Wet® International, Inc., an international leader in personal lubricants, aromatherapy massage oils and intimacy products.
Wet® products are developed, formulated and packaged at Trigg Laboratories’ 52,000 square foot facility in Valencia, California. Developed, tested, and manufactured to comply with stringent FDA Medical Device regulations in state-of-the-art facilities, each of Wet’s 80+ products are developed to exceptional purity, consistency and comfort levels. Currently available in 62 countries, Wet® is sold by adult specialty boutiques as well as food, drug, mass merchandise retail, including most major U.S. drugstore chains.

Silver Level Sponsors

JanesGuide.com, led by Jane Duval and "Vamp", is a team of website reviewers who have been writing about sex for nearly fifteen years and bring you the best in paysites, product reviews, adult blogging, sexuality resources and education.

Good Vibrations has provided high quality products, education, and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and empowerment for over three decades.

Good Vibrations is a diverse, woman-focused retailer providing high-quality, sex-positive products and non-judgmental, accurate sex information through our clean and comfortable stores, catalog, web site, wholesale division, product and movie production lines in order to enhance our customers’ sex lives and promote healthy attitudes about sex. We invented the concept of the clean, well-lighted vibrator store and we’re proud to provide a safe and welcoming environment where customers can shop for sex toys, books, movies, and attend workshops.
Safe Office is a subscription based website designed specifically for those who value security, privacy, and discretion. It is designed by and for Service Providers.
Get sensitive data off PCs and phones that are notoriously NOT secure and at risk of theft, damage, or seizure. Enjoy the privacy and reliability of offshore venue and hosting. Separate your work life from your personal life. Organize your business. Increase your profits. Protect the privacy of both you and your clients. Track your Contacts, Schedule, History, Projects, Mailing Lists, Passwords, Bookmarks, and more. Share “Resources” and “Blacklist” information with other members of the Community.

njoy creates "pleasure instruments that stimulate more than the obvious senses".
All njoy toys are crafted in premium medical grade stainless steel for purity, beauty, and infinite durability. Employing precision design, superior new-world craftsmanship, and a healthy dose of naughty creativity, we present to you the finest of erotic products. We hope you have as much fun playing with our toys as we have designing them… njoy!

Standard Innovation Corporation is a world leader in designing and manufacturing high quality, safe, eco-friendly intimate products including the popular We-Vibe.
Since the launch in 2004, the We-Vibe has quickly become the fastest selling sexual wellness product of its type in history, with over 2 million products sold worldwide since the launch in 2008. Committed to engineering products aimed at improving couples’ fun and intimacy, this Canadian company has expanded their product line to include the Touch, Tango and Salsa (all by We-Vibe®) and plan to continue to expand their comprehensive product portfolio to provide innovative solutions to help couples have more fun.
The full family of Standard Innovation’s We-Vibe ® products are currently distributed by drug stores and fine boutiques in over 50 countries around the world.

Bronze Level Sponsors

HotMoviesForHer.com is porn for women!

We hand pick through the largest online adult library to find the best movies just for women – on demand and ready to watch, along with a FREE blog full of movie reviews, sex tips, erotic stories, interviews, our own fun ramblings, and more! No monthly or recurring charges; you just pay for what you watch, without the hassles.

Tantus manufactures the world’s finest adult toys.

All Tantus Toys are hand-made from the highest quality 100% Ultra-Premium Platinum Silicone, are designed to work with the body’s anatomy, and are manufactured in the USA. Since 1998, Tantus has built a reputation as the industry leader through our elevated level of quality and exclusive product designs.

Sexquire’s founder, Davis, a small-business attorney, has spent over seven years working with clients in all areas of the adult industry: including brick and mortar and online retail stores, sex toy manufacturers, dungeon and club owners, sex educators, adult performers, sex workers, adult event producers and authors.

Davis has spent an equally long time vetting other professionals for her clients. Fed up with the sex-negativity and misunderstandings she found with many other service providers, Davis created Sexquire in order to have a team of professionals at the ready to assist sex-positive businesses and companies in whatever needs arise. Sexquire’s team includes a core group of regular service providers, as well as a world-wide network of companies and individuals who regularly work within the adult and kink industries. No matter your need, give us a call and if we don’t have a perfect fit we’ll go out and find one for you. Convenience and quality service – it’s what Sexquire is all about.

Artpulp.net was created to with the goal to support the creative process, give voice to artists, and encourage others to choose creativity.

Since 1996, the Aneros Company has been dedicated to crafting unique, effective sexual aids that promote health as well as pleasure, led by our patented line of hands-free Aneros Prostate Stimulators. We will be working diligently to introduce our line of female products that will uphold the Aneros tradition and standard of innovation and quality.

Superior Strap on harness and bondage toys designed for your pleasure! ASLAN creates products inspire people to explore desire in new ways. Give yourself permission… ASLANLeather.com.

MOMENTUM also had a Marketplace where a lot of great vendors and companies were selling their goods or promoting their programs. In addition to the sponsors listed above, some additional brands and organizations at MOMENTUM this weekend included:

#4. The Compliments

We have to say, yet again, that this was one of the best conferences we have been to so far. We're so impressed by the fact that this conference is still so new (only in its second year), yet was able to hold its own against (and actually surpass in some ways) some of the bigger, longer-running conferences with major corporate sponsorships. We weren't really worried that this year wouldn't live up to last year's experience, but we're still happy that now we can officially say that MOMENTUM was really that good...again.

This was a very reasonably-priced conference but the old adage "you get what you pay for" did not apply in this case. We got so much more than we paid for! We said this last year and we will say it again... we love this conference because everything seems as if it was custom-designed with us in mind. Yet again, everything was totally organized and ran super smoothly and we couldn't have been happier.

  • They gave us free ice cream on the first night. We could end the list right there and be fully satisfied.
  • On the second night, Good Vibrations sponsored a cocktail party. They gave us bellinis and chocolate and a room packed full of awesome people that we could have hung out with all night. (Get used to seeing the word awesome in this recap.) 

  • They had a Recharge Room (thanks to sponsor Wet) and a Hospitality Suite (which was conveniently right down the hall from our room). We could stop in and juice up our computers or grab some coffee... Rice Krispie treats, chocolate covered almonds, granola bars! Yay! They also had vegan/gluten-free cupcakes. Lots of 'em.
  • They scheduled the opening keynote in the evening (instead of early in the morning, when we are sure to be tired/cranky/hungover) and had a bar set up right outside the keynote that was fully stocked with Corona (and other stuff). It really is like they designed this conference with us in mind.
  • No one flinches when we say the name of our blog! And if someone mistakenly assumes that it's a porn/erotica site, when they learn that it isn't, they seem more disappointed than relieved.
  • They are 20-minute breaks between sessions (and a hefty amount of time allotted for lunch and dinner) so we're able to talk after a really great session and not have to worry about rushing to get to the next one on time. Plus all of the session rooms were located right near each other, in a nice row, which made it even more convenient.
  • There was such a great selection of sessions that it was hard to decide what to attend! We really appreciated the diversity of the panelists... people from all walks of life and lots of big names!
  • Every session was of great quality and the speakers not only knew what they were talking about, but were passionate about the subject matter and personable. Not once did we leave a session thinking "well that was a waste of time" or "they really should've prepared more" and we didn't hear anything negative about the sessions we missed either.
  • They have flawless privacy policies. They let attendees choose what name to use on their badges (e.g., a pen name, just a first name, etc.) and that is the only name you need to get your badge. (No showing ID, no list of which pen name goes with which legal name and which credit card.) They have "NO PHOTOS" pins for those attendees that are not willing to be photographed and make it very clear that there are to be no photographs, video, or audio recordings made without permission. No other conference we've been to yet has a privacy policy like that (or well, any at all really) so it is extremely refreshing for those of us who are still at varying degrees of anonymity.

  • Dee and Tess. We think they deserve their own little section on this list because we just love them and we love what they've done by creating this amazing conference. Thank you!

Overall, we have nothing but praise for MOMENTUM.

#5. The Criticisms

Didn't you see that we just said we have nothing but praise!?

At one point during the weekend we were jokingly discussing what we would say if we absolutely had to come up with some complaints. The extremely minor and petty nature of the following list only serves to further illustrate how awesome MOMENTUM really is:

  • The pillows on the hotel beds were kinda marshmallowy and weird.
  • There was no actual Starbucks in the hotel (it was one of those 'we brew Starbucks coffee' situations), so to get to a real Starbucks we had to walk into the shopping center attached to the hotel, which took like five whole minutes.
  • The air conditioner in our room made a weird noise a couple of times.
  • The hotel's wifi Internet service was sketchy.
  • There were no good TV channels. We would have traded the Speed channel, CMT, Fox News, and one of the ESPNs for Vh1 or E! or LOGO or something.
  • During some of the time slots there were too many good sessions and it was hard to choose which one we wanted to go to.
  • Tess's suite had nicer artwork than our room.
That's really the best we can do. We can't come up with anything to seriously complain about, and if there was something, we would be the ones to find it and loudly bitch about it.

#6. The Hotel

This year MOMENTUM was held at the Crystal City Marriott at Regan Airport in Arlington, Virginia. To those of you who may have read our recap of last year's MOMENTUM conference, we were not happy with the Silver Spring Crowne Plaza. It was our only complaint about last year's conference, which had nothing to do with the conference itself. (Check out our TripAdvisor review here). So really, any hotel would've been a step-up from last year and we would've been happy.

But the Marriott was actually really great on its own too! Our hotel room was clean, the staff was helpful, and the bar/restaurant Bell20 (@Bell20Tavern) was automatically better than last year just by the fact that they agreed to serve us at all! But the food was also delicious and the bartenders were so nice and helpful.

Yet again the MOMENTUM Conference was booked at the same time as a group of kids (this time a trip of fifth graders) but unlike last year, the hotel didn't try to control or shame us in any way and there was no conflict whatsoever. We were a little freaked out to see so many kids in the lobby, swarming around us and seemingly multiplying at every turn, when we first checked in... but we didn't see them again the whole weekend.

It seemed like they booked a lot of MOMENTUM attendees on the same floor as us, which was kind of nice, and we lucked out being right down the hall from the Hospitality Suite. Just the fact that the toilet flushed at all officially made it better than last year's hotel, but we were also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the water pressure in the shower and our request for extra towels and pillows was fulfilled quickly. (Did we mention that last year's hotel really sucked?) Like we said above, we didn't love the pillows on the bed, but that's not really a complaint about the hotel. That's just an indication of how hard to please we are when it comes to our sleeping arrangements. We are pillow snobs and need to start traveling with our own.

Really, the only genuine complaint we can make is that the hotel's Internet access was sketchy. When we used the wifi on our laptops it was painfully slow and using it on our smartphones was downright impossible. (We both used up a lot of our phone's data plans on this trip!) We also saw that someone had posted something about certain sites being blocked, but we're not sure if that was really the case.

During one of our sessions there was an issue with the audio and someone came and fixed it. It seems like common sense right, but last year it wouldn't have happened. We appreciated how helpful everyone was and how much they really seemed to care and appreciate the fact that MOMENTUM brought a lot of business to their hotel. They showed the conference, the organizers and the attendees the respect we all deserved.

#7. Friends and Inspirations

It was really awesome to catch up with so many of our Momentum friends and we met so many new great people this weekend... but we haven't completely organized our pile of business cards and stuff yet, so we're just going to list some of our new twitter friends/followers for now. We definitely recommend that you all check these people out!

Here in no particular order - except that Dee and Tess are first, because they're awesome - are some of our new friends, old friends, and some people we'd love to hopefully make our friends someday. Those of you who are on this list hopefully know which category you fit into and if you're not on the list it doesn't mean we don't love you too. It means we haven't fully recovered yet from the weekend! (Or... we have misplaced your contact info, so please get in touch! And if we're not already twitter friends, follow us now!)
This list could go on and on and we're sure we left a lot of people out, sorry. Basically, we can't help repeating the words 'great' and 'awesome' over and over again because everyone we met at MOMENTUM was awesome and we can't wait to see them all again!

#8. The Random ESC Moments

As we mentioned before, we've gone to a lot of conferences and stayed in a lot of hotels over the years. It can get a little exhausting so we always make sure to give ourselves a little time to chill and zone out and... watch terrible TV. At last year's Momentum, the crappy hotel had crappy cable so we ended up watching a marathon of Law & Order. This year we somehow continued that tradition. Leave it to the ESC to spend most of our day talking about sex-positivity and respectful BDSM, only to turn around and watch hours of women getting raped and abused. This must have been the celebrity guest star marathon weekend because we watched some really bizarre episodes, including one that was focused on poisonous mushrooms and another starring John Stamos as a reproductive abuser with 47 kids across the US.

Every time we travel we end up getting sucked in by at least one totally random movie that we come across on TV. (Once we stayed up super late the night before the start of a conference to watch Donnie Darko for no apparent reason, and then couldn't get to sleep because we kept trying to analyze the plot.) This time our movie was an iconic musical film from the '90s that you may have heard of...yes, of course we're talking about Spice World. We got some weird looks from a random dude in the elevator later that night because we couldn't stop singing "Spice Up Your Life".

We spent all day Friday traveling, so by the time the opening festivities started that evening we realized that we had eaten nothing but Twizzlers and Chex Mix all day. We needed real food but we didn't want to miss anything. So using our typical ESC resourcefulness, we went down to the bar and ordered food "to go", and then snuck it upstairs just in time for the opening panel to start. We're not sure how much the people sitting at our table appreciated it, but we think they were mostly just jealous that they didn't think of it first.

One night we were really tired and having a hard time getting motivated to leave the room for dinner, so we debated ordering a pizza instead. Using logic that makes sense only to us, we decided that we'd have to order from Papa John's or Dominos or Pizza Hut, because being New Yorkers we knew that we'd be disappointed with any "real" pizza from a pizza place in Virginia, so it would be better to just order fake pizza from the start and know what to expect. (Full disclosure: We never ordered the pizza after all. Instead we went downstairs to the hotel bar in our pajamas. When we got there, we found Dee in her pajamas!)

Part of being at an amazing conference like MOMENTUM is the sense of community. We're all there for pretty much the same reason and there's a level of mutual respect floating around in the area, even among attendees you haven't spoken to yet (and the odds that a random person in the elevator is actually one of your twitter friends are pretty good). So when we were grabbing a drink at the bar and a random guy behind us asked "are you enjoying the conference?" we answered "yes" without flinching. Then he asked "so what kind of conference is this exactly? Something about sex?" and we realized he had no idea what MOMENTUM really was and was likely just trying to hit on us because he assumed we were sex-crazed sluts or something. (Not that we aren't, but yeah, no thanks random dude.)

At one point we were hanging out in our room and we had this conversation:
Lilith: I love Tess and Dee. I feel like they're kind of like us. You're Dee and I'm Tess. Or... am I Dee and you're Tess?
Jezebel: I think we're both a little bit of both of them.

Lilith: We should tell them!
Jezebel: They'll know it's a compliment because they know how highly we think of ourselves.
And then we actually ran and told them. And we think they did take it as a compliment. Or at least we hope they did.

#9. The Area

The conference was not actually held in D.C. but in the "D.C.-adjacent" Arlington, Virginia (in an area called "Crystal City").

The D.C. Metro was conveniently accessible from below the hotel. We had almost forgotten how confusing the Metro system is (it makes us appreciate the simplicity of the New York MTA!) We're used to the NYC subway where every ride is the same price, but with the Metro there are different prices depending on the station and the time of day. The times are broken up into Regular, Reduced, and Peak-of-the-Peak, which makes no sense at all. Why is there a Peak-of-the-peak when there's no Peak? You have to calculate the fare yourself, which is no big deal but a little inconvenient when you have a long line of people stretching out behind you. You also have to insert your ticket again to exit and pay an "exit fare" if you managed to screw up the calculations and not pay enough.

It's hard to follow complicated instructions when you're sleep deprived.

All we can say is that it's a good thing we weren't traveling during "peak of the peak" time (whenever that may be), because we would have annoyed a lot more people than we did during the less crowded peakless or less than peak or peak after peak or whatever it's called.

We have to give a little shout-out to the two places we ate this weekend (other than Bell20 inside the hotel, where we spent a lot of time)... we had an awesome lunch at Bailey's Pub just outside the hotel and the most perfect brunch-for-lunch at Hamburger Hamlet inside the Crystal City shopping center. They should really change their name because we almost didn't go in there, thinking it was going to be a chain-type burger joint, but we had a great meal and literally cleaned our plates. Yum.

Before we left for the trip, every person that we mentioned it to would inform us that it's cherry blossom time in D.C. or ask us how much sight-seeing we were planning to do. We're resourceful, so we managed to squeeze both things in even though we had no time and might very well have been too tired and lazy to go anywhere even if we did. On Saturday we were wandering through the underground shopping center attached to the hotel looking for a place to eat lunch when we accidentally ended up outside, and right across the street was a courtyard with some cherry trees. Check! And on our way back to Union Station on Monday morning, our Metro train came out of a tunnel just in time for us to get a perfect view of the Washington Monument. Sight-seeing, check! Next year we might actually try to go to a museum or something, but no promises.

What Others Are Saying About MOMENTUM
If you've also written about MOMENTUM, please leave a link in the comments! We'd love to see it.

Now what?

MOMENTUM co-organizer Dee Dennis is also working on bringing her conference magic to the West Coast with a new event called Catalyst that's scheduled for September 14-16 in Long Beach, CA. The call for presenters is going out soon so be sure to check out @CatalystCon on Twitter so you can stay in the loop.


Tess said...

You two write the best posts. I usually love your snark when you have something negative to say but I can't tell you how pleased I am not to see any in this particular post :-)

You can hang out in my bed any time.


Epiphora said...

Thank you for this amazing post! I one day hope to make it to a conference where you guys are also there. I appreciate the in-depth info about the privacy policy... didn't realize you could opt to have just your pen name on your badge, which is really cool. Also, PAJAMAS.

Pretty Ribbons said...

I'm just seeing this article, waay after the fact! Thanks supermuch for the links! <3 And happy new year.