Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thoughts On A Conference Not Attended

I've been waiting for Libby to write up her experiences at the BlogHer Conference in Chicago (she only attended the "Off The Record" session, at the invitation of Susie Bright ~ part of that story is here in this entertaining-not-educational post), but I don't want to forget a few comments that I have...

First of all, I didn't attend the conference ~ this is important to note. Not only since my comments on the conference are all based on what others told me, but because the reasons why I didn't attend are, I think, equally important to what did happen there.

Primarily I didn't attend because there seemed little there to warrant my attention as a "sex blogger." There were just two sessions on the topic, one of which was the aforementioned "Off The Record" session. (And it's being designated as "off record" created great confusion, both in terms of assessing its value in the "should I attend" way as well as from Libby's "should I cover it" question. Should such a session be held again, great care should be taken to outline what "off record" means and doesn't mean.) The bottom line is that out of a two-day conference, there were only two sessions specifically for "sex bloggers."

While I'm the first to admit that "sex bloggers" are neither "all about the sex and only the sex" (most of us hate being called "sex bloggers" and chafe at the idea that we are limited to "just sex"), I am also the first to recognize that we are called "sex bloggers" (and other names) in order for the "mainstream blogging world" to differentiate "us" from "them". This isn't just a matter of censorship (though I will admit it plays its part), but a matter of categorization. No one, including "sex bloggers," wants kids or others who would be offended to stumble on in, so we rather collectively, if a bit reluctantly, agree to use the "sex blogger" moniker.

However, I'm also the first to admit, the moniker is more than a warning for visitors ~ it can be rather like a scarlet letter or a yellow star.

Now I'm not saying BlogHer was preventing "us" from attending the conference, but I've been to enough of these things to know what happens when you attend a "mainstream" session: Either you have to shut up about what you do or be prepared to face the consequences.

If you do the former, why go? You can't really network and you can't really ask questions because they must be phrased so generically that you get equally generic responses (and look like a simpleton).

If you do the latter, you risk being ostracized. At best, others will avoid sitting by you for fear you'll taint them (grown-up conferences often can resemble high school cafeterias). At worst, you become the poster-child for porn and are expected to answer all sort of questions and address issues past your scope just because you're a "sex blogger" (this is rather like being the only black person in a room full of white people).

And then there's the matter of the conference organizers themselves.

Once word gets out that "sex bloggers" have attended, they'll have to deal with complaints. While I find BlogHer.org is more tolerant than most mainstream groups (they even have a category for sex and relationship blogging), it's not difficult to imagine they would be forced to respond negatively to sex blogging simply because of a majority vocalizing outrage. This outrage, as we well know, would not only be directed at BlogHer but at sponsors and supporters. With few "sex bloggers" in attendance, we certainly would be the minority.

Again, "sex bloggers" could, like "food bloggers", attend more general sessions ~ but we sex bloggers wouldn't be as free to participate simply because "sex" freaks so many people out whereas other topics do not.

Given all of this, I opted not to bother to trek to Chicago for the event.

However, I did hear positive comments on the conference. When Libby told me some of the issues they discussed (she did not give me names or specifics but told me what they discussed, such as privacy, how blogging about sex and relationships had negatively impacted people's lives, etc) I wished I had been there. I think my years of experience would have been helpful, yes; but I also would have liked to meet and network with the small group who had attended.

What I gathered from Libby's comments was that this was a worthwhile experience and that more of this is needed. It made me wish that BlogHer would include we "sex bloggers" in their plans more.

Would it be fair to have 20 "sex blogger" sessions when no other blogging theme has so many? On one hand, the "sex" category clearly has far more specific matters to address than any other area. Name another category which has such issues with hosting, censorship, and legal issues. Sure, all bloggers should be addressing matters of ethics, responsibility, marketing, etc. But add "sex" and there's an added dimension or twist to all these things. And like I always say, mainstream sure can learn a lot from the adult industry. (Even privacy isn't a matter of safety only for those of us who post about sex and relationships.)

If an increase in the number of sessions aimed at "sex bloggers" isn't seen as the appropriate way to go, what about making it clear ~ to all ~ that "sex bloggers" are welcome and will be attending. Take the shock factor out by eliminating the element of surprise. Let folks believe that at any given moment they could be sitting next to a "sex blogger" as well as a travel, food or mommy blogger (and perhaps that lady is all four?) and that she might just raise her hand to ask a question or two.

We promise not to shock, or monopolize; but to elevate conversation. After all, our issues in specific pertain to a large part of the blogosphere; in general we are interested in all blogging issues.

By being more inclusive, not only do we all stand a greater chance of learning from one another, but we break down stereotypes. Perhaps meeting a fellow "sex blogger" will remove the silly fears that "we" are a perverted, disease-ridden lot ~ along with the fear of the unknown.

If you've thought about attending a BlogHer Conference but were put-off by all of this ~ or even if you hadn't before, but are thinking about it all now ~ BlogHer has a survey. You can take this even if you did not attend, so please take it and voice your opinions. Maybe I'll see you there next year?

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Amanda said...

Are you aware of this conference?
http://sex20con.com/

XX

August 20, 2007 7:48 AM  
Blogger Marketing Whore said...

I'd heard of it but, and this may sound nuts, I'm also leary of all sex industry events. I've been at too many where everyone either:

has group think when it comes to facing industry issues ("let them eat cake" and "f- off" if not quite "off with their heads")

or

sits around and whines they can't get anyhere with mainstream America

I'd really like to see a conference which reflects America more accurately ~ business confrences run which aknowledge that the attendees are people who have sex, even if they don't want to talk about it all the time, and either is a-OK.

We aren't 2 separate universes, so why do these conferences act like it?

Maybe I'm a dreamer, huh?

I look at and I think...

Where's the marketing? The business advice? The converations on ethics, blogging, media and censorship, and other pragmatic issues?

Most of what they are offering is preaching to the choir stuff, which while it is interesting, isn't going to make it worth the traveling fees for me.

As for Sex 2.0 Con, at least their price is low ~ but I'd still need to get my behind to Atlanta. ;) And I'm not sure the offerings make those costs worth my while.

August 20, 2007 2:21 PM  
Blogger Gena said...

Hi, Just wanted to pipe in and give my two cents. I have attended three BlogHers but I can only speak from my experience.

Certainly sex bloggers are welcome! This includes sex bloggers, podcasters, videobloggers and even marketing folks.

We've had session where we talked about blogging about sex, trolls who attacks us when we write about sexual issues and how to handle them, the diversity of the sex bloggers and the range of topics that are covered.

I got an hour or so of video from the 2006 sessions that I haven't converted yet. Life overwhelmed me.

This year I guess you could say those topics were incorporated into some of the breakout sessions on Ethics, Comment Moderation Yes/No and other sessions.

Now I'm thinking if you wanted to have a marketing session devoted to topics concerning sex bloggers and those that are interested

I think you have a good chance of getting it. the BlogHer Business conference or the main conference is a possibility. Let them know you are interested.

Also consider coming just for the networking opportunities outside of your profession.

Don't assume we are all missionary in our thinking. There is a range.

Sorry, I was born long winded.

August 20, 2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger Marketing Whore said...

Hi Gena, I don't believe you are all 'missionary' lol I've just been at too many conferences and workshops and seen what happens when you mention sex &/or the adult industry.

I did say that I didn't feel unwelcome at BlogHer, but uncertain as to the realities of being there... If you can follow that.

And long-winded? Hun, that was just warming up lol

August 20, 2007 9:01 PM  

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