The Sexual Revolution Will Be Nuanced
Mahx Capacity came to the sex and pleasure industry to fill a void. Mahx works as owner and creative director for the queer/feminist porn collective AORTA films. They co-founded AORTA in 2015 with their two friends and business partners, Ginny Woolf and Parts Authority as a space for queer joy and expression.
In the current political landscape, there is an overwhelming need to celebrate queer joy and pleasure, Mahx tells City Paper, but at the same time, “being queer is political.”
Mahx was one of over 400 professionals, industry leaders, and partner organizations who attended the inaugural Sexology Summit for Pleasure Professionals on March 10 and 11 at the Eaton Hotel in downtown D.C. The featured lineup of summit speakers and panelists and their work covering a range of issues on sex, health, and identity demonstrates the extent to which the sexual revolution has evolved.
Presented by Sexpert Consultants LLC and the Swallowing Training and Education Portal, the summit connected a community of professionals at the helm of one of the most rapidly developing and politically pertinent industries: sex and pleasure.
“From Barcelona to Berlin, the UK to the U.S., we had speakers, attendees, and volunteers representing a diverse group of pleasure professionals, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Sexpert Consultants founder Reba C. Thomas says.
Speaking about their work with AORTA, Mahx says, “queer porn is entertainment, but it’s also survival.” AORTA’s work is focused on creating “enthusiastically consensual” pleasure content. But, Mahx explains, there is also a deeply political nature to what they are doing. By spotlighting queer and trans sex and focusing on a wide range of bodies and identities, AORTA considers themselves advocates working to grow a movement to preserve the rights and safety of nonbinary, queer, and trans individuals amid ongoing threats to these communities, both from political bodies and hate groups.
The summit comes at a critical time. As Mahx explains, sex as a political issue shows up as advocacy for sex workers and labor rights, public health, and abortion access.
The attendees included bloggers, therapists, medical doctors, and a state government Human Rights Commissioner. Sessions ranged from topics such as Erotic Rope Bondage 101; Decolonizing Sexual Health, Medicine, & Education; and Hoes Need Help, Too: A Closer Look at Stigma & Violence as Barriers to Mental Healthcare for Sex Workers.
State and local governing bodies recently have gained traction in their ongoing efforts to strip LGBTQ+ individuals of their autonomy and their right to self-expression, which is often seen as a destabilization of socially constructed gender identities. Across the country there’s a new influx of proposed legislation that would force transgender public school children to use bathrooms that correspond with their birth-assigned gender; and Tennessee just passed a bill that aims to classify drag shows as sexually explicit, adult entertainment. The law’s opponents see it as fearmongering that ultimately works to encourage additional constraints on the LGBTQ+ community.
Luna Matatas, another of the summit’s featured speakers, came to the industry with a different politically-motivated focus.
Matatas has worked as a sex and pleasure educator in the industry for over seven years and, before that, spent six years working on sexual health in the public sector both overseas and in her Toronto home. She tells City Paper her transition from public health into the sex and pleasure space felt natural. From her time teaching, she learned that no matter where she was, her audiences had questions about pleasure that could not be found in government-mandated pamphlets.
“People are hungry for this knowledge,” Matatas says. “They are looking for queer-based sex ed, queer-inclusive sex ed, kink information, help on communicating with your partner…They know this information is missing, and they’re working to get it.”
In recent years, Matatas has seen this reflected in the mainstream, as more and more social media influencers and public figures are discussing sex. Media coverage of sex and pleasure has also increased, especially on issues such as masturbation, vaginal health, and body positivity. Matatas adds that newcomers to this space are looking to work with more seasoned educators like herself (she has been teaching sex and empowerment workshops for 10 years) in an effort to combine fresh perspectives with experts in the field.
The mainstream focus has largely centered around concepts of self-love, body-positivity, and anti-patriarchal ideals. The amplification is valuable for the sex and pleasure industry whose community is often forced to fight with social media regulations and censorship barriers to reach audiences.
“The bodies and the vessels that these messages come from are also really important,” Matatas says. “For me, a fat, queer, person of color trying not to get shut down by Instagram, this is liberation work—and everyone can be a part of that. But recognizing the power and privilege behind being able to assign meaning to [these concepts] is just something that is really lost when you don’t have to worry about [the alternative].”
A common thread from summit attendees speaking with City Paper is that popular culture is saturated with general pro-sex rhetoric. What’s missing is messaging from informed, inclusive educators. And this type of education is not expected from the public sector anytime soon.
Many of the summit’s speakers got their start working in public health, but left when they found little hope of improving infrastructure or receiving greater funding and advanced technology—all of which is needed to develop health education that is current, accessible, and adapted to its diverse audiences.
Summit speaker and sexuality arts educator Mystkue Woods taught in the Philadelphia public school system before she transitioned into conducting independent, educational workshops on self-love, body positivity, fat liberation, and self-growth through creative movement and the arts. In her creative writing workshops, her students develop narratives that mirror the traumas they have experienced. In this unrestricted space, Woods says, students can see the path of victimhood, but are given the ability to choose empowerment instead. These self-liberation practices contribute to empowering communities to practice self-love and self-acceptance.
For Matatas, her experience in the public sector showed her that government-backed health institutions, such as Toronto Public Health, thwart innovation—a crucial component of sex education.
“It would be great if [institutions] got on board,” she says. “But the hope lies more in advocacy work.” She points to the work being done by summit attendees, whether that be educators and therapists or others in the sex space.
Over the weekend and in the wake of the summit, attendees were able to amplify each other on their own social platforms, and at the panels and discussion sessions conversations flowed as attendees bounced new ideas off each other.
“We’re all related in a way,” says Matatas, “We’re all working in the crevices of where information is missing, and we’re happy to share in this movement.”
“Pleasure,” she adds, “is a revolution.”