On September 30, 2017, I attended the first-ever OPENed: Women’s Conference, hosted by The Amber Rose Foundation and USC Dornsife, Center for Feminist Studies (in conjunction with The Amber Rose Slutwalk). I did! And it was amazing! And I am gonna tell you all about it.
This conference marries academics and edge! Through powerful panelists, keynote speakers and educational workshops, followed by an awards ceremony, every participant will walk away feeling empowered, educated and most importantly OPEN to listening to others perspectives on issues that affect us as women today.
The OPENed conference is like no other women’s conference in the world. It’s edgy. It’s academic. It’s empowering. It’s Amber Rose.
It really was empowering, and I am of course writing this because I feel very excited about the future. I feel so excited about the connections I may be connecting, and the stories I collected in those USC classrooms.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Being a law school graduate, I chose this workshop wondering exactly what rights they would address. The conversation was dominated by employment information, rights to equal pay, rights to equal pay for comparable work, and measures one can take (even cheaply) in potential discrimination cases.
While this information is incredibly important and relevant, I ABSOLUTELY do not have plans of returning to a “civilian” job. However, I often wonder about my ability to do so anyhow. The conversation meandered into or touched on sex work, and I had to ask the question:
“Say I have been a stripper, or adult actress, or cam model, and do not get a job down the road because of this. What can I do legally if this happens?”
As I expected, Lawyer Lisa Bloom, explained that it is incredibly difficult to prove a person was not hired because of past actions; however, she continued, the best way to avoid this is to “START YOUR OWN FIRM!”
I just lit up at her advice! Yes! Why not? Start your own anything!
And here in lies why I do what I do. I am my own boss, I make my own decisions, I am in complete control of me, my wallet, and my future. I recognize my privilege in all of this, and I am making it a point to make note of that privilege. To make note of the fact that I am a thinking, feeling, intentional, and authentic – WOMAN – uncontrolled, often countercultural, who decides.
Personal Agency. I’ve got that.
But some do not. Sex work, like almost anything I like, has the ability to hold diametrically opposed forces within it simultaneously. On one hand, it draws the uber-independent, the enlightened, the sick-and-tired of the status quo; and on-the-other-hand, it enables predators and manipulation all around, at every angle.
Part of the reason I have dove deeply into this world is because I do know my rights. I know that our rights have been stripped away. Taken. For reasons that just aren’t good enough. Not for me, whatsoever. I truly believe in and want Freedom. I cannot say where, but at some point, I bought into that ideal. Into that dream.
I am fighting for it now.
Everyday. Every time I show my face on Twitter. Every time I say, “I am a Sex Worker!” Every time I show love to someone.
It’s a beautiful fight. Historically lost. But I can’t rest my fists.
This was my favorite part of the day. The workshop was led by Farrah Parker, a Public Relations Counselor from Los Angeles. This workshop was not on current policy, or how to make policy, but how to see oneself as an advocate and policy influencer. She began by sharing stories of her own life, advocacy, and successes in the professional sector. She is nothing short of remarkable.
Ms. Parker then challenged us to share our own stories and think about the ways in which we are advocates in our own communities. This. This was my absolute favorite part.
The stories and the lives of these few women sitting an a USC classroom with me, way too early on Saturday morning, were amazing. I teared up at hearing about the amazing things people, women, do for those around them. Small local events to international corporations – the women I met and heard from do it all and everything in between.
Ms. Parker specifically asked us to share something “amazing” about ourselves. I shared about my experiences in alternative modeling and performance art. I wasn’t met with sideways looks or awkward “ke-wl”s, but with open arms and encouragement. Even more, I was pointed to an astounding resource I hope to connect with this month.
I left that room uplifted, refilled, and refueled. There are people who won’t settle for apathy or inequality, and now I know a few more.
SEX TALK & RELATIONSHIPS
To be 100% honest, I really didn’t want to attend this workshop. I had never before heard of Dr. Chris Donaghue, and again, I had no idea what to expect. And yet again, I was so pleasantly surprised and excited by what I heard!
Dr. Donaghue is the author “Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture.” I purchased it at the conference and have made my way through the introduction. I have been massively disappointed and even disgusted by writings on sex from the psychology and psychiatry community. The DSM has mislabeled non-heteronormative non-peno-vaginal intercourse as disorder, paraphilia, addiction. Unnatural.
It’s wrong. They are wrong.
And Dr. Donaghue says that too! His workshop was a quick 10 Tip condensation of his book. I aligned with most things he said and expressed, and I was happily wiggling in my chair hearing other attendees wholeheartedly agree along with me.
One thing I have never been, and have never understood is “normalcy.” The idea of “normalcy.” Dr. Donaghue, in his workshop and book, and the OPENed conference overall, question the desire and aim to be normal.
What the fuck does that mean?
And how incredibly boring!
While I am not a therapist by degree, or by trade, I probably do a lot of it (and really shouldn’t say that).
I put my fingers on the pulses of people in pain (and then pleasure he he). People who have been told what they like is “weird,” people who have been called “perverted,” people who have had to hide. Maybe I have been here too long, but to me, it appears that hiding is normal. Repression is normal. Stifling love is normal.
I’d rather be radical.
If you would like to be also, perhaps check out his book too.
This dynamic one day conference is designed to equip, encourage and challenge attendees to THRIVE in many aspects of life! Various speakers will educate on topics that are important today: Women Empowerment, Diversity and Inclusion, Sex Positivity, Digital Activism, Financial Literacy, and Entrepreneurship. We invite you to join our diverse panelists and keynote speakers as we discuss these topics and work towards creating a supportive environment for everyone.
This conference was really for everybody. For anybody. Messages of inclusion, body positivity, and sex positivity – BRING ‘EM ON!
This was the first ever OPENed: Women’s Conference and I really do think it has the potential to be an amazing event. The workshop leaders were incredibly informational; Debbie Allen ignited fire under my ass that still burns; and Amber Rose encourages unapologetic leadership. The conference was only a half-day, and it would be amazing to see it expanded into a weekend because I want more.
Really, I want a re-do.
I never outed myself as a sex worker. I wanted to. And I intended to.
I wanted to because “This conference…was created to address social injustice issues, to embrace those who feel counted out because of their self-expression or shame and to encourage families and business to be OPENed!”
That is an amazing goal. That is THE goal.
But I got scared.
I, like I love to do, attended the conference solo, and sat down at a sparsely seated table for the opening remarks. A lovely woman across from me introduced herself and what she did – a probation officer. Ugh. Might as well be police.
I shut down. I went back into hiding. And I played my cover all day.
We are not outcasts. We are not freaks. We are not deviants. We are human beings with an incredible capacity and ability to create, enable, endure, and enjoy sex and intimacy.
At some point, I should have said that.
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