Reflecting on ideaCity

By Kendra Holliday | June 20, 2011

Kendra Holliday with
Moses Znaimer

I just got back from a trip to Toronto where I presented at ideaCity 11.

I made a youtube video right before I left, you can view it here. I’ll be posting a follow up tomorrow.

It was my first public speaking engagement. I was speaker #48 in a lineup of 50, so I had three days to let my heart race wild until it was my turn to get miked up and take the stage.

I was nervous my talk would be too racy for the crowd, which leaned toward the older, professional conservative set.

But then I flipped through the impressive program, which was peppered with abstract illustrations of couples having sex, a penis in a hand, and a woman with her legs spread for a voyeur.

The theme of this year’s conference was: Ideas Having Sex.

An Impressive Lineup

What’s more, the parade of speakers covered some pretty brave shit. A sampling (please visit the ideaCity website or google their names):

Matt Ridley, the author of The Red Queen, a book all about how humans are animals and we all have sex in common, was skyped in from England.

Penis Hand art in
ideaCity program

Paul Bloom, Pleasure Scholar, talked about cannibalism, incest, benign masochism, and Capgras delusion, a disorder where a person believes their loved one has been replaced with an imposter.

Patchen Barss, author of The Erotic Engine, spoke of the fine line between virtual world roleplaying and pedophilia.

Barbara Kay, an anti-SlutWalk columnist who believes North American women have enough rights. Speaking on honor killings, she maintained that “there is no honor in being a slut.” She was my polar opposite, which was really intriguing. I’ll be writing more about Barbara later, and she’ll be writing about me, stay tuned.

Charles Lindsay, a Galactic Artist, showed photos of sea turtles being tortured and monkey head soup in his presentation.

Jaymie Matthews, a rocket scientist, had to be dragged off the stage because he wouldn’t stop talking. He wore shoes with wings on them and a shirt with a slice of bread on the front and back (he was the ham).

Greg Hill, a father and husband who felt most like himself when climbing dangerous mountains in the freezing cold. He conquered his goal of climbing TWO MILLION vertical feet in one year.

Martin Parnell, a 56 yr old man who ran 250 marathons in one year.

Julie Angus, a woman who rowed across the Atlantic Ocean and survived two hurricanes with her husband.

Stephen Garrett, a man who celebrated death and tried to show others how it can be sexy.

Glynnis Hood, a beaver expert. Enough said.

Mark Siddall, a leech expert who grossed the audience out with images of leeches in eyeballs and buried in hippo rectal tissue.


Patri Friedman, this quirky guy who goes to Burning Man and has the founder of facebook backing his grandiose plans to establish new communities on the ocean.

Sheril Kirshenbaum, a Kissing Expert who said she felt prude in comparison to me. I assured her I felt like the odd woman out, surrounded by all these authors, scientists, and people performing superhuman feats.

And finally, Cacilda Jetha and Christopher Ryan, the authors of Sex at Dawn. They showed bonobo porn. I have to brag here and say they were so much fun to hang out with.

For entertainment, ideaCity had cheerleaders, Flirty Fitness Girls, and Cameron Carpenter, a man who played the organ wearing tight, sparkly pants.

After taking this all into consideration, I figured I was in good company. Plus, Toronto is a much more progressive area than the Midwest.

Facing My Fears

I was warned twice prior to my presentation to avoid any talk of kink or perversion. Noted.

So yeah, I took a deep breath and got up on that stage and shared my bold idea:

YES you can be a mom who volunteers at her kid’s school, and YES you can be sexually creative. I pitched the concept of being fully integrated. As soon as the talk is posted on youtube, I’ll share the link. I’d love to get your feedback. In the meantime, WebMaster took notes and posted them here.

I rocked the vulnerability and speaking authentically from the heart. I went on auto-pilot and was amazed to run out of time and have to cut my talk short.

I’m wildly guessing here, but I think the younger, progressive members of the audience liked my talk, and the older, more conservative attendees gave it a thumbs down. Literally.

Was it the sex worker joke I started out with? My lack of hairstyle? My goddess slideshow that played in the background that represented my many beautiful facets, from fishnet body stockings to prairie dresses?

For sure, the biggest issue that divided the crowd was the fact that I was a mother and incorporated my daughter into the talk. They felt I was harming her by raising her in a sex-positive way, right down to disapproving of the belly dancer I had at her birthday party.

Excuse me, but a belly dancer is NOT a stripper, but more like a ballerina. Why is it OK to have a clown at a kid’s birthday party or a petting zoo, but a belly dancer crosses the line? We had a professional drummer there giving the kids a music lesson as well – is that tacky?

To be clear, I’m not teaching my daughter how to give head or use sex toys. I’m teaching her that sex and her body are to be enjoyed when she is old enough, on her terms. I’m raising her in a guilt and shame free environment.

I picked up a strange vibe from the crowd.

I thought I would feel proud and accomplished afterward, but instead I felt unsettled, like I farted at a tea party.

Many people came up to me to tell me they liked my talk very much, and were so impressed with my daughter’s spirit and intelligence. I so appreciated them approaching me, as I felt like a pariah.

But WOW the event was spectacular and I was so thankful to have the opportunity to be given a chance to share my ideas to such a distinguished crowd.

I was no longer speaking to the choir.



1Phoenix 2011-06-20 21:23:16

“like I farted at a tea party.” by all means lift your leg and let it rip.

it sounds as though it went well, can’t wait to see the youtube video, you go girl.



    Kendra 2011-06-21 17:37:37

    Aww thank you. I wish I could shake this uneasy feeling that’s overshadowing all the greatness. Things feel so different now, yet strangely the same…


Buddha 2011-06-20 22:45:48

I would have pissed my pants, so a little fart? Please.


    Kendra 2011-06-21 17:39:28

    I was worried I would throw up, and I didn’t, yay!


lurkergirl 2011-06-20 23:01:34

I am not a big fan of the shaved head look, but you look stunning in that pic. <3


    Kendra 2011-06-21 17:40:03

    Stunned, or stunning? πŸ˜‰ You are too kind.


LunarLotus 2011-06-21 01:33:23

The world can’t change in one day, hopefully you did, however, plant a seed to liberate their thoughts. I just read an article recently on how most things people abhor or damn is the thing they secretly desire the most. So not always getting a positive response is a good thing in my honest opinion, you’re making them think, instead of making them act like sheeple. We have PLENTY of sheeple, we need people who think and can adapt, to add more and be willing to be open-minded.

Congrats though, I think it’s a huge milestone for going and speaking at idea city. Can’t wait to see where you’ll go next.


    Kendra 2011-06-21 17:42:15

    You are so right – if everyone agreed with what I had to say, there would be no point in me speaking. I sure wonder what’s next.


Kristy 2011-06-21 08:21:38

As a teacher, I speak publicly everyday! It’s incredibly difficult! Especially when students ask those difficult questions or make ignorant statements…I find myself struggling to find the right words – to reconcile the true me, with the vanilla expectation the world has of me.

Can’t wait to see your talk and congratulations on taking a huge step into the spotlight to shed some light on a very difficult topic of how to integrate who we are into “every day” and especially when that everyday includes children! Disagreement is a good thing – it means you had something to say of import πŸ™‚



Lionman 2011-06-21 11:22:27

“no longer speaking to the choir” – PERFECT


Hypocrite 2011-06-21 15:09:29

All I know is that my wife wouldn’t let me have a bellydancer at my birthday.

That said, if you had said “we had Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin at her party” everybody would have thought it was adorable (except for the anti-corporate people), despite her being dressed in the same manner.


    Kendra 2011-06-21 17:43:16

    Wow that is such a good point. I will have to use that in my upcoming article about belly dancers, thanks!


Kendra 2011-06-21 17:49:49

A member of the audience wrote me an email gently challenging my take on the audience. He let me know he is an older liberal man, and he was left wanting more. He suggested that I might have misread the audience, which is very likely, as after I spoke everyone dispersed quickly, unlike the previous talks where there was time to mingle afterward. Kinda left me hanging and wondering. I think I’m seeking closure, which is a little odd, because the closing brunch for the presenters was incredible. I feel like Cinderella, wondering if the royal ball was just a dream…


Miss Scarlet 2011-06-21 18:00:40

You’re doing great things. I’m so proud of you. :heart:


capnmarrrrk 2011-06-21 18:54:42

Having watched most of the talk I’m glad it went the way of the middle. It wasn’t stupendous comparatively, but because it was your first public speech it went much better than I feared.

A more skilled speaker would be able to read the audience and work them on the fly, that only comes with experience.

I posit that people scattered quickly is that it was later Friday Afternoon and they wanted to go to the next thing.

Question. How do members give thumbs up or down? How did you get this immediate feed back?

I think it’s great the connections you made, and the people you met, and yet another first step along the journey of 1000 steps. You were smashing!


ModLulu 2011-06-21 20:38:12

Regardless of the audience’s response, you spoke your truth in this amazing venue, and to me that is a victory. I also think that the fact you were invited to speak among such distinguished company speaks volumes about you and the courageous path you are blazing. Brava!

By the way, I am a bellydancer, and I think it is wonderful that your daughter had a dancer and drummer at her birthday party. She basically had what we dancers call a “hafla”. I’d love to do a gig like that, because children are consistently my best audience when I perform at restaurants. I really look forward to your article about bellydancers!


Jeff Carroll 2011-06-29 11:24:05

Thanks Kendra. My late wife, Nicole (Ishara Gamal was her stage name), was a teacher and performer of belly dance, and she spent much of her life trying to illuminate people about Middle Eastern dance.

When she learned that she had cancer, it was only natural for her to create “Bellies For Life,” a charity to raise money for cancer research. Even after her death, it’s still an annual event in Champaign.

Jeff (Kelly’s husband)


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