The list of things for which I'm grateful this year probably deserves a post of it's own, but one of those things also deserves a post of it's own. Put simply, I am grateful for people who do the important work of supporting and defending those others won't help, especially those from whom many turn away reflexivly in fear or disgust. I am grateful to those who stand up and fight against moral panics and the way they undermine freedom through fear.
Thus I am especially grateful for the National Center for Reason & Justice. NCRJ serves people falsely accused or wrongly convicted of crimes against children and does educational work to fight the irrationality and panic - and the consequent violations of people's rights - that too often characterize the investigations and prosecutions of those cases.
Click here for information about the cases NCRJ currently supports.
Below is some information I've excerpted from an NCRJ letter highlighting a few of their successes and explaining their need for your help. I truly hope you can share some holiday generosity with them, and through them with those who have lost their freedom and gained the stigma of child predator unjustly. Please keep reading, or if you are convinced already, please click here to help NCRJ with its important work.
I love Scarleteen. I am proud to be a monthly contributor. Why?
Scarleteen is one of the most reliable sources of independent sex education available to teens. By "independent" I mean that they receive no federal, state, or local funds and are also noncommercial.
Scarleteen is designed specifically for teens and presents sexual health information in a clear and nonjudgmental way. It is maintained by people who care deeply about making sure that teens have access to accurate information with which to make decisions about their bodies and their relationships.
From Heather Corinna, the indomitable force behind Scarleteen, I learned just how much use the site gets:
25,000 unique users daily, with an average of 3.5 page loads apiece.
43,000 registered users on their always-moderated message boards. Scarleteen's staff and voluteers have answered every one of teh 63,000 topis teens have posted, providing honest, accurate and nonjudgmental answers.
900 "Sexpert Advice" columns. "Sexpert Advice" is also syndicated on RH Reality Check (another fabulous information resource).
In addition to blog posts and active forms, Scarleteen runs a text message service where teens can text questions to 66746 (keyword "ASKST") and receive answers directly on their phones.
They do all this with very little money and the unbelievable energy of people like Heather Corinna. And because she is Heather Corinna, she has big plans for the future, provided the money is there. In Scarleteen's plans for 2010?
You may recall that Megan Andelloux's Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health was denied its opening at the Grant building in Pawtucket, RI, because according to the city council's zoning board the building was not zoned for educational purposes. Rebecca Chalker wrote about it here:
Megan is appealing that decision and needs your help.
If you live nearby and can attend the hearing please show your support for nonprofit sex education for adults. The details:
Last night's panel discussion of sex work and civil liberties at Harvard Law School, hosted by the HLS ACLU, the American Constitution Society and the Women's Law Association (?) was a learning experience. I learned that some formats, which sound helpful in theory, are very limiting in practice. I learned that one should never make assumptions about an audience. And I learned that when you've had the last word and the panel is officially over, letting it be reopened is a very bad idea.
The panel was extremely well moderated. Professor Glen Cohen promised at the beginning to keep a tight rein on the discussion and he did. That made me feel confident and safe going into the discussion that it would not become a shouting match nor be derailed by questions that are not really questions. Unfortunately that limited the opportunities for panelists to respond to each other. It meant that if we were to play by the rules (where did I learn to be such a good girl?) we could not easily challenge each other's evidence, or revisit questions once the discussion had moved on. For example, if an audience member had a question specifically for Melissa Farley, and Farley answered using anecdotal or unreliable evidence, as soon the question was answered a new question was invited. There were only a few questions that were posed to the whole panel and it was hard to get back to earlier questions without deviating from the format. So, lesson number one: advocate for format change or break the rules if necessary to get important information out.
I just got back from a New York State United Teachers conference and tomorrow I'm heading up to Cambridge to participate in a panel discussion about sex work and civil liberties. If you're in that area I'd love to see you there!
Sex Work and Civil Liberties: A Panel Discussion
Monday, 11/16, 5:30pm
Harvard Law School ACLU
Pound 107 (map of the law school campus: http://www.law.harvard.edu/about/map.html)
Featuring Vednita Carter, Dr. Melissa Farley, Dr. Samantha Majic, & Dr. Elizabeth Wood.
Moderated by Professor I. Glenn Cohen
Free and open to the public
Co-sponsored by American Constitution Society, Women's Law Association, & Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Please Join Us December 17, 2009 for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Event in Tucson, Arizona!
November 11, 2009
Dear Friends & Supporters of Sex Worker’s Rights:
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serialprostitute killers. While some of these horrific stories received international media attention ( Boston, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, Tijuana , Hong Kong , Moscow , Great Britain ,Cape Town , New Zealand ), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unresolved, sometimes forever.
In fact, most violent crimes against sex workers remain unreported. Stigma and criminalization facilitate this violence; when sex work is criminalized, prostitutes can't turn to the police for protection without risking prosecution themselves. Sex workers remain one of the largest marginalized populations in existence without the benefit of the basic civil rights that everyone else takes for granted.
Each year, December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Last year’s event in Washington, D.C. was a big success and this year, sex workers and their allies from across the U.S. will gather together in Tucson, Arizona to remember and honor sex workers who have been victimized by virtue of their chosen profession - including rape, assault and murder.
Meet Jill Di Donato. I met Jill back in June when Sex In The Public Square, Center for Sex and Culture, and some amazing sex bloggers and writers got together at Happy Endings for a reading where we raised money for CSC. Jill heard me say that I was wanting to expand Sex In The Public Square and came to me with an idea for a new column, Show and Tell, which would be a place for people to write about the sexuality-and-society issues that are most personally important to them. Since no good deed goes unpunished Jill has been assigned as the curator/editor for our new venture! She's given me a sneak peak at some of the pieces she's collected so far and I'm very excited. Our goal is to put up a new Show and Tell piece about every two weeks, or twice a month. To submit an opinion-based editorial (500-1000 words) on issues relating to sex, relationships, beauty, identity, or any related topic, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a bit more about Jill:
Jill Di Donato is a Brooklyn native with a BA in English and Sociology from Barnard College and an MFA in Writing from Columbia. As a 21st Century feminist, she's contributed essays, fiction, and art to various publications, from obscure literary journals to mainstream media outlets. She's the author of the forthcoming novel Beautiful Garbage about a 1980s New York artist who finds herself immersed in a world of high-class prostitution. In addition, she's editing an anthology of feminists writing about sex, gender, and beauty. Currently, she's an adjunct lecturer in English for the City University of New York, teaches at Barnard College and The Fashion Institute of Technology as well as privately in New York City. An advocate of communities that spark healthy and provocative discussions about intimate issues with insight, complexity, and humor, she's thrilled to join the staff of Sex in the Public Square as the new Show and Tell column editor.
Photo of Jill Di Donato by Celeste Giuliano and used by permission. (c) 2009 Celeste Giuliano. All rights reserved
Some time ago Tess asked each of us who posed for the 2010 Sex Blogger Calendar (raising funds for Sex Work Awareness) to write a little bit about how our ideas about sexual freedom are expressed in our photo shoots.
Mea culpa. I am finally managing that post just days before the calendar's launch party. Will you be in NYC this Friday? Join us from 6:30-9:30 at Fontanas and get your calendar signed by models, photographers or anyone else who tickles your fancy! (I also hear there's going to be some pretty fantastic swag.)
I posed on Frying Pan, a rusting old lightship-turned-bar docked at Pier 66 on the Hudson River side of Manhattan. Frying Pan (and PIer 66 in general) is a place that says a lot to me about sexaulity despite its not being an "adult" location in any way.
For one thing, it floats. It is tethered to a barge which itself is affixed to land, but it is not, itself, on land. It is in that liminal space that is a salt water river that flows in two directions. There are few better metaphors for my sexuality.
The lightship itself is beautiful and inviting and yet clearly a place where one enters at one's own risk. Dark companionways and large pieces of rusty machinery are as accessible as the brightly painted outer decks. It is a place for exploration and for wonder.
The photo we chose for the calendar is one that combines a kind of playful sexiness with a femininity I rarely show. It captures the rusty beauty of the ship and one of its more inviting niches. The calendar shot hints at a scene that might happen two minutes after the shutter snaps. It is in all of those hints and seeming contradictions that I hope you will see a bit of what it means to me to have freedom of sexual expression. The three shots below are taken in different parts of the ship and I offer them here just to whet your appetite.
If any NYC-area readers are attending this event I would love to publish reports from it. I can't attend, myself, and want to hear all about the exhibits. What follows is completely copied from the New View Campaign website for the event:
The New View Campaign organized an arts and crafts exhibit and political event titled “Vulvagraphics” on October 24-25, 2009 to celebrate the role of art in activism and to kick off a campus-based movement to celebrate genital diversity.
A: When it is a selective reduction
I don't imagine this post is going to make me popular.
Today's New York Times has an article about the very painful choices faced by prospective parents who make use of fertility treatments, find that they are pregnant with multiples, and then are faced with the risk of those pregnancies - both to the hopeful mom and the soon to be children. Successful fertility treatments often produce multiples because hormones are used to stimulate egg production or because multiple embryos are implanted. But because being pregnant wtih twins or triplets or even more developing fetuses is risky, and because children born from those pregancies are more likely to be born very premature and are thus at risk for greater and more serious health problems than babies born from singleton pregnancies, doctors sometimes counsel prospective parents to consider "selective reduction" where some fetuses are eliminated.
I am not going to write about the painful choice this must be. I am not going to write about whether or not such fertility treatments are ethical given their potential for resulting in pregnancies risky enough to warrent advising abortion. Nor am I going to address the fact that in vitro treatments require the creation of more embroys than anyone intends to implant. I am not even going to write about whether we should be spending so much health care money on helping people to reproduce and then paying for the complications that occur as a result of those treatments. Not today anyway.
Today all I am going to write about is the use of the term "selective reduction" itself.