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Bridging Communities in Sex Work Research

This is the edited version of the slideshow presentation from my talk today with Michael Goodyear at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) Easter/Midcoast joint regional meeting called "The Business of Sex."

NOTE: There appear to be some problems viewing this slideshow using some versions of Internet Explorer.

Click on this link:

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Wherein Carol Queen comes to NYC and we gather smart people together to drink and talk sex!

I wish I'd marked on my calendar the date I first read Carol Queen's The Leather Daddy and the Femme. That would be the date when something clicked inside my brain and connected the fragmented parts of my erotic and intellectual understanding of my sexuality. Real Live Nude Girl and Pomosexuals cemented my crush on Carol. And then several years ago through a remarkable chain of mutual friends and happy coincidences we got to know each other "IRL". I'm thrilled that now Sex In The Public Square and Center for Sex and Culture can work together on all things sexual-freedom-related. To that end, we're co-hosting a cocktail hour and reading on Monday, June 8 from 6-9 in NYC. The event is free and open to the public (as long as you're over 21). Donations to Center for Sex and Culture are welcomed, and we're counting on you to help us meet our bar guarantee!

What: A Sex-Positive Soiree and Reading

Who: Carol Queen visits from San Francisco, joined by Rachel Kramer Bussel, Elizabeth Wood, Audacia Ray, and Sinclair Sexsmith!

When: Monday, June 8, 6-9 pm (reading will start between 7:30-8, last about an hour).

Where: Happy Ending, 302 Broome Street, NYC 

Why: Carol Queen's coming through town and wants to collaborate with her friends Rachel and Elizabeth to make a space for connecting, schmoozing, touching base, and furthering plans for sex-positive world domination! Her SF nonprofit The Center for Sex & Culture has hosted Rachel Kramer Bussel, worked with Elizabeth Wood on her online community Sex in the Public Square, and has plans to expand its educational and cultural offerings online as soon as we can (if we can't afford NY real estate, at least we can visit you via your computers). Come mingle with your fellow NY sex people and meet some new ones, then enjoy a reading that will surely be more salaciously smart/sexy brain candy than most people ever get on a Monday (and in some cases, sadly, EVER). Cosponsored by the hotties at the NYC Sex Bloggers Calendar (www.sexbloggercalendar.com to benefit www.sexworkawareness.org). Free calendars! Signed! (The theme for the 2010 calendar, in production now, is sexual freedom -- yay NYC Sex Bloggers!)

Open to everyone 21+ -- please pass it on.

How much: FREE, but we have a bar guarantee to meet, so have a drink, and donations will be gratefully accepted for the Center for Sex & Culture -- no amount to big or too small, and tax-deductible!

Click here for more info about our readers - It's a fabulous lineup!

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Women's health care dealt another fatal blow: Dr. George Tiller is murdered.

Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller, one of the nations few providers of late term abortion care and medical director of the Wichita-based Women's Health Care Services, was shot to death this morning at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was a member. The Wichita Eagle reports that police are looking for a white man driving a 1990s powder blue Ford Taurus with Kansas license plate 225 BAB.

Dr. Tiller was a courageous and ethical man. His dedication to women's health and reproductive freedom involved compassion and spirituality as well as clinical care. Women's Health Care Services has a chaplaincy program, for example, and its late term fetal indication abortion page acknowledges the emotional and spiritual pain that many families struggling with unhappy news about an advanced and much wanted pregnancy feel as they face that pregnancy's end.

Compassionate and clinically excellent reproductive health care is an essential part of sexual freedom, but even more fundamental perhaps, it is an essential part of gender equality. A society where women can be forced to be pregnant is a society where women can never be equal.

Click here to read more.

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Building Bridges - Elizabeth and Ren at Sex 2.0 2009

Many thanks to Calico for her willingness to record sessions at the recent Sex 2.0

conference in Washington DC and to Audacia Ray and Sex Work Awareness for the excellent Speak Out! media training where Calico learned to be a whiz with a Flip cam.

Here is the session that Renegade Evolution and I co-facilitated: "Building Bridges & Alliances between researchers, sex workers & clients":

 

Link to this blog: http://tinyurl.com/pphl9f

Video courtesy of Calico. You can find more at her Blip.tv page.

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Mothers Day, Sex 2.0, and some not-so-random connections

Two years ago on Mothers Day I wrote about a set of wishes I had. Today I'm reposting that list because I just spent the weekend with my mother. Where? At Sex 2.0, a grassroots conference amazing for the way it explores the intersection of feminism, sexuality, and the internet.

I took my mom partly because it was Mothers Day weekend, partly because I was presenting and she rarely gets to see me present, and partly because I love her and wanted to share this experience with her. We went to sessions about the research on marginalized sexualities (CARAS), on the politics of sex work in the Obama age (Stacey Swimme, from St. James Infirmary, and Audacia Ray), and on restructuring debates around sexual freedom (Ricci Levy and David Phillips of Woodhull Freedom Foundation). I co-facilitated a session with Renegade Evolution on the building of ally relationships between sex workers and researchers. 

When I wrote my post two years ago I shared it with my mother and she thought many of the items were important but too idealistic. I think today she feels like they are even more important, and that they are perhaps attainable. So much has changed in two years. The Obamas are in the White House, marriage equality is spreading, and my mother and I are attending sexuality conferences! Click here to read my list of Mothers Day wishes from two years ago.

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Sex 2.0 2009, feminisms, and the wonders of diverse and intersecting communities

 

Sex 2.0 2009 logo

 

Sex 2.0 2009 is one week away, and I'm very excited about it. Here is the list of sessions and as soon as I see an actual schedule I'll post that. I hope you'll join us if you can, if not in person at the event, then online by following any of the twitterers or livebloggers who will be sending out real time updates during the day. There's still time to register. Click here for the registration page.

Last year, in Atlanta, under the guidance of Amber Rhea, a brand new grassroots conference was born. Its goal was to bring together smart people interested in sex, technology and social media in a space where we could talk to each other as equals, no hierarchy, and with the agenda being driven by the community. It was a very successful event. 

This year, in Washington DC, under the guidance of Match, the conference will again bring together a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds to discuss sexuality, society and technology. It is going to be a great mix of sessions. I'm co-leading a session with Ren of Renegade Evolution about how to build trust and alliances between sex worker communities, researchers, client communities, and others. I'm especially looking forward to sessions on community building (MayMay), dismantling the internet "red light district" (Melissa Gira Grant and Joanne McNeil), advocacy for sexual freedom (Ricci Levy and David Phillips), community-academic alliances for research (CARAS), polyamory (Anita Wagner) and on sex work (Audacia Ray, Kimberlee Cline, Furry Girl, Sabrina Morgan, and Ellie Lumpesse. Really the whole lineup is pretty impressive and I wish I could see everything!

Click here to read more on Sex 2.0, feminism, and intersecting communities.

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"Decent Exposure": Judith Levine on the black hole of sex crimes law

Judith Levine writes brilliantly about sex, teens, and the law. From her book Harmful to Minors to her recent writings on the new craze of charging teens who send sexy photos of themselves to one another with possession and distribution of child pornography, she is one of the most articulate when it comes to explaining the irrationality of the law. 

Today she writes :

U.S. sex law is like a black hole: Once reason falls in, it can never re-emerge.

Can all this get any stupider? Just as I was asking myself this question, a post arrived from sex therapist Marty Klein’s blog, Sexual Intelligence, confirming that it could:

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May Day 2009: Rights and Respect for ALL Workers

red umbrella only rights can stop the wrongs

 

Happy May Day. Happy International Labor Day.


I was thinking about the red umbrella image that I associate with sex worker rights and how the symbolism and the slogan are significant beyond that one very important movement. The umbrella of labor rights needs to cover all marginalized workers who are currently without protection of their basic rights.

I'm thinking especially of the connections between sex work and migrant work. Both categories of workers are so often targets of stigma, scapegoating, and abuse.

Imagine a labor movement that gathered up all workers and fought for their safety, their dignity, and their right to a decent standard of living. Imagine uniting workers around the globe so that employers could no longer exploit workers in one nation to undercut workers in another. Imagine not being arrested, deported, beat up, or murdered because of your work.

The right to work is a basic human right. The right to autonomy and control over one's body is a basic human right. A decent standard of living, physical safety, and personal freedom should all be basic human rights.

My wish for today is that we each do something, anything, that honors or celebrates the dignity of those whose work is stigmatized or made invisible. And if you get a moment, drop by in the comments and let us know what you did. 

In solidarity,

Elizabeth 

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Sex Work Awareness PSA: I am a sex worker

If you bought a 2009 NYC Sex Blogger Calendar, your money went to support the amazing nonprofit education and advocacy organization Sex Work Awareness. They've already done lots of good work with the money. One important project, Speak Out!, is a series of media workshops for sex workers, training them to deal with reporters and to make their own media. The day-long workshop has just been offered for the first time and by all accounts was very successful. At the end of the day participants produced this short public service announcement. It's only a minute long. Please watch it!

 

If you're curious about what participants thought about the workshop, here's a link to a very moving blog post by Calico, who describes some of the challenges and some of the accomplishments of the day.

Visit Sex Work Awareness at http://sexworkawareness.org to learn more about their media advocacy and public education work.

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Workers Memorial Day 2009

 

Today is Workers Memorial Day.


As always, when it comes to work and sex and society, I am thinking about some of the most vulnerable among us: sex workers. Sex workers are a large and diverse group. I don't mean to use the term as a euphemism for prostitutes, though I do include them. I mean to include all whose labor is in the providing of sexual or erotic services. I mean to include them whether their work is legal or criminalized, whether they are migrants or not, whether they have a great deal of autonomy or are working in exploitive conditions. No matter what, all those workers deserve to be safe.

The serial killings of prostitutes in places like Ipswich (UK), Vancouver, and Washington remind us of the particular dangers faced by prostitutes (or women suspected of being prostitutes) but it is important to remember that workers in the legal realms of erotic work are also put at risk as we've been tragically reminded recently by attack on Roberta Busby, who was set on fire outside a strip club in February or the murder of Julissa Brisman in a hotel in Boston earlier this month.

Three simple thoughts, then, on Workers Memorial Day:

1. No women are safe until prostitutes are safe. As long prostitutes are targets of violence, and as long as that violence can be perpetrated with much less risk of sanction, and as long as all women are potentially identifiable as prostitutes by virtue of owning our sexuality, no women are safe until prostitutes are safe.

2. An injury to one is an injury to all. When we don’t speak up to protect the safety of other groups, we cannot expect much support when we ourselves are targeted. Solidarity is important across groups of workers. Stigma and bias only serve to divide us. Whatever work we do, whether erotic or otherwise, whether legal or not, whether chosen or not, we need to stand up for each others rights to self determination and safety.

3. Those of us with more privilege (greater safety, more autonomy, more money, more education, more access to power) need to use it to improve conditions for those with less.

Workers deserve to be safe.

All workers.

In solidarity,

Elizabeth

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