"It's Wrong to Pay for Sex", or is it? This is the title of a debate scheduled in NYC on April 21 by Intelligence Squared. It is actually the second debate on this topic that they have held, the first one being in London, UK on November 11 2008. The motion was soundly defeated, 449: 203. While we don't know how the speakers were chosen, the gendering is of interest. In the UK, each team consisted of one male and two females. The US debate will feature three women for the motion and one woman and two men against the motion. Is this significant? Maybe. While paying for or selling sex is not the sole property of any gender, it is the frame into which the dominant discourse has been forced that is highly gendered.
I'll be speaking at Suffolk Community College (Ammerman Campus, Selden, NY) on Tuesday March 17 as part of their Women's Week program.The theme is "Sex, Lies and Feminism" and speakers include Katha Pollit among many others.
My talk will describe ways that sexual content on the Internet helps us expand our understanding of sexuality and will explain why efforts to censor "objectionable" content often do more harm than good. I argue that more, rather than less, sexual material should be the goal (she calls this "expanding the sex commons") and talk about how we can build pathways that help us navigate through sexual material instead of building walls to segregate it from all other online content.
I'm even losing my power point virginity on this so that I can show screen shots and I'd like to keep working on my slideshow skills.
Details: Why we need more sex on the Internet
Tuesday, March 17, 2:00-3:15
Ammerman Campus, 533 College Road, Selden NY 11784
Montauk Point Room, Babylon Student Center.
I'm furious about the way this young woman's story is being reported. Jesse Logan killed herself last July not because of the "dangers of sexting" but because of the dangers of sex stigma and "slut shaming." She had sent some naked photos of herself to her boyfriend by cell phone. When they broke up he showed those photos to other people at their high school. Some of those people then visciously shamed and bullied Jesse. But to read this MSNBC story you would think that it was her sending of the photos that was so dangerous.
Slut shaming works because girls are told to be sexy but not sexually active. I don't know whether Jesse had ever even had sex with the boyfriend to whom she sent the pictures. It doesn't matter. What matters is that words like "slut" and "whore" were hurled at her and that those words are understood to be condemnations. They should not be, yet they are, and the same attached to them caused Logan such pain that she began skipping school, spiraled into a deep depression and, after a friend of hers committed suicide, she did the same, hanging herself in her closet. What a tragically symbolic end for someone whose privacy had been so violated.
Adding injury to insult in Vancouver: Seriously flawed study gets reported in a totally unconscionable waySubmitted by Elizabeth on 6 March 2009 - 10:32am
"HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, British Columbia: A growing epidemic" (McInnes et al 2009) was just published in the peer-reviewed Harm Reduction Journal (PDF). The study's abstract clearly states that intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men are involved in the vast majority of HIV transmissions in Vancouver (IDUs and MSMs in the study's objectifying abbreviations). But you'd never know this from reading the Vancouver Sun.
Pamela Fayerman's article, "Local study sheds light on HIV: More than a quarter of female sex trade workers in city infected with virus" begins with a headline that is not just sensationalistic headline but is also false. The study doesn't show that at all. The study isn't based on the sort of data that could even begin to sort out what proportion of female sex workers in Vancouver have HIV because it is based on data collected only from prostitutes working on the street doing what is called "survival sex work." Fayerman's article ignores the majority of the study's findings to focus on one small and inaccurately presented piece of information.
From The California Channel: The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday, March 5, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in three cases challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a statewide ballot initiative that was passed by a majority of California voters in November 2008.
Proposition 8 was an amendment to the constitution of the state of California that banned recognition of same-sex marriages. This constitutional amendment revoking people's already-established rights was passed by a simple majority vote on a ballot question. This occured half a year AFTER the state had begun recognizing - and solemnizing - same-sex marriages because the Supreme Court had issued a ruling declaring that the failure to to do so was a violation of the basic civil rights of gays and lesbians as guaranteed by the state's constitution. In other words, the Supreme Court said "according to our constitution such marriages should be legal." Then the voters said "We've amended the constitution to make those marriages illegal." Now the Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the voters' proposition.
Watch the oral arguments live at http://calchannel.com. If the server overloads then watch and listen later by archive.
And check in at Carnal Nation where Chris Hall, co-founder of Sex In The Public Square, will be live-blogging the hearing.
Would you deny rights to child care workers because:
...their work is dangerous? (Consider the spread of infections and exposure to bodily fluids, let alone the heavy lifting. No, we would advocate for hand sanitizer and worker protection laws so that we could be sure our kids would be as safe as possible.)
...their work is often exploitive? (Day care workers in centers and in homes are poorly paid, often have no benefits. They are among the most necessary and most vulnerable workers. Instead of denying them rights we argue for better wages and working conditions.)
...their work is sometimes done illegally? (Many people taking care of children work off the books and some work without documentation. And when lots of more privileged moms hire this way we turn a blind eye and don't call them pimps or johns.)
...their work is associated with migrant labor and human trafficking? (Women are trafficked for many reasons including domestic service and child care.)
...their work is associated with care that is otherwise provided out of love and devotion to family? (Would we ever argue that because a woman cares for other people's children for pay that she is incapable of loving her own children and caring for them well?)
Click here to continue reading.
Editor's Note: M. P. Clark is a new guest contributor at Sex In the Public Square and I'm grateful for her contribution. That it comes on International Sex Worker Rights day is all the more fitting. -Elizabeth Wood
Yesterday, March 2, 2009, the Albuquerque Journal featured on its front page photographs of a number of women reported missing from the area over the last decade or so. Exactly one month earlier, a woman walking her dog discovered a human bone at a worksite being cleared for new housing development in a part of Albuquerque known as the West Mesa. An investigation of the area turned up other bones—five sets, six, then eleven, and now thirteen. Twelve sets of bones are believed to belong to women, the thirteenth to a fetus of about four months old. Yesterday’s Journal article speculates whether there’s a connection between the women in the photographs and the bones.
via Laura Agustín.
SEX TRAFFIC at London’s ICA - Institute of Contemporary Arts
11 March 2009 - 1900 / 7pm
The media and NGOs have raised awareness of sex trafficking in recent years, but does it serve the interests of migrant sex workers to suggest they have been trafficked, or does it collude in their criminalisation and deportation? Should our priority be to give migrant women in the sex industry more control over their own lives, or to stop the traffic?
Speakers: Laura María Agustín, author of Sex at the Margins and a former educator working with expatriate sex workers; Georgina Perry, service manager for Open Doors, an NHS initiative which deliver outreach and clinical support to sex workers in east London; Catherine Stephens, sex worker; Jon Birch, inspector, Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit. Chair: Libby Brooks, deputy Comment editor, The Guardian.
Nash Room. Book here £10 / £9 Concessions / £8 ICA Members
I love the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. The NCSF is one of those organizations you know you can count on to fight for the right to sexual expression even around stigmatized types of sexual expression like exchanging sex for money, or engaging in BDSM.
Prostitution arrests in Dungeons and porn shops (where prostitution may not have been occurring at all) have raised much concern, and NCSF advocates spoke with law enforcement representatives to find out how they're interpreting "prostitution". The findings are troubling and are reported below.
Audacia Ray has an excellent post on Waking Vixen that reports on two recent news stories involving teens and sex. The first was the story about teenagers sending naked photos of themselves to their boyfriends or girlfriends and being arrested and convicted of sex crimes. The second is the story of Operation Cross Country, which claims to be an attempt to rescue underage prostitutes but is much more effective at arresting adult prostitutes. In her post she asks this important question:
"Why are child prostitutes being rescued while adult prostitutes are being arrested? Why are kids who make porn of themselves being arrested while adult porn performers legally go about their business?"