On August 12, 2009 I submitted this to the editors of National Review Online. I got the standard automated response and will certanly post here to let you know if the letter is published there. Meanwhile, here is what I sent them.
RE: "Not a victimless crime" by D. Hughes and R. P. George
"Not a victimless crime," (Hughes & George, Aug. 10, 2009) is misleading from the start in that what it describes (prostitution in Rhode Island) is not a crime in the first place. In addition, the article contains several logical flaws and much misinformation. It gives the impression that decriminalization of prostitution is associated with more violence against prostitutes and that criminalization of prostitution is associated with more effective policing of human trafficking and better protection of public health. None of this is accurate.
First, violence against prostitutes is associated with misogyny and the stigmatization of sexually active women, not with the legal status of prostitution. People suspected of being prostitutes are assaulted and killed in places where prostitution is criminal and in places where it is not. While there is violence against women, and against sex workers everywhere there is stigma against sexually active women interestingly, in places like New Zealand where prostitution was decriminalized in 2003, there has not been an increase in violence against workers.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
"I really love sucking a man’s cock." While Catherine Millet's opening line might not be note-worthy in a Western magazine, this time these words do not appear in a Western magazine. What makes those words worth mentioning this time is not their content, but their locale. Millet's piece is published in what might seem the most unlikely of places; they appear in the inaugural issue of Jasad, a magazine dedicated to artistic, literary, scientific and political explorations of the human body and published in Arabic in Beirut, by a woman.
Click here to read more.
Poe's Law says simply "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing." Although it's one of those things that was made up as a humorous point, the reality of it is as solid as the Laws of Thermodynamics. For example, take Colin Gunn's documentary on the horrors of feminism, The Monstrous Regiment of Women. When you can start out a film trailer with pontifications by Phyllis Schlafly, and have things only proceed downward into further lunacy from there, you know that you've truly dived head first into the rabbit hole. I can't quite decide which is the most disturbing quote, but the assertion by the woman who claims to have worked for a family planning organization is really up there: "I knew that if I could go into a school, the pregnancy rate would increase by fifty percent. I knew that if I could get a girl sexually active, that she would have three to five abortions between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. And that was actually our goal." Watch the trailer below, and remember that we ignore these people at our peril. (h/t to P.Z. Meyers at Pharyngula.) (ETA: Embedding doesn't seem to work. If you're feeling brave, watch the video at P.Z. Meyers' site, or directly from GodTube here.)
More like Fair-and-Balanced when it comes to reporting on "Natalie Dylan" and her virginity auction.
I was sent a link to a CNN story yesterday afternoon. It is the latest update in a story that's become quite the media frenzy: "Natalie Dylan" (not her real name) and her creative alternative to student loans. This 22 year old woman is auctioning off her virginity in hopes of raising enough money to finance her Masters degree. This is remarkable, due not only to the high sum her "cherry" seems to be going for these days (between 3.7 and 3.8 million dollars, when last checked), but because of the shock and awe that has followed in its wake. A perfect example of this is the commentary provided by CNN's Prime News host Mike Galanos and correspondent Richelle Carey . Billed as "hard news with a human side," Prime News "challenges news makers and experts to help viewers gain a clearer understanding of the 'right vs. wrong' conflict playing out across the country every day." (If you ask me, this sounds more suitable for Fox News than CNN, but I digress...) Click here to read more.
This might date me a bit, but when I first saw a picture of a shaved pussy, it was a real turn-on because it seemed edgy and sexually aggressive. It wasn't something that women did, as a rule. Now, it's so common that it's banal, and natural bushes, like the one that Furry Girl has made her trademark, have become a fetishized niche. The difference between the two styles still inspires a lot of heat and passion, and not always the good kind. Some people insist that shaved pussies make women look like children; others think that pubic hair looks scraggly and unclean. I'm one of the rare ones, someone with no preference whatsoever. But I can say that I utterly despise the vehemence on both sides, and their willingness to pathologize women's bodies one way or another. What I dislike about the shaved look is its total ubiquitousness. I hate that it's considered de rigueur for models to shave their pubic hair unless they're trying to appeal to a niche demographic, and that women feel like they have to shave to show up at a sex party or even to fuck their date. Shaved pussies are gorgeous, as are pussies with wild, full bushes. But homogeneity is boring and unsexy, and if the aesthetic flipflopped tomorrow, I'd say the same thing about natural bushes.