Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with my male friends about them being called “safe,” or in one case, a “safety blanket.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? Celebrate.
This is the phenomenon in which a (generally young) woman dismisses her behavior around a guy as “Oh, that’s just so-and-so. He’s safe.” It always sounds like it’s meant to be a compliment, but there’s very little like it to bring out the bitter in a guy even decades after the fact. It took explaining the concept of “safe” to the wife of one of these friends for me to really figure out why.
Safe is better than not safe, right?
Well, of course none of my guy friends want to threaten any women, so being very not safe is right out of the question. However, being this sort of safe is far beyond not being a rapist in potentia, far more than just what’s left when that worry is removed. This safe means out of the running for any kind of sexual consideration whatsoever. This is gay-best-friend safe without the gay or necessarily the best friend. There are more options to be found in the real world than just this kind of safe and not safe.
In her New Year's message, Elizabeth reflects on the place of sex work within an internet site dedicated to public discussion of sexuality and its place in our culture. I agree with her that this site was not designed to just be a sex work forum. However discussions on sexuality inevitably bring sex work in all its manifestations and diversity into their ambit.
While it is easy to discuss sex work merely as a rights based issue, a more nuanced understanding cannot be achieved without considering how our knowledge of and attitudes to sexuality inform and are informed by sex work.
We won't find out by trying to separate biology from culture.
The cover asks "What is Female Desire?" and the story title, "What do Women Want?" seems to promise that scientists are getting closer to figuring out one of life's great mysteries. Daniel Bergner, in fact, does not attempt to answer those two questions (and the small subtitles make it clear that he isn't going to try) but rather he profiles the work of several scientists who are researching women's sexual response, their subjective sense of arousal, and the ways those do or don't line up.
It is a well-written article and a very interesting read. It takes on complex questions and, within its scope, attempts to address them without oversimplifying or sensationalizing (except for the first sentence of the article, in extra large and colorful print that reads "Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography."). I would encourage anybody to take a look. But prepare to be frustrated as well as intrigued. Some readers will be frustrated, as was Meredith Chivers (a psychology professor at Queens University, and one of the scientists whose work is the focus of the article) because the answers are not clear and meticulous research takes so long and is so difficult to do, and because, as she is quoted as saying early in the piece, "The horrible reality of psychological research is that you can't pull apart the cultural from the biological."
Click here for my frustration.
It appears the tolerance level of her neighbors was shorter than her dress. When 20-year old Kymberly Clem went to the Richmond Mall* wearing a dress she had bought there the day before, she apparently seemed too attractive to be allowed to stay. She was approached by a security guard who humiliated her and forced her to leave because he said that several women had complained to him that their husbands were staring at her. (For the basics, see these stories in the Richmond Register and Fox News. The Fox story includes a photo of the dress.)
As mentioned earlier, on June 23 (next Monday) I'll be hosting the fifth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy. If you have written or plan to write something pertaining to sexuality, sexual freedom, feminism, gender, etc., send your submission to amberlr [at] gmail [dot] com, or mark the post for me in del.cio.us. You can (and should!) also submit posts by your favorite bloggers. The carnival's mission statement, once again:
Co-optation and bureaucratization are great strategies for squashing attempts to create social change. There are some kids in South Carolina who are facing exactly that problem right now. They fought for and won the right to have a GSA in their school (the Irmo High School principal announced his resignation last month after the district ruled that the GSA must be allowed) but their victory might have some unintended and negative consequences.
The school board for District 5 of Lexington and Richmond Counties is now considering new rules regulating "student-initiated noncurricular clubs" that will "allow" GSAs but make them difficult to form and will hinder their effectiveness.
With a one-vote majority, California's Supreme Court overturned a law banning same-sex marriage yesterday (PDF of decision). The case is a consolidation of appeals to the same court's ruling in 2004 that San Francisco had illegally granted marriage licenses to same sex couples. In that decision they had expressly stated that they were not ruling on the constitutionality of the law, but only one whether or not the law had been broken. In this case they examine the constitutionality of the law and find that the law violates basic constitutional rights: the right to form a legally recognized family with a partner one loves, and the right to equal protection under the law.
The CA decision refers back to a much earlier decision - Perez v. Sharp in 1948 - in which the court found that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional. This was 19 years before Loving v. Virginia, the U. S. Supreme Court case that did the same thing nationwide. (Mildred Loving, whose marriage to Richard Loving was at the center of that case, died on May 2.)
Kenji Yoshino, a Yale Law professor writing for Slate today, points out that one strength of yesterday's decision is that it is based not only on liberty (the right to form marriages based on love and choice) but also on equality (the right to be treated equally by the law regardless of sexual orientation), and points out that because of that, this decision goes beyond the right to marry and makes it clear that any California law that discriminates against people based on sexual orientation is equally in trouble. That's the good news.
Sex 2.0 was amazing.
What do you get when one exceptionally talented organizer and her team bring together 80 or so people to talk about sex, feminism and social media in a gorgeous and very well appointed dungeon? You get Sex 2.0, which took place this past Saturday, April 12, in Atlanta.
It was a really amazing event. (Note: this was a conference, not a party. Despite the number of desirable and skillful people, and the amazing equipment, we all kept focused on the important discussions taking place.)
It was amazing because it brought together people will a huge range of connections to sex and the 'net. There were sex workers, BDSM practitioners, bloggers, academics, sex educators, community organizers, outreach workers (please note that many people fit in more than one of those categories). It was amazing because of the range of topics covered.
I led a discussion about building and maintaining the sex commons, and you can read a brief outline of my remarks here.
The debate on extra-curricular activities by University of New Mexico staff and postgraduate students continues in the Blogosphere. Of particular interest are those from within UNM, and those associated with Professor Chavez’ writing and teaching (English and Women’s Studies ), such as Samantha Anne Scott.
Yet there is little evidence of any public statements on managing the conflict within the English Department, a conflict that reports suggest threatens the careers of faculty, the integrity of teaching, and is inappropriately dragging students into the debate.
Constructive debate on issues in the academy is productive, unmanaged conflict is not. What then are the issues at stake, that must be of concern to all academics, authorities and students? These can be dissected on a number of levels from the micro-environment, the conduct of individuals to the macro level, the responsibility of the organisation.
This is the third piece on Sex In The Public Square dealing with the University of New Mexico conflict over the investigation into Professor Lisa Chavez's work for a BDSM fantasy phone service. In the first piece I wrote about questions I thought the case raised based on very early media coverage of the story. In the second post, yesterday, Lisa Chavez herself took the time to answer questions about the story. It is important for her voice to be heard. The comments on that thread show what a serious discussion of the issues can look like.
Today we add another voice. Liz Derrington wrote to me yesterday sharing her part in the story. She is the graduate student referred to in yesterday's piece, and listening to her voice is as important as listening to Professor Chavez's. For one thing, their stories so clearly support one other that it seems all the more evidence that the initial university investigation produced the right outcome (though as Michael Goodyear points out here we can't know if they did so by following due process because as far as we know there have been no reports about the investigation released to the public). Liz Derrington's story is important for its own sake, too, of course. For one thing, it provides a window into a part of the sex industry that we often forget to look at. I am especially touched, though by the way that she clearly and openly explains just how damaging have been the actions of people who claimed to be concerned for her. It is a reminder of how harmful is the paternalism with which we often approach the issue of sex work, especially when combined with the stigma already attached to that work. I'm grateful to Liz for telling her story here: