Archive for Sex+ Freedom/Rights
Like many of Scarleteen’s careful, thorough, detailed posts, this post may seem long. I implore you, please, to read it anyway.*
May 1 is my birthday. I would truly prefer it not also mark this year the day Scarleteen had to shut down any of its vital services because of a lack of funding.
I participated in Scarleteen‘s fundraising blog carnival a few years ago, and as I said in that post, from the time I considered creating my own website, I knew Scarleteen would be the place to which I linked on my entry page for potential visitors who were not yet eighteen. It is that way on my site now, and it has been ever since it was launched.
I am one of those people Heather refers to that raves about what Scarleteen does and refers people there regularly but in the midst of whom Scarleteen still has not been able to adequately financially support itself. And she’s right that it’s (past) time for me to step up and support Scarleteen financially in addition to supporting them the other ways I do. After I read her post, I did. I hope you will too, if you are in a position to. I recognize the particular importance of this in that a lot of the people Scarleteen helps aren’t in a position to offer financial support—the organization is specifically geared toward young people, who often don’t have such disposable resources.
I’m reminded as well of a post I wrote a few years ago thanking sex educators. I still feel this way, earnestly, and I see Heather Corinna as truly one of the pioneering ones of these—she supports, without judgement or condescension, and with caring and an obvious deep well of knowledge, young people: some of the people society most seems to want to deprive of support and understanding around sexuality and to whom this deprivation does a unique disservice.
I truly hope all reading this will consider donating to Scarleteen and/or helping however they feel they can. I see the work of this organization as phenomenal, and I promise you, Heather and Scarleteen, I am pulling for you. It has become a birthday wish for me this year that you get the funding you need and find yourselves in a position to continue the monumental, deeply relevant work you do.
“And when the hardest part is over we’ll be here, and our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear…”
-Brandon Flowers “Crossfire”
Today, March 3, is International Sex Worker Rights Day. I interpret this as a day to educate about, support, and advocate for the rights of sex workers everywhere. I have blogged about this day here at The Green Light District since 2010, when I first learned of it.* This year, as I did in when I first blogged about it 2010, I’m going to offer a small roundup of pieces that, to me, celebrate the progression of sex worker rights and sex worker rights awareness in the last year. (Some of these will have appeared in Recommended Reading.)
Before I do, I’d like to comment briefly on one thing I haven’t covered a lot in my posts here about sex work. That is the idea of the “Swedish model,” or criminalizing the purchase of sexual services rather than the actual act of selling them (i.e., criminalizing the client instead of the practitioner).
I’d like to ask anyone reading this and/or who supports such legislation to imagine the purchase’s of the service or product you sell in order to make a living being criminalized. Not the service itself—you go on about your merry way making a living selling it—only the purchase of it. That way they’re taking it easy on you, right? They won’t criminalize the way you make a living. Whew! They’ll just criminalize the act of actually purchasing it from you.
Please consider how that would affect your business. Truly, please consider it. And while you’re at it, please consider what kind of clients you’d get. (In case it isn’t obvious, I’ll give you a hint: you’d get ones who don’t mind breaking the law.) Feel safer now doing your job?
If you’ve spent more than seven seconds on my blog, you probably know I support the decriminalization of all forms of sex work (and certainly do not support criminalizing the purchase of these services if sex work is decriminalized). Sex worker rights, of course, extend beyond criminalization, but legal status is one of the most prominent areas in which sex workers’ health and lives are endangered because of (as I see them) misguided laws and subsequent labor rights infringements.
Without further ado, following are a few measures since last March 3 that seem to indicate a widening of the understanding of sex workers’ rights and the ways laws have inhibited and still do inhibit them:
Happy International Sex Worker Rights Day 2014!
“Sex worker wins harassment case”
March 1, 2014
This is truly heartening to see.
This contains so many important and helpful distinctions and insights. I was thrilled to discover it. (It is not dated, but it was new to me, and the comments on it appeared earlier in 2014.)
“Sex worker fights for victims of rape, assault”
December 14, 2013
While I could hardly stand to read that this kind of legislative initiative had been allowed any credence whatsoever, since it was, I appreciate this article (and certainly that said legislation was rejected) even more.
“Does banning prostitution make women safer?”
July 8, 2013
I’ve long appreciated the in-depth and articulate responses Laura Agustin has managed to give to repeated questions like this via her extensive research on sex work in myriad geographical regions and contexts.
(Bonus commentary: Speaking of Laura, if you are interested in reading a longer discussion from her on this subject, I recommend this from August of last year: “Prostitution Law and the Death of Whores”)
Last summer, the “No Condoms as Evidence” bill, which disallows the use of condom possession as evidence of practicing prostitution, passed the New York State Assembly. While prosecutors in New York had already stated they would not accept condoms as evidence of prostitution, legislation prohibiting the practice would protect sex workers (and others) from the atrocious application of law enforcement’s confiscating and presenting condoms as evidence of intent to partake in prostitution.
I blogged about this years ago, as I was and am appalled by the idea of making the receipt of funding for HIV prevention contingent on overtly opposing prostitution. I was/am so pleased to see the Supreme Court overrule such an absurdity on First Amendment grounds.
“International Sex Worker Rights Day 2013″ (2013)
“An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh” (2012)
“Bittersweet Balloons” (2011)
“International Sex Worker Rights Day” (2010) “Further division is not the answer—division is not the answer…”
-Ben Lee “I Love Pop Music”
Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I acknowledge I have not yet planned or composed a blog post for the day—but I don’t feel I ever want the day (or International Sex Worker Rights Day on March 3) to go by unacknowledged on my blog, even if it is just a placeholder post to announce that that is indeed what day it is.
At the least, I traditionally light my red candle today. I just searched for it and don’t seem to know where I put it after last year’s lighting. So I just called Rick Write to ask him to pick me up a new one on his way home, and I will light it as soon as he gets here. Though it won’t be lit very long today, as we have plans away from home for most of the evening, it is done with full reverence for all sex workers who have experienced violence in the context of their work. The flame itself may be relatively brief, but the ongoing fire of love and support for my fellow former and current sex workers is always in me.
And, of course, I hold in love all who have ever experienced or perpetrated violence and hold a deepest wish for our awakening out of the unconscious constraints and limitations that drive it.
Love to all, everywhere, always,
P.S. As I finish and post this, my red candle has arrived and is now lit.“What will I tell my daughter, what will you tell your son…that we were nothing but a shadow, a faceless generation void of love?…”
-LIVE “What Are We Fighting For?”
I’ll be frank: this piece is about something I’ve found vaguely annoying for some time. I was reminded of it when I encountered a couple days ago yet another spielabout women’s pubic hair and why they’re supposedly doing and/or should or should not be doing whatever they’re doing with it.
I truly don’t understand what I’ve perceived as the intensity of some responses about the deliberate presence or absence of pubic hair. It seems to especially be an issue when it concerns female-bodied people removing their pubic hair or not, and I really don’t understand why anyone seems to think it’s his/her/their business what anyone else does with his/her/their pubic hair. Seriously, I am baffled by this.
I’ve seen some male-identified people say things like, “Please, stop shaving your pubic hair. We like it to be there!” (I’m not sure whether every man in the world congregated to let these particular ones know what they all like—and that it, astonishingly, happens to be the same thing—or how else any respective man feels justified proposing this, but that may be another post…or, perhaps, I’ll just let this little parenthetical speak for itself.) I’ve seen female-identified people, as well, seem to lament some current “style” of pubic hair for women and appear to proclaim what women “should” do with it.
In the case of the former, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, gentlemen, but I don’t shave my pubic hair because I think you like it or because you want me to or really because of you at all. I do it because I prefer it that way. Does that seem so surprising? For a variety of reasons, I prefer my vulva to be shaven, and I frankly don’t see that as anyone’s business but my own.
As far as the latter, if you don’t feel you need to or should need to remove your pubic hair to feel or look attractive, by all means don’t. I can hardly imagine why someone would feel pressured to do something with her/his/their pubic hair that was unwanted because of some perceived “style”—and I’ve worked as a porn performer, webcam model, and stripper. For whatever reason, I didn’t ever encounter pressure one way or the other (aside from customer requests) from anyone about what I did with my pubic hair in any of those contexts. I was generally either trimming or shaving at that time, so maybe that’s why, but I never interpreted anyone’s seeming to find it an issue or insist on anything one way or another.
When I got my hair cut last summer, I didn’t experience anyone’s saying to me, “Oh, dear, you cut your hair. I wish women would quit cutting their hair because they think it makes them more attractive to men! Please, just leave it long!” I presume that’s because it’s understood that it is up to me how to wear my hair and not the place of anyone else to suggest to me what I should do with it or why.
Why would that seem different with pubic hair? So what if something is “in style”? We don’t seem to complain a lot when people cut the hair on their heads a way that is in style. More to the point, why do we presume it is anyone’s business but the person’s in question what someone’s pubic hair “style” is?
Once in a great while I have encountered a piece on this subject I’ve found very cool—like this one from Alyssa Royse last year. But the very reason I find it cool is because it was obviously about what she wants to do and why. Why anyone would say much of anything else about pubic hair style, I truly don’t know.
-Jimmy Eat World “The Middle”
When I started working as a webcam model several years ago, I had been writing erotica just long enough to have been exposed to Violet Blue and correlative sources I considered credible in sex education and sexual health (most notably Good Vibrations, whose online magazine had also published my work). I was certainly no expert, though; I had heard this word “phthalates” and that it was in a lot of sex toys and that contact with it wasn’t particularly good for you.
neurotic about very cognizant of germs, I did careful research to make sure I was getting toys that could be unambiguously sterilized. I somehow learned enough to be aware that a toy that was 100% silicone was not going to have phthalates in it, and I understood I could sterilize it too. (This is because, as I understand it, it is nonporous, which is what one generally wants one’s sex toys to be). Glass appeared to be the same way.
Thus, because I just barely knew enough to discern credible sources and reputable sellers, I managed to procure quality sex toys on my first try, purchasing a silicone dildo direct from Tantus and a glass one from Good Vibrations. (I’ve since added a few from the highly-recommended njoy line to my collection.)
Unnervingly, however, had I not already been exposed to the high-quality information from educators and retailers in the community whose company I am so glad to now keep, knowing I should get a toy made of 100% silicone might not have been enough. Because manufacturers of sex toys, or what are sometimes called “novelties,” aren’t required to follow standards of accuracy when listing the materials in their toys.
In other words, they may lie.
That’s because there is no official oversight of the sex toy industry. In a way, this does not surprise me. At this juncture, our culture seems to have a hard time acknowledging sexuality in any kind of a sincere, curious, or grounded way; if it is not imbued with disturbing and arbitrary puritanical standards, it tends to be at best treated with avoidance and/or pubescence and generally not recognized as a subject to take seriously.
As may be obvious, it is a subject I take seriously. Delightfully, I am not alone—the three individuals behind the brand-new nonprofit organization Dildology.org take it seriously enough that they are ready to put their time and attention into helping the public understand what is in the sex toys they’re using on/in their bodies.
Dildology.org intends to provide material verification services and maintain a public database of the results, adding transparency and oversight to the industry while educating the public about the science behind pleasure products. We stand on our own, uninfluenced, and we are dedicated to protecting the health and wellbeing of the dildo-loving population at large through education (and maybe a little entertainment).
Phthalates, which I mentioned earlier, are prominent in some sex toys. They are, incidentally, not allowed in children’s toys in the U.S.—by order of a government regulation. That makes me not really feel like I want them in a product that is touching and going inside my body either. And phthalates aren’t the only potentially harmful material sex toys may contain. There’s a reason I included this post from Dangerous Lilly, one of Dildology’s founders, in a Recommended Reading post back in 2010.
One of the reasons Dildology’s service seems so valuable to me is that, due in large part to the circumstances I lamented above about sexuality/sexual health/sexual pleasure not seeming treated as the venerable subjects I feel they are, it seems to me that some people may feel self-conscious about discussing sex toys and thus not ask those of us who would be more than happy to proffer information about them. To me, this makes Dildology.org even more vital as a central, publicly accessible resource to check the safety and reliability of sex toys and companies. Not only will it provide far more advanced and reliable information about the materials in specific toys than even the extensive research I did, but it will counteract anyone’s unawareness of where to even start looking for such information and/or embarrassment about asking someone who does. I happened to know where to look to find the information I needed. Many people don’t.
At the same time, I was also having amazing conversations with people about how using sex toys enriched their sex lives. Helping them experience their first orgasms, prolonging partnered sex, revitalizing relationships. How they were falling in love with masturbation, experiencing intense self-esteem boosts from embracing their quest for pleasure. I was purchasing and personally testing every dildo I could get my hands on, going through a transformation of my own sexuality through sex toys.
And of course that makes sense to me. I’m all about this kind of personal sexual revolution and aim to support it myself however I can. While I don’t review or even collect toys very much myself, I appreciate their relevance and potential importance to the sexual journey of many. That, again, is one of the reasons I’m blogging about this today.
Another is that the kind of reliable testing Dildology.org will be doing is not cheap—which is why I’m participating in this blog carnival to support them in asking for financial donations. In order to remain unbiased, Dildology.org will not be accepting advertising (they will be somewhat like the Consumer Reports of sex toys). Their funding will be coming solely from the grassroots base that supports, appreciates, and benefits from what they’re doing.
My hope is that at this point you feel sparklingly inspired to donate to Dildology.org. :) If you don’t quite yet, please take a look at this list of extra incentives offered in conjunction with your generous donation. All incentives include the products/prizes included in the previous lesser incentive levels as well:
- Donate $15 and get a 15% coupon for SheVibe.com.
- Donate $25 and get a Dildology spyglass crossbone sticker when the fundraising goal (of $20,000) is reached.
- Donate $50 and get an official “DILDOLOGIST” t-shirt when the fundraising goal is reached.
- Donate $100 to be included on the website’s donor list.
- Donate $250 and choose one of the next products Dildology.org tests.
- Donate $500 to receive naked pictures of the founders. (Note: This is qualified with a parenthetical “maybe” on the site. ;).)
If you use sex toys and care about knowing whether the ones you use are safe for your body, or if you don’t use sex toys and care that people who do know the ones they use are safe for their bodies, you’re our audience. (Welcome. ;)) I hope that you’ll care enough about it to support Dildology.org as they work to get this revolutionary venture off the ground. Perhaps even someday, the sex toy industry as a whole will be accountable to accuracy, health, and quality, and we’ll be that much closer to a world where sexuality is something to appreciate, discuss, and take seriously just like food or medicine or children’s toys. I truly feel this kind of grassroots endeavor is exactly how that starts.
-30 Seconds to Mars “Hurricane”