Archive for Sex+ Society

June 12th, 2019

Autonomy, Ignorance, and Porn

Some readers may have heard about the recent kerfuffle over a high school newspaper that carried an article based on an interview with a senior (eighteen years old) at the school who was working in porn. When the school administration heard the article was in the works, they asked to be able to see it before the paper went to press. The paper’s faculty advisor, a journalism and composition teacher at the school, refused. She was subsequently threatened with disciplinary action up to potential firing, which made national news. (Note: For anyone who doesn’t understand why it would be such a big deal for her to have allowed the administration to read the article before it was published, it would be the equivalent of the United States government’s requiring that media outlets run things by them before printing them. I hope that illuminates the debilitating chilling effect such would have on the press. Indeed, it represents the antithesis of the purported purpose of the press in the US.)

I first appreciate the teacher’s steadfastness in refusing the administration’s demand even in the face of potentially losing her job. (The appalling behavior as such of the administration is an entire subject in and of itself that I am not covering here.) I also find the uproar about writing an article about a student legally and consensually working in porn both maddening and disheartening. It’s as though we sadistically cannot handle a sex work narrative that doesn’t fit with the collective view we seem to have of the suffering, exploited, defeated sex worker. I feel saddened by this because wouldn’t people rather discover that someone is not suffering the way they assumed than be right? Even if we have to let go of our preconceptions and misguided notions based on (sometimes innocent) ignorance, is it so much to ask to listen to sex workers and allow them to have credibility on the subject of their own lives and experience?

On top of that, I then saw an online comment about the story that quite increased the ire I experienced. I’m sorry that I have to paraphrase it here as, even after a valiant search, I was unable to relocate the comment. Here was the gist of it:

“What the article should be about is people luring young girls into this kind of work, because does anyone believe she really didn’t start until she turned eighteen? That idea is ridiculous, and people in the porn industry need to stop preying on children.”

To some degree the ignorance this commenter displays is understandable because one would not necessarily know of US Code 2257 if one has not worked in the porn industry. If one has, however, they are likely aware that they are not going to find any legitimate producer who does not require two legal forms of ID that indicate that any performer is at least eighteen years old. Said producer will make photocopies of these proofs of identity and keep them as legal records. Why? Because if they don’t have that information available and are questioned about it, they are in violation of 2257 and may face steep legal repercussions as such.

The 2257 law relates to record-keeping and was purportedly created to prevent underage participation in pornographic endeavors. Essentially the law requires, among other things, that anyone owning and producing depictions of sexual acts acquire and maintain proof of the age and identity of any person visually portrayed performing such acts. So if Person A sees a pornographic video with Jane Example in it and says to a law enforcement agency, “I want proof that Jane Example is at least eighteen years old,” 2257 allows said law enforcement entity to indeed ask whoever displayed Jane Example engaged in sexually explicit acts or positions for proof that she is at least eighteen years old. If they don’t have it, they’ve violated 2257 and can face prison time. It doesn’t matter if Jane Example appears to be fifty years old and is very obviously not under eighteen. The law states that under circumstances in which an individual appears engaged in sexual acts, legal proof of that person’s identity and age of at least eighteen must be accessible to law enforcement via whoever is in control of displaying such content to the public or others.

The notion that people producing adult pornography at this time would be willing to risk the significant legal penalties of having anyone underage work for them when it is relatively easily to obtain proof that someone is not, and when there are a plethora of available workers that are of age, is frankly ludicrous. Thus, a comment like this is patently indicative of the ignorance that pervades on the subject of sex work and this rather baffling assumption that underage involvement in that industry is undifferentiated from consensual adult participation in it.

So yes, commenter to whom I wish I could refer by name, I do believe Ms. Fink did not start in the industry until she was eighteen. Were you to read the above, I hope you would, too.

Love,
Emerald


  • “The whole damn world is just as obsessed with who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex…”
    -Bowling for Soup “High School Never Ends”

  • September 26th, 2018

    Patriarchy, Unconsciousness, and the United States Government

    Like many people, I have recently felt somewhere along the spectrum of affected to triggered by both the accusations of sexual misconduct directed at Brett Kavanaugh and the response to them from politicians and the culture at large. Interestingly, I have perhaps felt most triggered so far by the insights in Lili Loofbourow’s article entitled “Brett Kavanaugh and the Cruelty of Male Bonding,” which resonates strongly with me.

    Why? Because this is the kind of man that has, for as long as I can remember, been the one that has seethed me to my core. The kind I have historically most dreaded, most despised; by whom I have felt most enraged and toward whom I have felt violent urges that surprised me. I have yet to come close to carrying any such violent impulses out, and at this point carrying them out no longer feels forthcoming or like the point. The point is that this is the kind of man I was always considering, always including, when I felt compelled to discount men as a whole, when I thought men and women were at intrinsic odds with each other. It was because I knew this kind of man existed.

    The first error in that perspective was that I was identifying the men in question rather than the behavior. I am relieved to say it is now obvious to me that the behavior (more precisely, the manifestation of unconsciousness) is what I despise rather than the human beings themselves. Continue reading

    August 11th, 2018

    Pernicious Perspectives and the Abomination of #FOSTA / #SESTA

    I’ve written about sex work numerous times on this blog (click on the category “Sex+ Work” to the left to see how many). I advocate decriminalization of all forms of consensual sex work and dream of the day the social stigma around it has dissolved.

    And I feel a bit like I perceive a new conundrum around it. I used to think that the majority of people just didn’t understand. That there was so much ignorance around sex work because the perspective that sex workers are sub-human and undeserving of basic rights and respect and autonomy was questioned so infrequently, assumed to be acceptable so automatically, perceived so often without even conscious choice or recognition, that people failed to realize how arbitrary, unfounded, and inhumane that perspective is. I truly thought that if people stopped to consider the existence of consensual sex work as an industry like most others, they would quickly recognize how nonsensical and tragically misguided the mainstream perspective around it was.

    Now, I find myself wondering if that was naïve of me. It has seemed more and more evident of late that some people simply don’t like sex work or that it exists. Yes, I have understood this to some degree, but as I mentioned, I truly trusted that in large part, it was ignorance rather than malevolence that drove the perpetration of dismissiveness, degradation, and dehumanization of sex workers. Continue reading

    November 16th, 2016

    On Politics and Feminism

    Pantsuit Nation selfie, Election Day 2016

    As the title of this post may suggest, if you find yourself not interested in politics or feminism or expressions of my perspectives on them, you may want to skip this post.

    A few days ago, I read an article from Glamour magazine that came out months ago and had been on my “to read” list ever since: “President Barak Obama Says, ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like.'”

    By the time I finished reading it, I was openly crying. The juxtaposition of my reasons for such was breathtaking.

    For context, I want to back up a moment and share a post I made to my personal Facebook profile on November 10: Continue reading

    January 14th, 2015

    Sex, Aging, and Inspiration: The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50

    Most readers of this blog or my work are aware, I imagine, that sex interests me. I don’t just mean engagement in it (though that is included!), but the topic itself: the vast, glorious, and fascinating subject of sexuality with its myriad psychological, spiritual, personal, social, and energetic implications. Whenever I have encountered another in the personal or public realm who seems similarly oriented, I have tended to take notice and go out of my way to discover said person’s perspectives and offerings on this subject of mutual fascination.

    Joan Price is one of these people. And her latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain—or Regain—a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life, published by Cleis Press, is a shining example of why I would seek out this kind of luminosity. I’m delighted to participate today in the official blog tour celebrating this brand new release—please visit here to see the rest of the schedule and follow along!

    Sex-after-Fifty

    I’m not yet over 50, and I won’t be for more than a decade, but the fact is, I am acutely supportive of an increase in information and discussion on sexuality-related topics, especially one that’s tended to get as little air time as this one. For a population that society consistently seems to say doesn’t—or shouldn’t—exist (seniors actively embracing, embodying, displaying, and living their sexual energy and desire), Joan’s advocacy and personal and professional devotion to the subject of senior sexuality strikes me as invaluable and woefully needed. 
The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 offers a genuine, straightforward, comprehensive, and caring guide to things from the universal (as I see it) to the specific as related to the age group in question, covering topics from sex toys to the absence of intimacy in relationship to widowhood to navigating the contemporary world of online dating.

    It is a beautiful book. If I were to describe it in one word, I think it would be “inspiring.”

    I perceive this word from multiple angles. As a reader who hasn’t even experienced many of the things the book talks about, I could feel the energy of kindness, generosity, and encouragement with which it was written. I find that inspiring in and of itself. In addition, I saw inspiration in the following messages (explicit or implicit):

    You Are Not Alone
    As a baseline, this book will let readers know they are not alone in almost all of their situations, concerns, or challenges. Running the gamut from issues of seemingly lost intimacy, changes in desire, the occurrence of widowhood, health challenges, medicinal side effects, and much more, what is presented in these pages lets those facing any of these circumstances know that many, many other people have and are too. I don’t underestimate the profound value of this.

    Mainstream Social Messages About Older Sexuality Are (Generally) Bullshit
    I have experienced mainstream culture as dismissing or denigrating the existence or appropriateness of sexual desire, expression, and health among older people. I find this nonsensical and unconscionable. So, it seems, does the author.

    There Are Many Practical Solutions Available
    The author devotes much pagination to addressing numerous practical matters, from medicinal side effects to the potential benefits of different kinds of sex toys. Personally, I could feel the caring and reassurance with which this was written, which it seems to me will be of particular support to readers who may experience a defeated relationship with their bodies or health challenges. Joan not only offers information to help readers understand the array of options and potential solutions that are available, she has also compiled an extensive “Recommended Resources” section at the end of the book and consistently reminds the reader to check them out if they seem relevant.

    You Have a Right to Have Sexual Concerns Addressed in Professional Medical Care
    There is a whole chapter devoted to speaking with medical professionals about issues related to sexuality, particularly in the context of health challenges. This chapter encompasses information on everything from finding a doctor willing to address this topic (and ceasing to see one who doesn’t) to how to convey to your health care providers that you find your sexuality an important part of life and want to attend to any concerns about it.

    While the World—and You—Have Changed, the Very Fact That You’re Still Here Means You Are Capable of Adapting
    I also saw a continual emphasis on openness and awareness of shifts in ourselves and our relationships. The straightforward assertion that things shift in our bodies and beings as we age and that this does not necessarily mean the “end” of something but rather an opportunity for something different struck me as a linchpin of the overall positive, caring, and encouraging note this book consistently sounds.

    Sexual Universality
    Not surprisingly (to me anyway), there were certainly things in The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 that it seems to me adults of all ages would do well to consider. Certainly I appreciated the emphasis throughout on expanding our view and definition of sex to mean things in addition to penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse. And, of course, there was a general inclusivity essential to any comprehensive book on sexuality that addressed populations such as the LGBT communities. There were also timeless offerings related to self-awareness, such as the recommendation to discern, articulate, and prioritize what one is specifically looking for in a sexual or long-term committed partner.

    The book is presented in a way that inserts actual comments from readers and followers of the author’s work where relevant. These anecdotes, which ranged from longing and poignant to breathtakingly joyful, struck me as clearly reflective of the conflicts, successes, and complexities of real people’s experiences and, in my perception, added greatly to the accessibility of the book. In addition, the author makes liberal use of calling on colleagues with expertise in the specific areas she’s addressing, resulting in excerpts and asides from such luminaries as Carol Queen, Charlie Glickman, and Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson.

    Joan also shares generously of herself in these pages. This did not surprise me, as I have seen her offer openly about her (sometimes quite intimate) experiences and how they have impacted her life and sexuality. I have experienced her as doing this at least in part with the earnest aspiration of supporting others in developing and living their own authentic sexualities. Again—inspiring.

    Never for a second did I see this book as not relevant to me because I’m not (yet) in the target age group. (Really, how self-defeating would such a perspective be, since it seems likely I someday will be!) I actually love having had the opportunity to read this at this time; it prepares me with so much information for what to perhaps expect and how to address my own experience as I get older. Encouraging and practical, accessible and informative, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 is a book I recommend without hesitation not only to the targeted age group but also to all of us who care about sexuality and want to support both ourselves and others in authentically appreciating it throughout the human life span.

    Love,
    Emerald

    “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good…”
    -Michael Buble “Feeling Good”