It's about time! From the the Change.org petition site:
On June 15, 2010 the New York State senate passed a bill that, effective as soon as Governor Paterson signs it, enables survivors of human trafficking to vacate their convictions for prostitution-related offenses. This amendment to New York State Criminal Procedure Law grants those who were trafficked into commercial sex the opportunity to start over with a clean slate.
The Sex Workers Project (SWP) worked closely with Assembly Member Richard Gottfried to draft and introduce the bill in April 2009, which is also sponsored by Senator Thomas Duane. Supporters include the New York City Bar Association, the New York Anti-Trafficking Network, and Sex Workers Action New York.
The new legislation empowers survivors of trafficking by allowing them to move on with their lives, and function in society without the stigma of past exploitation. Survivors have a better chance of escaping re-victimization or further coercion when they do not have criminal records that often prevent them from obtaining work, getting stable housing, and adjusting their immigration status.
Donna Rice Hughes, Gail Dines, the Concerned Women for America, and the like, believe that pornography leads to addiction, it destroys families, and it leads to the abuse of women and children. It ought to be outlawed and existing laws ought to be enforced in such a way that it is eradicated altogether. Call it porn panic and witness the way it fuels their self-declared War on Illegal Pornography.
This sounds awfully reminiscent of the War On Drugs, to me, and I predict that if such a war were waged it would be about as successful.
At a press event today calling for Congress to use existing obscenity laws to eradicate mainstream porn there were apparently so few good arguments for the eradication of porn that they had to resort to misinformation and illogical statements. For example, as reported by AOL News:
The message below was sent by PJ Starr and I'm sharing it exactly as it was sent. I hope you can help Desiree Alliance with a donation.
Are you interested in supporting sex worker rights through performance art? Go to http://kck.st/96VUMQ. We are seeking supporters to pledge to donate as little as $5 to support the July 2010 Desiree Alliance conference scholarship program and performance art event "If it happens in Vegas... it's still illegal." The performance “IF IT HAPPENS IN VEGAS… IT'S STILL ILLEGAL" will be our most visible event during the conference and will reveal that not only is sex work unjustifiably subject to law enforcement across the United States that the same applies in the “wild” “party” town of Las Vegas.
Donors will not only get the pleasure of supporting sex workers in a cool way but also get exclusive access to a bunch of photos and video about the conference/performance and event via a passcoded website. People donating $25 or more will be able to access a special blog where we spill the beans about how we organize and strategize. Other supporter premiums include the Soixante-Neuf package (for donors of $69, we send you our underwear!) and the Art Lovers Special ($100 or more, we send you movies made by sex worker advocates and a CD from Mariko Passion).
We have to raise $2500 in total by Friday June 18. Donations are also tax deductible.
Ron Weitzer sent me this collaborative video in which a group of women thoughtfully argue in favor of sex worker rights. It's a bit more than nine minutes long but take a look at it and check out some of the related videos. Let me know what you think!
PS: I looked around on YouTube for a link to info about the collaborators and couldn't find anything. If you were involved in the making of this video and you want the project credited more completely or would like to share more information about it please let me know how to do that by using the contact form to send me an email.
From the press release from The Center for Sex & Culture, one of my favorite organizations, comes information about one of the most exciting adult sex education events of the year:
The Center for Sex & Culture, originator of the live Masturbate-a-Thon, will hold its 10th annual fundraising and consciousness-raising event showcasing solo sexuality on May 30, 2010 at its 1519 Mission Street suites. Hosting the event and anchoring its live online webcast will be CSC co-founder and executive director Carol Queen, Ph.D. She will be joined by various celebrity hosts, including icon Nina Hartley (Nina.com), Feminist Porn Awards Winner Courtney Trouble (Nofauxxx.com) and gender queer pornstar Jiz Lee (JizLee.com).
Doors will open at 10 AM for competitors seeking to best the current world time record (currently 9 hours and 58 minutes for males and 7 hours and 6 minutes for females), and the door time for non-competing masturbators is 2 PM. Audience may arrive after 4 PM for the public viewing – voyeur seating ticket price is $25.00.
The event is expected to last until approximately 11 PM and will be web cast live (to viewers over 18 only) from 4 to 9 PM on Tube8.com. Event site Masturbate-a-thon.com historically receives a significant spike of interest and web traffic just before and on the day of the Masturbate-a-Thon. In 2009, between 30,000-60,000 people watched the web cast for all or part of its duration. The official Masturbate-a-Thon has participated in movies and television programs all over the globe.
Businesses, organizations and other entities can sponsor and/or send representatives to the Masturbate-a-Thon. The event also encourages competitive public team challenges in which one organization or business fields a team to challenge another: to date, the most notable challenge has been between a fire department and an ambulance company in Canada.
EVENT AT A GLANCE
What: The Live San Francisco Masturbate-a-Thon
Sponsored by http://www.Tube8.com
When: Sunday, May 30, 2010. Doors open for competitors at 10 AM; for regular participants 2 PM; voyeur seating 4 PM. Event lasts until approximately 11 PM.
Where: 1519 Mission (near 11th), San Francisco
How much: All pledge sheets from sponsors are accepted, however we will also accept $40.00 or more as self-pledges from attendees without sponsors. Voyeur seating is $25.00.
Online access available at Masturbate-a-thon.com or Tube8.com.
Benefits: The Center for Sex & Culture's administrative functions and programming.
Debra Haffner, minister, sexologist, and Executive Director of the Religious Institute, just wrote a post called "Adults are the problem with teen sexuality." I couldn't agree more. For very recent evidence she cites the fake prom in Mississippi, the threat by Wisconsin DA Scott Southworth to charge educators with crimes if they teach the state's sex ed curriculum, and the Catholic Church's ongoing inability to formulate a helpful response to the sex abuse scandal in its own ranks.
And then instead of focusing on the critical she turns it around and tells us what she wants teens to be able to expect from adults who are truly looking out for them:
What do I want teens (and the adults who care for them) to know? That forming a sexual identity is a developmental task of adolescents. That adults need to support the teen virgins and the teens who engage in sexual behaviors. That truth telling should be the hallmark of all of our programs. That adults will do everything they can to protect youth from abusive adults, regardless of profession. That young people have the right to ask questions and a right to have answers. That they deserve our respect and our support as they become adults.
Those are among the smartest words I've read about how we should be addressing the developmental needs of teens. At a time when others, guided by moral panic, are focused on keeping information away from teens Haffner understands what they really need: support, truth, trust and respect.
I'm glad there are people of faith out there who understand that sexuality is not an awful thing from which we need protection but rather a part of being human and something we need to cultivate and understand.
Sexual pleasure is a human right and I wholeheartedly support the providing of free surgery to those who need it and can't afford it. This is the case for many women who underwent the excision of their clitorises during ritual cutting (FGM/C). There is also no question in my mind that "Adopt a Clitoris" - the campaign rally of Clitoraid.org - is a deeply problematic slogan for a deeply problematic organization. If you're new to the Clitoraid story here's some background:
Several years ago the Raelians (a religious group that believes humans were created by intelligent designers from outer space) founded an organization, Clitoraid, to offer free clitoris reconstruction surgeries to women who had undergone clitoridectomy - one form of female circumcision or female genital mutliation/cutting (FGM/C) - so that they could have the pleasure of clitoral stimulation restored to them. Clitoraid uses language that reduces sexual pleasure to clitoral orgasms and that treats African women's bodies as objects that can be reduced to clitorises and adopted. That said, it is true that their mission is indeed to provide free surgery to women who need it. They do this by funding surgeries at a clinic in Trinidad Colorado, and also by using donations to build a hospital in Burkina Faso.
There are a number of problems with Clitoraid's work and I'm going to talk about only two. Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rotenberg raises questions about the connection between Good Vibes and Clitoraid (more on that below) and Dr. Petra Boynton raisies questions about Clitoraid from a medical and research ethics point of view. Please read their work. I've included a list of sources explaining the work already going on in Burkina Faso at the bottom of this post as well.
A few days ago a Wisconsin District Attorney made headlines by sending letters to all the school districts in the state warning their administrators and teachers that if they adopt the state's new sex education standards they risk being charged with crimes against minors.
How's that, you might ask? The new standards, which are now part of state education law, include teaching about the proper use of contraception. This, according to DA Scott Southworth, means encouraging kids to commit illegal acts. Encouraging someone to commit a crime is itself a crime. Thus teaching teens about the proper use of contraception is a crime. He equates this with teaching minors how to mix alcoholic drinks when they are too young to consume them or serve them.
This would not pass the critical thinking test in my Introduction to Sociology course. It fails on a few levels. Most obviously, teaching people about something is not the same as encouraging them to do it. I can teach about illegal drug use, the dangers of the same, the reasons people use the drugs, the routes that they follow to acquire the drugs, the different philosophies around addressing illegal drug use in communities, and the prevention strategies that work and that don't work. This does not mean I am encouraging my students to use illegal drugs.
According to The Advocate, and the young woman herself:
To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a "fake prom" while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.
McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn't much to keep an eye on.
This morning over breakfast I was reading the New York Times (ah, the delights of spring break!) when this headline caught my eye: Mississippi A.C.L.U. Rejects $20,000 for Alternate Prom.
You might remember that earlier this month I wrote a blog called Homophobia: Bad for Straight Kids discussing the decision of a Mississippi school board to cancel its prom because they could not otherwise prevent Constance McMillen and her partner from attending. (They also forbade her from attending in a tuxedo. This is not just about homophobia. This is also about gender expression.)
The ACLU and its Mississippi affiliate are representing Constance and a group called Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSCC) is organizing an alternate prom for the community. The ACLU of Mississippi is apparently the fiscal sponsor for the MSSC. According to the New York Times article, the American Humanist Society offered a $20,000 gift to MSSC to help fund the alternate prom, and a fundraiser at the ACLU Mississippi rejected it, explaining via email that “Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist."
Talk about being imprisoned by stigma. Here the stigma attached to atheism potentially thwarts an attempt to fix a problem caused by the stigma attached to homosexuality.