Politics & Law
It's been a long time since I was last sitting at breakfast, reading the Times and came across something that drove me to my blog. When I began my blog during a sabbatical a few years ago that's how it used to happen: Breakfast, newspaper, outrage, blog. Lately, though, I've been lucky to be able to even skim the headlines at breakfast, and as for time to sit down and blog, well, that's been nearly nonexistent. So it was refreshing to have the time this morning to casually read the paper and then stumble upon an outrageous statement, and then to have some time to blog about it.
Which makes it sound like I am happy to be outraged, which is not the case of course. I'm simply happy that given the outrage there was time to read, think and blog instead of just feeling frustrated and angry.
This morning's reaction was to an article with the headline "Pentagon Steps Up Talks On Don't Ask Don't Tell", written by Elisabeth Bumiller. It is a relatively short article with several sources of irritation.
Today is December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. There have been many days related to sex work and violence over the last month or two and many days that remember a myriad of other causes. The danger of days of rememberance is that each special day obscures the next. Will we remember today tomorrow? Is a day sufficient for such an important subject? Don't other causes have awareness months? Will violence against sex workers have ceased by tomorrow?
Several months ago I tweeted about things being very busy and very exciting and about some new projects in the works. Now I can tell you about some of that, and, even better, ask you to participate!
The first exciting bit of news is that I joined the Woodhull Freedom Foundation's advisory council over the summer. Woodhull Freedom Foundation is perhaps the only organization I can think of whose mission involves recognizing sexual freedom in its entirety as a fundamental human right. There are lots of amazing organizations that focus on expanding sexual civil rights in one or another direction, or for one or another population. Woodhull's approach is to move beyond identity politics and establish sexual freedom itself as a right. I'm tremendously excited to be working with them!
The second exciting bit of news relates to the first project I was asked to work on. That project is a the first annual report on the state of sexual freedom in the United States. The idea, in the words of Ricci Levy, Woodhull's Executive Director, is to:
publish regular reports on the sexual freedom movement, designed to help identify the social changes taking place, or that must take place for progress to be made, on the diverse issues on which we work. We are particularly interested in recognizing opportunities for already-established sexual freedom issue groups to work together.
It's very important work for reasons that go beyond the annual report, as well. Gloria Brame took the survey in an early stage, provided feedback, and encouraged her readers to take it by explaining:
The survey was very interesting because it made me re-think and prioritize freedoms -- relatively speaking, how important is sex ed? how important is birth control? what about censorship and sexual freedom of speech? or should we all be focused on equality rights for now?
That's really the point. We need to be thinking in creative ways about what are the most important issues and about how they fit together. Please help us do that. We want to know what are the most important changes you think need to occur in order to make sure that sexual freedom is established as a fundamental human right? What are your priorities? What paths toward change do you think are most effective? And what intersections do you see between your priorities and all the other sexual freedom issues that need to be addressed?
Click here to access a relatively short questionnaire and tell us what you think. If you include an email address we will forward you a copy of the report just before it is publicly released.
Condoms should not be introducable as evidence in cases about prostitution. Period. People should be able to carry condoms without fear of prosecution. Protecting public health requires the encouragement, not the inhibiting, of condom use.
From the Gender And Sexuality Law Blog at Columbia Law School:
New York’s police and prosecutors should not be permitted to introduce condoms as evidence of prostitution and prostitution-related offenses, according to the students who work in Columbia’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic. The Clinic held a tabling day yesterday at Columbia Law School in support of a New York State bill that would enact this prohibition into law. Over 50 Columbia Law students signed postcards to legislators to support the bill, sending a strong message to legislators that sound public health policy militates against the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution.Under current law, police and prosecutors can and do use condoms to prove prostitution and related offenses, such as patronizing a prostitute, promoting prostitution, and maintaining a premises for prostitution.
Beyond that, especially since today is World Aids Day it is important to acknowledge the tremendously important role sex workers have played in peer education around HIV prevention and condom use.
The list of things for which I'm grateful this year probably deserves a post of it's own, but one of those things also deserves a post of it's own. Put simply, I am grateful for people who do the important work of supporting and defending those others won't help, especially those from whom many turn away reflexivly in fear or disgust. I am grateful to those who stand up and fight against moral panics and the way they undermine freedom through fear.
Thus I am especially grateful for the National Center for Reason & Justice. NCRJ serves people falsely accused or wrongly convicted of crimes against children and does educational work to fight the irrationality and panic - and the consequent violations of people's rights - that too often characterize the investigations and prosecutions of those cases.
Click here for information about the cases NCRJ currently supports.
Below is some information I've excerpted from an NCRJ letter highlighting a few of their successes and explaining their need for your help. I truly hope you can share some holiday generosity with them, and through them with those who have lost their freedom and gained the stigma of child predator unjustly. Please keep reading, or if you are convinced already, please click here to help NCRJ with its important work.
You may recall that Megan Andelloux's Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health was denied its opening at the Grant building in Pawtucket, RI, because according to the city council's zoning board the building was not zoned for educational purposes. Rebecca Chalker wrote about it here:
Megan is appealing that decision and needs your help.
If you live nearby and can attend the hearing please show your support for nonprofit sex education for adults. The details:
Last night's panel discussion of sex work and civil liberties at Harvard Law School, hosted by the HLS ACLU, the American Constitution Society and the Women's Law Association (?) was a learning experience. I learned that some formats, which sound helpful in theory, are very limiting in practice. I learned that one should never make assumptions about an audience. And I learned that when you've had the last word and the panel is officially over, letting it be reopened is a very bad idea.
The panel was extremely well moderated. Professor Glen Cohen promised at the beginning to keep a tight rein on the discussion and he did. That made me feel confident and safe going into the discussion that it would not become a shouting match nor be derailed by questions that are not really questions. Unfortunately that limited the opportunities for panelists to respond to each other. It meant that if we were to play by the rules (where did I learn to be such a good girl?) we could not easily challenge each other's evidence, or revisit questions once the discussion had moved on. For example, if an audience member had a question specifically for Melissa Farley, and Farley answered using anecdotal or unreliable evidence, as soon the question was answered a new question was invited. There were only a few questions that were posed to the whole panel and it was hard to get back to earlier questions without deviating from the format. So, lesson number one: advocate for format change or break the rules if necessary to get important information out.
I just got back from a New York State United Teachers conference and tomorrow I'm heading up to Cambridge to participate in a panel discussion about sex work and civil liberties. If you're in that area I'd love to see you there!
Sex Work and Civil Liberties: A Panel Discussion
Monday, 11/16, 5:30pm
Harvard Law School ACLU
Pound 107 (map of the law school campus: http://www.law.harvard.edu/about/map.html)
Featuring Vednita Carter, Dr. Melissa Farley, Dr. Samantha Majic, & Dr. Elizabeth Wood.
Moderated by Professor I. Glenn Cohen
Free and open to the public
Co-sponsored by American Constitution Society, Women's Law Association, & Harvard Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Please Join Us December 17, 2009 for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Event in Tucson, Arizona!
November 11, 2009
Dear Friends & Supporters of Sex Worker’s Rights:
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serialprostitute killers. While some of these horrific stories received international media attention ( Boston, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, Tijuana , Hong Kong , Moscow , Great Britain ,Cape Town , New Zealand ), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unresolved, sometimes forever.
In fact, most violent crimes against sex workers remain unreported. Stigma and criminalization facilitate this violence; when sex work is criminalized, prostitutes can't turn to the police for protection without risking prosecution themselves. Sex workers remain one of the largest marginalized populations in existence without the benefit of the basic civil rights that everyone else takes for granted.
Each year, December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Last year’s event in Washington, D.C. was a big success and this year, sex workers and their allies from across the U.S. will gather together in Tucson, Arizona to remember and honor sex workers who have been victimized by virtue of their chosen profession - including rape, assault and murder.
Mon October 28 at 11:26pm I am disgusted, outraged and appalled - and yes, you've seen me this way before.
Can you remember your homecoming dance? If you can, I want you to imagine yourself there. What is it like in your body? What is it like in your life? Maybe, like me, you never went to a homecoming dance, but you can remember what it's like to be 15, 16, 17. You might remember your younger self delighted or tortured or torn between the two. And you probably never had to imagine your classmates watching as you were brutalized while they did nothing.