When I was at Woodhull Freedom Foundation's National Sexual Freedom Day press conference on September 23rd I participated in a video interview project exploring what sexual freedom means to people. To me, sexual freedom means the freedom to be my whole self instead of having to hide the parts of myself that relate to my sexuality.
Paul Berese, the videographer (from quimera.tv) asked me for an example of a place where I don't feel free to be my whole self. The first place that came to mind was "at work." I stumbled around a bit trying to explain. At work I do not discuss the lovers I have but to whom I am not married. I do not have many family pictures out, but the ones I do have are only of my legal family. If I am invited to a campus event and Will, my life partner and the person to whom I am happily married, cannot come, I do not bring another partner. I have a few friends at work to whom I am out as polyamorous, but it is not something that is easy to share routinely.
There are much starker examples of where people have had their freedom limited because of their sexuality. This week alone I read about Melissa Petro, 30-year-old New York City school teacher who was removed from her classroom and placed on administrative duty because she had the audacity to write freely about her past experiences as a sex worker and about, Anderson Cooper reported on Michigan Assistant Attorney General ... writing a blog that stalks the openly gay student body president of University of Michigan, including an image of a rainbow flag superimposed with a swastika and the word "resign" (YouTube here, with image at :48), and a college student who killed himself after his sexual interactions with another man were broadcast live via iChat without his knowledge (and this in a month where at least 5 gay teens have committed suicide.)*
Simply speaking about your sexuality can cost you your job. Shame and stigma surrounding sexuality can cost one one's life.
A white woman’s mouth in the act of swallowing a white man’s penis fills the screen of my TV. Almost directly in the center of the picture, the shape of his organ glides back and forth against the inside of her left cheek. Panning back, the camera shows her kneeling on all fours in front of him, her lips engulfing and expelling his genitals as if she were the only movable part of a well-oiled machine. She looks up at him and asks, with a lust-filled and mischievous grin, “Does that feel good?”
“You suck a mean cock, Cherry,” he answers, his tone flat, as if he were reading her name out of the phone book.
Translation work has taken me away from this series, and I have been missing it. A conversation I had today with a friend reminded me, though, of the conclusion to an essay about pornography called “Inside The Men Inside ‘Inside Christy Canyon,’” that I published in 1994 in the now-defunct literary journal called “The American Voice.” This is a slightly edited version of that conclusion.
Male dominance instructs men that our bodies are tools. By turning male orgasm into the "cum shot," heterosexual pornography reflects and perpetuates this image of the male body. Yet it does not have to be that way. Erection, for example, the gradual hardening of a man's penis--in the hand or mouth or inside or against or at the sight, sound or smell of the body of his lover, or in his own hand--is the physical corollary of, a concrete metaphor for, that man's capacity for trust, something Sharon Olds explores in her poem "The Connoisseuse of Slugs:"
National Sexual Freedom Day is Thursday. Woodhull Freedom Foundation will host panels on the topic of sexual freedom as a fundamental human right and will also release the first Sexual Freedom Annual Report documenting the state of sexual freedoms in the United States today. This is an exciting moment in the movement toward greater sexual freedom for all. And yet it is also a moment characterized by conflict about what kinds of sexualities ought to be free, and what kinds of institutions ought to regulate those freedoms.
Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an opinion piece by Margaret Brooks, of Bridgewater State University, railing against the well-established Sex Week programming series that exists, in different forms, on many college campuses. Sex Weeks have been around for at least a decade. They aren’t new. They aren’t even especially controversial. Until now. Brooks is scandalized by the way that commercial interests (sex toy companies) and academic interests (sexuality education) are blended without much to distinguish the one from the other. She is indignant that Sex Week workshops and programs are not taught primarily by full time faculty members. And she is outraged that these programs don’t provide abstinence or monogamy only education.
I sympathize with Dr. Brooks on a majority of those points, a fact which may be hard for many readers to believe.
This video was made by Tiye Massey, daughter of Woodhull Freedom Foundation advisory council members Dan Massey and Alison Gardner. It is a 12 minute long look at what sexual freedom means to a range of people she interviewed on the street and around town. And just in time for National Sexual Freedom Day! Thanks Tiye!
So, what does sexual freedom mean to you? Share your definitions and your ideas in the comments.
I was thirteen when I first began starving myself, but you’ve heard stories like mine before. Like genital mutilation and date rape, anorexia has had its recurring moments in the spotlight, an issue sensational enough for TV movies and the serious columns in women’s magazines, and a problem too ingrained within our culture to go away any time soon. Anorexia is old news and in many ways anti-feminist. Anorectics, after all, are among the most obvious slaves to the evil manipulations of media imagery, knowingly killing themselves to obtain the impossible ideal portrayed by models and celebrities. It’s sad, yes, but come on already and break free of the chains! Celebrate your powerful, womanly curves! Eat something!
If only it were that simple.
Anorexia is an issue that has been glossed over again and again. The easy answer is the surface one – she feels bad about her body because our media-fueled culture has made her feel that way. To solve this problem, we need to: a. make her feel better about herself; b. change the ideal portrayed in the media; and/or c. teach her not care about media images in the first place. All of these are very nice ideas and have led to girl power messages and bans on Barbie dolls that may or may not have a positive effect on the psyches of little girls. But they do not address the underlying issues of power and control that make anorexia so pervasive and difficult to overcome.
As part of our continuing collaboration with Woodhull Freedom Foundation, SITPS posts are now syndicated on the Woodhull web site! If you haven't visited the newly redesigned Woodhull site you should check it out right away. It looks fabulous, and now you can read us there as well!
Clipped from: www.woodhullfoundation.org (share this clip)
Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, a social justice and anti-violence project by and for sex workers, decries trafficking and demands protections for workers.
In the debate regarding the coercive shutdown of the Craigslist adult services sections the voices of sex workers have been conspicuously overlooked. Trafficking is not sex work. Real traffickers and child abusers must be stopped. Sex workers are in a unique position to help end trafficking, if our perspectives are taken into account.
Based on our extensive knowledge and experience with the sex industry, SWOP calls on elected officials and members of law enforcement to pursue a sane and effective approach to ending trafficking.
The conflation of consensual sex work with rape is a disservice to both victims of trafficking and to sex workers. Persecuting consenting adults for exchanging sex for money is a waste of precious resources that could better be used providing services and legal protections for minors and others who have been abused.
I'll be attending Woodhull Freedom Foundation's Sexual Freedom Day at the Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday, September 23 2010. It's going to be an exciting day. If you're in the area you should join us. From the announcement:
The day-long program reflects Woodhull Freedom Foundation's mission to affirm sexual feedom as a fundamental human right, highlighting the intersections between government policy and lawmaking, marriage, reproductive rights, personal relationships, child rearing, sexual orientation, gender identification, sexual expression, and sexual practice.
Google just launched a new search technology that speeds up the already mindbogglingly fast process by which you can find information online. I read about it in the New York Times this morning. It launched yesterday and it's called Google Instant. It works like this: as you type your search string Google begins finding results and displaying them before you hit "search." The list changes as you continue typing. If you begin to type "censorship" for example, by the time you type "CEN" you get search results for Central Park. Type the "S" and you get results for Census. Type the "O" and you get censorship-related results. This all happens at the speed of typing. Fascinating. I was wondering whether I thought this was distracting or helpful when I read something that really pissed me off:
I don't think that automatic filtering for "violence, hate or pornography" makes sense in the first place - users should be able to control their own filtering - but I certainly don't think that "nude" should be filtered because of a possible connection to pornography. I wondered what this looked like in practice, and I also wondered what else was filtered.
I went to my computer to try it out. I started typing.
N (Netflix) NU (Nurse Jackie) NUD (...nothing at all!)