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.
We write a lot about sex work on Sex In The Public Square and it is my sincerest hope that we never appear to be speaking for sex workers as if they were a homogenous group with a single set of needs that can be defined and advocated for by others. Sex work covers an enormous range of jobs from phone sex to erotic massage, from still-photo modeling to web cam work, from stripping to prostitution, you get the idea. Within each type of work there is a range of working conditions, and within each group of workers there are degrees of exploitation and autonomy.Specifically regarding prostitution our focus here has typically been on destigmatization and decriminalization, and supporting sex workers and their allies in shaping the way that their work is portrayed in the media. Recently Caroline of Un-cool and now of Better Burn That Dress, Sister, has blogged here about the changes in UK prostitution policy that increase the stigma and criminality of purchasing sex. Renegade Evolution, another of my favorite bloggers, has been writing a lot about the shift overall toward Swedish-style policies that criminalize prostitution by making the purchase of sex illegal even while decriminalizing the sale of sex. And beyond writing about the policies themselves, these two in particular - not alone but certainly leading the pack - have been speaking out about the way that the prohibitionists who push these policies attempt to speak for all sex workers in justifying their work. Ren in her most recent post on the subject, has called for greater and louder response and a reframing of the discussion, and I wholeheartedly support her. Specifically, she nails the problem this way: Click here to read more
“Empowering Sex Workers to Ensure Safety, Health and the Protection of Human Rights”
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 52nd Session
Parallel Event Sponsored by Sex Workers Project, Urban Justice Center & International Women’s Health Coalition
February 27, 2008 Time: 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Church Center (Across the street from United Nations, 44th and 1st) Hardin Room (11th Fl.)
777 United Nations Plaza NY, NY 10017
As leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS and trafficking, sex workers are integral to educating their clients, their communities and the public about safe sex practices and to helping prevent forced sex work. Panelists will discuss how sex workers rights must be protected to ensure access to health, legal, educational and social services. Taking the Pledge, a short film about USAID funding restrictions in regards to sex workers, will also be shown.