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.
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.
In recent years, the number of women going under the knife for cosmetic genital surgery has skyrocketed. More and more women are regularly participating in painful bikini waxing procedures to return to the bare pubis of their youth, and increasing numbers of adolescents are seeking genital piercings to decorate their labia. The popularization of all of these procedures begs the question, what is the Western female genital aesthetic and how is it established? Furthermore, we must ask: What are the implications of women pursuing a genital ideal?
American representations of the female genitalia are extremely varied. Certainly, there are aspects of a popular culture that celebrate the vagina. From paintings by Georgia O’Keefe to the popular activist play The Vagina Monologues, works of art and literature have represented the female anatomy in a positive light. However, these positive expressions of female genitals and the accompanying symbolic power of vaginal iconography exist as counter-efforts and are far less prominent than the negative representations that prevail.
RU-486, or mifepristone, was approved for use in 2000 in the US, for medical abortions.
Shortly there after, something weird started happening. A handful of women who used RU-486 were dying from sepsis, caused by a really rare bacteria, Clostridium sordellii. Like, these women didnt have AIDS. They werent meth addicts or recovering from cancer. They were previously completely healthy 18, 22 year-old women dropping dead.
To pro-lifers, the message was clear: Abortion kills women.
Planned Parenthood's recommendation to use the abortion-causing drug Misoprostol vaginally rather than orally has led to fatal infections according to a research study released by the University of Michigan.
"This study shows Planned Parenthood not only disregards the lives of babies in the womb, but the lives of their mothers as well," said American Life League's Jim Sedlak. "This is scandalous, if not criminal. It's time people stopped viewing Planned Parenthood as a responsible healthcare organization and saw it for what it is -- a money-making, social engineering group that plies its trade of sex and abortion without regard to human life, born or preborn."
To rational people and scientists, there is a different puzzle afoot.
Adding injury to insult in Vancouver: Seriously flawed study gets reported in a totally unconscionable waySubmitted by Elizabeth on 6 March 2009 - 10:32am
"HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, British Columbia: A growing epidemic" (McInnes et al 2009) was just published in the peer-reviewed Harm Reduction Journal (PDF). The study's abstract clearly states that intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men are involved in the vast majority of HIV transmissions in Vancouver (IDUs and MSMs in the study's objectifying abbreviations). But you'd never know this from reading the Vancouver Sun.
Pamela Fayerman's article, "Local study sheds light on HIV: More than a quarter of female sex trade workers in city infected with virus" begins with a headline that is not just sensationalistic headline but is also false. The study doesn't show that at all. The study isn't based on the sort of data that could even begin to sort out what proportion of female sex workers in Vancouver have HIV because it is based on data collected only from prostitutes working on the street doing what is called "survival sex work." Fayerman's article ignores the majority of the study's findings to focus on one small and inaccurately presented piece of information.
"You run like a girl." It was an insult aimed at boys. Being "like a girl" was clearly a bad thing for a boy to be if he wanted to be an athlete. Not being enough "like a girl" on the other hand, is devastating for women.
It was not so long ago that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) used to require all women athletes to be tested to discover whether they were 'truly women' or not. [Bracket, please, for a moment the question of what a 'true woman' might be. We'll come back to it. I promise.] Now such tests are only performed, according to the story in today's New York Times, when a woman athlete's sex is questioned. [Bracket for a moment why this never, apparently, comes up in men's sports.] What would cause her sex to be questioned? The Times does not present a list of specific suspicious indicators, but does say that it has come up in the context of doping tests. What is so striking about this is that it represents an insistence that women be held to a biological standard of womanhood. Consider the variations among women. What does it mean to set aside some group of women and say they are too powerful to be 'real women'? Consider how this makes even less sense when we are talking about women who represent the strongest, fastest, most agile, most physically powerful women in the world.
You might have missed the part about the penis pumps. It was in a New York Times article about Medicare overpaying for things like oxygen tanks. Apparently Medicare, despite its potentially enormous bargaining power, spends more for many items than they would cost in your neighborhood pharmacy or surgical supply store. In the midst of the article is this paragraph:
For example, last year Medicare spent more than $21 million on pumps to help older and disabled men attain erections, paying about $450 for the same device that is available online for as little as $108. Even for a simple walking cane, which can be purchased online for about $11, the government pays $20, according to government data.
What has happened to the Prevention First Act (H.R. 819/S. 21)? Why are these bills stuck in committee while the Democrats are INCREASING funding for abstinence-only education? Don't they at least have an obligation to hold the line on such misappropriate of funds? We're talking about the spending of 141 million dollars on programs that we know don't work and that actually put our communities at risk. And we're talking about the party in control, the one that is supposed to be friendly to smart sexual health policy, granting this increase in spending and as a result teaching kids that abstinence-until-marriage is the only legitimate approach to sexuality and that condoms don't work well.