Honoring MLK: Racial Justice and Social Work

Martin Luther King Jr. getting quoted out of context is one of my pet peeves. Thankfully, that did not happen on Tuesday, when I attended a panel on racial justice in honor of his legacy.

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers organized a forum to discuss the current state of racial justice and the social work profession in Boston. It was originally scheduled for January, but as luck would have it, Boston faced the snowiest, most bananas winter in history and the well-laid plans had to be changed.

An eternal live-tweeter and sharer of information, I documented the event and created a Storify where people can, essentially, virtually tag along for the ride after the event. You can find it here. The panelists were as follows:

MLK Racial Justice Panel Cohort

Left to right: Melendez, MacArthur, Belkin Martinez, Copeland. Photo credit to Shabnam Deriani.

I don’t generally go to panels on racial justice to learn new information, as someone steeped in this on the daily and who also presents on anti-racism. I go to these events to have more bodies in the room, to hear my colleagues speak, to nourish my spirit with the shared passion of those dedicated to social change. However, I often do learn new nuggets of wisdom—new quotations, new strategies, new frameworks—and this event did not disappoint. The biggest takeaway? The work of Whitney Young Jr.

Dr. Phillipe Copeland—one of the panelists and one of the professors at the Boston University School of Social Work where I’m pursuing my Master’s in Social Work—quoted Whitney Young Jr. and his thoughts on the social work profession as it connected to racial justice and social justice overall. I wanted to share that with all of the budding social workers and seasoned vets in my community, because they are POWERFUL.

Here’s an excerpt from from Young Jr., in “Social Welfare’s Responsibility in Urban Affairs” [emphasis mine].

Let these words ABOUT RACIAL JUSTICE/SOCIAL JUSICE sink in, marinate, and transform you and your practice.

It is not enough for the social worker to teach the poor how to survive on a substandard budget. We must plant the seeds of indignation and of desire for change in the mind of every citizen suffering in want. We must be the catalysts of change, not the maintainers of the status quo. Establishing rapport, cutting through defenses, is the only way we can achieve anything of value. We must let people know that we are not just interested in establishing eligibility or in granting minimal services. We must see them as individuals.

We must help them understand that we are not just a part of the faceless bureaucracy which regulates their lives, but that we are concerned with helping them, as individuals, get into the productive mainstream of society. We must fight against red-tape restrictions and requirements which deny people their humanity. We must tell the unemployed that they have the right to work, the right to education of high quality for their children, the right to be trained, and the right to support themselves and their families at a decent level.

We must tell families in poverty that they have a vote and can use it to secure a more sympathetic ear in our corridors of power; that they must broaden their children’s horizons; that change is a law of life, and reform must be a way of life. These are the basic means of humanizing the city.

In a society which has succumbed to an excess of professionalism and technology, materialism and theoretical concepts, we must, in order to redress the balance, succumb to an excess of feeling, of courage, of caring, and of decency. I believe the time is ripe. The problems of our cities are begging for solution. Our profession is now mature and secure enough to provide leadership in this effort. A society that would call itself civilized is at stake.


 

The photo at the top/banner of this post illustrates Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, D.C. [and is in the public domain].

The Neverending Story (A.K.A. The Ballad of Margaret Brooks and The CSPH)

I love open letters, especially humorous ones like those I used to read back when I was 13 years old and were aimed at celebrities like Tom Felton (who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series—don’t judge me). Coming in close second, my other favorite types of open letters are those that shed light on things that had previously been hidden in the shadows.

Today, an open letter went out—from Erin Basler-Francis, one of our champs at The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health, to Margaret Brooks. (This is not the first time she gets an open letter like this, though the one I wrote years ago was much shorter and crankier). You should click over and read it, stat. Here’s some context:

The CSPH has faced a fair amount of adversity since its inception in 2009. Members of the Citizens Against Trafficking (an anti-rights, sex work abolitionist group) continue to harass staff and supporters of The Center, particularly regarding our outreach on college campuses. These bullies use both overt and hidden tactics in an attempt to delegitimize the importance of conversations about sexuality, pleasure, sex work, and sexual rights.

Most recently, Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks, director of the Economics Department at Bridgewater State University, sent a series of emails to the provost of Vanderbilt University using a series of red herring, slippery slope, and equivocation arguments as well as ad hominem attacks in an attempt to convince the school that it would be legally liable for sexual assaults that occurred on campus after the Study Sex College Tour workshop, “Brilliant in Bed.” While not the only protestation, Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks decision to use rhetoric causally linking pleasure focused sexuality education to sexual assault on campus is both inaccurate and insidious. 

We at The CSPH have chosen to address this issue publicly because the tactics used by Dr. Margaret Landman Brooks in this case are irresponsible and dangerous when the context of the climate at Vanderbilt University, as well as the current conversations around sexual assault, BDSM, and Intimate Partner Violence.

While part of me kind of wants to commend Margaret Brooks for her passion, it’s terribly saddening that it manifests in the ways it does and I cannot in good conscience do so. We shouldn’t stand for the bullying of youth, and we should also not stand for the bullying of adults at the hands of other adults. Obviously, if you’re working toward social justice and not ruffling feathers, you’re not making big enough waves (to, uh, mix some metaphors there), but man—the repercussions aren’t pretty, and we need to change that.

boston snow

Pictured here: the Snowpocalypse that’s as cold as the attitude from Donna Hughes.

It’s not like we haven’t reached out to Ms. Brooks, either. We’ve personally invited her and her crew to our events, and extended olive branches in the spirit of dialogue both online and in person, and none of them have been acknowledged or even accepted. In fact, we’ve been pretty straightforward and transparent in all our dealings. To her credit, I guess, she DID shake my hand once? This is when I was trying to show her I was a real person and not some nameless undergrad she could just bully without having to ever face. That is more than I can say for Donna Hughes (a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island—how appropriate, right?), who very much did not shake my hand when I greeted her and gave me a cold shoulder of Boston weather proportions. It was pretty epic. But I digress.

Margaret Brooks is the same person who (along with Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro) tried to get a slew of events (including KFAPVD) I organized at Brown University canceled while I was an undergraduate. This is the cohort that misrepresented SO many things about the work the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council (SHEEC) at Brown and The CSPH were doing. This is the person that sent countless emails to Brown’s administration (including the President) warning them of the “dangers” of these events, blatantly spread inaccurate/misleading information, and wrote bulletins claiming that we were to blame for a spike in young RI men contracting HIV. This is one of the people that made my time at Brown tough for a while, and made me have to watch my back really carefully.

On some level, I’m glad it started early so I could protect myself before things got too serious, and I’m very fortunate to consistently work in spaces that respect my endeavors and where I can be open about who I am and what I do, but many people aren’t as fortunate

This is the person that sent my personal Twitter account to professors and deans before it was something I shared as publicly as I do now. This is the same person that sent critique-laden, alarmist emails to my supervisors at Sojourner House—about my personal life and affiliations to organizations that believe in kink/BDSM education and reproductive justice—trying to possibly get me fired, and definitely trying to put me in hot water and endanger a health fair I was coordinating. Fortunately, I was out about my identities at Sojourner House, because if I hadn’t been, she would have outed me to the director and my supervisor, as well as other colleagues. That is not okay.

I am eternally grateful to all the professors, deans, staff, friends, and colleagues who were and have been supportive, understanding and wonderful throughout all this and its multiple iterations. You know who you are. Thank you for believing in me and in sexuality education. While Brown is a deeply flawed institution, certainly, I am incredibly proud that they institutionally backed up my right to hold the events I did, and supported my health and dignity during that process. I firmly believe I didn’t bear a bigger burden while I was an undergrad because I was still a student and thus not as “fair game” as professionals in the working world.

You know who was the fairest game of them all, and the original target? Megan Andelloux—one of the best and most hardworking educators in the field today. megan andellouxMargaret Brooks is the person that time and time again contacts places where Megan Andelloux and her close friends/colleagues present with scare tactics in efforts to squash their/our attempts at education. This bullying not only harms the institutions and their populations who are sometimes deprived of accurate sexuality education, but it takes a huge emotional toll on honest, hardworking sexuality educators and advocates who are trying to make the world a better, more sexually literate place. The case with Vanderbilt is not the first time this happens.

This is the cohort of people that tried to stop The CSPH from opening back in 2009/2010. The same cohort of people that have accused my colleagues of pedophilia because they believe in giving kids accurate sexuality information and answering their questions at whatever age they start asking them. This is the cohort that, under the guise of “academic” and/or “professional” writing used blatant inaccuracies and decontextualizations (not to mention shoddy record-keeping and citations) to “make points” about how, basically, we are The Worst.

As far as ethics and academic integrity, I would expect better from a Brown alumna/Economics professor and a Women’s Studies professor.

This needs to stop, and we need people to listen. We will keep doing the work we do because we believe in it, and these things are not going to stop us, but we are not made of steel. We are committed to bringing these issues to light, but remember—all this takes a toll. How are you helping break down this misinformation? How are you supporting the victims of bullying and stalking and professional attacks? If you’re not already, imagine having to watch your back constantly for people like this. Where will they be next? What professional gig will they try to wreck soon? What kind of misinformation will they try to spread? This is why we need to speak up and support each other.

Loving My Job Doesn’t Mean You Get to Exploit Me (Or “Why My Time & Work Ain’t Free”)

Illustration by http://melaniegillman.com/

Illustration by http://melaniegillman.com/

“DWYL” & The Intersection of Capitalism/Sexism

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” –a glimmering promise of joyous labor that’s fun 24/7 and somehow secretly “not work.” Miya Tokomitsu thinks the “intoxicating warmth” of that line’s promise must be critiqued:

“Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like nonwork?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

This idea of “not-work work” creates a cycle that enables many employers to exploit their employees (especially in nonprofits doing social services/justice-related things) because they rely on the workers’ “love of their jobs” or “passion for social change” to offer low wages, never give raises, demand outcomes incongruous to the hours being paid, and more. As someone who works “doing what she loves,” but is frustrated by the ideas that “if you love it, it’s not work, and thus you shouldn’t charge for it,” I cannot stress enough how timely and important this article is.

Tokomitsu drives the point home even further, explaining how this disproportionately affects women and is embedded in sexist notions of labor and “whose job it is” to do certain activities:

Yet another damaging consequence of DWYL is how ruthlessly it works to extract female labor for little or no compensation. Women comprise the majority of the low-wage or unpaid workforce; as care workers, adjunct faculty, and unpaid interns, they outnumber men. What unites all of this work, whether performed by GEDs or Ph.D.s, is the belief that wages shouldn’t be the primary motivation for doing it. Women are supposed to do work because they are natural nurturers and are eager to please; after all, they’ve been doing uncompensated child care, elder care, and housework since time immemorial. And talking money is unladylike anyway.

“Come On, Anyone Can Do That!”

When people think “pffft, anyone can do that” about fields like art, caregiving, and education, they erase the level of preparation many people have to get to actually do those things well. Yes, there are things “anyone can do” to an extent, but the results/quality will vary widely. This often happens because people think they understand a field and assume they can do just as good of a job (which is often untrue). This happens to me with sexuality education all the time.

While I fully support popular education methods, community skill-shares, and decentralizing power (especially in fields that get increasingly professionalized at the expense of including the affected communities in their own healing/work), those strategies fulfill a very specific need. Sex education, particularly in school settings, is not just something you can wake up one morning and do with the same level of knowledge, grace, and skill as someone who has invested a lot of time and resources into their preparation.

Social media is another prime example of this issue. Many people are ON social media and think that automatically gives them “expertise” to do high-level social media management and content strategy. Yeah, no. Just being able to boil some pasta and mix it with cheese doesn’t make you a chef either.

Like the image at the top of this post points out, though, these kinds of attitudes are are RARELY directed at medicine, chemistry, and pretty much any STEM field (which BTW are male-dominated, surprise!) because society places those bodies of knowledge on a pedestal and presumes (or knows) they take a great deal of technical knowledge. Especially in regard to STEM fields (since some people don’t even want to touch those areas with a 10-foot pole out of fear), even relatively simple tasks are seen as impressive because of that fear and ignorance. Not to say chemistry is a piece of cake or that neurosurgery is just like teaching a room full of students, but that we must acknowledge the complexity and nuance of fields that are socially considered “soft” and are also often associated with women.

On The Other Side Of Sex Education Programming

By the time I graduated from Brown University in 2011, I had a slew of campus event organizing experience. As the chair of various groups, I coordinated a large number of events to promote wider dialogue and education around sexuality issues. My set of tasks included being the liaison with outside speakers and negotiating prices to bring them to campus. Looking back on it, I realize how underpaid some of the speakers were.

In fact, sometimes I actively haggled prices down so I could make the events more attractive to the funding boards and so we could put on more events. Part of that was just because of the way certain groups and events got funded and my desire to do as many educational activities as possible, but I also think that it’s related to not fully grasping the type of work and hours that can (and often do) go into delivering a stellar college workshop or lecture. Now that I’m on the presenting, rather than the college organizing, end and I also work for a small organization that does training/education on sexuality, I have a more informed perspective about these issues.

When your eyes widen at the prospect of a speaker asking for $2,000-$5,000 for a presentation, think about that for a second. When you hire consultants and freelancers, they often have to charge more per hour and per project than organizations because you are hiring them sporadically instead of putting them in a long-term, stable position with benefits they can rely on. When independent sex educators are pricing their work, they have to think about things like:

  • their past/present/future professional development and education
  • having to (often) pay for their own healthcare and insurance(s)
  • time spent preparing their outlines and materials (which can involve a great deal of research)
  • expenses related to travel (food in new places, places to stay, transportation itself, time spent away from home-base, etc.)
  • expenses to make the presentation worthwhile (e.g. purchasing new PowerPoint or Keynote themes, buying props, mailing items to the presentation location, paying for extra bags on airplanes, etc.)
  • fees taken by booking agencies if they don’t handle all their bookings/gig logistics

On top of that, educators doing the college circuit have to think strategically about where they speak and how much they charge so it can be sustainable. Student organizers often want to bring in other speakers too, and schools aren’t often willing to pay someone to come annually & speak to the “same” student body, so educators can’t always count on that money being stable from year to year. Think about all the other offers that might be competing for attention, too! Especially if someone is in really high demand, they’re not going to take 20 low-paying gigs instead of 20 high-paying ones, so they will prioritize the things that make sense and/or money.

Please note: this doesn’t apply to everyone 100%—there are people who consider themselves sex educators with little education and grounding in the field beyond personal experience (I’m not saying you need a degree in sexual health to be able to speak about these topics, but that some people think that taking one class in college or one workshop somehow makes them An Expert in All Things Sex). Not every sex educator reads through medical journals, uses fancy slideshows, spends hours preparing for their presentation, or combs their work for racial diversity and inclusive language. There are also people with stable income who just do sex ed on the side every so often and don’t have to deal with some of the things above.

What’s more, there are also people out there who “drive down the market” in other ways—who shamelessly spread misinformation, steal workshop titles and materials from other sexuality professionals, and actively try to lasso work away from people who already have it by saying “Hey, I can do what [insert name of presenter usually does XYZ] does but for way cheaper!”  TL;DR: Some people will charge “a lot” for a presentation and it will not have been worth it and it will not be backing up any of the things I said above.

That being said, you know what the reality is, spoken from the event-organizing end? If you are amazing at what you do, many places will find a way to pay you. If you command a decent price-tag and aren’t wishy-washy (note: being flexible isn’t the same as being wishy-washy), many places will respect that and just get you the money. When I had speakers who haggled with me, we haggled. If there were speakers I really wanted who had a firm price tag, I just bit the bullet and dealt with it (or didn’t bring them in because we just didn’t have the money at a given time).

But It’s Not That Simple!

I don’t want to place the blame on educators and speakers for “undervaluing themselves” as if there were no other relevant factors here. I also don’t mean to imply that there’s some magical level playing ground where all sex educators get equal opportunities. Outside from a passion for sexuality issues, a love of teaching, and an imperative to give back to their communities, some educators shift their prices down because they’re not in a financial position to decline, and/or because they’re just starting out and don’t have enough professional experience or clout to ask for more. The advice of “just decline events that don’t pay you what you’re worth, stop underselling yourself, you’re hurting the field” is busted (plus it’s classist, racist, and homophobic in its assumptions and implications).

For folks who are part of minority groups, this is can be especially tricky. For example, due to things like racism and homophobia, many LGBTQ/POC speakers are:

  • offered less money from the get-go
  • are passed over in favor of white/straight folks, all other qualifications being equal
  • get trapped into offering their work at a lower rate so it will even be CONSIDERED (this also affects people tackling “unpopular” or “niche” subjects such as, say, the intersection of sex and disability)

So often we even have to fight and make special deals/packages to get certain topics addressed because they aren’t seen as pressing by the dominant group (e.g. discussions of LGBTQ people in the domestic violence sphere). It’s seen as our duty, or perhaps as our “privilege,” to be able to educate and train organizations on things like being sensitive to gender and sexuality minorities, when it should be recognized as valuable work as well as a social justice imperative.

LGBTQ/POC speakers often get shoved between a rock and a hard place—we either do the work for less than we’re worth or it just doesn’t get done. We either compromise ourselves and our livelihood for our communities and visibility of certain issues or they remain invisible and silenced. Add all this to the fact that many LGBTQ/POC folks are already battling with impostor syndrome due to lack of positive media representation and messed up social messages about the value of our work, and is at all surprising why this problem exists? This needs to change.

Not The First (Or Only) One To Say It

I’m not the first one to say some of these things. In fact, Jill McDevitt just posted about how she gets asked to do her work for free or “for exposure.” Hanne Blank has written about how “Jesus doesn’t pay her rent” (in reference to a deacon’s ignorant comments about her work as a professional singer) and there’s even a depressing/amusing Twitter account devoted to highlighting this kind of cycle, particularly in the art world.

My friend Chihiro also wrote about this and shed some light on the costs behind artwork:

Don’t ask your art friends to draw something for you for free. If we give you a gift it’s because we are generous and like you; it’s not an invitation for free art requests.
Don’t try to haggle too much, because when we price our work we have to factor in materials fee and hours we spent. If you’re skeptical, just ask us to break down the prices because we will happily do so. You may be surprised to learn a single sheet of archival drawing paper can be $13. Or that it takes well over an hour to build a frame, stretch canvas onto it, and prime the surface (gesso, sand, gesso, sand, gesso, sand… Yes this is all before a painting can even begin!) Some quality oil paints are $35 a tube (that’s not even the most outrageous price either.) If an artist requires a studio, that should be factored in too. You’re not just paying for a pretty image. Pretty images don’t come from thin air. Time, space, materials, skills, inspiration… remember what you’re paying for and maybe think of the money you spend on other things. (…)
If you can’t pay them at least offer an exchange or services. A lot of us are trained with over a decade of expensive schooling too, just like doctors!

In Conclusion, Don’t Expect My Time & Work for Free

It’s not that I’ve paid all my dues or that I’m done doing work for pro-bono. I will always strive for sliding scales, for accessibility, and for working with/for my communities. I will always understand fledgling organizations, niche topics, and the #strugglebus. However, I’m pretty damn good at what I do, and I’ve put (and continue to put) lots of money and tons of effort towards my [continuing] education and expertise. Just like you wouldn’t expect a doctor to do surgery on you for free, don’t just expect my work for free. Sometimes I WILL give it for free and volunteer my time, but it’s not something anyone can or should demand. As Hanne so eloquently put it:

[When] artists, myself included, make our work available for free, as I do in this blog, we do it consciously knowing that we are giving it away.  That’s our right as artists.

Just like your neighbor has the right to give you some of hir homegrown tomatoes — the ones sie nurtured and watered and weeded in the hot sun — if sie so chooses, just like a lawyer has the right to work pro bono for a cause sie wishes to support, just like a bricklayer can spend hir day off building a wall for Habitat for Humanity if sie desires, an artist has the right to give others access to some (or even all) of hir work for free.

No artist, however, has an obligation to give others access to hir work for free.

I strive to balance paid and unpaid projects in a way that makes sense for me and leaves me feeling good about paying it forward and leveraging my areas of privilege for the greater good. This means, though, that I do have to say no to certain projects and even have to turn away friends because there’s just not enough time in the day to Do All The Things for Everyone Who Asks. I love helping people and teaching, but please consider the requests you make and how (in)appropriate they are. If you’re asking that I take an hour or two to teach you about a topic, or counsel you about your relationship that’s in shambles, or read your manuscript for something—don’t be surprised/hurt if I say no or tell you I’d have to do it for a fee/barter. (Seriously, don’t underestimate the magic of bartering. I’m all about that.)

Death Salon LA: A Recap

death salon skullIf you know me well, you know I like me some creepy things. I used to park myself in front of the Discovery Health Channel, watch Disney’s So Weird as a kid, and browse websites for tales of the supernatural. During my gawth intellectual phase, I listened to Cradle of Filth, googled all the fancy words and characters in their lyrics (e.g. Gilles de Rais, Erzulie, Lillith, Faust, Walpurgis, and so on), and ended up writing a term paper about Elizabeth “The Blood Countess” Bathory. I even thought I wanted to become a forensic scientist of some sort once I graduated high-school.

Instead, I ended up going to Brown University and concentrating on gender and sexuality studies, but the passion for these issues lived on. Nowadays, this interest in the “creepy and dark” manifests more obviously in things like my love of the TV series Hannibal, unique earrings (e.g. baby doll arms, a bobcat’s jawbones), and the history of medicine. I’m still entranced by mortality, rituals, bodies, and how we deal with all of these, so it must have come as no surprise to my friends and colleagues when they heard I was attending Death Salon LA.

After avidly consuming tons of posts from The Order of the Good Death website (finding it via the founder’s Ask a Mortician series on YouTube), I heard about this event and promptly freaked out with joy. I immediately told one of my colleagues (the inimitable Megan Andelloux, or “Oh Megan”) who shares my fascination with these topics. After some deliberation because our schedules were pretty packed, we booked our trips from Rhode Island to Los Angeles and got ready for a weekend full of intellectual stimulation.

In just one day at Death Salon LA, I learned about demonic semen transfer systems, the mortification of female saints, cadaver saponification, decorated Bolivian and Peruvian skulls that are said to be miraculous, the mummified Capuchin hanging wall friars in Palermo, the democratization of images via post-mortem photography, anthropomorphic taxidermy, anatomical Venuses, St. Bartholomew’s flayed skin that he held as a sash, death cabarets in 20th century Europe, and more.

The experience was wonderful and illuminating, and it balanced subjects so there would be something for everyone. Still, there was definitely a big emphasis on gender and sexuality, which I obviously really appreciated, and the interdisciplinary, multimedia approach catered to a variety of knowledge levels. I’m terribly excited to see where it goes from here, and though I probably can’t go next year (it’s in Europe in 2014), I’m looking forward to it in 2015 when it comes to Cleveland.

As a demonstration of my obsession with documentation, and as a means to share information with those who couldn’t attend this year, I tweeted up a storm while I was there, and upon returning to RI, crafted a recap of the media bits I nabbed in LA. You can check out the 2 days’ worth of relevant images, tweets, and pieces I corralled:

You can also see the version posted on the official Death Salon website. I was sadly unable to attend all the events, so I wasn’t able to recap the Atlas Obscura trip to a local cemetery or the Death Salon LA Soirée with death-themed food and drinks. I’ll leave you all to dig up those resources, no pun intended.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Sexuality educators set the record straight: “Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections” despite what non-experts report.

For Immediate Release
Sexuality educators set the record straight: “Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections” despite what non-experts report.

Contact: 
Megan Andelloux
HiOhMegan@gmail.com
401-345-8685 


Contact: Aida Manduley
Aida_manduley@brown.edu
787-233-0025

In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.

On February 3rd and 4th , certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.

Citizens Against Trafficking, the face behind the fear-mongering, spammed numerous local institutions from a University of Rhode Island account with its latest malicious missive that targeted specific individuals as well as Brown University. The author of the letter, Margaret Brooks, an Economics Professor at Bridgewater State, suggested that colleges and universities that host sexuality speakers, including those who are professionally accredited, are partly to blame for the four new cases of HIV which have been diagnosed amongst RI college students this year.

Ms. Andelloux states: “My heart goes out to those students who have recently tested positive for HIV. However, there is no evidence of any link between campus presentations on sexual issues and the spike in HIV cases. Rather, I would suggest that this demonstrates a need for more high-quality sex education to college students.“ It is unclear why people at URI or Citizens Against Trafficking, a coalition to combat all forms of human trafficking, is attempting to stop adults from accessing sexual information from qualified, trained educators. What is certain however, is that this Professor of Economics miscalculated her suggestion that a correlation exists between increased HIV rates in Rhode Island and the type of sex education these speakers provided at Brown University: one that emphasized accurate information, risk-reduction, pleasure, and health.

Barrier methods have been shown by the CDC to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Research has shown that when individuals have access to medically accurate information, are aware of sexual risk reduction methods, and have access to learn about sexual health, the number of infections and transmission of STIs decreases, pain during sex decreases, and condom use increases. The CAT circulated bulletin is blatantly misleading about many issues, and often omits information that is crucial to understanding the full picture of sex education at Brown and in Rhode Island.

When individuals who do not hold any background in sexuality education speak out in opposition because of their fear or prejudice, society becomes rooted in outdated beliefs and pseudo-science that do injustice to people everywhere. Furthermore, when those individuals personally and publicly attack those devoted to providing sex education with false and misinformed accusations, it not only hurts those who are defamed, but also the community at large.

We ask for an immediate retraction of the vilifying and inaccurate statements made by Ms. Margaret Brooks and Citizens Against Trafficking in their latest newsletter. We also ask that esteemed local universities such as URI and Bridgewater State continue to hold their employees to ethical standards of normal scientific inquiry and require that their faculty hold some modicum of expertise in a field of education before raising the public level of panic over it.

Megan Andelloux is available to answer any questions the press, Margaret Brooks, University of Rhode Island or Citizens Against Trafficking holds. Aida Manduley, the Chair of Brown University’s Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council and Brown University’s is available to discuss the upcoming Sex Week and sexuality workshops held at Brown University.

Signed,
Megan Andelloux
Shanna Katz
Reid Mihalko
Aida Manduley

##########

SPC Series Part I: Introduction to Stop Porn Culture! Conference

(When you’re done reading this, check out SPC Series Part II: Purpose & Rules of Engagement)

As some of you may already know, this past weekend I attended the Stop Porn Culture! Conference held at Wheelock College. I wonder if any outsiders (or even insiders) made a kerfuffle about semantics like they did to us Brown University students and organizers when we held KinkForAll Providence, Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown (feat. Reid Mihalko and Megan Andelloux), or Sex Week 2010 (held AT vs. sponsored BY vs. happening on X campus–oh my goodness, you’re affiliating the name of a university with sex-related activism!)…but that’s another matter entirely.

Anyway. Get excited because I’m going to be blogging at LENGTH about this conference and my experiences there as a means to foster dialogue, inform people, state my views, and provide a more elaborate summary of the conference (since I was live-tweeting like crazy *AND* taking notes during the time I was there). I might also be appearing on “the smart sexuality netcast” Kink On Tap next Sunday to discuss these matters, so stay tuned to that as well. Heck, stay tuned to Kink On Tap regardless; it’s a good resource of sexuality-related current events and overall fascinating stuff.

Before I start talking about my impressions, thoughts, and all that good stuff, let’s get some basic information out there. I like my readers (and everyone) to have all the information they need to make educated opinions, so here we go.

For information about Stop Porn Culture!, the organization behind the conference, you should check out their own website AND also check out this article by VioletBlue, where she provides some information about the organization, points out SPC’s awkward religious affiliations, and highlights some of their main anti-porn tenets. As a general rule, never just look at one side of the coin. 🙂 Be critical and analytical in your consumption of information! /PSA

I’m not going to go in-depth regarding the organization’s position just yet, since it is clearly written about already on the websites I’ve linked, but I’d like to quickly debunk some of the things in their FAQ:

  • It’s inaccurate in the EXTREME to talk about “pornography” as if it were an entirely monolithic concept and “the industry” as if it were in the hands of people with just ONE agenda (to degrade and exploit women, of course), who are all solely perpetuating just ONE type of image. We can SORT OF talk in generalizations about the “mainstream porn” that’s available, but even then we have to tread a bit carefully. It’s INACCURATE and MISLEADING to talk about pornography using a definition that tries to imply things that are NOT in the actual definition of pornography, which is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”
  • To say that pornography as a whole “offers the same progression of sexual acts, ending in the same sexual act – ejaculation onto a woman’s body or face, over and over again” is to ignore, y’know, the entire existence of gay-male porn. It’s to ignore the existence of SO many different genres of pornography that it’s personally sickening to me how reductionist many anti-porn folks can sometimes be. There are folks who are CONSTANTLY reducing the entire realm of pornography into these specific boxes, specific acts, and almost 100% ignoring anything else that’s out there as if they were wearing blinders. Furthermore, the use of this specific example of male-ejaculating-onto-woman clearly shows us that there is a need for EDUCATION (surprise, surprise). As long as we continue to assume that men ejaculating on women is inherently about power and inherently degrading to women, we’re gonna have fucked up relationships to our sexual expressions. 
  • Their Q: “Don’t feminists focus on the worst kind of pornography, the most brutal images? Isn’t most pornography just people having sex?” and A: “StopPornCulture! focuses on the “mainstream” of the pornography industry. A tour through any pornography shop or internet sites will demonstrate that. If anything, we have avoided the worst of what’s available” = NOT TRUE. They have certainly not avoided the worst of what’s available, and many big names in the anti-porn community often do resort to highlighting some of the most “hardcore” porn over and over to try and drive their anti-porn points home. Want examples? How about Donna M. Hughes citing cases of bestiality, illegal + NON-CONSENSUAL BDSM, and criminal activity as “examples” and “case-studies” of sexual fetishism and BDSM as a whole in widespread bulletins through organizations like CAT? How about the continued talk of humantoiletbowls.com during the 1st day of the SPC conference? That’s like trying to represent an entire country by going to its prisons and picking the maximum security offenders to be the poster-children. It’s inaccurate and just plain stupid. More importantly, it’s DISINGENUOUS and dishonest.
  • “While it’s true that ‘scientific proof’ establishing a direct connection between pornography use and rape doesn’t exist, research has made it clear that the use of pornography is a factor in shaping the attitude and behaviors in some men who use it and that it is a factor in some men’s sexual aggression.” – Okay, fantastic. Now let’s actually investigate what other factors shape their aggression and how we can fix that. Furthermore, let’s talk about HOW it shapes their attitudes and behaviors. Let’s talk about education and empowerment and social change. We can “fix” pornography and “fix” society, but it won’t happen by eradicating pornography.
  • “Q: Can there be feminist pornography? A: No doubt there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality. And, it’s not surprising that there would be interest in countering sexist and racist images with healthier depictions of sexuality. The rush to imagine “good” pornography can be a way to avoid contemplating the nature of the actual pornography we live with. Perhaps a more constructive first step would be to talk honestly about the sex/gender crisis we face.” – Notice how they didn’t even answer the question AND how they avoided endorsing or acknowledging the term/concept “feminist pornography” by couching a yes-like answer under verboseness (“there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality”). Also, it’s silly to imply that a) we should first contemplate the porn we have before we try to imagine “better porn” as if we couldn’t do both simultaneously and b) those who are trying to articulate a sex-positive, feminist, non-oppressive pornography haven’t taken the time to analyze the “current system.” I do agree that we need to first analyze what’s going on before we can TRULY provide good alternatives to what’s currently out there, but I just take issue with the implication that we can’t even start to imagine the possibilities.

Also, please take a look at the conference’s schedule, and if you can, check out the information about the speakers. Don’t just stop at what they’re linking (or even what I’m linking) though. Google some of those names (e.g. Donna M. Hughes). Do your research.

Saturday, June 12

8:00-9:00         Registration
9:00-9:15         Housekeeping  (Lierre Keith)
9:15-9:30         Welcome and introductory remarks  (Dr. Gail Dines)
9:30-10:15       “A Power Paradox: The Online Commercial Pornography Industry Network” (Jennifer Johnson)
10:15-11:15     Making Hate: Porn, Sex and the Destruction of Intimacy (Dr. Gail Dines)
11:15 -11:30    Break
11:30-12:30 Self Exploitation:  The Slippery Slope of Self-Made Porn  (Dr. Sharon Cooper)
12:30-1:30       Lunch: There will be sandwiches for sale on site, and there are plenty of lunch spots close to the college.
1:30-2:30         “Hip Hop Honeys, Nappy Headed Hoes, and Hustlaz: The Pornofication of Hip Hop Music and Videos” (Dr. Carolyn West)
2:30-3:30         “The Personal Hazards of Porn” (Wendy Maltz, LCSW, DST)
3:30-4:00         Break
4:00-5:00         “From Jekyll to Hyde: The Grooming of Male Pornography Consumers”  (Dr. Rebecca Whisnant)
5:00-5:45         Reconvene for discussion
(Break for dinner)
7:30-9:30         Dessert party and (optional) films
The Price of Pleasure” (with director Chyng Sun)

Sunday, June 13

9:30-11:00             Pornography and the Law: New Approaches

Diane Rosenfeld  (Harvard University Law School)
Clare McGlynn (Durham University School of Law)
Donna Hughes  (University of Rhode Island)

11:30-12:45          First Workshop
Anti-Pornography Organizing on the Internet
Samantha Berg (Genderberg) and Jill  (One Angry Girl)
Working with Men
Matthew Ezzell (James Madison University)
Cameron Murphey (Western Washington University)
Robert Jensen (University of Texas)
12:45-2:00       Lunch

2:00-3:15 Second Workshop

International Anti-Pornography Organizing
Linda Thompson  (Women’s Support Project, Glasgow)
Natalie Nenadic (University of Kentucky)
Donna Hughes (Dignity)
College Students, Hook-up Culture and Pornography:  A Discussion
Denise McGoldrick (Director of Health Education, Amherst College)
Gretchen Krull (Assistant Director of Health Education / Sexual Harassment Specialist, Amherst College)

3:15-3:45         Break
3:45-4:30         Final wrap-up and discussion

Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors

Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors
a panel and Q&A session moderated by 
Brown Professor of History and Brazilian Studies Jim N. Green,
author of Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil

Free and open to the public!
Tuesday, May 4th @ 6:00 pm
in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106 (View Map)
95 Cushing Street, Providence, RI 02906

This event is co-sponsored by: SHEEC and QCC

Panelists:
  • Aida Manduley: SHEEC Chairperson (that’s me!)
  • Megan Andelloux: Certified sexologist and sex educator
  • Reid Mihalko: Brown alum and presenter on sex and relationships 
  • Meitar Moscovitz: Community organizer and technology professional
  • Ricky Gresh: Senior director for Student Engagement at Brown University

What would you do if your organization were criticized for following through with its mission statement? What if you were publicly denigrated, misrepresented, and harassed for your work? What if educators themselves were trying to hamper your attempts at education

Finally, who should have a say in a college student’s sex education?

——————————————-

This panel has been born out of a need to discuss the role of students, educators, and institutions in regards to censorship, free speech, and the right to organize.

More specifically, this panel has been born out of one group of incidents that have spanned this entire semester. SHEEC: the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council, an organization which I not only chair, but CHERISH, has come under vicious attack due to some (if not most) of the events it has been sponsoring, coordinating, and organizing. Who have been the attackers? Primarily, Donna M. Hughes (Prof. of Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island) and Margaret Brooks (Brown alum and Prof. of Economics at Bridgewater State College). Other folks who have been involved? Melanie Shapiro, co-founder (along with Donna M. Hughes) of “Citizens Against Trafficking” and folks from the “Foundation for Intellectual Diversity,” a non-profit that is dedicated to funding the “underrepresented” ideas on the conservative end of the spectrum at Brown University.

We will briefly explain this ordeal at the panel, in the spirit of full transparency, and then we will delve deeper into other instances of censorship and moral panic so we can have a productive conversation about these issues. It’s an event that shouldn’t be missed, honestly. (If you’re curious and want to check out some back-story right now, though, feel free to peruse my SHEEC-tagged posts in this blog, which explain the matter/s and link to other sources of information.)

The event will focus on discussing censorship as it relates to sexual education and programming around sexuality issues because of the reasons why this panel came into being and because we hope to use the panelists’ experiences as “case-studies,” BUT we highly encourage EVERYBODY to attend, especially those who have had similar scary experiences with censorship or those who are curious because they don’t want to have it happen to them.

Come join us in our dialogue!

Though it’s open to the public, Brown students are especially encouraged to attend because we’ll discuss what Brown can do for YOU, and how Brown can protect your rights to hold events. This is CRUCIAL information, especially if you do any sort of “controversial” work on campus.

Also, in the spirit of bridge-building, communication, honesty, and all that good stuff, I personally invited the folks who have gone after me and my friends to the panel (and I’ve attached a copy of the email at the bottom of this post). So far, I haven’t received any sort of reply, which is very disappointing, although not terribly unexpected. Based on their track-record, it seems these people are not interested in any sort of conversation; they’re just out to bash individuals, censor comprehensive sexual education that acknowledges diversity, and shut down the things with which they don’t agree.

Perhaps they’ll surprise me on May 4th and attend the panel. It would be fascinating to finally see them in person, for once, and maybe have a chance to talk to them. All of this has gone on without them EVER asking me anything or directly contacting me–just paying eerily close attention to my online presence & SHEEC events and then criticizing, bashing, and lying about them behind my back. It seems they don’t acknowledge my humanity, or the humanity of the other people they have attacked and hurt with their mean-spirited campaigning, and that is really sad.

The worst part is, while we could ALL be spending time actually learning about and addressing the issue of trafficking & forced labor (because “sex-trafficking” is NOT the only issue here, or the only one affecting women; it is only ONE of the subsets of forced labor and human trafficking), we are instead caught in a web of animosity that distracts us from the REAL issues, confuses the public, and spreads inaccurate information. My friends and I are trying to make positive change in the world by educating and empowering people, while at the same time having to defend ourselves against harsh attacks by “educated” folks who conflate sex-work with sex-trafficking, equate kink and BDSM with slavery and abuse, purposefully lie and misrepresent those they see as “the enemy,” and deny women’s agency to make informed decisions because they somehow “know what’s best for them.”

Personally, based on the things I just highlighted, I think there are way more issues here than solely sexuality education and morality, don’t you think?

In short, I hope that if you CAN, you attend the panel.
I think everyone would benefit from hearing what we have to say and taking part in this discussion.




——————————————-


Open Letter to Melanie Shapiro, Margaret Brooks, and Donna M. Hughes:

Date: Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:38 PM
Subject: Invitation to Event at Brown University
To: melanieshapiro4@gmail.com, mbrooks@bridgew.edu, dhughes@uri.edu, dhughes71@cox.net

Dear ladies, Since you have shown persistent interest in the events I have coordinated and facilitated at Brown University through SHEEC (the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council), as the organization’s Chairperson, I cordially invite you to attend the next one: “Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors” on May 4th, 2010, at 6:00pm in Smith-Buonanno Room 106. I hope you will take this opportunity to constructively converse with myself and the other people whom you have publicly denigrated and misrepresented, as I feel it is deeply saddening and highly unfortunate that you are so eager to attack my organization and its events while refusing to engage with me or even do basic research about what it is that I do and promote.

Sincerely,

– Aida Manduley

Open Response to Brown Alum: More Sex Week Madness!

I love how people who have negative things to say about me, SHEEC, and Sex Week rarely come to me directly, and instead contact other conservative folks and start spreading rumors. I can’t decide if this is ignorant, cowardly, or what. Maybe a combination of both. Sigh.

Regardless, here is my response to the questions a Brown alum apparently sent FID here. I’ll try to be concise, but also informative, so while some answers only deserve a one-word response (or even no response at all because they’re so absurd), I will try to expound upon them a bit if I feel there is a need to do so. I think most of these questions are pretty cute (in that “wow, it’s cute how you’re trying to find ANY possible way to get us in trouble, even when it sounds and IS totally ridiculous” way).


—————-


1. Did the Wet Spots’ spanking of audience members cause injury to someone? – No.  

2. Student organizers plan to post the best “erotic” story on Brown SHEEC web site. Does Brown allow obscene material on its web site? – The website is not hosted by Brown. We’re posting it on our blog: http://brownsheec.wordpress.com/  

3. Sarah Sloane taught a workshop for sex assault survivors. She is not a psychologist. She is a sadist, etc. Her statements could be harmful to anyone who is attending this session looking for help http://www.sarahsloane.net/?page_id=208. – Since when does being a sadist in BDSM contexts invalidate one’s advice about actual sexual assault? Whatever. Feel free to email me and I can give you a copy of the handouts for the event; I’m sure you’ll find them quite positive and informative. FYI, we also discussed and made available Health Services pamphlets and information about official counseling at the event. During the week, we also had another event about sexual assault led by Trish Glover, Brown’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Coordinator. Furthermore, Sarah Sloane made her experience/educational background/interest in speaking about sexual assault quite transparent at the event and never claimed to be a psychologist (and we never billed her as such). Finally, I attended the workshop and can vouch for everything she said.

4. Sarah Sloane taught a class on safe sex. Is she qualified? She teaches BDSM. How safe is that? – To answer the first question, yes, she is qualified. For our intents and purposes, someone who is qualified to talk about safer sex is someone who has the knowledge necessary to provide an accurate, educational, and informational workshop or discussion. As someone who knows a lot about safer sex and as the person who booked her for attendance (and thus made sure that she had the knowledge to back up her event), I can stand by all the information she gave during her presentation. To answer the second question, BDSM is as safe as you make it, just like walking down the street is as safe as you make it. Heck, BDSM can be even safer than walking down the street. 

5. Megan Andelloux’s class is asking for audience participation, both mind and body. Are there could be sexual harassment issues with what took place? – Nope.  

6. Raffles were held. Were appropriate licenses obtained? Can dildos, etc legally be raffled? What about minors who may have been present or who may buy a ticket? – No minors purchased tickets or were present. And as far as we know, yes, all proceedings were legal. Finally, the sale and use of sex toys is legal in Rhode Island. What do you think they sell at Mister Sister on Wickenden? Pastries?  

7. Did Brown check IDS of all people attending Sex Week events, given the content? – Nope. Most events were workshop-sized and thus either I or the other coordinators in attendance knew the people who were there (either personally, or they at least knew their grade year, age, and/or affiliation with SHEEC and Brown/RISD).  

8. Were these events be open to the community, and will their IDs be checked? – They were open to the community, yes, and no, their IDs were not checked for the aforementioned reasons. The community-members that were in attendance were either visibly college-aged or older.

9. What is the policy about photographing students who attend any Sex Week workshops? Do attendees have a right to privacy, including the possible taking of their names for raffles? – No names were taken for raffles. If you want more information about how the raffles worked, you can check here. Also, the raffles were completely voluntary, so while names were not necessary, even if they HAD been, people would have been GIVING us their names voluntarily. In regards to the pictures, at events, pictures were taken of presenters (if they consented to it), volunteers/coordinators (again, if they said it was okay), and the venue (beforehand). The other instances of pictures being taken were by BDH reporters taking pictures from the back of the room for one event, and thus no one’s identifying features were visible.  

10. The Raunchy Bake Sale was held on the Main Green. Passersby including children could have seen these items. It’s not only offensive but could violate RI Laws. – Mm, and what laws would those be, exactly? As far as I know, Spencer’s at the mall doesn’t have signs saying “WARNING: PENIS-SHAPED LOLLIPOPS AHEAD.” We didn’t either.  

11. Is SHEEC ever going to identify all the Brown Sex Week sponsors (including sex toy companies who donated products for the raffles?) Will this raffle funding be made public? See Aida Manduley’s twitter for mentions of companies that made donations: http://twitter.com/pledgemistress (scroll back by hitting “more” at the bottom of the page) – I’m amused by the phrasing–“is SHEEC ever going to identify all the Brown Sex Week sponsors” because it implies that we’ve taken forever and a day to say who the sponsors are or something. In fact, they have been identified/promoted multiple times through multiple media, before the raffle even happened. We have been quite transparent about this. Check our Facebook event, blog (https://brownsheec.wordpress.com/), and posters for more information.

Open Letter to Slanderers

Dear Margaret Brooks and Donna M. Hughes,


I’m making this short, sweet, and easy to comprehend:

  • Get your facts straight before you bash KinkForAll and the people involved.
  • Stop spreading lies about, well, a LOT of things.
  • Have some courage to speak to anyone involved DIRECTLY instead of contacting everyone BUT the organizers and attendees. Especially since you KEEP citing KFAPVD as an example, and you are obviously very misinformed as to how that event ran, who ran it, and how it all went, TALK TO ME ABOUT IT and stop making assumptions.
  • Stop spreading lies and rumors. Did I mention that already?
  • If you’re going to quote things, quote them in FULL and IN CONTEXT.
  • GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT.
  • And oh, get your facts straight.
Love,
Aida


P.S. A direct response to this infuriating and deeply saddening bulletin will be coming soon.

Re: “Brown Teaches Students How to Have Kinky Sex”

Just in case my comment doesn’t get approved, and also because I just want to publicize it for further discussion, here’s my response to this article, whose main beef with Sex Week seems to be the university support and financial backing.
On a related note, I’m proud of SHEEC for being the first entry under their Gender Issues tag and for having its OWN tag, “Sex Week.” Heck, I’m proud that now the FID website has the phrase “kinky sex” in it! 🙂
—————————-
Hey there! I’m the current Sex Week coordinator, so I can definitely speak to this topic. :)
“forums on condom use and relationship counseling—but not at Brown” – In fact, we do have those events. Bringing (Safe) Sexy Back [happening Friday night] is all about safer sex, and our Monday night workshop focused on communication and negotiation in relationships, especially when people get involved in any sort of “non-traditional” relationship because there are way less people talking about how to make it work in those settings (still, the techniques and lessons are applicable to all sorts of relationships, romantic or otherwise).
The issue of feminist and sex-positive pornography is one hotly debated in the fields of queer/feminist/women/gender/sexuality studies and theory, and thus highly relevant, especially in light of the rise of sex-positivism and the backlash of certain communities.
Our documentary (“Kinky”) and student panel centered around issues of power dynamics and their intersection with race/ethnicity, and we used the film as a springboard to start conversation, since in BDSM the power dynamics are EXPLICIT, whereas in daily life, we operate under many assumptions and systems of oppression but don’t talk about them or actively negotiate them. This was not a forum to teach students how to have kinky sex, but instead explore hierarchies, power dynamics, and their intersections with identity.
Re: sex toys and how to use them, SHEEC wants Brown students to be informed consumers, as well as sexually-aware individuals, so of course we’ll have events about these things. Because sex toys aren’t regulated in the way that other products are, standards and materials can vary widely, and we wish to inform the Brown population about what items are body-safe and instruct them in the proper care of themselves AND their toys. Which leads me to the topic of the raffles! We are holding these because, not only are prizes fun, but when we talk about body-safe sex toys, some of those are expensive and we wanted to make items available to those who perhaps didn’t have the means to purchase them.
The workshop on sexual fantasies is humorous and educational, hoping to take away the shame from healthy, sex-positive practices and bringing in scientific/medical facts to exposing myths that people believe due to lack of knowledge. Furthermore, it is run by a certified sexual educator. It’s interactive because we expect the audience to bring in questions and comments, not because we plan to have, say, an orgy.
Our other events cover a wide range of topics, such as ability/disability, sexual assault (2 events about this, actually), sexuality and the media, and immigration/trans politics, all by experts in their respective fields (be it as activists, medical professionals, certified educators, etc.), so I’m surprised you didn’t give any of these much attention. I mean, I’m NOT surprised, since they wouldn’t cause a ruckus/headlines, but still.
It is SHEEC’s mission to bring in presentations and lectures that focus on EDUCATION, first and foremost, and the promotion of sexual health, pleasure, and wellness. While we do cover kink and feel it’s an important part of this year’s content, I think this article is a misrepresentation of what Brown’s Sex Week IS and strives to do.
RE: university backing? They are backing our right as an organization to host events and, incidentally, promote a diversity of thought on campus. As far as I’m concerned, as far as events adhere to certain university policies and guidelines, they are all given the same consideration, so just like our event got funded, an event by another group could find funding as well. If this is in any way a commentary on how Brown should NOT have funded this week, I find it ridiculous. Furthermore, we gave all contributors the option to tell us what they wanted the money used for, and we respected those wishes (e.g. Late Night Fund money is only for funding our March 20th evening event), so money isn’t being funneled away in secret ways or anything. So, hypothetically (because I do not find this the appropriate forum to go into a detailed and itemized list of our SHEEC budget), something like Strap-On 101 was fully funded by student groups and not the university.
Also, not all of the offices listed supported us through a monetary contribution, I think it is important to note, since that seems to be your focus. And just because the university is funding something some people might not agree with doesn’t mean they shouldn’t fund it. Again, diversity of thought, no?
Finally, it is BECAUSE there are parties and fraternities and dorm-room debaucheries and things going on “behind closed doors” that we need to bring this dialogue to the fore and educate our campus about what they’re doing and how to engage with their respective sexualities in positive, healthy ways. As long as we determine that sexuality is a topic that must be kept hidden, or that certain topics are “too taboo to talk about,” we will breed legions of misinformed youth that will then turn into misinformed adults if they don’t get an education at SOME point, and then it all turns into a vicious cycle of shame, fear, and ignorance.
Also, the cabaret act is The Wet Spots, not The Wet Spot. ;)