Unpacking the Invisible Toybag (or, Scene Specific White Privilege)

So M (who goes by _Spiral_ on Fetlife)–a black genderqueer person from Baltimore–wrote a great list of white privilege in the BDSM/kink/leather scene inspired by the famous Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh:


By and large, white people in our society have been and continue to be taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, White Privilege, which puts white people at an advantage… taught to view themselves as individuals whose moral state depended on their individual moral will… to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when they work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow POCs to be more like them.

There are numerous unearned advantages to being white in the BDSM community. The thing is, as stated above, these are not seen as advantages, they are seen as normative, ie. that’s just the way things are. These advantages include but are not limited to the following:
  • A white person can go to an event or party and very likely not be the only white person (or one of a few) at said event.
  • A white person can be fairly sure to see their race represented in event literature (ads, program books, videos, etc), and BDSM artwork and literature at large (BDSM based fiction, books, magazines)
  • A white person will very likely be able to find Dungeon Monitors, and others in charge in scene space who will be of their own race.
  • A white person will very likely be able to find event presenters and educators who will be of their own race.
  • A white person can be fairly certain that event organizers and venue owners are people of their own race.
  • Barring known nationality in some cases (cuz i bet BoundBlackDragon could tell us a story or two) a white person can be fairly certain that the type of play they like, and/or the role they’d like to play in a scene will not be assumed based on their race or stereotypes about their race.
  • Barring known nationality in some cases, when undressed, a white person can safely expect not to have their body or an area of their body or bodypart be considered a “credit to their race.”
  • Barring known nationality in some cases, when showing particular skill, force, technique, intensity, or even gentleness, a white person can safely expect that these aspects will not be attributed to stereotypes about their race.
  • Barring known nationality in some cases, when a mistake is made in a scene, a white person can safely expect that it will not be attributed to a stereotype about incompetence or clumsiness via their race.
  • If the people in attendance at an event are paying NO attention to a white person, that person can be fairly certain that it’s not because of their race.
  • If the people in attendance at an event are paying a LOT of attention to a white person, that person can be fairly sure that it’s not because of their race.

And then someone derailed the hell out of it, so obviously I commented. Can I also mention this derailer is a white, 35 y.o. male dominant who is part of a “Black Women/White Men” group, a “White Doms/Tops and Black subs/bottoms” group, a “young black women who love older white men” group, AND a “Gorean” group? I’ll just leave that there for y’all to digest.

By and large I think what you are missing is that white people generally don’t look for their own race in those situations and have no issue with other races filling those parts. As for sexual expectations you are too narrow in your scope because skinny girls are expected to be a certain way as well as large girls, blonds, upper class, lower class etc etc etc. I’m not going to go into detail because I am very tired but I think you are showing a large amount of ignorance and short sightedness yourself. By and large people are much less hated then they believe they are. Social interactions being the most complicated thing in human nature you cannot simply chalk things up so simply.

Of course, because so many spaces ARE white, and it’s not just a byproduct of “oh well there are just lots of white people in the U.S.”—it’s directly tied to how the scene operates, what’s valued in it, how cost-prohibitive some parties/accessories/etc. are, the locations where BDSM/kink activities are able to happen, and a lot more, and THOSE systems and situations are inextricably tied to racism.

White people rarely, if ever, “look for their own race” because they’re constantly surrounded by them, and people of color are the minorities that are either used to having to find community or because of circumstance, are mistrustful/uncomfortable/whatever when in a white-dominated space.

Plus, I’d sincerely hope white people “didn’t have an issue” with “other races filling those parts.” (But the thing is, some of them do. Which is fucked.)

Also, I have been told I am a credit to my race and sex as well. If there are other races in the audiences then that is very possible.

How have you been told “you’re a credit to your race and sex”? I’m curious about the context and intent there…

Oh and for the last few if you get a lot or no attention why do you assume off the top it is because of your race? Could be body type, newness, attitude or a multitude of other things. As I said above social interactions is the most complicated part of human nature and to assume you understand completely all of the intricacies only shows how little you really know and would rather remain in what feels comfortable rather then challenge yourself and your own ASSUMPTIONS(PREJUDICE).

Of course–there are a lot of means of oppressing people, a lot of different types of privileges, and the OP is not saying that racism trumps all other oppressions and that if you are a person of color you are ALWAYS OPPRESSED IN EVERY WAY. They’re trying to highlight the way RACE specifically operates in terms of privileges. Just because there are other fucked up assumptions we make based on other identities (such as body shape/size) doesn’t mean the ones based on race are “not as bad or important.”

Re: the attention issue—Jesus H. Christ. AGAIN, the OP is not saying it IS ALWAYS ABOUT RACE. They are saying that one of the privileges of being a white person in the scene is that race is USUALLY NOT AN ISSUE FOR WHITE PEOPLE. While a person of color moves around the world dealing with their race and probably having to think about it every damn day, white people don’t have that, and at the very least if they do for some outside reason, they don’t have it in the same, systemic way that POC do.

Once again, if you reread the post, it says a white person can be fairly certain their level of attention, regardless of if it’s high or low, is NOT RELATED to their race, while–again, based on experience–a POC CANNOT be fairly certain that that’s the case.

Social interactions are indeed complicated, but to try to veil them with “oh, it’s complicated, you can’t break them down like this” is ridiculous.

What Not To Do When Housemate Hunting

As it happens, I was housemate hunting recently. The following is text from an email-exchange that ensued after a very singular dude replied to the posting. See, while humor is awesome, using this kind of humor when you’re a cis-dude and we don’t know each other at all = not the best choice.


Hey girls!
In response to your CL listing, here I am.  Your listing and requirements are almost exactly what im looking for!
– Im LGBT-friendly (Im currently traveling Europe with a gay friend and a couple straight ones).
– I like to share household utilities (down to groceries, netflix, bar tabs)
– I throw occasional extravagant parties (maybe twice a year).  Dinner parties are great too.

Im a 28 y/o male engineer going in for a masters in entrepreneurship at Brown this fall.

So a little about me.  To sum it up, im a social, spontaneous, sporty, clean(ish) and nerdy guy.  I was born in Oregon, lived all over the US, but living in Boston for the last 5 years working at a tech startup managing the manufacturing and various engineering aspects of our products.  When im not working I enjoy cycling, hiking, snowboarding, ultimate frisbee, inventing/building random things, traveling, meeting new people, and going out with friends.

Now that you know a little about me, id love to hear a little more about you guys.  The only concern that I have at the moment is… living with THREE girls?  But you guys sound pretty awesome.

Best, XXX


Hi XXXX!

What does an “occasional extravagant party” mean to you? That sounds fancy! 😀 Is it more on the “fancy fabulous party” or “beer pong rager” end of things?

And yes—three girls. Have you been primarily living by yourself or with guys…? We’re pretty awesome if I do say so myself. The question is—are we all compatible? That’s what we have to find out! Do you think you could Skype with us for a chat tomorrow or in the coming days?
On our end, we’re all sociable folks with Venn-diagramming lives. We have our own things going on (and it seems like all fervently love our jobs and doing good for society), but do like to spend time together. For example, we hosted a couchsurfer these past two nights, all of us had dinner together yesterday and then watched a movie about an evil Santa Claus in Finland. Then, today, one of the housemates (Jenna) and I got home from work, chatted over some pineapple-y wine, and watched an “offbeat romantic ghost story” about a married fisherman who has to reconcile his love for a man with his life and society’s social mores. Sometime in August we’ll be hosting a monthly (or so?) feminist book club, and there are plans to go down to Newport sometime because I’ve never been and that’s quite a tragedy.

If that sounds at all interesting, let’s set up a time to chat!


Hey Aida,

The occasional extravagant party means I like to throw epic memorable parties which i invest fairly heavily in.  These are no ordinary beer pong ragers, I dont even allow it.  These are epic themed parties where massive props are made, fog machines, disco balls, candles, blacklights, meticulously created playlists, dance floors, etc. and funded by the young professionals who like to show appreciation to their good friends a couple times a year.  Youve never been to a party like this before.  (Note from Aida: I am simultaneously intrigued and put off.)

Ive been living with 3 boys and 1 girl in boston for the last 5 years.  A few people have cycled, but the ratio always remains the same.  I like to live with at least one girl to keep the place in check.

Im daunted by your “feminist book club” and three “social justice minded” women.  Im pretty sure you guys will want to kill me by the first night if you take my asinine crass humor seriously.  Im pretty over-the-top.  While I appreciate your time, I think im going to have to respectfully decline.

Good luck finding someone!


The problem is, while this guy sounded kind of interesting in a way, he can’t expect me to trust his intent once I’ve already been slammed with sexist bullshit over and over. And even if I WERE to think “well he’s just being ironic/funny,” this kind of shit is not funny to me anymore 99% of the time, especially coming from men, and cis, straight men at that.

If we do not have a relationship, do not have a rapport, and do not have ANY remote smidgen of comfort with each other and knowledge about where we’re coming from, this kind of humor doesn’t make sense and doesn’t make me feel good about our interactions. A lot of what he said just sounds like regurgitations from shitty conversations I’ve had with people who have been clueless, sexist, and/or disrespectful. Does anyone think that’s cool or comforting? That it’s funny or cool to make people feel like they might have another person in their life who devalues them, even if only just for a moment, for the sake of humor, and reenacts the daily sexist bullshit they face?

People can’t expect folks from an oppressed/marginalized group to trust the intent of people from a majority/oppressive class when the latter are going down the same path of shittiness. “Oh oh oh, but I was being FUNNY/IRONIC” is not an excuse. Still shitty. When experience has told me and my communities that this kind of behavior is indicative of sexist and misogynist beliefs, WHY in the world would I just “hope” that this person would be different? Why would I even TRY to excuse them and give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if it’s about living together? Come on. Doesn’t make sense.

Does finding this problematic make me humorless? No. It makes me someone who prefers a more sophisticated and less oppressive brand of humor. I used to be one of those “you can joke about anything! bring on the dark humor and horribly offensive shit!” kind of person, especially before I hit college… but once one’s been exposed to how this kind of thing actually plays out and is the lived reality of people, it’s hard to find that shit funny anymore. That shit is REAL and EVERY DAY and EXHAUSTING. The harm these jokes and cracks make is far higher than their funniness, and from a purely utilitarian perspective (as well as one that focuses on kindness and respect more so than momentary wittiness), IT’S BETTER TO REFRAIN FROM SUCH “JOKES.”

And before someone says “well that’s censorship,” welcome to the world. We all have to “censor” ourselves sometimes. We should HAVE the freedom to be shitty people to some extent and say whatever we want, but consciously CHOOSE to not be shitty to others. We need to strive to be better, and create a world that’s a safer place to be. Just because we “can” do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it.

Humor that relies on oppression and marginalization, no matter how small, is LAZY HUMOR. It’s EASY to use the pre-existing power dynamics to “make a funny,” and it pretty much requires no thought or wit or spin–just a pretty straightforward mimicry of what’s going on in the day-to-day. Let’s strive for more instead of just rolling around in the muck.

Racist + Sexist “Adult Novelties”

Trigger-warning for gross sexist, racist language and glorification of non-consent.

Those of you who know me know I *love* talking about sex toys. Not only do I find them personally stimulating (har har har), I’m also just fascinated by how they have evolved, how technological developments have impacted their growth/design, and the ways in which people and the media conceptualize them. I’m fortunate enough to have attended some “novelty expos” in the past for work and I’ve seen a wide array of products. Some have blown my mind with their stylish marketing and innovative designs, but I’ve also had the misfortune of encountering some REALLY horrible toys (read: unsafe materials, terrible packaging, offensive marketing, and more). I wanted to highlight 2 particular companies producing some pretty egregious toys.

Why?

  • Because I want to hold toys and companies to higher standards and share what I know with the people who read this blog
  • Because consumers deserve to find good resources for their sex toys and know which companies are fucked up
  • Because there are some damaging and oppressive stereotypes and ideas being bandied about, and the sex toy industry usually gets a “free pass” because people think sexuality is some magical arena where politics and kindness don’t apply
  • Because we need to acknowledge the pervasive sexism and racism in our fields and see how these things connect to our daily lives

BUT FIRST: some background. Pipedreams and Nasstoys (the ones I discuss here) are part of what’s known in the industry as “The Big Five” (Doc Johnson, Cal Exotics, and Topco being the other three in the club). These are the companies that churn out toys like nobody’s business–the “giants” in the industry. There’s no real sense of “coherent” brand identity to the average consumer because these huge companies have a lot of toys under their belt and a wide array of different lines. Unlike smaller independent stores and companies, these organizations are faceless and commercial (not inherently a bad thing, but it’s not a positive thing for me personally). They also put their profits before their consumers, as evidenced by their practices and the stuff I mention in this post.

Disclaimer: I own a glass Pipedreams toy because I was asked to review it years ago. While the line has a TON of products, and some of them are actually nice, I don’t support them as a brand.

 

Pipedreams

When I went to the ANME Founders Show, I was introduced to the Pipedreams Extreme Toyz line. My immediate thought was a big WTF. They have toys like Flip a Sista Over and Junk in Tha Trunk. If the names and the “cum in her ghetto booty” slogan slapped across the package of the latter aren’t enough to get you riled up, here’s the copy that goes along with these ridiculously offensive toys:

Fuck her first in her tight mocha twat, then Flip A Sista Over and bust a nut in her booty! This handheld honey is the answer to every man’s chocolate fantasies…a sweet black pussy on one end and a big ol’ bubble butt on the other, with nothing getting in the way of you filling her with cum! 

If you love thick black asses, this sista’s got enough Junk in tha Trunk to satisfy your cravings! Fuck her first in her phat booty, then stick it in her snatch and bust a nut in her tight mocha twat! This bubble butt beauty is the answer to every man’s chocolate fantasies…two big round ass cheeks to slap and pound on top, with a sweet black pussy spread eagle underneath! 

Flip her over, insert the vibrating bullet underneath, and enjoy thrilling vibrations in her coochie and ass. When you’re finished, cum inside either hole and never worry about knocking her up!

Where…would I even begin criticizing this? Jesus.
This one also creeps me out due to the way it fetishizes virginity, and while I’m down with most fetishes and fantasies, the problematic thing about this toy and its accompanying text/ideology is that for many people this “virgin ideal” leads to a lot of slut-shaming  (among other things). Similarly, there’s the misogyny and idealization of youth in this other toy, which bears the lovely slogan “I’m young, dumb, and want your CUM!” And while I’m actually a fan of consensual face-fucking, the images for this toy are just downright creepy. They hit super close to home re: the dehumanization of women in day-to-day experiences, and the copy is also atrocious and reeking of rape culture:

She’s all yours to enjoy and there are no rules! Best of all, she never says no to a good time because she always has her mouth full! 

Watch her eyes roll back into her head, then gag her with a taste of your man meat!  If your girl never deep throated you before, now is your chance to enjoy the thrill! (…) She won’t gag or choke, and there’s no annoying teeth to get in the way or bite.  When you’re about to cum, don’t worry about pulling out–blow a fat load right in her mouth and let her swallow!

At the expo I attended, they also had a “shemale” torso (Note: this was their offensive language, not mine–or it was something else but along these lines, like tranny or hermaphrodite)–headless with a huge penis and huge breasts, though I haven’t seen that one being sold…

 

Nasstoys

They have an entire “Latin” section. Don’t even get me started on the packaging. The fact that they have “se habla español” on their company page makes me think that perhaps these folks are in part, men of color? I’m not sure, though! Either way, it’s fucked up.

Their “Isabella Pussy” is described as “super realista pussy” that’s “siempre lista / always ready,” so we once again see gendered language and the idea of constant sexual availability, but this time with racialized connotations to boot. The other model is “Maria,” and I could see that stupid name coming from ten miles away.

The one that is most unnerving to me, though, is the one called “My First Pregnant Latina ‘Knocked Up’ Pussy.” With the history of seeing women, especially women of color, as baby-making machines; with the history of  colonial rape; with the widely-held racist notions/images that Latin@s are “welfare queens” and “promiscuous” and all have a billion babies and get pregnant at 12…this kind of shit does not sit well with me.

BUT WAIT, they also have a racially unmarket one (read: a white one). The difference is that the “Latina” toy is slightly darker and the model on the front has dark hair and a more “Latina-looking” face (which…is another post entirely) vs. the white model who is pale and blonde. *facepalm*

I’m focusing on the things that strike me the hardest as a Latin@ female, but never fear, they also have some delightfully racist dolls that target other groups, like the Mai Li Asian Love Doll, the Geisha masturbating sleeve, and the Asian Geisha Love Doll.
Men aren’t left behind entirely in this racist circus, though, since when it comes to the “lifelike dongs,” there’s a section just for those, and there are Latin, Black, and ones without an adjective which are, you guessed it, the white ones. Because white is normal, once more. Anyway. The “super realistic dongs” are all faux-clever (read: actually just racist and lazy) plays on words that insidiously dehumanize actual Latin men (little pistol, top stud, big bull, wild bull, little bull, and more). And this banner below I think can just speak for itself (especially the “ALL American” part):

 

Again, I know these toys are selling a fantasy and a product, but we need to see how our daily lives connect to this, and how the daily lives of women and people of color are affected and mirrored by these toys and the attitudes toward them. It’s not “just a toy” or “just a fantasy.” These are all created and reflected by the society in which we live, and we can’t afford to just ignore sex (and art, too, for that matter) because it’s some special snowflake (which it’s not).We need to think about what messages these toys send and why people buy them. We need to be critical consumers and media-viewers/makers.
If you want to buy fabulous toys from reputable sources, though, check out the stores in the Progressive Pleasure Club.

 

Privilege, Blackface, and the Burden of Education

(This post is coming as a result of a debate on a listserv of which I’m a member)
The first reaction to a claim of “that’s racist” or “that’s fucked up” or anything in that vein should not be kneejerk defensiveness + “I AM NOT RACIST” + “LOOK AT ALL MY MINORITY FRIENDS.” In instances where someone is calling us out, we need to listen before trying to defend ourselves
No, blackface is not an homage, even if the wearer intended it as such. Blackface and any other cultural appropriation can be deeply offensive, even under the guise or art and political commentary. Have any of you heard the “We’re a culture, not a costume” poster campaign? If not, you should check it out. A poster on Autostraddle summed it up pretty well:  “The problem with racially insensitive Halloween costumes: While people who dress up as racial stereotypes might be able to take the disguise off the day after Halloween, people who are minorities can’t. And the resonance of everything from a geisha to a terrorist stereotype persists long after the end of October.”
Another interesting discussion? This video from The View. It’s interesting because two folks “of the group being discussed” don’t agree on the matter.
My takeaway points?
  • Just because some folks in a minority group are not offended does not mean that the action is suddenly okay or shouldn’t be construed as offensive to other members of that community. In this case, just because Whoopi was fine with it doesn’t discount (and shouldn’t minimize) the point that the other person was making.
  • People can be very aware and sensitive around some issues, but entirely clueless about others. Also, let’s remember that just because someone makes fucked up OR super intelligent statements doesn’t mean they are fucked up OR super intelligent across the board. For example, in the Halloween video I was totally on board with the speaker opposing Whoopi, but in this video, I’m totally on board with Whoopi and her defense of Sasha Grey.
  • Being ignorant about an action’s cultural baggage and the stereotypes that come along with it is UNDERSTANDABLE when folks come from a position of privilege where they have never had to think about that baggage. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean the ignorance is OKAY or that it should be allowed to continue and be perpetuated. *This is an important distinction.*
  • At the same time, people with privileges shouldn’t just expect that people from oppressed groups educate them one-on-one and on-demand. This is what happens a lot, though, and it’s exhausting as fuck. For a person who’s asking to be informed about privilege, it’s just one question; for the person getting asked, it’s sometimes a constant stream of “please educate me.” And EVEN if the people come with great intentions, they need to understand that minority groups don’t have all the time/energy to educate every single person. There needs to be empathy on both sides, of course, but we need to understand how these things work so we can see where the anger comes from. There are many resources out there at our disposal. Let’s use them. Let’s also not be *afraid* to ask our friends who are part of minority groups to help us learn, but let’s understand their potential reluctance/rejection and not take it “personally.”
  • Aside from the issues around education, folks in minority communities DAILY have to deal with the systems that fuck them over. Not trying to paint this as “woe is me I’m so oppressed,” but honestly–we need to think about all the daily stressors people face around their social positions and identities so we can be more compassionate and try to understand where they’re coming from. 
Finally, here are some more resources:

The Devil and Shelley Lubben

Shelley Lubben: The sketchiness around her, her work, and her “charity” is really intense. In short, she’s an ex-porn performer turned anti-porn activist who runs a non-profit called the Pink Cross Foundation. In their own words:

Pink Cross Foundation is a faith-based IRS approved 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to reaching out to adult industry workers offering emotional, financial and transitional support. We largely focus on reaching out to the adult film industry offering support to women and men. Pink Cross Foundation also reaches out to those struggling with pornography offering education and resources to recover.

Pink Cross Foundation also works to combat community deterioration due to pornography and prostitution through attempts to educate legislation in order to enforce health and safety laws within the pornography industry, to protect adult industry workers from sexually transmitted diseases and other job-related abuses, to ameliorate the secondary negative effects of pornography on the general public and to toughen laws to protect children from accessing online pornography.

However, I hope we all know that what someone CLAIMS to do and what someone ACTUALLY does can often be two very, very different things. As a 501(c)(3), the Pink Cross Tax Returns are public record. Check out toward what the money has gone! You can turn to one of the comments on this blog post that succinctly highlights it. Also, check out these LENGTHY exposés: Part 1-2 and Part 3. Want more? Check out this and this.

When you look at the numbers, it really seems like she’s only marketing and helping HERSELF.

Personally, I have ZERO respect for this woman. Profiting from her fake desire to “help those stuck in the porn industry,” placing the blame for her mistakes and situations on the porn industry and taking ZERO responsibility herself, spreading lies and misrepresentations to further her own agenda instead of providing clear facts in context, overacting to elicit “compassion” and show “how intense” her “struggle” was? Horrible, horrible stuff. As someone in academia and the sexuality field, I think what she’s doing is damaging, irresponsible, WRONG, and utterly reprehensible.

Anyway, what this post was actually about–I wanted to let you know there’s a documentary in the works about her! Parts 1 and 2 are HERE and HERE.  P.S. RACISM ALERT. There’s a lovely bit in Part 1 of the documentary where she discusses a client who was “a crazy Chinaman” whose penis was “too small” for a condom. She goes on to say he accidentally impregnated her and how horrible it was because she didn’t want to “give birth to an ugly Asian baby.” WHAT. She also does a marvelously insulting faux Chinese accent. Check it out. Way to go, interlocking systems of oppression.

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

##########

Last-Minute Uninvitation: Shame on OSU

For those of you who haven’t heard, Tristan Taormino (of sex-ed, puckerup.com, and feminist porn fame), booked to give the keynote speech at the Oregon State University Modern Sex conference (scheduled for February 15th and 16th), has been UNINVITED from the event. The university representative who uninvited her cited her “résumé and website” as the reason.

What?

You read right folks. A speaker who was booked to give the KEYNOTE talk at a conference was uninvited for the very body of work that made her worthy of being invited in the first place. But it gets messier. Read on for the story:

On October 28, 2010, organizers of the OSU Modern Sex conference booked Taormino to give the keynote talk; they confirmed the date and agreed to fees, and Tristan’s management received a first draft of the contract on November 1. That contract was incomplete and sent back to OSU for revisions. As with many negotiations, the contract was pending as all the paperwork got done, but in late December, OSU again confirmed Tristan’s appearance and conference organizers told her manager to purchase airline tickets, for which OSU would reimburse her.

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Tognazzini spoke to a source at OSU who speculated that the University feared that when it went before the legislature in regards to future funding, legislators would use OSU’s funding of a “pornographer” on campus as ammunition to further cut budgets. This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Tognazzini, “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.”

Now, I won’t talk about the politics of caving here and why it’s a messed up situation from an ethical or sex-positive standpoint. Instead, I want to talk about this issue from the perspective of a student event-organizer at a university; I want to touch upon the process of organizing events and what that entails. Bringing in speakers isn’t easy, especially if you’re at state-sponsored institutions and trying to book people who are in some way “radical” or just not mainstream. I’m privileged because I attend a private institution that, in many ways, is very pro-student and fiercely + eloquently defends our freedom of expression and education (if the way administrators handled last year’s KinkForAll Providence, Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown, and Sex Week 2010 issues with cranky conservative critics is representative of this). For those reasons, and because of my passion for quality sexual education & frank discussion about these things, I use that privilege to the best of my ability. I organize dozens of events for my campus and the community at large (I aim to make all the events I coordinate open to the public), but I couldn’t do as much if I didn’t have the support of my peers and University.

Mind you, when I say support, I don’t mean Brown condones or accepts the things my speakers talk about, necessarily, but the University actively supports their RIGHT to say them and the importance of having a dialogue on campus–of showing different, empowering, and educational perspectives (many of which are also fun and very engaging, not just academic). Brown supports my rights as a student to be an activist, to fight for what I believe in, and to shape campus in various ways. For that, I am thankful. At the same time, I’m saddened that not everyone is in such a position. We see a case of this lack of support at OSU. From what I can see (and what I deduce), the organizers for the conference aren’t the ones who decided to last-minute cancel on Tristan; the decision came from higher-ups who feared retaliation from those who control their funds. It is this fear that drives many decisions regarding comprehensive sex-education, and while it’s a shame (and something I endeavor to help change), I can understand it. The job of a university administrator isn’t easy, and we must understand why sometimes they’re put in double-binds that force them to take actions like this one.

HOWEVER, organizers shouldn’t confirm events or speakers for which they do not have funds definitely secured (or means for securing them), especially in cases like this. Furthermore, event-planners should have enough self-awareness and knowledge of their institution’s policies to understand which speakers might be deemed “controversial” or “problematic,” know what the system could do to them (e.g. cancel an event) & why they would have reason to, and have plans to handle situations if they arise. In those cases where one is attempting to bring someone who could be criticized by the opposition and cause problems, it’s important to speak with university administrators and see what their stance is (ideally in writing!), so the ball doesn’t get rolling on something that will have to be canceled at the last minute. Still, shit happens, and sometimes universities cave, stomping all over students’ most carefully laid out plans in the process. In those situations, however, organizations (and universities) should be prepared to do SOME form of damage-control.

Honestly, my first question here would be “well, why were they planning on using the general fee dollars in the first place instead of the student activity dollars?”

While I’m not going to bash OSU for the decision to cancel Tristan’s talk (though I don’t agree with it, of course), I think it’s shameful that they’re not going to reimburse Tristan for the costs she has already incurred. While they hadn’t signed a contract, they had been in negotiations and told her everything was set, and to reserve her plane tickets. If OSU is going to uninvite her, the least the could do is reimburse her. That would at least leave them with some amount of grace and dignity; as it stands, however, OSU’s position is not one I can respect. Honestly, it’s clumsy and unprofessional. I only hope that they rethink this and make the right decision, or at least one that’s better than this one. While they may not be able to use general funds, there are many other ways to raise money, and the bodies responsible for booking Tristan should be responsible for figuring out a way to make this situation right.

Check out Tristan’s full press-release here.

***
Note from Tristan:
Don’t Let the Anti-Sex Conservatives Win!

If you support free speech and my mission of sexual empowerment, please voice your opinion about OSU’s decision to cancel my appearance at the last minute (and not reimburse me for travel expenses) to the following people. I would really appreciate your support —Tristan

Larry Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
541-737-3626 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: larry.roper@oregonstate.edu

Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
541-737-8748 (phone)
541-737-9160 (fax)
email: deanofstudents@oregonstate.edu
twitter: @deanmamta

Dr. Edward J. Ray
President
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128
541-737-4133 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: pres.office@oregonstate.edu

Young and Silly

Let’s lighten up the mood of this blog!
What better way to do that than by posting ridiculous pictures of myself when I was a kid?

Yes, folks, there WAS a time when I didn’t have boobs.

With my mom.
OH THE GRAND FINALE. OH YEAH. 
I WAS SUCH A COOL KID.
The end.

Rhode Island Hate-Crime Legislation: Gender ID/Expression Bill

My apologies for being late in putting up more Stop Porn Culture! Conference posts, but they’re coming, I promise. Right now, though, I have to talk about some even MORE local news (well, local if you’re in Rhode Island): the recent vetoing by RI Governor Carcieri* of an important bill (House Bill 7044/Senate Bill 2055) that would add “gender identity and expression**” to RI’s hate crimes statute.

“Gender identity and expression” was part of the Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law on October 28, 2009. However, without local legislation to support it, there isn’t much actual change effected.

Carcieri vetoed the measure (even though it has been passed in the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities) because he said the law already addresses actions “motivated by racial, religious, sexual orientation, gender or disability prejudice.” He obviously doesn’t understand the issue (uh, hello, having “gender” and “sexual orientation” doesn’t cover it!) and the importance of this bill, even though many have personally reached out to him and his associates to educate him, so I hope that this blog post educates you. Furthermore, I hope it inspires you to action.

What does this bill do?

  1. Includes information about gender ID/expression in the free, mandatory training for police officers so they can better identify, respond to, and report all incidents of hate crimes
  2. Expands the definition of a hate-crime (adds gender identity and expression)
  3. Requires statistics on crimes motivated by gender identity/expression-related bias to be kept by the RI police

This bill does NOT enhance penalties (read: it does not mean a longer jail sentence for someone who commits this type of crime).

Whom does this bill help?

This bill would help protect EVERYONE in Rhode Island who could possibly be attacked due to a perception about their appearance as it relates to their gender. The people who are usually most at risk of being targeted/attacked due to their gender identity and/or expression are transgender and non-conformingly-gendered individuals, but this bill helps ALL of us. So, honestly, if you don’t care about queer rights, at least care about yourself and the folks in your life.

Why is this bill important?

As it stands, we CANNOT GATHER INFORMATION about these types of crimes, and that data is crucial in helping us tackle the issue. It would, in the long-run, help us create a safer, more just place for all people. Furthermore, many “gay-bashings” are actually committed due to a person’s gender performance or perceived identity; it’s more likely someone will be harassed for not conforming to gender norms (e.g. effeminate man in dress) than for actually BEING queer in their sexual orientation (these don’t have clear visible markers). Thus, we need to address this as an important part of hate-crime legislation.

What is the opposition doing?

Rallying around this veto as a success. The Family Research Council’s president, Tony Perkins said:

“Given the challenges facing America, it’s troubling that any legislature would invest time and taxpayer monies to consider such a superfluous agenda-driven maneuver, much less pass it through both Houses. In vetoing the measures, Gov. Carcieri rightly chose to tend to the serious business of governing Rhode Island and rejected those who seek to use government resources against anyone who would oppose their radical agenda.”

Oh, right. Harassment and violence against people due to their gender presentation and/or identity is not SERIOUS ENOUGH.

Another thing the opposition is doing? Making it all an issue about gay marriage. For some reason, ANYTHING that people to do further LGBTQ rights and protect the dignity of all citizens gets chalked up to “The Gay Agenda.” Also, somehow, it’s ALL about marriage (and/or making everyone gay, “corrupting the youth,” “devaluing the family,” or some other ridiculous thing).

More examples of such idiocy? Focus on the Family Action’s CitizenLink.com quotes Christopher Plante as saying:

“From NOM’s perspective, we were deeply concerned about this bill, because we have seen similar (hate crime) legislation – in places like Connecticut and Vermont – lead directly to the imposition of same-sex marriage. Laws like this are stepping stones to homosexual marriage. They are an erosion of traditional family values.”

So what can you do now?

  • Tell your friends about it. EDUCATE PEOPLE. Spread the word.
  • Attend a press conference that will happen next week at the RI State-House. It’ll be either July 8th or 9th (Thursday or Friday) in the 1:00-2:00pm  range. I’ll update this post as soon as I have more information.
  • Get in touch with people/groups that are working on this (and related stuff) and MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
    • Victor Ellingsen: Lifelines Rhode Island (victor@lifelinesri.org)
    • Jodi Glass: Hate Crimes RI (contact@hatecrimeri.org; jglass53@aol.com)
    • Susan Heroux: Queer Action Rhode Island (susanheroux@me.com)
    • Jaye Watts: Youth Pride Inc. (jaye@youthprideri.org)
    • Providence Equality Action Committee (info@peac.us.com)
    • Marriage Equality Rhode Island (marriageequality.rhodeisland@gmail.com)

*Who is Governor Carcieri (as it relates to LGBTQ rights)? Carcieri, whose term ends in January, has a controversial history with LGBT voters. He gave a speech at an antigay group’s fund-raiser saying he did not believe marriage was a civil right. In 2009 he vetoed a bill giving domestic partners the right to make funeral arrangements for one another, though the general assembly overrode the veto. He has also pledged to turn down any marriage equality bills, despite several of Rhode Island’s neighboring states passing such legislation in recent years (source: The Advocate).

**Gender Identity or Expression, as defined already in RI General Law 11-24-2.1, “includes a person’s actual or perceived gender, as well as a person’s gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression; whether or not that gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s sex at birth.”

SPC Series Part II: Purpose & The Rules of Engagement

(Before reading this, check out SPC Series Part I: Introduction to Stop Porn Culture! Conference)

So what was I, a porn-positive, pro-sex-worker rights individual, doing at an anti-porn conference? I wanted to:

  • Listen. I wanted to hear about anti-porn thought straight from the horse’s mouth. Or, in this case, horses’ mouths; there were many presenters and their views were not 100% aligned with each other’s. I not only wanted to learn what they thought, but how they presented it, and why they thought that way. What better way to gain insights into all this, and what type of people attended this type of conference than by attending the conference myself? What better way to understand “their” tactics and thought processes than by walking among them and taking notes? What better way to address their concerns than to know exactly what those are, and the nuances of their production and dissemination? SPC promotes something similar from their end (though it obviously sounds less interest in dialogue than just learning about “the enemy,” but still)
    • “This isn’t for everyone, but it can be helpful to surf some porn sites every now and then to stay up on the pornographers’ latest tricks. Reading Adult Video News online (avn.com) and other news sites about the industry (xbiz.com) is helpful in understanding pornography.” 
  • Humanize “my side” and present at least one good face of sex/porn-positive activists and activism. Similarly, I wanted to humanize the anti-porn activists, because too often there is intense mudslinging at faceless enemies and we forget that, at the end of the day, these are all PEOPLE–individuals with lives, ambitions, and pressures. Need I remind people about the hate-mongering and vicious bulletins Donna M. Hughes (one of the presenters), Margaret Brooks, and Melanie Shapiro (both in attendance at the con) put out about Maymay and my/our events? They dehumanized us, and it was also easy to dehumanize them because all we could see was that they were The Bad Ones. I think if we all actively thought about our humanity more often, we would feel more empathy and there would be less douchebaggery out there from BOTH sides. Once someone can connect faces to a movement, faces they might relate to on some level, it makes it harder to easily and blindly spread hate + vitriol (not that it doesn’t happen, OF COURSE). It’s not about respecting other’s hatred; it’s about respecting others as human, and respecting their positive aspects (because no one is 100% bad). And if someone calls me naive for saying this, I will fucking scream; being respectful and realistically optimistic is not naive, so stop being an asshole kthxbai. Also, again, SPC has a “tip” regarding presentation-etiquette that I find relevant regarding this (emphasis mine):
    • “For the discussion after the slide show, come into the audience if possible so that you can stand near the questioner, looking the person in the eye and acknowledging them. Listen attentively to each question, even if you’ve heard it a thousand times.”
  • Ask insightful questions and correct factual inaccuracies if I spotted them & had the info to back it up. I wanted to make people at the conference THINK, and at the very least be slightly jolted if I asked a question they hadn’t thought about before. This purpose wasn’t entirely fulfilled because I only attended the second day, which was less lecture-heavy and apparently less tense, but I did speak my mind a few key times.
  • Give some semblance of a voice to pro-porn ideals in the midst of all the anti-porn people by speaking up. I wanted to show them that there were people who disagreed (& how), but were nonetheless interested in learning, interested in dialogue, interested in fostering some sort of understanding while still having their own agenda, values, and goals. Maybe some would even be inspired to attend OUR events as well! One can only hope.
  • Find the places of convergence and swim through the sludge to get at the ACTUAL concerns being clouded by thoughts of “porn is evil” so we could somehow address those and hopefully effect change regarding them. What concepts did both sides talk about most? What ideas did we share? Where could we build bridges? And at the same time, where did we have seemingly irreconcilable splits (and why)? Between this and listening, I think those were my main goals because they would be the most effective later.

What did I NOT do at the conference?

  • Try to radically change the minds of seasoned, extremely-anti-porn activists. 
  • Be rude! I didn’t name-call, glare at, condescend, or otherwise mistreat anyone.
  • Get into heated arguments.

To elaborate upon these points:

Some folks accused me of wasting my time trying to change the views of “leading anti-sex-worker extremists,” but that wasn’t my point. I wasn’t there to somehow magically & forcefully change their minds, especially when so many of the most “notable” presenters at the Stop Porn Culture! Conference have made careers out of their anti-porn stance. I was there for the MODERATES, for the audience, for those who have little information. (Sure, if you’re already attending this conference, it’s more likely that you’re leaning in the anti-porn direction, but still. There were definitely people there seeking information, who weren’t hardcore anti-porn folks) Y’see, this is another place where the pro/anti-porn people converge as well: we’re all out to get the moderates. It sounds predatory, but it’s true.

I’ve heard it countless times in both camps; we are not going to sway the loudest, most intense people from the opposition, but we can definitely sway those in the middle, or those seeking information. We may not be able to change the views of “leading anti-porn activists,” but the thing is MOST PEOPLE AREN’T LEADING ANTI-PORN ACTIVISTS. Most people are normal folks, who may or may not yet have opinions on “the porn debates,” but haven’t devoted their entire lives to it. These are the people we can inform and “win over” through mature activism instead of blind fury that only serves to alienate others and give credence to the anti-porn extremists who vilify us.

How do we engage with these people, though? The first thing we have to do is NOT BE ASSHOLES. I fucking hate it when people are rude and condescending. Thus, I strive to NOT do that to other people, and call them out if/when I see them doing it to others. If I’m ever condescending, it’s because I’m purposefully trying to be cruel, and I’m not particularly proud of that. Anyway. At the con, I firmly stood my ground, looked at people in the eye, smiled, and engaged. It’s bizarre to be in a room where most people have some views that are radically different from one’s own (esp. when they regard one’s entire LIFE and even personal safety), yes, but it’s not an impossible thing to tackle, especially with a support network. I had the fortune of not being personally disrespected (aside from 2 incidents with Donna M. Hughes, which I will blog about later, but that wasn’t surprising at all), and I found no excuse to be anything but respectful back (not that I was looking for one in the first place).

It’s not about “turning the other cheek” and taking violence with a smile, just begging for more. It’s instead about not resorting to the shady tactics of those we consider our enemies and STILL acting positively to further our goals. It’s about not being rude, about not debasing oneself to the practices we revile in others. It’s about minimizing harm and striving for ideal situations of engagement. Again: it’s not about being NICE or KIND or FRIENDLY; it’s about *NOT* being an asshole. The first demands an action; the other demands that one restrains from an action. 

To those that CAN be friendly with “the enemy,” more power to you. Like Rachel D. said, those who can be kind, should, but not everyone is required to do so. I, personally, am on the fence re: how I deal with “my enemies.” First of all, I don’t draw such neat lines, boxing some people as “enemies” and others as “allies.” I usually just draw big Venn diagrams, where everyone is a circle, and I can find our places of overlap/difference and then act based on those, not the entire circles, y’know? (Sounds kinda like “hate the sin, not the sinner.”) Secondly, I’m torn because I find pleasure in being kind to “mostly enemies” because I feel it’s a slap in the face to them and their ilk, and that it’s embarrassing for them in the eyes of other people. However, at the same time, I don’t want to even engage with them sometimes, because it’s hard to be positive and optimistic when people are threatening your life, livelihood, and entire…well, everything! Still, I usually strive for positive engagement and know that being a hostile little fuck won’t get me anywhere with them.

On the SPC website, I found a particularly pertinent tip. While they’re giving the tip so people can effectively present one of their antiporn slideshows, I think it applies to any person giving a presentation about which they feel passionate (emphasis mine):

It is important not to come across as overly hostile or aggressive, both while narrating the slides and when answering questions. It’s understandable that we feel angry and sad when we see these images, and it’s OK to let the audience see that. But remember that audience members (especially women) are in a very vulnerable place seeing these images for the first time. They need to feel like you have things under control. Also, by keeping your own emotions in check, you allow them more space to experience their own feelings and reactions.

I repeat: it’s understandable to feel angry and sad. Heck, it’s understandable to feel so utterly outraged and upset that you want to smash things/people with a hammer. However, it is my belief that we should strive to channel strong emotions (as they are definitely important catalysts!) into more practical and useful weapons for change. Furthermore, to quote Emma: “We need to be strong, mature advocates of our viewpoint. Disagreement doesn’t mean we can take others lightly.

Once again: I’m not against ANGER or people’s personal feelings, but I *am* against letting that anger result in vicious attacks that don’t do anything but alienate others, both on “our side” and “the other side.” I think it’s useless to go into a conference (or general situation) swinging the battle-axes. We need to listen and engage first so we can properly educate, demystify, and ACTUALLY create some positive change. We need to make our “enemies” respect us as people too, and hopefully get them to engage in the same way with us.

I think it DOES harm our causes of promoting a healthier sexuality, more open communication, sex-workers’ rights, gender-justice, size-positivity, anti-racism, and all other such worthwhile movements when we act with condescension, disrespect, and immaturity. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for humor, but  that we cannot wave away other people’s concerns or comments with sarcasm and jokes. I’d feel insulted if someone dismissed MY points of view and didn’t engage with them, so I strive to avoid making others feel that way as well.

Finally, we must simultaneously remember our insignificance AND our power. Our actions have the potential to ripple off into many individual people’s lives, and that’s definitely not something to be underestimated. Also, that just because we don’t engage with “the enemy” doesn’t mean they magically disappear. Just because we close our eyes or turn our backs, it doesn’t mean their opinions go away. Thus, instead of ignoring them (for whatever reason), I feel we have the imperative to face them head-on.

Stay tuned for Part III!

P.S. More on this later, but I want to highlight early on that we DID find spaces for dialogue. One of the presenters commented–not just to us, but on her Twitter and the Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation Facebook–that she “also had the chance to sit and speak to the folks from yesterday who were live tweeting. really productive and positive conversations and hope that it helped in keeping options for dialogue open. Understand alot more how they felt as individuals in a room full of people where they were unsure of how they would be treated. nice to see the tweets today taking a different tone.”