What Happened in 2012?

If you know me in any capacity, you know that while I’m not a mathematician, I’m a huge fan of data and numbers. I like my work, in as much as possible/necessary, to be data-informed…and the idea of spreadsheets, progress reports, and info compilation (while at times tedious) gets me excited. I’m also a huge fan of calendars and productivity apps, so I organize my time with almost religious zeal on things like BusyCal.

Thus, it must come as no surprise that I usually try to do “retrospective” posts every year in some way, to prepare for my New Year’s Resolutions and to figure out the bigger picture of the work I’ve done…so here we go!

The first bit of this year, I finished up working at the senior center doing digital literacy instruction. I kept working with The CSPH and Sojourner House, and remained involved with things like ONARIASLSHEEC, and a bunch of coalitions. At the end of the year, I was brought on as an off-site sex educator for Good Vibrations and as one of the folks who will be doing work with Partners in Sex Ed in 2013.

So what are some of the numerical breakdowns of my constant running around?

  • 20 conferences/summits (some of which I presented at)
  • 4 organizational retreats
  • 3 concerts
  • 9 states/territories/districts (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Louisiana)

Teaching-wise, what does that look like for 2012?

  • 3 four-session educational groups–one at an adult learning facility and two at a mental health and substance abuse center. (I also did drop-in presentations about sexual health at ongoing support groups for domestic violence issues, including one specifically centered on Native American women).
  • 34 presentations with a total around 885 faces at them (not counting the aforementioned groups or my work with digital literacy, though, because I didn’t want to be bothered to pull those numbers).

I spoke at high-schools about sexuality, orientation, safer sex, healthy relationships, and dating. I went to a senior citizen housing complex to talk about sexual health and relationships. I spoke at universities about sex toys + technology, anal pleasure, and eco-sexuality + green sex toys. I spoke to professionals at other organizations/conferences about domestic violence issues and taught them how to acknowledge and incorporate pleasure into their work, how to reduce sexual stigma, and how to make the connection between prevention of HIV and domestic violence.

Finally, aside from formal conferences/summits, I testified at the statehouse on reproductive health bills, spoke on a panel at Libertalia about uniting the feminist and queer liberation struggles, co-coordinated an event for community dialogue on racism/art (that brought in like 75 people!), and spoke at an Occupy Sexism rally on gender/activism issues. I can’t even begin to count how many trainings/educational events I attended, or how many events I participated in and/or tabled at…

Some firsts/other awesome things?

  • Got certified as a qualified HIV test counselor in the state of Rhode Island
  • Bought an iPad
  • Was appointed co-chair of Healthy Youth RI
  • Got frisky with a Loki cosplayer at a conference
  • Did my first teleclass about Sex Week with Reid, Megan, and Courtney
  • Was interviewed on the radio on the Laura Ingraham show so I could debate the merits of Sex Weeks on college campuses
  • Visited the Museum of Sex in New York
  • Made Hulk-inspired pasties at The CSPH
  • Got quoted in The New York Times talking about Sex Week
  • Went river-tubing with friends on the Farmington River in CT near a place called Satan’s Kingdom Recreation Area
  • Wrote a pamphlet on the connection between sexual health and domestic violence
  • Ran a wellness fair for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
  • Coordinated a contest for high-schoolers to get their communities talking about dating violence and relationships
  • Was interviewed on Huffington Post Live to talk about polyamory (also on the show: the guy from Modern Poly, Ian, Reid, and Allison Moon)
  • Went to Wakefield, stayed at a waterfront cabin with friends/partners, and visited the AWESOME Crazy Burger in South County
  • Consumed EVERY episode I could find of Glee, Mad Men, and Once Upon a Time.
  • Got trained on the super secret Wyman TOP curriculum

And even with all that, I also managed to spend time with many loved ones, watch a ton of movies, and get some semblance of sleep. I wonder what 2013 will bring!

The Pointy, Thuddy, and Zappy: How Legal Are They?

So remember that one time I got stopped at TSA for accidentally bringing a throwing knife (like the image below) in my purse? (They confiscated the beautiful thing and I might get a fine in the mail…? Speaking of which, if you bring in dangerous items in your carry-ons through TSA the fines range from $250 or so up to $1,500 depending on mitigating/aggravating factors). You better bet I spent the rest of my time at the gate before my flight looking up the legality of various items/kink toys on my iPhone because I didn’t want that to happen again. I encourage y’all to check your local laws as well, so you don’t get screwed over due to ignorance.

As a primer, here’s the info for 3 types of toys for the 3 states I most frequent:

Knives:

 
Generally: switchblades, bowie knives, spring-loaded knives, gravity knives, butterfly knives, double edged knives = illegal. These are the “worrisome” knives because they’re easy to pull out one-handed and cause mayhem with (so the issue is drawing capability). Also on this list? Ballistic knives–ones where the blade can be thrown/ejected from the knife and onto/into a thing/person.

  • In MA: You can own any, but the type of blade you carry (read: carry on your person, or carry under your control in a vehicle) is the one they care about. In certain areas, there’s a particular blade length max., too, but there’s no MA-wide one. For example, as per the ordinances in Boston (specifically, Chapter 16, Section 45), people can’t carry knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches except when hunting, fishing, or “any employment, trade or lawful recreational or culinary activity which customarily involves the carrying or use of any type of knife” and subsequently, when going to/from those activities. Also it’s okay to carry a bigger knife “[if it is] being transported directly to or from a place of purchase, sharpening, or repair, and if packaged in such a manner as not to allow easy access to the knife while it is being transported.” The fines are no more than $300 per offense.

Here’s the text from the penal code: “(b) Whoever, except as provided by law, carries on his person, or carries on his person or under his control in a vehicle, any stiletto, dagger or a device or case which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position, any ballistic knife, or any knife with a detachable blade capable of being propelled by any mechanism, dirk knife, any knife having a double-edged blade, or a switch knife, or any knife having an automatic spring release device by which the blade is released from the handle, having a blade of over one and one-half inches […] shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two and one-half years nor more than five years in the state prison, or for not less than six months nor more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction, except that, if the court finds that the defendant has not been previously convicted of a felony, he may be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars or by imprisonment for not more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction.”

  • In NY: The state itself doesn’t have max. length, and you can pretty much possess any knife that’s not one of those “generally bad/illegal knives” I mentioned earlier (e.g. switchblades). Possession of other knives is only illegal if you have a “lawful blade” with intent to harm, but law officials COULD presume the latter just based on possession, so it’s messy. In NYC, specifically, (Chapter 10, Section 33), “it shall be unlawful for any person to carry on his or her person or have in such person’s possession, in any  public  place,  street,  or park any knife which has a blade length of four inches or more,” though they do have provisions for recreational/employment-related knife use and stuff.

Here’s the text from the NY penal code: (1) He or she possesses any […] gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, […]; or (2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another” 

  • In RI: The maximum blade length for wearing or carrying any knife concealed is 3 inches (measuring from the end of the handle where the blade is attached to the end of the blade). The “no-no” knives CAN be owned if there’s no intent to use them unlawfully against another, but it could get messy trying to prove that (in either direction) in a court of law.

Here’s the text from the RI law (Section 11-47-42): “(a) No person shall […] with intent to use unlawfully against another, carry or possess a dagger, dirk, stiletto, sword-in-cane, bowie knife, or other similar weapon designed to cut and stab another, nor shall any person wear or carry concealed upon his person, any of the above-mentioned instruments or weapons, or any razor, or knife of any description having a blade of more than three (3) inches in length measuring from the end of the handle where the blade is attached to the end of the blade, or other weapon of like kind or description. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, and the weapon so found shall be confiscated.”

Sap gloves/weighted knuckle gloves:

  • In MA: It seems you can own them, but not carry them anywhere. They don’t mention sap gloves by that specific name, but they talk about it being illegal to carry “metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance which could be put to the same use with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles” and “any similar device made from any other substance or a cestus or similar material weighted with metal or other substance and worn on the hand.”
  • In NY: Sap gloves aren’t specifically mentioned as “unlawful weapons” by state law, though they do mention the illegal nature of [possessing] plastic knuckles and metal knuckles, so…? Maybe illegal?
  • In RI: Possessing and carrying are both illegal, as is the “attempt to use against another.”

Stun guns:

  • In MA: Possession is illegal (source).

Whoever violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than 6 months nor more than 21/2 years, or by both such fine and imprisonment. A law enforcement officer may arrest without a warrant any person whom he has probable cause to believe has violated this section.

  • In NY: In the penal code, possession of an “electronic dart gun” (the ones with a bit that shoots out to stun) or “electronic stun gun” (the ones you need to press against the person) is illegal and would be classified as possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a class A misdemeanor.
  • In RI: Possessing and carrying are both illegal, as is the “attempt to use against another.” Same penalties as with the knives. The one I had (but lost!) looks like the image above, but it was gold on the outside and black on the inside.

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.

 

Talking About The Taboo – Conference 10/10

Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health to hold its 2nd Annual Conference,
“Talking about the Taboo”.
Pawtucket, RI September 20th, 2010 –
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (The CSPH) will be holding its second annual conference titled “Talking about the Taboo: Discussing Difficult Issues in Human Sexuality” on October 10th at 1:00 pm at its location in the historic Grant building in downtown Pawtucket, RI. The CSPH is the first sexuality resource and information center on the East Coast.
What: This conference represents the outcome of a battle to open the CSPH dating back to September of 2009. The CSPH was originally denied permission to open after a controversial zoning decision made by the Pawtucket City council, stating that the Grant building was not zoned to allow businesses of and educational nature. After a media frenzy and intervention from the ACLU, the city reversed their decision and allowed the CSPH to open in February of the following year. The “Talking about the Taboo” conference will be the first legal event the CSPH will hold in Pawtucket.
Through this conference the CSPH will provide sexuality education to adults in a safe and open environment. By bringing together sexuality and the pleasure, education, advocacy and medical worlds, the CSPH will take subjects that are traditionally “taboo” and illuminate them, showing that exploring taboo topics is necessary for providing basic education, and can be discussed in thought-provoking ways.
When: October 10th, from 1:00pm-5:00pm.
Where: 250 Main Street, The Grant Building, Pawtucket, RI 02860
Who: The “Talking about the Taboo” conference will include panels with sexuality specialists such as Dr. Charlie Glickman and Dr. Logan Levkoff, alongside nationally known authors and bloggers such as Sinclair Sexsmith and Audacia Ray. There will also be vendors and local- and national-level community organizations exhibiting 100% safer sex products to conference attendees.
Why: The CSPH is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Beginning with this conference the CSPH will offer educational discussion groups, conduct sexuality studies, and hold classes both for professionals and for the general public.

For more information, please visit the CSPH’s website at http://thecsph.org or contact Ms. Andelloux by phone at 401-345-8685 or email at thecsph@gmail.com

Edenfantasys Fucks Up

So this post by my dear friend maymay basically speaks for itself.

The short short short summary? Edenfantasys is trying to skew its ranking on the Internet by using shady practices. This is not good, especially from a company with the tag-line “the sex shop you can trust.” You should read up on it and reconsider your support of their business. Personally, I still plan to use their website to learn about toys, since they have THE best website re: toys and specs and user-friendly info, but I’m definitely buying my things elsewhere. A good alternative for purchases? Fascinations! Or Good Vibrations. There are probably more, too, so do your research. It’s also a great idea to reach manufacturers directly, too. 🙂

As one of the people who went over maymay’s post before publication, I highly stress the importance of checking it out. There have been other controversies with Edenfantasys recently (and not-so-recently), so for more information on those, check out the following links:

Now, onto the show:


Edenfantasys’s unethical technology 
is a self-referential black hole


A few nights ago, I received an email from Editor of EdenFantasys’s SexIs Magazine, Judy Cole, asking me to modify this Kink On Tap brief I published that cites Lorna D. Keach’s writing. Judy asked me to “provide attribution and a link back to” SexIs Magazine. An ordinary enough request soon proved extraordinarily unethical when I discovered that EdenFantasys has invested a staggering amount of time and money to develop and implement a technology platform that actively denies others the courtesy of link reciprocity, a courtesy on which the ethical Internet is based.

While what they’re doing may not be illegal, EdenFantasys has proven itself to me to be an unethical and unworthy partner, in business or otherwise. Its actions are blatantly hypocritical, as I intend to show in detail in this post. Taking willful and self-serving advantage of those not technically savvy is a form of inexcusable oppression, and none of us should tolerate it from companies who purport to be well-intentioned resources for a community of sex-positive individuals.

For busy or non-technical readers, see the next section, Executive Summary, to quickly understand what EdenFantasys is doing, why it’s unethical, and how it affects you whether you’re a customer, a contributor, or a syndication partner. For the technical reader, the Technical Details section should provide ample evidence in the form of a walkthrough and sample code describing the unethical Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) techniques EdenFantasys, aka. Web Merchants, Inc., is engaged in. For anyone who wants to read further, I provide an Editorial section in which I share some thoughts about what you can do to help combat these practices and bring transparency and trust—not the sabotage of trust EdenFantasys enacts—to the market.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Internet sex toy retailer Web Merchants, Inc., which bills itself as the “sex shop you can trust” and does business under the name EdenFantasys, has implemented technology on their websites that actively interferes with contributors’ content, intercepts outgoing links, and alters republished content so that links in the original work are redirected to themselves. Using techniques widely acknowledged as unethical by Internet professionals and that are arguably in violation of major search engines’ policies, EdenFantasys’s publishing platform has effectively outsourced the task of “link farming” (a questionable Search Engine Marketing [SEM] technique) to sites with which they have “an ongoing relationship,” such as AlterNet.org, other large news hubs, and individual bloggers’ blogs.

Articles published on EdenFantasys websites, such as the “community” website SexIs Magazine, contain HTML crafted to look like links, but aren’t. When visited by a typical human user, a program written in JavaScript and included as part of the web pages is automatically downloaded and intercepts clicks on these “link-like” elements, fetching their intended destination from the server and redirecting users there. Due to the careful and deliberate implementation, the browser’s status bar is made to appear as though the link is legitimate, and that a destination is provided as expected.

For non-human visitors, including automated search engine indexing programs such as Googlebot, the “link” remains non-functional, making the article a search engine’s dead-end or “orphan” page whose only functional links are those whose destination is EdenFantasys’s own web presence. This makes EdenFantasys’ website(s) a self-referential black hole that provides no reciprocity for contributors who author content, nor for any website ostensibly “linked” to from article content. At the same time, EdenFantasys editors actively solicit inbound links from individuals and organizations through “link exchanges” and incentive programs such as “awards” and “free” sex toys, as well as syndicating SexIs Magazine content such that the content is programmatically altered in order to create multiple (real) inbound links to EdenFantasys’s websites after republication on their partner’s media channels.

How EdenFantasys’s unethical practices have an impact on you

Regardless of who you are, EdenFantasys’s unethical practices have a negative impact on you and, indeed, on the Internet as a whole.

See for yourself: First, log out of any and all EdenFantasys websites or, preferably, use a different browser, or even a proxy service such as the Tor network for greater anonymity. Due to EdenFantasys’s technology, you cannot trust that what you are seeing on your screen is what someone else will see on theirs. Next, temporarily disable JavaScript (read instructions for your browser) and then try clicking on the links in SexIs Magazine articles. If clicking the intended off-site “links” doesn’t work, you know that your article’s links are being hidden from Google and that your content is being used for shady practices. In contrast, with JavaScript still disabled, navigate to another website (such as this blog), try clicking on the links, and note that the links still work as intended.

Here’s another verifiable example from the EdenFantasys site showing that many other parts of Web Merchants, Inc. pages, not merely SexIs Magazine, are affected as well: With JavaScript disabled, visit the EdenFantasys company page on Aslan Leather (note, for the sake of comparison, the link in this sentence will work, even with JavaScript off). Try clicking on the link in the “Contact Information” section in the lower-right hand column of the page (shown in the screenshot, below). This “link” should take you to the Aslan Leather homepage but in fact it does not. So much for that “link exchange.”

  • If you’re an EdenFantasys employee, people will demand answers from you regarding the unethical practices of your (hopefully former) employer. While you are working for EdenFantasys, you’re seriously soiling your reputation in the eyes of ethical Internet professionals. Ignorance is no excuse for the lack of ethics on the programmers’ part, and it’s a shoddy one for everyone else; you should be aware of your company’s business practices because you represent them and they, in turn, represent you.
  • If you’re a partner or contributor (reviewer, affiliate, blogger), while you’re providing EdenFantasys with inbound links or writing articles for them and thereby propping them up higher in search results, EdenFantasys is not returning the favor to you (when they are supposed to be doing so). Moreover, they’re attaching your handle, pseudonym, or real name directly to all of their link farming (i.e., spamming) efforts. They look like they’re linking to you and they look like their content is syndicated fairly, but they’re actually playing dirty. They’re going the extra mile to ensure search engines like Google do not recognize the links in articles you write. They’re trying remarkably hard to make certain that all roads lead to EdenFantasys, but none lead outside of it; no matter what the “link,” search engines see it as stemming from and leading to EdenFantasys. The technically savvy executives of Web Merchants, Inc. are using you without giving you a fair return on your efforts. Moreover, EdenFantasys is doing this in a way that preys upon people’s lack of technical knowledge—potentially your own as well as your readership’s. Do you want to keep doing business with people like that?
  • If you’re a customer, you’re monetarily supporting a company that essentially amounts to a glorified yet subtle spammer. If you hate spam, you should hate the unethical practices that lead to spam’s perpetual reappearance, including the practices of companies like Web Merchants, Inc. EdenFantasys’s unethical practices may not be illegal, but they are unabashedly a hair’s width away from it, just like many spammers’. If you want to keep companies honest and transparent, if you really want a “sex shop you can trust,” this is relevant to you because EdenFantasys is not it. If you want to purchase from a retailer that truly strives to offer a welcoming, trustworthy community for those interested in sex positivity and sexuality, pay close attention and take action. For ideas about what you can do, please see the “What you can do” section, below.
  • If you’ve never heard about EdenFantasys before, but you care about a fair and equal-opportunity Internet, this is relevant to you because what EdenFantasys is doing takes advantage of non-tech-savvy people in order to slant the odds of winning the search engine game in their favor. They could have done this fairly, and I personally believe that they would have succeeded. Their sites are user-friendly, well-designed, and solidly implemented. However, they chose to behave maliciously by not providing credit where credit is due, failing to follow through on agreements with their own community members and contributors, and sneakily utilizing other publishers’ web presences to play a very sad zero-sum game that they need not have entered in the first place. In the Internet I want, nobody takes malicious advantage of those less skilled than they are because their own skill should speak for itself. Isn’t that the Internet and, indeed, the future you want, too?

TECHNICAL DETAILS

What follows is a technical exploration of the way the EdenFantasys technology works. It is my best-effort evaluation of the process in as much detail as I can manage within strict self-imposed time constraints. If any of this information is incorrect, I’d welcome any and all clarifications provided by the EdenFantasys CTO and technical team in an appropriately transparent, public, and ethical manner. (You’re welcome—nay, encouraged—to leave a comment.)

Although I’m unconvinced that EdenFantasys understands this, it is the case that honesty is the best policy—especially on the Internet, where everyone has the power of “View source.”

The “EF Framework” for obfuscating links

Article content written by contributors on SexIs Magazine pages is published after all links are replaced with a <span> element bearing the class of linklike and a unique id attribute value. This apparently happens across any and all content published by Web Merchants, Inc.’s content management system, but I’ll be focusing on Lorna D. Keach’s post entitled SexFeed:Anti-Porn Activists Now Targeting Female Porn Addicts for the sake of example.

These fake links look like this in HTML:

And according to Theresa Flynt, vice president of marketing for Hustler video, <span class="linklike" ID="EFLink_68034_fe64d2">female consumers make up 56% of video sales.</span>

This originally published HTML is what visitors without JavaScript enabled (and what search engine indexers) see when they access the page. Note that the <span> is not a real link, even though it is made to look like one. (See Figure 1; click it to enlarge.)

Figure 1:

In a typical user’s browser, when this page is loaded, a JavaScript program is executed that mutates these “linklike” elements into <a> elements, retaining the “linklike” class and the unique id attribute values. However, no value is provided in the href (link destination) attribute of the <a> element. See Figure 2:

Figure 2:

The JavaScript program is downloaded in two parts from the endpoint at http://cdn3.edenfantasys.com/Scripts/Handler/jsget.ashx. The first part, retrieved in this example by accessing the URI at http://cdn3.edenfantasys.com/Scripts/Handler/jsget.ashx?i=jq132_cnf_jdm12_cks_cm_ujsn_udm_stt_err_jsdm_stul_ael_lls_ganl_jqac_jtv_smg_assf_agrsh&v_14927484.12.0, loads the popular jQuery JavaScript framework as well as custom code called the “EF Framework”.

The EF Framework contains code called the DBLinkHandler, an object that parses the <span> “linklike” elements (called “pseudolinks” in the EF Framework code) and retrieves the real destination. The entirety of the DBLinkHandler object is shown in code listing 1, below. Note the code contains a function called handle that performs the mutation of the <span> “linklike” elements (seen primarily on lines 8 through 16) and, based on the prefix of each elements’ id attribute value, two key functions (BuildUrlForElement and GetUrlByUrlID, whose signatures are on lines 48 and 68, respectively) interact to set up the browser navigation after responding to clicks on the fake links.

var DBLinkHandler = {
pseudoLinkPrefix: "EFLink_",
generatedAHrefPrefix: "ArtLink_",
targetBlankClass: "target_blank",
jsLinksCssLinkLikeClass: "linklike",
handle: function () {
var pseudolinksSpans = $("span[id^='" + DBLinkHandler.pseudoLinkPrefix + "']");
pseudolinksSpans.each(function () {
var psLink = $(this);
var cssClass = $.trim(psLink.attr("class"));
var target = "";
var id = psLink.attr("id").replace(DBLinkHandler.pseudoLinkPrefix, DBLinkHandler.generatedAHrefPrefix);
var href = $("<a></a>").attr({
id: id,
href: ""
}).html(psLink.html());
if (psLink.hasClass(DBLinkHandler.targetBlankClass)) {
href.attr({
target: "_blank"
});
cssClass = $.trim(cssClass.replace(DBLinkHandler.targetBlankClass, ""))
}
if (cssClass != "") {
href.attr({
"class": cssClass
})
}
psLink.before(href).remove()
});
var pseudolinksAHrefs = $("a[id^='" + DBLinkHandler.generatedAHrefPrefix + "']");
pseudolinksAHrefs.live("mouseup", function (event) {
DBLinkHandler.ArtLinkClick(this)
});
pseudolinksSpans = $("span[id^='" + DBLinkHandler.pseudoLinkPrefix + "']");
pseudolinksSpans.live("click", function (event) {
if (event.button != 0) {
return
}
var psLink = $(this);
var url = DBLinkHandler.BuildUrlForElement(psLink, DBLinkHandler.pseudoLinkPrefix);
if (!psLink.hasClass(DBLinkHandler.targetBlankClass)) {
RedirectTo(url)
} else {
OpenNewWindow(url)
}
})
},
BuildUrlForElement: function (psLink, prefix) {
var psLink = $(psLink);
var sufix = psLink.attr("id").toString().substring(prefix.length);
var id = (sufix.indexOf("_") != -1) ? sufix.substring(0, sufix.indexOf("_")) : sufix;
var url = DBLinkHandler.GetUrlByUrlID(id);
if (url == "") {
url = EF.Constants.Links.Url
}
var end = sufix.substring(sufix.indexOf("_") + 1);
var anchor = "";
if (end.indexOf("_") != -1) {
anchor = "#" + end.substring(0, end.lastIndexOf("_"))
}
url += anchor;
return url
},
ArtLinkClick: function (psLink) {
var url = DBLinkHandler.BuildUrlForElement(psLink, DBLinkHandler.generatedAHrefPrefix);
$(psLink).attr("href", url)
},
GetUrlByUrlID: function (UrlID) {
var url = "";
UrlRequest = $.ajax({
type: "POST",
url: "/LinkLanguage/AjaxLinkHandling.aspx",
dataType: "json",
async: false,
data: {
urlid: UrlID
},
cache: false,
success: function (data) {
if (data.status == "Success") {
url = data.url;
return url
}
},
error: function (xhtmlObj, status, error) {}
});
return url
}
};

Once the mutation is performed and all the content “links” are in the state shown in Figure 2, above, an event listener has been bound to the anchors that captures a click event. This is done using prototypal extension, aka. classic prototypal inheritance, in another part of the code, the live function on line 2,280 of the (de-minimized) jsget.ashx program, as shown in code listing 2, here:

        live: function (G, F) {
var E = o.event.proxy(F);
E.guid += this.selector + G;
o(document).bind(i(G, this.selector), this.selector, E);
return this
},

At this point, clicking on one of the “pseudolinks” triggers the EF Framework to call code set up by the GetUrlByUrlID function from within the DBLinkHandler object, initiating an XMLHttpRequest (XHR) connection to the AjaxLinkHandling.aspx server-side application. The request is an HTTP POST containing only one parameter, called urlid, and its value matches a substring from within the id value of the “pseudolinks.” In this example, the id attribute contains a value of EFLink_68034_fe64d2, which means that the unique ID POST’ed to the server is 68034. This is shown in Figure 3, below.

Figure 3:

The response from the server, shown in Figure 4, is also simple. If successful, the intended destination is retrieved by the GetUrlByUrlID object’s success function (on line 79 of Code Listing 1, above) and the user is redirected to that web address, as if the link was a real one all along. The real destination, in this case to CNN.com, is thereby only revealed after the XHR request returns a successful reply.

Figure 4:

All of this obfuscation effectively blinds machines such as the Googlebot who are not JavaScript-capable from seeing and following these links. It deliberately provides no increased Pagerank for the link destination (as a real link would normally do) despite being “linked to” from EdenFantasys’s SexIs Magazine article. While the intended destination in this example link was at CNN.com, it could just as easily have been—and is, in other examples—links to the blogs of EdenFantasys community members and, indeed, everyone else linked to from a SexIs Magazine article or potentially any website operated by Web Merchants, Inc. that makes use of this technology.

The EdenFantasys Outsourced Link-Farm

In addition to creating a self-referential black hole with no gracefully degrading outgoing links, EdenFantasys also actively performs link-stuffing through its syndicated content “relationships,” underhandedly creating an outsourced and distributed link-farm, just like a spammer. The difference is that this spammer (Web Merchants, Inc. aka EdenFantasys) is cleverly crowd-sourcing high-value, high-quality content from its own “community.”

Articles published at SexIs Magazine are syndicated in full to other large hub sites, such as AlterNet.org. Continuing with the above example post by Lorna D. Keach, Anti-Porn Activists Now Targeting Female Porn Addicts, we can see that this content was republished on AlterNet.org shortly after original publication through EdenFantasys’ website on May 3rd at http://www.alternet.org/story/146774/christian_anti-porn_activists_now_targeting_female_. However, a closer look at the HTML code of the republication shows that each and every link contained within the article points to the same destination: the same article published on SexIs Magazine, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5:

Naturally, these syndicated links provided to third-party sites by EdenFantasys are real and function as expected to both human visitors and to search engines indexing the content. The result is “natural,” high-value links to the EdenFantasys website from these third-party sites; EdenFantasys doesn’t merely scrounge pagerank from harvesting the sheer number of incoming links, but as each link’s anchor text is different, they are setting themselves up to match more keywords in search engine results, keywords that the original author likely did not intend to direct to them. Offering search engines the implication that EdenFantasys.com contains the content described in the anchor text, when in fact EdenFantasys merely acts as an intermediary to the information, is very shady, to say the least.

In addition to syndication, EdenFantasys employs human editors to do community outreach. These editors follow up with publishers, including individual bloggers (such as myself), and request that any references to published material provide attribution and a link back to us, to use the words of Judy Cole, Editor of SexIs Magazine in an email she sent to me (see below), and presumably many others. EdenFantasys has also been known to request “link exchanges,” and offer incentive programs that encouraged bloggers to add the EdenFantasys website to their blogroll or sidebar in order to help raise both parties search engine ranking, when in fact EdenFantasys is not actually providing reciprocity.

More information about EdenFantasys’s unethical practices, which are not limited to technical subterfuge, can be obtained via AAGBlog.com.

EDITORIAL

It is unsurprising that the distributed, subtle, and carefully crafted way EdenFantasys has managed to crowd-source links has (presumably) remained unpenalized by search engines like Google. It is similarly unsurprising that nontechnical users such as the contributors to SexIs Magazine would be unaware of these deceptive practices, or that they are complicit in promoting them.

This is no mistake on the part of EdenFantasys, nor is it a one-off occurrence. The amount of work necessary to implement the elaborate system I’ve described is also not even remotely feasible for a rogue programmer to accomplish, far less accomplish covertly. No, this is the result of a calculated and decidedly underhanded strategy that originated from the direction of top executives at Web Merchants, Inc. aka EdenFantasys.

It is unfortunate that technically privileged people would be so willing to take advantage of the technically uneducated, particularly under the guise of providing a trusted place for the community which they claim to serve. These practices are exactly the ones that “the sex shop you can trust” should in no way support, far less be actively engaged in. And yet, here is unmistakable evidence that EdenFantasys is doing literally everything it can not only to bolster its own web presence at the cost of others’, but to hide this fact from its understandably non-tech-savvy contributors.

On a personal note, I am angered that I would be contacted by the Editor of SexIs Magazine, and asked to properly “attribute” and provide a link to them when it is precisely that reciprocity which SexIs Magazine would clearly deny me (and everyone else) in return. It was this request originally received over email from Judy Cole, that sparked my investigation outlined above and enabled me to uncover this hypocrisy. The email I received from Judy Cole is republished, in full, here:

From: Judy Cole <luxuryholmes@gmail.com>
Subject: Repost mis-attributed
Date: May 17, 2010 2:42:00 PM PDT
To: kinkontap+viewermail@gmail.com
Cc: Laurel <laurelb@edenfantasys.com>

Hello Emma and maymay,

I am the Editor of the online adult magazine SexIs (http://www.edenfantasys.com/sexis/). You recently picked up and re-posted a story of ours by Lorna Keach that Alternet had already picked up:

http://kinkontap.com/?s=alternet

We were hoping that you might provide attribution and a link back to us, citing us as the original source (as is done on Alternet, with whom we have an ongoing relationship), should you pick up something of ours to re-post in the future.

If you would be interested in having us send you updates on stories that might be of interest, I would be happy to arrange for a member of our editorial staff to do so. (Like your site, by the way. TBK is one of our regular contributors.)

Thanks and Best Regards,

Judy Cole
Editor, SexIs

Judy’s email probably intended to reference the new Kink On Tap briefs that my co-host Emma and I publish, not a search result page on the Kink On Tap website. Specifically, she was talking about this brief: http://KinkOnTap.com/?p=676. I said as much in my reply to Judy:

Hi Judy,

The URL in your email doesn’t actually link to a post. We pick up many stories from AlterNet, as well as a number from SexIs, because we follow both those sources, among others. So, did you mean this following entry?

http://KinkOnTap.com/?p=676

If so, you should know that we write briefs as we find them and provide links to where we found them. We purposefully do not republish or re-post significant portions of stories and we limit our briefs to short summaries in deference to the source. In regards to the brief in question, we do provide attribution to Lorna Keach, and our publication process provides links automatically to, again, the source where we found the article. 🙂 As I’m sure you understand, this is the nature of the Internet. Its distribution capability is remarkable, isn’t it?

Also, while we’d absolutely be thrilled to have you send us updates on stories that might be of interest, we would prefer that you do so in the same way the rest of our community does: by contributing to the community links feed. You can find detailed instructions for the many ways you can do that on our wiki:

http://wiki.kinkontap.com/wiki/Community_links_feed

Congratulations on the continued success of SexIs.

Cheers,
-maymay

At the time when I wrote the email replying to Judy, I was perturbed but could not put my finger on why. Her email upset me because she seemed to be suggesting that our briefs are wholesale “re-posts,” when in fact Emma and I have thoroughly discussed attribution policies and, as mentioned in my reply, settled on a number of practices including a length limit, automated back linking (yes, with real links, go see some Kink On Tap briefs for yourself), and clearly demarcating quotes from the source article in our editorializing to ensure we play fair. Clearly, my somewhat snarky reply betrays my annoyance.

In any event, this exchange prompted me to take a closer look at the Kink On Tap brief I wrote, at the original article, and at the cross-post on AlterNet.org. I never would have imagined that EdenFantasys’s technical subterfuge would be as pervasive as it has proven to be. It’s so deeply embedded in the EdenFantasys publishing platform that I’m willing to give Judy the benefit of the doubt regarding this hypocrisy because she doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a search query and a permalink (something any laymen blogger would grok). This is apparent from her reply to my response:

From: Judy Cole <luxuryholmes@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Repost mis-attributed
Date: May 18, 2010 4:57:59 AM PDT
[…redundant email headers clipped…]

Funny, the URL in my email opens the same link as the one you sent me when I click on it.

Maybe if you pick up one of our stories in future, you could just say something like “so and so wrote for SexIs.” ?

As it stands, it looks as if Lorna wrote the piece for Alternet. Thanks.

Judy

That is the end of our email exchange, and will be for good, unless and until EdenFantasys changes its ways. I will from this point forward endeavor never to publish links to any web property that I know to be owned by Web Merchants, Inc., including EdenFantasys.com. I will also do my best to avoid citing any and all SexIs Magazine articles from here on out, and I encourage everyone who has an interest in seeing honesty on the Internet to follow my lead here.

As some of my friends are currently contributors to SexIs Magazine, I would like all of you to know that I sincerely hope you immediately sever all ties with any and all Web Merchants, Inc. properties, suppliers, and business partners, especially because you are friends and I think your work is too important to be sullied by such a disreputable company.

What you can do

  • If you are an EdenFantasys reviewer, a SexIs Magazine contributor, or have any other arrangement with Web Merchants, Inc., write to Judy Cole and demand that content you produce for SexIs Magazine adheres to ethical Internet publication standards. Sever business ties with this company immediately upon receipt of any non-response, or any response that does not adequately address every concern raised in this blog post. (Feel free to leave comments on this post with technical questions, and I’ll do my best to help you sort out any l33t answers.)
  • EdenFantasys wants to stack the deck in Google. They do this by misusing your content and harvesting your links. To combat this effort, immediately remove any and all links to EdenFantasys websites and web presences from your websites. Furthermore, do not—I repeat—do not publish new links to EdenFantasys websites, not even in direct reference to this post. Instead, provide enough information, as I have done, so visitors to your blog posts can find their website themselves. In lieu of links to EdenFantasys, link to other bloggers’ posts about this issue. (Such posts will probably be mentioned in the comments section of this post.)
  • Boycott EdenFantasys: the technical prowess their website displays does provide a useful shopping experience for some people. However, that in no way obligates you to purchase from their website. If you enjoy using their interface, use it to get information about products you’re interested in, but then go buy those products elsewhere, perhaps from the manufacturers directly.

  • Watch for “improved” technical subterfuge from Web Merchants, Inc. As a professional web developer, I can identify several things EdenFantasys could do to make their unethical practices even harder to spot, and harder to stop. If you have any technical knowledge at all, even if you’re “just” a savvy blogger, you can keep a close watch on EdenFantasys and, if you notice anything that doesn’t sit well with you, speak up about it like I did. Get a professional programmer to look into things for you if you need help; yes, you can make a difference just by remaining vigilant as long as you share what you know and act honestly, and transparently.

If you have additional ideas or recommendations regarding how more people can help keep sex toy retailers honest, please suggest them in the comments.

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.

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. ;)

Representations of Sex/uality

Or, alternatively titled: “Making the Sex Week 2010 Poster”


This is kind of a cross-post from the SHEEC blog, so forgive me.

My goals for the poster:
  • Wouldn’t imply a certain relationship status
  • Wouldn’t be objectifying and just like any other ad on TV
  • Wouldn’t be heteronormative (and ideally not homonormative, either, which is…not easy to do–most images out there are very either/or)
  • Would simultaneously bring something “non-traditional” to the fore but NOT in a “LOOK HOW RADICAL I AM!” way or in a “LOOK HOW FREAKY THIS IS!” way
  • Would focus on sexuality and sensuality, but in a fun, not intimidating, fashion
  • Re: above, would also not be too explicit or obviously and “traditionally” sexual, so that it could have more interpretations (including “platonic” ones?)
  • Would reflect an air of inclusiveness
  • Would not represent people from just one ethnic group (and this was the hardest to achieve while still trying to keep to the other points; I resolved this issue by making the skin tones a rainbow)
  • Would not glorify a particular body type, especially one that corresponds to the dominant ideas of beauty in the media
  • Would be welcoming and attractive
  • Would hold all the text necessary!
The RESULT:

Herbivores are Sexy

Sometimes I have nightmares in which I find myself eating meat. 

The day after I “officially” became a vegetarian, I dreamt I was at a supermarket back home, and that I was eating rotini, and that the rotini SOMEHOW TURNED INTO SHRIMP. And then I freaked out because I was eating an animal, and then I doubly freaked out because I wondered if anyone had noticed–now no one would believe I was honestly becoming a vegetarian. Ever since, I’ve had the occasional dream where I eat meat and flip a shit. It’s not SERIOUSLY a big deal if I accidentally eat meat (in the non-dream world), but it still makes me really uncomfortable. Apparently enough to fuel nightmares, even!

Anyway. SO. For those sexy vegetarians, vegans, and animal-rights activists out there, caring about what’s in one’s food is NOT the only worry. Vegetarians not as much, but vegans REALLY have to watch what they eat, wear, and buy in general. As I’ve previously mentioned, there are animal products and byproducts everywhere. And one of these places is the realm of pleasure: there are many sex-toys and safer-sex materials that are not vegan friendly.

But fear not! That’s why The Sensual Vegan, a store that sells sexy vegan goodies (everything from candles and razors, to condoms, strap-on harnesses, and anal-sex books), is here! And it is not only awesome because it caters to animal-rights activists and veg-heads, but also because it donates 5% of all sales to Scarleteen, a sex-positive sex education resource site aimed at young folks. Good stuff all around, and from what I can see, it carries quality items–not cheap-o novelty item crap that will leave your sexy bits covered in creepy chemicals.

Also, another website worth checking out is VegPorn. With a tag-line like “titillating tofu-eaters,” who wouldn’t be curious and click on the link? The color scheme is really pretty (not like those neon sparkly pink porn sites, with all the glitz and glamor and Photoshop-happy airbrushing, or the really intense red and black ones). Every model has a little bio, and it’s a happy bunch that looks, above-all, REAL.

Finally, porn-related, but not veg-ism related, I wanted to link to this (NSFW, obviously) video, featuring sassy and adorable Milla Monroe making an apple pie and then…well…masturbating in the kitchen. But the important part is not the sexual part–it’s the fact that she’s so friendly, pretty, and cute. I thought she was fantastic. Check out more of her videos. They’ll probably put a smile on your face.

How [Sex] Laws Are Used To Fuck Us Over

Thanks to Gypsy for posting this article. <3

I urge you to read ALL of the cases. Some you may already be familiar with, but others didn’t receive crazy amounts of international coverage or anything, so they may be new to you. While some sex-laws are definitely necessary in order to protect us, there are definitely some laws that serve to HURT us. Check out the sex-related laws in the United States here. And, um, may I remind y’all that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is still in place? Yeah. Let’s talk about that. According to the U.S. Penal Code:

  • (13) The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service
  • (14) The armed forces must maintain personnel policies that exclude persons whose presence in the armed forces would create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
  • (15) The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.

Excuse me? 😐 And this is the policy to “take care” of those crazy homosexuals:

(b) Policy.— A member of the armed forces shall be separated from the armed forces under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense if one or more of the following findings is made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations:

(1) That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts unless there are further findings, made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations, that the member has demonstrated that—

(A) such conduct is a departure from the member’s usual and customary behavior;
(B) such conduct, under all the circumstances, is unlikely to recur;
(C) such conduct was not accomplished by use of force, coercion, or intimidation;
(D) under the particular circumstances of the case, the member’s continued presence in the armed forces is consistent with the interests of the armed forces in proper discipline, good order, and morale; and
(E) the member does not have a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts.

(2) That the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect, unless there is a further finding, made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in the regulations, that the member has demonstrated that he or she is not a person who engages in, attempts to engage in, has a propensity to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual acts.

(3) That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex.

*facepalm*

There are also laws regarding items that are non-mailable because they’re obscene and/or crime-inciting…and materials in some way relating to abortion are mentioned. O.o Check it here.

And on a related note, I still can’t believe the district court in Williams vs. Pryor (1998) considered banning the commerce of sex toys because they promoted “sexual stimulation unrelated to marriage, procreation or family relationships.” I mean, I can believe it, but I don’t LIKE it. Sigh. Dammit, unmarried people have a right to have sex lives, too! They also argued the ban was a good idea because there was legitimate legislative interest in “discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex” because “commerce in the pursuit of orgasms by artificial means for their own sake is detrimental to the health and morality of the State.”

WHAT. THE. SHIT.

And William Pryor (assistant attorney in Alabama) is quoted as saying there is no “fundamental right for a person to buy a device to produce orgasm.” -_-;

Eventually (and thankfully), Reliable Consultants Inc. v. Earle (2008) happened and resulted in the federal appeals court declaring the Texas Obscene Device Act as unconstitutional because it violated the 14th Amendment on the right to privacy. Read about it here.

Other cases/info you should be aware of:

  • The 11th Circuit Court (discussing Williams vs. Pryor): “The fundamental constitutional rights of privacy recognized to date by the Supreme Court in the area of sexual activity each have followed from the Court’s protection of a person’s right to make the decision not to procreate without governmental interference. …None of these cases, however, is decisive on the question whether the Constitution protects every individual’s right to private sexual activity and use of sexual devices from being burdened by Alabama’s sexual device distribution criminal statute.” Citing a case involving assisted suicide, Washington v. Glucksberg, this decision favorably quoted: “That many of the rights and liberties protected by the Due Process Clause sound in personal autonomy does not warrant the sweeping conclusion that any and all important, intimate, and personal decisions are so protected….”

So basically, even though decisions pertaining to our sexuality and even our LIFE are “important” and “personal,” that doesn’t mean we always have a “right” to make them without the government butting in somehow. WTFBBQ! It makes NO sense to me that we don’t even own our BODIES in that way. (By the way, assisted suicide is legal in 3 states: Oregon, Montana, and Washington. Read more here.)

Stuff like this (the penal code and the following article) is why I’m so into/involved with the queer, feminist, sex-positive movements. Sheesh. This is also why I think I have only a few good options in terms of where I will eventually live in the United States (best choice so far seems to be MA). But now, onto the article!

——-

15 Shocking Tales of How Sex Laws Are Screwing the American People

By Ellen Friedrichs, AlterNet. Posted June 12, 2009.

The older I get, the luckier I feel not to have been busted for breaking a sex law. It’s not that I have been doing anything particularly scandalous. Public sex sure isn’t my thing, and I’m not in the habit of spamming my friends and colleagues with XXX emails. But in a world where a teen can get arrested for texting a boyfriend her own nudie shots, I don’t want to take anything for granted.

Really though, my clean record probably has as much to do with where I’ve lived, as with what I’ve done. Growing up in Canada, meant that I didn’t worry about the legal ramifications of losing my virginity to my high school boyfriend. Had I spent those angst-ridden years in Texas, or even Maine, I could have been charged with the crime of underage sex.

Similarly, accompanying a terrified 16-year-old to a New York City clinic for an abortion a few years back could have been illegal if I had done the same thing in many of the 34 states with parental consent and notification laws for this procedure.

So I’ve been fortunate. But plenty of other people haven’t. We often don’t realize that sex regulations extend beyond archaic blue laws banning things like having sex in a toll booth, or forbidding sororities on the basis that women living together constitute a brothel. Such prohibitions may remain on the books, but people seldom, if ever, face charges for breaking them. The sex laws that do get enforced every day tend to be a lot less laughable.

Occasionally, the focus on a particular case can lead to a law’s repeal. For example, in 2004, a Texas mom was arrested for violating that state’s ban on selling sex toys after she was busted hawking vibrators to her friends. The coverage of the incident drew attention to the statute and eventually lead to its 2008 nullification. And famously, following a 2002 arrest for having anal sex with his boyfriend, John Lawrence argued his case before the U. S. Supreme Court, and succeeded in getting the federal sodomy laws overturned.

Nevertheless, for many people, simply paying their fine or doing their time is preferable to embarrassing publicity that can accompany fighting charges. Still, plenty of cases do make the papers, whether those involved want them to or not.

Here are fifteen recent examples highlighting the fact the land of the free, the freedom to express your sexuality can still be pretty limited.

1) Over the past year, New York City has seen thirty-four gay men arrested for prostitution in what many people are calling an anti-gay sting operation. One case, reported by the New York Times, involved Robert Pinter, a fifty-three-year old massage therapist, who was approached by an undercover police officer in the adult section of a video store. As Pinter told the Times, “[the man who propositioned me] was very charming and cute, and we agreed to leave the store and engage in consensual sex.” Pinter explained that man then offered him $50 for doing so–an offer which he says did not respond to. Once outside, Pinter was handcuffed and arrested on charges of, “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.” The relationship between gay men and the police has often been far from harmonious (hell, arrests of gay men in the sixties are what prompted the Stonewall riots in 1969), and this situation has renewed fears that old habits die hard.

2) Despite the fact that Georgia has some real problems with youth sexual health — among other things it boasts the eighth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country — this state has put a lot more effort into targeting teens than it has into helping them stay safe. One particularly outlandish case involves a young man named Genarlow Wilson. Genarlow was recently freed after serving almost three years in a Georgia prison. He had been sent there at seventeen for getting a blow job from a consenting fifteen-year-old girl. Though Generlow was only two years older than the girl, in Georgia, he was above the age of consent and she was below it. As a result, the high school senior was charged with aggravated child molestation. At the time, Georgia had a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for this crime, so that’s what he got. A year into his sentence, the law was changed to make the maximum penalty a still pretty serious twelve months in jail. Even so, it took another two years for a judge to order Genarlow’s release.

3) Florida is famous for it’s liberal views on how little clothing can be considered publicly acceptable. It’s not so liberal, however, when it comes to the kind of sex it considers acceptable for people to have privately. In February, a lawsuit was filed against a strip-mall based private swingers club. The charges came after a year-long undercover operation, and despite the sheriff’s acknowledgment that, “detectives never found any evidence of drug use or sales and never saw any instances of anyone paying for sex.” Swinging is legal, so in the end, the best the cops could do was charge the club with violation of local zoning codes.

4) Starting off 2009 with a bang, seventeen Pennsylvania teens — thirteen girls and three boys — were busted for child pornography. The charges came after a teacher confiscated a student’s cell phone and discovered that the girls had sent “provocative” pictures of themselves to the boys. Initially, the boys were charged with possession of child pornography, and the girls with manufacturing, disseminating and possessing child pornography. These charges could have come with jail time and the requirement to register as sex offenders. The New York Times reports that given such daunting prospects, almost all of the students accepted a deal requiring them to attend a ten hour class dealing with pornography and sexual violence. But three of the girls rejected the deal and instead filed a lawsuit against the district attorney, claiming that offering them such a deal was illegal, as their actions never should have been considered criminal.

Public panic over sexting is growing and as a result the Pennsylvania case is far from an isolated incident. In fact, USA Today reports that between January and March police had already, “investigated more than two dozen teens in at least six states…for sending nude images of themselves in cell phone text messages.” And as a girl busted for sexting in Idaho this June can tell you, that number has surely grown since then.

5) No one has ever claimed that Georgia is a haven for the LGBT community. But a recent decision by a custody judge to bar a gay dad from “exposing” his kids to his “homosexual partners and friends,” is a reminder that in this state, the notion that everyone is equal under the law only applies if the “everyone” in question isn’t gay. In this case, the man’s soon to be ex-wife argued that the fact that her kids have a gay dad has landed them in therapy. So she asked that the restriction be imposed to protect them from discomfort. But as the father said, “In general, that [restriction] will never allow me to have my children present in front of any friends, whether they’re gay or straight — no one hands you a card saying are you gay, straight, heterosexual, bi, whatever.”

6) After his boxers were spotted by cops as he peddled his bike around town, a twenty-four-year-old Bainbridge, Georgia man became the first person arrested there under a new city ordinance that prohibits wearing pants low enough to expose a person’s underwear. Arrests like this have become common all over the country as more and more cities adopt such so-called baggy pants bans. But it isn’t only men who are targeted by these laws. This June, the city of Yakima, Washington, voted to change the city’s indecent exposure laws to include “cleavage of the buttocks.” This means that women whose thong or G-string show can now be fined $1,000 or face up to 90 days in jail. If a child under the age of 14 is thought to be a victim of this form of indecent exposure, the perpetrator is looking at a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Still while most cities choose to focus on legislating visible underwear, some laws take the clothing restrictions even further. For example, an ordinance passed in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana in 2007, not only outlaws “any indecent exposure of any person or undergarments,” but also bars a person from, “dressing in a manner not becoming to his or her sex.”

7) In February 2008, Wisconsin mom, Amy Smalley, was charged with the felony of “exposing a child to harmful descriptions.” The issue came to light after her eleven-year-old son told a counselor about conversations his mom had with him and his brother. These included talking about her sex life, explaining how to perform oral sex and showing the boys a sex toy. The charges, which could have landed Smalley three years in prison, were plead down to a misdemeanor. Smalley was placed on probation and had to undergo court ordered counseling. As the Court TV website put it, “Smalley called it education. Prosecutors called it a crime.” I call it terrifying. As a mom myself, I can easily see having similar conversations. (Okay, not for a while as my kids are only both under three. But still…). Sure, Smalley probably made a bad judgment call. But really, is this any worse than parents who let their kids watch Family Guy and South Park, despite the endless stream of rape jokes and blow job humor?

8) Come 2010, a law designed to protect child prostitutes will take effect in New York State. Until that time, kids as young as twelve can continue to be charged with the crime of prostitution. This is true even if they were forced into the business by pimps. Interestingly, since 2000, foreign-born teens have been protected from prosecution by anti-trafficking laws which view them as victims. For the next year, however, teens with American citizenship may still find themselves in juvie for being the victim of something most people would consider pretty horrific abuse. Hopefully, this is a sign that we are making progress not only the issue of sex work, but on the treatment of juvenile offenders in general.

9) In December, a Florida woman reacted to the penis being forced into her mouth by biting. Twenty-seven-year-old Charris Bowers told police that despite the fact that she didn’t want to have oral sex, her husband, Delou pushed himself into her mouth, and that she clamped down to get him to stop. He responded by punching her in the head until she let go. In the end no charges were filed against Delou, even though it is illegal for anyone, including a spouse, to make another person perform a sex act. Charris, on the other hand was arrested and charged with battery. Apparently, the era of blaming the victims of sexual assault is not a thing of the past.

10) That sexual double standards for men and women are alive and well shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. But a Wisconsin town recently showed just how damaging such notions can be. On consecutive January days in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, seventeen-year-old Norma Guthrie and seventeen-year-old Alan Jepsen were charged with sexual assault for having consensual sex with their fourteen-year-old partners. However, that’s where the similarities between the cases end. Guthrie was charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum nine months in prison. Jepsen, on the other hand, was charged with a felony, which carries a maximum twenty-five years in prison. The Sheboygan Press reports, “Assistant District Attorney Jim Haasch, who filed both complaints, said the misdemeanor charge was filed in part because Guthrie has no prior criminal record. But online court records show Guthrie has a pending charge of misdemeanor battery, filed in October. Haasch would not say whether Jepsen has a prior juvenile record — which is typically sealed — but the boy has no adult charges listed in online court records. Haasch also said the cases are different because Guthrie’s boyfriend is “almost 15,” with a birthday in February. Jepsen’s girlfriend turns 15 in April.”

11) In December, something called a paramour clause was used to force a lesbian in Tennessee to move out of her house and away from her family. The clause prohibits cohabitation of unmarried partners if minor children are in the home. In this particular situation, the lesbian couple had lived together for over ten years. Much of that was with the biological mom’s kids, who were the product of a previous relationship with a man. There was no indication that this living situation was harming the thirteen and fifteen-year-old teens. Nor had the father requested that his ex’s partner move out. Still, a custody judge imposed the rule, leaving few options for the women in a state where same sex couples cannot legally marry. And people wonder why Proposition 8 matters?

12) As a sex ed. teacher, I believe in answering teens’ questions honestly and in using language that they will relate to and understand. So had I overheard a conversation between a New York State high school teacher and some of her students, I probably would have applauded her candor. But I didn’t get wind of this conversation. Josephine Isernia’s school board did. According to the board, when asked for advice on oral sex by one of the girls, Isernia used words that were, “vulgar, obscene and disgusting.” The words in question? Head job, hand job, and fellatio. Isernia was a teacher with over twenty years of experience who had never been in trouble before. Yet despite her clean record and the fact that the students sought her out for information, when 2009 rolled around, she was out of a job and educators everywhere were given a sad wake up call.

13) Remember a few years back when PDA policies were making the news every other day? Lately stories about sexting and mom’s who pose as teens on MySpace, have been stealing the headlines. But rules regarding public displays of affection never really went away and this February, twenty-two-year-old Jessica Garica was arrested at her local mall for kissing her girlfriend. According to Garcia, mall security told the couple, “This is a family mall, y’all can’t do this. Y’all kissed, and if y’all do it again I’m going to write you a citation or I’m going to kick y’all out.” The mall countered that after being asked to leave following the kiss, the couple returned and became belligerent. This, a mall spokesperson claimed, and not the kiss, is what lead to the arrest. Regardless, Garcia is considering suing for discrimination.

14) Imagine this: You’re sixteen and having sex with your boyfriend. You want to be safe so you ask your mom to take you to the doctor for birth control. Most people would call this a sign of maturity and responsibility. The state of Mississippi would call it an incident to be reported to the cops. That’s because a bill that passed in January makes it a crime for parents not to report to the police that their kids are having sex. The Mississippi Child Protection Act of 2009, requires mandatory reporting of sex crimes against children and imposes new abortion restrictions on minors. Though there is much to quibble with in the bill, one section is particularly alarming. This is the clause that prohibits, “the intentional toleration of a parent or caretaker of the child’s sexual involvement with any other person.” Supporters of the law claim that they are trying to protect young people from abuse. But nowhere does the bill distinguish between sexual abuse and consensual sexual encounters between teens. Mississippi already boasts the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Maybe they are striving for the number one spot in preventing parent/child communication, as well…

15) This past November, a convicted sex offender in Oklahoma had little reason to celebrate having his criminal record expunged. That’s because the requirement that he register as a sex offender for life remained. This is particularly problematic seeing as the individual in question is a kid. Due to age of consent laws, he was convicted at sixteen of having consensual sex with a thirteen year-old girl. His mother explains that sex offender status meant the boy was, “removed from high school [and] prohibited from being in the presence of children other than his younger brother. He can’t go near schools, day care centers or parks. His brother, age 11, can’t bring friends into their home. If his brother had been a girl, Ricky [the offender] would have been removed from his home.” The United States has some of the toughest sex offender laws in the world and Ricky is far from the only teen forced to live under such conditions. As Human Rights Watch reports, “Some children are on registries because they committed serious sex offenses, such as forcibly raping a much younger child. Other children are labeled sex offenders for such non-coercive or nonviolent and age-appropriate activities as “playing doctor,” youthful pranks such as exposing one’s buttocks, and non-coercive teen sex.”

There has been talk recently about America’s liberalizing morality. But as long as teens and gay men are still under attack for having sex, and teachers and parents still get in trouble for taking about it, then it would seem as if there is still quite a ways to go before we can claim that this is the dawn of a progressive new era.