My dear readers, thanks for following along at this here blog, but I've decided to reduce the number of projects in my life ... and so it's time for an amicable separation from Time Out Chicago. Thanks to Time Out for hosting me and my Love Bites blog -- and thanks to you for reading.
You can continue to find my work at my main blog, clarissethorn.com. I also occasionally post to the feminist group blog Feministe. And if you live in Chicago, you can still attend my awesome sex-positive film series -- it's free, with intelligent snacks and delicious conversation! Seriously! Attend! We've lined up films through the end of 2012, and you can see the full current program by clicking here.
Catch you all around!
I just had the pleasure of discovering a new site on sex work: Sex Work Activists, Allies and You. I've consistently had trouble finding a clear online 101 on sex work activism, and the SWAAY site seems to fit the bill. It was started by Furry Girl, a super smart sex worker and writer. I feel I should note that she specifically does not identify as a feminist -- but I admire her work and, as a self-identified feminist, I'd like to promote it. (If you're looking for other great sex worker bloggers, Furry Girl's blogroll is an awesome place to start.)
I would especially like to promote the new SWAAY project: a billboard campaign. Here's Furry Girl's post on how and why she designed the billboard the way she did; excerpt:
Why this particular design? I spent a bunch of time thinking of what I most want to convey to the general public about sex work. But then, I realized that I was getting ahead of myself, since very few people even know the term "sex worker." So I want to start small, and educational. I want to just tell people what "sex worker" means, as well as a topical point about how sex work is not sex trafficking.
[The billboard would read thus:]
Sex Worker: a person who consensually exchanges their own sexual labor or sexual performance for compensation. Sex work is not the same as forced sex trafficking. Learn about the people & facts behind sex work at SWAAY.org.
Please consider donating to the billboard campaign by clicking here.
When I was working in public health, I heard about an amazing Brazilian anti-HIV campaign called Maria Without Shame, which featured pictures of a sex worker accompanied by slogans like: "You need have no shame, girl. You have a profession." Furry Girl's campaign reminds me of Maria Without Shame because both are focused on decreasing stigma around sex work. (Here's another similar anti-stigma campaign from Canada, which features pictures of sex workers' family members saying things like "I'm proud of my tramp.") Unfortunately, although Brazil had a great HIV program that was considered to be among the most successful in the developing world ... the USA denied them funding because Brazilian health officials refused to thoroughly condemn sex work. No, seriously, this actually happened -- here's a snip from a 2006 Washington Post article on the topic:
Brazil received a letter from USAID declaring the country ineligible for a renewal of a $48 million AIDS prevention grant. The United States requires all countries receiving AIDS funding help to formally state that prostitution is dehumanizing and degrading, and Brazil last year -- alone among AIDS aid recipients -- was unwilling to do that.
A working partnership with prostitutes, health officials here say, is a key reason that the country's AIDS prevention and treatment programs are considered by the United Nations to be the most successful in the developing world. There are at least 600,000 people infected with HIV in Brazil -- but that is only half the number predicted by the World Bank a decade ago.
"When we started in the 1980s, our projected AIDS rates were exactly the same as Africa's, but now it's a completely different story," said Mariangela Simao, deputy director of Brazil's national HIV-AIDS program in Brasilia. "I'm convinced it's a result of the way the government has responded. We provide information and resources, and don't enter into moral or religious issues."
... In Rio, free condoms were passed out like candy as part of a national goal to distribute 25 million of them before Carnival ended Tuesday. At a suburban bus stop, pamphlets distributed by the Health Ministry advertised a character called "Maria Without Shame," a cleavage-flaunting cartoon prostitute who reminds sex workers to take pride in their jobs and tells people that condoms should be used without guilt.
Read more about sex workers and HIV prevention at this great page on avert.org.
As a side note, if you donate at least $7 to the SWAAY billboard campaign, you'll get a pack of SWAAY's awesome heart-shaped stickers, which bear the slogans "Sex work is real work" and "Respect sex workers".
As a side side note, I can't help noticing that the SWAAY website is promoting an awesome upcoming sex worker film festival in Chicago! The film fest is slated to take place August 11-13, and it's going to be super cool ... especially since it's in partnership with my very own Sex Positive Documentary Film Series.
I've written before that all women, whether we're sex workers or not, ought to care about the way sex workers are attacked, marginalized and harmed because those social patterns hurt all of us. Other further reading on feminism and sex work might include the archives for Feministe guest contributors Renegade Evolution and Hexy.
Chicago's own Sex Workers Outreach Project is putting together an amazing upcoming event!
WHAT: A Sex Worker Film Fest!
WHEN: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, August 11-13, 2011
WHERE: The Everleigh Social Club -- named for one of the most famous historical brothels ever!
939 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL
For more info, call SWOP at (312) 252-3880
Raffle prize giveaways each night!
A new study demonstrates that we can drastically lower the risks of catching HIV with a daily pill. Meanwhile, however, a new antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrhea has surfaced. Snip from the article:
Scientists have discovered a new strain of gonorrhea-causing bacteria in Japan that is resistant to available treatments.
Since the 1940s, the sexually transmitted disease known as "the clap" has been easily treated with antibiotics. But the new strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae has genetically mutated to evade cephalosporins -- the only antibiotics still effective against the infection.
"This is both an alarming and a predictable discovery," lead researcher Magnus Unemo, professor at the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria in Örebro, Sweden, said in a statement. "Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it."
The discovery, announced by Unemo at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research meeting in Quebec City, Canada, could hail gonorrhea's transition from treatable STD to global public health threat.
So keep using condoms, folks.
My own reactions to the article have been too complicated to outline just now, though I would like to make some things absolutely clear.
* Firstly, Mac McClelland does not identify her own experience as BDSM, and she doesn't write about it using BDSM vocabulary; however, she does specify that her experience was entirely consensual, and so whatever she wants to label it, and however she wants to write about her own experience, I support her right to do so.
* Secondly, there is nothing wrong with using consensual, carefully-negotiated BDSM to process past traumatic experiences; if we didn't live in a society that's constantly looking for excuses to label BDSM as a Horrible Bad Thing, then no one would even ask whether consensual BDSM is an "acceptable" coping tool.
* Thirdly, although there is a popular myth that "all BDSMers have experienced abuse and that's why they're into BDSM'", there is no robust evidence for this assertion; the largest and best-designed study on the topic showed no connection between BDSM desires and past abusive experiences (and here's some more discussion of that and other studies).
Most importantly, however -- and the reason I've chosen to write this post now, rather than later when my thoughts are clearer on the topic -- there is now evidence that Mac McClelland ignored the preferences and consent of a rape survivor. McClelland has written a great deal about the experiences of a woman she calls Sybille, or K*; but that woman did not give McClelland permission to reveal such personal things, and in fact, "Sybille" explicitly withdrew her consent in 2010. Over at the Essence website there's a piece by Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American writer who knows the survivor. Snip from the article:
In her essay, Ms. McClelland writes that K*’s trauma led in part to her own breakdown. Nevertheless, during Ms. McClelland’s ride along with K*, on a visit to a doctor, Ms. McClelland, as has been reported elsewhere, live-tweeted K*’s horrific experiences. The tweets put K*'s life in danger because they identified the displacement camp where K* was living--with details of landmarks added--her specific injury, her real name, and suggest that she is a drug user.
When K* found out about Ms. McClelland’s tweets, even before Ms. McClelland's original Mother Jones article was published, K* wrote a letter to Ms. McClelland and Mother Jones magazine asking that Ms. McClelland not write about her. Her lawyer emailed the letter to them on November 2, 2010. The full text of the letter in K*'s own handwriting is attached and is written in Haitian Creole. It says:
You have no right to speak of my story.
You have no right to publish my story in the press
Because I did not give you authorization.
You have no right. I did not speak to you.
You have said things you should not have said.
Ms. McClelland has stated on this same twitter account that she had K*'s permission and K*'s mother's permission to ride along with them, but she certainly--according to K*'s lawyer, and the driver on the ride along, and K* herself--did not have K*'s permission to tweet personal and confidential information about her. And even if Ms. McClelland in some way thought she had K*'s consent, the attached letter should have made it clear that it was withdrawn and that she had, as the letter states, "no right" to write about K* anymore, especially in ways that her previous tweets had made K*'s and her location easily identifiable.
Although I've excerpted it, I recommend reading the whole article, really.
I am personally most bothered by the basic consent issues in this writing, but I think it is worth noting that there are many other issues -- obviously including race and colonialism issues -- involved in a white USA writer who chooses to write about such personal experiences of a Haitian woman without that woman's consent.
[this was originally posted at Feministe]
pro-SEX, pro-QUEER, pro-KINK
a free documentary film series for people who like sex
COMING UP, JUNE 14 at 7pm:
"OUTRAGE" is an Emmy-award-nominated film about closeted gay politicians: their lives, their experiences, their choices, their voting records ... and what happens when activists decide to drag these politicians' sex lives into the public eye.
Second Tuesdays, 7pm
FREE, all are welcome
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 S Halsted
RSVP: (312) 413-5353
+ About SEX+++
Join us for our THIRD year of radically inclusive documentary films about positive sexuality. This free documentary series offers a new space to discuss sex, culture, and sexual fun! Each film will be accompanied by delicious snacks and followed by relevant conversation. The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is pleased to host this series as a new expression of the Hull-House Settlement's historic advocacy for sex education. Here's the 2011-2012 film list.
Please note that cameras and other recording devices are not allowed at these screenings.
I get a certain question occasionally, from straight dudes who've had a number of sexual partners. It goes something like this:
"All the women I've slept with liked pain. They asked me to hurt them or to dominate them in bed. I did it, and enjoyed it; I loved how much it turned them on ... it turned them on a lot. But I keep thinking about it now. Why are all women into being submissive and/or masochistic in bed? What does that mean?"
They ask me this question in vaguely worried tones. Sometimes they say things like, "It's really creepy." It is obvious that these dudes are rather concerned about this Terrible Truth.
Here's my short answer for those guys: If you know women who are submissive and/or masochistic in bed, that means those particular women like being submissive and/or masochistic in bed. It doesn't mean anything else.
You're still here? Ah, well. I figured that wouldn't satisfy. So here's a longer answer ...
Tristan Taormino is a great feminist, sex-positive educator who teaches about polyamory, BDSM, anal sex, and all kinds of other stuff. Here's an amazing interview with her over on the Suicide Girls blog. Snip from the interview:
Ddj: What are the high points and pitfalls of polyamory? Can someone go from polyamory to monogamy and vice-versa?
TT: Many of the people I interviewed for my book Opening Up began as monogamous and transitioned to non-monogamy at some point. You can absolutely shift from one to the other (either way) as long as you do it with self-awareness, intention, and communication. The pros of open relationships are honesty, freedom, and the opportunity to fulfill multiple desires and needs. The cons: more people equals more work. If you don’t like to talk about your own feelings or the feelings of other people, you probably should not be in an open relationship.
Ddj: Do you think all sex workers are polyamorous by nature or by default?
TT: Not at all. My book began as a 600+ page manuscript, and one of the chapters that had to be cut was devoted entirely to sex workers and non-monogamy. Some sex workers have one partner and consider themselves monogamous because they think of the other stuff they do as work. Others identify as non-monogamous, but what that means to each person is different.
Ddj: What are your top 5 tips for sustaining a poly relationship?
TT: Communication, responsibility, honesty, negotiation, and patience.
I've gotten so bored of the biases and stereotypes against S&M. It's like, "Hey, another person who implies that those of us who do consensual S&M were all abused as children? Sweet! That person is wrong, and I consider those views highly stigmatizing and sometimes damaging. So, can we go for a swim now?"
It's much more entertaining to imagine how people would talk about S&M, if we lived in a culture where S&M wasn't wildly stigmatized. In fact, what if S&M were admired or seen as a great thing ... instead of being repressed and forced underground and seen as a dark, evil, disgusting thing? I've known people who called S&M and other fetishes "superpowers", in a kind of ironic twist on this concept.
Many people have written about how S&Mers can offer lessons in sexuality that we gleaned from our outside-the-box perspective (there's a whole paper on this topic for clinicians, written by a psychologist and titled "Learning from Extraordinary Lovers"). I myself have talked about how S&Mers tend to use much more careful and precise sexual communication tactics than the mainstream (examples include checklists and safewords). But these lessons are hardly confined to S&Mers -- there are lots of vanilla people out there who are awesomely careful and precise about communicating sexually.
The superpower framework is a bit different ....
+ For example, it's been demonstrated that S&Mers are not more likely to have endured non-consensual acts -- so we know that despite what Freud would have had you believe, S&M doesn't arise from childhood abuse. But maybe it does arise from a childhood experience ... an awesome childhood experience. Maybe the Missing S&M Link is that something totally wonderful happened to S&Mers in our childhoods.
Hey, vanilla people? I'm so sorry you all had such bad childhoods. Really, you have my sincerest sympathies.
An attorney in a local Chicago case became irate that his opponents in the court had an attractive assistant. He claimed that the assistant is not really there to help out; he claims that she is only there to distract the jury. I am not making this up. Snip from the article:
CHICAGO -- A Chicago lawyer says his opponent in a small claims case is using an unfair tactic by sitting a buxom woman next to him at counsel's table.
Attorney Thomas Gooch says the woman's sole purpose "is to draw the attention of the jury away from the relevant proceedings" -- a dispute over a used car. He asks Cook County Circuit Judge Anita Rivkin-Carothers to order the woman to sit in the gallery with other spectators.
In responding to the pretrial motion, attorney Dmitry N. Feofanov said the woman is his paralegal assistant and contends Gooch cites no "good faith legal argument" why she can't sit at counsel's table. Feofanov, who in the past has described himself as a "consumer protection lawyer," asked Rivkin-Carothers to impose sanctions on Gooch for his motion.