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The Long, Hard Work of Running the Only Academic Journal on Porn

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In 2014, Clarissa Smith and Feona Attwood launched “Porn Studies,” the world’s first academic periodical devoted exclusively to pornography, although many of their colleagues—and anti-porn feminists—advised them against it.

Academic Journal on Porn

Clarissa Smith, a professor of sexual cultures at the University of Sunderland in the UK, is describing to me the ideal sex robot. “Maybe it wouldn’t look like a human at all,” she says. “It could be like a sleeping bag you zip yourself into and have a whole-body experience. How fabulous would that be? You could have your toes tickled and your head massaged at the same time.”

I ask if she’s seen the two-legged cyborgs from Boston Robotics that don’t fall over, even when shoved. “They kind of look like horses,” she says. “They’re not sexy.” She tells me that if she had any business acumen, she’d design her own pleasure bots. “I wouldn’t be talking about this journal.”

The journal we’ve been talking about is Porn Studies, the first academic periodical devoted exclusively to the study of pornography. Founded in 2014 by Smith and Feona Attwood, a professor in cultural studies, communication, and media at Middlesex University London, it’s since become the go-to quarterly for hot-and-heavy, peer-reviewed research on how porn is constructed and consumed around the world.

After receiving a raft of coverage from the Atlantic, the Washington Post, VICE, and, of course, the Daily Mail, nearly 250,000 people viewed the journal online over its premiere weekend. The first issue featured an article by groundbreaking film scholar Linda Williams, an essay on how porn literacy is being taught in UK schools, and a meta-analysis of porn titled “Deep Tags: Toward a Quantitative Analysis of Online Pornography”—which reads sort of like Nate Silver’s guide to PornHub. Later issues have explored topics as varied as the “necropolitics” of zombie porn to the “disposal” of gay porn star bottoms who bareback.

Porn has long been a popular field of academic research—professor Linda Williams’s seminal text on the subject, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible” was first published in 1989—but its scholarly inspection has not been without controversy.

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“It has been considered a ‘despised form,'” Smith said. “But I think there are enough people around now who are approaching pornography from a whole range of viewpoints, not just asking, ‘Should it exist?’ or ‘How should we regulate it?’ but ‘What is it? Who’s in it? How does it work?'”

Before Smith became a leading expert in pornography, she was working at an ad agency and pursuing a master’s degree in women’s studies. “I sat through so many lectures about the radical feminists’ rejection of porn,” she said. Then, one day at the office, she received a press packet from two publishers who were just about to launch soft-core magazines for women.

“I was like, hang on, two publishers think it’s worth it to launch porn magazines, and yet women supposedly have no interest in this?”

Smith had friends who were into porn, she enjoyed a good Chippendales show now and then, and she’d watched as the Ann Summers sex shop in her neighborhood had transformed from someplace dark and seedy to a “bright and colorful” spot to buy sex toys.

“I saw these things happening, which, according to theory, couldn’t be happening.” She had a gut feeling that porn, too, was being misjudged.

In 1999, Smith decided to analyze For Women magazine, a relatively upmarket glossy that ran features like “Semen: a user’s guide” and “Women who sleep with strangers night after night.” The magazine, Smith argued, sought to manufacture “a space where women [could] be sexually free” by writing about things like three-ways, cuckolding fetishes, and anal sex in a way that made them seem normal. It was also primo masturbation material, offering “male bodies for female consumption” and real-life sex stories.

Academics and peers she respected tried to dissuade Smith from continuing down the porn path. “They would ask me, ‘When are you going to move on from this area into more serious study?’ They’d also tell me I was really brave.” She laughs. “I wasn’t brave, I was interested!”

For Women

When academics analyze comics, horror films, video games, or anime, it isn’t generally assumed that their scholarship constitutes a ringing endorsement of everything in their field of study. But with porn, it’s different. The topic is so “burdened with significance,” as transgender studies professor Bobby Noble once described it, it’s easy to get trapped in the debate over its existence—instead of looking at it objectively as a cultural product.

But Smith ignored the naysayers and, over the next few years, penned a number of articles with titles like, “Shiny Chests and Heaving G-Strings: A Night Out with the Chippendales” and “They’re Ordinary People, Not Aliens from the Planet Sex! The Mundane Excitements of Pornography for Women.”

She was cavorting with other porn academics and traveling to conferences when she fortuitously met Feona Attwood. “It felt like we were the only two people talking about [porn], at least in the UK,” Smith said. The pair eventually brought their idea for a porn studies journal to the multinational academic publishing house Routledge, initiating two-and-a-half years of negotiation. When, finally, the two were told their proposal for the journal had been accepted, they “sat in stupefied silence for about ten minutes,” Smith said.

Nearly as soon as Porn Studies was announced, a feminist anti-porn organization in the UK called Stop Porn Culture circulated an online petition demanding the creation of an anti-porn journal for the sake of balance. Signatories claimed the journal was akin to “murder studies” from the viewpoints of “murderers.”

Smith and Attwood believe they somewhat missed the point. “We were trying to move away from the idea that there were only two ways of thinking,” said Attwood. “Like for or against television, or for or against the novel. It’s a bizarre way of thinking, from an academic point of view.”

porn studies

At the time, the UK had recently banned a long list of hardcore sex acts from porn produced in the country, including “spanking, caning, whipping, penetration by an object ‘associated with violence,’ physical or verbal abuse (consensual or not), urination in sexual contexts, female ejaculation, strangulation, facesitting and fisting (if all knuckles are inserted).” The country’s mood wasn’t exactly sex-positive.

“We have this idea that we can just keep undesirable things out of the country,” Smith said.

That fearful attitude, naturally, extends to university campuses. “I don’t think there was ever a golden age for studying porn,” Attwood told me. “It’s always been tricky!” She says the resistance the pair encountered—and continue to encounter—is part of a “much broader” problem related to academic freedom; at the University of Houston, for example, teachers were recently told they might want to modify what they teach in case students are carrying concealed weapons.

“The social and political context we are working in at the moment as academics makes our work more precarious and dangerous in all kinds of ways that are not just about what we study,” Attwood said.

Yet the history of porn research in the United States isn’t as dramatic as you’d imagine. Linda Williams was able to teach porn with full support of her administration way back in the (H.W.) Bush years.

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“There is still such a thing as academic freedom,” Williams said nonchalantly when I asked how administrators reacted to her porny syllabi when she taught the subject at UC Irvine, in the heart of conservative Orange County, in 1992.

Back then, Williams, who’d already published a book on the subject by that point, would screen whatever porn was floating around in the cultural ether. She had her students watch gonzo porn; feminist porn (“cleaned up with lots of potted plants and no money shots”); and sadomasochist porn (“the theatrical kind…and the other kind”).

The biggest issue students had was with the gay porn, which Williams says freaked out the hetero guys—a lot. Usually, though, what students did in her classes was laugh their heads off. “That’s kind of a protective measure, because otherwise they might, you know, get horny,” she said.

When I asked Smith if she screened porn in her classes, though, I was surprised to hear that she didn’t.

“Both Feona [Attwood] and I have tenure, but that still doesn’t mean that you can do what you like. Also, I’m at a small, provincial university that is one of the post-1992 schools [formerly polytechnics or colleges of higher education in the UK], and we don’t have a very bullish attitude that we’re the elite, so I have to be aware of the university’s sensibilities, which are: Can we defend this to parents? I don’t want to cause that kind of trouble.”

For now, Smith is advising graduate students, conducting research, attending conferences, and, of course, editing Porn Studies. She says she’s most concerned about making sure the next generation doesn’t feel the same sense of shame over their sexual desires as the older people she’s interviewed in her research. “In the research that Feona and I did, one of the key things that comes through when you talk to older people about their engagements with porn [is that] people say, ‘I just wish someone had had a proper conversation with me about sex. I just wish I hadn’t felt so much shame about looking and finding bodies attractive and going looking for it. It’s taken me a long time to understand what I like sexually.’ Why do we want another generation coming up afraid of their bodies and ashamed of their desires?”

Complete Article HERE!

Why Does He Need Porn When He Has ME?

By Amy Jo Goddard

If you are threatened because your partner or lover watches porn, you need to ask yourself why.

nude

Porn has become the ubiquitous other woman. The porn debate is intense and complex for many people. I hear people talk about the role they think porn is playing in their sexual lives and I’ve noticed a big pattern where many women feel like it gets in the way of their being able to be intimate with their partners. Maybe that’s true, but I think there are other factors going on that I want to address in this article.

We could debate all day long about how pornography depicts unrealistic images of women’s bodies, men’s penises and sex itself, and how that creates all sorts of unrealistic expectations for many people when they actually have a real sexual relationship. Porn is there for entertainment and arousal and it fulfills something in people who watch, otherwise it wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry. But let’s talk about the ideas that many people are attaching to their partner’s love of porn.

If you are threatened because your partner or lover watches porn, you need to ask yourself why. When women profess that their partners shouldn’t watch porn because they should just be enough, or because it makes them feel insecure, or because they are now questioning their partner’s integrity or even their attraction, big red flags go up for me because I know that the issue isn’t the porn.

The issue is insecurity, an unstable relationship, or unrealistic expectations. Let’s break each one down.

Insecurity

You need to be your best self and show up as your best self in your relationship. If you are destabilized because your partner watches porn, you are not at home in yourself, you are projecting your own insecurity and you are not being your best self. So, your partner enjoys porn. Why do you want to put the kibosh on that because you don’t like it?porn.jpg

You need to deal with your insecurity. No amount of porn can replace a loving, sensual, playful, adventurous, real-life sexual partner. Porn doesn’t caress your partner and give him or her human touch. You do. Why are you comparing yourself to porn?

If your insecurity is flaring up, ask yourself if you are insecure about yourself or the relationship. It’s one or the other.

If the insecurity is about yourself then your complaints about your lover’s porn watching are a projection. How does it serve you to do that? Your insecurity is your issue to deal with. Don’t project it onto your partner or you will seriously douse the flame of the relationship. Total relationship killer.

Unstable Relationship

If you are insecure in the relationship, then the two of you had better talk and figure out how you are going to address and get help with that. It will NOT fix itself. You must deal with the insecurity because it means there is not trust and that’s an awful place to be. Why be in a relationship where you can’t trust your partner? If you are not working on mending the insecurity, then the relationship is dying and you need to get real about that.

If your relationship is unstable and you are feeling insecure about it, then that will show up everywhere. Again, the porn is not the problem, the issues in the relationship are. The porn watching could be a symptom of what’s going on if your lover uses the porn to escape and not deal with the real things that are going on for you in the relationship. Or, it might just be something your lover likes to do. In that case, why are you judging it?

Unrealistic Expectations

free_online_pornYou may also have totally unrealistic and unfair expectations of your sexual partner. If you expect that YOU will be the SOLE source of your partner’s erotic excitement you are not only kidding yourself, you are expecting that your lover will just put away his or her sexuality and bring it out only for you. Is that what attracted you to them in the first place? I bet not.

If you need to be the center of your lover’s universe, and that’s how you feel your own self-worth, you have work to do. People are sexual by nature. Our sexuality is. We don’t turn it on or off at will because it makes someone feel uncomfortable. And no one should expect us to. You don’t decide not to wear your sexuality today because you have a business meeting or a doctor’s appointment, or lunch with a friend that might make your partner jealous. You are always sexual and if you or your partner is putting your sexuality away to “protect” the other from feeling bad, insecure, jealous, hurt, threatened or even angry, that’s problematic. You are squashing the most powerful energy you have and that doesn’t serve you or your relationship.

Can I coexist with porn in my relationship?

Your partner can love you, desire you and want to have mind-blowing sex with you AND enjoy watching porn. The porn itself takes nothing away from you. It’s another means of sexual expression that your partner likes. You don’t have to like it the same way, but why do you need to zip their lid and guilt them into feeling bad because sexy images turn them on? That will do more damage than any amount of porn watching ever will. They’ll just learn to hide things from you and they’ll be clandestine about it – they won’t stop watching porn. You are just creating future trust issues.

If this is an issue for you there are some patterns you’ve got to look at. You are enough. You are not competing in a pageant with pornography. (Get another take on pornography in Porn: Love It or Leave It?)

Complete Article HERE!

Porn for women? Ya betcha! – Part 2

We continue what we started earlier in the week, I was all involved in responding to a young woman’s query about porn for women when I ran out of time. Let’s pick up where we left off in Part 1, shall we?

Last week we considered the proliferation of porn for straight women. This week we take a look at some of the other categories of porn for women. Remember this is by no means an exhaustive list. And just so you know, you can find most all of these titles in Dr Dick How To Video Library. Look for a Video Library tab in the header of DDSA for this great sex resource.

Porn for straight couples.

Comstock Films Matt and Khym
New York-based filmmaker Tony Comstock forged his own path in the adult business, creating films previously unseen in the world of porn. Blending a documentary style with hardcore sex, Comstock created a new genre, “pornumentary” or “docuporn”. His films feature real-life couples talking about their relationship and sex lives before having sex on camera. The result is a fresh and revealing look into the lives of real people, and depicts the kind of sex real people have. This is porn without the fakery and cliché so often seen in mainstream porn. It’s erotica with emotion and context.

Anna Span - Hug a Hoodie_mAnna Span
Anna Span is Britain’s first female porn director and she brings a unique perspective to her hardcore films. Her college dissertation was titled “Towards a New Pornography.” She created her first hardcore adult film in 1997, and worked for adult TV channels in the UK. She is the author of the book Erotic Home Video. Her production company, Easy on the Eye, also releases films by other female directors.

Anna’s films are made for both women and men, but she makes a special effort to include more female perspectives in her films, with a focus on female pleasure. Her movies feature excellent acting and engaging plots. Anna Span created a series called Women Love Porn, which features a selection of newer female directors hand-chosen by Anna.

Tristan Taormino chemistry
Tristan Taormino is an author, editor and filmmaker who made a career out of sex education, particularly in the area of anal sex. We’ve featured lots of stuff my Tristan here on Dr Dick’s Sex Advice. Her column and website Pucker Up deals extensively with anal sex and her book; The Ultimate Guide To Anal Sex For Women won a Firecracker award. It was also made into a film in 1999. In 2006 Tristan created her own production company, Smart Ass Productions, so she could create her own brand of porn films. She was honored at the Inaugural Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto in 2006 and her film, Chemistry, won an AVN award in 2007, the first of several such awards and nominations.

Tristan has her own line of educational films with the porn giant, Vivid, called, VividEd. Again, you can find all these titles in Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

Tristan describes herself as “queer”, saying she dislikes the label “bisexual”. Her films are designed to appeal to women and men of all orientations.

how to fuck in high heelsJoyBear Pictures
Joybear is a another UK-based erotic film company that makes films for both women and men. It was established in 2003 by Justin Ribero des Santos after he won a Playboy filmmaking competition, Joybear creates high-quality, high class explicit films and makes an effort to cater to the real desires of their audience. The company regularly runs surveys and focus groups to determine what it is that people want to see. Which is pretty cool if ya ask me.

 

 

 

 

Porn Movies For Lesbians And Queer People

While girl-on-girl action has long been a mainstay of the porn market, authentic lesbian erotica is still relatively rare. But nowadays, there are a number of people working to create their own brand of lesbian and queer porn, reflecting their own experiences and tastes.

Maria Beatty and Bleu Productions little hot riding hood
Paris-based filmmaker Maria Beatty is world renowned for her innovative and beautiful lesbian erotic films that focus on BDSM. Having previously worked on documentaries about artists, Maria began to make her own special brand of porn in 1994, producing The Elegant Spanking, which received international acclaim. This film documents the intimate sadomasochistic encounters of Maria and a dominant female partner.

Since then Maria has produced an impressive number of adult movies, all exploring “the playful relationship between pleasure and pain” as she says. Her films have been produced independently in order to keep her vision of erotica unblemished by the demands of studios. She also does all the writing, editing, camerawork and production design herself. Maria recently completed a second feature length film called The Boy in the Bathtub, is currently working on is working on other erotic films.

lesbian threesomeMadison Young
San Francisco-based Madison Young describes herself as a “bondage/ fetish model, adult performer, artist, gallerist, activist, published writer, rope slut, queer and feminist.” She runs a non-profit art gallery called Femina Potens and performs in porn to help fund it. She’s an exhibitionist who enjoys exploring the kinkier side of her sexuality on film. And she has been a guest on my SEX WISDOM show. Use the search function in the header, type in Madison Young and Voilà, the two parts of her podcast will appear.

Madison says, “I wanted to be part of a movement of sex positive feminists taking control of their sexuality on film. Somehow documenting my sexual explorations always gave me some unbenounced permission to explore parts of my sexuality that I didn’t feel comfortable exploring in the bedroom. I love the camera. I always used to beg my partners to tape us having sex even before I got into the industry. I believe that it is educational to document honest sexual exploration and experiences and I try to feed into that and put all of my sexual energy into a scene.”

Aside from performing in numerous mainstream porn films, Madison used to run her own website. Madison Bound, but now it’s closed. Her subject matter encompasses many different tastes but usually includes BDSM and a lot of lesbianism.

S.I.R. Productionsprivate thoughts
S.I.R. stands for Sex, Indulgence and Rock n Roll. This company was one of the pioneers of real lesbian erotica and their titles are considered classics. Their movies are legendary for capturing raw emotion, intense chemistry, real orgasms that convey revolutionary queer desire. No wonder their films have played to sold out audiences to almost every LGBT film fest around the world.

 

 

 

 

Porn Movies Like Fifty Shades Of Grey

You’ve probably read Fifty Shades of Grey or know someone who has. Right? And let’s say you’re now keen to see a good smut that offers erotic BDSM. Preferably with a female submissive and a hot guy. Well here’s a short list titles to get you started, but don’t forget to look for all the swell instructional videos available at Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

the_submission_of_emma_marx_fThe Submission Of Emma Marx
Here’s the story line: Emma Marx is a beautiful, confident, well-adjusted woman. Unfortunately, when it comes to love and romance, all of her previous relationships have turned out to be a bit routine and mundane. Suddenly, that is all changes with a chance encounter with a handsome and mysterious man. He introduces her to a world she had only dared to fantasize about, a world of erotic sex, role-play and BDSM. She is surprised by how a man can so easily strip away her inhibitions and replace them with lust and desire. How is it that he has such control over her? Why does she like it so much? This is her journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening, but it comes with a price. What happens when the greatest love you’ve ever known forces you to face your greatest obstacle – yourself?

 

Shades of Kinkshades of kink
Enter the dark territory of unbridled sexual perversion and fantasy in Sweet Sinner’s taboo-smashing feature film, Shades of Kink. Riley is a sweet, innocent and motivated college grad looking for her first job at Norton Ashe’s marketing firm. The mysterious Ashe is looking to help his new recruit open up her imagination and body to new experiences. With intense drama and explosive performances by Maddy O’Reilly, Andy San Dimas, and Lily LaBeau, Shades of Kink guarantees to re-invent erotica.

 

 

 

Fifty Shades Of Dylan RyanFifty Shades Of Dylan Ryan
Back to award Winning Feminist Pornographer, Madison Young, who I mention just moments ago, brings you Fifty Shades Of Dylan Ryan. Wealthy entrepreneur and book publishing mogul, Ms. Grey, has met her match in young college student and curious submissive, Dylan Ryan. After a sexy and defiant Dylan challenges Ms. Grey to a bet, Dylan forgoes her freedom and submerges herself into a life of total submission, testing her boundaries, proving her servitude through sexual gratification, masked orgies, soaked in female ejaculate, vibrated and fucked to orgasmic heights coupled with fellow sexual servants Bianca Stone and Berretta James. Dylan is whipped to climactic moments of pain and pleasure and collared while cradled in an intimate embrace of tenderness after an aggressive and beautiful journey into the depths of her darkest desires. How fun! Sounds like holiday viewing material, huh?

Ok, that’s it for my porn for women presentation. Hope ya liked it.

Porn for women? Ya betcha! – Part 1

Name: Candice
Gender: Female
Age: 22
Location: Cleveland
Is there such a thing as porn for women?

Ya, sure, ya betcha!

There’s never gonna be a simple answer to the question “What turns women on?” anymore than there’s a simple answer to the question “What turns men on?” Women are just as unpredictable in their eroticism as are men. And you can be pretty sure that what turns an individual on will most likely change over time. Let’s face it; for some women, a man wielding a vacuum may be more erotically charged than a dude wielding an erection.

Nowadays, porn comes in all shapes and sizes. And it is designed to titillate a much broader swath of the population then ever before. Before I begin to address all the marvelous porn being produced by women for women, let me mention that loads and loads of women love gay male porn. It stands to reason, right? After all, men are the erotic object for most of these women and gay male porn offers some of the most stunning and tantalizing examples of male flesh around. And there are no women in these movies. There are no women to compare one’s self too. No women are ever degraded or exploited in gay male porn. And lots and lots of women love seeing men on the receiving end of penetrative sex. It’s such a delicious and refreshing change of pace. And if you don’t mind a bit of shameless self-promotion, check out the work I did at Daddy Oohhh! Productions. We did eleven films in our heyday. There are trailers for each and links where you can watch scenes and/or download the whole film HERE!

First, let’s take a look at porn produced for straight women. There used to be very little in this category. Nowadays, there’s been an explosion of such productions and there are a number of production houses cranking it out.

The Main Producers are:

Candida Royalle and Femme Productionsafrodite-420x600
The first person to create porn movies for straight women, Candida Royalle’s Femme series has been selling like hotcakes since 1985 – and she’s still going strong. Candida legitimized the idea of women enjoying porn, and she has been inspiring a new wave of directors and producers that are following in her footsteps. Candida’s movies have internal cumshots, no unseemly facials, romance, plots… and, of course, hardcore sex.

Candida pioneered the idea of creating adult films for straight women and forged a new path in the adult industry, insisting that female viewers of porn should have their own films. She is much revered in feminist porn circles for her work and her films continue to be best sellers.

Lust Films
Spanish feminist director Erika Lust has made waves with her own vision of hot, hardcore women’s porn. Her collection of short films, Five Hot Stories For Her, won Film of the Year at the 2008 Feminist Porn Awards and Life Love Lust won the same award in 2011.

five hot stories

Erika has a degree in Political Science, specializing in Feminism. In 2004 she made an erotic short called The Good Girl, which received much critical acclaim. She went on to found Lust Films, a media company, which aims to create feminist, female-friendly adult films. She’s also an author of note. She’s become one of the better-known female directors of porn for women.

Her Porn
a-taste-of-joy-1147-bUK independent filmmaker Petra Joy has created her own brand of adult film. Her motto is “feeling it, not faking it” and the focus is on sensuality, without sacrificing the heat. Her films feature real-life couples acting out explicit sexual scenarios, and are based on her own fantasies, as well as those of other women.

Her aesthetic is a more sensual one; she is interested in suggestion rather than blatant, gynecological close-ups.

Petra originally worked at a German TV network where she produced short erotic pieces for the series Love and Sins. Her photography has won numerous awards, including a nomination at the British Erotic Awards in 2003.

Petra says, “I want porn that stimulates the mind and feeds the soul. That is educational and inspirational, creative and kinky. And because I can not find it anywhere else; I make my own.”

Sweet Sinner and Hard Candy Films

After a career performing in and making girl-on-girl films (via her Sweetheart Video line) Nica teacher seductionNoelle decided she wanted to create movies depicting heterosexual sex for women and couples.

The big challenge was applying her ideals of intimacy and realism to boy-on-girl scenes. She wanted to make porn that was more emotional and personal with a real emphasis on female pleasure and orgasms. The result was Sweet Sinner, a line of hardcore erotic films that women totally enjoy. Nica says there are no facial cum shots in these films, although there are some external spunk. She herself prefers the guys to come inside and stay connected to their partner before, during and after ejaculation. Her films always ensure the women have an orgasm, even if it’s after the guy. So hurray for that.

Nica also directed some of Sweet Sinema films, which are features inspired by mainstream movies.

Nica left Sweet Sinner (and Mile High Media) and started a new studio she calls Hard Candy Films. It’s a company that makes couples-oriented porn, which is basically the same thing as woman-oriented films. Nica says she likes to create more emotionally nuanced films with her new company and is embracing a greater creative freedom. Her films still offer non-formulaic sex and complicated relationships within the confines of a feature. She writes and directs all of her own films.

Ok, that’s it for today. We’ll pick this topic up again at the end of the week.

Human Rights + Sexual Rights = Sexual Freedom

On this the first annual National Sexual Freedom Day, sponsored by The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, I’d like to propose something quite radical. I suggest that our sexual freedoms, here in the United States, are intricately linked to universal sexual rights. And I contend that the notion of universal sexual rights is at its core a respect for human rights and human dignity.

In a world wracked by poverty, disease and war; where we threaten our very existence with climate altering pollution, nuclear proliferation and extreme population growth; is there room to talk about human rights that include sexual rights and sexual freedom?

I emphatically answer yes! In fact, I assert that sexual inequality and oppression is at the heart of many of the world’s problems. I contend that trying to address human rights without including the essential component of sexual rights and sexual freedom is ultimately doomed to failure.

An absence of sexual rights and sexual freedom leads to domestic and societal violence; human trafficking; suicide; a rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); unplanned pregnancies, abortion, and sexual dysfunction.

You know how we are always being encouraged to Think Globally and Act Locally? Well while we busy ourselves securing and celebrating our sexual rights here in this nation, I think we’d do well to focus some of our attention on how our struggle binds us to the rest of the human community.

I offer three examples of what I’m talking about. I invite you to consider how a myopic sexual rights and sexual freedom agenda, divorced from the overarching issues of human, economic and social rights, can be ineffectual and even counterproductive.

***

In 2008 the research community was all aflutter about ‘conclusive’ evidence linking HIV transmission and uncircumcised males. While I’m certainly not ready to take this data on face value, let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, that the link is conclusive. A massive campaign of circumcision was proposed as the best means of HIV prevention. The medical community would descend on epicenters of the disease, scalpels in hand; ready to eliminate the offending foreskins from every male in sight, young and old.

But wait, there’s a problem. Most HIV/AIDS epicenters are in underdeveloped countries. In these places, access to enough clean water to drink or attend to even the most basic personal hygiene, like daily cleaning under one’s foreskin, remains an enormous chronic problem. Without first addressing the problem of unfettered access to clean water and adequate sanitation, which according to The United Nations is a basic human right, further disease prevention efforts are doomed.

I mean, what are the chances that surgical intervention would succeed—one that would involve significant and sophisticated aftercare—if there is not even enough clean water for drinking and bathing?

These well-meaning medical personnel suggest imposing a strategy that not only works against nature—our foreskins do have a purpose after all: a healthy prepuce is a natural deterrent to infection. But this intervention would also violate long-held cultural and societal norms—circumcision is abhorrent to many of these same cultures. Wouldn’t this proposed prevention effort to stem the tide actually make matters worse?

***

Indentured sex work is another indicator of how human rights, sexual rights and sexual freedom are intertwined. Until the economic and educational opportunities for women throughout the world improve—which is a basic human right according to The United Nations—women will remain chattel. Families in economically depressed areas of the world will continue to be pressured to sell their daughters (and sons) simply to subsist.

Closing brothels and stigmatizing prostitutes overlooks the more pressing human rights concerns at play here. Sex is a commodity because there is a voracious market. Men from developed nations descend on the populations of less developed nations to satisfy sexual proclivities with partners they are prohibited from enjoying in their own country. Young women (and boys) in developing countries are viewed as exploitable and disposable, because they don’t have the same civil protections afforded their peers in the developed world. And runaway population growth in countries that deprive their women and girls access to education and contraception inevitably creates a never-ending supply of hapless replacements.

Addressing the endemic gender inequality in many societies is key. Equal access to education and economic resources must come before, or at least hand in hand with any serious sexual liberation effort.

***

Finally, people in the developed world enjoy a certain level of affluence and economic stability which allows them to indulge in sex recreationally. Thanks to effective birth control methods we can ignore the procreative aspects of sex and replace it with a means of expressing a myriad of other human needs. Not least among these are status, self-esteem and self-expression.

If we’re trying to prove something to ourselves, or others, by the way we conduct our sexual lives, simple prohibitions against certain sex practices won’t work. If I’m convinced that unprotected sex with multiple partners and sharing bodily fluids is edgy, cool fun, without serious consequence, as it’s portrayed in porn; I will be more likely to express myself the same way. This is especially true for young people who are already feeling invincible.

Case in point: there has been a startling uptick in seroconversions among young people, particularly gay men, which indicates that disease prevention efforts, even in the world’s most affluent societies, are simply not up to the task. It’s not that there is a scarcity of resources, quite the contrary. It is more likely that these efforts are not connected to a fundamental understanding of the role sexuality plays in the general population. I believe that sexual expression and sexual pleasure are the overarching issues here. These too are fundamental human rights.

No amount of safer sex proselytizing is going to prevail unless and until we look at why and how we express ourselves sexually. As we unravel this complex jumble of motivations and behaviors, effective prevention strategies will manifest themselves clearly. We must develop a sex-positive message; one that celebrates sexuality, builds self-esteem and counteracts the prevailing media messages of sex with no consequences.

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National Sexual Freedom Day brings into focus the micro-strategies needed to combat a macro problem. But it also shows that we cannot work for and celebrate sexual freedom in a vacuum. It’s imperative that we see how global health and wellbeing is completely dependent on basic human rights, including sexual rights that include gender and reproductive rights, the elimination of sexual exploitation and the freedom of sexual expression.