December 26, 2011

Undersage Sex? It's Not a Big Problem | Guardian {featured read}

In response to new research on the number of youth who have sex in England comes this refreshing commentary about the situation of sex among youth there, presenting an uplifting contrast to the negative situation of underage sex in the US as portrayed in Dirty Little Secrets.


It is true that underage sexual activity in girls is rising at a higher rate than in boys, but I don't believe underage sex is an inherent problem; the age of consent is largely arbitrary. If a girl has safe consensual sex with another girl or boy at 15, both are happy and there are no significant power-imbalances – that's fine. [...]

Like [shadow health minister Diane] Abbott, I am concerned about pornification, the way in which much mainstream porn presents women. I'm concerned that young women believe there is one right way to look during sex, and about the persistent tendency of mainstream media to present sexual activity between women as titillation for male viewers.

However, girls don't just have sex because they view themselves as "sex objects": teenage and even pre-teenage girls have sexual desires of their own. Sex isn't necessarily something that is done to girls, because they view themselves as sexual objects; it can be initiated and enjoyed by them. Indeed, the reason underage sex among girls is rising could be due to female sexuality becoming less taboo.
Read More at the Guaridan >>

December 19, 2011

Scarlet Road {featured film}

Scarlet Road Video from Paradigm Pictures on Vimeo.

Scarlet Road follows the work of Australian sex worker Rachel Wotton who specializes in a long over-looked clientele: people with disability.
Impassioned about freedom of sexual expression, Australian sex worker Rachel Wotton has become highly specialized in working with clients with disability. Rachel’s philosophy, that human touch and sexual intimacy can be some of the most therapeutic aspects to our existence, is making a dramatic impact on the lives of her clients ... While Rachel’s clients give a glimpse into their sexual self-discovery, Scarlet Road follows Rachel as she strives to increase awareness and access to sexual expression for people with disability. Rachel is also an active campaigner for both policy makers and the general public to recognise that sex work is work. She has been a part of an international movement to try to gain rights for sex workers and to end the social stigma and discriminatory practices that surround their occupation.

December 12, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets: The Flip Side of Denying Girls Pleasure {featured book}

Based on interviews with young women and solid research, Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity (2011) unpacks, despite its title, not simply the subject of promiscuous girls, but in general how young women in our culture are denied the opportunity to develop a sexual identity on their own terms. Instead girls (and many women) see their identities as tied up with how boys (/men) view them, never quite measuring up. Above all, it shows how girls, taught not to be sexual, often have sex not for the sake of their own sexual pleasure, but to be accepted, seen, and, ironically, rescued from their belief that they are not good enough as they are.

The author, Kerry Cohen, is a practicing psychotherapist and once a "loose girl" herself; many will know her as the author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity (2008). As Cohen shows, the perpetuation of a "cultural narrative" that teaches young girls that "boys are horny, but girls are not, and so girls must do what they can to keep boys and their out-of-control hormones at bay," doesn't keep girls "safe" at all. Because "when you deny a group of people an essential part of who they are, a part they have full right to, they often wind up using it in a self-destructive manner rather than a natural part of their development." Moreover, telling girls to be "sexy but not sexual" greatly outweighs any attention to what might be "a natural, authentic sense of their sexual identity."

December 9, 2011

The Purity Myth {featured film}

The Purity Myth Trailer from Media Education Foundation on Vimeo.

The Purity Myth: The Virginity Movement's War Against Women is a video adaptation of pioneering feminist blogger Jessica Valenti's bestselling book.
[The film] trains her sights on "the virginity movement" -- an unholy alliance of evangelical Christians, right-wing politicians, and conservative policy intellectuals who have been exploiting irrational fears about women's sexuality to roll back women's rights. From dad-and-daughter "purity balls," taxpayer-funded abstinence-only curricula, and political attacks on Planned Parenthood, to recent attempts by legislators to de-fund women's reproductive health care and narrow the legal definition of rape, Valenti identifies a single, unifying assumption: the myth that the worth of a woman depends on what she does -- or does not do -- sexually. In the end, Valenti argues that the health and well-being of women are too important to be left to ideologues bent on vilifying feminism and undermining women's autonomy.
 Find out more about Valenti and her film here.

December 8, 2011

Ask Anything, Tell All | Washington Monthly {featured read}

"Is sex columnist Dan Savage a shock jock, a sagacious ethicist, or both?" Washington Monthly brings us this astute profile of Dan Savage, which shows his wide cultural influence as a new (but radically different) Ann Landers. It is a must-read for how it unpacks Savage's sexual ethics. (Republished by the Utne Reader, Sept-Oct 2011).


After 20 years of churning out Savage Love, the Seattle writer can lay a legitimate claim to being America’s most influential advice columnist. He is syndicated around the world in more than 70 newspapers—mainly alternative weeklies in the United States—with well over 1 million in total circulation. Online, he reaches millions more readers. He is a frequent contributor to the popular radio program This American Life, and a Savage Love television show is under discussion with MTV. His podcast has a higher iTunes ranking than those of Rachel Maddow or the NBC Nightly News, and his books have sold briskly. And when it suits him, the range of his commentary has become increasingly broad. In the space of one column—the one where he announced his purchase of Ann Landers’ desk—Savage offered advice to a 30-year-old woman who wanted to sleep with a 17-year-old coworker, fielded a question from a man with a childbirth fetish, and then, for good measure, advised the Bush administration to take a harder stance on Saudi Arabia.

Savage’s ability to mobilize legions of readers has also matured beyond the lobbing of incendiary Google bombs. Last fall, a streak of suicides by gay teenagers across the country inspired Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, to post a video testimonial on YouTube. The two men recounted their difficulties growing up bullied and harassed, then held up their adult lives—and happiness as a couple—as evidence that, for gay people living in America, “it gets better.” Savage encouraged other people to film their own testimonials and post them online under the heading of the “It Gets Better Project.” A torrent of videos poured in, first from Savage’s regular readers, then from various Hollywood celebrities, and then from leaders in Washington. Hillary Clinton was quickly followed by Nancy Pelosi and President Obama himself, who delivered the line “Every day, it gets better” from the White House.
Read More at Utne Reader >>

December 5, 2011

Look God, No Hands | Bust {featured read}

"Dirty Girls Ministries," led by 26-year-old Crystal Renaud, is on a crusade against the evils of female masturbation. The fierce magazine Bust has looked more closely at the current Christian anti-porn, anti-masturbation movement and how it affects young women. (Republished by the Utne Reader, Sept-Oct 2011).

The No Stones recovery group is part of an organization called Dirty Girls Ministries that Renaud launched in 2009 after suffering from her own self-described pornography addiction. She says she wanted to help other women recover from their X-rated fixations by connecting with them online and holding meetings at her local church. But her use of the terms porn and addiction may be misleading. The growing group of 100-plus members who participate in the forums say that they masturbate or view porn—which they define as including erotica and romance novels—twice a week or less. For most of us, that would hardly be considered excessive. But to Renaud, it indicates an epidemic of addiction, one that can be treated by helping women stay “clean” of masturbation.

In addition to the online ministry, she speaks regularly at various evangelical churches in Kansas and has written a book called Dirty Girls Come Clean. “Whether you believe it or not, women are addicted to porn,” Renaud preached in a recent sermon. “You’d be surprised at how many women—women in your own lives—are hiding this deep, dark, and dirty secret.”

While many of the women she counsels report turning to pornography as a form of escape—from traumas like sexual abuse, infidelity, and even prostitution—Renaud compares their masturbation to alcoholism, saying that “like drugs and alcohol, so many things that feel good in a short amount of time can end up hurting you.”

Renaud’s advocacy is labeled antipornography, but it aims to treat all masturbation, whether it involves porn or not. When you peel back the layers, the core of her crusade is against sexual thought—even within marriage—unless those thoughts are about your husband while you are engaging in intercourse with him.
Read More at Utne Reader >>

December 1, 2011

X-Rated Ethics | Green Futures {featured read}

This is a fascinating article from Green Futures, the leading British magazine on environmental solutions and sustainable futures, about how socially sustainable sex work could save the economy, the environment, and our society. (Republished by the Utne Reader, Sept-Oct 2011).

There’s certainly an ugly side to the sex industry. Exploitation and trafficking play a part—but the common assumption that sex work is inherently dangerous or degrading can, with bitter irony, actually make life harder for those involved. In November 2010, The Economist, citing a report by Human Rights Watch, warned that international laws designed to suppress human trafficking and sexual exploitation—leading to the closure of bars and brothels—have “helped the police to beat, rob, and rape sex workers with impunity.” The magazine asserted: “Most migrant sex workers have left home for good reasons of their own—among them a desire to work away from their families, and to earn more money.” Catherine Stephens of the International Union of Sex Workers agrees. “It’s not only inaccurate to suggest that the majority of sex workers do not choose their profession,” she argues: “it’s patronizing and disempowering.”

According to stereotypes, men who pay for sex are on a power trip. But in the vast majority of cases, says Belinda Brooks-Gordon, author of The Price of Sex: Prostitution, Policy and Society, the reality is very different. For many johns, “mutuality is part of the attraction. . . . Sex workers [actually] get bored by constant interrogation [from clients] about their well-being.”
Read More at Utne Reader >>
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