THE GLOBAL POST: Sex Workers Need Decriminalization, Not Stigma

With the news that New York state intends to bring in a bill to decriminalize sex work, prostitution in the United States is back in the headlines. The response from anti-prostitution activists was fast and furious, and they immediately began lobbying and picketing to stop this from happening.

To criminalize or decriminalize: that is the polarizing question feminists have been asking themselves since the feminist sex wars of the 1980s.

The arguments on the anti-side are bleak. Prostitution is violence against women. Prostitution oppresses women. Women won’t be free until prostitution is eliminated. Therefore, the only responsible policy is to recognize that women are abused in prostitution, and to target the male buyers and pimps to end demand. Anti-prostitution activists favor the so-called Nordic model where the buyers are criminalized, and the sellers are given the resources they need to get out of the trade.

Until a few years ago, I too was an anti-prostitution scholar and filmmaker. But interviewing and getting to know sex working women who choose sex work challenged my thinking on the Nordic model, amongst many other things. The women I met made me see that the Nordic model is not a stop-gap to women’s eventual sexual equality; it simply prolongs our inequality by continuing and reinforcing the stigma against women’s sexuality and sexual freedom.

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Sex Workers need Decriminalization, not Stigma by Meredith Ralston

April 23rd, 2019


DAILY BEAST: How Porn Stars Balance Sex Work and Parenting: ‘My Kids Are Trained to Respect Privacy’

MILF. Mom. Stepmom. All three terms made Pornhub’s top-10 most-searched in 2018. Women’s No. 1 searched term in 2018 was “Daddy,” according to xHamster’s trend report. As the interest in fauxcest continues to climb, adult performers are increasingly fetishized as parents—but for some porn stars, being a mommy (or daddy) isn’t just sexy role-play, it’s real life. Not only do adult performers struggle with striking the same work-life balance as everyone else, they have the added responsibility of keeping their careers hush-hush. Some performers keep their two lives so segregated, they won’t even admit to being parents; others create boundaries and a framework within which to abide by.

Known as the “Taboo MILF,” Penny Barber has made a career out of indulging these types of desires, and much of her site focuses on mommy-son role-play. Barber happens to be a mother off-screen, too. Her kids, who are in elementary school, think Mom makes indie movies—which isn’t entirely untrue. Keeping her work separated from her kids’ realm feels “effortless” once the foundational limits were established, one of which is privacy.

“My kids are trained to respect privacy, which I assume other parents don’t have to worry about as much,” says Barber. “For example, if they see that I’m on my computer, they have to ask, ‘May I approach?’ before they come over, just in case I’m editing on Photoshop or have my email open or something.” Barber’s also taken additional precautions, like setting her computer to log out when it’s not in use.

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How Porn Stars balance Sex Work and Parenting by Aurora Snow

April 20th, 2019


BBC: Should prostitution be a normal profession?

Amsterdam’s Red Light District – with its winding alleyways filled with crimson-glowing windows where women attract passing customers – has become not only a tourist destination and cultural icon, but also a high-profile example of a place where safe, legal sex work has been practised for decades.

But that might soon end. Dutch parliament is currently preparing to debate the legality of prostitution in the Netherlands. With the industry facing opposition from both the Christian right and feminist left, sex workers in the Red Light District are under pressure to protect their right to work.

Could these debates lead to big changes in sex work around the world? And how could that affect the jobs and lives of the people in the industry?

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Should prostitution be a normal profession? by Ed Butler, Laurence Knight, and Bryan Lufkin

April 20th, 2019


PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: How to Pick the Right Sex Therapist

We’re always hearing we could have a better sex life. But, how often do we actually go ‘under the covers’ to better understand our desires and most embarrassing questions?  How do you decide who you’re going to trust with some of your most intimate experiences? Most people do their best to try to fix issues in a relationship when it’s not going well. But sometimes, seeking professional help in this area can be fraught with risk as some therapists aren’t able to deal with these intimate issues effectively.

There needs to be two separate, parallel conversations, when couples come to sex therapy. One, about the emotional health within the relationship, and the other, about sexual health. Many people think that if the relationship gets better, then the sex will too, or vice versa. Both are a myth.

It is important to encourage couples to speak openly about their erotic needs, something that seldom happens outside of the therapist’s office. When these are brought out into the open, discrepancies between each other’s inner erotic worlds can be discovered. Exploring uncomfortable desires more deeply can open a door to greater understanding of themselves, increased empathy for their partners, and potentially lead to healing their sex lives and their relationship. But how do you chose the right therapist?

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How to pick the right Sex Therapist by Joe Kort, Ph.D.

April 20th, 2019


ROLLING STONE: Sex and the Stoner

As the cannabis market explodes, so has the market for pot products made for those who want to both get high and get off. This could be especially good for women, who on average climax during sex less often than men. Now, some experts believe the growing acceptance of pot could help change what has been dubbed “the orgasm gap.” “Our endocannabinoid system controls moods and cycles,” says Gabrielle Noel, a sex and cannabis writer. “So women in particular stand to benefit.”

Massage oils and lubes containing THC and CBD basically do for the clitoris what Viagra does for penises. “It can support the arousal process by relaxing blood vessels,” says Kiana Reeves, director of community education for Foria, a company that makes weed-infused sex products. “This blood flow can enhance sensation, natural lubrication and access to orgasm.” Adds Noel, “It also makes anal way easier.”

Anna Lee, co-founder of sex-tech company Lioness, tried out Foria’s weed lube along with her company’s “smart” vibrator, a toy that records biofeedback such as muscle contractions. She found that with the THC-infused product, her orgasms lasted three minutes — nine times longer than average when she masturbates. “There was a deepening in sensations that made my body feel in a trance,” says Lee. “I was more sensitive to every movement, which made the orgasm explosive.”

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Sex and the Stoner by Tina Horn

April 19th, 2019


REFINERY29: How Instagram's Rules About Sex Are Penalising Women Online

Last week, Instagram announced it would be clamping down what it deems "inappropriate" content, meaning that posts don't need to violate its community guidelines outright to be penalised. Sexually suggestive content falls under this umbrella and such posts would be "limited from being recommended on [its] Explore and hashtag pages", the company explained. In practise, a sexually suggestive post will still appear in your feed if you follow the account, but such posts "may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages."
The guidelines have already been described as vague and those whose livelihoods could be affected by the move argue the policy is unfair. Among them are sex workers in the UK, many of whom claim to have had their Instagram accounts deactivated in the last week, and they are calling on the social media behemoth to urgently clarify its stance.
UK-based sex worker Rebecca Crow says her account (@katsandcrows) was deactivated last Friday (12th April), and on Monday she started a Change.org petition urging Instagram to meet with her to discuss sex workers' rights on the platform. Crow, who is currently posting on Instagram as @indie_brownbelly, has compiled a list of more than 100 other UK sex workers whose accounts have also been suspended, and won the support of more than 1,600 signatories at the time of writing.
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April 18th, 2019

BUSTLE: How 4 Erotica Editors Establish Consent In Every Single One Of Their Stories

Recently, Cosmopolitan.com came under fire for including Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov on a list of what the writer called "legitimately good erotic novels you must read." As many readers pointed out, Dolores Haze, the obsession of protagonist Humbert Humbert, is only 12 years old and cannot consent to any sexual activity. The book was later removed from the roundup, and an editor’s note was added to the piece: "After hearing feedback and consideration, we decided to remove [Lolita] from the list."

This led me to think about the broader role consent plays in modern erotica, and the demand for it from publishers. As the editor of Cleis Press’ Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series, among dozens of other anthologies (full disclosure: one of my anthologies was included on the Cosmopolitan.com list.), it is a subject I’m deeply familiar with. I’ve gone back to authors who’ve submitted stories where consent wasn’t clear and suggested ways they could finesse their writing to make affirmative consent consistent. I wanted to see if this was standard practice.

The editors I contacted for this article all emphasize that consent is crucial to their editorial process, though each has different processes for handling its portrayal. They all accept submissions from the general public, with guidelines that delineate what they’re looking for specifically from authors, including treatment of consent.

Ellen Clark, co-founder of the erotica app Sunsette, which launched in Jan. 2019, tells Bustle that "consent is included in all of our characters’ interactions." In their writing guidelines, they list “non-demeaning/degrading scenarios” as a crucial component. Clark explains, “The litmus test for us as copyeditors is whether the consent is 'strongly believable.'" Sometimes, this is nonverbal, if the context "strongly suggests consent," but "if a character verbalizes consent but the context of the story suggests something contrary to that statement, it's not believable, and the story wouldn't be published." Clark says the issue is so important to Sunsette, that lack of consent is the biggest reason stories are rejected from the platform.

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How 4 Erotica editors establish consent in every single one of their stories by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Apri 18th, 2019


VICE: Sex Work Is Work—And Its Laborers Are Officially Unionizing

Understandably, it’s pretty difficult to start a union when parts of your industry have been criminalized by the state. But that hasn’t stopped British sex workers from unionizing in order to fight for their labor rights—even with the web of contradictory laws around sex work in the UK.

In England, it’s legal to exchange sex for money, but street-based workers are often criminalized through loitering and soliciting laws. Brothels are illegal, but an overly generous legal definition of a ‘brothel’ means that sex workers can be raided and persecuted for sharing premises—even if they’re doing so for their own protection. Campaign groups and collectives like Decrim Now and SWARMare calling for full decriminalization, but in the meantime strippers—whose work is entirely legal—are unionizing in the hopes of sparking industry-wide change.

The idea for a strippers’ union came at last year’s Women’s Strike, in which sex workers played an instrumental role. “It literally just started with a conversation,” Shiri Shalmy, a representative of trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), recalls. “We soon found that strippers are often misclassified as self-employed, but in reality they’re expected to be on time, to follow a shift pattern and to be told what they can earn—or, in some cases, lose.” She’s referring to the house fees that are commonplace in strip clubs. Dancers can also be fined for not showing up to shifts, and Shalmy says anecdotally that she knows of dancers who have been fired for trying to unionize.

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Sex Work is Work - and its laborers are officially unionizing by Jake Hall

April 17th, 2019


HUFF POST: Stacey Abrams Says Country Has ‘Obligation’ To Keep Sex Workers Safe

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams said sex workers deserve safety and support ― and that includes women who choose to work in the industry as well as those who are victims of trafficking.

“Women should not put their lives at risk because of sex, and whether it is seen as a commercial enterprise or it’s human trafficking our obligation is to create a safe space so that no woman risks her life because of sex,” the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial nominee told The Root in an interview published Monday.

Decriminalizing sex work has become a national conversation since President Donald Trump last year signed into law the controversial Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The law targets sex trafficking by shutting down online platforms, like Craigslist’s personal ads and Backpage.com, which are rife with advertisements for sex work involving voluntary sex workers and trafficked victims.

Sex workers and advocates have criticized the law because it conflates voluntary sex work with trafficking victims forced into the industry. Critics also argue that the legislation will only push sex work further underground, putting voluntary workers and trafficking victims into even more danger.

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Stacey Abrams says country has 'obligation' to keep Sex Workers safe by Alanna Vagianos

April 16th, 2019


PSYCH CENTRAL: Lots of People Like a Little Kink

How Common are Kinks, Fetishes, and Paraphilic Disorders?

According to a recent study, paraphilic attractions (kinks and fetishes) are more common than most people might think.[i] The study surveyed 387 adult males about the presence and impact of paraphilic attractions and behaviors in their lives, with the following results:

  • 62.4% of survey participants reported some degree of paraphilic arousal.
  • 58.6% said paraphilic arousal was most frequent while fantasizing.
  • 47.7% used paraphilic arousal during masturbatory fantasies.
  • 44.4% said they’d engaged in some form of real-world paraphilic sexual activity.

The most common paraphilic arousal patterns were:

  • Voyeurism (38.7%)
  • Fetish (35.7%)
  • Sadism (24.8%)
  • Masochism (18.5%)
  • Frotteurism (15.0%)
  • Pedophilic (10.4%)
  • Cross-Dressing (7.4%)
  • Exhibitionism (4.1%)

Notably, paraphilic arousal patterns are not, per se, pathological. Criteria beyond paraphilic attraction must be met for a kink/fetish to qualify as pathology. For a paraphilic attraction or behavior to be diagnosed as a paraphilic disorder (a pathological condition), it must cause significant distress to the individual or harm (or risk of harm) to self or others. Thus, paraphilic arousal patterns are a necessary but not sufficient condition for diagnosing a paraphilic disorder.

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Lots of People like a little Kink by Robert Weiss PhD, MSW

April 16th, 2019