S&F ONLINE: Eight Things You Need to Know About Sex, Gender, Brains, and Behavior

Biological explanations of differences in behavior between women and men or girls and boys are everywhere, from scientific articles to bestselling self-help books to parenting guides to diversity and inclusion workshops to Hollywood movies.[1] Often, the basic structure of such explanations is along the following lines: A study reports a difference between females and males in some neural measure (such as the size of a specific brain structure). The difference is often described as if it were binary – females are like this and males are like that – and a natural and inevitable consequence of being female or male, assumed implicitly or otherwise to be inscribed in our genes. Then, the biological difference is suggested to underlie a behavioral or psychological difference between females and males. This pattern of description and explanation can give rise to an “ah ha” feeling – now we finally understand why women and men are the way they are. But researching, understanding, and interpreting sex differences in brain and behavior is surprisingly complicated, and particularly so when humans are involved. To help everyone parse the next hot new biological explanation of female/male behavior differences, here are eight things to know, look out for, and ask, from the nitty-gritty of whether there even is a difference to the grand sweep of evolutionary explanations.

When it comes to this area of research, critiques are sometimes dismissed as “political correctness” and as interference with the scientific process. However, the point of critical inquiry is not to deny differences between the sexes, but to ensure a full understanding of the findings and meaning of any particular research report.


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Eight Things You Need to Know About Sex, Gender, Brains, and Behavior: A Guide for Academics, Journalists, Parents, Gender Diversity Advocates, Social Justice Warriors, Tweeters, Facebookers, and Everyone Else by by Cordelia Fine, Daphna Joel and Gina Rippon

Issue 15.2 April 2019

THE INTERCEPT: T​he ​decriminalization of Sex Work is edging into the 2020 campaign

There isnt much to recommend the current iteration of American presidential elections, which now begin some two years before the day voters go to the polls. One upside, though, is that it opens up policy conversations that are usually closed off. The result is the beginning of a public conversation about decriminalizing sex work.

Three Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination — Sens. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — have weighed in on the rights of sex workers. Harris and Gabbard have said they support the decriminalization of sex work, while Sanders was noncommittal in his response. The mere fact that presidential candidates are being asked about sex work, however, represents a shift in the public discourse on the sex work community. Yet there’s a ways to go: The Intercept reached out to the other congressional Democrats running for president — Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke — and got no response.

The sex workers’ rights movement was galvanized in 2018 in reaction to the passage of legislation known as SESTA-FOSTA, which purported to curb sex trafficking by holding online platforms legally liable for any content found to “knowingly assist, facilitate, or support sex trafficking.” All congressional Democrats running for president voted for SESTA-FOSTA.

Passage of the law resulted in the shutdown of prominent personal ad sites and marketplaces, forcing sex workers to resort to working on the streets or with pimps. It also led sex workers, who often feel abandoned by the progressive left, to organize and ramp up their activism. The urgency of the situation is pushing advocates to define what they actually mean by “decriminalization” and to push for policy changes at state, local, and national levels. The organizing has produced the most results in New York, where activists working with lawmakers have launched a campaign to decriminalize sex work in the state, and it’s also created tensions around the Democratic Socialists of America’s endorsement of Sanders for president.


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The ​decriminalization  of  Sex Work is edging into the 2020 campaign by Aida Chavez

March 29th, 2019


GQ: Sex Workers Say Decriminalization Makes Them Safer. It's Time to Listen to Them.

“As a former sex worker, I have suffered so much for the criminalization of the work I had to do to survive,” Cecilia Gentili told a crowd gathered at New York City’s Foley Square in early March. Today, Gentili is an HIV activist, but when she first immigrated to America from Argentina, she worked in the sex industry.

Behind her in the square were Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, two recently-elected New York state senators, who plan to introduce a bill that would decriminalize sex work. Criminalization “does not address why people trade sex, because most people trade sex out of economic need,” the pair wrote in a recent New York Daily News op-ed, adding that it encourages abuses by law enforcement, and makes vulnerable populations more susceptible to violence and exploitation.

If it passes, New York would be the first state in America to completely decriminalize sex work. (Nevada has partially legalized it.) But it won’t be an easy ride for DecrimNY, a coalition of sex workers and non-profits campaigning to both destigmatize and decriminalize the trade in New York. A week after the pro-decriminalization rally, a different group of demonstrators assembled at New York’s City Hall. “Everyone agrees it’s time to stop arresting sex workers,” Sonia Ossorio, the president of New York City’s National Organization for Women, told those gathered. “But we don’t agree that buyers and pimps should get free reign.”


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Sex Workers Say Decriminalization Makes Them Safer. It's Time to Listen to Them by Stephanie Thomson

March 29th, 2019

PAPER: The Art of Tickle Torture

An "expert tickler," MiscAllaneous DomTop has become one of the top ticklers in the dominatrix scene. As in, they specialize in dominating "tickle sluts," who enjoy being tied up and tickled with a variety of implements. In fact, the fetish itself has a pretty fancy name — knismophilia — and is, surprisingly, a lot more common than you'd think, if the existence of sites like TickleDates and OnlyTickling are any indication.

And though most people are quick to judge the "weird" factor of a fetish such as tickling, MiscAlleneous is quick to point out that it's not so different from thinking a particular body part of someone's is sexy. So what else is there to know though about this particular fetish and how a dominatrix who specializes in this sphere operates?

Well, luckily for you, we chatted with MiscAlleneous themselves to clear up a few of the biggest questions we had, such as the true self many subs reveal in the midst of a tickle session, as well as the psychology behind the fetish.


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The Art of Tickle Torture by Sandra Song

March 26th, 2019

NPR: Should Sex Work Be Decriminalized? Some Activists Say It's Time

Sex work is illegal in much of the United States, but the debate over whether it should be decriminalized is heating up.

Former California Attorney General and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris recently came out in favor of decriminalizing it, as long as it's between two consenting adults.

The debate is hardly new — and it's fraught with emotions. Opponents of decriminalization say it's an exploitative industry that preys on the weak. But many activists and academics say decriminalization would help protect sex workers, and would even be a public health benefit.

RJ Thompson wants to push back against the idea that sex work is inherently victimizing. He says for him it was liberating: Thompson had recently graduated from law school and started working at a nonprofit when the recession hit. In 2008, he got laid off with no warning and no severance, and he had massive student loan debt.

Thompson became an escort. "I made exponentially more money than I ever could have in my legal profession," he says.


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Should Sex Work Be Decriminalized? Some Activists Say It's Time by Jasmine Garsd

March 22nd, 2019

MILLENNIAL POLITICS: DecrimNY - The Fight to Decriminalize Sex Work in New York

Decriminalizing sex work isn’t something you hear much about from legislators. But on February 25, New York State Senators Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos published an op-ed calling for the decriminalization of sex work in New York. Senators Salazar and Ramos made a comprehensive case for decriminalization, writing:

Criminalization does not address why people trade sex, because most people trade sex out of economic need: to pay bills, make rent, and put food on the table. People often turn to sex work after a life event such as a major health-care bill leaves them economically vulnerable. LGBTQ, black and brown, immigrant and disabled communities engage in sex work at higher rates because they are locked out of jobs in the formal economy.

Criminalization encourages rampant abuses by law enforcement. An estimated 94% of peoplearrested for the loitering for the purposes of prostitution in Brooklyn and Queens are black women. Police so often use the statute to target trans people, including individuals who aren’t trading sex, that Legal Aid filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Criminalization exposes people to exploitation. Prostitution records take people’s choices away, and when people have no choice but to trade sex to survive, they are more likely to be trafficked.

LGBTQ youth, who often run away from home seeking acceptance, trade sex at seven to eight times the rate of other youth in New York City. Young people trading sex for housing and resources is a crisis — no one wants them to be doing so. But entangling them in the criminal justice system does not stop them. We need more youth services, healthcare and housing that affirm their LGBTQ identities — not policing — so young people don’t have to trade sex for survival.

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DecrimNY - The fight to decriminalize Sex Work in New York by Millennial Politics Team

March 21st, 2019

ROLLING STONE: How Cam Models Are Finding Freedom in Cryptocurrency

Two years ago, Gabi was struggling to maintain a career in the adult industry. She worked long hours streaming live as a cam model and producing video content for her online audience, but the job didn’t seem to be paying off.

Since most major credit cards and payment platforms won’t process payments for adult services, including live-streamed erotic content, cam models like Gabi have to use specialized platforms to stream live shows and process payments from fans. Unfortunately, these sites can be extremely competitive, and some use ranking systems to determine models’ visibility on the site based on their time spent online.

“The longer you spend online without making any money, the lower your ranking drops,” Gabi says. “That puts you in a position where you literally have to work for free for days and days and days. Every hour that you spend online without getting tipped, you can just hear the ranking number dropping in the back of your head. It’s extremely anxiety inducing, because the lower you get down in the rankings, the less your chance of making any money to bring your ranking up.” She’d been burned by this system many times. One site, Gabi says, required a 65-percent cut of her tips, in addition to the rights to use her image for advertising purposes as they saw fit. “They advertised me as a ‘Local sexy single in your area ready to fuck for free,’” Gabi says. “Nothing about my services are free.”

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How Cam Models are finding freedom in Cryptocurrency by Sofia Barrett-Ibarria

March 21st, 2019


FORBES: How Sextech Pioneers Are Outsmarting Conservative Gatekeepers

For the past several years, sexual wellness has been one of the fastest growing sectors in global retail. The sector’s annual growth (CAGR) is a stunning 6.7%, and it’s projected to reach $122 billion by 2026. And yet, at nearly every stage — from investment to production to marketing — gatekeepers seem intent on hobbling it.

Any sextech entrepreneur will tell you the barriers they face are legion. Facebook and Google largely prohibit ads for sextech, including female sexual wellness products. Major app stores routinely ban apps related to sex, and increasingly restrict even what users say and do. Institutional investors and mainstream conferences often avoid the space out due to conservative boards.

But today’s sextech entrepreneurs aren't mistaking the gatekeepers’ power for invincibility — rather, the opposite. For many, a gatekeeper’s refusal to engage with sextech is a sign of their stagnation and obsolescence, and a weakness that can be used against them.

Take Osé. In January, the Consumer Electronic Show — one of the biggest gatekeepers in tech — famously rescinded an innovation award for the robotic massager, citing a morals clause. The company behind it, Lora DiCarlo, was even denied booth space on the CES show floor.

And yet Osé was possibly the most talked about launch at CES, garnering nearly two hundred press mentions — over $2M in free marketing and advertising, according to Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock.

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How Sextech Pioneers are outsmarting conservative gatekeepers by Andrea Barrica

March 19th, 2019

IN THESE TIMES: When Sex Workers Do the Labor of Therapists

Sky is a professional escort. She’s been working at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel located in Pahrump, Nevada, for a little under a year. A few months back, a man came in asking for a group session with Sky, who prefers to be identified by her professional name, and one of her colleagues. He had come around a few times before. He made it a point to keep in touch through Twitter. This time, however, the session took a dark turn. He came in to tell them he was planning on killing himself.

“We see a lot of clients who have mental health issues,” she tells In These Times. Though, this experience was markedly more dramatic than her usual run in with clients who going through a depressive episode. She and her colleague were eventually able to talk the guy down. They sent him home with a list full of resources that specialize in matters of depression. They asked that he continue to check in with them through social media.

Research suggests that upwards of 6 million men are affected by depression every year. Suicide remains the seventh leading cause of death among men in America. While it’s impossible to gauge exactly what percentage of that demographic frequents sex workers, the experiences of those in the field can offer some insight. During Sky’s last tour at the Ranch, she scheduled about seven appointments. Out of those bookings, only one involved sex. “We do a lot of companionship and intimacy parties,” she says. “The clients who sign up for those bookings are the ones struggling with loneliness.”

And people with depression aren't the only neurodivergent individuals sex workers encounter on the job. Those suffering from anxiety, a common accompaniment to depression, show up frequently. They also see a lot of people who fall on the autistic spectrum. In fact, Sky says she sees men who fall into the latter demographic relatively often.


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When Sex Workers Do the Labor of Therapists by Carrie Weisman

March 18, 2019

CARE2: What’s the Difference Between Sex Work Decriminalization and Legalization?

Sex work is illegal almost everywhere in the United States, and that’s part of the reason it remains so dangerous. One study in San Francisco found that 82 percent of sex workers had been assaulted and 68 percent had been raped while working. Another study found that sex workers were 18 times more likely to be murdered than non-sex workers their age and race. Eighteen times.

All too often, sex workers are afraid of going to police and reporting violence, because they don’t want to get arrested themselves. No victim of violence should have to fear legal consequences from reporting a crime to the police.

Regardless of anyone’s individual feelings about sex work itself, hopefully we can all agree that reducing the risk of sex work and violence against sex workers is a worthy goal. But how do we do that? The question is more complicated than most of us realize, but an important step is understanding the difference between decriminalizing sex work and legalizing it.

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What's the difference between Sex Work decriminalization and legalization? by Lauren Longo

March 15th, 2019