NEXTCITY: How Sex Workers Made San Francisco Safer for Everyone

San Francisco has a unique city department that most cities don’t have: the Department on the Status of Women. This department works to ensure that women and girls in the community have equal economic, social, political and educational opportunities, and helps to resolve issues that impact marginalized women and girls the most.

The mission of San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women has included mediating discussions between the city’s sex workers and police — discussions that led to a simple policy that could save lives: amnesty for sex workers in the city who report violent crimes.

Sex workers — those who engage in consenting sex in exchange for money, as opposed to sex trafficking victims, who engage in non-consenting sex — often don’t report crimes, fearing that law enforcement officers will arrest them or take advantage of them, instead of investigating crimes they report. Their fears are not unwarranted.

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How Sex Workers made San Francisco safer for everyone by Hannah Albarazi

Oct. 25th, 2018


EFF: Blunt Policies and Secretive Enforcement Mechanisms: LGBTQ+ and Sexual Health on the Corporate Web

The free and open Internet has enabled disparate communities to come together across miles and borders, and empowered marginalized communities to share stories, art, and information with one another and the broader public—but restrictive and often secretive or poorly messaged policies by corporate gatekeepers threaten to change that.

Content policies restricting certain types of expression—such as nudity, sexually explicit content, and pornography—have been in place for a long time on most social networks. But in recent years, a number of companies have instituted changes in the way policies are enforced, including demonetizing or hiding content behind an age-based interstitial; using machine learning technology to flag content; blocking keywords in search; or disabling thumbnail previews for video content.

While there are some benefits to more subtle enforcement mechanisms—age restrictions, for example, allow content that would otherwise be removed entirely to be able available to some users—they can also be confusing for users. And when applied mistakenly, they are difficult—if not impossible—to appeal.

In particular, policy restrictions on “adult” content have an outsized impact on LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. Typically aimed at keeping sites “family friendly,” these policies are often unevenly enforced, classifying LGBTQ+ content as “adult” when similar heterosexual content isn’t. Similarly, as we noted last year, policies are sometimes applied more harshly to women’s content than to similar content by men.

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Blunt Policies and Secretive Enforcement Mechanisms: LGBTQ+ and Sexual Health on the Corporate Web by Jillian C. York

Oct. 24th, 2018


HUFFPOST: How To Help Trans, Nonbinary Communities Amid Reported Trump Policy Plans

 The Trump administration is working on a plan to severely narrow the legal definition of gender, according to a report in The New York Times on Sunday.

The proposed policy, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, would define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” meaning it would define gender as either male or female as determined by genitalia at birth. Any dispute about an individual’s gender would require genetic testing. This would have major repercussions for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities ― particularly in regard to health care.

Roughly 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender, and as of 2017, violence against this community is on the rise.

Since the Trump plan was revealed, protesters have been gathering online ― often using the hashtag #WontBeErased ― and in person around the country. On Sunday night, several hundred people gathered in Washington Square Park in New York City.

But there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure the trans and gender nonconforming communities are protected. Here are some ways you can help:

Vote

You’ve likely seen people coming out in droves to encourage others to vote; it’s one of the most important things you can do as an American. Casting ballots at the federal, state and local levels affects transgender rights. Check Vote.org for ways to promote turnout in your area. Call your friends and family members nearby to go to the polls with you, and remind those in other states to vote too.

Educate yourself

Being an ally isn’t just patting your trans or nonbinary friends on the back or retweeting them occasionally. It’s about respect and fighting for their rights.

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How To Help Trans, Nonbinary Communities Amid Reported Trump Policy Plans by Jenna Amatulli

October 22, 2018

Image Source: YANA PASKOVA VIA GETTY IMAGES


HUFFPOST: Why I’m Proud To Be A Middle-Aged Stripper

Bourbon Street’s gelatinous humidity had just tipped over into rain when a 50-something white man walked in to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. I was spread eagle on cold marble before a sparse, unappreciative crowd, so I was grateful for his $2 tip. I found him at the bar after my set and thanked him.

Jeff turned out to be the kind of customer who asks questions. How old was I? (38, but I told him 32.) How long had I been doing this? (Off and on for decades, though I said a year.) But what else did I do? (Writing.) How would I feel if someone I knew walked into the club?

I didn’t like where this conversation was headed.

“I’d be OK with that. I’m not ashamed of my job,” I said — though I hadn’t always felt that way.

“If you could do anything for work,” my ersatz life coach said, looking over his beer, “what would you do?”

Jeff must have assumed my ideal life looked nothing like the one I was living. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still dancing, either. Sex work was meant to be a means to an end, something to do until I got my real vocation off the ground. But as I face middle age with the writing career I wanted ― and no intention to hang up my heels ― I realize “stripper” is part of my identity.

It started when I was 19. I met a man 27 years my senior among the French Market’s incense burners, Creole tomatoes and alligator heads. He bought me dinner, took me shopping and gave me a part-time job at his business.  At the time, I didn’t realize ours was a sugar daddy-baby relationship — I just knew it helped pay my tuition.

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Why I'm proud to be a middle-aged Stripper by Missy Wilkinson

Oct. 22nd, 2018


FORBES: Would 'Deviant' Sex Robots Violate Asimov's Law of Robotics?

Like it or not, sex robots are already here, and someday they might hurt you, if you ask nicely.  As they cater to an ever-increasing range of tastes, some folks predict BDSM types (bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism) in the future bedroom.

But, wait, you might ask: wouldn’t these “deviant” or non-normative types violate the basic robot-ethics principle to not hurt people?

Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov gave us the First Law of Robotics is: a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.  But sex-bots that spank, whip, and tie people up would seem to do exactly that.

Though it might seem silly, this discussion is actually relevant to AI and robotics in many other industries.  What constitutes harm will be important for, say, medical and caretaking robots that may be instructed to “do no harm.”

Here, we’ll go deeper into the question, suspending our disbelief that Asimov’s Laws are mostly a plot device and not a serious proposal.  The first thing we need to do is to make sure that the Law in question is conceptually clear, especially its key terms of “harm” and “injury” (which we’ll take as synonymous enough).

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Would 'Deviant' sex robots violate Asimov's Law of Robotics? by Patrick Lin

Oct. 15th, 2018


THE GUARDIAN: 'It absolutely should be seen as rape': when sex workers are conned

The texts trigged no alarm bells for Gabrielle (name has been changed), a Brisbane sex worker. Her new client seemed nervous, even afraid, but he didn’t seem dangerous.

“He was saying, ‘oh I’m really, really nervous. This is the first time I’ve ever hired anybody’,” she told Guardian Australia recently.

“I just told him ‘look, that’s fine’. I’m a pretty approachable person. I’m quite friendly and down to earth so I was just trying to make him feel comfortable.”

Gabrielle didn’t know it at the time, but the client was repeating a set of behaviours he’d already used to con other sex workers in Brisbane out of payment.

In some jurisdictions, courts have found that when a person cons a sex worker – refuses or evades the agreed payment for sex – such acts constitute rape, because consent for the sexual act was obtained fraudulently.

But Gabrielle’s case led to a wildly different outcome. Her offender was convicted of fraud, an outcome that initially left her conflicted.

“Originally I did feel like he should have been charged for rape and I was pushing for that. In my mind, payment equals consent and if you take away the payment I wouldn’t be consenting to having sex with him,” Gabrielle said.

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'It absolutely should be seen as rape.' when sex workers are conned by Michael McGowan + Christopher Knaus

Oct. 12th, 2018


PSYCHCENTRAL: Could Kinky Sex Improve Your Relationship?

What does the term BDSM conjure up for you? Whips and chains? Weird people in masks in dark basements?

Although the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has enjoyed blockbuster success and helped to bring BDSM into the mainstream, many people hold plenty of misconceptions about it, and may still equate kinky sex with perversion, weirdness, even abuse. 

Adherents of the sexy acronym would like you to know otherwise, and they’ve got some compelling science to back them up.

BDSM, or Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism & Masochism, has been around in some form since the ancient Greeks, but seems to be enjoying a surge in popularity in recent years. According to a survey by Durex, a whopping thirty-six percent of US adults use blindfolds, bondage tools or other such toys during sex, and many others are engaging in role-playing and fantasy to spice things up in the bedroom. 

The essence of the majority of this type of activity involves an element of power-play and control, where one partner is more submissive to or dominant over the other. As a result, the interactions generally require a high degree of trust, negotiation, and communication as compared to more ‘vanilla’ or non-kinky sex. 

Dr. Sandra LaMorgese, a professional dominatrix and holistic practitioner living in New York City, believes BDSM can actually help couples relax and bond. “During BDSM sessions, clients often experience a release of dopamine and serotonin, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These two chemicals are associated with feelings of happiness, tranquility, joy, self-confidence, emotional well-being, and motivation. In addition, the release of the chemical vasopressin compels people toward feeling bonded to one another” she says.

Could Kinky Sex Improve your Relationship? by Mike Bundrant

Oct. 10th, 2018


GIZMODO: Would a BDSM Sex Robot Violate Asimov's First Law of Robotics?

The sex robot community—the people who make the sex robots, and the people who want to have sex with the sex robots—suffered a blow this past week, when the Houston City Council voted to preemptively ban what would’ve been the first sex robot “brothel” in the U.S. But even those council members must know that their gesture was futile. Soon the stigma will fade, and Wal-Mart will sell these things in sixty different flavors. Which of course means that, sometime in the future, you’ll almost certainly be able to buy a BDSM robot.

As repeatedly pondered over Twitter, before you can get yourself sexually trussed, whipped or choked by a large piece of machinery, we as a culture will need to reckon with—among many, many other things—Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. These laws state explicitly, right at the top, that “a robot may not injure a human being.” An originalist interpretation would lead one to conclude that Asimov would not be down with BDSM sex robots—but it’s hard to imagine he had them in mind when he drafted his famous rules.

Asimov’s been dead for a quarter-century, so for this week’s Giz Asks we surveyed lawyers, ethicists, computer scientists and philosophers on whether or not a BDSM robot would violate his first rule. Robots are fairly dumb at the moment to engage in fetishistic nuances of the human psyche, but the question becomes more complicated as technology advances, as technology always does.

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Would a BDSM sex robot violate Asimov's first law of Robotics? by Daniel Kolitz

Oct. 8th, 2018


ADVOCATE: Being Sex-Positive in a World of Brett Kavanaughs, Donald Trumps

I shared a bed with another boy on a church youth trip when I was 12. He touched me, then pulled my hand to his underwear. It was my first sexual experience and one I’ve written about fondly. He was a few years older than me, never asked my permission, and I never gave it, but to call it an assault feels disingenuous, both to the many people who’ve come forward to tell their stories in the wake of #MeToo and to the memory itself. I don’t know if that makes me delusional or simply lucky.

The fact is, I’ve had to ask myself that very uncomfortable question recently. The looming threat of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court and the devastating testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford have made people across the United States rethink our memories and face incredible pain. While it’s disgusting to watch a body of men attack Dr. Ford and work arduously to discredit her, such a public testimony charges us to ask vital questions — both of ourselves and the culture we all participate in creating.

What does sex-positivity look like in all this? With such dark headlines of assault filling the public consciousness, it might seem wrong — even distasteful — to remind people of the importance of sex-positivity. But the fact is, #MeToo has its strongest foothold in the sex-positive movement and in people like me who push for open, healthy discussion about sex.

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Being Sex-Positive in a World of Brett Kavanaughs, Donald Trumps by Alexander Cheves

Oct. 4th, 2018


MOTHERBOARD: Sex Workers Pioneered the Early Internet—and It Screwed Them Over

In the early 90s, anyone looking to hire an escort or track down an erotic massage parlor started by flipping through the Yellow Pages.

Maxine Doogan, a Bay Area–based sex worker, activist, and founder of the Erotic Service Providers Union, remembers placing print ads for her services in the back pages of “girly magazines” and alt-weeklies.

“We were the economic engine for those newspapers and those entities that paid the wages of the journalists,” Doogan told me. “They were making thousands of dollars off us.”

In the late 80s, California cracked down with stricter laws against “pimping and pandering” that targeted sex workers and punished anyone who accepted their money. Many print publications refused to print sex workers’ ads, and without ads, many had trouble finding work. “It's under that experience that people started to think about building their own websites, and how to advertise on your own website,” Doogan said.

These sex workers populated early chat rooms, fueled the rise of e-commerce that began with online porn, and later adopted cryptocurrencies as a means of survival long before they hit the mainstream. Though they were some of the first to use the internet commercially, legislation against sex workers continues to push them further into the margins. Women in the adult industry pioneered the early internet and made it profitable, until eventually, it screwed them over.

Kristen Diangelo, co-founder and executive director of the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) Sacramento chapter, told me over the phone that the internet spurred sex workers to explore other methods of advertising their services. “When the internet came up, we thought, ‘okay, there's another way to tell people we're around, and we don't have to deal with all these rules that they're making,’” Diangelo said. “We saw another opportunity.”

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Sex Workers Pioneered the early Internet - and it screwed them over by Sofia Barrett-Ibarria

Oct. 3rd, 2018