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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Online Forum to Be Held on Sex Work, Trafficking, and Human Rights

Sex in the Public Square has just announced this event:

Sex In The Public Square Presents:

Sex Work, Trafficking, and Human Rights: A Public Forum
New York, February 20, 2008 - Ten prominent sex worker advocates, writers, researchers will be publicly discussing the issues of sex work and trafficking from a human rights and harm reduction perspective, February 25 - March 3, on The week-long online conversation will conclude with a summary statement on March 3, International Sex Worker Rights Day.

Sex work and trafficking are two issues that must be discussed as distinct yet intersecting, and we’ve invited some of the smartest sex worker advocates we know to help sort out the complexities. “This forum is not about debating whether or not we should be using a harm reduction and human rights approach instead of the more mainstream abolitionist and prohibitionist approach to sex work,” explains Elizabeth Wood, co-founder of Sex In The Public Square and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nassau Community College. “Instead our goal is to create a space for nuanced exploration of the human rights and harm reduction approach so that we can use it more persuasively.”

Wood explains: “The human rights and harm reduction approach seeks to reduce the dangers that sex workers face and to stop human rights abuses involved in the movement of labor across borders, a movement which occurs in the service of so many industries. We want people to be able to learn about this perspective, and to develop and refine it, without having to dilute that conversation by debating the legitimacy of sex work.”

Questions and themes include:

Defining our terms: Is the way that we define “porn” clear? “Prostitution”? “Sex work” in general? What happens when we say “porn” and mean all sexually explicit imagery made for the purpose of generating arousal and others hear “porn” as indicating just the “bad stuff” while reserving “erotica” for everything they find acceptable? When we say sex work is it clear what kinds of jobs we’re including?

Understanding our differences: How do inequalities of race, class and gender affect the sex worker rights movement? Are we effective in organizing across those differences?

Identifying common ground: What are the areas of agreement between the abolitionist/prohibitionist perspective and the human rights/harm reduction perspective? For example, we all agree that forced labor is wrong. We all agree that nonconsensual sex is wrong. Is it a helpful strategic move to by highlighting our areas of agreement and then demonstrating why a harm reduction/human rights perspective is better suited to addressing those shared concerns, or are we better served by distancing ourselves from the abolition/prohibition-oriented thinkers?

Evaluating research: What do we think of the actual research generated by prominent abolitionist/prohibitionist scholars like Melissa Farley, Gail Dines, and Robert Jensen? Can we comment on the methods they use to generate the data on which they base their analysis, and then can we comment on the logic of their conclusions based on the data they have?

Framing the issues: What are our biggest frustrations with the way that the human rights/harm reduction perspective is characterized by the abolitionist/prohibitionist folks? How can we effectively respond to or reframe this misrepresentations? What happens when “I oppose human trafficking” becomes a political shield that deflects focus away from issues of migration, labor and human rights?

Exploring broader economic questions: How does the demand for cheap labor undermine human rights-based solutions to exploitation in all industries, including the sex industry?

Confirmed participants include:

Melissa Gira is a co-founder of the sex worker blog Bound, Not Gagged, the editor of, and reports on sex for Gawker Media’s Valleywag.

Chris Hall is co-founder of Sex In The Public Square and also writes the blog Literate Perversions.

Kerwin Kay has written about the history and present of male street prostitution, and about the politics of sex trafficking. He has been active in the sex workers rights movement for some 10 years. He also edited the anthology Male Lust: Pleasure, Power and Transformation (Haworth Press, 2000) and is finishing a Ph.D. in American Studies at NYU.

Anthony Kennerson blogs on race, class, gender, politics and culture at SmackDog Chronicles, and is a regular contributor to the Blog for Pro-Porn Activism.

Antonia Levy co-chaired the international “Sex Work Matters: Beyond Divides” conference in 2006 and the 2nd Annual Feminist Pedagogy Conference in 2007. She teaches at Brooklyn College, Queens College, and is finishing her Ph.D. at the Graduate Center at CUNY.

Audacia Ray is the author of Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing In On Internet Sexploration (Seal Press, 2007), and the writer/producer/director of The Bi Apple. She blogs at hosts and edits Live Girl Review and was longtime executive editor of $pread Magazine.

Amber Rhea is a sex worker advocate, blogger, and organizer of the Sex 2.0 conference on feminism, sexuality and social media and co-founder of the Georgia Podcast Network. Her blog is Being Amber Rhea.

Ren is a sex worker advocate, a stripper, Internet porn performer, swinger, gonzo fan, BDSM tourist, blogger, history buff, feminist expatriate who blogs at Renegade Evolution. She is a founder of the Blog for Pro-porn Activism and a contributor to Bound, Not Gagged and Sex Worker Outreach Project - East.

Stacey Swimme has worked in the sex industry for 10 years. She is a vocal sex worker advocate and is a founding member of Desiree Alliance and Sex Workers Outreach Project USA.

Elizabeth Wood is co-founder of Sex In The Public Square, and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nassau Community College. She has written about gender, power and interaction in strip clubs, about labor organization at the Lusty Lady Theater, and she blogs regularly about sex and society.

To read or participate in the forum log on to
For more information contact Elizabeth Wood at elizabeth (at) sexinthepublicsquare (dot) org.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Petition the FDA for Emergency Contraception

Advocates for Youth and Choice USA are campaigning to get the FDA to support access to emergency contraception (EC). The decision is expected 7 March. You can download petitions here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

NCSF Action Alert: The Task Force Under Attack

NCSF Action Alert
Religious political extremists attack The Task Force for "Leather Leadership Award"

February 13, 2008 - The American Family News Network posted an inflammatory article condemning the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for honoring Guy Baldwin with their Leather Leadership Award at the 20th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, on February 6-10, 2008 (

According to the February 7th article:
Peter LaBarbera, executive director of Americans for Truth commented that he is not sure if he is more surprised by one of the sponsors of the event or by one of the activists who will be honored. "It's incredible to me," he continues. "But the Democratic Party is endorsing an event where they're actually presenting an award for sadomasochism."

A sponsorship acknowledgement notes that the Democratic National Committee gave at least $2,500 to help pay for the event. The recipient of the "Leather Leadership Award" is Guy Baldwin, a psychotherapist who has successfully lobbied against treating sadomasochism as a mental health problem.

To see the entire article, go to:
In point of fact, the Democratic National Committee did not sponsor Creating Change or the Leather Leadership Award.

The Task Force does have a strong history of supporting the BDSM-leather-fetish communities. In previous years, this included awarding their Leather Leadership Award to Dave Rhodes of The Leather Journal and Tony DeBlase, creator of the Leather Pride Flag, as well as providing tracks and roundtables for activists dedicated to leather community issues.

"Those who persecute our communities know that The Task Force and the BDSM-leather-fetish communities have shared agendas in promoting tolerance and non-discrimination for sexual minorities, including those involved in alternate lifestyles. We grow stronger the more we stand together," says NCSF pokesperson Susan Wright.

From Guy Balwin's acceptance speech for the Leather Leadership Award at Creating Change:
"One of the many reasons it is important for The Task Force to be sending these signals of acknowledgement and legitimacy out to the LGBTIQQ world is that when our enemies in the struggle for self-determination look in our direction, they can't see the amazing diversity represented in a room like this one. No, to our enemies, we all look the same. They make none of the distinctions that we, ourselves, have made. To our enemies, garbage is garbage, no matter what color we old we we smell, or how we play. And that's just one reason it's important that we build bridges between our diverse communities and that's why this award to me today matters to all our communities. But the effort to build these bridges will be wasted unless they are vigilantly maintained from both sides."

We ask you to send a short note of appreciation to the Task Force:
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Dear Ms. Sklar,

Thank you for your recognition and inclusion of the BDSM-leather-fetish communities in your annual conference, Creating Change. The Leather Caucus and workshops on alternative sexuality have been very important to the LGBT members of our communities, providing a place where we can gather with our peers and discuss activist issues.

I congratulate you on choosing to give your Leather Leadership Award this year to Guy Baldwin for his activist efforts on behalf of the leather community. I proudly support The Task Force and am glad to join together on our common and shared goals of equality for all Americans.

(your name)
Guy Baldwin is a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist, author and activist on behalf of "erotically uncommon people." Baldwin may be best known for his monthly essays which appeared in Drummer Magazine and were collected in his 1993 book, Ties That Bind. Baldwin is a former titleholder, having served in 1989 as Mister National Leather Association and also as the 11th International Mr. Leather. In 1987, Baldwin launched the DSM Project to mobilize mental health professionals worldwide to press for changes to the official clinical definitions that had long been used to label leather people, gay and otherwise, as pathological. The DSM Project succeeded with the publication of new and substantially improved language in 1993 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is a national organization committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities, who often face discrimination because of their sexual expression.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom
822 Guilford Avenue, Box 127
Baltimore, MD 21202-3707

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Study Group Holds Second Meeting, Sets Third

My study group on Psychology and Social Change held our second meeting Sunday evening and continued our lively discussion of the information presented in Robert Cialdini's book Influence and how we can apply it to our activism.

We will meet again Sunday, 24 February at 7pm, to continue this discussion and possibly decide on what materials to study next.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Letter to Green Party Presidential Candidates

I've just sent the following letter to the four currently declared candidates for the Green Party's presidential nomination -- Jesse Johnson, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay, and Kat Swift -- as well as to Ralph Nader, who hasn't declared but has formed an exploratory committee.

As a member of the Green Party of Philadelphia I am trying to decide how I will vote in our caucuses on 29 April. While there are many factors that could affect my choice, the crucial one is likely to be this: which candidate favors an electoral strategy that will be most conducive to growing the Green Party and getting its message out?

My conviction is that attracting masses of working-class people and progressive activists requires two things: having a program that is clearly better than those of the two corporate parties, and having an electoral strategy that allows us to get that program to the public without the distracting issue of whether our campaign is helping elect the more reactionary corporate candidate, rather than actually elect a progressive candidate.

This will become a non-issue as soon as we can get a large segment of the progressive movements, and especially organized labor, to break from the Democrats and become a mass base for our party instead. But if we're to accomplish this, we can't give the battered-spouse-syndrome labor leaders the excuse that if anyone supports the Green nominees, s/he's really just helping the Republicans. So we have to establish in the minds of rank-and-file activists the confidence that supporting us can only help get our progressive message out -- and, along the way, offer a radical critique of the Democrat which can only make her/him appear more moderate and reasonable in the eyes of "centrist" voters -- and not help elect the Republican instead.

Ironically, the Electoral College system gives us a means of doing so without having to ask people to trust us up front. This would simply involve campaigning vigorously in all fifty states plus D.C., but only placing our nominees' names on the ballot in the "safe" states. The ticket would still have an important role to play in "close" states, by way of communicating our national platform to the public as well as mobilizing support for our state and local candidates.
If we win the progressive public's trust with this approach in 2008, it would then be possible to run officially in all fifty-one states in 2012, because people would have confidence that we'd withdraw from the ballot by deadline wherever it appeared necessary to avoid a "paradoxical result" as voting theorists like to call it. And having won this confidence may even make it unnecessary to do that, as we might accumulate enough support during the campaign to win the election outright.

Would you support this approach?

Eric Hamell

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Look for me Friday at 11

Last night I attended the first Cuddle Party I'd been to for a while -- one that was free because it was "media-friendly." CBS-3 (KYW-TV) was there and I was one of those they interviewed. The segment is supposed to be broadcast Friday at 11pm.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Green Party Nominates Rogers for Attorney General

From the site Philadelphia Front Page News:

Thursday, February 7, 2008
Green Party Nominates Rogers for Attorney General
North and Murphy to run for Congress; Sweeney for State Rep.Harrisburg, PA - Yesterday [actually on the 3rd -- E.H.], the Green Party of Pennsylvania approved nominations for four candidates to compete in the November general election. Marakay Rogers will be at the top of the ticket once again as the Green Party candidate for Attorney General. Rogers was the party's nominee for the same position in 2004 and was its gubernatorial candidate in 2006.

Rogers, a civil rights attorney from York, outlined a broad campaign vision for restoring justice to Pennsylvania. She noted that current AttorneyGeneral Tom Corbett is backing corporations against townships across Pennsylvania who have adopted local laws designed to protect residents from usurious businesses. Said Rogers, "My campaign intends to restore zoning rights to local governments."

Rogers is also an anti-death penalty advocate. "Nationally, the death penalty is starting to go the way of the dinosaur," remarked Rogers. "It is time that Pennsylvania, like our neighbors did, realizes that killing people is not justice," said Rogers, referring to the fact that New Jersey recently banned capital punishment.

The Green Party also approved the nominations of two candidates for U. S. Congress. Titus North of Pittsburgh will run again Rep. Mike Doyle in the 14th District race. North faced Doyle in 2006 and won 17% of the vote, one of the highest percentages for a third party candidate in Pennsylvania history. John Murphy will face Rep. Joe Pitts in the 16th District which covers Lancaster County and parts of Chester and Berks Counties. Murphy previously ran for this seat as an Independent in 2006.

Also running will be Jay Sweeney of Wyoming County who will be seeking a seat as the 111th District State Representative. Sweeney will be challenging Sandra Major for the third time in a row and like the other Green candidates hopes to build on his previous attempts.

"Each of our candidates will benefit from increased name recognition let alone greater experience simply from having run before," said Party Chair Hillary Aisenstein. "Many elected officials don't win their first time out," she continued. "I am confident that we will make great strides on Election Day because our candidates will be talking to voters about the issues they care about."

The Green Party of Pennsylvania is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands for grassroots democracy, sustainable economics, nonviolence, and ecology. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands in firm opposition to the war in Iraq.

P.S. As of 10 March, Rogers has decided to run instead on Ralph Nader's Populist Party ticket.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"No One Could Have Imagined"

Here's what I wrote Speaking of Faith after yet again hearing that ill-informed statement, this time on their episode titled "Remembering Forward":

I regret that because I wasn't fully awake, I didn't catch the context in which it was said that in the 1980s, "No one could have imagined that in a few years' time the Soviet Union would break up with a whimper." But it grates me whenever I hear statements like this. Actually, people with some imagination had been imagining such things for a long time. For instance, in 1938 Trotsky wrote in The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, "The USSR thus embodies terrific contradictions. But it still remains a degenerated workers’ state. Such is the social diagnosis. The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism." Unfortunately the first prong of that alternative is pretty precisely what did happen. And, if anything, it took longer to happen than I would have predicted when I first became politically active as a teenager.

Eric Hamell