Category Archives: Politics

Pipe Dream: Pro-Life Pro-Choice Alliance

As pro-choice activists gather to defend Planned Parenthood funding under Title X the same exhausted fight over abortion rages on, one fraught with violence, anger and divisive rhetoric. You are either for women or against them, support babies or want to kill them. We scream our positions until we become deaf to anything but our own messages.

One pro-life person on Twitter said this:

can hear the #nyc4women rally from my window. Those words are loud and empty…. #prolife

We must ask ourselves how a woman could find a rallying cry for women’s rights empty. What in that message is missing? Continue reading

The Privilege of Pleasure: OSU and Tristan Taormino

A few weeks back I wrote about access to sexual information and how social privilege informs the sexual conversations we can access. The current controversy over OSU, Tristan Taormino and the Modern Sex Conference contains an excellent example of this dynamic in play.

You may have heard the hullabaloo over OSU’s decision to uninvite Tristan Taormino from delivering the Modern Sex Conference keynote speech. In response to public criticism OSU sent out a press release and today their spokesperson, Todd Simmons, commented on the situation in an Examiner article. In that article, part of his defense for the decision rests on the assumption that taxpayer dollars cannot be used to pay “somebody who describes herself as a pornographer”.

The thing is, pornography is not illegal and there is no statute I am aware of in Oregon state law that restricts the use of taxpayer fees in this way. He goes on to say that private universities such as Yale and Harvard had every right to book her because they are using private monies.

Welcome to the privilege of pleasure and sexuality.

This is the same general dynamic in sex education. Any groups using public money or grants (outreach organizations, public schools) restrict their conversations to the most conservative common denominator. Never mind that many OSU students want her to speak. Why should public university students have a choice in their education? That right is apparently reserved for private university students.

The way social hierarchies and privilege play out in every aspect of  our lives never fails to amaze me. Private high school students can have unquestioned access to issues about sexual orientation, gender, pleasure and agency while programs in public schools are vulnerable to moral panics and content restrictions. This serves to reinforce a sense of access and privilege in the world.

In a way, I understand why OSU administrators made this decision. Social conservatives don’t usually attack private universities on curricula or education issues. These are institutions for grooming the social elites and their attacks would go nowhere. But a public university is a much easier target to grapple with because of who they serve: the general public, the middle and working class.

At this juncture, I highly doubt they will rescind and reinvite Tristan. The only thing I can hope is the next public university that wrestles with a decision like this will take a chance and defend the intellectual freedom of their student population.

Emergency Contraception is Not an Abortion

The FDA recently approved (found via washingtonpost.com) a new Emergency Contraception called “Ella” and for some reason its prescription-only availability is being labeled as “controversial.” The only controversy I see are special interest parties using scare-tactics and misleading statements to compare this drug to RU-486 (mifepristone), an abortificant.

Let’s be clear: Continue reading

How To Protest Creepy TSA Searches

Creepy TSA
image via http://roguejew.wordpress.com

The TSA search practices have got to stop. Aside from being a complete invasion of privacy, the way they go about violating our personal space is wholly creepy. In light of the most recent reports of the TSA actions re-traumatizing a rape survivor and making a woman cry on her honeymoon, I’ve compiled a humorous little protest guide. Continue reading

STI Test Innovation: US vs. UK

In STI testing news over the weekend, the FDA halted over-the-counter sales of a testing service offered through Rite-Aid called Identigene and UK residents may soon be able to buy a cell-phone chip that, after spitting or peeing upon, can be plugged in and test for STIs.

First: how is the US lagging on this insanely cool nanotechnology? Consumers in the US only have access to urine-sample kits sent into a lab for processing. (I wrote about one such private service earlier this year.) The future of STI testing may be arriving soon, but not on this side of the pond.

Second: there is a big conceptual gap evidenced in these government agencies concerning STI testing.

Snip from the NYT Blog:

F.D.A. officials said they needed to first confirm the test was accurate.

There are “a lot of social implications if there is a false result, as you can imagine,’’ said Dr. Sally Hojvat, director of microbiology for the medical device division at the agency.

Another concern of the F.D.A. is whether people who test positive will have access to a doctor. Mr. Smith said Identigene has doctors on contract who will approve each test ordered and release the result. But he said the company could not ensure the doctors would talk to patients.

Snip from the Guardian:

Prof Noel Gill, head of HIV and STIs at the Health Protection Agency, the government agency that monitors infections and advises on containment strategies, said: “HPA surveillance has shown that the impact of STIs is greatest among young people and we hope that the application of new technology will help to reduce transmission of infection in this age group.

“This is an exciting research and development consortium which will develop new technologies that both improve and expand testing for STIs. As innovations become available, the HPA will co-ordinate large-scale evaluations within a network of collaborating STI clinics,” Gill added.

While there is no way to ensure with either technology that users will seek medical treatment, there is also no way to ensure a patient will take the antibiotics given to them. (Or follow any of a health professional’s advice. How many times has your dentist told you to floss?) The level of control exercised by the FDA on this matter seems mistrustful of consumers and favoring doctors. In contrast, the message from the UK agencies seem to simply be: “We’ll do whatever we can to get you tested.”

Personally, I don’t think the FDA should be restricting the public’s access to reliable STI tests. The most important thing is that the tests are accurate, accessible and results come with information on how to obtain treatment.

 

Feminism is not Misandry. Seriously.

Aside from crazy Halloween parties and the SF Giants winning the World Series, this weekend also saw the first anti-feminist conference, held in Switzerland. Lately, I’ve seen some men’s groups popping up that equate feminism with an all-encompassing hatred of men. Let’s set the record straight.

Feminism? not so much. (image via http://urbansurvivalguideformen.com/)

What Feminism is Not

  1. A hegemonic ideology. The stories we hear about feminism tend to fit the accepted schema (Socialist Feminism, Separatist Feminism and PostModern Feminism) but, in truth, feminist theories are highly divergent.
  2. A movement to destroy men. Social power is not a zero sum game. The reason this idea persists is because a) media gives the mic to the most radical viewpoints (Teabaggers anyone?) and b) people increasingly tend to focus on news items that confirm, not challenge, pre-existing beliefs.
  3. A conspiracy among women. Put five people in a room and have them order one pizza. Getting that small group to unanimously agree on pizza toppings is enough of a struggle. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to agree on how to ensure women’s rights is a never-ending argument and a far cry from conspiracy.

Putting Feminism Into Context

The one thing I think anyone calling themselves feminist will agree on: women have a right to agency, a right to make decisions about their lives. In short: CHOICE. And the forgotten fact attached to this is that women have historically (in some parts of the world, currently) not had a say in their lives.  Continue reading

Why the Alexa Di Carlo Thing Matters

A wise friend once said, in reference to dating, “It sucks to put your trust in an untrustworthy person.”

Truer words could not apply to the Alexa Di Carlo scandal. I think this paragraph from Expose A Bro, the blog that is outing Alexa as Thomas “Pat” Bohannan, sums up the accumulated violations pretty well:

Bohannan wasn’t just harmlessly getting his kicks maintaining an anonymous blog where he could live out fantasies of being a desirable woman. He knowingly spread lies about sex work, advocated unsafe sexual practices, had sexually-inappropriate online interactions with underage youth, all the while passing himself off as an academic and trusted adult who is trained in human sexuality. (Refuted here.) He used bold-faced lies about his qualifications to try and discredit real sexuality activists, and laughed at their setbacks. He stole images from real models and passed them off as him– implicating these innocent bystanders as suspects in his activities. He bullied one activist by harassing her via email, and gleefully celebrated the demise of a valued sex workers rights publication, $pread Magazine. He threatened to expose another sex blogger. He purposefully mislead and misinformed his large online audience about important sexuality issues. He tricked escorts into talking to him and having sex with him by using “Alexa” to vouch for him as being a safe and respectful client. (More escorts are talking privately about feeling violated by having had sex with this con artist.) He ran a “sex education” message board where minors trusted him enough to share nude photographs of themselves.

Providing sex education for young people is difficult enough as it stands: dealing with fundamentalist groups determined to eradicate any talk of sex in schools, worrying losing your job for uncensored sex discussions, struggling for legitimacy in academia, making your voice heard above the din of bad advice from recognized experts and even defending oneself from personal character attacks.

So when someone makes a fake identity and starts doling out sex information using false credentials, this job gets much, much harder.

And when young people come forward about this person soliciting nudie pics from minors? Sheer litigious rage bubbles forth.

(I’m not even going to get into a discussion about the deplorable way Bohannan allegedly used the false sex worker identity to gain the trust of actual sex workers so he could employ their services. Wrong. Really, really wrong.)

There are some people that insist this person was never using fake credentials, simply mentioning living in San Francisco and going to some graduate program here.

No. I’ll just put that notion to rest with some screengrabs after the jump. Continue reading