Posts Tagged ‘the center for sexual pleasure and health’
Most of the time, I exist in a pretty happy little liberal sex-positive bubble, and I don’t quite understand what the big deal is. “You’re brave,” people tell me. Yeah, sure, it takes some guts and shamelessness to put my sex life out in public, and more so to put my emotional life out in (password-protected) public, but generally, I don’t feel the wall I’m coming up against.
Sometimes, though, I feel it hard.
If you run in the same blog circles that I do, or if you follow me on Twitter, or if you’ve been following my Google Reader shared items, you probably know about the accusations made by Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks against the KinkForAll conferences in general and maymay in particular. I’ve shared many of maymay’s posts, re-tweeted many of his links and comments, and have generally just been sitting here staring at my screen with my jaw dropped, feeling like a bowling ball got dropped into my stomach.
Oh. Right. Standing up for sex education, sexuality rights, and sexual freedom can be fucking scary. There’s a reason why we have to stand up for it, and work for it: because it doesn’t exist en mass, because it only exists in small pockets, and because there is an entire system out there trying to keep it shame-based and repressed.
It’s not like this is the first time I’ve had this revelation. It keeps happening, over and over, yet somehow it surprises me every time.
This past March, for example, I attended KinkForAll Providence in Rhode Island at Brown University, and I heard the entire story of how Megan Andelloux’s Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health was barred from opening and kept in bureaucratic red tape for nearly a year. Megan told the entire story of how she fought and what happened, and how she finally did open the Center (which is beautiful and so much fun, by the way, I highly highly encourage you to stop by if you’re ever in the area), which again gave me that bowling-ball-in-my-stomach feeling.
I won’t recount the story here, I couldn’t tell it like she can anyway. Go watch the video, it’s worth it, seriously.
I’m so glad she opened the Center. I’m thrilled to hear the stories of how it’s working, who she’s been helping, how she’s been an open and honest resource for sexuality education. It made me so nervous to hear her story, to witness the amount of power someone in opposition of sexuality education could possibly wield, and to see, yet again, that it is a radical thing to promote happy, healthy sexuality.
God, that just makes me so angry.
I have no idea what an adequate response on my part could be. I feel a little paralyzed, to be honest. I know I should feel the fear and do it anyway but I can’t help but thinking, I was at KinkForAll Providence. In fact, I just had a workshop at Brown University last week! I could be targeted, too. And that is fucking frightening.
Maymay has been writing amazingly beautiful, transparent posts about this topic, and I highly encourage you to read them if you haven’t already. Or re-read them, if you have. I am incredibly inspired by his transparency, and his ability to summarize something clearly and consistently. Did you see the ways he broke down Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks’ concerns over the KinkForAll unconferences?
He’s been encouraging everyone to stand against stigma and others, like Essin’ Em, have written lovely pieces in response. I’ve had a piece of my own brewing for weeks now, but sometimes I can’t quite get past the fear involved in putting Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks’ names on my own site—it seems like an invitation to be on their hit list, doesn’t it? What if they come after me next?
I’m trying to be honest there, but I know it sounds pretty selfish. And to take it one step farther, to attack Megan and maymay—and Aida, who chairs The Sexuality Health Education and Empowerment Council (SHEEC) at Brown and is doing fantastic work up there!—and our beautiful, important community of educators and healers, is to attack me. I have already been attacked. Is there more they could do? Probably. Is that scary? Absolutely.
But will I let it stop me? No.
I guess my point is just, this work is hard. There are real consequences, in this conservative culture that can incite sex panic at any given moment, and what used to be a happy little PG project suddenly is misconstrued as the equivalent of child pornography and abuse. I want this work to be safer. I want it to be totally acceptable for sexuality educators to open a center, or for educators to host and (un)organize conferences around sexuality and the intersection with the rest of life. I want everyone to know how their bodies and parts and pleasure works. I want us all to have access to the kind of information we are curious to know about. Seems like a pie-in-the-sky dream sometimes, but instances like these attacks and accusations solidify my goals and purposes all the more. It continues to prove that we need this, this culture needs this, these people need this, and it can be transformative in beautiful, blossoming ways.
Fast forward to this week, and I now hear that Aida has invited Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks to come to a panel at Brown University on Sex Panic! When Educators Are Censors. Here’s the information about the panel below. If you’re anywhere near Rhode Island, I highly encourage the travel, it’s going to be worth it. (I really want to be there, I’m trying to move some things around, I already have an obligation that day.)
Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors
a panel and Q&A session moderated by Brown Professor of History and Brazilian Studies Jim N. Green, author of Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil
Free and open to the public!
Tuesday, May 4th @ 6:00 pm
in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106
95 Cushing Street, Providence, RI 02906
This event is co-sponsored by: SHEEC and QCC
Aida Manduley: SHEEC Chairperson
Megan Andelloux: Certified sexologist and sex educator
Reid Mihalko: Brown alum and presenter on sex and relationships
Meitar Moscovitz: Community organizer and technology professional
Ricky Gresh: Senior director for Student Engagement at Brown University
What would you do if your organization were criticized for following through with its mission statement? What if you were publicly denigrated, misrepresented, and harassed for your work? What if educators themselves were trying to hamper your attempts at education? Finally, who should have a say in a college student’s sex education?
Read Aida’s direct letter to Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks, inviting them to the panel, and take a look at maymay’s mention of the upcoming panel, too.
I feel like this is so important. I don’t really know what my own path of sexuality education or sex writing looks like, I don’t know where this Sugarbutch job will take me, but I do plan to keep doing it. When panic like this comes up, when accusations and attacks are made, I want to be part of a community that can rally around each other, stand strong, and fight back if necessary. I want to be a part of that protection, to continue to protect my own work and the important work of those around me.
Because I know just how badly we need this work, and this is just further sign of how much work there is, still, to do.
I really admire & adore Maymay.
He is one of the big minds behind both KinkForAll, which is an “unconference” of folks coming together to skill-share and discuss topics relating to kink and bdsm, and also Kink on Tap, which is a weekly internet video show where participants and special guests discuss the week in kink and what’s been going on in the media, as well as dozens of other things (tune in live at 8pm EST/5pm PST on Sunday nights at live.kinkontap.com and chat with other folks watching it in the chatroom!).
And like I mentioned, I attended KinkForAll Providence this past weekend. Kristen and I drove up from New York City for just the day, and we co-presented a workshop on Gendering Power (the short version—only twenty minutes—and I’ll be doing it full-length at the LSM here in New York City a few weeks!). And of course I saw many fantastic workshops—they are only twenty minutes long, in unconference style, very compact and specific, so you gotta really be precise about what you want to get across, and go for it.
Maymay’s was phenomenal. It’s called “On Dichotomies that (No Longer) Jail Me” and it kinda blew my brain. Now that I’ve re-watched it (and read along), I think it’s even more brilliant, and I highly urge you to set aside just twenty minutes, sometime today, and watch it.
The full text is available over at Maymay’s blog, which you should possibly follow along with in a side-by-side window situation when you finally watch this video of his presentation. There were so many parts that I loved, but in particular, this quote:
People speak of ’sexual morality,’ but that is a misleading expression. There is no special morality for sex. No matter what you do with yourself, whether you go to bed with girls or with boys, and no matter what it occurs to you to do with them or with yourself, no moral rule applies to that sphere of activity other than the principles that govern every aspect of life: honesty, courage, common humanity, consideration. —Jens Bjørnboe
[And then Maymay goes on to say:] What Jens understood that I think is so valuable is that people who dichotomize consensual sexual activity into obscene and decent acts also tend to approach morality as a dichotomy; they couple obscene with immoral and decent with moral. Indeed, Jens sees that the failure to recognize one false dichotomy actually blurs one’s view of which other dichotomies are true and which are not. On the other hand, when you begin to see the gradations between things you once simplistically believed were absolutes, you empower yourself to break out of all false dichotomies.
Now, before I go any further, it’s important to mention that false dichotomies are not inherently bad things; they can be useful, as I mentioned, and they can be a lot of fun. Case in point, I think dichotomies of power are really fucking sexy! Specifically, I have always loved (and still love) playing—but not being—powerless. That is, I enjoy being sexually submissive.
Trouble is, I’m a man. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: DUH! Thing is, the fact that I’m a man wasn’t always clear to me. In fact, thanks to this really strong tendency that false dichotomies, when we incorrectly believe they are true, have of reinforcing one another, for the longest time I thought I was actually a woman! Yeah! Let me tell you why.” —Read the full text over at Maymay’s blog!
Maymay goes on to explain what I’ve called identity alignment assumptions, though in a much more illustrative and specific way than I ever did in that post. Dichotomies can be so jailing, so harmful, so specific—but we also have an infinite number of tools we can use to break out of those and come into ourselves, fully.
Watch it. Seriously. This is really good stuff.
And because Maymay has been working probably non-stop since Saturday to get these videos working and live, here are a few more talks from KinkForAll Providence which were PHENOMENAL.
In this KinkForAll Providence presentation, Marty, Brown University Alumn (Class of 2008), reads from his impassioned graduate college application personal statement. “One reason I have chosen to out myself is to legitimize my identity and the identities of those I care about,” he says. By the end of obtaining his linguistics undergraduate degree at Brown University, Marty was already an accomplished sexuality freedom advocate. While in high school, he started a date-rape awareness theatre troupe, he helped found and run an ongoing male sexuality workshop at Brown University, and wrote a sex education and advice column for a local newspaper. Now, he works at Planned Parenthood in Boston and volunteers for Men Against Sexism.
I’m looking forward to talking to Marty more, especially about masculinity and his work as a sexuality freedom advocate. I think that might make for a great Radical Masculinity interview, don’t you?
If you were following my twitter stream over the weekend, you also know that Kristen and I got to spend some time hanging out with Megan Andelloux, and her two talks were fantastic. She recently opened The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, Rhode Island—and she showed us around! It is such a cool space, if I lived closer I would go hang out there all the time, read a book on the comfy couches or browse my RSS reader and chat with the visitors about what’s going on in the world of sex. If you’re anywhere nearby, I urge you to check it out.
But it wasn’t as easy as just “hey, I’m going to open a center, kthxbye!”—Megan was threatened and barricaded from opening for more than five months. In her second talk at KinkForAll, she explained what happened, and how she fought it—and won. Check it out:
When Megan Andelloux wanted to open the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, RI, “freaked out” residents barricaded her opening for 5 months and the local police threatened to arrest her. At KinkForAll Providence, 1 week after Megan’s education center opened, she gives a talk about the “sex panic” that swept the state and captured national headlines. Megan tells of a University of Rhode Island professor who waged a “war” to stop her from educating adults about sex, how locals demanded that “we should outlaw sex!” and how Megan fought for your sexual freedoms—and won! Learn more about Megan Andelloux at OhMegan.com and about the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health at TheCSPH.org
I hear there’s talk for a KinkForAll NYC3 sometime soon. And as always, find out more than you probably need to know on the KinkForAll wiki.
First of all:
I totally admit to having stolen all of this text (below) about KinkForAll from Jack at Writing Dirty (keep refreshing until you get to the kneesocks header image, yum), though I presume it originated at the KinkForAll wiki, collectively written by the participants. Kristen and I are heading up to KinkForAll Providence this Saturday, February 6th, and I am extra looking forward to that gathering. If you haven’t been to a KinkForAll yet, you’re missing out—to be honest I’ve only been to one, the first in New York City, but I went away with many many ideas and had a wonderful time chatting with folks. Very much looking forward to attending again!
Second of all:
I am EXTRA excited to head to Providence to congratulate Megan Andelloux on the recent accomplishment, opening up the Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health. I’m not going to go into the details of how and why it was first denied the right to open, then finally permitted, but there are some articles over on Carnal Nation if you’d like to see what major work Megan has done to get an educational center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Kristen lived up near there for quite a few years, and has experienced first-hand what the repression of the supposedly “open-minded” New Englander culture can be like, so she’s excited to check it out, too. I’m secretly hoping that KinkForAll will evolve into a party celebrating the CSPH. Or that Megan will take me up on that slot on her dance card that I once had my name on.
Third of all:
Sorry to have yet another post about an in-person event, rather than some article on gender or story on sex or erotica piece or any type of “real” content. I’m freakin’ busy! (I’m also doing a workshop at the Lesbian Sex Mafia on February 19th, and just launched a new weekly column called Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend on Sex Is.) Real content in progress, and to come, as always, I promise.
Fourth of all:
Oh yeah, I might do a little workshop on gender at KinkForAll. Or maybe about something else. If you’re coming (or even if you’re not), what would YOU like to see me speak about for 20 minutes?
And now, the real point of the post: all the information you could possibly need about this weekend’s KinkForAll.
KinkForAll is an ad-hoc educational unconference about the convergence of sexuality with the rest of life for anyone and everyone. It is 100% free and open to the public. Anyone with the desire to learn or with something to contribute is welcome and invited to participate.
What: A free and highly social day of sexuality education and discussion.
Why: To inspire a creative, interactive and open environment where everyone feels comfortable talking and learning about all things that sexuality relates to in their lives.
When: February 6th, 2010 at 10:00 AM
Where: Brown University, Wilson Hall, Main Green in Providence, Rhode Island
How much: FREE (as in beer as well as freedom)
KinkForAll is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people of all persuasions to share and learn in an open environment. It is a fast-paced event with discussions, presentations, and interaction from all participants. (It is inspired by the BarCamp community.)
ANYONE WITH SOMETHING TO CONTRIBUTE OR WITH THE DESIRE TO LEARN IS WELCOME AND INVITED TO JOIN. When you attend, be prepared to share with others. When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.
A KinkForAll is a special kind of gathering because there are no spectators, only participants. Attendees must give a talk or a presentation, help with one, or otherwise contribute in some way to support the event. This is called sharing and we like it. All presentations are scheduled the day they happen—there are no pre-scheduled presentations or keynote addresses. The people present at the event will select the presentations they want to see.
Anyone can lead a session, on any topic related to sexuality. You do not necessarily have to teach a new skill or idea. You might share an experience, facilitate a discussion, or read a poem. The goal is to start a conversation, make connections (and maybe even friends), and exchange knowledge. Presentations promoting specific commercial products or companies are discouraged.
Learn more about what to expect at wiki.kinkforall.org/WhatToExpect
Learn more about the event guidelines at wiki.kinkforall.org/TheRulesOfKinkForAll
This activity is not sponsored by, associated with, or endorsed by Montgomery County Public Schools or Montgomery County Government.
We need your help in spreading the word. Please help by participating.
1. Get excited by reading fellow participants’ topic ideas on wiki.kinkforall.org/KinkForAllProvidence
2. Add your name or handle to the list of participants
3. Join the mailing list and introduce yourself by emailing [email protected]
4. Show up!
Still have questions? Read the Frequently Asked Questions at wiki.kinkforall.org/FrequentlyAskedQuestions
or email [email protected] for more details.
Participate online before the event at your favorite social networking web site:
All organizational efforts are coordinated in public via the mailing list. Join for free and help turn ideas into realities!