Sexual Freedom in the News- March 20, 2019

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is the only national human rights organization working full time to protect the fundamental human right to sexual freedom. Our work includes fighting sexual violence, eliminating discrimination based on gender or sexual identity or family form, and protecting the right to engage in consensual sexual activity and expression. We do this through advocacy, education, and coalition building.

Every other Wednesday, our bi-weekly newsletter aggregates seven articles central to Woodhull’s mission and work. This week, the newsletter covers the following topics:

  • The upcoming 2020 election and political discourse around sex work decriminalization;
  • Survivor-centric, anti-carceral restorative justice approaches to violence;
  • An investigation of sexual abuse at an immigration facility;
  • Congressional debates on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the advancing of anti-trans rhetoric;
  • A recent lawsuit brought against a Huntsville, Alabama abortion clinic;
  • A profile on Joan Morgan, an activist who has centered Black women’s sexuality and pleasure in her feminist praxis;
  • Strikes across the world for International Women’s Day.

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Sex-Work Decriminalization Is Becoming an Issue For 2020 (Rolling Stone)

(Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Recent federal decisions—including but not limited to the SESTA/FOSTA bill—place countless sex workers in profoundly harmful, and even life-threatening, situations. Many sex workers and their allies are fighting to decriminalize sex work, a topic that has recently become the focus of political discourse in the context of the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election. EJ Dickson writes, “To put it in standard public relations parlance, sex-work decriminalization is having something of a moment. New York lawmakers Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos have announced plans to introduce a bill making New York the first state to decriminalize sex work, and last month a California senator introduced a bill making it easier for sex workers to report violent crimes. And the country’s most famous sex worker, Stormy Daniels, has in part used her new platform as a way to advance the cause, tweeting about sex workers’ rights issues and speaking at multiple sex workers’ rights rallies across the country. Given the newfound visibility of sex workers’ rights, and the overlap the movement has with women’s rights and workers’ rights as a whole, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are in the position of having to address an issue that has previously been on the margins of the national conversation. But it’s unclear how many of them plan to do that.” Read more.

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Reckoning with Violence (The New York Times)

(Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

In the U.S., reckoning with violence often entails further violence, particularly that of the prison industrial complex. What, then, are the consequences and shortcomings of recasting liberation in carceral terms? Responding to this dilemma, Michelle Alexander argues, “It turns out, when given a real choice, very few survivors choose prison as their preferred response. This is not because survivors, as a group, are especially merciful. To the contrary, they’re pragmatic. They know the criminal justice system will almost certainly fail to deliver what they want and need most to overcome their pain and trauma. More than 95 percent of cases end in plea bargains negotiated by lawyers behind the scenes. Given the system’s design, survivors know the system cannot be trusted to validate their suffering, give them answers or even a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Nor can it be trusted to keep them or others safe.” Read more.

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In Search of Safety: An Investigation of Abuse at an Immigration Facility (Rewire.News)

(Alex Charner)

For over ten months, Rewire.News partnered with Latino USA to investigate the case of one migrant woman’s experience of sexual abuse at an immigration facility. The findings further confirm that detained migrants are forced to live under inhumane, unsafe, and traumatizing conditions. Tina Vasquez writes, “On May 3, 2017, Laura Monterrosa fled El Salvador for the United States because she heard that she could find protection and safety here. Twenty days later, she said another ‘nightmare’ began; while at the T. Don Hutto detention center, she alleges, she was repeatedly sexually abused by a female guard. Monterossa, 24, said through a translator that when she threatened to report the incident, the guard told her that the staff would never believe her. ‘I was scared because I thought that she was gonna deport me—that they could send me to another detention center and deport me.’” Read more.

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House Republicans Use “Lesbian Radical Feminist” to Advance Anti-Trans Rhetoric (Truthout)

(Roll call via YouTube)

On Thursday, March 7, Congress convened to discuss the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which includes measures to make the law better serve trans and gender non-conforming survivors of intimate violence. House Republicans, in efforts to thwart the success of the reauthorization, called upon Julia Beck, a self-described “lesbian radical feminist” and anti-trans conservative. Heron Greenesmith writes, “[The] Republicans, one by one, would turn their questions to Beck, offering her time to expound on her fiercely anti-transgender views. Beck is not a judge. She is not a professor. She is not a policy expert. She is a personal witness who was invited to share her non-expert views on law, sociology, and policy impacting transgender survivors of violence. And the Republicans of the subcommittee gave her the space and time to share these baseless, often violently explicit anti-transgender views, without interrogation or foundation. To be precise: by inviting Julia Beck to testify as a witness on the reauthorization the Violence Against Women Act, congressional Republicans committed violence against transgender people.” Read more.

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The Absurd Case of an Alabama Man Who Thinks He Has the Right to Be a Father (Mother Jones)

(Sarah Cole/AP)

As a clinic that provides abortions, the Alabama Women’s Center has faced relentless regulations, restrictions, and backlash from anti-choice advocates. The clinic and its work to protect the right to reproductive freedom is being attacked yet again after an Alabama probate judge agreed to recognize an aborted fetus as a person with legal rights in response to a wrongful death lawsuit. Becca Andrews explains, “Andrew Beck, a lawyer with the ACLU who has represented the Alabama Women’s Clinic in past legal proceedings, is skeptical the case will get that far. He stresses that this is just a preliminary order issued by a probate judge—and the case itself will play out in state court, not probate court, which is merely where estates are settled. […] Beck argues the lawsuit is essentially a frivolous attempt to challenge a woman’s right to abortion care: ‘It is an attempt to get around fundamental protections in our country’s abortion law and to undermine a woman’s right to get an abortion and both interfere with the woman and to harass and intimidate providers.’”  Read more.

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A New Origin: Joan Morgan Changes the Narrative of Black Women’s Sexuality (Bitch Media)

(Layla Amatullah Barrayn)

As Briana Barner declares, “While pleasure should be an integral part of our lives, it can sometimes be more complicated for women of color who may be impacted by the stereotype of hypersexuality.” On this topic, Barner interviews Joan Morgan, a feminist activist committed to centering Black women’s sexuality and pleasure. When asked how to develop your own pleasure politics, Morgan says, “The first step is figuring out where you feel like the pleasure is missing and needs to be addressed. And then really making a commitment to making sure that you engage it and create pleasurable things and experiences for yourself unapologetically.” Read more.

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It’s International Women’s Day. Women Around the World Are Striking. (Jacobin)

(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

On March 8, 2019—International Women’s Day (IWD)—Liza Featherstone urged for a remembrance of the “radical roots” of IWD and a celebration of women throughout the world who have carried these liberation struggles into the present day. Featherstone writes, “[T]he strikes, walkouts and massive protests in so many countries reflect a global mobilization of women, says Cinzia Arruzza, who is the co-author, with Tithi Bhattacharya and Nancy Fraser, of Feminism for the 99 Percent (just out this month from Verso). Neoliberalism hits women particularly hard. Arruzza cites a ‘crisis of social reproduction’: austerity results in cutbacks to public services (like childcare, schooling and much more) which create more work for women at home, but also hammer them as public sector workers. At the same time, by squeezing workers’ wages and weakening their safety nets, capital and its neoliberal regimes also create more violence against women, in part by making economically harder for women to leave abusive relationships and workplaces.” Read more.

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