Mission, Vision & History

MISSION

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation aims to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right and works to end sexual violence.

VISION

Woodhull envisions a world that recognizes sexual freedom as the fundamental human right of all individuals to develop and express their unique sexuality; to be personally autonomous with regard to bodily integrity and expression; and to enjoy sexual dignity, privacy and consensual sexual expression without societal or governmental interference, coercion or stigmatization.

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is committed is the removal of conditional authority over one’s own body, sexual decisions, and sexual expression.  We seek political and cultural affirmation of sexual freedom not only as a fundamental human right, but as a personal choice worthy of mainstream acceptance – even in instances where said choices defy “convention.”  This human rights approach to sexual freedom ultimately helps shed undue judgment, which in turn levels societal and legislative playing fields, creating a landscape in which every human is worth of rights, respect and recognition.

HISTORY

The founding members of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, included Mary Frances Berry, Melinda Chateauvert, Richard Cunningham, Judy Guerin, Ricci Levy, Jeffrey Mongtomery and Eric Rofes. In 2003, they gathered to discuss individuals and families being denied their fundamental human right to sexual freedom – a denial that threatened their health and welfare in addition to their Constitutionally-supported quest for happiness.

From that meeting, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation – named for 19th century feminist and activist Victoria Woodhull – was born.  Since its inception, the Foundation has advocated on behalf of sexual freedom as a fundamental human right, worthy of its place alongside hard-fought liberties including including freedom of expression, the right to family, and the right to privacy.  Whether talking with students about the legitimacy of all consenting families or successfully imploring Congress to eliminate condoms as evidence of rape, Woodhull works alongside allies representing specific issues, identities and communities, while simultaneously serving as an umbrella advocate for sexual rights as a whole.

Despite the climate of change surrounding marriage equality, there are still many sexual identities that fall outside the protections and liberties offered by current policy.  Based in Washington DC, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation works to change those laws, policies and practices across a range of issues with one thing in common: They deny or threaten our right to sexual freedom.  We’re committed to reversing the erosion of long-standing civil and human rights, like the right to abortion and reproductive education, while also advancing legal and cultural tolerance for all family structures and sexual identities.  Woodhull was instrumental in the inclusion of domestic partner benefits as a component of same-sex marriage – a detail at risk in the original legislation. We played a key role in the termination of Washington DC’s “Prostitution Free Zones,” which infracted on legally defensible rights, and testified on behalf of successful efforts to end the practice of shackling incarcerated women during labor and childbirth in Florida prisons

But it’s not just about individual legal changes.  In addition to inducing legislative, judicial, and corporate accountability and progress, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation is the preeminent voice emanating from the intersection of sexual rights and human rights – insisting that the United States protect human rights, including those related to sexual freedom, rather than limit them.

Other Woodhull endeavors infuse America’s sexual climate with overdue credibility and positivity. Our annual and acclaimed Sexual Freedom Summit, now in its 7th year, embodies Woodhull’s belief in open, positive discourse regarding sexuality and related issues.  We lead by example with frank, lively and engaging conversations about sexual health and consensual sexual expression as a human right, and approach these conversations in a way that includes pleasure and desire – two elements often missing from other national conversations about sex and sexuality.  Presenters and attendees range from international movement leaders to curious laypeople – a range of voices providing a sea of tools, conversations and resources that galvanize change.

In 2010, Woodhull’s efforts prompted proclamation of September 23rd (Victoria Woodhull’s birthday) as Sexual Freedom Day in Washington, DC – an annual opportunity to celebrate and rally on behalf of sexual freedom in the district and beyond.

Woodhull’s Family Matters Project retains a more singular focus: To highlight and eliminate discrimination facing American families. This includes efforts to modify the antiquated notion of nuclear, monogamous, heterosexual families as the benchmark from which legislation and mores flow.

Our Vicki Sexual Freedom Award honors and acknowledges courageous pioneers advancing the cause of sexual rights across a variety of endeavors, causes and locations.

In these and all sexual freedom-oriented endeavors, we point to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Proclaimed by the United Nations general assembly in 1948, the milestone document serves as a protective measure, ensuring all Americans and member nations the “right to family.”

Sexual rights lie at the heart of human rights, and the freedom to engage in consensual sexual practices, relationships and expression is both a right and a cultural benefit.  The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is committed to advancing recognition of sexual, gender and family diversity in efforts to improve the well-being, rights and autonomy of all people.