Bi-Weekly Sexual Freedom Newsletter

Wednesday September 5th, 2018


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:

  • A web-hosting service for and by sex workers;
  • Intimacy directors’ advocacy role for actors in vulnerable workplace moments;
  • The stigmatization and harassment faced by trans women when they talk about sex;
  • A recent affirmation of trans rights in the Florida prison system;
  • A nuanced reflection on justice, sexual violence, and the #MeToo movement;
  • The future of abortion access with a new Supreme Court nominee;
  • Legal protection for LGBTQ+ communities.

(Kimberly White/Reuters)

The Web-Hosting Service for Sex Workers, by Sex Workers, Against SESTA/FOSTA (The Nation)

The need for a more private, offshore web-hosting service for sex workers has existed as long as sex workers have relied on digital platforms for their safety and livelihood. Earlier this year, upon the passage of the FOSTA package-bill, this need became ever the more apparent. Arvind Dilawar interviews Melissa Mariposa, a sex worker and activist who created Red Umbrella Hosting, a site that aims to protect sex workers. Dilawar writes, “Red Umbrella Hosting offers sex workers website hosting under extremely liberal terms of service that only restrict content like child pornography, sex slavery, and beastiality. All of the requirements for set up can be anonymous: alias, e-mail address, and payment in either physical gift cards or cryptocurrency. Should anything happen to Mariposa, who single-handedly manages Red Umbrella Hosting, her users would be safe, as she has no real information about them to divulge. And her server, located in Iceland, is protected by some of the strongest privacy laws in the world—perhaps the best bulwark available against SESTA/FOSTA.” Read more. (Here are links to the FOSTA package-bill and Woodhull’s lawsuit against the United States challenging the constitutionality of FOSTA).


(Emily Berl/The New York Times)

How Do You Play a Porn Star in the #MeToo Era? With Help from an ‘Intimacy Director’ (The New York Times)

Alicia Rodis is an intimacy director, tasked with helping her colleagues at their most vulnerable workplace moments. The position has become more common since the recent #MeToo reckoning in the entertainment industry, a role characterized by advocacy and support. Actor Margaret Judson writes about her experience working with Ms. Rodis and the necessity for comfort and safety when shooting an X-rated scene. Judson writes, “On the day of the shoot, Ms. Rodis watched over the set like a chaperone at prom. She made sure the man playing opposite me sanitized his hands before we started, and then wiped them down after every single take. She checked in with me constantly, bringing water and coffee and mints. She also choreographed certain movements, much like a stunt director. Ms. Rodis pointed out that in a simulated sex scene, an actor may be touched on a vulnerable part of the body, and therefore deserves the same attention and protections as in a combat sequence. Otherwise, she told us, intimate scenes won’t look seamless and natural. She gave us direction on how to make certain moments steamier, and when to pull back. My scene partner and I felt comfortable and protected” Read more.


(Amber Vittoria)

Why I’m Scared to Talk About Sex (them.)

Mey Rude, a trans woman, is afraid to talk about sex, for fear that she will be harassed, mocked, and/or accused of being a sexual predator. In a personal piece for them., Rude details her experiences of this cruel, unwarranted stigmatization of her sexuality. Rude writes, “As a trans woman, when I talk about sex—even in abstract or clinical or personal ways—I am called a man and a predator and even a rapist. Strangers on the Internet tweet me to call me a rapist and celebrate this harassment as a win for feminism. I recently wrote a guide on how to have lesbian sex when one partner is a trans woman. It contained tips, tricks, and help for trans women and the cis women and nonbinary lesbians who want to have sex with them. Some of these tips came from my own personal sex life. The day the piece was published, both my girlfriend and an ex texted me to tell me how great it was. But the next day, I woke up to hundreds of people spamming the site’s comment section, my personal Twitter account, Reddit threads, and even blog posts, labeling me a rapist and sexual predator, and calling for my article and all other pieces I had written to be taken down.” Read more.



(Straight 8 Photography/Shutterstock)

A Court in Florida Affirms Dignity for Transgender People, Even in Prison (ACLU)

For several years, the Florida prison system denied Reiyn Keohane, a trans woman, access to hormones and placed her in a male facility. In a recent decision by Judge Mark E. Walker, the chief judge for the Northern District of Florida, Keohane’s rights have been affirmed. In an article for the ACLU, James Esseks applauds Judge Walker’s decision. Esseks writes, “Under the Constitution, the state can’t be ‘deliberately indifferent’ to the serious medical needs of prisoners. It’s a tough standard to meet, but after listening to the evidence the ACLU and ACLU of Florida put on at trial, Judge Mark E. Walker, the chief judge for the Northern District of Florida, saw a clear constitutional violation. [...] The decision in Reiyn’s case shows how important—and how powerful—the judicial system can be. It can force the state to change its policies and thereby transform the lives of people like Reiyn. And it can also inspire all of us to live up to the ideals in our Constitution. Here’s hoping this decision not only creates concrete change on the ground, but that it inspires more people—in prisons and elsewhere—to open their hearts to our fellow human beings, including our transgender friends, colleagues, and community members.” Read more.


(Getty Images)

Too Much, Too Soon (The Cut)

In November of 2017, comedian Louis C.K. admitted to acts of sexual violence including exposing himself and masturbating in front of women without their consent. For nine months, he disappeared from the public eye, returning to the stage on Sunday, August 26 at the Comedy Cellar in New York. In a piece for The Cut, Rebecca Traister shares her thoughts on the reappearances of Louis C.K.and other men accused of sexual violence into the public eye. Traister writes, “I don’t know, nor am I inclined to guess at, what the proper penalty or restitution would be for the harms [they’ve] inflicted (though for those without means, charges of assault and indecent exposure often involve arrest and imprisonment, which I mention simply because it’s worth considering from the standpoint of the gross economic and racial inequality in this country but hey, I’m no fan of incarceration so it’s not like I’m angling for more of it). What I do know is that these men can return to their industries, with the expectation that their reentry might be near the top. [...] And this reality reaffirms—and in fact recapitulates—the false notion that their worth, their value, their indispensability was built independently of the systems that permitted them to abuse their power in the first place.” Read more. (For a different perspective on Louis C.K. and what amends he can begin to make to address the harm he has caused, see this article for NBC News by Lux Alptraum).


(Mana Rabiee/Reuters)

Abortion looms over Senate fight on Supreme Court nominee (Reuters)

The Senate is fighting over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Though many communities will be under threat by way of Kavanaugh’s predicted conservative decisions on key human rights issues, the right to a safe and legal abortion, as protected under Roe v. Wade, has become central to the Senate’s debates. Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung write, “The stakes are high in the Senate battle over Kavanaugh because, if confirmed, he could provide a decisive fifth vote on the nine-justice court to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade.Doing that would likely prompt many conservative-leaning states to take steps to outlaw abortion altogether. In the run-up to the Kavanaugh hearings, abortion rights groups have held rallies nationwide, while opponents of Roe v. Wade are optimistic that Kavanaugh will be on their side.” Read more. (For additional information on Kavanaugh, read this article from The Washington Post).


(Lambda Legal/YouTube; Lily illustration)

Behind the law protecting a woman who says she was assaulted at her retirement home for being gay (The Lily)

On Monday August 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit made a step toward justice for LGBTQ+ communities. The Lily News explains the story of Marsha Wetzel and her lawsuit, writing, “When Marsha Wetzel, 70, first moved to the retirement and assisted living facility Glen St. Andrew Living Community in Niles, Ill., things were going fine. Wetzel had moved there after her partner of 30 years, Judith Kahn, died, and Wetzel was evicted from her home. Then, fellow residents found out she was a lesbian. Wetzel was spat on, called homophobic slurs and derogatory nicknames like “fruit loop,” and even physically attacked on several occasions, she claims in a lawsuit under the federal Fair Housing Act as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act. She also alleges that she complained to the retirement home’s administration but that they didn’t make any meaningful attempt to put a stop to the abuse and retaliated against her instead.” Read more.

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