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October 14, 2016

The Newest War on Sex

This article ran in AVN magazine's October 2016 issue as part of a cover package exploring the war on porn. See the digital edition here. It was written by Ricci J. Levy, president and CEO of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which works to advance the recognition of sexual, gender, and family diversity.   Do you remember the story of the Trojan horse? The Greeks used a hollow wooden statue of a horse to sneak themselves into Troy. Today we use the phrase to refer to a person or a thing intended to secretly undermine or destroy an enemy or opponent. The War on Sex in this country has lots of Trojan horses, phrases used to inflame, terrorize, inspire and deliberately mislead. Phrases, slogans such as “harmful to children,” “the war on human sex trafficking,” “sex addiction,” “porn addiction,” and, of course, “traditional family values” are Trojan horses disguising the real goal: the restriction of pleasure, the suppression of sex and sexuality, and the loss of personal autonomy. When the appetite (and donations) for the War on Porn dwindled and Morality in Media’s donations dropped from over $1 million to just over $20,000 in just three years, the group stopped much of its lobbying and the Obscenity Task Force that had been responsible for federal obscenity prosecutions was disbanded. A victory in the war? No. Simply time for a rebrand to the War on Human Sex Trafficking. What was our first clue that this was just a rebrand? Morality in Media changed its name to the “National Center on Sexual Exploitation.” Sex panic still sells and still moves the population politically (and financially). The War on Sex is being fought in legislatures and in the hearts and minds of the people. And nothing tugs at our hearts more than children and the idea of innocent victims of trafficking. And where our hearts are tugged, our purses open. It’s working! With the rebranding, the $20,000 donated in 2006 jumped to $984,763 in their first year of reporting (2014) under their new Trojan horse. The War on Sex is being fought in schools, where our children (those children the anti-sex folks are so concerned about!) are denied accurate education about sex, sexuality, pleasure, gender and gender identity. The War on Sex is being fought in bathrooms, a battle that’s costing millions and millions of dollars because it’s a political year and fear moves voters. With all of the problems in the world today, do you really think it’s important to stop someone from using the facilities in the bathroom that matches their gender identity? Of course it isn’t—but it’s a great distraction from those bigger issues, right? The problem is, lives are being impacted and people are being harmed. The War on Sex is being fought against sex workers under the guise of anti-trafficking efforts—efforts that completely ignore the reality of consensual sex work and that ultimately put more lives in danger by restricting opportunities to advertise and manage their own businesses. The War on Sex is being fought in the courts. A recent case in Illinois, Blumenthal v. Brewer, holds that people who live as if they are married have no legal recourse should their relationships dissolve. BUT a person who has a dispute with a roommate about a joint checking account they use to pay the rent can go to the courts and find a remedy. What’s the difference? In one case there’s an assumption of sex between the two (or more) parties. In the other, it’s assumed not. And if there’s sex, we must punish, we must restrict, we must apply different rules. The War on Sex is being fought in libraries, particularly school libraries, where books are censored for content deemed too sexual. Our allies at the National Coalition Against Censorship battle this year-round. Their most recent efforts center around the two books TTYL and its sequel TTFN. According to NCAC, “The entire book consists of instant-messenger style transcripts between the main characters. The book and its sequel focus on the stories of female high school students: their love lives, social drama, and friendships.” The War on Sex is being fought in banks—yes, banks!—who are put under tremendous pressure to deny services to adult businesses. The War on Sex is being fought on sites like Facebook and Twitter where censorship is the rule of the day and recourse is almost non-existent. You can advertise Viagra on Facebook but you can’t advertise a sex toy for pleasure. The War on Sex is fought by elected officials who, ashamed of something about themselves, create onerous laws trying to limit their own temptations (think Larry Craig, Mark Foley). The War on Sex saw the battle to defund Planned Parenthood in a relentless campaign focused on one service provided by the clinics. The ultimate Trojan horse rode in on misleading and deceptively edited videos creating a crusade for lawmakers and political candidates and resulting in the closures of clinics that left thousands and thousands of women without medical care. Personal autonomy? Not according to the GOP and the anti-sexual freedom folks. The government, as part of the War on Sex, gets to decide what you do with your body, from access to cancer screenings to terminating a pregnancy … even if your life is in danger! The War on Sex is the justification for violating our Constitution and shutting down sites like Backpage.com, MyRedBook.com, Rentboy.com and for forcing Craigslist to shut down its escort ads. In Woodhull’s statement after the Rentboy.com raid and arrest, we wrote, “The impact of government actions in the ongoing War on Sex, including attacks on sites like Rentboy.com, is the systematic elimination of constitutionally protected civil liberties and the infringement of human rights.” Human rights. That’s what this all comes down to, this War on Sex. We have a fundamental human right to sexual freedom and it is the job of our government to protect our human rights—not to seek to restrict, manage or remove them. This War on Sex has to be brought to an end. Let us set fire to the wooden horse by insisting on real conversations and bringing the real issues into the light. Let us use the tools our enemies in this war use and claim the floor of the legislature, raise the flag of human rights, and insist that our government support our human rights. And, most important, let us look at every field this battle is being fought on and find ways to support our allies in their work. Let us seek opportunities to collaborate, to join together, and to amplify our voices by raising them together in support of our fundamental right to sexual freedom!

 
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