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Jun 03 2013

Brooklyn Cops Stop Condom Busts

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by thepleasurechest

condoms

As we reported back in March, the NYPD has been arresting people on suspicion of prostitution simply for carrying condoms. The practice is especially problematic since the same city also distributes free condoms to help combat STIs. Now there’s some good news out of Brooklyn where prosecutors, bowing to pressure from sex worker advocates, have ordered the police to stop collecting condoms as evidence.

Prosecutors will continue to use condoms as evidence in trafficking cases, a policy that remains controversial among sex worker advocates. Still, this new rule should help to reduce the number of arrests and reduce fears of getting arrested simply for carrying protection.

h/t @Melissa Gira Grant

May 16 2013

Consent is Sexy: How Pleasure-Centered Education Can Help to Dismantle Rape Culture

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by thepleasurechest

Tomchesson picThis is a guest post by Sarah Tomchesson, The Pleasure Chest’s Director of Business Development and Strategy.

Introducing the concept of pleasure into sex education geared toward young adults has long been frowned upon and rarely implemented with the exception of a few progressive models. Instead, the United States has largely adopted risk-focused education since the federal government’s first allocation of funds for sex education after World War I, when the spread of syphilis and gonorrhea posed a real public health issue. The HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s reinforced the need for sex education as a public health necessity, specifically STD-focused education (more appropriately known now as STIs).

As we know, some contemporary sex education curricula teach that abstinence is the only viable means to avoid pregnancy or contracting an STI. And, wow, nothing is sexier than abstinence! As if taking anything remotely sexual out of the teaching will make young folks ignore their own budding sexuality. This method of sexuality education is misguided. Ignoring the amazing plethora of nerve endings in our genitalia and throughout our bodies, avoiding discussion of self exploration and skipping over how to talk about sex with a partner, does not make kids want sex less. It does not empower them to make healthy choices about their or their partners’ bodies; it does not equip them for their first time (or their first 20 times) and I think it most definitely contributes to the prevalence of rape culture in our society.

abstinence

This pleasure-denying approach to sex education in the US suggests that we are trying to socialize physiological urges out of young folks’ bodies through fear tactics. This method may be helping some of our youth avoid pregnancy and STIs, but ultimately it is putting a lot of them at risk. We are not providing young people with a healthy alternative to the powerful and often disparate messages they receive about sex and sexuality through the internet, music, sports-culture, celebrity-culture, politics and religious institutions.

Sluthood is simultaneously exalted and stigmatized in mainstream media. Similarly, virility and “manliness” is glorified. Viagra and Cialis commercials are now ubiquitous. Politicians are regularly caught cheating. Female professionals are still judged by looks and sex appeal first, effectiveness second (Kamala Harris IS the best-looking Attorney General after all, right?). Professional athletes get sexual assault cases dropped left and right. Stuebenville High School has just extended their football coach’s contract for two years even while the grand jury has convened to determine his culpability in a 2012 sexual assault case (!) In this context, where sexuality is omnipresent but rarely meaningfully discussed and where there is limited access to sexuality education, particularly on the topic of consent, objectification, rape and sexual assault have become normalized. Unfortunately, most sex education curricula do not provide a viable alternative to the disempowering and pervasive model of sexuality provided by our culture.

skirt

Pleasure-centered education can provide our youth with meaningful tools to help them navigate one of, if not the most, vulnerable parts of their identity. As a sex educator, who teaches from a pleasure-based perspective I understand how complicated and loaded the concept of pleasure can be, even to adults. However, to embrace a healthy model of sexuality in which consent is a key piece one must be able to wrap their head around the vast pleasure possibilities consent unlocks. The model of sexuality that our culture constructs is unattainable because within it exists an irresolvable conflict between repression and overstimulation. I believe that introducing the concept of pleasure is essential to educating on consent and can offer a significant alternative to the current “one size fits all” model of sexuality. Empowering people to understand their sexuality and showing them the ways their bodies are built for pleasure, encourages them to seek out the sex that is right for them and to reject sex that hurts or is unsatisfying.

In a pleasure-based model, exploration of one’s own body is at the core of the ideology and anatomy is taught from the perspective of the potential of the different nerve endings in the body. Anatomy lessons serve as a tool for individual empowerment. Education on the ways our bodies are wired for orgasm is especially important for young women who are discouraged by society’s messaging to enjoy sex, and who have largely been denied permission to be sexual or to have sexual needs for fear of being labeled a slut.

vaginalodor

Also, women are not taught to have pride for their genitals in the same way that a lot of men come to love and readily explore their penises. Just watch any feminine hygiene or douching commercial and you will see the deep shame that we as a society feel about the vulva. Likewise, the inherent power of the penis is ingrained in young men, but we are not teaching them that possessing a penis does not entitle them to pleasure any way they want it, whenever they want it.

Pleasure-based curriculum approaches sex from the perspective of mutual pleasure, through detailing the body’s pleasure map and also by laying out a framework for safe exploration in relationships through strong communication. Demonstrating how to negotiate sex with a partner, what you like and don’t like, provides an excellent opportunity for meaningful discussion about what consent means and what it looks like in practice. The affirmative consent model where only “yes” means “yes” is perfectly positioned in pleasure-centered education. Introducing consent in this context, where the goal is greater pleasure for both partners, makes it sexy and helps elucidate how sex with a consenting partner is always more satisfying.

consentissexy

The problem with risk-focused or abstinence-only sex education is that the concept of mutuality is absent; the curriculum has been disinfected of any remnants of sexiness. Young people know that when sex education focuses solely on negative outcomes that something is missing. In the absence of comprehensive and affirmative education they will seek out information where none has been provided. The sexuality resources that are most readily available and accessible are not promoting consent, sex-positivity or contributing to a rape-free culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that “Blow Jobs 101” or “The Ultimate O: Achieving Multiple Orgasms” is appropriate curriculum for teenagers.  However, recent events at Occidental College, USC, Amherst, Stuebenville High School and in the military demonstrate that rape culture is alive and well. These events highlight that people are entering their sexually active years with little to no understanding of what informed consent is.

sexed

There are age-appropriate ways to sexually empower our youth and it is a priority that we do so. One great example of progressive education is Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ pilot health program, which includes an educational curriculum for students and parents that is paired with health resources and peer advocacy on high school campuses. Another is Dr. Laura Berman’s Sex Ed Handbook for parents (PDF), which encourages discussion in the home from a young age. Young people are confused about their sexuality and their bodies and are becoming confused adults. Hopefully, some will find their way to a sex-positive or pleasure-centered workshop in adult life but many will not.

Our sex education has sheltered young people by focusing on risk and denying pleasure while the rest of society bombards them with a precarious model of sexuality. This combination is not working for us anymore. It is time that we introduce pleasure, and with it sexy consent, into more sex education curricula.

To read more about how young people are combating rape culture, read our previous post on the Know Your IX campus movement. 

Apr 22 2013

Adult Film Industry Organizes Against Proposed State Law Mandating Condoms in Porn

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by thepleasurechest

unclesamLast November, Los Angeles voters approved Measure B, a law requiring condoms for all porn shoots in LA County. While that law faces appeal, there’s a new challenge to California’s adult film industry. Assembly Bill 332 would enforce a statewide requirement for condoms on all adult film sets.

Our friends at the Free Speech Coalition argue that, if passed, AB 332 would drive the industry out of California. There’s some evidence for this. Since the passage of Measure B, applications for porn film permits in Los Angeles have plummeted, with productions moving to nearby Ventura County. In LA, “only two permits have been issued for pornographic filming so far this year, far off pace for an industry that typically gets about 500 permits annually.”

Aside from the economic impact of a ban, the FSC emphasizes that the adult industry already has effective protocols to protect performers.

“Between April of 2006 and December of 2012 there have been 46,283 new cases of HIV reported in the state of California.  During that same time period only two performers contracted HIV—off set—in their personal lives.  No transmission of HIV has occurred on an adult set since 2004 nationwide.”

They also point out that the bill interferes with a pending lawsuit filed by Vivid Entertainment, challenging the constitutionality of Measure B. Rather than pass yet another law making it harder for the adult industry, the state should wait to see what happens with the suit against Measure B.

The FSC is encouraging friends of the adult film industry to contact members of the Assembly State Labor Committee by phone, fax or email, asking them to oppose AB332 when it comes up for up a vote this Wednesday. The call to action, along with suggested talking points and contact information for the committee members can be found here.

 

Apr 10 2013

The Origami Condom

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by thepleasurechest

Bill Gates wants to promote sexual health by reinventing the latex condom. To accomplish this, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering $100,000 to the designer with the best idea. And they may have found a winner in the Origami Condom.

Creator and company founder, Danny Resnic, told The Huffington Post. “We are trying to create a condom that feels great and is much closer to the real deal to encourage people to use them.”

Origami Condoms look like a hybrid of the traditional condom and a male masturbation sleeve. The name comes from “origami,” the Japanese art of paper-folding, and sure enough, the segments of the condom unfold as it is rolled down a penis. They also move during intercourse, stroking the shaft and adding stimulation for the wearer.

Initial trials have been very positive, and the company has already attracted investors and condom makers who want license the design. Meanwhile, Resnic is working on an improvement to the female condom and developing the world’s first condom for anal intercourse. We’re curious to see what he comes up with next. Would you try the Origami Condom?

Read more at The Huffington Post.

 

Mar 22 2013

Safe Sex Dress Raises AIDS Awareness

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by thepleasurechest

condomdress

We’ve seen a lot of creative uses for condoms. Last month we told you about condom ice cream. There’s also a condom bungee rope, condom handbags and condom flowers.  Oh yeah, and then there’s the condom-themed restaurant in Thailand with its very own condom Santa. Today’s latex innovation comes from California college student Jenna Smith, who made a dress out of condoms to raise awareness and funds for her participation in the AIDS Lifecycle Ride.

To make the dress Smith wove colored condoms with clear condoms at the top of the dress and then sewed it together. Then for the wrappers, she glued them “because sewing would rip the foil,” she said.

For the bottom part, she made strips of two condoms, alternating in colors, then sewed them onto a belt to create a skirt.

“My personal favorite part is the belt I made with the rainbow wrappers. It is a separate piece that I will probably wear with other outfits,” she said.

If you’d like to support Jenna in the AIDS Lifecycle Ride, you can sponsor her here.

Mar 15 2013

Scientists May Have Found “Functional Cure” for HIV

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by thepleasurechest

You may have heard about the baby who was recently cured of HIV. French scientists are now saying that they’ve found a “functional cure” for 14 adult  patients living with HIV.

“They still have HIV, it is not eradication of HIV, it is a kind of remission of the infection.”

The patients were all treated with a combination of antiretroviral drugs within 10 weeks of being infected with HIV. Though they still technically have the virus, they were able to discontinue drug treatment after an average of just three years. Read more at the BBC.

Mar 05 2013

Carry a Condom & Go To JailNYPD’s War On Sex Workers

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by thepleasurechest

Did you know that you can be arrested for carrying condoms in New York City? This outrageous fact comes courtesy of a Vice article about the NYPD’s criteria for identifying potential sex workers. In practice, not just anyone is targeted by the police for such arrests.

But say you’re a sex worker or a queer kid kicked out of your home. Say you’re a  trans woman out for dinner with your boyfriend. Maybe you’ve been arrested as a sex worker before. Maybe some quota-filling cop thinks you look like a whore.

Then you’re not safe at all.

The article points out that New York City distributes free condoms to promote safe sex, but also uses them as evidence for arrests. How can the same city punish people for trying to protect their own health? A proposed law to ban the use of condoms as evidence by police and prosecutors was introduced in 1999, but hasn’t gotten enough support. Advocates for the rights of sex workers are hoping to change that. You can find out more here.

 

Feb 21 2013

The Male Birth Control You’ve Never Heard Of

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by thepleasurechest

Have you heard of RISUG? It’s a revolutionary birth control method for men. RISUG is an acronym for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance; it’s a quick, relatively painless procedure developed by Indian scientist Sujoy Guha.

In a traditional vasectomy, the vas deferens is severed. In Guha’s procedure, the vas deferens is injected with a nontoxic polymer that renders any sperm passing through sterile for up to 10 years. When you’re reading to make babies, you simply inject a solution of baking soda and water to flush out the polymer. Can it really be that simple? And why isn’t RISUG a household word?

Check out this video from Discovery News to learn more.

h/t The Awl