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by Patrick Califia
reposted thanks to themoonmadness, who is fabulous.

Defend an abortion clinic. Help women get through right-wing pickets and into the building.
Write a sex ad.
When your newspaper says police are cracking down on prostitution, call the police and tell them you don't like them spending your money to bust hookers. Then write a letter to the paper saying the same thing. Urge the government to decriminalize prostitution. Nobody should have to go to jail for trying to make a living.

Write a weekly letter to your congresspeople. Ask them to repeal RICO laws, vote against mandatory sentencing for drug offenses, allocate more money for addiction-treatment services and family planning, fund more research on breast cancer and AIDS, and shut down the Justice Department's antiporn campaign. Remind these rich enemies of the asshole that being poor is not a crime. The money we now spend on building new prisions should be spent to bring jobs to the inner city and to build better schools. The League of Women Voters can tell you who your representatives are and give you their addresses. Be sure to send a copy of your letter to the Presidential Bubba.

Study sex.
Write a weekly letter to your mayor, officials in city government, state representatives, and governor. Tell them you oppose sodomy lws, laws which make solicitation illegal, and laws that force sex offenders to register with the cops. Tell them you vote.

Oppose attempts to get states to adopt a lower standard of obscenity (often known as the Miller standard).
Give away some pleasure.
Join a group like the American Civil Liberties Union (Dept. of Public Education, 132 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036), Californians Against Censorship Together (1800 Market St., Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94102), Feminists for Free Expression (2525 Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108), the National Coalition Against Censorship (275 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001), the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression (1402 Third Ave., No. 421, Seattle, WA 98101), Planned Parenthood Federation of America (810 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019), or Cyote (2269 Chestnut St., Suite 452, San Francisco, CA 94123). These groups are fighting for your sexual freedom. Be sure to enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your request for information.

Find a new fantasy.
If a convenience store is being picketed for carrying adult magazines, walk in and buy one. Tell the manager you support her or his decision to carry the materials the customers want.

Make art about how sex feels.
If an antiporn group is photographing the customers of an adult bookstore, turn up with a Polaroid and take pictures of them.

Write a love letter to an unlovable part of your body.
Organize a benefit for the Little Sister's Defense Fund and send the money to 1221 Thurlow Street, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6E 1X4.

Do regular self-examinations for breast or testicular cancer.
Teach somebody how to come with a rubber barrier.
If your city initiates a crackdown on baths or sex clubs, write your elected representatives and send a copy of your letter to your local newspapers. Tell the powers that be that you want a clean, well-lighted place for random encounters with randy strangers. Don't forget to mention that having safe sex in a public place is much more healthy than having unsafe sex at home in the privacy of your own bedroom.

Seize the moral high ground. Be righteous in your indignation.
If somebody tries to ban a book at a school or public library, go to the hearing. You wouldn't believe how easy it is to win these battles if you just show up and speak up. Keeping books about sex in the libraries is even more important than keeping them in bookstores because they are free and more people see them (especially young people).

Look at a cervix. (Hint: Annie Sprinkle is not the only woman who has one!)
Find out what the sex education curriculum is like in your local schools. If you think it is inadequate, express your concerns to school officials. You don't have to be a parent to do this. Everybody gets taxed to pay for free public education, so we all have a right to shape public policy. Young people need to know about birth control, safer sex, and homosexuality.

Look at your genitals.
Tell record stores that you don't want labels on your music. Tell your state representative you don't want laws that limit what kind of music young people can buy.

Do not be shamed. Do not be stampeded by fear.
If your pharmacy keeps condoms behind the counter, ask that they be displayed where people can buy them without having to ask for them. Tell the manager that she or he will sell more of these items if the customer can avoid embarrassment. Ask for latex gloves. Ask for dental dams. Ask for water-based personal lubricants. Ask for leaflets about AIDS and safer sex.

Write to a prisoner.
Call ABC, NBC, and CBS (both the national offices and your local affiliates). Tell them you want to see condom ads during prime time.

Tell gay organizations that you want them to support the First Amendment and start tracking obscenity cases. Tell them you want to see them supporting needle-exchange volunteers. Tell them you want them to defend sex workers who get arrested. Tell them it's time to put the sex back into homosexuality.

Keep your eyes open the whole time.
Organize a benefit for the Spanner defendants, gay men who were sentenced to prison in England for practicing consensual S/M; write a check payable to the NLA Spanner Defense and Education Fund, Account No. 01-7008237800, Central West End Bank, and mail it to Woody Bebout, Treasurer, P.O. Box 8224, St. Louis, MO 63108.

Talk to a sex worker, a transgendered person, a celibate, a sadomasochist, a heterosexual -- anybody whose sexual identity or practices are different from yours.

Masturbate, and don't hurry.
Tell video stores that you enjoy being able to rent X-rated videos.
Give up the concept of trying to control other people's sexual tastes. It will give you more time to develop your own.
Make or buy a sex toy.
Volunteer for a rape crisis center, a shelter for battered women, or an AIDS hotline.
Hand out clean needles and free condoms. If you can't do this, give money to the people who are doing it for you.
Organize a neighborhood patrol. Let bashers know they can't get away with hate and violence in your little part of the world.

Live a long time and make waves. The name of this ride is "Rock the Boat," not "Pretend You're Dead Already."


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC)
i only differ from your opinion in one area. i think sex offenders should have to register with the local police. i do not want these people around my child.

i want my child to stay one for as long as possible. she shouldn't have to walk into a convenience store and wonder why THOSE magazines have naked ladies on them, not at the age of 6. remember when childhood was about pretending sticks were swords and you chased down the monsters with your friends? what is wrong with innocence.
Oct. 10th, 2005 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you for pointing that out. For the most part, I agree with you about sex offenders registering with the local police. (And I do want to make it clear that I didn't write that piece...just re-printed it.) I think people should have the opportunity to be rehabilitated and go through treatment to not be sex offenders anymore...but we DON'T have a system like that in place right now, and keeping people safe has to be the priority. Especially children.

I hadn't actually noticed that point when I read it, somehow...or I would have made that note myself. I do agree with you on this point.
Oct. 10th, 2005 06:47 pm (UTC)
Actually, I second kitznegari's comment on both counts. There was a registered sex offender in my neighborhood who raped and killed a little girl when I was six years old. If my parents hadn't known that there was a sex offender in the area, then my sister and I may have played around his house, as the girl who was killed often did. It is incredibly naive to say that not registering sex offenders makes "the future safe for sex". Safe for rape and pedophilia, perhaps. What was the author of this piece thinking?

Also, sometimes there is a reason for censorship. When I become a parent, I want to have the opportunity to give factual, accurate, age-appropriate information about sex to my children. There is no reason why the media should do it for me, in a manner and at a time that is not appropriate. Children ARE NOT little adults, and their minds don't process information in the same way adults' minds do. Don't believe me? Try explaining triple-penetration to a five-year-old after he stumbles across some of his parents' porn while you are babysitting (it happened to me once.) The problem doesn't end once a child hits the teen years- if nothing else, it gets worse, because even when one's body is sexually mature, it takes several years for one's mind (certainly in the areas of judgment and responsibility) to mature. That would not be the time to bombard a thirteen-year-old with condom ads during primetime, porn distributed freely and sexually explicit music (which the author of this piece feels should be available to anyone, regardless of age.) Also, speaking of porn- there are many varieties catering to a wide spectrum of fantasies out there. Should porn that glorifies rape, for example, be available at convenience stores, for everyone (including teenage boys who have poorly-defined senses of judgment) to have access to? Where does one draw a line?

Two really good books that you can get from Lilly are Consuming Kids by Susan Linn and The Other Parent by James P. Steyer. Both books are about the media's effect on children's development, and there is substantial treatment of sex in the media in both books. Neither author is some ranting right-wing fundamentalist nut job- both authors seem to be genuinely concerned, thoughtful parents who don't like having their efforts at parenting (including talking to their children about safe sex) undermined by the profit-driven media.

I'm disturbed by some of the suggestions on that list. It just seems very poorly thought out. I don't have a problem with safe, consensual sex among adults, but I am concerned about the effects of more negative sexual education on children. Again, as far as the author goes, I say: what was he thinking?
Oct. 10th, 2005 09:05 pm (UTC)
I agree with you and kitznegari about sex offender registration (see my comment, above). Thank you for pointing that out.

I do disagree with you about the censorship, though. I think that we as members of a society that values freedom of expression have the responsibility to come up with more effective ways to appropriately educate our children and to create a society that doesn't tolerate profit at the expense of human dignity without banning other people from pushing messages that we find to be miseducating. As much as I too would like to see kids exposed only to positive messages of sexuality, I would rather not promote the setting of a standard that there's a "right" and a "wrong" way to expose kids to positive messages of sexuality. I would not want someone (say, a vocal group of religious anti-queer zealots) with more money than I have to have the power to push messages that their sexuality is more right than mine. A standard of censorship hurts anyone who doesn't have enough power (in our society, that means anyone who doesn't have enough MONEY, generally) to be in on the decisions about what gets censored.
Oct. 11th, 2005 12:13 am (UTC)
I do understand what you're saying, and considering what crumblingredsky said below, I'm more in agreement with you both now than I was when I posted my original comment.

I think, though, that sometimes there is a place where a line needs to be drawn in between right and wrong. It seems to me that child pornography is wrong, and I think that a lot of people agree with me. I may be treading on someone else's sexual fantasies here, but I still think it is really wrong. Should it be considered right then because people who are turned on by pedophiliac fantasies think it is?

I agree with you in that I don't want someone else's morals dictating how my child is raised. I don't want someone telling my kids that homosexuality is wrong, for example. But isn't this just the flip side of what I'm saying? It seems just as bad to have to shelter your kids from negative sexual values (such as fundies saying that homosexuality is wrong) as it is to have to shelter them from other negative sexual values (such as those that can be found in porn.) I think the arguments are more related than they seem, and either situation (total censorship or total explicit presentation of sex) are equally harmful.
Oct. 10th, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC)
To both of the above commenters: i agree with your sentiments, but not how to do it. Censorship should only exist from parent to child; it is the PARENT's job to make sure that the child is surrounded by material appropriate to his or her age and maturity level. When i was six, i was reading Holocaust diaries; at twenty-one, i am not ready for hardcore porn. My mom measured my ability to comprehend these things and made sure that i had material available to me that the average six-year-old would not be interested in, but she also always demanded that i come to her with any questions that came up. The rule around my house was always: you can watch whatever you like, as long as you watch it with Mom. You can read whatever you like, as long as you can talk about it with Mom. "Inappropriate" media was never a problem in my house.

If more parents acted like parents, we wouldn't need ratings on tv shows or cds. You have to read WITH your kids, listen WITH them, and then you stay connected.

Anecdote: reading the paper when i was three, i asked my mom what "sexual assault" was. She said that i wasn't old enough for that conversation, we'd have it later, and quickly grabbed my interest with something else. Good parents can and should answer every question on the level the kid can handle.
Oct. 10th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
That's a really interesting perspective...I don't remember exactly when my mom told me about sexual assault, and about how female bodies work, but I feel like I "always knew" that, which means I was probably pretty young, and I grew up with that fear of sexual assault for as long as I can remember, which is something I surely could've lived without for a good while. I wonder how many people remember when they first learned about sexual assault. And I wonder how many people learned about that BEFORE they learned about positive sexuality.
Oct. 11th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC)
i wish i could answer this.

i can't give you a good answer.

i don't remember asking my mom that question or it being a big idea in our house. i just remember crying every night in the bath and being afraid to go to sleep.

i can tell you that i wasn't educated early enough, not at all. My mom actually read to me tonight a book that just got complained about in her library: a cartoon sex-ed book for 3-6 year olds. Completely innocuous; actually a really good book, i thought. Told the facts, emphasized that your body parts are your own, and didn't go into boring detail a kid wouldn't care about. Had cartoons of both boys and dogs looking down their shorts, and said it was OK to name your parts whatever you wanted and to touch them in private.

A lady complained about her NINE YEAR OLD checking out that book. Yeah, lady, if your fourth-grader can't handle a book that says your wee-wee is your own, you've got bigger problems than the library.

But i can tell you i was a little wistful when she was reading it, though she was reading it to prove her point; she put on her Mommy Reading Voice and i just kinda wish i'd known/thought about this shit sixteen years ago, is all.

*is half kidding when she threatens that any child of hers will be locked in their rooms to study all afternoon because the world is too damn scary*
Oct. 10th, 2005 10:37 pm (UTC)
What you say is really true- that is, it's a parent's job to make sure that the child is surrounded by material that is appropriate for his or her age and maturity level. I completely agree with that. However, we live in a media-saturated society these days and it has become much, much harder to keep track of what one's child is understanding and processing about the world when it's just everywhere.I mean that when I was five (1990), there was much less media saturation than when my little sister was five (1998), and it's been progressing. More importantly, though, this all changes when a child begins to become more independent, at which point he or she can effectively be considered off the leash as far as media marketing goes. You can't go with your child to the movies when she is fourteen years old and is out with friends, and the same goes for lots of different kinds of media. I guess all you can do at this point is cross your fingers. However, it would be a LOT less scary if there wasn't a TON of highly sexualized, profit-driven marketing aimed at the early teen market.

But wow, I really like your mom's system.
Oct. 11th, 2005 02:37 am (UTC)
My mom says: no personal offense meant, but as a librarian she comes up against people refusing to take responsibility for what their kids read ALL THE TIME. She says that you can always talk back to the tv, and that's true, because she still does it with me (i see we're the same age). It's too easy to blame the culture, the media, and your kids' own independence. By the time they're independent, they should have the sense!

That isn't to say that they should be virginally avoiding every R rated movie, just that they should know how to deal with potentially disturbing stuff.

You can't consider a kid of any age "off the leash as far as media marketing goes." You talk back to movies, to tv, to music. Always give your opinion; a kid is listening even when they don't look like it. Nowadays my mom and i are still so close that i read her stuff like this over the phone, just to see what she'll say, because i know she'll never withhold her thoughts. You can't just cross your fingers and hope.... at least, i never will.
Oct. 11th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)
No offense is taken by that. I often comment on controversial issues specifically in order to refine (or change, if necessary) my own views. I've been digesting what you've said (and will continue to do so for awhile) and I think that I am beginning to agree. I wish things were as simple as you make them out to be, though.

Part of my own experiences have come from getting some really bad misinformation from media outlets because my parents weren't able to do a good enough job helping my siblings and I deal with media issues. Please don't jump on my back about this one: both my parents worked about 70 to 80 hours a week at blue-collar jobs when I was younger and we still only squeaked by financially. If this makes them bad parents, so be it, but they simply weren't around all the time to help us figure out things that we saw and heard on TV and other media, simply because they were trying to make enough money to support our family. I don't want this to become a discussion of what terrible parents I have, though, so I'm going to stop that here.

Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at is that you were very, very lucky to have such great experiences with your parents and media growing up. Everyone is not that lucky, and it's not necessarily because parents are lazy, or don't want to take responsibility and monitor what their children watch/hear/learn. Believe me, if my parents could have been there with us the ways you've suggested, they would have. I'm going to work really hard to avoid the mistakes my parents made (you can tell your mom that I really admire what she did/does, and I'm tentatively planning on using her methods when I have children), but I don't want to completely discount societal factors in terms of how children deal with sexuality in the media.

If everyone could monitor their kids' media intake the way your mom did and does, there would be absolutely no need for media censorship. But what about the latchkey kid who comes home from school and watches TV or goes on the internet while his or her single mother works full time to support her family? I wouldn't want to be the one pointing a finger at her and saying, "Ooh, what a bad parent, she's not doing her job" if there's a reason that she's not doing so. In that circumstance among others, some censorship (internet filters, v-chips and so on) is useful at picking up where the parent leaves off.

Feel free to tear apart my arguments now- I'm completely serious :)
Oct. 11th, 2005 06:49 am (UTC)
Wow, good point. Very good point. Hmm... my mom worked long, long days when i was tiny, and often came home just to pass out while i babbled and pulled at her hair. i had a few long-term babysitters who averaged out to be about average. i'm not saying that she had her eyes on me all the time. And she did all she could, and i agree that your parents probably did, too.

Internet filters and v-chips, though, ARE parent-oriented censorship--they're not put there by anyone but a parent, right? (i don't know.) Some people at my mom's library (she's a library director, by the way, which is why i'm all into this censorship discussion) feel that it's the library's job to use internet filters so that kids can't get to porn. How do you feel about that? i think parents probably shouldn't let their kids use computers alone if they feel that that's going to be a problem, but there are waaaay worse places for a kid to hang out alone after school than the library, so i really don't know. Whose job is it to take care of the media when the parents just can't be there?
Oct. 12th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC)
You're absolutely right (and I'm an ass for not thinking this through)- v-chips and internet filters are parent-oriented censorship. I'm pretty sure that all TVs sold in the last five years or so (I'd need to look that one up) in the US have v-chips installed, and it's the purchaser's choice whether to activate it or set it up or whatever. (I'm a little fuzzy on this, since my family's TV set is the adorable boxy beige remote-less one we've had since 1989.) The same goes with internet filters- it's the user's decision whether to install or use them.

As I may have mentioned before, my own ideas have been changing even as I discuss this with you, and I'm altered my opinions considerably in the past few days. The tentative conclusion I'm reaching is this: the job of censorship lies with parents. It's not the media's job to censor itself or the government's job to censor the media. At the same time, it is nifty that things like v-chips and filters exist for those who want to use them to screen content for their kid's use or whatever, and products like this should continue to be made available to those who choose to use them.

I'm not in favor of internet filters being used at public libraries (which might be surprising, considering all the arguing I've been doing up to this point, but anyway... I'm finding myself agreeing more and more with you and your mom here, so bear with me.) I figure that if a child has enough independence to be at a public library by his/herself, then the parent probably trusts the child not to do inappropriate things there. This isn't to say that a kid won't necessarily look at porn on library computers (especially considering the hormones that are raging at the time kids usually begin to get this kind of independence) but that's more of a matter of trust between the parent and the child, I suppose. I need to think more about that one.

Also, as I mentioned, internet filters are neither very reliable nor very easy to put up with. I remember when my parents got their first PC a few years back, complete with dial-up AOL. My parents asked me to put one of the suggested AOL kids filters on my little sister's account, and I did so. The next day, while my sister was trying to look up topics for her grade-school science fair project, I had to remove the filter because it wouldn't let my sister access any search engines, even kids'-homework-themed ones. That's a whole other issue that should be addressed by parents in their homes: when should filters be used (when kids are alone, surfing the net for Lizzie Macquire fan sites) and when they should not be used (when a kid googles information about science fair projects, under a parent's supervision.) There are a lot of problems with internet filters at the moment, partly because the internet is just so enormous that it would take a really smart filter to navigate everything, and also because developing good filters isn't exactly on the top ten lists of things that internet companies worry about. Hopefully, though, some of the bugs will be worked out as time goes on.

I'm not really coherent anymore, so I'm going to go mull this over some more and get some sleep. By the way (and this isn't meant to cut off this discussion prematurely)- thanks for the good debate. I've been trying to challenge some of the assumptions I make and talking things like this over is a good way to do so.

Oct. 12th, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)
Wow, you've made some very good points. Internet filtering is extremely flawed. Here's how her library deals with it: you can ask to have the filters turned off at any time, and it's in the fine print, but it creates such a social stigma (hey, can i look at porn please?) that hardly anyone does it. This virtually enforces a blanket policy of filtering that no one really wants, but the federal government requires if a county library wants to get any money from them. The gov't literally requires the ability to filter, however, not the default filtering option--that is, i think that a better choice would be to set the filters OFF and ask for them on.

Local mothers disagree vehemently. Every time a guy gets caught with boobies on the screen, the whole state is up in arms and it's front page news. And i can see their point that they thought their kid would be safe there, so they thought it would be OK...

Yet, i think it ultimately comes down to: you shouldn't leave your kid anywhere, and libraries aren't babysitters (neither are electronics stores or bookstores, both places that moms seem to drop their kids off for hours at a time and then get pissed when they get their hands on the wrong shit).

Those kinds of parents piss me off to no end, but i'm sure that some of them feel like they're doing the best thing they can do (i.e. at least their kids aren't at home alone? i don't know).

i'm kind of impressed and surprised that you turn out to be agreeing with me--i feel like i'm not being coherent with this at all, since it's honestly something i don't have much of a vocabulary about.

If you'd like more of a background in the laws concerning internet filtering, you could email me some questions to forward to my mom at work and she'd be happy to enlighten you. My email is crumblingredsky at gmail.
Oct. 10th, 2005 07:40 pm (UTC)
I don't agree with all of the points - some well-articulated in the other comments - but I'll add that if someone is mature enough to be having sex, he or she should be able to ask for condoms. I'd much rather get some funny looks buying condoms than get them from being pregnant as a teenager. (And anyway, I'm at the point where I believe all the more power to you if you're having sex. You're getting some; what's bad about that?)
Oct. 11th, 2005 07:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, but if they aren't that mature that they could ask without feeling weird and they're stupidly having sex anyway, wouldn't you much rather it be protected sex? Dumb people don't need to be having babies...
Oct. 10th, 2005 08:57 pm (UTC)
Part of the reason prostitution laws exist are because a lot of women are forced into the trade, and don't do so voluntarily. If I had to make a choice, I'd rather have those women be protected and prostitution illegal than have women out there who are forced to do these things unwillingly.

Also, I definitely want sex offenders to stay registered with the police. I see no reason why anyone wouldn't.
Oct. 11th, 2005 07:10 am (UTC)
There's a difference--i forget the right words to articulate it--between making prostitution legal and making it... decriminalized, i think that's the word. In the latter case, there would be protective laws in place like std tests for prostitutes and maybe even unions and so forth. This seems like a good idea to me.
Oct. 11th, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC)
Well yeah. I mean, if that's what someone wants to do, then they should be able to, especially if it gets set up like the porn industry with mandatory STD tests, etc. to keep it as safe as possible. I, personally, wouldn't use their services, but some people would want to, and other people want to provide them, so hey.
Oct. 11th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC)
Apparently you're right(ish), which is odd, because with respect to marijuana decriminalization means making it so that you no longer get a criminal record if caught using it, whereas legalization means making it completely legal.





I say (ish) because decriminalization as defined there wouldn't automatically necessitate the creation of protective laws, although it would probably necessarily entitle prostitutes to the protections of existing worker's rights legislation.
Oct. 12th, 2005 12:36 am (UTC)
i am amused that there is an official Marijuana Party Of Canada.

And, me being right(ish) is certainly not odd at all, thank you very much; i am right(ish) a good deal of the time! :P
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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