What does Protection for Sex Workers Really Look Like?

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Due to its elusive nature, and the fact it is only legal in the US in the state of Nevada, we have a limited grasp on the economic scale of the commercial sex industry.   What kind of people are behind it and how do we to truly make it safer?  The data we do have suggest that this underground industry brings in more cash flow to the U.S. than drugs or gun trades do in most major cities.  “Atlanta had the largest underground commercial sex economy in 2007 at $290 million, [while] Denver had the smallest at $39.9 million.”  This isn’t much of a shock to me since the Porn industry, which is also has a limited paper trail has been estimated to have made a gross annual amount akin that of the NFL. However when the average person without experience of these silicious services or friends, loved ones or themselves taking part in sex work we often think of danger.

From the stance of public health the primary concerns are clearly linked to that of STD prevention, but from a political and justice standpoint they often conjure the worst abuses of pimps and sex-trafficking.  These are all things we have seen a steady decline in within developed countries or areas with lower poverty rates, especially as the industry moves off the streets and onto the web.  There are a multitude of benefits in the ease of todays technology where our Car drivers can rate us, and we can rate them as well as immediately reach out to a company like Uber or Lyft if there is concerning behavior or a bumpy ride.  While it may be in code, online prostitute or escort services are very similar, allowing women to warn others of a dangerous client and get recognized for their under sheets or pillow talk skill sets. However you feel about, or they feel about this career path, one thing is for sure, your local Dominatrix or Master is putting in work.  Of all the jobs that use trafficked labor (farming, maids and ambassador’s assistants all face similar issues) this one is the most taboo to our society and thus the law is always proposing new ways to deal with it.

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Pro Domme, Margaret Corvid is running for Office to Combat Fascism & Protect Sex Workers in the UK (Image: Penny Cross)

As of this April The newest measure was signed in- known as the FOSTA-SESTA bills (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act).  This package was opposed only by 2 senators, one Democratic and one Republican.  Because almost everyone can get behind stopping sex trafficking and all the other truly immoral acts like child abductions and pedophilia that are nightmares to imagine in our communities. I firmly believe doing any job should never being coerced in any way, such as coerced by violence, blackmail or enslavement.  As Aurora Morris adds, Defining and policing sex trafficking, however, is a much more complicated issue.”

Advocates for the safety and rights of sex workers, including ACLU have come to believe these bills will create more harm than good due to the overarching way the law was written.  Thus making it a federal crime to post any sexually related solicitation ad online, and enforcement can even go as far as warranting access to all private messages.  Even legal establishments such as strip clubs have found increased harassment from the law. Raids often take place in coordination with ICE, a department under Homeland Security that has been well covered in recent media due to the separation of immigrant and refugee families.  During these raids if those “rescued” don’t immediately identify themselves as trafficked, they could face both prostitution charges and deportation.

Having these fall under the guise of possible sex trafficking, and pretending the result aided in making things safer on paper only further muddies the issue.  Right now, the implications of these bills have been felt most immediately in the FBI shutting down of notorious free to post pages such as the Craigslist Personals (truly favorite of mine, especially the missed connections section) and even imposes accountability via hefty fines to internet service providers. This further elevates sex workers to go back to nearly archaic methods of communication with a lack of screening social media and “bad-date” boards allow.

‘We’re trying to figure out how many of us are literally dying because of this law that’s supposedly trying to keep us safe’

-Colette, 36, San Francisco and L.A., Mother and Dominatrix

This is still hope if more people become aware of FOSTA-SESTA and what it means. Contact your State senator and let them know you care- That we should have sound policies that can both protect and empower our communities!

 

SOURCES:

http://apps.urban.org/features/theHustle/index.html

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/the-economics-of-the-sex-trade

http://sexworkersproject.org/downloads/swp-2009-raids-and-trafficking-report.pdf

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-handbook-of-the-economics-of-prostitution-9780199915248?cc=us&lang=en&

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Your Questions Answered (Well Sort of)

A Young Gentlemen on an Online dating site recently reached out to me with this question:

Why do you think humans have sex? Like yes, probably definitely because it feels good, but why have we evolutionarily gone towards these large frontal lobe emotions and feelings and equities of love in sex? 

Aside from noting that “probably definitely” is the sort of questionable grammar usually reserved from the Valley-girl archetype, I felt this was a sincere attempt at a deeper conversation and am going to do my best to give a scientific background to help explain.

Why Us?

While most organisms sexually reproduce (even flowers and fungi) a limited number of them do it just for the pleasure. We are in a select group of primarily mammals, some birds and ocean life in the modern world that have what is considered penetrative, internal bearing fertilization. Within that group we have adapted most closely to Apes, but are phenomenally luck as a species to have our sexual organs develop the way they do aka #Blessed not to have penises with bones or barbs! Even Chimps, Bonobos and Gorillas, have a penis bone or baculum though it’s much more difficult to find a baubellum or clitoris bone these days.  The important part here is the social aspect of mating.  It’s clear to any scientist that has studied Bonobos that they are enjoying themselves and getting each other off is not strictly a matter or making babies, but could be a way to make up for a fight, or even a very eager introduction.  Sound familiar?

While there are ongoing debates in the scientific community if humans are innately monogamous, polyamorous or somewhere in between, it is clear sex is important to that bond for the vast majority.  Part of this is the chemical reactions that occur in our brain instinctually from Pheromones released by our partners.  We unconsciously process metabolites of testosterone, copulins (released during ovulation), oxcytocin (known as the cuddle hormone), and even if that person has a strong immune system.  2 well-known studies in which women blindly smelled sweaty tee shirts which various male participants wore with no other body scents added and then rated personal attraction concluded that we choose partners who are genetically different than ourselves.  This could be an pretty cool evolutionary response to deter unfortunate mutations that have been studied in animals that are breed to closely within one gene pool.  However when we put this to work against our own social hierarchies and cultural differences as human we still tend towards long time partners that are more similar than not.

To reel myself back in…
We have functioned and grown a species because we are social.  Over the past million years we were only able to develop those juicy frontal cortexes and things like learning langauge due to our togetherness (and figuring out farming so we could have a secure food source and stay in one place we built around ourselves certainly furthered aspects of community).

So in short, sex is more than just hella fun. Our hormones and the emotions that coincide allow us to physically bond and care for each other (oxytocin is released most heavily at time such as holding a baby or a partner we trust).  As the soft, naked creatures we are that take over a decade before they can even manage survival without the support of others, unlike most mammal that start walking almost immediately and reach maturity inside a year- sex and play are crucial to existence itself.

 

Sources/Notes:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5773289/

Also GREAT SITES FOR YOUR KNOWLEDGE & PLEASURE:

https://sexedallianceofnyc.tumblr.com/

Getting Down in the age of Tron

9780865478794 Photo credits: MacMillan Publishing Co.

 

Let’s be real here, the song featured in the Broadway play, Avenue Q aptly named, “The Internet is for Porn” (and cat videos, of course) is onto something, or at least it was… considering that in the 1990’s closer to 30% of internet traffic was of an erotic nature (Even if it wasn’t HD, but hey, perhaps the sound of dial-up works in a Pavlovian manner to get those folks wet).  However, according to a more recent comprehensive study in 2010, “Out of the million most popular (most trafficked) websites in the world, only 42,337 were sex-related sites.” That’s down to roughly 4%.  The point being, is while we currently use technological advances much more for everyday life, such as checking our email on a smartphone, there will always be others trying to figure out how to make tech better, for the sake of sustainability or sexual desire.

Some of the most expensive robots to ever be created, and certainly the only ones we seem comfortable with taking on a semblance to the human form are made explicitly for this purpose.  Of course, some people may just want a companion (May I suggest to instead see Lars and the Real Girl and then a good therapist).  They are also leading the front on research regarding characteristics in AI that most closely simulate Love, and Matt McMullen, RealDoll’s CEO and Founder, made a recent announcement on Reddit saying they “are building an AI system which can either be connected to a robotic doll OR experienced in a VR environment.”  While some of these creations feel like a slippery slope in a generation that reports feeling more disconnected from peers, but can’t seem to leave the comfort of Facebook or Tinder (the ubiquitous fast-dating app that was recently valued at 1.6 Billion) despite all of these things lacking the pheromones and other physical releases we experience when touching another real, live, breathing person. That said, it could make a no strings attached one night stand (just hook up to wifi first) and perhaps the testing here can give greater understanding of what drives us sexually in the name of Tech, as well as some players that are looking to give back.

With google at your fingertips, it’s a well known fact, that those in Puberty are looking at Porn, on laptops, phones. Everywhere.  With a wild cocktail of sexual hormones swimming inside them and a sure lack of understanding of what BDSM stands for, we’ve all been there (just hope you figured out how to erase your browsing history).  In fact, post 1960’s it’s nearly impossible for researchers to find youth over age 10 that haven’t been exposed to sexual photos or video unless they are part of a religious commune or very removed from technology as a whole (think Amish).  The issue at hand here is your average porn isn’t going to show the consent, testing and use of protection that should happen beforehand, further lending to the idea It just isn’t sexy.  Yet, there is rigorous STD testing behind the scenes to insure safety with all these condomless pizza delivery men on screen, and is even written in most adult stars contracts.  Still, few stories depict these conversations. Now, Americans are in the wake of a terrifying Presidency with a Head of the Department of Education that believes in “abstinence only” Christain teaching in public schools, defunding current Sex-Ed health programs, and gutting protections for reporting for sexual assault in schools & colleges. So, in these occasionally bleak time for our reproductive rights, let’s all give a brief applause to the makers of PornHub! They have taken up the task of aiding in sexual knowledge for all via free Sex Education videos on their website, as well as all the other folks doing this work. Who knows where we will go next and if tech belongs in the bedroom, or better is left at work, but let’s keep the femme-designed vibrators, orgasms, safety and education coming!

 

Sources:

The Internet is For Porn, Duh.
https://theindex.generalassemb.ly/sex-tech-industry-predictions-8ce871b47d4b#.r2dgze8wl
http://www.forbes.com/sites/julieruvolo/2011/09/07/how-much-of-the-internet-is-actually-for-porn/#a8f27ca61f72
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/01/18/under-devos-education-department-likely-to-make-significant-shift-on-sexual-assault/?utm_term=.448fe7a6c543
http://www.pornhub.com/video/search?search=sex+education
Also, please check out the wonderfully written exploration of Emily Witt, Future Sex, with Cover Art Seen Above.

 

Aphrodisiacs, Pheromones & Fungi

While I’m sure most of us have read lists of proposed “aphrodisiacs”, and maybe even tasted a few, because who doesn’t like chocolate or the very real possibility of dying from eating ill-prepared Japanese blowfish?  Aphrodisiacs around the world include a majority of things that are pure placebo effect and truly bizarre, but it seems a select few may have a basis in sex science.

These lists may include Rhino Horn, Shark Fin and Cobra meat/blood. These ingredients are all matters of myth in the sack and most sourcing of is quite harmful as it can contribute to poaching. Currently, both Rhinos and apex Sharks have dwindling numbers in their native ecosystems and only some parts are prized while meat and the carcass are often left behind.  Also on the list: Baboon urine, which is another thing entirely… as they may be getting high on whatever that animal had eaten earlier or the ammonia it excretes, much like some methamphetamine addicts in the U.S. did with their own extracted urine to better “recycle” the crystal with an added chemical high.  I personally don’t recommend any of that…

On to the more exciting scientific discoveries, far better than the ones that just give you a jolt of energy, like caffeine, maca or cacao, or mere relaxation from social anxiety like red wine, but can instantly make you come to orgasm. Yep, you read that right, there is are few things that can give hands-off excitement better than pheromones, and while every person gives off thier own cocktail of such, women are the most sensitive to them.  While there is still a lot of controversy over whether pheromones can cause women to all have synchronized menstrual cycles, it is proven that women around primer pheromones, even if they aren’t doing the hanky panky will ovulate 90% of the time, but if they live a sexless life only surrounded by their own sad pheromones, they can menstruate without the ovulation of an egg- in fact, they ovulate only about 50% of the time.  We are even more attracted to those who do not share a large chunk of genetics to ourselves, something that can be subconsciously detected by simply smelling sweat.  It’s a marvel of evolution, but what is even more intriguing is a discovery that a specific mushroom, known as (don’t laugh) Phallus indusiatus, and perhaps those scientists who discovered and named the bamboo pith knew something we couldn’t confirm until a 2001 study was published, or maybe it is really just a Freudian world and we simply name everything vaguely erect a phallus. In any case, it earned that name when it gave multiple women spontaneous orgasms.   Spontaneous in that there was no internal or clitoral stimulation, and yet 6 out of 16 women just took a good whiff of this pungent mushroom’s spore-covered slime and came right then and there! All reported being deeply aroused after inhalation. Men however thought it smelled like a rotting bucket of semen and did not elicit similar chemical reactions.  Field notes from the study claim one woman said she wanted to just “gobble it up”…

So perhaps amidst whatever other kinky things you like to get your lady (or get as a lady) a trip to find this stinky mushroom may just be worth it.


For Further Knowledge Seekers:

  1. Kristen Droesch, http://www.yourtango.com/2013195157/sex-10-weirdest-aphrodisiacs-around-world

2. Christian Nordqvist, “What are pheromones? Do humans have pheromones?” Medical News Today, 2014.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232635.php

3.The secret language: Pheromones in the animal world, Rebecca Johnson;1989

4.Holliday JC, Soule N.;2001).”Spontaneous female orgasms triggered by smell of a newly found tropical Dictyphora species”. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 3 (2–3): doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v3.i2-3.790. ISSN 1521-9437.

A Few Particularly Fun & Helpful Resources for Women:

Copyright Sophia Wallace

A Public Art and Performance Project headed by Sophia Wallace that is now finished touring, but has a lot to offer:

“It’s appalling and shocking to think that scientifically, the clitoris was only discovered in 1998”

– Cliteracy 101 Interview

 

 

For those concerned about the way their labia look or simply want to know more:

– The Labia Library

As a side note, Pornstars are certainly not a good comparison sample! If you have been comparing yourself to such, it’s time to exhale in relief, as in many cases they are not an average shape or color due to surgical procedures, bleaching and standards of the industry, much like most men do not have a horse-sized penis.

**I will be continually be adding to this list as I see fit.  Feel free to add suggestions or ask if there is a subject I have yet to post about.

A Brief Introduction.

To begin, I will deconstruct the very idea(s) behind naming a blog “Cake” that has so much more to do with human bio-chemistry than that of baking particular dessert.

Though it could be said yeast has been found in both subjects on occasion, that is exactly not what I had in mind here.  There is certainly a relationship that has been made evident in pop culture between genitalia of both sexes and sweets that I find interesting.  One that shames direct discussion of one’s anatomy, perhaps for sake of keeping Victorian-age ideas about innocence since it seems to creates a child-like allure while giving little information to the actual thing being referred to.  Admittedly, having too much sugar can be naughty, and rather addictive, which is another one of the connotations that come with hip-hop songs, such as Rihanna’s Birthday Cake, which chants “Bet you wanna put your name on it. Bet you want to put your name on it. It’s not even my birthday, but he want to lick the icing off… Cake Cake Cake. “ or Lil Wayne’s Lollipop, which topped charts and won a Grammy in 2009, there are countless other references of similar nature which all beg to question, is this playful or dangerous?

Though this is a topic to be further addressed in future posts, it seems that the female anatomy is rarely discussed by it’s literal name(s) as even the word vagina is often wildly inaccurate as it is daily use, as it is only the internal reproductive canal, but used as a blanket-term for the external area which includes the Labia, Vulva, Clitoris and Mons Pubis. This would be as if we negated education or discussion of the entire head of the penis, the greatest area of nerve endings, and thus pleasure. The metaphorical terms we are left with are either sickeningly sweet or just plain sickening which begins to place a complicated stigma in many women, both young and fully developed.

Furthermore, if you haven’t already started formulating ideas, I am in fact a woman, but I have no intentions on restricting this blog to any gender or sex as long as all submissions and those reading are respectful and just as excited in learning more about the intersections of life sciences (anatomy & physiology as well as biology) and social sciences and how they come together. Specifically human sexual acts/attraction in relation to American Culture.  Even more importantly, is that we all have fun and ask questions freely.  Knowledge is power! And perchance, someday you can have your cake… and eat it too.