An Interview with Gazan Sex Educator Mohammed Alkrunz
While I was living in Jerusalem and trying to find sexuality-related initiatives in the area (for this zine), I came across the website of an organization called the International Youth Alliance For Family Planning (IYAFP for short). They’re a youth-run (ages 15 to 30) nonprofit that advocates for sex ed and sexual rights around the world.
So, you want to start a sex-positive student group at your school? That's great — here are some tips!
2017 was a tough year for the United States. Like many of you, we here at Pleasure Pie asked ourselves, "WTF should we do?" as things spiraled downward on a national level. Should we drop the sex-positivity stuff and do more direct political engagement? Should we stick to what we know, and push for a culture of consent and healthy sexual expression at a time when the need for this is even more visible than usual (with the "locker room talk" and allegations of sexual assault against so many politicians and celebrities)?
By Nicole Mazzeo
Really long intro (Feel free to skip this part)
One of the first things I saw upon waking up this morning was a video of a keynote speech by the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WoCSHN). They are currently at a conference that I am longingly following on social media called The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit
If your creations are physical items (zines, books, illustrations, art pieces, worksheets, stickers, etc.)
By Nicole Mazzeo
You, too can put on a workshop! You don’t need to be an official “educator” or have certification (or even a college degree).
You do need passion for the subject and willingness to put time and effort into it. And you should know a good amount about the topic you’re going to cover. I recommend reading things on the internet (or, you know, books) – and fact checking anything you want to use. You can do it!
Steps for making your workshop happen:
1. Come up with a concept for your workshop.
What are you interested in talking about and/or exploring with a group of people? What are you excited about right now?
2. Come up with a name for your workshop, and write a brief description of what it’s about.
What’s the point? What will participants get out of it? Come up with one or more concrete goals for the workshop.
3. Find somewhere that you can reserve space affordably (ideally for free).
If you’re in Boston, this list of supportive venues will seriously help you out. One approach is to email places, include the workshop name and description in your email, and ask if they will let you use their space for your workshop.
4. Set a date and time with the venue.
5. Tell people about your workshop!
6. Make an outline of your workshop.
7. Make handouts.
Make some resource lists, zines, a print out of a relevant blog post you wrote, etc. to pass out. Optional, but it’s nice to give people something to look at and take home.
8. Show up and make it happen!
Be friendly, actually listen to people, and have fun. It’s okay if everything doesn’t go perfectly.
I hope this is helpful! Also, for lots more tips and resources on organizing sexuality events, including free sexuality graphics, discussion outlines, good places to find sexuality info, check out the Resources for Sexuality Educators & Activists page on our website.
By Nicole Mazzeo
[This article was originally published on Fabulously Feminist. You can see the original post here.]
[The “Sparknotes” version is at the bottom, for people with limited time/attention spans.]
I’m not talking about respect for a person’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy, or respect for a fetus’s right to life (no comment on either of those right now). I’m talking about respect for people who you disagree with. Your “opponents.”
Have you ever heard a pro-choice advocate talk about “pro-lifers”? Or a pro-life advocate talk about … “pro-abortion-ers”? (Or whatever anti-abortion people call pro-choice people.)
If so, it’s likely that you’ve heard this done in a way that paints the disagreeing party as bumbling idiots. Not just bumbling idiots, but conniving, deceitful, bumbling idiots with really bad intentions.
Yes, it can be hard to respect a person when you disagree so deeply on an issue that could directly affect your life in a huge way.
And sometimes people actually do have bad intentions. Sometimes people are dishonest with themselves and with others. Sometimes people jump to conclusions.
But there’s often a lot more to people than that.
Beyond Hating On the “Opposition”
It’s possible to have deeply held beliefs and convictions without vilifying people with opposing beliefs.
It’s possible to be pro-choice without viewing people who are anti-abortion as raging idiots. And vice-versa.
Not only is it possible, but it may be a more constructive approach.
That’s why The Public Conversations Project brought together a small group of prominent pro-choice and pro-life advocates to have an intimate five-year-long dialogue on their differing beliefs.
When John Salvi shot and killed two people (and injured five) in two abortion-providing health clinics in Brookline, MA back in 1994, the people at Public Conversations Project came up with a plan for a dialogue to prevent future violence and hate.
This dialogue happened between 1994 and 1999, but – hear me out – when I saw the follow up video (below), I found it to be one of the most relevant commentaries on the current abortion debate that I’ve ever seen.
[Article continued below.]
3 Quick Sentences to Explain What The Public Conversations Project Is
The whole idea behind The Public Conversations Project (based in Watertown, MA) is that building relationships and collaboration across polarized groups can help solve many of today’s biggest issues. They’ve worked on lots of controversial issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, immigration, same-sex marriage, gun control, and diversity. They believe that if people are able to fully see each other as human beings – relatable, empathetic, and imperfect – resolution and peace often become attainable.
Okay, So Back to Abortion
As someone who is very much on the pro-choice side of things, it worries me that some of the people in charge of abortion rights organizations think of pro-life people as idiots.*
Melissa Kogut, former executive director of Mass NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) reflects on her experience with being part of the Public Conversations abortion dialogue:
“I … was surprised. I had my own preconceptions of what … the pro-life women were like, and they were completely dashed. … They’re smart. They have full, interesting lives. … That was all surprising to me. I know that sounds really judgmental, but that was surprising to me.”
I know what Kogut is talking about. Based on my personal experience, it is a pretty common perspective in progressive circles.
The Dangers of Dehumanizing the Other Side
Why might it be harmful to think of people we disagree with this way?
Here are 3 reasons:
1. Anytime we stop seeing another person as a full, complex, human being with legitimate feelings and a meaningful existence, we miss out on so much.
“I did not know my opposition except as they were portrayed in the media. And I was terrified of the hostility that I was going to meet when I sat down to talk with these people. … But very early on in the dialogue, I realized that I could like these people – really! These people were as committed to their position as I to mine. … We could develop a relationship, and we did. We came to love each other, in spite of the fact that neither one of us changed our opinion in the least.”
2. It’s often this kind of dehumanization that enables people to be cruel and sometimes even violent to other people.
3. Dehumanizing a person also makes it easy to completely write off everything they say. When it’s us vs. them, we can avoid critically thinking about the places where an issue is unclear or difficult.
“We never talk on our side about the shades of gray. When you’re involved in a political movement like we are, we are focused on mobilizing the troops. The way you do that is you paint things in the starkest possible terms so that people are moved to act, so that they know what to do. We don’t have conversations about the things that we have doubts about, or that are more murky.”
I’m not saying that you should take everyone’s opinion to heart all of the time, because that can be exhausting and emotionally painful, but it may be worthwhile to hear people out most of the time, and try to understand what they believe and why.
The Difference Between Anger and Disrespect
For a lot of people, anger is a natural response to disagreement – and that’s okay. There are lots of legitimate things to be angry about in the abortion debate. But there is a big difference between being angry at someone (or a group of people) and losing all respect for them as fellow humans.
Anger is an emotion, which may be justified – and regardless of whether it’s justified, it may be beyond your control in the way that emotions often are. There are healthy ways to deal with anger.
Disrespect, on the other hand, often means losing esteem for a person’s entire being.
Maybe it’s appropriate to lose all respect for some people in some circumstances (I’m not sure about this one), but I think at the very least, we should be very hesitant and deliberate about taking the leap into disrespect.
Also: Don’t Be Classist About It!
We live in a society where people who identify as pro-life are more likely to have a lower income and lower level of education. Because of this class divide, it’s crucial that pro-choice people think about classism when we consider how we’re going to think about, talk about, and interact with people who identify as pro-life. Tip: Avoid personal attacks/criticisms of people’s intelligence, etc., as opposed to criticisms of their arguments.
Let’s make sure that our arguments against anti-abortion-rights advocacy aren’t coming from a place of class-based prejudice, because that is shitty.
Let’s put seeing everyone as a full human being, and having compassion for everyone, at the center of our feminism/anti-oppression work.
Including the people we disagree with.
*While I think many of us can do a better job of being respectful of people we disagree with, I also want to note that I am deeply grateful for the people who have worked hard to make abortion legal in the U.S. Thank you.
The Sparknotes Version of This Article
• Pro-choice people often think of pro-life people as being stupid, and vice versa.
• It’s possible to have deeply held beliefs without vilifying people who disagree with you.
• The Public Conversations Project of Watertown, MA had a 5-year-long dialogue in the 90’s where leading pro-life advocates and pro-choice advocates got together to have a conversation and learn to respect each other as fellow human beings, which I thought was really cool.
• It worries me that some heads of pro-choice organizations think of pro-life people as idiots.
• It’s harmful to dehumanize people we disagree with because:
1. We miss out on people’s richness.
2. It may enable us to be cruel and/or violent toward them.
3. It may enable us to completely ignore them and pretend the issue is simple.
• Being angry at someone (or a group of people) isn’t the same as not respecting them. Let’s be deliberate about which one of these (if either) we choose.
• Pro-life people are more likely to have a lower income and lower level of education. it’s crucial that pro-choice people think about classism when we consider how we’re going to think about, talk about, and interact with people who identify as pro-life. Tip for making sure you’re not being classist: Avoid personal attacks/criticisms of people’s intelligence, etc., as opposed to criticisms of their arguments.
• Let’s put seeing everyone as a full human being, and having compassion for everyone, at the center of our feminism/anti-oppression work.
Nicole is hosting Pleasure Pie’s first ever Emerging Sex Positive Activist Workshop next month at Good Vibrations in Brookline, MA!
This workshop is all about sexual freedom activism and how you can find ways to help create a more sexually accepting culture that reflects your own skills and interests.
Learn how to participate in and create sex positive spaces within your own communities!
Purchase Tickets @ www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2304531
Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/557548077737319/
Local sex-positive mastermind Kit Stubbs, Ph.D., is in the process of launching [drumroll please…] The Effing Foundation for Sex-Positivity! The Effing Foundation aims to foster sex-positive artists, activists, educators, and entrepreneurs, and celebrate diverse expressions of human sexuality.
[Full disclosure: Kit and I are friends and we sometimes collaborate on sex-positive projects.]
I sat down with Kit to ask them some questions about their plans for the new nonprofit, how they navigate being a sex-positive activist, and what brought them to sex-positivity in the first place.
Nicole Mazzeo: What is your vision for the Effing Foundation? Why is it important to you that something like this exists?
Kit Stubbs: My vision is to build an organization that provides tools and resources to sex-positive people who are doing cool sex-positive things. I think that in order to affect large scale change (in terms of having a more sex-positive culture) this is really necessary. I have met so many amazing people and … I want their voices to be louder. I want more loud, diverse sex-positive voices! And I think the way to do that is to build an organization whose entire mission is to support those people and to encourage more people to do sex-positive outreach.
Continue reading on Fabulously Feminist.
Emma started her internship at Pleasure Pie only a little over week ago and has already done so much.
Emma helps to keep Pleasure Pie connected to you by:
My favorite things about working with Emma so far:
-Nicole Mazzeo, Pleasure Pie founder and director
Q&A with Emma!
Emma Glassman-Hughes: Hi everybody! I’m Emma, the new Pleasure Pie intern, and I’m very eager to introduce myself to this community. As a way for you to get to know me, as well as my place in the world of sex positivity, I’m going to answer some questions for you.
Nicole Mazzeo: So Emma, why is sex positivity important to you?
EGH: Though I’m an Atheist by mentality and a Jew by heritage and sense of humor, my family still celebrates Christmas for the hell of it. My gift this year from my dad, fully embracing my burgeoning feminist pride, was a book called The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lapore, which highlights one of America’s most beloved superheroes, while masterfully weaving in the comic’s shining feminist subplot. Though I’m not yet finished with all 300+ pages, I was struck by the introduction of the wife of William Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, named Sadie Elizabeth Holloway. She was supposedly very independent and an avid reader of the ancient Greek poet Sappho, a feminist of her time who is described in the book as “the symbol of female love.” Holloway was deeply inspired by Sappho, this feminist symbol, and it is speculated that Wonder Woman is inspired by Holloway. Thus, by my calculations, Wonder Woman is, by association, a superhero whose true super power is the power of female love. To me, this proved very important. I had never thought of my love—my sex, my friendship, my passion—as a power before.
So I suppose I would say that sex positivity is important to me because it helps me see the power in owning my sexuality, and it reminds me that sex is more than something that society simply expects for me to give; my sex is my autonomy. I’ve always had trouble embracing my own sexuality to its fullest potential—learning to effectively communicate with partners, let go of self-consciousness, and separate myself from sexual shame are just a few of the things I have had to work toward. And, while that struggle is far from won, my continued learning about sex positivity has helped unwrap the happier, healthier, and more self-aware woman that was hiding under layers of limiting societal pressures. The power behind female love is a more extraordinary phenomenon than we are taught to believe in school (my third-of-a-year-long high school sex [read: abstinence] education was, needless to say, a letdown), and I am thankful for sex positivity and for Wonder Woman for showing this to me.
NM: What’s your take on intersectional activism?
EGH: As a feminist, one of the most interesting things about keeping up with media coverage in times of nationally heightened racial tensions (such as the recent uproar about how police brutality disproportionately affects black victims) is hearing black activists talk about black men the same way that feminists talk about women. I hear so many of the same buzzwords, like “victim-blaming,” and it becomes difficult for me to see a separation between the two issues. Racial injustice and gender injustice are inextricably tied, and you simply cannot have true feminism without an anti-racism component. It is also important that sex positivity in particular embraces intersectionality (I hope this is a word because I like it) and specifically tackles racial injustices because the sexuality of people of color has historically been controlled, commodified, and exploited in this country.
Though racism is often at the forefront of my thinking due to its growing coverage on different forms of media, people who face other kinds of oppression also need feminist advocates. Because I grew up in Southern California, an area with some of the country’s largest homeless populations, as well as a very close proximity to the Mexican border, I began thinking about class and immigration issues at a young age. Disadvantages in people’s lives can lead to unhealthy views of sex, which contributes to the anemic and destructive overarching sex culture in our country. People of every background deserve to be knowledgeable about sex, to love their bodies, and to know how to give and ask for consent. People of every background deserve to feel safe and free from sexual violence. People of every background deserve to know how to make themselves happy. Eradicating the oppression of all people is the real business of feminism, empowering those who have historically been silenced will lead us all to a better future. Intersectional activism, to me, is the only activism worth pursuing because it unites diverse voices in order to more effectively create change.
NM: What do you want to accomplish by doing this internship?
EGH: Not only am I a fabulous Pleasure Pie intern, but I am also a fabulous college student and young woman with a lot on my mind. As much as I would love for these things to not belong in the same sentence or even the same blog post, as a female student, I am constantly reminded of rape culture. Need I even mention the obscene statistic that approximately 1 in 5 female college students will be sexually assaulted before she graduates? People of all sorts and genders (yes, this includes men *gasp*) suffer in a society that refuses to promote healthy sexuality and instead fosters sexual violence. I would love to live in a world where people can come into their own sexualities free from fear, judgment, entitlement, and shame. This sexual utopia can be achieved, I am convinced, if we improve the conversations that we are having about sex, and if we embrace a healthier and more informative sex education curriculum that covers all kinds of varying sexualities, gender identities, and contraceptive choices, which is a lot of what sex positivity is about. As a sex positive intern, I would love to learn new ways to make this topic more accessible for a variety of people with different backgrounds, to help eradicate rape culture, to work to improve sex education in schools, and to do my best to create a more accepting and all-inclusive sex culture through productive and forward-thinking conversation. Working for Pleasure Pie is my way of entering this conversation with purpose, and, of course, a wealth of nifty zines to guide me through it.
What exactly is Pleasure Pie? Well, what better way to tell you than telling you exactly what Pleasure Pie does? Here is a breakdown of all Pleasure Pie’s current projects. You can always check back for updates on the Projects page.
Zines, illustrations, calendars, quizzes, stickers, etc.
Check out some of Pleasure Pie’s current print creations in the Pleasure Pie Shop!
Boston’s Sex Positive Newsletter
Stay in the loop about sex positive happenings in the Boston area.
See past issues:
Sex Positive Boston
A regularly meeting group of sex positive people in the Boston area. Consists of thoughtful sex positive discussions, as well as show-and-tell of people’s sex positive projects and initiatives. Find out more info on our Facebook group, and come to our first meeting!
The Sex Letters Project: A new way to learn about sex.
The Sex Letters Project asks real people to write letters to their teenage selves, telling them what they wish they knew about sex and sexuality as a teenager.
Check out The Sex Letters Project here!
Find out about Pleasure Pie’s upcoming events on the event page!
I write articles for the Pleasure Pie blog, as well as other publications. I’m currently working on an article for Fabulously Feminist, a Boston-based feminist online magazine, which should be published soon.
Check out these recommended posts to get started:
I just finished writing a newsletter to compile all the sex positive stuff happening in the Boston area. I’m hoping that the more people know about what others are doing to make the world a more sex positive place, the more we can all work together and inspire each other.
Check out the first issue of Boston’s Sex Positive Newsletter here!
and Subscribe here!
I came up with the idea for a sex positive newsletter when I started promoting my Pleasure Pie work online and a bunch of local sex positive people started coming out of the woodwork. I thought to myself, “These people are awesome and they’re doing awesome things! I’ve spent years being passionate about sex positivity and I’m just finding out about them now?”
I had the urge to introduce all of the great sex positive people I was meeting to one another. My thought process: “Should I have a sex positive (platonic) matchmaking party? There are probably way more sex positive people nearby that I still don’t know! How can I encourage local sex positive people to meet each other and find out about all the cool stuff others are doing?”
I came up with two ideas:
1. Make a newsletter of all the cool sex positive events, projects, and work going on in the area so that people who are interested can participate (and possibly even network and collaborate).
2. Start a sex positive meet up group that will meet once every few months, and have it be open to the public so all of the great people I don’t know yet can show up and share what they’re up to.
As you can see, the newsletter is now a reality!
(Update: The meet up group is also now a reality!)
Have a sex positive day!