1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email
Cory Silverberg

Let Sexual Freedom Ring

By September 12, 2013

Follow me on:

Next week an unusual collection of academics, educators, activists, lawyers, and health care professionals will be converging in D.C. It's not the people themselves that are unusual. What is unusual is the reason for their convergence. It's the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance's fourth annual Sexual Freedom Summit, a four-day exploration of sexual freedom as a basic human right, one that seems to be denied and suppressed at every turn in the U.S.

Each year the summit has offered a genuinely unique blend of workshops and speakers covering a range of positionalities, although in each case presenting around the idea of sexual freedom. This year the summit has partnered with with SisterSong, the women of color reproductive justice collective, and the US Human Rights Network, and each organization will be facilitating a full day institute, in addition to the regular workshops and plenaries offered in past years.

Each year Woodhull also recognizes individuals "who have made landmark contributions to the sexual freedom movement through education, advocacy, research, sexual health and activism" through the Vicki Sexual Freedom Award. This year the honors go to Mandy Carter, Heather Corinna, and Matt Foreman.

I haven't had the chance to attend the summit before, so I asked Woodhull Executive Director Ricci Levy a few questions about the event:

Sex is a notoriously difficult subject to get people to talk about in public. Why is sexual freedom an important idea to try and organize around?

Sexual freedom is an important idea to organize around precisely because sexuality can be so hard to talk about, and because some of it is so private. Because sexual freedom applies to everyone, regardless of their gender or sexual identity, it makes for a very helpful platform.

It is so important that we break out of our identity politics silos and work within the human rights framework. It's important to think about this also in terms of the difference between civil rights and human rights. Civil rights are rights granted by governments. Human rights are rights we are born with.

The government's job is to protect them. So when we organize around the idea of sexual freedom as a human right, we are not asking the government to grant any group new rights. We are demanding that the government stop interfering with the exercise of human rights that we already have. There are some practical benefits to using a human rights framework as well, especially in a nation as politically divided as this one.

Of course it can be challenging. For instance, our Family Matters project. The project is dedicated to advancing, respecting, and protecting the fundamental human right to family by eliminating discrimination based on family structure and relationship choices.

We are working to expand recognition and eliminate discrimination for all families. For us, and as a human rights issue, we have the right to family and "family" is undefined (even by the UN Human Rights Commission).

Our project includes the right of same-sex couples to marry IF THEY WISH, but limiting the discussion to only marriage defeats the purpose of the project and, while the argument can be made in terms of human rights for same sex marriage, the opportunity to achieve the global right to family that's ours and that the US has already acknowledged we have, is missed because of the narrowness of the goal.

There are already a handful of conferences devoted to sexuality each year, how is the Sexual Freedom Summit different?

We're the only organization that works full time to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right. Our Summit is unique in that it is designed to bring together academics, educators, bloggers, activists, advocates and interested members of the public at one venue to talk about today's issues and strategies for making the kinds of change we want to see in the world.

We recognize that academics have something to offer advocates, that advocates have something to teach educators, and so on. We understand that change won't happen unless we all work together.

Positioning the organization as one that organizes around sexual freedom as opposed to one kind of identity politics must make it hard to attract large foundations to fund your work. Where does Woodhull get its funding?

Woodhull is currently funded entirely by a number of individual donors, mostly small donations. The donor who stretches to give $10 a month because they believe in our work is as vitally important to us as the donors who are able to give more.

Foundations are skittish about funding our work because of the sexual part of our mission. The upside of not being funded by foundations is that we are entirely independent. The downside is that our ability to do our work depends entirely on individual support and, for an event like the Summit, our sponsors.

Our work is limited only by our funding and so we are always grateful to and seeking new supporters, especially as monthly donors. We try to make sure our events are accessible to people because access is a justice issue and we have a commitment to social justice and accessibility.

Find out More: Woodhull's Sexual Freedom Summit 2013

..................................................

Join the conversation!

NEWSLETTER | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

GOOGLE+ | CONNECT

..................................................
Comments
No comments yet. Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
Top Related Searches
  • sexual freedom
  • freedom ring
  • gp
    1. About.com
    2. Health
    3. Sexuality

    ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.