A practical guide to sexuality materials in libraries and an annotated bibliography of recommended books for school and public libraries. Provides guidelines for materials selection, reference, processing, access, programming, and dealing with problems of vandalism and censorship.
Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections, despite what non-experts report.
Contact: Aida Manduley
In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.
On February 3rd and 4th, certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.
Citizens Against Trafficking, the face behind the fear-mongering, spammed numerous local institutions from a University of Rhode Island account with its latest malicious missive that targeted specific individuals as well as Brown University. The author of the letter, Margaret Brooks, an Economics Professor at Bridgewater State, suggested that colleges and universities that host sexuality speakers, including those who are professionally accredited, are partly to blame for the four new cases of HIV which have been diagnosed amongst RI college students this year.
Ms. Andelloux states: “My heart goes out to those students who have recently tested positive for HIV. However, there is no evidence of any link between campus presentations on sexual issues and the spike in HIV cases. Rather, I would suggest that this demonstrates a need for more high-quality sex education to college students.“ It is unclear why people at URI or Citizens Against Trafficking, a coalition to combat all forms of human trafficking, is attempting to stop adults from accessing sexual information from qualified, trained educators. What is certain however, is that this Professor of Economics miscalculated her suggestion that a correlation exists between increased HIV rates in Rhode Island and the type of sex education these speakers provided at Brown University: one that emphasized accurate information, risk-reduction, pleasure, and health.
Barrier methods have been shown by the CDC to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Research has shown that when individuals have access to medically-accurate information, are aware of sexual risk reduction methods, and have access to learn about sexual health, the number of infections and transmission of STIs decreases, pain during sex decreases, and condom use increases. The CAT circulated bulletin is blatantly misleading about many issues, and often omits information that is crucial to understanding the full picture of sex education at Brown and in Rhode Island.
When individuals who do not hold any background in sexuality education speak out in opposition because of their fear or prejudice, society becomes rooted in outdated beliefs and pseudo-science that do injustice to people everywhere. Furthermore, when those individuals personally and publicly attack those devoted to providing sex education with false and misinformed accusations, it not only hurts those who are defamed, but also the community at large.
We ask for an immediate retraction of the vilifying and inaccurate statements made by Ms. Margaret Brooks and Citizens Against Trafficking in their latest newsletter. We also ask that esteemed local universities such as URI and Bridgewater State continue to hold their employees to ethical standards of normal scientific inquiry and require that their faculty hold some modicum of expertise in a field of education before raising the public level of panic over it.
Megan Andelloux is available to answer any questions the press, Margaret Brooks, University of Rhode Island or Citizens Against Trafficking holds. Aida Manduley, the Chair of Brown University’s Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council and Brown University’s is available to discuss the upcoming Sex Week and sexuality workshops held at Brown University.
What does all this have to do with sexual freedom? A lot, actually. For one thing, public health services, public financial assistance, housing and food subsidies, and public education are all being attacked to try to fill the holes in these budgets. When a person doesn’t have the security they need in order to get by from day to day, all of their freedom is undermined.
But there are also ways that state budget shortfalls are being used to directly restrict sexual freedom. Last week I learned that Tristan Taormino
, a nationally respected sexuality educator and feminist pornographer, was “uninvited” from her engagement as Keynote Speaker at Oregon State University
‘s Modern Sex
conference in mid-February. The reason? The university decided it could not use “general fee dollars,” which include taxpayer dollars, to fund a speaker who does the kind of work that Tristan does. According to a press release circulated Megan Andelloux, founder of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health
, and posted online in this thoughtful post by sexuality educator Shanna Katz
), her manager contacted OSU, and spoke to a source who told him “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.” This source, who requested anonymity and was not named in the original press release, said that the college did not want to defend having a pornographer present at an OSU conference.
According to the Modern Sex conference page
, this is a student-led conference supported by faculty and staff. It’s purpose is to look at the struggles and conflicts around sexuality as it intersects with gender, race and class. Emphasis is placed on “communicating and understanding diverse perspectives around sexuality through workshops, guided facilitations, lectures, and film screenings.” It is no wonder that Tristan Taormino was invited as Keynote speaker. Her work has, for years, dealt with the controversies of erotic entertainment, personal sexual empowerment, and communication. It is shameful that she was disinvited precisely because she works at the crossroads of exactly the kinds of issues the conference plans to address.
Regardless how you feel about pornography, this should trouble all of us. Colleges and universities self-censor out of fear. OSU, like other public institutions of higher education, is no doubt facing serious budget cuts. Anything that causes the state’s legislature to further restrict their funds is cause for concern. In this case, though no complaint appears to have been made, the University chose to pre-emptively cancel a potentially controversial speaker despite her expertise in the context of the Modern Sex conference.
When experts are rejected because their work is controversial, we should be worried not only about sexual freedom but also about academic freedom more broadly. There are places where evolution is the hot-button issue, or where the politics of Israel and Palestine is the main cause of political concern. We can’t ignore this instance of self-censorship simply because it has to do with sexuality. Once “we can’t afford to offend the legislature” becomes a widely accepted rationale for canceling or refusing to fund programs, we can expect to see many more threats to the foundation of public higher education in general.
Public higher education leaders need to be courageous in times of political crises. Right now, when public employees are unjustly targeted as the cause of the financial crisis (has everybody forgotten the Wall Street raiders?) it is more important than ever that Higher Ed administrators stand up for their faculty, their students, and the basic principles of academic freedom, free exchange of ideas, and critical inquiry.
Sexual freedom is a fundamental human right. Education is an important component of protecting that right. Please let OSU know that you are outraged about their preemptive self censorship and call on the University to defend critical inquiry into sexuality and to acknowledge that it was wrong to cancel Tristan Taormino’s Keynote speech.
Note from Tristan:
Don’t Let the Anti-Sex Conservatives Win!
If you support free speech and my mission of sexual empowerment, please voice your opinion about OSU’s decision to cancel my appearance at the last minute (and not reimburse me for travel expenses) to the following people. I would really appreciate your support —Tristan
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
Dr. Edward J. Ray
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128