I keep wondering why the hell people in coffee shops look at me and decide that I’m just the kind of guy that they should ask to guard their expensive computer hardware while they go take a poop. I have that kind of sullen, brooding look that should rightly be associated more with the leader of the Satanic cult that moved in down the street just before all the dogs and cats started disappearing from the neighborhood. Not the all-American boy who would never think of walking your precious laptop down to the pawn store and hocking it. [Read more…]
Archives for August 2013
I get a lot out of writing, but it can be agonizing. It’s one of the scariest things that I do in my life, even if it keeps me sane.
Just yesterday, I finished an article about the closing of the Lusty Lady peepshow here in San Francisco. It took days of misery and stress, but it was satisfying as hell when I finally did it. The worst part, as always, was having the job hanging over me. Knowing that I needed to finish up the article has haunted the entire last week, and if I could have just sat down and written it, it would have been finished last weekend or Monday at the latest. (Monday was actually my self-imposed deadline; I missed it by two days.) [Read more…]
I can’t even say how deeply disappointed I am in JT Eberhard’s recent behavior on the subject of racism. But even more, I’m disappointed in the failure of the atheist community to address it better.
Actually, some prominent atheists have addressed it very well: Jen McCreight and Greta Christina articulated the problems with JT’s comments about Bria Crutchfield and his defense of those comments beautifully. The fact that Jen, a white feminist, was one of the first people to speak up gave me some initial optimism; when white people create a mess, white people should be first on the scene to clean it up. It should not constantly be up to people of color to explain what’s so fucked up about racism. [Read more…]
I have a new piece up at Slixa, about the fight to ban New York police and district attorneys from using condoms to arrest people for prostitution.
In light of the decision yesterday that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional, my piece seems to be especially well-timed. “Condoms as evidence” is little more than a sub-category of stop and frisk that’s used to target the people who need safer sex resources the most. The fact that it’s been allowed to exist as long as it has is due to the fact that over the last couple of decades, it’s become more and more acceptable to criminalize whole populations of people, instead of behavior that actually does harm.
But in the eyes of district attorneys and police departments, condoms aren’t for everyone. For white, middle-class, straight-looking people, a few condoms in their pocket or purse represents a sophisticated, responsible sexuality. For those who fit police profiles of sex workers, having condoms on their person might be the thing that gets them arrested on prostitution charges.
“That’s something that we’ve had to clarify again and again,” says Emma Caterine, from New York’s Red Umbrella Project. “I think it’s just a habit in any kind of rights-based activism and organizing to say, ‘Oh, this could happen to me,’ and of course, that really isn’t the case in this situation. The people who are affected by this legislation are people who are profiled as sex workers. That includes sex workers, of course, but it also includes people who are profiled as sex workers because of different stereotypes we have about sex workers.”
The people who fit law enforcement profiles of sex workers are overwhelmingly young, low-income, people of color, or visibly queer or transgender. In other words, arrests target precisely those populations most at risk for transmission of HIV and other STIs.
This seems like a particularly cruel joke in New York, the only major American city to issue its own official condoms. Since 2007, the city’s much-acclaimed “NYC Condoms” program has distributed tens of millions of male and female condoms per month to the five boroughs. In 2012, the city distributed 37.2 million condoms — about 70 per minute. This February, NYU commemorated the program’s five-year anniversary with a retrospective of graphic design and public relations material.
But even as New York’s elite celebrate the condom as a pop icon, thousands of residents are faced with a dilemma: carry condoms to protect themselves against STIs, or risk harassment or arrest by police. “These are the populations that the CDC and other public health authorities have targeted for universal condom access,” says Megan McLemore, a Senior Researcher for Human Rights Watch. “They’re really trying to make sure that these populations use condoms every time. So the fact that people who are doing this work and who are profiled as doing this work are carrying fewer condoms than they need has serious consequences for HIV prevention.”