Politicians are finally talking about sex work, but they still don’t really get it

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Photo illustration; Source: NurPhoto/Getty Images

For decades, politicians have debated the laws governing sex work without including many actual sex workers in the conversation. But that dynamic has begun to change. In recent years, sex worker rights movements have become more visible than ever before; not just on the streets or in the media, but also in the halls of power, where the voices of advocates and activists are finally being heard. In the U.S., …


Whatever precautions I’ve felt necessary to protect my privacy, hiding my face from the world has never been one of them

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Image: Alfred Pasieka/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Almost 20 years ago, I started a new life for myself. I was 18, in college, and newly enamored with a trend known as “indie porn” — and I jumped headfirst into exploring the scene, becoming a part of a vibrant online community that was challenging assumptions about what erotic media could be.

For all my enthusiasm, I was very aware that my interest in pornography — however feminist, thoughtful, and social justice-minded it might have been — wasn’t particularly on-brand in my other life as an Ivy League college student. …


Improvements in access enabled by telemedicine can literally be a matter of life and death

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Photo: txking/Getty Images

Over the past few years, telemedicine — a term broadly used to describe any method of remotely accessing medical care, including over the phone, through email, or via video chat — has gone from a sci-fi proposition to an increasingly ordinary part of health care.

In many parts of the country, it’s now possible to get birth control, HIV preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), dermatological care, erectile dysfunction medications, therapy, and even UTI treatments without ever entering a doctor’s office. …


Andrea Barrica, who launched one of the industry’s most popular sextech startups, wants to usher in a revolution to upend the oppressive mores of Silicon Valley

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Photo courtesy of Andrea Barrica

Andrea Barrica never expected to have a career in sextech — or even a career in tech, period. She grew up in a strict Filipino Catholic household, where sex was only discussed as something harmful. And her vision of the future was limited to a safe and predictable future: marriage, kids, and a career as a linguist.

But when she was 20 years old, a friend invited her to join their accounting software startup, inDinero, and suddenly, Barrica’s life was on a completely different path. After building inDinero into a thriving company, she pivoted to venture capital, taking on a position as a venture partner at 500 Startups. …


I/O

These two deeply divergent attitudes towards sex and romance could be seen as symbolic of a real-world schism

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Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

A few years back, I fell really hard for one of my friends. Though we never quite reached a level of intimacy that one might call dating, on more than one occasion an evening of drinking would land the two of us in bed together, and my passions for him would be newly inflamed. In the morning, however, I’d always want to acknowledge what had happened, he’d respond with clear discomfort, and we’d be back to being just friends.

Eventually, he moved thousands of miles away from me, putting the whole sordid affair to rest. I was heartbroken, but at the same time, a part of me had always known that things were destined to end this way. …


Sex will never be safe. Use protection.

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Credit: pederk/Getty Images

For most of human history, sex has been unavoidably risky. Until the advent of modern biology, the mechanisms behind pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were poorly understood. And though humans have spent millennia tinkering with various methods of contraception and prophylactics, it wasn’t until the invention of the rubber condom in the mid-19th century that there was a consistent, effective method of reducing risk for both pregnancy and disease during sex.

Flash forward to 2019, however, and the landscape is wildly different. People looking to prevent pregnancy have a wide range of contraceptive options, including pills, patches, IUDs, implants, and vaginal rings. Antibiotics have made bacterial STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis a minor annoyance rather than a life-altering illness. A vaccine is available to protect against HPV, the virus that causes genital warts and several forms of cancer. Even HIV — the most deadly STI in recent history — has been downgraded from a certain death sentence to a manageable chronic illness, and a daily pill regimen for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as truvada or PrEP, has made preventing HIV transmission a vastly easier prospect. …


I/O

While some activists hope amending Section 230 would end revenge porn, doing so could also take away safe spaces

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Illustration: Claire Merchlinsky

In the mid-1990s, when the internet was still relatively new, Congress passed a 26-word provision as part of the Communications Decency Act that has shaped social media and online platforms ever since.

The provision, known as Section 230, says that internet companies are not liable for their users’ content. It means that Twitter can’t be sued for users’ defamatory tweets, you can’t be sued for the comments that someone else leaves on your blog, and whatever people post to Facebook is on them, not Facebook.

For decades, this premise has been a fundamental component of how the internet is run. But in recent years, Section 230 has been under fire from those who believe it protects tech companies at the expense of their users. …


I/O

Erotic deepfakes are only going to make the question of sexual ethics muddier and more confusing

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Credit: Yagi Studio/Getty Images

In a 1990 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a socially anxious crew member named Reginald Barclay manages his fears and insecurities by retreating to the holodeck, where he programs fantasy versions of his fellow crew members. His male colleagues are recast as his adoring acolytes, while his female ones are made hypersexualized and subservient. When his colleagues stumble upon their fantasy counterparts, they are understandably uncomfortable and upset by the liberties Barclay has taken with their images and identities.

The episode was intended more as an allegory about the dangers of retreating into fantasy than a literal warning against virtual reality. But nearly 30 years later, Barclay’s holodeck adventures feel less sci-fi and more like current technology. Over the past few weeks, Vice has run a series of stories exploring the bleeding edge of rapidly advancing VR porn tech — including lifelike VR models, often based on real people, that are designed to sync with an interactive sex toy like the Fleshlight Launch. While this technology, found on communities like Virt-A-Mate, isn’t as seamless as the holodeck where Barclay turned his colleagues into his own personal puppets, it’s still a shockingly easy way to create intensely intimate, sexualized media featuring people without any consent from those whose images are being used. …


By design, telemedicine offers flexible appointment schedules, low-cost care, and the ability to discreetly access health care

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Credit: Image Source/Getty Images

When Sheila first got married, she was a serious Catholic who believed using contraception was a sin. But after seven years of marriage, three kids, and giving up her beliefs to become an atheist, birth control began to seem much more appealing. (Sheila asked that her last name not be used due to privacy concerns.)

Sheila’s husband, though, remained a devout Catholic and was still firmly against the use of birth control. Though he didn’t expressly forbid Sheila from using it — “He said it was my body and he couldn’t stop me,” Sheila says — it was clear that contraception would put a serious strain on their marriage, with Sheila’s husband threatening to deny her sex if she used birth control against his wishes. …


We have the technology to make the experience better for survivors, so why haven’t we?

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Illustration: Claire Merchlinsky

Back in September, the launch of the at-home sexual assault evidence collection system MeToo Kit was met with widespread disdain. As numerous commentators pointed out, the kit — which promised to “empower survivors” by enabling them to conduct their own forensic exam at home — was unlikely to be considered admissible evidence by any court, rendering it functionally useless. “The at-home rape kit start-up is a useless mess,” writer Katie Heaney declared dismissively on The Cut.

But as untenable as the solution offered by the MeToo Kit and another, similar product may have been, the problem that these kits identified is worth further consideration. Across the country, rape kits — known variously as sexual assault kits (SAKs), sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits, and sexual offense evidence collection kits (SOECKs), among other names — come in a variety of formats, with seemingly no rhyme or reason for the widespread variation. In many states, the design of kits is wildly out of date and out of step with best practices for post-sexual assault care and modern evidence collection, leading survivors to be subjected to unnecessary pain and trauma during the course of their sexual assault forensic exam. …

About

Lux Alptraum

OneZero columnist, Peabody-nominated producer, and the author of Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex — And the Truths They Reveal. http://luxalptraum.com

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