Category: Sex News

Reminder Next Tuesday-Aug 16-The Erotic Literary Salon-Live, In Memoriam: Joani Blank by Dr. Carol Queen

Featured Presenter this Tuesday, Aug. 16 will be Big Crunch from the Fringe Arts Festival. A must see!

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The field of human sexuality lost a powerful figure this week – Joani Blank, founder of Good Vibrations and Down There Press. The Dean of my graduate school wanted to introduce me to her, claimed we had much in common. Never happened, life got in the way, wish it had been different. A few words from people who are indebted to this trailblazer:

In memoriam: Joani Blank

Joani Blank, who founded Good Vibrations in 1977, has died. She was 79 and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just over two months before.

True to form for a woman who promoted her business with the phrase “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” Joani died at home, with family and her beloved dog Bapu at her side, on her own schedule. Just a couple of months after California legalized physician-assisted suicide, Joani chose to treat her symptoms palliatively but not the aggressive disease itself, whose poor prognosis and painful treatments would have curbed her ability to enjoy her last weeks of life. Her August 6 exit followed a month of tributes and time spent connecting with family and friends; she was proud to face death with the same degree of forthrightness and fearlessness she brought to discussions about sexuality.

joani80Joani was already working to change society’s attitudes about sex, especially women’s sexuality, sexual health, and reproductive rights, when the idea to form Good Vibrations hit. Involved with San Francisco Sex Information in the early 1970s, she founded Down There Press in 1975 (its first project was her book about vibrators… in calligraphy!) and then began working with famed feminist sex therapist Lonnie Barbach’s project to support “pre-orgasmic” women, held at UC Medical Center. It was there that Joani heard countless women, when recommended they try a vibrator, protest that they would never want to enter one of those placesto get one. In what we called a “click” moment back then (like a light switch flipping on), Joani realized how much she could contribute by creating a very different kind of place. Touted as a “clean, well-lighted place for sex toys, books, and [later] videos,” Joani’s brainstorm did indeed immediately serve women––and everybody else, since people of every gender and identity, it turns out, needed a place that focused on comfortable communication, correct information, and good-quality sex-related products. In many ways, that’s still GV’s mission in a nutshell. Her first store was about the size of a postage stamp, but it made room for a shelf full of antique vibrators (so her customers would understand that these handy helpers had a much longer history than just as implements of the sexual revolution). This became the seed of the Antique Vibrator Museum, of which I am today the proud curator.

Jackie Rednour-Bruckman, Joani Blank, Carol Queen

I began working at Good Vibrations in 1990 after I’d met Joani a year or two before; we were both participants in one of Betty Dodson’s rare west Coast Bodysex workshops, which is a hell of a way to meet a future employer! But JB (as I called her) was more than that to me: she was a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration, supporting my growing role at Good Vibrations as well as my community projects and my solo work, including my writing. She published my first book, Exhibitionism for the Shy, and her edits and encouragement added a lot to its impact. She did this for so many people, from helping Susie Bright launch her important Herotica series of women-authored erotic fiction to helping produce Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano’s first film “Bend Over Boyfriend”; she also consulted with and supported many (maybe most) of the businesses that emerged in the 1990s and beyond to become GV’s “sister stores.” (The story of these, and Joani’s visionary role in their creation and growth, is the subject of our friend Lynn Comella’s forthcoming book from Duke University Press, Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure. Joani was only the second US woman entrepreneur to open a sex shop; the other, Dell Williams of NYC’s Eve’s Garden, died in early 2015).

Joani Blank's State of California proclamation

On July 14th many of the current core staff of Good Vibrations gathered to honor Joani’s role in our lives with more than two dozen past staff members, including important colleagues from the 1980s and ‘90s like Cathy Winks and Anne Semans, who formed the heart of Joani’s inner circle when I arrived at GV in 1990. Though rapidly organized, word spread far and wide, thanks to the energies of old-timers Shar Rednour, Deborah Mayer, and Samantha Miller. People who couldn’t make it from out of town, like Charlie Glickman and Roma Estevez, Skyped or FaceTimed in so they could participate. Also present were Joani’s daughter Amika and her sister Bobbie. Tributes, anecdotes and memories flowed.

“I will miss Joani very much and am deeply sad about her passing,” says Jackie Rednour-Bruckman, now Executive VP at Good Vibrations but originally a mid-1990s SESA. “She was so vital and so ready to do so much more before cancer took her way too fast and too soon. She was 79 but young at heart and still had so much to say about everything and was deeply involved in many social justice issues. I will treasure her friendship forever––we had a special bond and I am grateful forever to her loyalty and love and inspiration. I hope I have made her proud.”

All of Joani’s many communities came together on July 30 at The First Unitarian Church in Oakland to celebrate her life. Just down the street from her home in the Swan’s Market Cohousing community, this was JB’s own congregation, where she’d enjoyed singing in the choir and making connections. She sat to the side, happily engulfed in love and appreciation, as her beloved choir made music for her and speakers from many sides of her world spoke up in tribute. Other entities deeply important to Joani are cohousing; the Human Awareness Institute; and the UU Church (which isn’t surprising, given its own revolutionary track record on behalf of sex education)––and someone was on hand from each of these to talk about Joani’s participation and contributions there. I spoke up on behalf of Good Vibrations; David Steinberg, an old friend and publishing associate, spoke too, and JB’s sister Bobbie sent a letter about their family history, read by Joani’s cousin Susan Sugarman. Amika, with her three beautiful kids at her side, spoke movingly about her changing and deepening relationship with her mom, and how the social consciousness that Joani embodied in public had real meaning inside their family too.

JBJoani also aimed her activism at the world of money, and she invited her philanthropic advisor, “resourceful woman” Tracy Gary to speak about JB’s history of giving and to encourage attendees to donate to causes close to Joani’s heart. (I’ve included those below for any readers who want to participate in honoring her in this way.) Early in Good Vibrations’s history Joani was part of an alternative business philosophy called Briarpatch, which held that competition was not a threat and a rising tide would float all boats; this explains her willingness to consult with and support friendly competitors, since her vision of change involved empowering others to create businesses just as she had done. Joani believed in word of mouth over ads and felt that community engagement was the most significant way she could promote Good Vibrations and its message. It was never primarily about money for her, but about the effect GV could have on the culture. I have such a unique career today because, really, she was right: The needs of individuals and communities are still to quash shame, find the right information and good-quality products that will enhance and support pleasure and self-exploration. From those seemingly simple things, a world of change and ever-developing identity can emerge. We can all be enormously grateful to Joani Blank and her pleasure-centric, culture-shifting vision.

Joani selected five organizations to which contributions may be made in her name:
*Human Awareness Institute (www.hai.org)
*Democracy at Work Institute (www.institute.coop)
*Center for Sex & Culture (www.sexandculture.org)
*Cohousing Association of the US (www.cohousing.org)
*First Unitarian Church of Oakland (www.uuoakland.org)
Or support a nonprofit organization of your choice.

Joani is survived by her adopted daughter Amika (open adoption was another of the causes that benefited from her activism) and her grandchildren Milo, Soleil, and Blossom; constant canine companion Bapu; her sister Bobbie (aka Barbara Hauser) and other relatives; and countless friends, colleagues, and activist buddies whose lives were stretched in many ways thanks to Joani’s leadership, honesty, and immediacy. She will be deeply missed in many hearts and communities.

For more about JB, you can visit her website: http://joaniblank.com/

CQ & JB

 

Charlie Glickman, world renowned sex educator

I know that many of you have seen the news about Joani Blank’s death. Many others have said this, and I need to say it, too. I wouldn’t be here as the sex educator I am if it wasn’t for her. Joani was the founder of Good Vibrations, where I was hired twenty years ago in my first paying job as a sex educator. That was what launched my career, and I’m not alone in that.

These days, there are countless other sex-positive, female-friendly, well-lit, clean sex toy stores. There are plenty of companies making body-safe, reliable, and well-designed pleasure products. There are more books about sex and pleasure than ever before. You can thank Joani Blank for all of that because Good Vibrations came along and made it ok for women to enjoy vibrators and other sex toys. That was the catalyst for some amazing things.

Joani literally changed the world. Go celebrate her life with an orgasm or three. I think she’d be proud of that.

http://charlieglickman.com

 

4 Sentenced to Death in Rape Case That Riveted India

Will this verdict be the first step for a positive change towards treatment of Indian women, or will men take revenge on them?

Excerpt from The New York Times article:

4 Sentenced to Death in Rape Case That Riveted India

By  and BETWA SHARMA
Published: September 13, 2013

NEW DELHI — Four men convicted of a brutal gang rape were sentenced Friday to die by hanging, a decision met with satisfaction on the part of the victim’s parents and triumphant cheers from the crowd outside the courthouse, where some held up makeshift nooses and pictures of hanging bodies.

Activists reacted to the sentencing outside the Saket District Court on Friday.

A crowd gathered outside the Saket courthouse in New Delhi on Friday.

The four men — a fruit vendor, a bus attendant, a gym handyman and an unemployed man — were found guilty on Tuesday of raping a young woman on a moving bus last December, penetrating her with a metal rod and inflicting grave internal injuries, then dumping her out on the roadside.

The country was riveted by the story of the woman, who died of her injuries two weeks later, and tens of thousands of people flooded the streets to demand tougher policing and prosecution of sex crimes.

But until the last minute it was unclear whether this would lead to death sentences in a country where liberal and populist impulses have strained against one another for decades, reserving the death sentences for “the rarest of rare cases.” News of the decision was met with a wave of jubilation on the street outside.

“This is the beginning of freedom for Indian women today,” said Raman Deep Kaur, 38, a cosmetologist. “Today we are free, because these men are going to be killed.”

It is far from clear, however, that the four men will be executed in the near future.

India has liberal appeal laws and death sentences are routinely followed by years of motions to the Supreme Court and the president. Sadashiv Gupta, a defense lawyer for one of the men, said he was confident the sentence would be commuted to life in prison.

“I met with my client and I told him, ‘You are going to get the death penalty, take it in stride and don’t panic,’ ” Mr. Gupta said. “I think he shall not be hanged.”

During the trial, defense attorneys invoked the “rarest of the rare” language laid out in a 1980 Supreme Court decision that overturned a death sentence. One cited the words of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement: “God gives life and he alone can take it, not man-made courts.” They also invoked mitigating circumstances, such as the young age and poverty of the defendants, or the fact that they had been drinking, undercutting the notion that the crime was premeditated.

But Judge Yogesh Khanna clearly rejected those arguments, saying this crime embodied “the rarest of the rare,” and invoked the possibility of a larger wave of violence against women.

“In these times when crimes against women are on the rise, the court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act,” he said, according to reporters in the courtroom.

At this, one of the defendants, Vinay Sharma, broke down in tears and cried loudly.

A. P. Singh, who defended two of the men, called the decision “completely unfair” and said it had been made under intense political pressure at a moment when Indian leaders are looking ahead to parliamentary elections next spring.

“I will contest this case until the last moments of my life,” he said.

Defense arguments were drowned out by cries for execution – including from the victim herself, who before her death told a court official that her attackers “should be burned alive.” Protesters have congregated regularly outside the courthouse, chanting “Hang the rapists,” and on Friday they turned their wrath on the defense attorneys, forcing one to rush from the crowd.

Rosy John, 62, a housewife watching the furor outside the courtroom this week, said her only objection to the death sentence was that it was too humane a punishment.

“After death, they will get freedom,” she said. “They should be tortured and given shocks their whole life. They have made so many people suffer, including their own families.”

Polls show that Indians remain ambivalent about using the death penalty, with 40 percent of respondents saying it should be abolished, according to a survey by CNN, IBN and The Hindu, a respected daily newspaper. Among the vocal opponents of using it in this case were a number of women’s rights groups.

Texas Senate Vote Puts Bill Restricting Abortion Over Final Hurdle

I still recall loaning a friend $100 (a huge amount in 1966) to have an abortion in Puerto Rico. She traveled from New York alone, and came back with an infection from the back alley procedure. Luckily she was able to recover and has three beautiful children.

When will politicians stay out of a woman’s womb?

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

Opponents and supporters of new abortion restrictions in Texas gathered Friday at the Capitol.

Excerpts from NYTimes article:

By 

AUSTIN, Tex. — The Texas Senate gave final passage on Friday to one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country, legislation championed by Gov. Rick Perry, who rallied the Republican-controlled Legislature late last month after a Democratic filibuster blocked the bill and intensified already passionate resistance by abortion-rights supporters.

The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers, among other requirements. Its supporters say that the strengthened requirements for the structures and doctors will protect women’s health; opponents argue that the restrictions are actually intended to put financial pressure on the clinics that perform abortions and will force most of them to shut their doors.

Mr. Perry applauded lawmakers for passing the bill, saying, “Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life.” Legislators and anti-abortion activists, he said, “tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans.”

Debate over the bill has ignited fierce exchanges between lawmakers and tense confrontations between opponents of the bill, who have worn orange, and supporters of the bill, wearing blue. Signs and slogans have been everywhere, bearing long, impassioned arguments or the simple scrawl on a young man’s orange shirt, a Twitter-esque “@TXLEGE: U R dumb.”

The bill had come nearly this far before: a version had been brought to the Senate in the previous session of the Legislature, in June, and was killed by State Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, with an 11-hour filibuster that stalled the bill until after the deadline for ending the session. The filibuster became an overnight sensation on Twitter and other forms of social media, with more than 180,000 people viewing the filibuster live online.

Almost immediately, however, Mr. Perry called for another special session to reconsider the bill, resulting in Friday night’s vote.

The fight has been heavy with symbols. The House bill’s author, Representative Jodie Laubenberg, a Republican from Parker, dangled a pair of baby shoes before her as she spoke on Tuesday; Representative Senfronia Thompson, who offered an early amendment to the bill, was flanked by colleagues holding wire hangers, representing the brutal abortion methods they said would return if legitimate clinics were run out of business.

Ms. Laubenberg has said that the bill would close no abortion clinics, adding, “It is time these clinics put patients ahead of profits.”

Supporters of the bill in the Legislature have been angered by the language of their opponents. During floor debate on Tuesday, Representative Jason Villalba, a Republican of Dallas, said, “I shall stand with Texas women, but I shall stand here no longer and be accused of conducting a ‘war on women.’ ” He said, “We care for and we fight for human baby lives,” and showed a sonogram of his own child at 13 weeks. “I will fight, and I will fight, and I will fight to protect my baby.”

During the Senate debate, the dean of the Senate, John Whitmire, who is a Democrat, angrily told Senator Dan Patrick, a Republican, “I can’t sit here and let you question my faith.”

The bill was opposed by many doctors, including leaders of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association; the gynecologists’ group has run advertisements locally that question the scientific underpinnings of the legislation and tell legislators to “Get out of our exam rooms.”

Read entire article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/us/texas-abortion-bill.html?emc=edit_na_20130713&_r=0

Vladimir Putin Just Made It Illegal To Tell Kids Gay People Exist

“I want everyone to understand that in Russia there are no infringements on sexual minorities’ rights,” …These words were spoken by President Putin while signing a bill “making the promotion of homosexual propaganda to minors Illegal.”

Please someone educate this man as to the genetic component of Gays and Lesbians.

Excerpts from David Badash’s June 20 article:

“The federal amendments expanded on a law that protects children from pornography and other ‘harmful information,” acording to Bloomberg News. “The bill prohibits the distribution of information intended to promote or spread ‘non-traditional sexual orientations’ among minors, or a ‘distorted conception of the equivalence between traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships.’”

The bill also prohibits the “obtrusive spreading of information about non-traditional sexual relationships that may arouse interest in such relationships.”

“Putin, who returned to the Kremlin for a third term as president last year, said in April that same-sex marriages don’t produce children and that Russia and Europe face demographic challenges from lower birth rates, though it’s his duty to protect the rights of people with ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientations,” Bloomberg News adds:

Putin violated Russia’s international obligations by signing the law, which will be challenged at Russia’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, Nikolai Alexeyev, a Russian gay-rights activist, wrote in a statement on GayRussia.eu.

“By signing the law banning gay propaganda, President Putin may have won a local battle for the votes of his under-educated electorate,” Alexeyev wrote. “He lost the historical battle. History will prove that he committed a mistake that future generations won’t likely forgive.”

Opinion polls have shown limited tolerance among Russians for homosexuality. Last year, Moscow City Court upheld the city’s decision to ban gay-pride parades for the next 100 years.

Dozens of LGBT supporters were arrested in St. Petersburg yesterday after anti-gay protesters violently attacked them at sanctioned gay pride rally which included “violent scuffles between police and anti-gay campaigners,” Russia’s RIA Novosti news reports:

Media reports estimated that several dozens of LGBT activists came to the Field of Mars (Marsovo Pole) in the city’s downtown to rally for gay people’s rights in Russia. The event was attended by some 200 of anti-gay activists urging to ban the rally and throwing eggs at their opponents.

The climate for LGBT people in Russia is growing from bad to worse, and Putin’s new law will only serve to support more anti-LGBT violence and hate crimes.

Read entire article with photos of demonstration:

http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/vladimir-putin-just-made-it-illegal-to-tell-kids-gay-people-exist/politics/2013/06/30/70238