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This statement is by Carl Frankel, curator and co-author of Secrets of the Sex Masters, and his business and life partner, the sex educator and Secrets contributor Sheri Winston. It is our response to the statement recently issued by the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) titled
You Didn’t Send For Us So We Came For You: The Infestation of White Supremacy In The U.S. Sexuality Field.

We have read the WOCSHN document, find the tone regrettable, and categorically deny that we are racist and/or white supremacist. To suggest these things is incorrect and deeply hurtful.

We have acknowledged an oversight in not including contributors of colors in Secrets of the Sex Masters and committed to remedying it.

As sex educators we are part of a very small community, united by a vital shared mission around sexual empowerment and besieged by powerful adversaries. What we are trying to achieve is far too important for us not to stand together. WOCSHN has raised important issues: we would welcome a respectful dialogue about them.

We regret the polarization that has occurred and look forward to its ending.

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7 Responses to Our Response to the WOCSHN Statement

  1. Eva says:

    Wow. What an utterly terrible response to a heartfelt, important piece.

    This response? This is everything that’s wrong with the sexuality field right now, encapsulated in five clueless paragraphs.

    You ” find the tone regrettable?” You should read up on tone policing.

    I’m confident that you didn’t intend to be exclusive or racist, but intentions don’t excuse the resulting exclusion.

    Do better. Take a step back and *listen.*

  2. Ernest Greene says:

    I think the sex positive community overall needs to become more diverse in order to grow. Its message is constructive and the more widely it’s heard the better. That growth, however, needs nurturing from many quarters and is not the sole responsibility of any one component of that community.

    As a contributor to this book, I regret that it doesn’t more accurately reflect the composition of the society from which it springs. I didn’t know who all was contributing, as I think most of us only knew a few familiar names, and that a certain entirely unintentional insularity may have figured into the outcome.

    As a life-long advocate for social justice and a participant in many movements toward that purpose, I’m skeptical of the value of privilege arguments and the constant assertion that those presumed to have it should sit down and shut up to make room for those who don’t. I see a campaign against a good book created with good intentions being mounted to prove a point and while I may have some inclination to agree with that point, I don’t think using this book as a punching-bag will prove helpful to anyone. I think the use of the term white supremacy in this context is hyperbolic and divisive. I expect to be told that this isn’t my call to make, but I will stand by it as I stand by this book.

    There will be other books and other opportunities to widen our vision. Those opportunities will not arise out of scolding and shaming but rather out of engagement over areas of mutual concern.

    Therefore I will not be counted among the apologetic distancing themselves from this work. I believe it stands on its own merits and suggest that those who feel it falls short of what it should be might consider writing their own if they haven’t already. Many voices should be heard. They don’t all have to be heard at the same time in every possible location.

    I doubt you’ll find any contributors to this book who feel that racism isn’t a problem, isn’t their problem or doesn’t require an ethical response. To some extent this conversation is useful in reminding us of the need to be vigilant in our awareness of racism even where we don’t expect to find it – in ourselves.

    But there is a proportionate reaction to a lapse of the kind that occurred here and what I’m seeing seems to go well beyond that. It has already opened new rifts in what we all agree is a small community and that is not what we need.

    Moreover, as a free-speech absolutist (just about the only kind of absolutist I am), I regard compelled speech as morally indistinguishable from censorship. Those who write or edit books should not be subjected to over-the-shoulder editing by any community. This produces an atmosphere of reticence that interferes with honest dialog rather than engendering it.

    So, here is another contributor who has stepped up and done so for the purpose of saying that the critiques to which this book is being subjected are not without merit but do lack a sense of proportion.

    Personally, I’d like to see us win a few rounds. I’d like to see sex work decriminalized. I’d like to see more honest discussion about taboo subjects currently off-limits because they don’t conform to the popular construction of inclusivity. There are differences resulting from the differences in our experiences and those need to be addressed.

    If this book were the worst problem faced by those fighting for sexual liberation for all, we’d have had to deal with some other problems of a much larger scale before now.

    The rhetoric used in this controversy so far has obstructed progress toward those goals more than it has advanced it.

  3. Pingback: White Supremacy, Sex, and Ferguson | Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

  4. Dana says:

    Polarization will not stop until you acknowledge that you have created this and these feelings by being color blind (which I might add is not okay. Don’t be blind to my color. If you are, you are blind to the experiences that are unique to me because of my color. Therefore yet again, being dismissive) How hard is it to say, I did something wrong and I am going to remedy that and then sit down and hear the feedback? It’s too bad that you can’t do that. That your defensiveness is getting in the way of real learning. Real learning comes when you are confronted and still have to stay silent when you were in the wrong. And, let’s be clear, you were in the wrong. And, to say that we should all stick together, sorry, I stick with people who stand up for me. I will not stay silent because it furthers your interest to have us look cohesive. If you want a united front, then make sure the people at the front with you don’t all look like you.

  5. Sthetic says:

    The thing about racism and racist actions is that they aren’t something you get to declare your own freedom from – that’s something the people who your actions affect get to determine.

    Saying that the WOCSHN statement is bullying looks like something of an imbalance in your sense of scale. A criticism of your actions is not the same as any of the words in your helpful graphic. It is not calling you mean names, it is not lying, it is not pushing you or hitting you or spreading rumours about you. It is a reaction to and a reflection on the consequences of your actions, and as public educators that’s something the community you’re working with and in to educate has a right to articulate, no?

    Also, the idea that because a community is small it must stick together has been used to silence people since the dawn of time. C’mon. You should be better than this.

  6. Allison Moon says:

    Racism doesn’t have to be an active hatred-based phenomenon. In fact, the way racism often works is insidious and invisible to those who aren’t on the receiving end of it. The WOCSHN post was reasonable and– I believe– compassionate. It doesn’t feel good to have our implicit biases or racial blind spots pointed out. In fact it hurts like hell. I can hear the pain in your response. However, the reason WOCSHN spoke up was to help upgrade the whole industry. This is what upgrading the industry looks like. Take it in. Breathe. And strive to do better.

  7. Polarization isn’t a kind of parthenogenesis; it has identifiable roots. Making an effort from the outset to be more inclusive means seeking out voices you aren’t already familiar with. It means making an extra effort to not just put out information on sexuality that’s helpful to some, but to put out information on sexuality that will come from different perspectives and will speak to issues the editors could not know exist. Polarization happens when a large group expresses concern and you double down, rather than apologizing for oversight, swallowing your pride, and doubling up on your effort to redress a wrong.

    Yes, the community of sex educators is small. It is also insular, and looks smaller than it has to by excluding a broader variety of voices.

    Being beset by powerful adversaries and calling for us all to present a united front sets up a heierarchy of privilege, with racial issues being a lower priority. We aren’t going to be more effective at fighting powerful adversaries if we sweep imbalances of power in our own community under a rug. Black Panthers used to hold meetings and silenced the women who were activists when they’d bring up concerns about how meetings were run. The women were told that they’d start working on sexism as soon as racism was a thing of the past, so get back in the kitchen and don’t make us look bad to outsiders by implying there’s anything but a 100% united front.

    That hierarchy of oppression has happened in a lot of groups, historically, and somehow, everybody gets so busy shushing anyone that doesn’t fall in lockstep that the silencing becomes tradition and that becomes the way things have always been.

    Implying that racism in the sex educator community is a luxury issue is a disservice to us all. We can do better and respond faster.

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