Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics: San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club

It is the explicit mission of the SF Sex-Positive Democratic Club (“Club” or “Sex-Positive Dems”) to promote the ideals of sex positivity in local governance and discourse. Consent is the foundation of sex positivity. As such, we hold ourselves to the standard that enthusiastic consent is imperative for all sexual activity, as well as other forms of physical interaction. We also welcome and affirm people of all genders, relationship structures, and identities. This Code of Ethics outlines our standards of behavior for elected and appointed members of the Board of Directors (“Leadership”), based on the standards of consent, transparency, and harm reduction. It applies not only at Sex-Positive Dems events, but in all areas of life.

Adhering to the Values of San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club

Our Club holds consent, transparency, and harm reduction as our highest values. It is important that the Leadership of the Club behave in a manner that aligns with these values in all areas of their lives. We hold this high of a standard to show respect for the people we advocate for, and to honor the trust they put in us. We advocate for people who are queer, kinky, non-monogamous, and sex workers as well as for everyone to live in a sex-positive world.

Why a Code of Ethics

We would prefer to live in a sex positive society where consent, transparency and harm reduction are de rigueur. Since we do not yet live in that society, this Code of Ethics helps to establish the Sex-Positive Democratic Club as a model of that society to which we aspire. In other words, if we don’t set our own rules, we implicitly endorse those prevalent in society – including the unwritten ones – many of which are based in sex negativity and rape culture. 

Definition of Consent

At its best, consent is an ongoing collaboration between two or more people in constant verbal, physical, and emotional dialogue about what each other needs to willingly, safely, and pleasurably interact with one another.

Consent must be:

Affirmative

There is clearly expressed agreement to participate in an activity. We're looking for the presence of a yes, not the absence of a no

Competent

All parties have the unfettered ability, knowledge, judgment, or skill to have a physical interaction.

Informed

All parties are able to decide whether to participate in an activity based on a shared understanding of risk factors, risk tolerances, and other relevant facts.

Unpressured

A "no" should be immediately accepted without undue persuasion, influence, or intimidation to encourage someone to do something they've expressed hesitation about doing. Any coercive tactics (e.g., threats, leveraging a power relationship) or pressure (e.g., making someone responsible for your disappointment, continuing to ask for something after a boundary is stated, or emotional manipulation) are expressly forbidden.

Specific

All parties are clear about what they are doing together and the boundaries of proposed activities. Where there is a lack of specificity, participants act with heightened caution and attunement.

Ongoing

Consent must be given throughout the interaction, and it can be revoked at any time.

This framework is a modified version of the work of William Winters ([email protected]) & Misha Bonaventura ([email protected]) of Bonobo Network, you can find their open source Consent & Accountability Policy here: https://bit.ly/bonobonetworkconsentpolicy. It takes consent out of a simple binary framework. In allowing us to judge the consensuality of any interaction qualitatively (as opposed to "It's there or it isn't"), we are thus invited to constantly strive for higher quality consent. 

Expected Behavior

  • Interact with others in a consensual manner. In doing so, you contribute to the health and longevity of this community.
  • Exercise consideration and respect in your speech and actions.
  • Refrain from demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing behavior and speech.
  • Ask before touching anyone at our events. Pay attention to verbal as well as non-verbal queues.
  • Avoid making assumptions regarding gender. If you aren’t aware of what someone’s gender is, ask for their preferred pronoun(s) or, when available, look at their name tag.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings and the other participants. Alert community leaders if you notice a consent violation or other dangerous situation, someone in distress, or violations of this Code of Ethics even if they seem inconsequential.

Unacceptable Behavior

Unacceptable behaviors include: non-consensual interaction; intentional misgendering; or intimidating, harassing, abusive, discriminatory, derogatory or demeaning speech or actions.

Harassment includes:

  • harmful or prejudicial verbal or written comments related to gender, sexual orientation, transness, physical appearance, body size, technical choices, lack of technical knowledge, ability, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion (or lack thereof) and other personal conditions and choices
  • trolling, i.e. sustained disruption of conversations, talks or other events
  • non-consensual photography or recording
  • inappropriate use of nudity and/or sexual images in public spaces
  • deliberate intimidation, stalking or following
  • non-consensual physical contact
  • unwelcome sexual attention
  • microaggressions, i.e. small, subtle, often subconscious actions that marginalize people from oppressed groups
  • minimizing other people’s experiences

Photos/Videos

Ask everybody in the photo/video if they agree to be photographed or filmed.

For group shots, ask if anyone wants to opt-out before taking any, or ask people if they need their face obscured after taking photos.

What happens in case of violations of our Code of Ethics

Leadership asked to stop any harmful, hateful or disrespectful behavior are expected to comply immediately. If a member of Leadership persists in such behavior, the Board may take any action it deems appropriate, including warning or removing them from the event or position of Leadership, or by suspending or permanently terminating their membership.

See: Consent Policy for further details including reporting guidelines.




A statement from the Board

The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club recently learned of multiple serious and credible allegations of consent violations made against one of the members of the Board. The Board has requested and received this Board member’s resignation, and has indefinitely suspended his membership in the Club, effective immediately. 

It is the explicit mission of the SF Sex-Positive Democratic Club to promote the ideals of sex positivity in local governance and discourse. Consent is the foundation of sex positivity. As such, we hold ourselves to the standard that enthusiastic consent is imperative for all sexual activity. We deeply regret that one of the leaders of our Club did not live up to this standard. In doing so, we failed in our commitment to uphold consent culture, and failed our membership and the broader sex-positive community. 

We take our responsibility to survivors seriously; if you have anything to report or disclose, or are in need of support, please reach out to us ([email protected]) to be connected with services. 


Deplatforming Sex - Panel Video & Recap

Paypal and Venmo routinely kick sex workers off their services with little due process. Visa and Mastercard recently stopped processing payments on Pornhub. Many banks include morality clauses that allow them to freeze and terminate sex worker accounts at will. Among its many policies relating to nudity and sex, Facebook banned the eggplant or peach emoji in conjunction with any statement referring to being "horny." When Instagram updated its terms of use at the end of 2020, it effectively banned OnlyFans content creators from using the app and made it more difficult for sex educators to share content. Many sexuality professionals and businesses––especially sex workers––fear that platforms will shadowban or delete their accounts, making it harder for them to market themselves and make a living.

Why is this happening? And what can be done about it? On June 17th, 2021, we hosted Deplatforming Sex: A Panel Discussion on the history and current impacts of this phenomenon.

Becca Motola-Barnes, the San Francisco Sex Positive Democrat’s President, moderated. Our panelists were:

  • Clare Bayley, creator of the Nectarine Project and a TAPP Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Daly Barnett, technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a member of the sex work advocacy collective, Hacking//Hustling.
  • Ryan Olson, co-founder of Fetishmen Networks and Real Kink and adult industry developer who specializes in payment processing and compliance within the adult sector.

You can watch the video here.

Becca kicked off the discussion by asking panelists to define deplatforming. Daly explained that deplatforming often refers to the platform or application that user engages with –– but there is also platform censorship. She said that platform censorship refers to the infrastructure of the internet –– such as banks, payment processors, and credit card companies. In addition, there is content moderation, which are actions that a specific platform will take to enforce their terms of service or community guidelines and lessen their legal responsibilities. She noted that there aren’t discrete boundaries between these.

Clare acknowledged that it’s complicated. “There’s so many different places at which a decision or action can be taken, and there are so many different people involved in this system,” she said.

***

Panelists discussed how content moderation leads to sexuality professionals and businesses being deplatformed. Clare noted that there is a difference between policy and implementation. What happens on the platforms, she said, often doesn’t match their policy. For example, many platforms might ban content involving sex but will have exceptions for educational content. But sometimes platforms will delete even educational content.

Becca noted one of the ways in which this policy affects us at SFSPDC. Because we have "sex" in our name, Facebook limits the number of people we can invite to our events. She asked, “Where do we draw the line? How do we educate people when just having 'sex' in your name gets you knocked out?”

Daly talked about a law that had the biggest impact on platform’s policy and content moderation: SESTA/FOSTA.  SESTA/FOSTA carved out Section 230 and removed immunization that platforms had when it comes to material that could be aiding human trafficking. In response, tech companies are being broad in how they deploy content moderation. "Because it’s so hazy," she said when talking about SESTA/FOSTA, "no one knows what that means or how it could be –– these platforms, in order to dodge liability, even the largest ones that could afford a slew of lawsuits, even though there haven’t been any yet, at least under FOSTA, they just hit anything that could be maybe swept under that umbrella.”

Daly explained that the impact of this is far reaching. “…any sort of sex content, any kind of sex education, any people they have deemed might or might not be a sex worker, or involved in the sex industry on either side of the counter, and any profiles anywhere are all best just to get rid of than to deal with the legal nightmares,” she said.

Clare said that SESTA/FOSTA caused many sites to shut down, including Craigslist Personals. Ryan added that it has even led to the banning of specific words, such as the word “hole” on the dating site Doubleist.

***

Part of this problem, panelists discussed, is the way that social media platforms moderate content. Ryan explained that platforms used to have automatic moderation; however, that became problematic, and so they now hire outsourced people to do the monitoring. This leads to subjective policy implementation. “How do you fight something that is subjective?” Ryan questioned.

The panelists were clear that these policies are tied in with racism, sexism, homophobia, fatphobia, and transphobia. Ryan stressed that “We have to start calling it discrimination…We have to be treated equally.”

Clare agreed, noting that it’s “hard to call it that because it’s not written in the policy that way, but from looking at the banned content it’s clear that the further you are from a thin, straight, young white, young woman, the more likely you are to have your content taken down.” She explained how this works, saying, “Some of it is bias in the content moderation, and some of it’s just more likely to be reported in harassment campaigns.”

When Becca asked whether we had empirical evidence that platforms discriminated, Clare said that it’s difficult to track because we can’t track content that has been removed, but there are a lot of studies about bias in AI. Daly gave some examples, including Timnit Gebru’s firing from Google.

Daly reiterated that “Any sort enforcement of these things are going to reflect biases of its creators or the society in which it's built up.” She added that it is a “Vastly intersectional network of bigotry that is coded into the platforms that we’re engaging in.”

***

The panelists discussed the impact that morality policing within the banking industry has. Companies and professionals must deal with banks, investors, payment processors (i.e. Stripe, Square, Venmo, etc.) –– and all of those have rules about what businesses and professionals are allowed to sell and how they are allowed to sell it.

Ryan explained, saying, “I buy a book and it’s got the F word on it. This company can go ahead, they can sell that book a million times, put their money into a Bank of America, Chase Bank, Wells Fargo account, and they don’t think twice about it. But the moment somebody wants to create porn, or they want to do something that is not Christianlike, now there’s all these policies, and everyone’s bouncing it to the other person. If it’s not Visa saying we don’t want someone to wear diapers, it’s the payment processor saying they don’t want to be attached to this, or their bank that does the payment processing on their behalf saying they don’t want to be attached to this.”

Ryan noted that these rules are different depending on where you live and where your business is located. If you are website whose business is located in North America, credit cards, payment processors, and banks might prohibit certain activities to be done or mentioned (i.e. watersports). However, as he explained, if you’re in Europe, that very same activity might be allowed. Companies don’t want to make their European customers angry, but it’s different in the United States. Because of religious groups, they have to block more content.

As panelists pointed out, these rules often don’t even correspond with what is legal in the United States. For example, it is legal for sex toy stores to operate, but payment processors, banks, and credit card companies might choose not to work with these businesses or might stipulate how they can advertise. Or it is legal to tip a stripper for dances, but you can’t tip them over Venmo because Venmo won’t allow it.

“At the end of the day, why are we again still being so subjective, if these people are working legally? Why are they not being treated the same as someone like myself, who is a developer?” Ryan asked.

When talking about how these infrastructural places (banks, payment processors, credit card companies) have positioned themselves as unique chokeholds in the system, Daly said, “They should not be the moral arbiters of what is and is not allowed.”

***

When talking about what can be done to fight this, the panelists agreed that using USPS as a bank or making Facebook into a utility regulated by the government wouldn’t help. They had other suggestions.

Ryan called for transparency in policy so that users can choose to not use the platform if they don’t agree with the policy. He also argued that “platforms need to start using their money and they need to start seeing the money value of not having discrimination.”

Daly agreed with Ryan, asserting that there shouldn’t be any uniform law governing how the Internet should be. She also felt concerned about transparency. She said, “Whatever they do, I want it to be transparent, so that users have a choice.” She wants more regulation that fosters tech competition and transparent, consent-based policy that would affect how people engage in the platform and empower the platforms that people want. This, she believes, would lead to a more democratic tech world.

Clare emphasized the importance of sex-positivity. “The win would be to convince people that sex is important and that exposure to sexual content and sexual information is important and a good thing to protect,” she said. This does not mean that children should be shown porn, she stressed. She believes that consent is important above all else and that there are ways that companies can ensure consent. Some social media companies, she said, are already using features that with opt in filters, things to confirm that the person viewing the website is 18, and she wants more companies to use those tactics. “Any attempt to separate sex from the rest of life just harms us all,” she concluded.  

***

Becca summed up the panel, expressing that some of the things that she heard were: a push for more transparency, advocate for anti-trust law to be used to create more competition in marketplace, and perhaps someday an online bill of rights that includes sex and sex positivity as a part of human expression

Clare encouraged those in the tech field to continue to be personally sex positive and to speak out about these issues and. You can find her at Nectarine Project and on Instagram or on Twitter.

Ryan stressed the importance of having more sex-positivity and encouraged people to be loud and proud –– and to advocate to self, friends, family, and work. You can find him on Twitter and on Instagram.

Daly encouraged people to fight for your own digital privacy and security and to fight for your community’s digital privacy and security. She encouraged people to go visit Electronic Frontier Foundation to learn more about how they defend digital civil liberties and Hacking//Hustling to learn more about they advocate for sex workers in the tech space.


Sex Work Decrim 101: Panel Recap

 

 

Moderated by Becca Motola-Barnes, the Sex-Positive Dems’ very own former VP of Internal Communications and now current President, the panel took place over Zoom on March 18, 2021. Panelists discussed decriminalizing sex work, including what decriminalization even means, why most sex workers prefer decrim to legalization, and how San Francisco is handling sex work policy. Panelists included: 

Watch the latter part of the panel here (joined in progress)!

***

Chesa Boudin started off the panel by sharing that he supports the decriminalization of sex work and that his office refuses to prosecute adults who consensually buy or sell sexual services. "It is not a priority for my office to prosecute," Boudin said. "It's not something I would ever prosecute, except under the most extraordinary circumstances, if it is consensual between adults."

After Boudin left, the other panelists broke down some of the terms and continued the discussion. Cathy Reisenwitz defined sex work for viewers. “Sex work is an umbrella term that covers all forms of what we call erotic labor,” she said. “This is everything from selling erotic feet pictures on the Internet, to Only Fans, to escorting to outdoor/street sex work, phone sex operators, erotica writers, strippers.” 

Celestina Pearl attributed the term to Carol Leigh. She said that the term contextualizes “sex work within the movement for worker’s rights and to acknowledge that sex work is work and that workers deserve rights, protections, safety, the ability to organize amongst themselves.”

 ***

The panelists shared that there are different models of dealing with sex work. One of those models is legalization, where sex work is legalized and regulated. While this may sound appealing on the surface, sex workers do not advocate for legalization. As Pearl explained, legalization is simply taking power from empowered, wealthy cis-white men and handing it to other wealthy cis white men. “Whether it’s legalized or criminalized, sex workers are not able to make their own terms,” she said. 

Another model is partial decriminalization, such as in the case of the Nordic model. In this model sex workers are not criminalized, but buyers and pimps are. The goal of this model is to end the demand for sex work. However, this model, as panelists discussed, retains the problems of criminalization. It just puts those problems onto clients and everyone who helps sex workers – or is accused of helping sex workers. Under this model, panelists explained, boyfriends, family members, landlords, and even Uber drivers can be arrested for “pimping.”

The third model – and the one that sex workers prefer – is decriminalization. As Maggie McNeill explained, “Decriminalization is, simply put, the treating of sex work as work.” 

Further clarifying, she added, “The example I like to use is to imagine a restaurant. Certainly there are things like health codes and such, but when the health inspector comes to the restaurant and finds a health code violation, what does he do? He writes a little report and gives it to the restaurant owner and says, ‘Hey, you got to clear these out, I’ll be back in a week, or else you’ll be fined.’ What he does not do, is come in by surprise, trick the restaurant owner, bring a whole team of cops, and beat up the owner, the diners, the cook. the waitstaff, arrest them all, and take them to jail. That’s not what happens. So, under decriminalization imagine something like a restaurant, where there will be rules and laws, but they’ll be covered by civil code not criminal code.”

As was evident in the panel discussion, sex workers prefer decriminalizing all forms of sex work and regulating it under civil code because it has many positive benefits that the other models do not. 

Several of the panelists discussed a study of what happened in Rhode Island when indoor sex work was inadvertently decriminalized from 2003-2009. The study found that during this time, forcible rape offenses, as did rates of gonorrhea in women. 

Pearl said that decriminalization gives the power back to the workers and allows them to control their lives and work. 

Decriminalizing reduces violence against sex workers that is committed by clients – and police. As Reisenwitz explained, “…decrim enables a situation where sex workers can report their violent crimes against them without fearing arrest, where police aren’t legally allowed to rape sex workers, where these raids don’t happen, where sex workers can report potential trafficking to police and police can be helpful in those situations.” 

At various points throughout the panel, the panelists reiterated that consensual sex work is different than human trafficking – and that decriminalization actually helps identify human trafficking situations. As Pearl stated, “When we take away the whole issue of putting all this energy towards criminalizing people who are in consensual situations, essentially victimless crimes, then we will have more energy to focus on supporting those that are in problematic situations.”

***

The panelists talked extensively about the connection between racism, xenophobia, and the criminalization of sex work. McNeill linked anti-sex work laws to xenophobia – especially against Chinese people. "The first federal anti-prostitution law, the Page Act [of 1875], was also the first federal migration law, and it was specifically intended to keep Chinese people out. Anti-migrant, anti-prostitution and anti-Asian, all in one law,” she said.  

Reisenwitz brought up what Boudin had said earlier about his research in South Africa – that criminalization of sex work is a tool of white supremacy. She talked about an investigation of the NYPD done by ProPublica which found that cops were far more likely to go to poorer, majority-minority neighborhoods than to rich, majority white neighborhoods to conduct prostitution stings – and that they were far more likely to harass and arrest people of color. 

Pearl talked about how a similar process is happening in the Mission District in San Francisco. With the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, street-based sex work has increased. Neighbors and homeowners in the Mission went to police, and the Prostitution Abatement Task Force was created, which increased police presence in the area. This has created a repeated cycle – the police drive sex workers away and then neighbors stop complaining, but when sex workers come back, police presence increases. 

Pearl made it clear that the “Fight for decrim should be in solidarity with the fight to abolish prison industrial complex and for people to figure out humane community-based alternatives to policing. We can’t rely on systems that are oppressing us to empower us.” 

***

Reisenwitz acknowledged that declining to prosecute is a good step forward, but it’s important to remove the laws themselves. By removing the laws, the policy will be able to withstand changes in government and the DA office. 

While no laws have been passed decriminalizing sex work in California, there are some strides being made. Panelists discussed SB 233, which ends “the practice of using ‘condoms as evidence’ of prostitution” and  gives “people the power to report a crime that they’ve experienced or witnessed without being arrested or prosecuted for related sex work or misdemeanor drug offenses.”

Pearl shared that Senator Scott Weiner is working with the Decrim Sex Work CA Coalition, a group of six organizations that includes St. James Infirmary, to pass SB 357 which would repeal the loitering with intent to commit prostitution law. This law would not decriminalize sex work –– it simply eliminates the anti-loitering offense that results in violence towards sex workers and the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown people.

***

A viewer asked a question in the chat about what path towards decriminalization the speakers thought was more likely. This path, as became clear through the discussion, was not clear cut. 

McNeill said that she thought it would eventually be accomplished by judicial means, and that the process would likely look like Roe v. Wade, with repeated battles to overturn it. 

Reisenwitz said that laws criminalizing the buying and selling of sex “come from a place of creating these universal moralizing stipulations around sex that are not defensible from any empirical perspective.” She stressed that in order for decriminalization to occur, an ideological and cultural shift needs to happen.

The panelists stressed the need for clients to speak up. Reisenwitz acknowledged the difficulty in this, saying, “We have a culture where men are more embarrassed about paying for sex than having sex women who are too drunk to consent. That’s fucked.”

McNeill agreed and said that tools like social media and events such as the “Dear Sex Workers, We Love You” online series from St. James Infirmary are effective ways to humanize sex workers. As McNeill noted, these types of events and the humanization that accompanies them are important – because people don’t want to hurt others that they see as human. 

***

The fight to decriminalize all forms of sex work continues. To stay up to date on what is going on, you can visit our panelists’ websites and subscribe to their newsletters and social media platforms. 

If you want to support St. James Infirmary and the work they’re doing, visit their website, where you can make a donation and subscribe to their newsletter.


A win for non-monogamy: Cambridge, Massachusets extends domestic partnerships to multi-partner families

Some celebration-worthy news in the midst of challenging times: On March 8th 2021, the Cambridge City Council approved a domestic partnership ordinance that seeks to recognize and protect polyamorous and other multi-partner families and relationships. Put together by the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition (PLAC), this ordinance stipulates that a domestic partnership can include more than two partners. 

Researchers estimate that as many as one in five people in the United States have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point in their life. Yet while polyamorous and multi-partner relationships have been increasing, legal protections for these groups have been slow to follow.

“Non-nuclear families—such as single parents supported by relatives, step-families, open adoption families, multi-generational families, multi-parent families, and polyamorous families—have changed the landscape of American society, and yet, many of these diverse family structures are not protected or recognized by the law," said Alexander Chen, Founding Director of the Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. 

“The lack of legal protection makes non-nuclear families especially vulnerable to stigma and discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and social life," Diana Adams, Executive Director of the Chosen Family Law Center recently wrote. "I have represented hundreds of clients who have been discriminated against because they’re polyamorous, whether that meant being unable to visit their life partner in the hospital, losing child custody in court battles, or losing their job. Legal recognition of these families reduces social stigma and provides families with the stability we all deserve.” 

This is an important step forward for multi-partner families because domestic partnerships provide many important benefits.

In Massachusetts, the legal benefits of domestic partnerships include rights to:

  • Hospital visitation
  • Family healthcare coverage/employment benefits
  • Correctional facility visitation 
  • Access dependent kids' school records
  • Remove a child from school for emergencies
  • Bereavement leave
  • Sick leave to care for a partner

In addition to legal benefits, domestic partnerships help recognize commitments between people in multi-party partnerships. 

While certainly rare, this isn’t the first domestic partnership ordinance in the United States that recognizes polyamorous and multi-partner relationships. In July 2020 Somerville, Massachusetts legalized domestic partnerships between three or four people. The urgent need to expand access to health care during the COVID-19 crisis helped catalyze the change and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the unique vulnerabilities non-monogamous families face. 

However, the Somerville statute contained "provisions that made it difficult to be utilized in practice,” according to Diana Adams, Executive Director of the Chosen Family Law Center. The legal team at PLAC drafted a model ordinance that incorporated those learnings. For this reason Adams hopes it “may have much greater practical impact." 

While these ordinances only apply to Somerville and Cambridge, they mark an important step forward in legal protections offered to polyamorous and multi-partner families. People deserve to know that their love relationships and family structure can be recognized and protected under the law. They shouldn’t have to fear that they won’t be able to visit their loved one in a hospital ––  or that their community will only recognize one of their partners as being valid. I hope that these ordinances will provide inspiration and a framework for other cities, including San Francisco, to pass similar laws.


COVID Safer Sex Guidelines from the San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club

When it comes to public health, individual choices can have far-reaching repercussions. The San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club views public policy through a harm-reduction lens. 

We encourage everyone to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 while we seek better treatment and a vaccine. At the same time, we don’t believe it’s realistic to believe everyone, everywhere is going to only have sex with people they’re living with.

The SF Department of Health has released COVID-19 recommendations. As you navigate decisions on sex and COVID, we wanted to offer some additional science-based suggestions for making hooking up a little safer. 

  • Ask your partner when they’ve last been tested for COVID-19. A recent negative test is a good signal. But keep in mind that with delays in test results it’s no guarantee. 
  • If your partner has already had COVID-19, make sure it’s been more than 10 days since their symptoms began, they have been fever-free for more than 24 hours without using fever-reducing drugs, and their other symptoms have improved. (Caveat: Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​.)
  • Ask your partner if they’ve recently experienced any loss of taste or smell or any other COVID symptoms. Also remember that COVID-19 also spreads asymptomatically and your partner might be contagious 48 to 72 hours before they start having symptoms.
  • Take your partner’s temperature before going into an enclosed space or swapping bodily fluids. Again, this isn’t foolproof, but it can help avoid unnecessary exposure.
  • Ask your partner about their COVID exposure. 
    • How many people do they regularly interact with indoors without a mask? 
    • How about inside with a mask? 
    • What quality of masks are they wearing? 
    • Have they been in close contact with anyone who has recently been diagnosed? 
    • Are they an essential worker? 
    • Do they work in healthcare? 

Having a conversation about your risk and theirs can help you both make an informed decision about whether or not the sex is worth the risk. 

  • Consider forming a pandemic pod which includes sexual partners. 
  • Consider wearing masks while hooking up. Ideally N95 masks without vents. Might be a good time to experiment with fetish masks
  • Hook up outside if possible. If you need to be inside, keep the windows open. If that’s not possible, use an air purifier. Be mindful of Japan’s “three C’s” for contracting the virus: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings.
  • Try to keep your time in close proximity to 30 minutes or less.
  • Use barrier methods including condoms and dental dams for oral and anal play. Coronavirus has been found in semen and poop.
  • Experiment with glory holes.

It’s important to remember that risk is just one side of the risk/reward equation. While for some, sex is not worth any risk, for others it’s worth a lot. Just like for some, a massage or haircut is worth a lot of risk. The goal is to allocate your risk budget according to your preferences and to reduce as much low-reward risk as is practical.  

“Ignoring benefits at either the individual or the societal level comes with its own risks,” wrote Why is This Interesting? author Noah Briar of risk/reward calculations for COVID-19. “Abstinence education, for example, has been shown to be correlated with increases in teen pregnancy and STD rates in the United States. When it comes to public health, balancing personal and societal benefits with the associated risks is near the top of the list of concerns.”

For a list of comprehensive information on testing, resources, and other facts regarding COVID-19, please visit https://sf.gov/topics/coronavirus-covid-19. You can also text COVID19SF to 888-777 to get alerts for official updates from the City and County of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Sex-Positive Democratic Club exists to advance the ideals of Sex-Positivity in local governance and discourse. Sex-Positivity is a philosophy that all consensual sexual behavior between adults is inherently healthy and supports all sexual orientations, gender identities, relationship styles, opposes censorship, and supports sexual minorities, regardless of race, class, religion, ability, or ideology. 

We support public policies that advance this mission at the local, regional, state, and national level. We help elect qualified Sex-Positive candidates, including those who are: non-monogamous, kinky, sex-workers, LGBTQ, and members of other alternative sexual communities, as well as their allies. We work to sensitize and educate all Democratic candidates and officeholders, the Democratic Party in general, and the community at large, to the issues and concerns of these communities. To learn more, head to: https://www.sfspdc.org/.


BDSM & The Law expert panel discussion

In honor of what would normally be the month of Folsom, our September event was BDSM & The Law, an expert panel discussion on the legal status of kink (and non-monogamy). 

Check out the video of the event:

Can we really, legally, hit each other with sticks?… and floggers, and canes, and paddles, and OH HOW WE MISS KINKY PARTIES.

Meet our expert panelists:

Susan Wright founded the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom in 1997, and currently serves as Spokesperson and Director of Incident Reporting & Response. Susan also serves on the advocacy and community advisory committees for AASECT, the APA’s Division 44: Task Force on Consensual Non-monogamy, Kink Clinician Guidelines, and Diverse Sexualities Research Education Institute. 

Alex Austin, founder of the Austin Law Group, is an attorney who’s been protecting queers, creatives, perverts and outliers for over two decades. The firm focuses on social justice, the arts, adult entertainment, and BDSM. Alex also co-founded the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 1997, and is an Academy Award nominated Executive Producer. More than one client has lovingly dubbed Alex their “compassionate Pitbull.” Alex has been part of the Leather community for more than 30 years and is a founder and 'House Dominant' at The San Francisco Leather Service Salon. 

Randy Kirton has been intimately involved in the San Francisco kink scene since 2005 and has supported all kink venues in San Francisco and the East Bay. He is a retired police captain with 30 years of law enforcement experience and service to the community. Although retired now, is well versed in the law as it relates to BDSM and alternative lifestyles.

Miriam (Mir) Green is the owner of Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s Kink Cafe & Boutique, as well as Wicked Grounds Annex, a dedicated space for kink and sex positive education in San Francisco and beyond. Their mission is to provide coffee, kink, and community building for the SF and national kink scenes. They also co-founded the Bay Area Kinky Business Alliance (2014-2019). 

Becca Motola-Barnes, Sex-Positive Dems’ VP Internal Communications, moderated.

Below are some thoughts I had about the panel, but I recommend you watch for yourself to get the full experience.

I learned that consent is not necessarily a defense to assault. State law varies on this point. In California, the relevant statues are PCE sections 240 and 242. Neither mentions consent. After looking at the text of the law, you need to then look at case law. For most of us a relevant case is the Samuels case, decided in 2016. The court said you can't consent to abuse and anyone who would consent must be mentally ill. Which means that if you're practicing BDSM and your partner decides to accuse you of assault, legally consent is no protection. Now, these laws aren't consistently enforced. But, prosecutors can use them for child custody and other selective enforcement. 

If you believe you're being discriminated against for consensual sexual activity, report it to NCSF. Susan brought up that last year the government tried to take kinky parents' children eight times. This is down from 124 in 2008. The big difference is that the between 2008 and today the APA removed BDSM from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Which means vanilla parents can't point to the DSM to claim kinky parents are crazy. 

Despite low numbers, Randy brought up that most of us might not have heard of prosecutions of kinky people due to prosecutors depriving defendants of a right to a trial. Randy also brings up that if a neighbor overhears a scene and calls the police fearing violence police have a right to enter your home without your permission using reasonable force. Randy advises kinky folks to bring everyone involved to the door and explain the situation cooperatively. 

Alex described how sometimes people accidentally injure each other in scenes sometimes and stigma around sex and BDSM lead to people to not admit to doctors how they got their injuries. According to research from NCSF, these injuries are very rare. Less than 2% of consent violations result in injury. Alex chimed in: "In 25 years practicing law around BDSM I can count on one hand the number of people who've come into my office saying they were injured in BDSM play."

Becca advised folks to go into scenes aware of your limitations, medical insurance situation, health, etc.

When Becca asked how common discrimination against kinky people is Alex brought up that it's perfectly legal to discriminate against kinky folks. It's always a risk to come out at work. Some employers believe that openly kinky employees can harm the company's reputation. "My two favorite words are paper trail," Alex said. Document everything if you're going to be out at work. You can get accused of harassment for talking about your weekend activities (Folsom, etc.). Susan said that 80% of NCSF survey respondents aren't out at work. People get fired and lose their kids for having FetLife accounts. One HOA said a homeowner's two partners couldn't live with them. 

Randy reminded us that doctors are "mandatory reporters." If you show up bruised up, Randy advised us to tell the doctor how that happened because the doctor is required to report to police if they suspect abuse. 

Alex recommended that folks set up your medical directives, who your spouse/s are, who your children are, your name and gender, anything where the legal default isn't to your liking ahead of time. 

Mir chimed in with advice to kinky business owners. Make your team kink-aware, find kinky-friendly, lawyers, accountants, insurers, etc. Beware that credit card companies are very wary of kink-related businesses. Tell all your providers the nature of your business as soon in the relationship as humanly possible to save you both time.

NCSF Kink and Poly Aware Professionals list

De-pathologizing Consensual BDSM

NCSF's Dealing with Assault for individuals

NCSF's Trauma Pamphlet

Poly Cultural Diversity Alliance Virtual Consent Summit

NCSF Members Insurance

Key Concepts for Clubs

Reminder: Membership to SFSPD is open to all CA residents who are either registered to vote as Democrats or ineligible to register. 

Follow-up message from Randy:

I was very honored to have been asked to sit on the BDSM & the Law Panel, and truly enjoyed the experience. However, I have been deeply troubled since that night. 

Towards the end of the panel I told a true story of an on-the-job experience that involved a person of color involved in a role play situation in which I was called to investigate as a possible sex crime in progress. 

Upon reflection, I have realized that the story I told, while true, was racially insensitive. I offer my sincere apology for my tone-deaf and insensitive comments.

I have learned a valuable lesson and strive to do better in the future.


The EARN IT Act is Anti-Evidence Policy

What do you call a bill which all the evidence indicates is completely unnecessary for its stated purpose, will fail to achieve its stated purpose, and will create a lot of pain and suffering in the meantime? You call it the EARN IT Act. 

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the EARN IT Act in March supposedly to help fight online child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The EARN IT Act does this by making platforms liable for their users’ activity if that activity involves sex and minors. But this is totally unnecessary. Platforms are already liable for child sexual exploitation under federal law. Plus, tech companies sent more than 45 million instances of CSAM to the DOJ in 2019 alone, most of which they declined to investigate. The Earn It Act includes zero resources for proven investigation or prevention programs.

What it does do is threaten online speech and privacy. It does so by carving out another exception to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), which the ACLU describes as “foundational to modern online communications.” 

The Earn IT Act also creates an unelected commission, led by Attorney General William Barr, to create “best practices” to combat online child sexual exploitation. While these recommendations are nominally voluntary, platforms that refuse to comply will be liable for criminal prosecutions and lawsuits should the government decide any of their users is engaging in online child sexual exploitation. 

On Tuesday, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) along with a coalition of 26 civil society organizations urged the United States Senate to reject the EARN IT Act. Groups on the left and right, including the ACLU, Fight for the Future, EFF, and Hacking // Hustling oppose because it threatens free expression online and will threaten marginalized people’s safety while being totally unnecessary and failing to ameliorate the problem it claims to address.

The EARN IT Act Threatens Encryption

While there’s almost no evidence the EARN IT Act will do anything to protect kids online, there’s ample evidence it will threaten strong encryption. First there’s the fact that Barr has already attempted to ban end-to-end encryption. Then there’s the fact that the EARN IT Act empowers states to give law enforcement access to users’ private conversations and force companies to create encryption backdoors for law enforcement. 

Not only is this totally unnecessary since platforms are already handing over child sexual abuse material to the federal government, but it’s actually likely to make prosecuting child molesters more difficult since evidence collected this way likely violates the Fourth Amendment and would be inadmissible in court. “Accused CSAM offenders could get off scot-free,” Senator Ron Wyden wrote. “This is not a risk that I am willing to take. The EARN IT Act will not protect children. It will not stop the spread of child sexual abuse material, nor target the monsters who produce and share it, and it will not help the victims of these evil crimes. What it will do is threaten the free speech, privacy, and security of every single American.”

The EARN IT Act Threatens Free Speech

The EARN IT Act will also lead to online censorship. Platforms will be incentivized to scan their users’ communications and censor all sex-related content, including sex education, transgender or non-binary education and support systems, and sex worker communication according to the ACLU. The commission will not include LGBTQ, sex worker, or other marginalized community representation.

Learning from SESTA/FOSTA

We can more accurately predict what the EARN IT Act is likely to do because it’s modeled after 

2018’s SESTA/FOSTA, which purported to stop sex trafficking but actually just chilled online speech and made sex work more dangerous. It also did absolutely nothing to stop sex trafficking. 

Before SESTA/FOSTA, sex workers used websites like Craigslist and Backpage to avoid police violence, share lists of dangerous clients, positively identify clients, and negotiate rates and boundaries at a safe distance and without the need for pimps. In many cities where Craigslist Erotic Services debuted, all female homicide dropped by as much as 17% within a few years.

SESTA/FOSTA led to Online Censorship

The government can’t ban sex workers from sharing safety information or advertising directly without running afoul of the First Amendment. SESTA/FOSTA is a workaround, bullying online speech platforms into censoring their users to avoid liability. 

SESTA/FOSTA makes online platforms like reddit and Craigslist criminally liable for their users’ “sex trafficking” activity. But since the US government conflates adult, voluntary sex work with trafficking, platforms started deleting vast swaths of sex-related content before the law had even been signed. 

Fearing bankrupting lawsuits and possible criminal charges, Google and other cloud storage sites even started scanning users’ private files for sex-related content and deleting it without warning or permission. 

SESTA/FOSTA Made Sex Work More Dangerous

Suddenly sex workers no longer had access to social networks, bad date lists, verification platforms, and advertising platforms. As sex workers were forced back into street work and using pimps, thirteen sex workers were reported missing, and two took their lives in the first month FOSTA was enacted.

Sex worker advocacy groups have reported a spike in the number of missing and dead sex workers across the country. With fewer advertising venues, 80.61% of sex workers reported having trouble advertising, 72.45% are more economically unstable, and 33.8% have experienced more client violence since FOSTA. Literally 99% of sex workers who used the internet for sex work said FOSTA does not make them feel safer. 

“The devastation after SESTA/FOSTA passed was swift and widespread,” said Kate D’Adamo, a sex worker advocate with Hacking // Hustling. “Two years later, many sex workers are still trying to economically recover. We saw increases in client violence, predatory behavior, and no one can say that anti-trafficking efforts improved. Passing EARN IT without even fully understanding the failures of SESTA/FOSTA is negligent at best and knowingly exacerbating violence at worst.” 

No one has ever been charged under SESTA/FOSTA. The government claims the laws have decreased sex trafficking ads by 90%. But a Washington Post analysis found that just four months after FOSTA-SESTA’s passage, that number had rebounded to 75% of the original figure. Decreasing ads for prostitution actually makes finding sex trafficking victims more difficult, since ads were one of the primary ways law enforcement found traffickers. 

The only thing we’ve gotten from FOSTA is dead sex workers and bullshit lawsuits. A challenge to FOSTA’s constitutionality on First Amendment grounds is winding its way through the courts. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have introduced bipartisan bills to investigate the negative impacts, a first step toward possible repeal.

EARN IT: Child of FOSTA

“The internet has made sex work safer,” said Maxine Holloway, a Bay Area sex worker and advocate. “The Earn It Act threatens sex workers and survivors by taking away our online platforms. We use the internet to get support and protect ourselves. This bill does nothing to prevent trafficking, while taking away our biggest safety tool.”

The Bottom Line

We know what keeps kids safe online. We have evidence-based programs that desperately need funding and support. The EARN IT Act doesn’t include a single dollar of funding for these programs. In May, Senator Ron Wyden introduced the Invest in Child Safety Act which provides more than $5 billion in mandatory funding, assigns more prosecutors and agents to find and charge child predators, and tasks a single person with responsibility for these efforts. 

The EARN IT Act is not a well-intentioned bill with the unfortunate unintended consequence of censoring speech online and banning end-to-end encryption. It’s a cynical ploy that uses the spectre of online child abuse to erode Section 230 protections, bully platforms into censoring sex-related speech, and ban end-to-end encryption at the state level.


Remove the Police from Enforcing Morality

header image for remove the police from enforcing morality

The year is 1966, the place is the Tenderloin, Compton’s Cafeteria. A community of queer folx, many of whom were transgender women, sex workers, and drag queens, collectively screamed, “ENOUGH!” The San Francisco Police Department had been abusing and arresting members of this community for years - for being trans, for living as they chose to live, for engaging in sex work. So when an officer was, again, harassing a member of this community, she was so fed up that she threw a cup of coffee in his face. And like that, the smoldering resentment erupted into a riot. Three years prior to Stonewall, San Francisco had its very own LGBTQ+ uprising.

What this demonstrates is the systemic, enduring nature of how police violence impacts the communities we at the Sex-Positive Dems advocate for. Sex workers, and especially Black trans women, are regularly raped by police officers who rarely face consequences. Consensual BDSM is criminalized. Being polyamorous is seen by our legal system as a valid reason to deny parents custody of their children.

We stand with Black, trans, and queer protestors - past and present - who demand an end to police brutality. 

We believe that the police shouldn’t be in the business of enforcing morality. It is not the role of police to decide what people can and can’t do with their bodies, and the bodies of those who consent to interact with them. We believe that significant portions of the massive budgets given to law enforcement agencies across this nation, and specifically in San Francisco, must be diverted towards social programs committed to harm reduction. Programs like our friends at St. James Infirmary, which provide resources and health services to trans women of color and sex workers.

The narrative must shift away from a system that imagines punishment keeps us safe, to one that takes into account the root of most public safety issues: poverty, and the lack of investment in many communities. This includes expanding access to social workers, and having first responders who are trained in handling encounters that involve those with mental health barriers and challenges. Relying on police officers to function this way, as we do now, endangers everyone involved.

We support efforts to defund the police by Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton who, on June 4, 2020, announced they would redirect funding from the San Francisco Police Department and San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to the African American community to the tune of $120 Million over the next 2 years. This reinvestment represents a positive step in the national movement to reframe our approach to public safety. 

Additionally, we acknowledge that our membership and our Board are overwhelmingly White and cis. We are proactively recruiting to diversify our Board, and ask anyone who is not White and/or cis who might be interested in joining our Club or Board to please reach out to us. You can find us on Facebook and at sfspdc.org.


How to Be the Next Somerville: Sex-Positive Political Organizing 101 panel video

At the 2020 PleasureFest, our own Mark Press and Alex Lazar presented How to Be the Next Somerville: Sex-Positive Political Organizing 101. Amanda Bullington moderated the discussion.

The discussion covered the current context of political activism for non-monogamous and other sex-positive issues as well as legislative and electoral approaches to passing law and how to organize coalitions and lobby elected officials, with the goal of providing the tools for folx to organize in their local communities. 

Check out the video for the full discussion.



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