Archive for November, 2007

The Sexies! A New Award for Sex-Positive Journalism

November 9, 2007

Sexies

I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, and I suppose I owe you a “what I did on my summer vacation” post (partial report: I went to Scotland and looked out a window at a very green field filled with more sheep than I had seen since my sheep-filled childhood).

What, you didn’t know I had a sheep-filled childhood? Well, my memoir will cover all that: sheep, evangelicals, trees, the whole deal. Right now I want to talk about the present — nay, the future! I want to tell you about the most exciting new project I’ve been mixed up with in some time: the Sexies.

The Sexies are the just-announced Sex-Positive Journalism Awards. I’m one of the judges, and I look forward to reading many fabulous articles (and a few really heinous ones) and hobnobbing about them with my fellow wizards. This idea is the brainchild of Miriam Axel-Lute, a journalist who noticed how many other sorts of journalism awards there were, and also how relatively rare it still is for a mainstream journalist, especially, to have the freedom to do a really good job with a sex-related story assignment. Too many of these articles are hogtied by editors concerned about “community standards,” or are written by journalists who really exhibit their own bias and confirm those of their readers. Hence, the birth of the Sexies, which will recognize those who get it right (and there’s also a category for those who get it really, really wrong: compare and contrast, class! That one’s called the Unsexy).

This isn’t just an academic exercise. What people read in the papers, in magazines and on websites affects how they understand the world around them: look at the role US journalism has played in the politics of the US over the last six or seven years. When there’s a backstory we don’t hear, it makes the front story hard to understand; in the case of sex-related journalism, that can involve misrepresenting (or ignoring) the role of consent in a purported crime, or the presence of a sex community with its own community standards, or pandering to sex-negative opinion without showing a sex-positive slant that would change the way a reader experiences the story.

At the same time, there are journalists doing amazing work trying to help people really understand sexual issues, or remaining scrupulously fair about whose quotes they use, or doing the extra legwork to understand the context of the sex-related topic about which they’re writing. Several of those journalists will be awarded: the categories are News, Feature, and Opinion, and each of these has four divisions: daily newspaper, weekly or biweekly newspaper, online news publication, and sex-themed (or sexual orientation-themed) news publication. The first three divisions are for generalist publications rather than those which cover sex topics as a primary part of what they do. The Unsexy will not be awarded by division; contrary to the way Keith Olbermann does it, there will be only ONE worst… sex story… in the worrrrlddd!

And you can recommend your favorite articles! The Sexies are in their nomination process for the 2007 award until March 23, 2008. It’s fine for a writer to nominate her/him/hirself, or for a reader to do so. The only requirement is that the article must have been published in 2007. Nominate online at www.sexies.org/submit.php.

Who will judge these, besides yours truly? My fellow wizards are a terrific lot: Judith Levine, whose great book Harmful to Minors uncovered, among other things, just HOW bad sex education in America has become (for a good look at her importance see “What Judith Levine is Really Saying”); sex therapist Marty Klein, PhD, author of must-read e-zine Sexual Intelligence and the recently-released America’s War on Sex; Jack Hafferkamp, PhD, one of the founding editors of the late, great Libido: The Journal of Sex & Sensibility (plus he used to be a journalism professor, so he knows what writers should be doing); the one and only Dan Savage, of “Savage Love” fame; Liza Featherstone, who wrote “Sex, Lies, and Women’s Magazines” for the Columbia Journalism Review; http://www.zmag.org/bios/homepage.cfm?authorID=71, a contributing editor to The Nation; and last but certainly not least, Claire Cavanaugh, co-founder of Babeland (which is also a sponsor of the Sexies, along with the Center for Sex & Culture, and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom).

Perhaps you are asking yourself, “Wow, what can I do to help this fine project?” I am SO glad you asked, because Miriam already thought of that, and she cooked up this useful list: 10 Ways to Support Sex-Positive Journalism

1. Give money! The Sexies are a labor of love. But love doesn’t pay the bills. If you can give $100, $50, or $25, it will help us promote the awards, cover our expenses, and honor our winners properly. www.sexies.org/support.html.
2. Submit entries. Yes, readers as well as writers can submit. Articles have to have been published in 2007, in a general audience newspaper or news site, and meet high journalistic standards as well as our sex-positive criteria. Full guidelines, criteria, and a submission form are on our website: www.sexies.org.
3. Tell everyone you know. Blog about us, bring us up at opportune (or inopportune) times with family and friends and your local newspaper editor…
4. Make us popular. Join our LiveJournal community (sexposjawards), friend us on Myspace (www.myspace.com/sexposjournalism), post our site on Del.icio.us, Digg us.
5. Sign up for our announcement list. If you don’t do LiveJournal or Myspace, sign up for our update mailing list, sexies_upate@yahoogroups.com, to stay up to speed.
6. Link to us. Even if you don’t want to make a big fanfare, a link helps us in search-engine rankings.
7. Become a corporate sponsor—or connect us with your favorite sex-friendly business that might want to be one. E-mail info@sexies.org for more information.
8. Donate airline or Amtrak miles to get our winners to an awards ceremony. E-mail info@sexies.org if you’ve got a chunk to offer.
9. Mention us in a letter to the editor, especially our sex-positive journalism criteria and resources for journalists, both of which are on our website. If you’ve always been meaning to write in to your local paper about their sex-related coverage, good or bad, now’s a great time to do it!
10. Ask your favorite sex-positive publications, and your favorite mainstream ones as well, to cover the Sexies. We think we’re pretty unusual and would make a good story!

See? So many ways to have a hand in the improvement of journalistic discourse. Think how good you’ll feel about being part of this fabulous project — I know I am! Visit http://www.sexies.org to get more acquainted.

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