The “Body Safe” panel at Woodhull went wrong in so, so many ways. So much so, that I’m having to write this post instead of a general recap.
I’m literally shaking as I write this. I’m so angry, and so scared. Lawyers are getting involved. I worry that a vindictive stalker or family member can use this situation to disrupt my family, calling Child Protective Services to cast a shadow of doubt on my capability as a mother. I worry that if I say anything, I’ll be doxed by Screaming O and its lawyers and be outed. I worry I may need to shut my blog down. I once posted that I held out hope for them as a company. All that has been shattered and we’re now pitted against each other, potentially in a court of law.
How did we get here?
I’ll admit, we had a feeling how the panel would go, knowing the lead panelist was the independent public relations freelancer that worked for Screaming O. Another panelist worked for the laboratory Screaming O contracted to test their toys after the “SEBS silicone” debacle. The third was a molecular biologist with a similar background to mine (I spent nearly 10 years in the biotechnology field) who happened to be a high school friend of the PR freelancer. It seemed like a stacked deck. Sure enough, the panel was a shitshow.
Metis Black, who heads up Tantus and is a Woodhull board member, introduced them. Then she sat with us in the audience, disagreeing and sighing with us. She even threw them a bone, giving them an opportunity to talk about harmful additives in pigments. They dropped the ball.
The panel was full of semantic word policing, excuses for materials that bloggers warn consumers to stay away from, and oddly, cameras. I, personally, only saw one camera and assumed it was for Woodhull’s use, because they have a media policy that would have had us sign releases if the case were otherwise.
The whole time, they missed opportunities to say something of substance, and spent a lot of time contradicting themselves. During the panel, they perpetuated the now debunked 10% silicone myth, the also debunked condom myth, and wildly misrepresented the flame test. While they said that UV light speeds up degradation and increases porosity in sex toys, they failed to mention there are UV light toy cleaning devices on the market. They even tried to frame buying porous/toxic toys around social justice.
Social justice? They didn’t once talk about the lack of access to toys for the poor and homeless, what prison populations use as sex toys and the problems therein, free sex toy movements, the prevalence of anal toys without flared bases, or actual injuries from sex toys. They claimed sex toys should be disposed of regularly like toothbrushes, but failed to note any impact on the environment or on the wallets of people that buy them every few months rather than one silicone toy upfront.
They perpetuated the myth that silicone toys are prohibitively expensive for the average consumer. While they’re not, there is a community of middle class consumers that lacks access to affordable body-safe toys, and that’s in the large toy market. In that case, large toys are much more expensive when they’re silicone, generally, but there are exceptions. They failed to acknowledge that nuance.
Then they said they weren’t trying to tell anyone to do or not do anything (except for us – educators and bloggers – to use precise language, even if it confuses consumers).
The whole panel was the kind of white feminist liberalism that wants to “see both sides” and not inspire direct action. So, it didn’t go well. And I raised my voice about the debunked myths. Several of us raised our voices.
After Woodhull, we found out what the cameras were for. They were placed there by Screaming O, who recorded the entire session, including the voices of the audience. Including voices of anonymous attendees: my voice.
Screaming O put my voice, unedited, in that video on YouTube and then their website, archived here. The video has been removed for now, but for the better part of a day, it was up, and I just found out they may have plans to put it back up publicly. They don’t think they did anything wrong, and now lawyers will be involved and I may need to testify in court!
Also removed was a ridiculous press release, archived here. Note how they tried to ride on the back of Metis and her work on body safety, as though she endorsed their panel simply by introducing it. She didn’t.
Woodhull was instrumental in getting the video and the press release taken down initially, since Screaming O violated Woodhull’s media recording policy.
This definitely isn’t a company you can trust, and casts a shadow on the entire panel and their assertions about what “body safe” means. The lead panelist also later said on Twitter the panel wasn’t actually sponsored by Screaming O, but I honestly don’t know what to believe. How did the cameras get there? Why didn’t you acknowledge who put the cameras there? I would have noped out of that session so fast had I known!
My privacy and anonymity were violated. I’m wary of all of them now. There’s something about being violated that breeds mistrust.
Now, I don’t mind the transcript that was made, or being identified as my blog name for the transcript. What I mind is my actual voice, which is pretty distinctive, being put up on the Internet. What I mind is that I have a history in the sex positive community while secretly running my blog, and face people in that community who I’m not “out” to recognizing it. What I mind is the risk of being doxxed by Screaming O for asking them to take the video down and leave it unpublished. What I mind is that at least one other blogger has lost custody of their children for being a sex blogger.
What I mind most, though, is that my wife could be outed by someone finding out who I am. She could lose her job for being trans in our state. That would mean the bulk of our livelihood would be gone and we could end up homeless, possibly having our kids taken away from us. This has real consequences for us.
What I mind is that it’s come to this, when Screaming O clearly violated Woodhull’s policies and clearly has done wrong here, and they don’t fucking care.
As my anxiety medication use when I found out about the video (and now that I hear it’s going back up) shows, this is causing me, personally emotional distress. I don’t have the best relationship with my family. Vindictive groups are often trying to find ways to shut down feminist writers. Anti-trans groups are always trying to dox trans people and ruin their lives. My family is at risk here!
I feel so much shame for giving this company a chance, for going into that panel with an open mind, for trusting what should have been a safe space. Victims of this type of violation often feel it’s their fault. I know it isn’t my fault. I can’t stop the way I feel, though.
And I wonder how long a legal battle will draw out. I wonder what will happen to my blog.
Stay tuned, I guess.