Discussion Sexual Ethics – Issues of Gender, The Sex Industry, and Human Trafficking

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Note: In this exercise, like many other topics explored in this course, we cover controversial issues. People can differ widely in their beliefs and practices related to these issues, as viewpoints are based on many different aspects of their value systems, backgrounds, morals, and religious convictions. These topics are explored in this class because they are part of the social milieu. Whether it makes us uncomfortable, or not, these issues are a part of our modern world and to understand them is to better understand ourselves, our neighbors, and humanity in general.

Please remember to remain respectful and tolerant of differing views surrounding the issues we will discuss in this activity.

View one or more of the following videos/talks about issues related to sex and/or gender. Note that some portions of these videos my contain sexually explicit discussion and/or language. After viewing the videos/talks, address the following questions in your discussion.

Videos/Talks

  • Gender – The Space Between (1:00:09) (Links to an external site.) – This CBS news report explain how over the past several years, transgender narratives have populated countless headlines and TV sets. The world watched as Caitlyn Jenner transitioned, “Transparent” swept the Emmy Awards, and a Virginia boy’s case to use the men’s bathrooms at his school is headed to the Supreme Course. Yet, in all that conversation, there is a type of transgender person you will never hear about. They are known as non-binary. They use the pronouns they/them as a form of identification. “They” do not identify with being neither male nor female. Rather, these individuals often choose to reject gender completely, or fluctuate between masculinity and femininity on a day-to-day basis. As a result, no one non-binary person is like the next. View their stories in this video.
  • Is Anatomy Destiny? (18:48) (Links to an external site.) – In this talk, Alice Dreger asks this question, “Why do we let our anatomy determine our fate?” Alice Dreger works with people at the edge of anatomy, such as conjoined twins and intersexed people. In her observation, it’s often a fuzzy line between male and female, among other distinctions.
  • The Ethical Stripper (15:06) (Links to an external site.) – This video will challenge your presumptions, stereotypes, and convictions with Stacey Clare as she raises important questions at the intersection of feminism, worker’s rights, objectification, and sex work.
  • Sex Worker – The Truth Behind The Smile (15:10) (Links to an external site.) – In this TED Talk, Antoinette Welch, former ADA in Nashville, TN, who won a landmark case under enhanced sex trafficking law, identifies and tackles the issues with the unequal societal perception of prostitution, how those views leave women drowning in the cycle of prostitution, and how the Hannah Project levels the playing field for those who want and need help to get out of the vicious cycle.
  • What Do Sex Workers Want? (18:01) (Links to an external site.) – Everyone has an opinion about sex work, but what does sex worker Juno Mac think? In this TED Talk, Juno takes us through four different legal models addressing the sex industry and explains why they and sex workers around the world believe decriminalization and self-determination are the only way to keep sex workers safe. An activist with the Sex Work Open University, Juno campaigns for better working conditions by fighting criminalization and is involved with public education projects around issued relating to sex workers rights.
  • Someone You Love Could Be a Sex Worker (17:04) (Links to an external site.) – In this TEDx Talk, sex worker and advocate, Valerie Scott discusses how she always wanted to be a sex worker and expresses her extensive experience in the profession. She is a founding member and legal coordinator of Sex Professionals of Canada, a sex worker rights organization. She has been a passionate advocate for her colleagues’ human, civil, and legal right for the past thirty years. She has testified as Canada’s Senate and at several Parliamentary committees. she has spoken at numerous community meetings, colleges, universities, and conferences about the humanity of sex workers and the need for full decriminalization of adult sex work.
  • Sex Trafficking Isn’t What You Think It Is (13:39) (Links to an external site.)– Professor Meghan Sobel defines sex trafficking, not how Hollywood expresses it to be. Professor Sobel explains, “When I first started studying sex trafficking in 2008, I thought it meant girls were kidnapped and chained to beds.” In this TEDx Talk, she homes in on the true identity of sex trafficking. She believes that in order to combat sex trafficking, we must first understand what it truly is.
  • Sex Trafficking (17:51) (Links to an external site.) – “No girl wakes up and looks in the mirror an says I want to be a prostitute.” Linda Smith is a saint with relentless determination, professionalism, and poise. She has dedicated her life to the issue of sex trafficking. She literally saves lives justice for those who cannot defend themselves through policy change, awareness, and activism. To alter the course of human rights, Linda Smith explains that we must change our perception, language, laws, and response in an effort to stop this criminal offense.
  • Trafficking: Seeking solutions to a Hidden Crime (18:22) (Links to an external site.)– Trafficking can happen to anyone and in forms one would not find obvious. It’s not just the girl working in a brothel in the Red Light District and neither just the boy locked up in a makeshift cannabis factory. Victims of trafficking can remain hidden in the most obvious places. In her talk, Markella Papadouli offers solutions to this organized, systemic, and hidden crime.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the basic issues and main themes addressed in the videos?
  • Were the issues addressed from a biased or unbiased perspective? Were the presenters operating with an underlying agenda?
  • Was there agreement or disagreement among presenters regarding the main issues addressed?
  • What were the major moral/ethical issues related to these topics?
  • How does the concept of ethical relativism relate to this topic?

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