Contact: Susan Wright, 917-848-6544 or Miriam Axel-Lute
To hear some people tell it, all of "the media" is a degenerate, sex-drenched affair. But although there's plenty of talk about the sex lives of celebrities and a willingness to use a scandal to sell a paper, when you get into the content of actual news stories, things often take a turn for the Puritanical: Soccer moms' fabricated allegations about kids being exposed to nudity in a hotel hosting a swingers conference get printed as fact and never retracted. Religious minorities are assumed to speak for all religious Americans, or even all Americans, when it comes to whether "abstinence" should be the teen sex-ed gold standard. Usual standards of fairness and objectivity fall prey to reporters and editors' squeamishness.
In response to this state of affairs, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the Center for Sex and Culture, Babeland, and journalist Miriam Axel-Lute are launching the 2008 Sex-Positive Journalism Awards (the "Sexies") to promote fair, accurate, and non-sensationalized coverage of sexual topics. The awards are currently accepting entries that meet both high journalistic standards and the Sexies award criteria.
"For the past decade, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has dealt with media reports that include sensationalized and false information about sexual issues," says Susan Wright, NCSF spokesperson. "These articles cause harm by encouraging discrimination and persecution of adults who engage in consensual sexual expression. NCSF is proud to support the Sexies and sex-positive journalism in America."
"The media's frequent failure to apply balanced journalistic standards to sex-related topics affects real people's lives," says Carol Queen, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Sex and Culture. "A sensationalistic perspective can turn neighbors against each other or make it hard for someone accused of a sex-related offense to get a fair trial. It also means that too many of us worry about whether we're 'normal,' and don't realize there are sex-positive communities, sources of information, and professionals out there. Just as in the political arena, when the press does not do its job, there is real fallout."
The winners of the Sex-Positive Journalism Awards will be chosen by an outstanding panel of judges, who have expertise in both journalism and sex-positive advocacy: Dan Savage, author of the popular sex-advice column "Savage Love"; Carol Queen, PhD, writer, speaker, educator, and activist with a doctorate in sexology; Liza Featherstone, journalist and author of "Sex, Lies, and Women's Magazines" (Columbia Journalism Review); Jack Hafferkamp, a former journalist and journalism professor and co-editor/publisher of LIBIDO: The Journal of Sex and Sensibility; Judith Levine, journalist and author of the award-winning Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex; Doug Henwood, contributing editor to The Nation; Marty Klein, PhD, certified sex therapist, therapist trainer, and author of America's War on Sex; and Claire Cavanah, an activist, writer, speaker, and educator in the field of human sexuality and a founder of babeland.com.
"All but the most confident and self-assured among us are affected by the messages we receive about sex," says Claire Cavanah, co-founder of Babeland.com, a founding sponsor of the Sexies. "It's freeing to read an article that assumes that most people want a pleasurable, vibrant sex life. Sex-positive media creates space for readers to think about sex in a way that goes against some of the damaging messages that our culture perpetuates."
"There are journalism awards rewarding good coverage of everything from private aviation to colon cancer," says Axel-Lute, "but there was nothing out there to reward writers who went the extra mile to be fair and accurate about something as essential to human identity as sexual expression. The Sexies fill that gap."
The Sexies will be given in four categories: news, feature, opinion, and "unsexy" (the most egregious violation of the Sexies' criteria). The first three categories have three divisions each: daily general-audience newspaper, weekly or biweekly general-audience newspaper, and online general-audience news publication. [Divisions updated Nov. 7. See press release or criteria page.] The Unsexy award has no divisions. Articles must have been published in 2007. Article series must have started or ended in 2007. Submissions are due by March 23, 2008. Both writers and readers can submit articles for consideration. For full guidelines and a submissions form are available on the website. Winners will receive a cash prize and a plaque. The Sexies are seeking corporate sponsors and individual donations to support our mission. Donations can be made at www.sexies.org/support.html.