Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit is a safe haven for people working in the sex industry. No matter our level of anonymity – fully out, semi-open, or completely anonymous – we know we’re among friends. In private hotel rooms and conference session rooms alike, we feel empowered and safe to share details about ourselves with the understanding that that information will remain confidential. Many of us don’t use our full legal names on our name badges. Some of us wear lanyards that signal we can’t have our pictures taken. We all assume that confidentiality will extend to all areas of our presence and likeness at the conference.
This year, Screaming O broke that confidentiality.
Earlier today, Screaming O posted two videos of the “body safe” session at this year’s Sexual Freedom Summit to their YouTube, as well as sent press releases to various industry magazines and websites with links to the videos. The first video was a short, 2-minute promotional video featuring the session’s panelists. The second was an hour and a half long recording of the entire session – including the question and answer period at the end, which featured many attendees’ voices.
There are a lot of problems to dissect here. First, the panel was a garbage fire. Plain and simple. Ruby Goodnight wrote an excellent summary of it here. Second, Screaming O used footage from the panel as PR content. Some attendees were aware that panelists had worked with Screaming O, but they were never listed as a “sponsor” of the session.
What’s more, it appears that the panelists had no knowledge of Screaming O’s press release, claims of sponsorship, or their intentions to release the full, unedited footage from the panel.
It’s obvious there are myriad concerns about the content of the panel itself, as well as how the panel is being used as official company PR, but the most disturbing thing about all of this is the gross ethical violation Screaming O committed when they recorded, uploaded, and shared content of the full session.
We were never alerted to the fact that Screaming O was recording the panel with the intent to publish it online later. All of this was done without our knowledge or consent. While this isn’t illegal in Virginia, it is wrong, and further, it violates Woodhull’s policy on filming workshops.
Screaming O’s decision to post a recording of the body safe panel is a MASSIVE consent and safety violation. Anonymity extends to people’s voices. People’s voices in the video are identifiable – some who spoke up, like myself, shared their names or their places of work, all under the guise of confidentiality. This was supposed to be a safer space among colleagues in the sexual freedom movement, specifically among people who care about sex toy safety, and Screaming O destroyed that.
Posting recordings without consent can endanger people’s personal safety, jobs and economic security, and families and children. Screaming O jeopardized these things for people all along the anonymity scale. Even for people who wore a lanyard signaling it was okay to be depicted in photos, that doesn’t mean it was okay for our voices to be recorded and shared without our consent. As mentioned in Woodhull’s statement on this issue, in order for Screaming O to ethically film and share recording of the panel, ALL panel attendees would have to be notified of the recording, sign a release form, and be willing to be captured on film and audio. None of this happened.
What Screaming O did is egregious. Their actions could have seriously endangered the people who spoke during the panel’s question and answer session, and they violated the consent of every single person in attendance. This behavior has no place in the sex toy industry and no place in a conference geared towards people invested in social justice and liberation.
An important note: Screaming O’s actions are in no way the fault of Woodhull or their Sexual Freedom Summit. They are tireless supporters of bloggers and other Summit attendees, and immediately released a statement condemning Screaming O’s behavior as soon as the recording was released. I still fully support Woodhull and look forward to attending the conference in the future.