Sex-Positive Journalism Awards: The Sexies
It’s a funny thing about sex and journalists.
While much of America thinks of the press as being "too liberal," when it comes to sex, journalists - and their bosses - tend to be particularly squeamishly uncomfortable.
Stories about sex in both the mainstream and alternative press tend to fall into a clear set of very broad sex-negative categories: the nudge-nudge, wink-wink story and its variant, the "Oh, Those Wacky People" story; the overly medicalized (ED is Epidemic!) story; the sensational (Sex and Drugs!) story; the bad people ("Pedophiles and the Web") story and the just plain disapproving (The "Gay Sex and the Decline of Civilization!") story.
It’s enough to give sex a bad name. What to do?
Enter the antidote, the "Sex-Positive Journalism Awards," known as "the Sexies" for short. Recently the very first Sexies were handed out for a wonderfully wide-ranging set of stories. (For a complete list and links: http://sexies.org/news/winners08.html )
"The Sex-Positive Journalism Awards have gotten a warm and enthusiastic response from journalists and the sex-positive community alike," says Mirian Axel-Lute, who dreamed up the awards. "They have gotten mentions in places farther afield, too, like ScienceBlogs.com. While not every commenter agrees with every one of the judges’ picks - that would be a miracle! - we feel the awards are helping to prompt conversations about what does or doesn’t constitute sex-positive reporting and writing, and spreading the word about writing that deserves attention."
Funny name though they have, the goals of the Sexies are fairly ambitious:
* Encourage conversation about media coverage of sex.
* Prompt readers to consider news coverage about sexual topics in a critical light.
* Encourage journalists to improve their coverage by aiming for the award standards.
* Connect journalists with existing resources to improve their knowledge of sexual topics.
In other words, says Axel-Lute, "The awards are something any traditional journalist should be proud to hang on his or her wall - a testament to journalistic standards of fairness and accuracy about a charged and controversial subject."
Full disclosure: For a variety of reasons including a long career detour, I was one of the judges. Somebody had to do it. Other judges: columnist Dan Savage, author/activist Carol Queen, author/therapist Marty Klein, Babeland founder Claire Cavanah, writer/radio host Doug Henwood and journalist Liza Featherstone.
Happily I can say that we read a lot of good work. Surprisingly perhaps the big winners in the first year were from some fairly well known publications. But that doesn’t mean the writers didn’t feel they were working alone.
"Many winners have told me that winning a Sexy was a big boost for what sometimes feels like lonely work," says Axel-Lute.
Adds Cory Silverberg in the About.com sexuality Guide, "Take for example the first-place work of Alysha Rooks and runner up Jenna Bromberg. They write columns for their college newspapers. With dozens (maybe hundreds?) of sex columns at colleges across the country, how many of us have the time or patience to wade through them to find the gems? After reading their winning entries I now plan to follow what I hope will be long careers for both of them.
"Some of the names on the list of winners will be familiar to people who seek out news and opinion about sexuality, but many won’t; and I think this highlights one of the most important roles the awards can play."
If you read a story about a sex-related topic and think it deserves consideration, please let the Sexies folks know about it. Submissions for the 2009 Sexies are open and they will be accepted through March 2009 at www.sexies.org/submit.php. Or Email a link or a copy to: email@example.com
As a judge, I’ll just say, as they like to say on the busses in Chicago, "if you see something, say something." Especially if it’s good.
Take a look at these 2008 winners:
"The Miami Herald," ("Never Too Old for Sex," by Jill Bauer, http://www.miamiherald.com/360/story/277558.html
"Slate," "Naughty Nursing Homes," by Daniel Engber http://www.slate.com/id/2174855
"The New York Times": "Abstinence 1, S-CHIP 0," by Amanda Robb. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/18/opinion/18robb.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
The biggest surprise winner was Alysha Rooks column ("Between the Briefs) from the University of Michigan Law School’s "Res Gestae" http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/RG/archives/editorial/columns/between_the_briefs/index.html