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The Lady Is a Tramp: Eco-Sex Is Green….And Still (Mostly) White

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In a post I published at Change.org, I said that race links environmentalism and porn partly because it boxes people of color in a particular frame:

"as (real) victims of and activists working against environmental racism; as people who are ignorant/uninterested in saving the planet; as people who are 'too poor to afford' to chip in."

When it comes to eco-sex, people of color are…where? The reasons why people of color would participate in eco-sex is simply subsumed under the guise of "everyone's getting their leg up!" This can be a great statement—because, for many people of various races and ethnicities, it's a fact—but it can also veer into some "colorblind" rhetoric that can disguise some very real ways that sex, green and otherwise, may be approached by whites and people of color partly because we're (still) dealing with the repercussions of sexual stereotypes. So, it's great that, say, people can participate the eco-friendliness that is the online porn—but, if one looks at a lot of mainstream (especially cishetero) porn, it starts to look less friendly to some if people's race or ethnicity are explicitly listed as a sexual specialty, like anal or cream-pies…and those people look akin to you.

Or, if we are talking about condom use: yes, we can have great campaigns about them—and talk up using the most vegan-friendly ones available and how to dispose of them—but we also need to discuss access to them, including financial access (meaning affordability) and geographical access (meaning the condoms are available at one's neighborhood drugstore, convenient store/bodega, health-food store, and community health center—let's have some real talk about the 3AM booty call and everyone not having a car because they can't afford one or just don't want one—as well as one's favorite sex store). And nowadays, with some people of color doing sex work, we need to discuss legal access and its ramifications, too.

Another touted eco-sex aspect is the use of green sex toys…another great idea for those can and want to afford, with some exceptions, the $100+ price tags. (In this economy, very few people, white or of color, can. This recession can make a $30 vibrator seem prohibitively expensive for some people's budget. Or there are people of color who may not be constrained by budgets but just don't want to spend the money. And to counterargue that "people should save up" or that "well, they should just learn to buy more 'wisely'" really misses the systemic ways that help and hinder some people, especially some people of color, in obtaining, spending, and saving money.)

And for those people of color who want to keep it really basic because they just don't care for gadgety sex (and are aiming for zero carbon footprint), it may be necessary to talk about affordable (yep, even free), safe, accessible, and friendly sexual classes that can address racialized sexual histories and still give people the freedom to enjoy their bodies and safer sex.

And even after discussing the nut-and-bolts on how to make eco-sex appealing to people of color, there's the image problem. Most associated with the movement, with very rare exception, are of white--and mostly straight, cis, and visibly able-bodied--people. As with many sexual representations and conversations in the US, whiteness—and by extension, white people—are the default and the ideal, which has some very real consequences that keeps so many of us from expressing our fullest sexual selves for our own sakes...and for the Earth's sake.

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Comments

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Classes and condoms

A big YES to free safer sex classes. I've learned from every such class I've attended, even when I went in thinking I was well-informed. It's important that they be free at least sometimes, too. When they're not, obviously there's the whole lack-of-funds issue, but they're also easy to pass on when one's not sure they'll be "worth it," because all of the sudden a class seems like an unnecessary expense, a luxury. Also, feel free to tell me if this is a stretch, but I feel like having to pay to learn about safer sex (from a credible health expert) subtly sends the message that only people with cash to spare are "entitled" to worry about it.
I'm interested in the issues you raise surrounding condoms. When I looked at the "how to dispose" link, it surprised me that the Mill article basically says "throw them out like you probably do anyway." I get that burying creates litter, and flushing is obviously a NO, but doesn't the fact that there's still no less trashtastic option for such a common non-recyclable seem...just *wrong,* somehow?

Thanks for the response, TheBadAssMuppet

Yes! Yes! Yes! Your observation that paying for a safer-sex class sending that unmistakeable message of those who have the $$$ to spare are "entitled" to worry about it is spot-on.

Sort of like making organic food, which is supposed to be "good" for everyone, only affordable for some. And--I actually saw solution at the end of the much-heralded documentary Food, Inc.--the solution isn't just making sure the organic-food store/co-op/farmers' market accepts food stamps. It's a great start, but it also shows a lack of understanding of government assistance and US poverty. Not everyone qualifies to get food stamps but still can't afford organic food. So, what happens to those folks and their access to such great food?

As for the Mills link: that seems to be the common advice for green disposal of condoms. And, yep, it seems really, really wrong.