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Bringing sexy back

There's a lot more to being a queer-friendly city than throwing a parade As we head into late summer and start the 10-week countdown until the snow arrives, I have one question for you, Edmonton: where are all the queer sex parties? Our window of warm weather is closing quickly and despite the plethora of festivals in this city, I have seen disappointingly few dildos and cockrings on brazen display. Now it's entirely possible that this city is swarming with sex parties and I just don't happen to get invited. Certainly there are some sexy events already happening in this city. For all the kinksters there's Lupercalia in February, the ancient Roman-inspired weekend of fetish and fun. While the "kink off" party and masquer-


ade ball sound like a blast, there are clear rules against sex at the event. There are two swingers clubs in town, but both are more social spaces where people in heterosexual partnerships can meet (although I imagine there are many bisexual folks in that group). There's always Steamworks or, if you are willing to travel, infamous parties like New York's Black Party, but these are primarily for gay cis-men. So what exactly do I mean by "sex party?" I don't necessarily mean an Eyes Wide Shut party where wealthy (male) patrons are served by nubile (female) servants. Nor do I mean a puddle of anonymous bodies heaving and thrusting in any

which way, although both of these might be fun. I mean a public party where we can explore and celebrate all of the dirty, transgressive elements of sex that make being queer so much fun. For example, I used to attend a queer anti-Valentine's Day party in my hometown. It was queer in the sense that not every person there identified as queer, but that we celebrated everything other than the white, skinny, twoperson, heteronormative, vanilla, missionary sex that is over-represented in the popular imagination. And it didn't always work—confidential to drag kings: misogyny is not hot—but there is something transformative about a room full of people of all different genders,

bodies and kinks coming together and doing sexy things. Currently, at least, there doesn't seem to be anything like it in Edmonton. I recognize that such an event will not interest everyone and that conversations about sex are loaded in our communities. There has been much effort to make queerness more palatable, to disconnect "queer" from "deviant sex practitioners." While no one can deny that the disappearing stereotype of gay men as pedophiles is a good thing, there is a strong anti-sex rhetoric that accompanies the mainstreaming of queer. One needs only look to this year's Pride parade, where nudity was banned due to the "fam-

ily friendly" nature of the events to see this rhetoric at work. If Pride's commitments to sex (and politics) are surrendered in lieu of family friendly entertainment, where else can we let our freak flags fly? This is why public queer sex parties are so important: any claims about the importance of LGBTQ experience lose their strength if we don't have an opportunity to have some experiences. This is not a suggestion to download the sexual elements of Pride into separate parties, but rather a call to shake up our communities' slide into so-called normalcy. Let's show Edmonton how much fun sex can be, and maybe we'll stop being so afraid to bring sexy back. V


All change on the Internet

American spying has raised new issues about mass communication privacy Edward Snowden is safe from American "justice" for the moment, and he will certainly go down as the most effective whistle-blower in history. His revelations are going to cause a wholesale restructuring of the world's most important communications system, the Internet. And that, rather than his whereabouts and fate, is now the real story. On August 8, Lavabit, a US-based email-service provider that promised to keep its clients' communications private, closed down. The US National Security Agency approached it about six weeks ago demanding the same access to its customers' emails that it has already extorted from big American Internet companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft. The company's owner, Ladar Levison, is under an NSA gag order, but he wrote to his clients: "I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States." Jon Callas, co-founder of Silent Cir-

cle, another encrypted email service that has just shut down because it cannot protect its clients' data, went even further. "Email (that uses standard Internet protocols) ... cannot be secure," he wrote. The mass surveillance being carried out by the NSA not only gives the US government access to everything Americans say to one another, it also destroys everybody else's privacy, because the standard Internet routing protocol sends messages not by the shortest route, but by whichever route is fastest and least congested. That means, in most cases, through the United States, and therefore straight into the hands of the NSA. Snowden's revelations so far have told us about two major NSA surveillance programs, both probably illegal even under American law. The first collects the mobile phone records of over 200-million Americans. Don't worry your pretty head about that, darling, said Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee: "This is just metadata, there is no content involved." The NSA isn't actually listening to your calls. Well, OF COURSE it isn't listen-

ing to billions of calls. Machines can't listen to calls, and who has the manpower to do it with human beings? But machines can quickly use the call logs (metadata) to identify everybody you ever talked to, and everybody they ever talked to, and so on out to the fourth or fifth generation. If one of those thousands of people ever spoke to somebody abroad with a Muslim name (or somebody who works for Siemens, or Samsung, or some other industrial competitor of the United States), they may take an interest in you. If you're an American who has never had direct phone contact with anybody abroad, they may then apply to access the content of your calls and emails under the Prism program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which reviews such applications has refused precisely 10 of them (out of 20 919) since 2001. Besides, the content of most Americans' messages can probably be examined without recourse to the judges under one of the blanket authorizations issued by FISC. And if you're not American, or an American resident who once spoke to somebody abroad by phone, then you're

in a free-fire zone. If you are American, you probably don't care about that, because you are mesmerized by the guff about a huge terrorist threat that the security barons use to justify the endless expansion of their empire (now almost a million employees). A recent opinion poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 62 percent of Americans think "fighting terrorism" is more important than worrying about personal privacy. But if you belong to the great majority of Internet users who are not American, are not in a perpetual sweaty panic about "terrorism," and have no protection whatever under American law from the NSA's spying, then you will want ways to avoid it. So the market, or other governments, will such create ways. What's needed is a big investment in Internet switching capacity in countries where the spies are not completely out of control. Then non-Americans can just join one of the many servers that will spring up to meet an exploding demand for secure Internet services. Finnish Internet servers are already emphasizing the security of their services. Germany, whose memo-

ries of the Gestapo and Stasi secret police make it particularly sensitive about the NSA's spying, may take the lead in building non-US Internet capacity, or it may be big countries like Brazil and India that are relatively invulnerable to US pressure. But this is a huge market opportunity, and it will get done. And the losers? The big US Internet providers, who will find that few of their customers want to store their data in American "cloud" services. "If businesses or governments think they might be spied on," said Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, "they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be (American) cloud providers who ultimately miss out." As Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, put it recently: "America invented the Internet, and our Internet companies are dominant around the world. But the US government, in its rush to spy on everybody, may end up killing our most productive industry." V Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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VUEWEEKLY AUG 15 – AUG 21, 2013

930: Fringe to Fringe  

Touring festival artists find camaraderie on the road

930: Fringe to Fringe  

Touring festival artists find camaraderie on the road