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A.V. Flox
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A.V. Flox

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Airbnb, an app that helps travelers find places to stay, has a discrimination problem. As NPR details here, users with black-sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than their white-sounding counterparts. But this isn't the only demographic that has had issues with the site -- gay lodgers often also encounter discriminatory behavior from hosts.

Though Airbnb has tried to crack down on instances of blatant discrimination this has been limited to instances where, a host agrees to the stay and then kicks a lodger out when they see the lodger is black or gay. But there little Airbnb can do about discrimination that happens before lodgers make an arrangement at all.

The solution for many lodgers has been to draft profiles and exchange messages that don't let on. But the risk still exists of being turned away in a foreign country with nowhere to go, should racist or homophobic hosts turn a lodger away at the last moment.

This is what led Matthieu Jost to create the gay-friendly alternative, Misterbnb in 2013. After a trip to Barcelona during which Jost and his boyfriend got turned away by a homophobic host, Jost knew the market needed a change. Since then, Misterbnb has grown into a thriving community that enables gay travelers not only to find lodging, but create a sort of international support system for the LGBTQ crowd.

If the experiences of black travelers are any indication, the market is ready for a racially-inclusive alternative to the lodging app as well.
The sharing economy is making online transactions far more personal, which can lead to some unintended consequences.
A.V. Flox's profile photoKathryn Kure's profile photoSeverin Chervyachkov's profile photoBrian Holt Hawthorne's profile photo
+A.V. Flox When I re-read the article with that alternative interpretation the whole thing read differently.
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The Nordic Model, which criminalizes clients of sex workers in order to "reduce demand" for the buying of sex, is often seen as a radical middle ground to discourage involvement in the sex trade while penalizing consumers rather than sex workers.

But as this article notes, the model suffers from one major safety problem. By making it risky for the buyers of sex, the Nordic Model actively discourages clients from giving sex workers information about themselves.

People not familiar with the sex industry imagine that sex work occurs between anonymous strangers. While this is the case for some, especially the more vulnerable street workers, ever since the internet facilitated making such arrangements, a large number of sex workers have developed screening procedures to vet their clients, including running criminal background checks, getting references, and requesting digital transfer of deposits -- things which require divulging varying degrees of personally identifying information.

In an environment where the client is suddenly at risk of arrest, this system falls apart.

As Summer, a London sex worker tells Vice: "Right now I'm able to ask for detailed screening information. I can check clients are who they say they are, request deposits, and make sure my security buddy knows where I am and who I'm with. Under criminalisation, insisting on strict screening every time wouldn't be an option."

In an ideal world we'd probably pay attention to the testimony of actual sex workers before boxing their profession into a web of laws.
Olivier Malinur's profile photoMoses Osore's profile photoGert Sønderby's profile photoA.V. Flox's profile photo
+Gert Sønderby, Sweden hasn't fucked shit up like this since ABBA. 😉😉😉 
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It feels inappropriate to criticize this profile about the wife of American presidential hopeful Donald Trump because its author, Julia Ioffe, is currently being besieged by a particularly virulent strain of harassers. The anti-Semitic messages she is receiving are so horrific, it's difficult to feel anything other than righteous indignation on her behalf. But I'm convinced it's possible to feel both outrage about the author's treatment, and outrage at the way Melania Trump was profiled for GQ.

Other publications, in reporting Ioffe's harassment, have characterized her profile as "mostly positive." But it isn't. It's not so much a look at who Melania Trump is, but what she got wrong, beginning even before she was born: her family didn't suffer enough during Slovenia's hard times, her father refused to acknowledge one of his children, she cut the relationships that shaped her youth off to move up in the world, she was studious but only about things that interested her (which are depicted as lowly and unintellectual), she left one boyfriend who wasn't ambitious enough at 20, she has always dressed well and taken effort with her presentation but failed at her career as a model, she has big feet, she may have had work done but denies it, she is traditional in her marriage, her husband objectifies her relentlessly, she takes care of her own child, she now lives a life of impossible luxury, and so on...

It's a long piece, and deeply researched, yet the picture that emerges is vague -- and perhaps it's vague because Melania Trump gave Ioffe little to go on -- but I can't shake the fact that it might be more the result of the author's ambiguous feelings about her than anything else. Ioffe seems as though she's trying to answer a question about her subject only in relation to her husband: is Melania Trump a ruthless and calculating social climber who knows how to play hard-to-get, or is she a pushover who lets her husband do whatever he likes?

But do either of these things actually matter? Where is Melania Trump? She was studious -- what courses did she like best? When she quit her studies to dedicate herself to her dream of modeling, was it difficult? Was it difficult to leave family behind in pursuit of her dream? Did she have a support system in Milan or make her own way? When did she decide she would be a model, anyway? What does she think of that industry's obsession with youth? What does she think about people's obsession with whether she's had work done or not? What brings her joy today? What's her favorite thing to do with her son? What is a typical day in her life like? Is there such a thing as a typical day? What is it like to live in public? What is she worried about? When she thinks "home," what does she imagine? Is it a place, her family, or a feeling? 
In a GQ exclusive, Julia Ioffe talks to the bashful former model from Slovenia who's been the centerpiece of a GOP firestorm. It's a story full of naked ambition, stunning beauty, a shockingly Trump-like dad, and even some family secrets
Sordatos Cáceres's profile photoA.V. Flox's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photo
+A.V. Flox Yeah. Conservative women (or women married to conservative men, at least, because she hasn't expressed her political views) deserve respect and equality too. And spouses are not a homogenous extension of their partner. She's being used as a proxy for him. And while that proxy status is a part of the function of marriage, and of the First Lady in particular, it is not appropriate to direct ill feelings about him at her. She is her own person.
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The group Sexual Minorities Uganda have released a shocking report detailing horrific human rights abuses experienced by the LGBTQ community in the African nation.

In addition to 264 verified cases of human rights abuses against sexual and gender minorities in Uganda, the report also features testimony from LGBTQ citizens who have experienced first hand the violence and persecution behind the statistics.

This article details cases of extreme violence and may be very difficult for some to read.

The ground-breaking report: And That’s How I Survived Being Killed, reveals the violence, humiliation and wide range of human rights abuses LGBT Ugandan’s have to endure. Sexual Minorities Uganda have released a shocking report detailing beatings, forced anal examination and persecution experienced by the LGBT community in the country. In addition to 264 verified cases …
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Two former San Antonio police officers have been indicted on charges including aggravated sexual assault, compelling prostitution and official oppression.

Officers Alejandro Chapa and Emmanuel Galindo had been running an elaborate scheme in order to prey on women in economic difficulty. According to one of a number of victims, the officers approached women at bars and cafés posing as part of a vice squad and inviting them to participate in an undercover sting for up to $5,000 per day.

To formalize the arrangement, the women were made to sign a contract agreeing to do anything necessary to advance the "investigation."

It's not known how long the officers, who'd been in the department about five years, were running the scheme. According to the women who have come forward, none of them received a dime of the money promised for their involvement in the phony operation.

Things began to unravel for the officers last June when a woman called another police department to report she'd been sexually assaulted by a police officer. She turned out to be one of an unknown number of women victimized by the fake vice scheme.

A third officer, Aaron Alford, was initially arrested with the others, but he has not been charged. He was suspended from the force in January.
Emmanuel Galindo and Alejandro Chapa were indicted by a Bexar County Grand Jury on Tuesday.
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+A.V. Flox Yikes.
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Studies show that dancing at parties and in groups encourages social bonding, and many researchers have argued that people experience a blurring of the self into their groups thanks to the synchronization that occurs while dancing.

Yet it's also possible that the exertion inherent to dancing releases hormones -- as with any other form of physical exercise -- and these molecules are behind the bonding effect. A new study suggests both views may be correct, as +Jason Goldman​ explains.
Both exertion and synchronicity play a role in the social effects of dance
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+Aaron Wood, I'll lead! 
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This article has a bit of fun with a new feature the dating app Tinder is trying out called Tinder Social, which enables users to link up friends into a group in order to go out with other groups of linked-up users.

For the author of this tongue-in-cheek piece, this is a clear attempt to bring Tinder to the orgy crowd. But in the rush to score a giggle, what the piece misses is how Tinder enables users to create these groups of friends in the first place, which is pretty important for anyone concerned about privacy.

Tinder users Facebook to access photos and information. That means that this feature is able to access friends, too. If you're like most people, you don't only use Facebook for friends, but to foster a combination of social and professional relationships.

That means Tinder, once it rolls this out beyond Australia, is going to be showing you not only friends who are down, but possibly colleagues, bosses, inductors, students, your parents' friends, and just about anyone else who also happens to have a Tinder account.

This could get awkward -- and fast. But founders have waved away concerns, saying that everyone tells their friends about their Tinder adventures, so what's the big deal if friends see friends on Tinder?

What they seem to be missing is a common thing among online service providers: that it's not that users want to hide necessarily, but that they want the ability to control who they share stuff with and when.
If there’s one thing missing from Tinder, it’s group sex. The swipe-happy app is great for getting laid old school-style—waking up in the morning next to someone you will no doubt forget about by the afternoon—but it’s less helpful for finding some more-than-four fun.
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Belle mademoiselle 
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Zika virus is interesting in that it's not only sexually transmissible, but also carried by mosquitoes. With rising temperatures, the risk to Americans now that Zika is in the U.S. is scarier than ever. Unfortunately for us, our first line of defense -- bats -- are being threatened by their own epidemic, which has a kill-rate of 90 percent.

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease that's devastating bat populations in North America. The disease is caused by a fungus that was accidentally brought here by humans. This fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, invades the skin of hibernating bats and disrupts both their hydration and hibernation cycles during winter.

Hibernating bats are forced awake by WNS during the winter, burning up limited fat reserves. Many of them are forced to leave hibernation sites before the end of winter, weak, dehydrated and in a fruitless search of food, leading to their death.

The epidemic started in the east, but made quick work of spreading across the country. Most recently, the fungus was found in Washington state. As this article in +California Academy of Sciences​' new magazine BioGraph details, the fungus got more than a little help from humans to make its way.

We're losing the species that could best protect us from mosquito-borne illness, just as climate change is making the country more hospitable to mosquito populations.

Elizabeth Hadly weighs in on why bats need our help—now more than ever—and why we need bats.
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+A.V. Flox They're amazing critters! I think someone found a cure for the fungus recently. I hope it's viable and can save them from crashing.
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Riese has done thorough and comprehensive analysis of trans female representation on American television on Autostraddle.

"Partially I’m motivated by wishing I’d had something definitive to point at when people argued the Charlotte reveal [in Pretty Little Liars] was no big deal, or that Caitlyn Jenner’s existence has summarily ended the misrepresentation conversation," she writes. "But the deeper I got into the material, the more I just felt like this information needed to be gathered and presented in its entirety, because the repetitive tropes at play here are truly horrible."

Using a variety of sources, Riese was able to discover 105 characters who seemed to be either overtly or subtextually trans representations. Over the course of six weeks, Riese logged over 50 hours of television watching and reviewing for the purpose of creating this compilation. It is well worth the browse.

Autostraddle walks you through the entire history of trans female characters on American television from 1965-2015.
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+Jordan Parks, this is one of those moments where I wish I prayed.
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The dating app Ohlala landed in New York City earlier this year, officially cementing mutually-beneficial relationships in the world of American online dating.

This isn't the first startup rodeo for cofounder Pia Poppenreiter, whose earlier startup Pepper made headlines in the United States even though it was only available to German users. Pepper connected sex workers to clients, preventing its entry into the American market.

This isn't the case for Ohlala, which Poppenreiter calls an app for "paid dating," in the style of the popular site Seeking Arrangements. But unlike the latter, Ohlala has a decidedly Hinge flavor.

For one thing, men on Ohlala don’t get to see women's profiles unless they're approved by them. After that, the two have 21 minutes to chat through the app and decide whether they’d like to go on a date and how much the man will pay. All of the specifics are ironed out in the app, and the date takes place that night.

Like other such apps, this speed is supposed to make dating easier for both busy men and busy women who want a more straightforward way to connect. Poppenreiter believes the money provides an impetus to meet that is lacking in apps like Tinder.

Since its launch stateside, Ohlala has facilitated 10,000 dates. The app is heterosexual right now, but Poppenreiter has an eye on the gay community next.

In this interview with Galore Magazine, the app's cofounder has a good time dismissing the discomfort of an American audience that can't quite decide whether women who expect to be compensated for giving the time of day to men are gross or victims. 
She's got some interesting views on sex, dating, and morals...
Kee Hinckley's profile photoA.V. Flox's profile photoGretchen S.'s profile photoMichael O'Reilly's profile photo
Good points, +Gretchen S.. I realized as I was writing my comment that there was no way to go into all the nuances of relationships, and considered deleting it all for being imprecise, but then figured I'd leave it in hopes of at least continuing the conversation. :)
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You can tell how much we as a society value women’s safety based on what we’re willing to sacrifice for it. When we talk about anything that might inconvenience men, the cost of women’s safety is always too high. But when it comes to infringing on trans women’s security and freedom, all of a sudden we’re told we should be willing to pay any price.
Given that women have been sexually harassed and assaulted by their male coworkers and bosses, why don’t we pass a law against men in management positions? A couple weeks ago, I wrote a Role Reboot article called “Stop Using Women’s Safety To Justify Transphobia.” Since then, an unprecedented number of people have taken it upon …
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+Gretchen S. The world is a big complicated mess unfortunately. We all do what we can. Most of us, anyway. 
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A teacher had his Facebook account suspended after posting an image of the famous work of Gustave Courbet, _L’Origine du monde,_ which beautifully renders a woman's genitals. Enraged, the teacher -- who happens to be French -- sued Facebook for censorship under French law.

Facebook's response was that the suit was invalid as all users agree to California as venue and jurisdiction when they click "Accept" after their eyes glaze over scrolling through the Terms of Service. But this is Europe, and anyone who's been keeping up with tech news knows how ready and willing Europe is to fight this fight.

Facebook will have to face a censorship lawsuit over a 19th century oil masterpiece of a woman's vulva. The teacher is only asking for €20,000 (or about $22,500) in damages, but a lot more is at stake -- after all, if France's censorship laws apply, why not Britain's horrific libel laws? Why not the whims of a dictator?

(Via +Olivier Malinur​)
Paris court says Facebook cannot mandate that its French users sue in California.
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+James Karaganis, my guess is that it's for political points. But I'm probably biased because I live in the U.S. and that's what our politicians prefer. It's why Facebook (and Silicon Valley as a whole) has such a ridiculous relationship with nudity in the first place: American politicians love to generate panics about imaginary dangers to children from the internet through the naked bodies they may see there, which politicians then "address" by bullying companies or passing laws, and sending out self-congratulatory press releases.

When you think about it, it's a lot easier to vilify something and enact measures against it than it is to actually try to foster an alternative. (For example here, politicians love to fear-monger about the dangers the internet poses to children, but they continuously defund entertainment alternatives for children.) 
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Velocitus delectibus.

I'm AV -- that's pronounced like the letters A and V. Most people call me that, but a few prefer the less familiar Flox, which is pronounced like you would if you were talking about various flocks of birds (see? it only looks complicated). You may call me either of these things. 

I'm a writer. I've written for a variety of publications, including the Village Voice, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Gizmodo, and Vice. My main focus is sex -- the norms around it, the organs we use, the health issues that affect it or are a consequence of it, the way governments and private companies want to control it and the way we express ourselves around it, the markets that exist to cater to it and the labor issues within them, and so on. Sex touches everything. You would be amazed how many incredible disciplines I get to explore writing about sex. Not too long ago, I was buried under a stack of papers about 16S rRNA and metagenomic sequencing! (Why? Because vagina. You can read the piece on Vice.).

Besides writing, I have edited blogs about relationships and science for the Village Voice and, a women's network that was reaching 90 million monthly visitors by the time it was acquired by SheKnows Media last year for a reported $35 million -- more than AOL paid for TechCrunch just four years prior. 

My content here on Plus will reflect my beat, but please note that in general, my posts and shares involve more analysis than titillation. I have analytics, I can see how many of you browse on the clock! No judgment -- I'm honored, actually. But because of this, as a rule, I do not publish images or articles that contain preview images that are not "safe for work" (that is, anything that may make a colleague feel uncomfortable in a workplace) and I strive to let you know when a link I have shared contains this type of imagery so you don't click it without knowledge.  

I am not opposed to pornography, but I do believe in consent -- I do not want to expose anyone to visually sexual content unless they explicitly opt-in to see it. So if sexy imagery is the sort of thing you're looking for, you won't find it here. However, feel free to visit my NSFW love letter to desire on Tumblr. It is overflowing with various degrees of graphic depictions of cisgender, heterosexual sex that I find pleasing. (If cis/het isn't you, try a Tumblr-wide search for a keyword that better speaks to you. Some of the best gay yiff I've ever seen is on Tumblr. And if you do not know what that is, don't look it up at work!)

I also use content warnings, since some of the things I share touch on things that you may not want to read about right then (assault, unsettling health conditions and accidents, etc.), and spoiler alerts. 

A lot of people follow me as a resource on issues of sexuality, so I try to keep my social media channels focused, but people are multidimensional and I am no different. Google Plus is where I am most focused. If you want a slightly more varied feed with more snippets from my life, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter

My Instagram has first publishing rights to much of my life's imagery, so if you like pix, I strongly recommend you find me there. (My Instagram account does not disseminate sexual imagery, but I do post images from events I attend and sometimes these events are adult industry conferences. Don't follow me just for that, though -- I am not all work and no play, so, yeah, you may get to see awesome candids of porn stars, but you'll also have to suffer through, like, a million videos and pictures of an octopus trying to make an escape from its tank at the California Academy of Sciences, or the bacula collection at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Also, bugs. I love bugs.)

Pinterest is where I put cool stuff that I find online. A number of my boards are dedicated to cool products -- and, yes, one of them is devoted entirely to sex products. Go take a look and see if there is anything worth following. (I also have a community here on Plus called The Desire that I hope to develop into a destination that combines relationship resources and awesome products. If you are interested in that, go ahead and request to join.)

I maintain a complete list of my profiles across the social networks I use on About.Me. If you need to reach me, though, your best bet is to mention @avflox on Twitter. I only receive messages from people in my extended circles here and on most other social platforms, so I may not even see that you tried to reach me if you private message me. On Twitter, though, I see everything -- and it's more reliable than taking your chances with an e-mail web form. But if you don't tweet or you want to stay on the DL, you'll probably want to take your chances with that web form or the e-mail option on About.Me (you don't need to create an account to use it).

I never thought I'd have to mention this, but seeing how many users on this network believe the existence of my profile indicates my sexual availability, allow me to clarify: I am not here to sexy chat with you. I don't usually flirt, even with people I like. I consider joking around an intimate thing so unless we have interacted a few times, I may not respond to your joke. Or at least, I may not respond well. I hate compliments. I reserve the right to delete comments that veer off topic or otherwise blemish my stream. Repeat offenders are blocked and immediately forgotten.

Regarding the many nude photos of me that exist and are said to cause so much "confusion" -- I took them, had them taken, sent them to someone, or posted them myself for my jollies. Personally I think that they represent a woman who is comfortable in her skin, in touch with her body, unashamed of her femaleness, and unwilling to censor it. I am flattered if you have derived some pleasure from their existence, but please note that their existence has nothing to do with you. I did not take them for you. I did not post them for you. I probably don't even know you! They're not for you even if I do know you! (Except you, Grandma, because you made me read Simone de Beauvoir when I was, like, seven and I owe you everything.)

So please -- do not wander onto my spaces online and expect that behaving in an overly familiar fashion is going to endear you to me. We do not have a deep meaningful connection because you saw me naked. Everyone has seen me naked. You are a unique snowflake, but it is not for this reason. 

Nothing I wear or don't wear is license for anyone to treat me like I am a thing that exists solely for their personal entertainment. I am a living organism -- I exist for myself. Just like you. And like you, when I post about something, I want people to comment on that something, not wax poetic about what they want from me. 

I mean, look, I get it. We all have urges. I understand this. I too have seen a picture and thought, "OMGWOULDBANG!!!1!" You are not damaged or monstrous for this. What I am saying is that writing this out as a comment on a person's social stream is not a successful strategy, and doing it when that's not even the topic is outright maladaptive. As someone who writes about getting laid, I feel I am uniquely positioned to speak on this topic, so you should pay attention.

Anyway, if for some incomprehensible reason you should wish to seduce me: go for my brain. Flattery is boring. Negs are like little gnats. The biggest compliment you could pay me, the most disarming level attention you could bestow upon me, requires that you only take the time to read something I've posted and have a brilliant conversation about it.

You don't need to be witty or "alpha" or otherwise a perfect specimen of the gender you identify with. You just need to share your views and tell your stories. Treat me like a human and show me your human. Hottest thing ever.

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Some muses inspire artists. I prefer scientists. "You know what you are? You're an idea Hydra. Discuss one idea, and two more grow." -- Fraser Cain
Journalist; columnist; editor
  • Village Voice Media
    Web Editor, 2010 - 2011
  • BlogHer
    Contributing Editor, 2008 - 2010
  • BlogHer
    Section Editor, 2011 - 2012
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