Toronto
2 min

You don’t know where that money’s been

Sex may sell, but apparently it’s not supposed to donate.

Earlier this month the Breast Cancer Society Of Canada rejected a proposed donation from a group of Vancouver-area strippers so as not to upset other, presumably more prudish donors.

According to an e-mail sent to Exotic Dancers For Cancer organizer Trina Ricketts from the society’s executive director Rany Xanthopoulo, “This decision came as a result of donor disgruntlement and together with the board of directors we have decided not to accept any donations from what donors consider controversial sources.”

The decision is an about-face from the society’s previous position. Last year the society accepted a donation of $3,000 raised from the exact same event. But apparently that was before the society heard from other donors who were “not in favour of this connection.”

Right, ’cause you wouldn’t want a breast cancer society to be associated with women’s bodies, now would you? No, better that it be associated with bake sales or high teas or whatever it is that those other donors deem to be acceptably inoffensive fundraising avenues.

It’s not just the matter of the money that makes this decision so deplorable; it’s that the very same puritanical attitudes that stigmatize strippers also worm their way into the psyche of the average woman. Shame, anxiety or fear of one’s own body and sexuality can then get in the way of women getting to know their own breasts and, consequently, being aware of changes that could indicate a problem. The Breast Cancer Society Of Canada should be embracing women’s sexuality, not shutting it down.

I noted a similar whiff of sex-negativity recently while organizing a fundraiser for Camp Ten Oaks. The show, entitled Nymph*mania (please note the double entendre; after all, it took me forever to come up with it) featured a variety of sultry sirens including several burlesque dancers. It wasn’t long before rumblings emerged in cyberspace lamenting the use of sex to raise money for a kids’ camp.

What is it about the sexual element that we imagine somehow taints the money it raises? It’s not like that money gets somehow gets infected with sex-positive cooties that then get passed on to the kids at camp through the popsicles that the money bought. (And even if it did work that way, would that really be a bad thing?) Why is it that, as a society, we’re so much quicker to overlook donations from mega-corporations that may or may not be exploiting workers or destroying the environment?

The argument that it’s inappropriate to use sex and sexuality to benefit kids reminds me of the would-be legacy of Natel King aka Taylor Sumers, the Canadian adult film star murdered in 2004. After her death her former agent, Stephan Sirard, proposed donating the proceeds of her last film, “Lesbian Lover,” to Toronto’ Sick Kid’s Hospital in memory of King who had been a supporter of the hospital in her lifetime.

But Sick Kid’s wasn’t jumping at the chance to receive the money. “We have to send the issue to the ethics committee and the board of directors for consideration,” said a spokesperson at that time. Yup, double-check that there’s no cooties on that cash that might get caught up in the kiddies’ cardiac equipment.

In the end the local children’s hospital decided to pass on the donated proceeds. “No, they never wanted to accept my donation because of the adult industry tie,” says Sirard. “Money from porn, no way.”

I do recognize that there are times when a charitable organization has to carefully consider what impact accepting a wad of cash will have, particularly when there are strings attached. Take for example cases in which funding from the US government to AIDS organizations has been tied to a commitment to promote abstinence and marital fidelity over condom use.

But when there are no strings attached, is the rejection of a donation anything but discrimination?