Last week The Screaming O put out a factually-incorrect press release to pat themselves on the back for an imaginary job well done with regards to a panel session at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2017 titled “The Truth About Body-Safe”. In addition to falsely claiming that the “sponsored” session was a “resounding success” presented to a “packed hall” they released the full, unedited video recording of the session on YouTube and their own website. This recording included the voices of Summit attendees who were in the audience and asking questions or making comments loud enough to be captured in the audio portion of the recording.
In an official statement released by Woodhull Foundation, Ricci Levy denounced multiple points of their press release:
An article appeared claiming that a recent Woodhull Summit workshop had been “sponsored” by a toy manufacturer, Screaming O, and including a link to a video of the workshop. We want to make it clear that when the workshop was selected there was no indication that it was a sponsored workshop. In fact, Woodhull does not permit sponsored workshops, and Screaming O had refused all invitations to actually be a visible sponsor of Woodhull’s 2017 Summit. We have spoken with Anne Hodder who had, unfortunately, been ill from shortly after the Summit and had no knowledge of the false sponsorship claims being made by ScreamingO.
When questioned about filming the panel, we gave permission ONLY if all attendees were notified, signed releases and were willing to be captured on film and audio. That did not happen and no one in the workshop gave permission to be filmed. Despite this violation, Screaming O posted a video of the workshop on its website.
I’ve been sharing blogger insights and information with Ricci over this past week, and have talked to Anne Hodder-Shipp, the now-former publicist who had worked with Screaming O since 2009 but resigned on Friday following their handling of this debacle. For full transparency, Ricci has shared with me (so that I, in turn, can share with you) the correspondence between herself and the COO of The Screaming O, David “Hui” Newnham. Other than the press release which was not written or discussed with Anne before its release, the public hasn’t seen any comment from Screaming O. We’ve pinged their username on Twitter and Facebook and some have emailed them. Some, like myself, left them a message on Facebook Messenger last Wednesday when it was noticed that they were listed as “online and active”. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a response but they saw it:
Anne made a public statement on Twitter last Wednesday but has included a larger, more updated statement here:
I learned of Screaming O’s Woodhull PR at the same time Ricci did and was sidelined. It did not come from me and did not accurately reflect my involvement in the panel. At my urging, Screaming O temporarily moved the video offline but it is not clear what will happen now. I went on leave for an illness on Aug. 6 and have not been privy to Screaming O’s plans, and now I’m left reeling that months of independent research (and years of hard work) has potentially lost all credibility because of a bad attempt at PR.
This was a difficult role to play and I learned a great deal throughout. I stand by the independent research provided during the panel and am proud that I survived the stress and anxiety that came along with it. But I do not support Screaming O’s actions and feel sad and disappointed by them. To be clear: the panel was not sponsored; I was not paid to do the work, I attended the conference on my own dime, and Woodhull did not accept financial support from Screaming O this year. Screaming O was 100% removed from the process and had no involvement or influence over what was discussed during that panel.
I was responsible for Screaming O’s PR and marketing for more than 7 years; they were my first and longest-running client and a lot of positive change happened from the inside out, including the lab-testing initiative that eventually inspired me to work directly with a polymer testing lab and a molecular biologist to learn more. As a sex toy fan, industry journalist-turned-publicist, and sex educator, this subject has been near and dear to my heart for almost a decade and I was excited by the opportunity. However, it seems my intention for the panel and the video recording did not match that of Screaming O’s and, following recent events, I decided that it was time for me to move on from my role.
Ricci and Anne worked to get the full, unedited video removed on Wednesday and were successful….at the time. But because the press release contained further inaccuracies, Ricci emailed The Screaming O and urged them to ammend their press release. Ricci writes:
We appreciate that you took down the non-consensually-filmed full workshop video and replaced it with a shorter “highlights” version. I would like, now, your assurance that the longer video will never be shown or used for any purposes.
Additionally, I’d also appreciate you clarifying the fact that ScreamingO did not sponsor the workshop, both in the article and in the introduction to the video. We do not permit sponsored workshops at the Sexual Freedom Summit any more than we allow filming or live streaming without the permission and knowledge of all attendees at the workshop.
The following is the full response from Mr Newnham, COO. This response shows absolutely no remorse. They are denying any wrong-doing and have a gross misunderstanding of “transparency”. Bold emphasis my own.
Dealing with your second point first we are more than happy to work with you and your team to issue a joint clarification as to the role of Screaming O in the presentation of the panel. If “Sponsored By” might imply that Woodhull accepted payment in consideration of including the panel in the program, which is not true; then I am sure we can clarify that while the panel was included in the program solely on its merits, Screaming O facilitated its presentation by compensating the professional panelists for their time and expenses, which is true.
On your first point alleging that the workshop was filmed without authorization, I can only deny your assertion.
You, yourself helped arrange the recording on March 20, 2017 by introducing Anne to Rick and Ted, noting that she would be arranging a videographer to videotape the workshop. All attendees in the room would have been aware the event was to be recorded by the prominent placement of 3 cameras, a microphone and by seeing Gideon working as a camera operator. Finally, Woodhull clearly anticipated that certain parts of the show would be photographed by asking each registrant to affirm or decline their authority to be included in pictures by the wearing of either an Orange or Green lanyard.
The workshop was recorded with the full knowledge of all participants and without objection.
We have, and will continue, to make a full unedited version of the workshop available online so that those interested parties that were unable to attend Woodhull might benefit from the information presented. This is entirely consistent with our values of providing open, honest, evidence based information related to body safety that will allow a better informed public to make their own decisions.
Indeed, I am completely surprised at the apparent controversy surrounding this and the inference that this transparency is somehow a bad thing. I cannot see how it could be anything but good.
The response from Ricci, part of which I’ll share here, doesn’t mask her anger and disgust at Summit policy being violated and audience consent being violated.
As for the video itself, we’re not going to debate with you or, in fact, even explain Summit processes, rules and agreements. The leader of the workshop was aware of our rules. And while interaction was offered with our tech people, there was no follow through from Anne Hodder or anyone at Screaming O after an initial inquiry.
Transparency? At no point during the workshop did anyone share with the attendees that Screaming O was videotaping and would be using the tape for their own purposes. Nor did anyone share that Screaming O had paid the expenses for the two experts on the panel. Transparency is a good thing, Hui, but not when you betray the words and hide behind them as an excuse to expose people and put them at risk in their personal lives.
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They may have taken the video down, for now, but as of Friday showed no remorse and no intention of keeping that video out of the public eye. Whether or not they edit out audience members’ voices before they put the video back online remains to be seen and I’ll update here when that happens.
As someone who was in the audience (and in fact right behind Gideon who was tucked away against the wall, unobtrusive) I can assure you that there was no “full knowledge” and no chance to “object”. Did some of us notice the recording cameras? Yes, absolutely. But because most of us knew Woodhull’s policy due to experiencing it already in other sessions, we assumed that the recording was happening for private use only, perhaps by Woodhull, perhaps by Anne Hodder – but certainly not by Screaming O. Their name wasn’t even brought up, and no one knew who the man in the corner was. NO ONE gave consent, NO ONE had the chance to object.
Mr. Newnham used, incorrectly, the fact that Woodhull passes out color-coded lanyards as proof that “photographs are expected” of the “show” and I can’t even tell you how infuriated that makes me. At least one person who spoke up was wearing a lanyard that meant “no photographs” and furthermore that still doesn’t absolve them from obtaining consent and alerting everyone about their intentions. He is also using the logical bullshit of “implied consent” to absolve them of any wrong-doing. My reaction to that last sentence isn’t something that I can type in words, it’s a sound akin to a really mad Howler Monkey with a face of pure thunder.
I refuse to support a company who lies and violates privacy and consent with abandon. I can’t trust them on ANYTHING anymore. I am absolutely disgusted at Screaming O’s attitude and their actions from Wednesday on. Even if they don’t publicly re-release that video, even if they remove the audience voices if they do re-release it, the point is that they don’t give a shit about privacy and don’t understand consent. As a blogger who is partially anonymous, I can’t ever work with them again due to privacy concerns and my own ethics. I can’t condemn their words and actions harshly enough. I’m frankly so disgusted and enraged that the words coming out right now come off stilted, clinical, and don’t seem to portray what I’m feeling well enough. It’s because I’m so focused right now on getting this information out there so that everyone else can decide for themselves with full knowledge, that I am not letting my own emotions fly too high.
After I suspected their material claims were false/inaccurate for years I was ready to re-think my opinion of the company after Anne and a few others got them to lab-test their “SEBS” material and then publicly “admit” that it wasn’t the “silicone blend” they’d insisted it was. Other industry people that I trust told me to trust in Anne and by extension the Screaming O. While I don’t agree with everything Anne and others said in the panel, I still have respect for her and I don’t lay any blame on her for this mess. But now my support for The Screaming O is pulled. I won’t recommend their products.
Fuck you, Screaming O. You are putting people in danger unless you obfuscate the audio of all audience members.
This post doesn’t even begin to touch on how I felt about the contents of the session. That may come later, but I can assure you it has sparked a renewed interest in the flame test. The words from one of the scientists about the flame test talked about things I’ve never even mentioned as a “result that will give you answers”. But I digress. You can read the transcript of the session here, read Ruby’s rant here, Sarah’s rant here and see tweets from the session here.
Comments from audience members are especially welcome here, as I’d like to know if I’m alone in not knowing the truth about those recording cameras.
2:00pm EST – as I’m writing this post I’m notified that TSO changed the wording on their press release, removing the wording that lists them as the sponsor. You can compare this new version to the original.