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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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Opinion

Sexualizing the homeless does not help them

Nov 01, 2023

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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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Homelessness is a growing crisis in the United States, with the number of homeless persons increasing by around 6% each year. The high costs of housing and living expenses, combined with strict laws and regulations regarding zoning and new construction, make this issue one of the toughest to resolve in America.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence looks at a new project from the Nomad Alliance, a non-profit group for homeless advocacy, called the Sexy Nomad Calendar. The project takes sexually suggestive photographs of homeless men, packages those pictures into an annual calendar, and then sells the calendar for fundraising. Lawrence argues that the project dehumanizes and sexualizes homeless men and that it further erodes their sense of dignity and self-worth.

So why use sexual exploitation to raise awareness to the homelessness’ plight? The math ain’t mathing here. If anything, taking sexually explicit photos of unhoused people would seem to only compound the psychological trauma because it basically communicates that your value to our society is sexual. That’s when we’ll notice you.

Sexualizing people does not humanize them. It degrades them. As a woman in a patriarchal society, I can tell you that being reduced to your sex appeal is not a win. Nor is having folks look at images of you in a sexualized manner, or perhaps even mockingly, if that’s what Nomad Alliance is truly leveraging here.

At bottom, we can’t ignore that our society has ignored and neglected a significant number of people. And that number is only growing. According to the 2023 State of Homelessness Report issued by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the unhoused population in the United States has been on the rise since 2017, yet the rate of homelessness services have not caught up.

We need to raise awareness about housing insecurity and the state of homelessness today, and we must do it in a way that dignifies those impacted. It’s imperative that we showcase the humanity in these individuals, not the sex appeal.

housing should be a human right yet from New York City to Seattle to Sacramento. Issues with homelessness abound. While I’m forever grateful to those who use their voices to raise awareness to critical issues like this, I will say that one organization in Salt Lake City Utah is doing too much. This outreach group called Nomad alliance is creating a 12 month calendar spread of unhoused men portrayed seductively in centerfold poses. It sells these sexy Nomad calendars for $40 a pop, emphasizing that being featured in the calendar can boost confidence for the unhoused men. Seriously, sexy Nomad is on its third edition. While the calendar is organizer told The Washington Post that all publicity is good publicity, it’s clear that all awareness ain’t good awareness, sexually exploiting the unhoused is not cute. It’s inhumane and unacceptable, hard stop. Most Americans are likely unaware that there is a connection between sexual violence and housing on the front end and on the back end. By that I mean, sexual violence is a major driver in causing homelessness and housing insecurity. At least 16% of boys and 61% of girls report sexual abuse as the reason that they ran away from home. Sexual violence is also compounded on the back end, that is after people lose their housing. Whether or not someone is displaced because of sexual violence in the home. It’s well established that those experiencing homelessness are at an increased risk to become victims of sexual violence. The streets are a haven for it. In fact, some 20% of homeless adults report being physically or sexually assaulted while living on the streets. And shelters provide no shelter when it comes to sexual violence as they can easily become silos for it. All said sexual violence has the power to force people onto the streets, only to attack them when they’re there. So why use sexual exploitation to raise awareness to the homelessness plate, the mathlete math in here. If anything, taking sexually explicit photos of unhoused people would seem to only compound the psychological trauma, because it basically communicates that your value to our society is sexual. That’s when we’ll notice you sexualizing people does not humanize them. It degrades them. As a woman in a patriarchal society, I can tell you that being reduced to your sex appeal is not a win. Nor is having folks look at images of you in a sexualized manner, or perhaps even mockingly, if that’s what Nomad alliance is truly leveraging here. At bottom, we can’t ignore that our society has ignored and neglected a significant number of people. And that number is only growing. According to the 2023 state of homelessness report issued by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The unhoused population in the United States has been on the rise since 2017. Yet the rate of homelessness services have not caught up. We need to raise awareness about housing insecurity and the state of homelessness today, and we must do it in a way that dignifies those impacted. It’s imperative that we showcase the humanity in these individuals, not the sex appeal

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