In my years traveling and writing as Libidot, Josephine Ho is one of the friendliest and most articulate people to come across my path. She is a woman-warrior who works as full professor in the English department of Taiwan's National Central University, where she founded the Center For the Study of Sexualities in 1995. Ho's Sex Center is a vibrant academic and activist institute that archives information, assists sexual minorities, invites scholars, and organizes conferences on all things sexual, including gay/lesbian and transgender. In Taiwan, everybody knows Josephine Ho and everybody has an opinion about her. From the first day of my arrival in Taipei, several academics tell me how Ho messes with the 'superior status' of the academic professor in Taiwanese society. My meetings with Ho tell me that she leads a very important fight against oppressive sexual values and a present pervasive assault on academic freedom. This is not a Taiwanese story but one about the damaging side-effects globalization, as cultures globally are fed by mass hysterias about sex and universities decide to silence their freethinkers.

Ho answers my question with a fiery soul. She is a warm person with a good sense of humor, sharing enticing stories about Taiwan's sex history, offering lunch, lengthy discussions and a prag-matic attitude about her own plight. Ho is a sensitive woman with balls. Her statements about globalization and the future of sexual politics are often pessimistic yet elucidating -- straight to the point. One can find a breather from the discreet bour-geoisie in her Sex Center, a nice and cozy room painted purple and pink, with a heater and coffee, sexy visuals on the walls and tables. The Sex Center is also huge collection of binders with newspaper clippings, a series of publications on new sex issues, and colorful educational bulle-tin boards with pictures and stories. Finally, The Sex Center is a progressive web site with plenty of information about sexuality, including the fatal hyperlink to images of 'animal love' (bestiality).

After Ho got sued over these images, she was asked by the university to remove all the informa-tion about 'sexual eman-cipation' from her site and keep it within the bounda-ries of 'strictly academic.' This is a particularly grim situation for academic work and the future of the Internet, as university administrations will likely submit to the pressure of aggressive moral crusa-ders. In June 2003, Ho was accused by an alliance of fourteen organization of distribut-ing obscene images through the Sex Center web site. Even though the bestiality images were only available by means of an hyperlink, and were but a small detail in this large academic archive about sexuality, they were sufficient reason for Ho's enemies to start an ugly fight and try to remove her from her position. It is really unclear how she is going to survive these attacks in court and at which point academic free speech will be part of the discussion. The interview below explains Ho's case in closer detail and contextualizes the case in reference to current censorship debates and the current workings of the Sex Center.

QUESTION: I think I first heard about you and your work through the online mailing list 'Whorenet,' an international network organized by activist sex workers. Are you a member of Whorenet?

ANSWER: Yes I am. It just so happens that I am about to write an entry to Whorenet about our Taipei contribution to the December 17th International Day to End Violence Against Sexworkers, an action to
commemorate the victims of the Green River serial killer, a ' respectable, normal-looking, middle-class' man who had killed at least forty-eight prostitutes or women who looked like prostitutes. For a long time, the police refused to believe that he had committed those crimes, but they finally nailed him down as he recently confessed where he had discarded the bodies of those women that he raped and choked to death. Whorenet has been organizing an international day of action in quite a few cities in the US and Europe too. The Sexworker's Rights Group in Taipei and other marginal groups organized a direct-action event on December 17 at the exact hour when many other groups all the world were also remembering that incident. We gathered about thirty people in a small temple in Guang-Zhou Street, an area of Taipei where a lot of street sexworkers are located. We gathered there and we told the story of the Green River serial killer and explained the international nature of the event. Then one of the Taipei ex-licensed prostitutes sang a song to tell of the lives of prostitutes in Taiwan. A daughter of a prostitute spoke about her discovery of her mother's career and how she felt that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Then there was a neighbor who lived in that area who came forth and talked about sex workers in her neighborhood and how she thinks it is alright, as it is their way of making a living and she
doesn't find fault with that. Then I read a poem written by US sexworker Daisy Anarchy about sexworkers' need of respect and safety and dignity. Then we held candles and walked toward the local police precinct, demanding that they take better care of the street prostitutes. The police was quite angry at the presence of the crowd for if a crowd gathers in front of a police station, that usually means a challenge to state power and they don't like that. There was a brief confrontation and they were trying to disperse us. They brought out a sign that said: ' This is an illegal gathering. If you don' t disperse, we will take the leader into custody.' We then moved to another street corner to continue our vigil and talk about how important it is to maintain safety for prostitutes.

QUESTION: What is the status of sexworkers in Taiwan? Do they have licenses to do their work or are there any organizations to protect them?

ANSWER: Sex work is now almost totally illegal here. There are only a few very small pockets of prostitutes who still hold their licenses in the not-so-metropolitan cities in Taiwan, and even they are under pressure to lose their licenses. Everybody else is working illegally and if they get caught, they can be put away for three day's detention under the presentlaw. Because of the illegal status of sex work,
prostitutes are subjected to a lot of violence, extortion, harassment, and even rape.
We do have a small sexworkers' organization that grew out of the 1997 prostitutes' uprising, which took place when the mayor of Taipei, Chen Shui-Bian who is now our current president and represents the ruling DPP (Democratic Progressive Party), decided to revoke their legal licenses. The DPP had been known as a traditionally male-oriented party, and Chen wastrying to appeal to the women's groups and women voters by promoting middle-class values such as ' rescuing' women from the sex industry and putting them into other 'respectable' businesses so that they would not disturb family values. That was his ploy to get the approval of the middle-classes and it really worked. The religious women' s groups, specifically christian and catholics groups, have been promoting the same conservative middle-class values and they strongly supported the city government in the abolition of sex workers' licenses in 1997. By the way, they are also the same groups that are prosecuting me right now.
To go back to 1997, one hundred and twenty-eight licensed prostitutes took action by going to the city Hall in Taipei demanding their right to work. This was the first time that they came out in the open as a collective force. They petitioned on a daily basis for almost a year and the city council finally decided that they could continue working for two more years.After that, their licenses would be revoked and they would have to terminate their work. The sex workers have been working underground for three years now, which makes their profession much more difficult. For instance, they cannot go to the police if a client refuses to pay or when a client applies force to them during transaction. The DPP is a so-called progressive political party and they promote freedom of 'political' speech, but they have been making a lot of backward moves when it comes to the freedom of 'sexual speech.' They are prohibiting any speech that affirms sex work, claiming that it would confuse the values of teenagers and children. And there is a rigidifying tendency in monitoring sex-related information, i.e., sexual information is allowable only when it adheres to middle class marriage-oriented values. Actually they would prefer that teenagers do not come into contact with sexual information or sexual behavior at all--such is the discreet charm of our bourgeoisie.