by Furry Girl

05.13.09

For a long time, I resisted starting a blog. I don't want to be another node in the pink ghetto who writes my take on the story of the week in between tales of getting fucked and the latest free photo galleries from porn sites I jack off to. It's not that I think there's anything wrong with those things, it's just that other people already have it covered.

However, I think there still exists plenty of room for blogs about sexual politics written by sex workers themselves. We're a group of people who are ignored and excluded from all sorts of dialogues, and hated fiercely by people on the right and the left, so I have more of a motive to write in defense of sexual autonomy than I do to write a review of how I attempted to get off using the latest high-tech strangely-shaped sex toy.

After working on the outskirts of the porno industry since 2002, I have steadily been moving from wanting to modernize and re-define the concept of feminism to wanting to stop beating that dead horse entirely. Many of my friends and favorite people consider themselves feminists. A lot of my enemies consider themselves feminists, too, and they exist in larger numbers, with better funding, and with better brand recognition as the face of feminism. (Why fight like mad to have your awesome new organic fairtrade beverage be recognized as "Coca Cola", when there already is a firmly established Coca Cola company that sucks? Why not just focus on being great under your own power, with your own title?) I spent way too much of my own time trying to shoehorn myself into feminism, and I look back on that as an embarrassing waste of my energy.

Feminism as a word/identity is used to describe so much of everything that it has ceased to mean anything at all. Is fucking people for money feminist? Is climbing the corporate ladder feminist? Is wearing an abaya feminist? Is shaving your pussy feminist? Is being a stay-at-home mom feminist? Is BSDM feminist? Are sewing and crafting feminist? Is makeup feminist? Is being a woman in the military feminist? Is broccoli soup feminist?!?! You have people lined up, ready to fight to the death over their absolute certainty over whether or not such things are truly feminist. (What the word "feminism" stands in for, of course, is deemed permissible by the "right" kind of people.)

In general, I'm tired of "feminist" being used as a blanket qualifier to mean "awesome", especially when it comes to the concept of feminist porn. I think "awesome" works just fine as a qualifier for awesome.

I seek to advance the idea the first person in any debate to propose that their position is correct because it's the most "feminist" has hereby lost the argument. I have been guilty of this one plenty of times in the past, but I can learn from my mistakes.

I feel like I've taken back something, like friends have taken back "fag", "fatty", or "cripple". I've taken back "not a feminist" and claimed it for myself, and in doing so, have disarmed a lot of people who've hurled it at me as an insult in debates. I wasted a lot of my time and energy arguing over whether or not I'm a real feminist and if my work - and the work of other sex workers - can be construed as feminist acts. So now, rather than get all upset when an asshat says I'm not a feminist, I can shrug it off and say, "yeah, so what?" I feel like this dismissal "empowers" and "liberates" me more than anything else that modern feminism could ever hope to provide me.

One of the things that's been batting itself around in my head over the years is, "What purpose does 'feminism' serve, today, in industrialized nations? Why the need to identify as a 'feminist'?" I've never seen a satisfactory answer. Much like quizzing someone on their religion, the answers are some defensive permutation of "it just is!" For some folks, that's sufficient, and I won't try to wrest their important identity label from them, but I need tangible reasons to do and believe things.

Writer Jorge Luis Borges famously described the Falklands War as "two bald men fighting over a comb", and that image perfectly describes the war for the title of "feminist", too. Why are we supposed to want what it is that we're fighting for?

I've pumped a lot of quarters into this here claw machine, but sheer stubbornness kept me from realizing that I didn't even want a small stuffed animal.





18 Comments

  1. I loved your response, I love how well thought out and articlate it was. I've never felt that feminists were as strong or as powerful as coca'cola.
    It probably irks me more than anything when there is a new completely misogynistic TV show or movie and the girls sit back and giggle as if to say, it's ok, I'm cool, I'm just one of the boys, like being a feminist means you're serious, unattractive and humourless.
    Feminism really gave me strength as a teenager and young woman, it gave me insight, perspective, and hope that the world doesn't have to be as fucked up as it is.
    Having read your blog though, I completely understand why you would distance yourself from feminism, I can only imagine what the Andrea Dworkins would say about your hard and creative work.

    Comment by Christine — August 30, 2009 @ 2:08 am

  2. I think what I really like about this response or rant or whatever is that it puts a truly positive face on a really damn frustrating situation. I live with and love a sex worker and I can't tell you how many times over the years I've had the "you-must-have-no-respect-for-yourself-not-be-bothered-by-her-work" debate, or (since we have an open relationship) the "you-must-be-so-afraid-of-losing-her-to-let-her-get-away-with-that" debate. It's always close friends who start up these debates and they always argue from a position of ostensible "feminism".
    I want a feminism that embraces the good people can do for themselves and others with their bodies; I want a feminism that admits love doesn't need to be about jealousy or possessiveness; I WANT A FEMINISM THAT DOESN'T SPLASH A COAT OF PAINT OVER ALL THE OLD INSECURITIES...and call them "empowerment". But, as you said, there's already a well-established Coca-Cola that sucks, so for a long time I've taken "feminist" almost as an insult when applied to me. Why? Because "feminist" the way it's used now has become an ideology all its own that we buy in to, all-or-nothing. If you're a feminist, everything feminist has to be GREAT! It's like how if you identify as an American patriot, woe betide you if you say "Bullshit, this isn't what this country was built on, or for!" about, say, "anti-terrorist" measures like Guantanamo Bay.
    Patriotism in America has become something where, in order to preserve the "ideals that this country was founded on" - like justice and liberty and so on - in some form, no matter how diluted, for its citizens, America must take those options away from other people. Because they aren't "Americans" and that makes it somehow okay.
    Feminism is the same. In order to make sure that all these women who identify as feminist can keep their feminist identities while also preserving the "morality" that was impressed on them at a young age (and which they've never tried to examine for internal logic), some women are thrown out of the conceptual fold. Sex workers, for example, are "not feminist" either because they're slaves to the patriarchy (in which case they need to be rescued and de- or re-programmed) or they're "trafficked victims" (in which case they need to be rescued, pitied, and brought to speak at lectures) or they're slaves to their addictions (in which case they need rehab and THEN de- or re-programming); if they insist that these labels don't apply to them, they're either "not representative" or "fooling themselves".
    In point of fact, some of the most empowered women I have ever met, some of the strongest, healthiest, most open-minded and all-embracing women I have known, have been sex workers. And mostly they don't identify as feminists, because the term has been taken from them. Women who should be working WITH sex workers to improve the situation and options of ALL women are instead lying to themselves about sex workers and lying to the world about them too...and getting an awful lot of credence.
    It's a sad thing when a movement that was all about opening eyes now deliberately closes, not only its own eyes (in order to preserve comfortable, illogical early canalization) but the eyes of others. Feminism had a right to be angry as long as it was trying to gain something for all women. Now, though, it's trying to say "We're better than you and you don't even know why because you're a poor confused benighted hooker - don't worry sister, come here to the light!"
    Is there some rule that movements that fight against oppression must one day oppress? It's just like American patriotism...just like it.

    Comment by Meg — February 22, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

  3. PS - I'm Canadian...but I lived in the States for a while and nearly ended up brainwashed.

    Comment by Meg — February 22, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  4. First, that's great that you defend your sex worker partner to friends. It makes me happy when I see people embrace their partner like that, rather than lie about what they do or join in with their friends in being uncomfortable and awkward at their partner over sex work.

    I actually do liken "feminism" and "patriotism", but not in the same sense you do. Both "feminist" and "patriot" are terms that are embraced/appropriated by people of all stripes - right, left, anti-government, pro-government - to use as a banner to wave for literally whatever their cause is. So, to me, both words/concepts just lose their meaning because of their ability to be applied to everything anyone has ever thought about any political issue.

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 22, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

  5. Hey,
    Had your blog recommended to me by a friend. So far I love what I see, and I think I'll be a regular visitor.
    I'm a Women's Studies major that's just starting to branch out into Sexology. I've also worked as an exotic dancer for the last three years, and believe me I've had plenty of practice in defending myself against feminists who want to tell me that the way I make my living, my lifestyle and my appearance are contrary to feminism. So, while our experiences may well be very different, I can definitely appreciate much of what you say here.

    Personally, I still call myself a feminist - because I don't believe that feminism is about having to force yourself into a mould constructed by other people. I see it as a way of upholding the importance of a person's choice, of bodily autonomy and mutual respect for others. What I do for money, who I fuck and what I wear have nothing to do with feminism, because they are what make me comfortable, they are what I have chosen and they are what I feel is best for me.
    But we can argue semantics until the cows come home. Bottom line is about prioritising our own beliefs, sexualities and passions over compartmentalising our lives into a convenient philosophy.

    In anycase - you rock. Keep it up!

    Comment by Kitty — February 28, 2010 @ 4:36 am

  6. Your blog has given me so much food for thought and for that I aplaud you. Actually , I applaud you for many of your insights as well. I have never been a sex worker and have never known any but I have been a consumer of porn. I think there may be a very important distinction between sex workers who do porn and those in prostitution. Porn is sex theatre, prostitution is sex reality. I loved what you said about objectification and how everyone is objectified according to their jobs( or not) My moment of clarity came when I thought about my years of waitressing, how there were customers I just dreaded dealing with, the kind who were never satisfied and talked down to me as if I were a newbie. As a waitress you just have to suck it up (so to speak) and deal with it because that's your job. If you are a prosttitute , I imagine it's kind of the same; but you have to do whoever is paying because that's your job. It's not your choice anymore , who you do, because you have to make a living at it. For me, that would take a lot of the fun and enjoyment out of sex. I'd rather be a slut who gives it away for free to the people of MY choosing. It's not objectification of women that's a problem for me -it's the commodification of sex that lessens it for all of us. This is by no means an attack or criticism on you or any other sex worker, it's kind of a defence for those of us who may like sex too much to make a living from it . So it's your capitalist sensabilities that are the point of diversion for me. Even that doesn't turn me off that much and I look forward to reading more of your posts-Cheers

    Comment by Nancy Couch — March 11, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

  7. Nancy: Excuse me, but if you've never been a sex worker, how do you know that "Porn is sex theatre, prostitution is sex reality"? Having not been in a porn shoot or an escort, how do you know what the different kinds of interactions are like? That's very rude and presumptuous for someone who admittedly has no experience with either. Also, why do you imagine that being a prostitute is just like being a waitress who hates customers? Where do you draw that assumption from? And what makes you think, "You have to do whoever is paying because that's your job. It's not your choice anymore"? Where do you get your information? I'd suggest learning something about a topic before you make proclamations about it based only on your imagination about it. Here are three places t start right here on my blog:

    http://www.feminisnt.com/2009/sex-worker-literati-and-gradations-of-grievances/
    http://www.feminisnt.com/2009/things-ive-gained-from-being-a-sex-worker-an-anti-paternalistic-perspective/
    http://www.feminisnt.com/2010/want-to-play-bingo-with-the-antis/

    Comment by Furry Girl — March 12, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  8. Thank you for your blog. It's always refreshing to see someone logically state their take on a subject, regardless whether I agree with them or not. You don't pull your punches. I'm glad you don't!

    I started providing late in life (just turned 54). It was my choice from the beginning to do what I do. The timing was as perfect as it was going to get. When asked, I as often state I'm a provider as that I write or make jewelry. I have a strong supporting cast of friends - and clients. As a relatively new provider (8 months "old" in June 2010), I know I have a lot yet to learn. I can't remember the last time I was as happy with a career choice as I am now.

    I don't "get" the feminist argument against sex work or porn or any of that; I never have even when I wasn't working in it. (I seldom get into any political argument because I'm "left," "right" or "center" depending on the topic.) But, to be told that my choices aren't the "correct" choices - by so-called feminists who (I thought) stood up for freedom of choice - is lost on me. I do what I want and let it go at that. Someone else doesn't like it, so what? These are my choices; I'll live my life according to my values and in the manner I deem best for me. Let them live theirs the way they deem best for themselves.

    How is that so difficult to understand?

    Which is why I'm glad to have found another gal who isn't afraid to speak up. "This is me, this is what I think on this subject and I don't care if you like me or my views." Keep it up, Furry Girl!

    Comment by Jolene — June 21, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  9. Thanks for your comment, Jolene!

    The feminist/anti-porn activists like to dismiss people like me - the more loudmouth, public, loving-our-jobs sex workers - and say that there are only a wee handful of us, and everyone else is a raped, beaten, trafficked (and probably underage) streetwalker with a drug addiction. The reality is, there are people like me, and there are the abused streetwalkers, but most people in the sex industry that I've encountered are simply humming along, going about their jobs, and mostly pretty happy with their work. It's the silent majority. I was once talking to a completely non-political woman who'd been doing porn for more than a decade, and she expressed genuine confusion that there were people who thought she was being oppressed and abused and needed saving. You don't have to be an intellectual to see why paternalism is annoying and bizarre.

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 21, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  10. Nancy said:

    “As a waitress you just have to suck it up (so to speak) and deal with it because that's your job. If you are a prosttitute , I imagine it's kind of the same; but you have to do whoever is paying because that's your job. It's not your choice anymore , who you do, because you have to make a living at it. For me, that would take a lot of the fun and enjoyment out of sex. I'd rather be a slut who gives it away for free to the people of MY choosing. It's not objectification of women that's a problem for me -it's the commodification of sex that lessens it for all of us. This is by no means an attack or criticism on you or any other sex worker, it's kind of a defence for those of us who may like sex too much to make a living from it.”

    I am very glad I read this because it makes perfectly explicit an attitude I have often encountered. On the occasions when I have argued with someone that sex work is not inherently unethical or immoral &c., a very common fallback argument seems to be something like this: “It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just that it cheapens sex.”

    Now that I am faced with an explicit form of the argument, I have to say that I find it nonsensical. You like sex too much to do it for a living? If anything the opposite might make sense (it’s surely possible to dislike sex too much to do it for a living). Say rather that you personally would not find it enjoyable in a commercial context and I would nod and not argue, but generalising it seems dangerous.

    Similarly, I do not have and have never had a desire to hire a sex worker. This is not because I think there’s anything wrong with sex work. I’ve known happy sex workers. It also isn’t because I think it’s dangerous or unclean. (Those sex workers I’ve known? I’ve learned about sexual health and precautions and regular checkups from them; I certainly didn’t have anything to teach them!) It’s just that, to me personally, the social and psychological factors of mutual attraction and being desired are so important that the thought of having sex with someone who does it for money rather than (merely) because they want to does not appeal. This should not offend. But if I go on to say that only losers are interested in hiring prostitutes, that it takes some sort of pathology, or perhaps that people who do just lack my appreciation for the full sexual experience…then I’m just a pretentious cock. (It would be easy to retort that it is some narcissistic or insecure flaw in my own psyche that makes me require a woman to be attracted to me rather than simply regarding sex as sex.)

    It’s tempting to think so, of course, because it allows me to think of myself as better than certain other people, but I do my fallible human best to suppress the urge to think that “if other people view sex differently than I do, it must be icky and inferior”.

    By analogy, someone might be greatly, tremendously fond of home-cooked meals prepared with love and care. I personally fail to see why this would necessarily translate into a dislike for restaurants or take-out food (though certainly you or I, as individuals, might have strong feelings on the matter).

    On a side note, “commodification” is a truly awful word (and often a truly awful concept).

    Comment by Petter — July 30, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

  11. Being a prostitute isn't a JOB. I don't have to suck it up and deal with ANYTHING. I don't have a boss, I have autonomy and a brain and a lot more money than a waitress which translates into more choices about how I choose to run my business.

    I'm so fucking tired of the feminist imagination.

    Comment by Tara — December 3, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

  12. Seeing You and reading You You put my dick bigger and I am happy. You're Yes, great.
    I adore You and Yrs. so much.
    Sinful Kisses

    Comment by Daniel de Culla — June 27, 2011 @ 10:45 am

  13. You're my hero. Where were you when I was thirteen? You would have made a kick-ass role model.

    Comment by Somebody Else — January 31, 2012 @ 2:28 am

  14. Thank you, Daniel and Somebody Else!

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 5, 2012 @ 11:49 pm

  15. I am 23, an atheist who lives in an Islamic country in hiding. I am very happy to see your page and your stand for the rights of every person. The conditions of rights and especially of sex workers, queers and trans are really pessimistic in Islamic counties, but I hope that people like you can raise the voice of civil liberties and rights of every single person on this planet. I am really thankful to you for your contribution for a free and just world.

    Comment by Westwind — February 9, 2012 @ 4:16 am

  16. Westwind: Thank you for the comment. I hope you'll be able to move to a secular country and pursue things that make you happy. Maybe someday, there will be room in Islamic countries for sex worker organizing, but I think now, it's probably too dangerous.

    Comment by Furry Girl — March 7, 2012 @ 1:57 am

  17. There likely won't be room for sex worker organizing in Islamic countries until they're not "Islamic."

    Comment by Eric — March 11, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  18. I don't agree with your analogy to the Falklands, there is a lot of oil in the territorial waters of that 'comb'; and the nation founded by Conquistadors, the nation invented less than two hundred years ago, which prides itself on being the 'whitest' nation in South America wants to get it hands on it; or to be more specific the leaders of that nation want to get their hands on it.

    The first Europeans to set foot on the Falklands were Bretons, hence the French name 'Malouines' from which the Spanish 'Malvinas' is derived. The Bretons are of British - Cornish to be exact - descent, they come from 'Little Britain' (Bretagne), so those for whom the Falklands have been home for the past two hundred years have more in common with the original settlers than do the descendants of the Conquistadors.

    Comment by Pom — July 16, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

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