by Furry Girl
A little background: I grew up as the freakish nonreligious kid in a conservative part of the country. I'm not one of those people who was raised in a big liberal city or whose parents taught them college-level concepts before the other kids could even read. I grew up around people who told me that dinosaur bones were put in the ground by Satan to trick us. I've always been drawn to nature and science, and have spent almost 14 years paying attention to the evolution wars - ever since the subject came up in biology class in seventh grade. Sexuality activists can learn from the contemporary creationist movement's most successful strategy, and how to not play into it. I've touched on this topic before, but wanted to write about it in more depth after watching not just anti-sex worker activists, but also supposedly "pro-porn" feminists, using this tactic over the course of this month's re-hashing of the porn wars.
To get a two-hour crash course in the modern creationist movement, I recommend watching Expelled, courtesy of The Pirate Bay, whose motto should be For When You Don't Want Your Money Supporting Something™. The movie is a "documentary" narrated by conservative actor Ben Stein, aimed at "exposing" the horrifying "bias" within American schools to not teach Christian myths often enough in science classes. (Unlike other countries with indoor plumbing and electricity, Americans already do have so much creationism in their schools and public life that most of them don't believe in evolution.) The film clumsily pushes the idea that atheist radicals like biologist Richard Dawkins are taking over science and shutting down any "debate" about creationism. Stein gives the topic the full loony treatment - which, of course, includes a stroll around Dachau to sensitively remind viewers that a belief in evolution and science invariably leads to Nazi death camps. Stein never plainly states in the movie that he's a creationist who doesn't believe in evolution. He argues that anyone who definitively supports evolution is trying to "silence debate about these important issues", playing like he's just a doe-eyed and confused Joe Everyman who thinks we the people have a right to hear "all opinions" on an unresolved matter.
Creationists might be intellectually-stunted to the point of hilarity when it comes to their interpretations of the world around them, but they are a very clever and well-funded bunch when it comes to getting their ideas wedged into American society. Their most important and successful tactic is a propaganda campaign that they call amongst themselves "teaching the controversy": to not deny evolution outright, but to drum up "debate" and make the public think that the jury's still out about whether or not the world is 6000 years old. In reality, no credible institution or researcher lends any believability to the idea that there's a "controversy" in the scientific community over whether or not Christian mythology negates everything we know about biology, geology, and physics - but that's just a minor unmentioned pesky detail, like there being no credible studies to suggest any harm in viewing porn or decriminalizing prostitution.
Creationist nutters aren't the only special interest group that is hell-bent on "teaching the controversy". You see this sort of thing all the time with other areas where a person knows their own religious/moral beliefs have no factual basis, and that there's likely lots of solid evidence against their position, so their only hope is to cloud the issue to make their own position look more tenable. Such as:
"Oh, I'm not against abortion! But I do think young women should know that a lot of people have been asking questions about whether women who get abortions are more likely to end up with cancer later in life."
"Oh, I don't hate the gays! But I think the public should know that there's all sorts of conflicting information about how unhealthy it is for children to be raised by homosexuals."
It's a sort of malicious argument from ignorance - someone posits, "I can't possibly make sense of this terribly confusing issue," - when, of course, they perfectly well do have a side - "so, we all really need to think more about what a grey area we're looking at and not make up our minds so hastily."
In the world of internet debates, this shoddy debate tactic is called concern trolling. The concern troll is never for or against anything, they've just got "concerns" they need to keep raising. No matter how many times you keep countering these people, they can keep popping up with some other "concern" that adds further confusion to the issue and makes it harder to discuss using facts.
"I think it's a classic hallmark of psuedoscience - which is that you just keep shifting the goalpost until you get to a hypothesis that's, frankly, untestable".
- Dr. Paul Offit, in Point of Inquiry's "The Costs of Vaccine Denialism" podcast
Lately, I've seen more sex-positive types adding to this problem by reminding everyone that "we" ought to be more respectful of anti-sex worker activist's arguments, and that the sex worker and pornographer community is failing to address these "concerns", such as:
"What about the women who feel insecure about themselves when they see sexy skinny women in porn?" The feminist answer to this is to sell a woman a book telling her that yes, she really ought to feel oppressed and ugly when she sees women's bodies in advertising and entertainment, and to whine a lot about such images being displayed. My solution is to tell people to own up to their insecurities, and develop positive self-esteem that's not based on comparing themselves to idealized images in the media. We all choose how we react to the world around us, and a large-chested size two model in a porno isn't forcing any woman to hate her own body.
"What about that study that shows sexually aggressive men look at a lot of pornography?" What about it? Non-scientific and anti-porn minds take the study to mean looking at porn causes men to behave aggressively, even though such a conclusion is a classic logical fallacy. I'd respond by telling people to read about the difference between causation and correlation, and to know that there are many more studies from all over the world that show a correlation between increased access to porn and a decrease in sex crimes. If we're playing the correlation game, there's much more research to suggest that porn makes the world safer and less dangerous. (Three I have bookmarked are Anthony D'Amato's 2006 study "Porn Up, Rape Down" about porn and rape in the United States, Dr. Milton Diamond's 1999 experience with studying porn and sex crimes in the US and Asia, and economist Todd Kendall's work, including "Pornography, Rape, and the Internet.")
"What about porn companies that don't treat their performers well?" None of us have any real statistics about what percentage of performers feel abused or unhappy with their jobs, and I'm not going to waste my time debating my guesses with other people who are also making guesses. (My guess, though, is that the porn industry has a higher level of job satisfaction than most other occupations.) Are some workers in the porn industry mistreated or miserable? Of course, sadly, but that doesn't make the jiz biz especially evil. There are exploited workers in every sector in every country in the world. Further, it is pornographers and performers who are the most likely to know about adult companies that have had complaints from talent. If you want the real scoop on a given porn company and how well they treat their workers, you don't email a women's studies academic on the other side of the country to ask for a referral. You ask people in the porn industry. Sex workers are pretty damn protective of each other and will gladly share if they've ever heard of a company engaging in bad business practices.
It annoys me to live in an age of public discourse where people are coddled and told that every idea is valid and just as likely to be correct as any other idea. Ideas are not lottery tickets - each with an equal and random chance of winning. When it's almost unheard of to unapologetically state that a given idea or person is flat-out wrong, the intellectually-lazy public believes that the truth always lies in the middle. Not everything is a compromise. Not everything is a debate. Not everyone's opinion is a beautiful and unique snowflake - sometimes, it's just yellow piss-filled slush.
The sex-positive scene, and the world at large, needs to stop giving concern trolls and those who "teach the controversy" an equal platform with equal consideration. Their goal is to dump impenetrable grey area paint all over everything so that the well-reasoned text beneath becomes unreadable. It only encourages them to acknowledge and give legitimacy to their every little whimper and fuss.
As a younger person, I wasted a lot of time and energy line-by-line debating anti-sex worker loonies in front of small internet audiences, and I won't make that mistake again. I'd rather just make good ethical porn, and occasionally blog about sex work politics to a wider audience. One of the most powerful political slogans I've ever seen was a Bobby Sands quote on a mural in Belfast that read, "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children." Well, my revenge in the porn wars will be the laughter of the performers I hire to make awesome smut with me - and there have been a lot of genuine smiles and laughs on my shoots.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 14 years because I don't believe in exploiting and killing others for my own petty amusements.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat