by Furry Girl
Last night, the feminist porn bubble erupted in girlie squeals of "OMG, a cute boy looked at us!" on Twitter because it has found a new celebrity hero: Justin Timberlake. In a skit on Saturday Night Live, a character Timberlake was playing made a joking reference to feminist porn, which the feminist porn scene have been quick to appropriate (inaccurately) as some sort of serious celebrity endorsement of their genre, with Tristan Taormino now using Timberlake's face with the line from the SNL joke as marketing for her latest book. An image of Timberlake's face and the quote is currently being widely retweeted, reblogged, and celebrated as a victory. (On what planet does a joke on SNL constitute a celebrity's endorsement and interest in you using their image to sell you products, anyway? Should the piss porn genre should start using Patrick Stewart's face to sell their products because he once did a skit on SNL where he played a man turned on by women urinating?)
However, implying a celebrity endorsement of your products where none exists and using their image without their permission so you can make money isn't why I take issue with Taormino and others fawning all over Timberlake. (Though those are perfectly problematic issues in themselves.)
Timberlake was one of the celebrities who appeared in advertisements for the now-defunct Demi N Ashton Foundation, an anti-sex worker organization that regurgitated the same old lies about how the average age of entering the sex industry is 12, and how a whopping 1% of the population of America are trafficked child sex slaves. If you follow sex workers' rights issues even in the most passing way, you'd remember what a big deal this celebrity-led campaign was, and how it launched the biggest-yet mainstream media coverage of the rescue industry in the form of a series of Village Voice articles debunking the Foundation's claims. Like it or not, celebrities get more attention that any normal person ever could, including most politicians, so when celebrities pick up a cause as a trendy new way of earning themselves some good PR, millions of people will hear about that cause. It's because of the instant credibility which Americans assign to celebrities that their campaigns have so much power to undermine grownup-level conversations like sex workers' rights. I'm infuriated that Tristan Taormino and the rest of the sexy feminist team are currently heroizing a man who was very recently making the rounds as an anti-sex worker campaigner. Justin Timberlake has contributed to setting the sex workers' rights movement back by popularizing the worst lies about us, and no amount of jokes about porn can right that wrong. Feminists like Taormino couldn't care less about Timberlake's anti-sex worker activism, though, apparently finding it perfectly acceptable to throw normal sex workers under the bus so they can grasp desperately at the exciting straw of a celebrity knowing their porn genre exists.
This spat with an obtuse feminist pornographer reminds me of why I hate the feminist porn genre so much. No, not the products it makes, since I think a lot of it is sexy, but the way the genre works. It adds insult to injury that so many people see feminist porn as an extension of and solution to sex workers' rights, when it's really an obstacle.
Feminist porn is the anti-sex worker sex work, and its marketing commonly slams other sex workers and their appearance. One of the first feminist porn sites was Nakkid Nerds, whose motto was "Smarter than your average porn star," and it's only gone downhill ever since. Feminist porn has an aesthetic, and that aesthetic is marketed as the definition of being "empowered," as though a woman's intelligence and value as a human being is to be judged solely by whether or not she has tattoos and thick-rimmed hipster glasses. I can't tell you how many times I have seen feminist porn marketed with insults, catty little jabs about how their company doesn't have those brain-dead bleach-blonde drugged-up bimbos you see in regular porn, it has artists and lovers and manic pixie dream girls. As someone who makes porn with a similar "not traditional beauty standards" aesthetic, I have always tried to avoid that kind of vicious marketing copy, and while I do want to differentiate myself from a mainstream porn site, I prefer to use terms like, "not another cookie-cutter porn site," rather than launch an attack on how mainstream porn performers are ugly and stupid. You don't have to insult the appearances and intelligence of other sex workers to show that you're different, but it's endemic to feminist porn.
Feminist porn excludes normal sex workers by screening out applications from anyone who dares to be motivated by money, and the genre has long been inconsistent when it comes to actually paying performers. Feminist porn sites try and avoid hiring people who are "just in it for the money," as though there's nothing more disgusting than being a sex worker. One of the largest feminist porn companies used to openly claim that you could only get paid modeling work if you did some free work, so they could deter those awful people who were in it for the money. Another famous feminist porn director is renowned for financially screwing over her performers by trying to talk them down to accepting a lower payment after they've already shown up for work, or have already performed their scene, or simply not paying them at all. Most feminist porn sites start not with some investment capital, but by asking performers to donate their labor on the vague promise that they will be paid if and when the site ever makes a profit. (And many sites fail, which leaves a lot of hurt feelings.) I've watched as this business model has lead to plenty of behind-the-scene drama over the years when models don't get paid. This is not just about one feminist porn company, it's how the genre works. This financially exploitative relationship to workers is their normal, and it only continues to work because there will always be plenty of cute college-age punks and hipsters who are motivated by the fun and rebellious aspect of the porn industry, but aren't trying to make it a reliable source of income. Many feminist porn sites also expect workers to donate unpaid labor in the form of writing blogs for the site, participating in the site's online forums and flirting with paying subscribers, responding to fan emails, and doing member chats. Those precious "social networking" and "community" features, of which the feminist porn genre is so proud, are built on the labor of unpaid workers, who are well aware that doing free work might lead to being hired for paid work again.
Feminist porn splashes the word "revolutionary" all over everything it does. This might seem like I'm nitpicking semantics here, but I take deep offense to corporations using the term "revolution" in order to sell things. After all, let's not forget that feminist porn is a business, and as a business, its goal is to make money. It's fine by me to make money, I like making money, too, but I would never insult all the peoples of the world who have engaged in lengthy and costly life-or-death struggles by touting my collection of tit pics a "revolution." Using that word to market entertainment products shows a profound ignorance of and giggly insensitivity towards countless historical and global struggles where vast numbers of oppressed people have died in horrible ways while fighting for freedoms like ending racial segregation, to buck off colonialism, or to overthrow dictators. Feminist porn sellers are not "revolutionaries" by any stretch of the imagination.
People who dabble in feminist porn are regularly handed paid speaking gigs at colleges around the country to speak on sex work issues, even though they only rarely engage in sex work, and do so mostly for fun. This would be akin to having an event about labor organizing for farm workers and hiring as your speaker someone who occasionally helps with a friend's garden on summer weekends. People are drawn to sex work for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is that it's naughty and exciting, but it's deeply troublesome to have most of the public faces of sex work be feminist porn models who are motivated by an interest in transgressive fun. The vast, vast majority of sex workers are not in the business primarily for personal growth and sexual fulfillment, so it always bothers me to see such people actively seeking so much attention as sex workers. I doubt any of these feminist porn dabblers claim to represent all sex workers in their lectures, but that doesn't negate the fact that when the public is handed a token sex worker at an event, they will mentally assign to them the status of "spokesperson for sex workers." It's because of the fact that representatives are taken as representative that the onus should be on people invited to speak before large groups as a token sex workers to ask themselves, "Am I really the person who should be addressing this group? Might they be better served by someone who is a full-time sex worker, or who has more experience than I, or who is a more typical sex worker?" I have refused plenty of chances to be on TV or in the media because I felt like I was not the best spokesperson for whatever a journalist wanted to discuss, and I always referred them to people who are better suited than I. I've dabbling in pro-domming work, but I certainly wouldn't be marketing myself to universities as someone they should hire to speak to students on what it's like to be a dominatrix. Dabblers shouldn't be spokespersons, period, but the lure of fame and being able to add "college speaker" to one's resume is too irresistible to feminist porn people.
And the biggest one: feminist porn hinges on the idea that sex work is only ethical or acceptable if it's done by people who are doing it primarily for personal fulfillment. This "let them eat cake" attitude is such profound bullshit, and it's completely antithetical to the idea of sex workers' rights. The feminist porn scene trades on (and profits from) marketing copy that implies that sex work is unethical when it's done by normal sex workers, who are no doubt exploited and degraded. This is so insulting, especially when some of them obtusely throw out the argument that feminist porn is some kind of "solution" to sex workers' rights, as though the millions of sex workers around the world could sustain their incomes by traveling to San Francisco to do a couple of porn shoots a year where they may or may not ever be paid. (Feminists have deployed a similar argument about how the "solution" to large stage fees and mandatory tipouts in the strip club industry is that everyone instead works at San Francisco's small worker-run Lusty Lady punk/chubby girl strip club where everyone earns an hourly wage.)
Along with decriminalization, the goal of the global sex workers' rights movement is to gain public respect for our work and to be recognized as workers, and feminist porn is fighting for the exact opposite: that sex work is only acceptable if it's done by not-workers for not-money, and that being motivated by money to do sex work is a problem in itself. Every business needs its marketing angles and to differentiate itself from competitors, but feminist porn needn't put its own profits and feel-good image ahead of the struggles of sex workers to convince the public that selling sexual services is a legitimate job and should be respected as such. The real insult of all of this is that any advancement in sex workers' rights also benefits feminist porn performers, but feminist porn believes it can only succeed by disparaging other sex workers.
by Furry Girl
My favorite things/blogs/slogans/books/jokes have two common traits: they offend and upset all the right people, and they are completely true. In that spirit, I ordered a small batch of stickers to send my readers as gifts for my blog's third anniversary. I spent quite a while mulling over what short, concise phrase would adhere to my Favorite Things Doctrine, and also sum up part of what my blog is about: hatin' on feminism, hatin' on illogical thinking and religion.
Email your mailing address to feminisnt(at)feminisnt.com, and I'll send you a few of these delightful weatherproof vinyl stickers to brighten your day and the days of those around you. This offer is valid anywhere in the world, because I love my readers so much that I'm busting out the $1.05 international stamps. (I've shipped these stickers all around the US, plus Canada, the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Norway.) I generally eschew energy expenditures that are solely about antagonizing one's opposition, but the cost of a few cocktails is worth the fun I am already deriving from these stickers. And besides, I have so much free energy after I stopped wasting time debating feminists on the internet.
I thought about writing a post to fully flesh out why I believe that feminism is just another bullshit religion, but I've already addressed those general topics many times if one reads through my archives, so if you're all cryface about my stickers, you can do your own reading without my hand-holding. I'll summarize the topic only once, and then I will ignore and delete the dozens of comments I'll no doubt receive from the same old annoying detractors who always demand that I re-explain everything I say, just for them, because they are so very special and entitled to my time.
Why is feminism just another bullshit religion?
Feminism is a belief system unsupported by actual data and which often uses outright lies to justify itself and push its political agenda; feminism is impervious and opposed to revision and progress; feminism denies and hides its own oppressive history to look nicey-nice and inclusive; feminism does not allow for questioning or any deviation from its ideology of women as inherently helpless and men as inherently villainous; feminism views science as suspect at best and evil at worst, since rationality, competition, and fact-based thinking are supposedly "patriarchal" values; feminism hinges on hyping the world as an extremely horrible and dangerous place, and only through adhering to it can one find salvation; propaganda that feminism (like religion) has a monopoly on morality and ethics, and that you must subscribe to one particular belief system in order to consider yourself an ethical/moral person; ultimately, because it's a tangle of circular logic where its conclusion is based on that very same conclusion (that women are feeble and to be told what to do because women are women are feeble and to be told what to do), much like a religion.
Moving on, as I have in past years, I made a list of my ten most popular or controversial posts. It's usually a list of ten, but this year we had a tie, so I'm including eleven.
* Why I am against sexy breast feeding and using a baby as a marketing gimmick to sell porn [August 2011]
* Hipster dude self-publishes book of Google Street View images of supposed roadside prostitutes [July 2011]
* Not all sex workers love Occupy: the creepy dynamic of pretending to speak for "the 99%" [November 2011]
* What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition [May 2011]
* Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street and how to fail at activisting [September 2011]
* Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too [June 2011]
* Why I am against "free" college for everyone [November 2011]
* The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists [November 2011]
* Are Pagan-themed sex businesses entitled to special legal rights? [September 2011]
* Blackface for sex bloggers: why it's offensive for non- sex workers to claim to be one of us [May 2011]
* Frequent Addressed Accusation: "Why not work to make feminism better?" [August 2011]
Finally, I always appreciate gifts myself. If you want to thank me for the time I put into writing and tweeting and sharing news and stuff, my Amazon wishlist has items for every budget, and you can send a gift card in any denomination.
by Furry Girl
[Updated after NPR responded by snidely mocking me on their web site and refusing to so much as apologize. If they would prefer to handle this as an internet flame war, I'll give them one Google will remember until the end of time.]
This week, I got a surprising email from a friend. He'd heard an NPR program, On the Media, re-hash what was obviously one of my blog posts, but without attribution to either my pseudonym or my blog URL. It was about my FOIA story from a couple of months ago. I knew exactly what my friend was referring to, because I had declined an interview request from On the Media's pushy and annoying Sarah Abdurrahman last week. They'd gone ahead and done a story on me anyway, borrowing from my blog post, and I would have never known of NPR's theft if I didn't know someone who listened to the show.
The punchline is that On the Media portrays itself as a bastion of media ethics, bravely "[tackling] sticky issues with a frankness and transparency that has built trust with listeners." This wasn't just some Tumblr account with a dozen followers pilfering my work, but a nationally-broadcast radio program on NPR, which proudly cites that it "has won Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting and investigative reporting, the National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism and a Peabody Award for its body of work."
My FOIA story is definitely one of the most "journalistic" pieces I've ever had on my blog. Yes, it has snark, but it's also real original reporting. I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with over a dozen government agencies, waited for about 7 months, and then combed through over 400 pages of disclosure to find the pieces of the story I most wanted to tell. I wasn't just posting my opinions on a popular news item of the week that someone else broke, I was writing based on original source materials, for which I was the only civilian who has access. I was posting things that had never been online previously, but would be of interest to the public. If that's not "real journalism," I don't know what is.
Not only was my FOIA piece a genuinely journalistic effort on my part, it's also a very personal topic. I am especially protective of my work being stolen by NPR because it's about me and my experiences as an activist. I wasn't writing about FBI surveillance of the Black Panthers from 40 years ago, I was writing about the FBI surveillance detail that followed me for a few days. This is my story in every sense of the word.
I am referred to only as "a woman" in Sarah Abdurrahman's broadcast of minute and a half which carefully avoids using a name for me, and although the show's summary on the web does link to my blog (though still doesn't mention my name or my blog's name), I doubt many NPR listeners actually check every show's web summary after a story to see if any extra references have been added. I certainly have never sought out a radio show's web site to read a show's summary and make sure it reflected what I heard on the air. Radio is a broadcast media that provides audio news and commentary, the audience are listeners, not readers. An online summary is merely filler and search engine optimizing for their web site, another way to get listeners and money. NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman stole my work, and I didn't even get the benefit of some national exposure.
I publish my blog under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For those unfamiliar with Creative Commons, it's a way for "content creators" like me to protect their work while also allowing for sharing of ideas. It's a more personalized form of copyright protection that lets a creator specify what people can and can't do with their work. Creative Commons has held up in multiple courts around the world as a real copyright policy, including federal court in the US, so it's not a "made-up goofball license" as someone obnoxiously said to me on Twitter.
My specific Creative Commons stipulations mean that you can share, quote, and repost my writing, but you can't use it for commercial purposes, you are required to attribute it to my pseudonym and blog with a link, and that you can't make derivative works, defined as "You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work." The derivative works portion is a grey area, and whether or not the taxpayer-subsidized NPR counts as "commercial" is also up for debate, but NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman unquestionably violated the attribution requirements of my Creative Commons licensing. Even the one link they provided to my blog on their show summary page on the web (which probably has .0001% of the audience of their radio broadcast) didn't follow the attribution requirements. To quote my Creative Commons license conditions, "Attribution — You must attribute Feminisnt to Furry Girl (with link)."
As far as I can tell, the attribution portion of Creative Commons license has not yet been tested in court in the United States. It has been tested in Belgium and Israel, and in both cases, the content creator won the case. I would love to the the American test case for attribution.
NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman violated both the letter and spirit of my Creative Commons licensing, and in doing so, they have opened themselves up to legal action. [See my third update at the end of this post.]
Here's more of the backstory, which you can skip if you're short on time, and go directly to the final paragraphs of this post.
On February 28, after sending emails asking for an interview about my FOIA story at 8:55am, 10:58am, and 11:00am, NPR's Sarah Abdurrahman moved to Twitter and yet again contacted me at 12:55pm. (News flash: if I don't reply to your annoying messages within the hour, don't assume you need to keep contacting me over and over and over. This is considered bad internet behavior.) I normally delete and ignore messages from people who exhibit spammer-level cluelessness, but I was feeling generous, and replied to the first of Sarah Abdurrahman's emails, shown below.
From: "Sarah Abdurrahman" <SAbdurrahman@wnyc.org>
Date: February 28, 2012 8:55:59 AM PST
Subject: from NPR
I am a producer with the National Public Radio program On the Media, a media analysis show that covers topics from First Amendment issues, to new media, and everything in between. You can find out more about us at onthemedia.org. One of the topics we like to discuss is transparency and Freedom of Information…which is why I was so interested to come across your story about FOIA-ing yourself! If you are available, we would love to have you on our program to talk about your experience with FOIA. We are not a live show, so we can be fairly flexible with scheduling an interview. Are you available to join us? Thanks in advance,
Sarah Abdurrahman|On the Media
160 Varick Street, New York NY 10013
T: 646.829.4567|E: firstname.lastname@example.org
WNYC: WNYC.ORG|93.9 FM|AM 820
I do not feel like I'm the best person to speak on the issue of Freedom of Information Act Requests, or on the domestic surveillance of American activists. I really believe that "we" should only put forward the formal or informal spokespersons who are the best at a topic. It always annoys me when I see people who don't know an issue well trying to explain it to the media, especially media like a radio or television broadcasts. For those reasons, I declined the interview and referred Abdurrahman to someone whose work centers on that topic in which she was interested. (I'm omitting his name and credentials from these emails just to avoid dragging him into the mess.) I was already being too nice, in retrospect. I tend to err on the side of politeness when dealing with the media, even if they're annoying pests, because you never know when you might need them in the future.
From: Feminisnt <>
Date: February 28, 2012 3:06:34 PM PST
To: Sarah Abdurrahman <SAbdurrahman@wnyc.org>
Subject: Re: from NPR
Thanks for contacting me. I'm flattered by the offer, but I really don't think my case is particularly interesting or special. There are much more interesting topics when it comes to FBI surveillance of American activists, and I'd rather see a more meaningful case get air time. I agree that it's a great topic, but my situation isn't special, and I'm not an expert on FOIA issues in general. My particular incident of being followed went nowhere and resulted in no arrests, whereas some cases result in major prosecutions, illegal wiretaps, and far more amusing anecdotes.
If you're looking for someone to discuss government surveillance of activists, [redacted] would be a much better choice than me, and he's written a lot about surveillance and prosecution of [activists]. His email address is [redacted].
Sarah Abdurrahman refused to take "no" for an answer, and sent me two more emails, on February 28 and 29. Maybe it's a sex worker thing, but anytime someone openly disrespects my politely telling them "no," and continues to insist that I should acquiesce to their demands, I immediately close off and decide I will never have anything to do with them. Sex work teaches you nothing if not boundaries and how to assert your limits in the face of pushy people who feel entitled to your time and energy. If I say "no" to you the first time, I will never, ever change my mind if you keep bothering me.
The meta issue of NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman's theft and disrespect is this: the "legitimate" media - meaning anyone who can afford broadcast licenses or physical paper distribution, even if it's a "small" news organization like NPR - shits on bloggers and independent writers all the time. We're just a bunch of silly kids making lolcats and scribbling nonsense, except when we're not, and then the media will shamelessly steal our work. How often do you see CNN or a major news network not bother to send reporters to cover stories, but just read off the tweets from bloggers and others in an area? That's but one example of how the mainstream media loves to use bloggers and independent writers while stopping short of truly respecting their legitimacy as reporters. Bloggers are not only sometimes the best sources of news, but sometimes the only sources. We break new ground, we do original research, we look at source material the mainstream usually doesn't even bother with, and best case scenario, a "real" media agency might read a few sentences from us on the air amid their fluff. Add to the mix that I write mostly about sexual politics and sex work, and I'm beyond invisible, I'm the lowest scum on the "respectable writers" totem pole. It feels like a double dose of the disregarding sneer the mainstream press shows to both bloggers and sex workers. (Sex workers constantly cope with outsiders re-telling, re-purposing, and twisting our stories for their benefit, not ours.)
I've emailed a number of lawyers, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation about my issue, and I'd love to take this to federal court as a test case for the attribution requirements of Creative Commons. I haven't fired off my own DMCA takedown requests, because I'm generally loath to use the over-reaching DMCA laws, even when I'm in the right. I believe it's important to keep pushing the message that bloggers can be journalists, that Creative Commons is a real copyright that should be respected, and that the media can't just steal from small unpaid writers like myself. (See the EFF's guide to blogger's rights issues here.)
Aside from the occasional presents from my wishlist, I am not compensated for the countless hours I've poured into writing. I write about things I'm passionate about, and I do so without expectation of riches, fame, or ever "crossing over" into the world of "real" writing. I simply don't want news organizations and journalists blithely stealing my work without so much as attribution or a thank you, just so they can earn their salaries, ad/sponsorship revenue, or viewer donations at my expense. I don't think that's too much to ask. I put a lot of my time and pieces of my life out there to write my FOIA story. It's not fair that NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman get to illegitimately and illegally benefit from my efforts.
Update one, March 8th: On the Media's Katya Rogers posted a response on their web site. Rather than apologizing, they distort the situation and mock me. They've just thrown a bucket of gasoline on this fire, and made it clear they have no intention of apologizing for either their ethical violations or their legal violations. They even blame me for the situation because I didn't want to be interviewed for their story. Since when does a refusal to be interviewed translate as, "Instead, just steal my work without attribution"? As is often done by people who dislike me, I am dismissively referred to as "someone calling herself 'Furry Girl'," to draw attention to my pseudonym as a means to discredit me or make me seem unreliable. (Wait, but if I'm such a fake person who can't be trusted, why did they so desperately want me to be on their radio show, and why did they do a story on me?) NPR is particularly incensed and calls it "seriously beyond the pale" that I would dare to call out by name the journalist who stole my work. Oh, so that's the game? You don't want it showing up in Google that NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman engage in content theft from a blogger? Thanks for telling me how to proceed!
Update two, March 8th: This is something of a sidenote, but I feel it's worth sharing. A friend of mine posted a comment on On the Media's web site, which they manually edited. They didn't just delete a comment they didn't like in its entirely, they de-clawed his argument to make themselves look better. His comment linked to my blog as a reference for what I've actually said, which is in contrast to their twisting of what transpired. On the Media's comment policy does not bar commenters from posting links. This was a manual, selective edit of one person's comment to make NPR look better.
Update three, March 11th: After talking to some lawyers and people who follow copyright enforcement issues, on a financial level, it's sadly just not worth it to sue NPR. The problem is that it would cost me a huge amount of money in legal fees to get what would surely be only a small monetary settlement. For me, it's not about money, it's about the point that I require attribution, but no attorney wants to launch a federal copyright case on the hopes of getting a portion of what... $50? $500? It drives me up the wall that NPR can do whatever the hell it wants, violate any sense of journalistic ethics, no doubt knowing that any court settlement they'd have to pay out wouldn't be worth it to me to fight for. The professional media wins, the small blogger they're stealing from loses, simply because I don't their kind of audience and money. (And it stings extra that we, as American taxpayers, subsidize NPR. They're using my money to screw me over, and I don't have enough money to fight back.)
I will not be publishing comments from the NPR apologists (or employees?) who are starting to find their way to my blog. You can go fawn over NPR on their own web site, you don't get to take up space on my server to defend their shitty behavior.
by Furry Girl
I am utterly baffled that I have to explain these things, but the sexy mommy mob is still hysterical after my comments on Twitter last week that feminist darling Madison Young is creepy-as-fuck for how she uses her baby as a non-consenting prop for her sexual politics and porn marketing. I don't expect to change any minds, and I'm not allowing comments on this post because I was sick of this topic days ago. But, since people are asking me for a "statement," and the sexy mommy mob is intent on growing this "story" into some kind of national outrage, I might was well clearly explain my position in one place. (I do appreciate seeing how, as this "story" moves out of the feminist porn scene, some other people share these opinions.)
The big take-home point that some people are missing: It's all about context. I am against breast feeding in places where people go to masturbate. Madison's posting of breast feeding photos and videos in her Twitter stream and on other sex-themed web sites is appalling to me. It's no different than breast feeding on stage at a strip club. Madison has spent her career making everything she does about sex. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. I'm a sex-loving pornographer myself! But you can't spend most of a decade purposefully building an environment where people come to masturbate and then feign confusion when someone like me "mistakes" that environment for being sexual.
It's hard to plead "there is absolutely nothing sexual about these photos/videos" when they are posted in sexualized spaces and/or crafted to look sexy. The most famous image shows Madison as a Marilyn Monroe knockoff. I've seen photos of other women breast feeding, and none of them bothered to put on a sexy dress and get their hair and makeup done first. For most moms with breast feeding photos, I bet they're probably wearing yesterday's sweatpants and looking exhausted, not trying to liken themselves to a famous sex icon.
I've been told that it's beyond Madison's control if sick people are aroused by her sexy breast feeding images. But if she would never want to encourage people to jerk off to photos of her baby, she should stop posting them in a place where she typically posts porn. Aside from all the innocent masturbators who clicked a blind link because they thought it was going to be kinky sex pics, who wants to see sexy breast feeding? Most of us would call them pedophiles. Best case scenario, Madison's sexy breast feeding schtick is an attention-getting ploy to sell her persona's "realness" so people will buy her "real" porn. Worst case scenario, Madison is knowingly creating masturbation material for pedophiles. Either way, it's revolting. (At what point does one cross over from sexualizing having a baby to sexualizing the baby?)
Madison's loyal fans have spent the last few days calling me an ignorant and cruel monster for taking Madison to task, but what about the actual victim, Madison's baby?
This issue is also about consent. The baby is not consenting to being used as a marketing gimmick for her mother's porn persona. There is a huge difference between consenting adults engaging in exhibitionism, and forcing creepy, pedophile-courting public voyeurism on a non-consenting baby. I am an exhibitionist myself, but I would never drag anyone into my kinks who isn't consenting to be a part of a scene. For all anyone knows, Madison's kid will be traumatized by her upbringing in public, and end up feeling extremely violated by the sexual attention Madison subjected her to as a child. Would you have wanted your mother breast feeding you for attention from horny adults, and for evidence of that to be online and linked to you forever?
I am against people using their children as props to serve an agenda. Madison's use of her daughter to push her politics is no different than when anti-abortion protesters or the Westboro Baptist Church uses their own unwitting small children as props. Kids aren't political tools to leverage for shock value, they're actual human beings who will one day be adults with their own set of opinions. To assume that Madison's baby will grow up and be thrilled that her mother used her to get attention for her porn persona is offensive and sad to me. Several have pointed out that I'm "no different," since I tweet photos of my cat. But, here's the key nuance they can't grasp: my cat will never be a sentient adult human with his own beliefs and a non-interest in being caught up in my pervy internet trail.
The sexy mommy mob doesn't like these "anti-sex worker" and "sexist" arguments, so they've turned it into a matter of rebutting things I never said.
I never said that no woman should be allowed to breast feed. I am not against breast feeding in public or private, I am against doing it in sexualized contexts. I would feel the same way if someone whipped out a baby at a swinger's club, so it's not just about the internet or porn.
I never said that sex workers (or kinksters) should not be allowed to have children, or that mothers can't be sexy. I have a number of kinky and sex working friends who are parents, and I know some sexy moms. They, however, possess good sense and boundaries and don't force their offspring to be a part of their exhibitionism and work. The kinky and sex working parents I know create separation between their lives, they definitely don't seek to combine them at every turn to prove how transgressive they can be. Not because my friends are prudes, but because they understand that it's deeply inappropriate to mix small children and horny adults.
I never said that no one should be allowed to photograph their kids or photograph breast feeding. I didn't comb through the Flickr pages of strangers until I found a random mother to criticize. I'm specifically talking about a porn star who is using her baby as an attention-getting prop in sexualized contexts.
This is not some kind of anti-"lesbian" hate crime. Madison is married to her male dominant/master, and I mostly fuck men, too. She and I are basically in the same boat, the difference being that I don't obsessively market myself as queer. I fail to see how my criticizing her constitutes an attack on "being queer," but some people are really grasping at straws for new ways to frame Madison as a victim of an injustice.
I hate what stuff like this does to the credibility of sex workers and pornographers as a whole. People like me try to tell regular folk that porn and sex work is about consenting adults, not weird stuff with kids and/or the non-consenting. To the sexy mommy mob, Madison is the greatest hero of her generation, but what about the other 99.999999% of America, the majority we need to get on our side in order to make any advancements for sex workers? If you seal yourself in the safe bubble of San Francisco, surrounded by adoring fans, then of course you're not going to care how you might be damaging the movement for acceptance of sex workers and porn.
I'm surprised that people like Gail Dines and Melissa Farley haven't seized upon Madison's baby fetish as yet another way to attack all of us. This is exactly the sort of thing they live to hold up as a non-representative example of how we're all horrible people. Anti-sex work activist Donna Hughes threw a fit a year ago when a small sexuality conference apparently allowed in a high school senior. For this, the organizer was branded, basically, a dangerous predator going after America's helpless children. If letting a consenting 17-year-old hear about sexuality is enough for the antis to launch a campaign that says kink bloggers are basically child molesters, I wonder what they would think of a porn star sexualizing the breast feeding of a baby? But of course, if the antis get wind of the controversy that Madison and her fans are so desperately trying to publicize, she will not be the one addressing the hard questions. She has her feminist porn "revolution" to worry about, and the rest of us - especially her baby girl - can go eat cake.
by Furry Girl
"Sex worker" has become a chic identity in urban feministy sex-positive communities, so it's no wonder that some people desperately want to be able to add that label to their own bio. Doing so is badass, it's liberated, it's sexy, it will help make you internet famous, it's... totally fucking irritating.
Earlier this month, I wrote about my definition of "sex work" and why the term does not apply to everyone in the sex industry at large, or everyone who enjoys sex as a hobby. To repeat myself, "sex work is exchanging one's own sexual labor or performance for compensation." This means it doesn't include people like sex advice columnists, strip club owners, or dildo store clerks. Those people are missing the whole "their own sexual labor" thing. But, let's not forget the wannabes who are missing the whole work half of sex work.
I've apparently pissed off a sex blogger by not allowing contributions from non- sex workers for SWAAY's section of short personal stories from sex workers. She sent in a submission about why she enjoys sex blogging, and I politely declined and told her the call-out for submissions is for sex workers only.
I've had arguments with sex bloggers about this topic before, and I know I'll have it many times in the future. What confounds me is how some sex bloggers just can't wrap their heads around the difference between being a slut and being a whore. There is a distinction between posting free sexy photos of yourself because it arouses you, and posing for sexy photos to make money. One is a hobby done for personal arousal and satisfaction, the other is a job done regardless of whether the worker finds it sexually fulfilling. It's like saying that you consider yourself a prostitute because you like having one-night stands.
I've never met a person without a sex-positive web persona who thinks that their unpaid sexual escapades qualify them as sex workers. Do they think that doing something sexual on the internet is what defines sex work? What is it about getting off on web-based exhibitionism that inspires non- sex workers to identify as a sex worker? I don't understand.
Why does this rattle me so much? Because being a sex worker means dealing with some serious social stigmas that can impact your life is big ways, and to degrees that non-professional sluts won't experience. On the extreme end of things, if you get a cross-section of sex workers together, you'll find someone who has been raped or assaulted by a police officer. I've never once heard a sex blogger report that this is an issue in their community. Sex workers flat-out have more stigma and (risk of) illegality around our lives and work. Even relatively privileged sex workers like myself deal with problems like finding a place to live when your income isn't (well-) documented, rejection by friends and family, being verbally attacked by feminists and personally blamed for rape and sexism as a whole, weighing bad laws versus your own personal safety, and the endless hassles and heartbreaks of dating as a sex worker. It's everything a slut experiences, but greatly multiplied, often complicated by fear of prosecution.
On Twitter, a sex shop owner replied to my rants about sex bloggers:
clmng the name sex worker in solidarity & in rec of lvls of sex wrk is good. But priv people mkng assumptions & demands is icky.
Huh? It's good to falsely claim "sex worker" in "solidarity" with us? Please, do show me where sex workers are begging the general public to adopt the title "sex worker" in order to make life better for us. Did black liberation groups of the 60s and 70s call for white people to put on blackface makeup in order to make lives better for black people? Is the queer rights movement insisting that things will only get better if more straight people pretend to be queer? Oh, wait, none of that nonsense has never happened. Lying and claiming to be a part of an oppressed group won't fix that group's problems.
Here we have an example of someone who thinks they're being an awesome ally to sex workers, but are actually just imposing their own ideas of what sex workers should do in contrary to what sex workers are asking of them. Paternalism like this is never pretty, it's no different from the paternalism of anti- sex worker activists and "rescuers," and it's certainly not "solidarity." I've ranted about bad, bossy behavior from "allies" before, and I will continue to stand against non- sex workers insisting that they know better sex workers about what we should be doing. It's not providing useful suggestions as a part of a sex worker -initiated conversation, it's deciding on your own that you're in the best position to figure out how we should go forward.
Claiming marginalizations that you have never experienced is offensive, whether you're claiming them because you incorrectly believe you're a part of a "cool" oppressed group, or whether you think that pretending to be marginalized is an act of political change. This is one of the problems with the "hipsterization of sex work" that I've written about before - sex work can get turned into just another transgressive thing to add to one's list of (mock) transgressions against social norms.
This style of temporarily cloaking yourself in other people's realities reminds me of the countless people I've met who romanticize being poor, but as it turns out, come from money and have never experienced real poverty. While it's not perfectly analogous to the wannabe sex worker crowd, it's the same irksome problem of people flagrantly ignoring/denying their privileges, and even thinking that doing so is helping and standing with the oppressed. It isn't. If you want to help sex workers and be a good ally, please start by listening to us, not by pretending to be one of us.
by Furry Girl
People, and social movements, cannot grow without dealing with their shortcomings, especially if those problems are uncomfortable, dramatic, or awkward to fling into the open. This lengthy post is me throwing a molotov cocktail of things-that-have-gone-publicly-unsaid, but I wanted to start my critique only after I give some quick context of what else has been said recently.
For backstory on "this month in sex worker blog controversy", start with Amanda's post about excluding women like her who are mainstream sexy and heteronormative. Snippets:
There is a deep prejudice permeating the sex worker rights movement in the US. Just because some of us have a mainstream appearance doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the same stigma that every other sex worker does, that we somehow work under a different set of laws. Just because we look much like the “pretty” depictions of sex workers in mainstream media doesn’t mean we’re not “real,” it means we’re making money (most sex workers are in sex work to make money).
“Inclusiveness” and “diversity” are such huge preoccupations in the movement that they often derail energy and focus on the real-world issues staring all of us in the face. In the stampede to be inclusive and make sure that all ethnic/gender/occupation/whatever boxes are ticked and that a token representative is present, a huge majority go unnoticed and unwelcome.
Then, she called out two of the biggest names in sex blogging, Susie Bright and Mistress Matisse. Single sentence summary:
The Craigslist debacle of 2010 really separated the in-the-trenches sex workers from those quite obviously above it.
Amanda's posts are the tip of an iceberg, and it's not just her, and it's not just about any one or two famous sex bloggers saying detached or offensive things. Overall, the big issue I've seen floating around America in the last 6 months is that there are a number of sex workers who aren't happy with the Big Name Visible People in sex worker politics, Big Names who notably couldn't even be bothered to attend this year's Desiree Alliance sex worker conference. Many sex workers I've talked to aren't thrilled with the increasing inaccessibility and academic-esque nature of sex work dialog, don't feel like their world is being well-represented, and are privately whispering things like, "Wait, what was it that so-and-so actually did that makes them a sex worker? And how many years ago was that?"
In sum, it feels like there's a lot of important and exciting shit brewing just under the surface in sex worker politics, and more people looking to get involved in some sort of political stuff - if they can find a way to do so.
For those of you who don't know me well: this is coming from someone who got started in sex work almost 9 years ago (full-time for 8 years), is not involved in any sex worker rights groups and has a semi-outsiders perspective on sex worker activism, but who considers herself to have a pretty good grasp of the history of social movements and activism in the United States over the last 50 years.
Here's what I see from where I'm sitting:
1.) The sex worker rights movement should be led by experienced and current sex workers. No one should be excluded, but we sorely need more voices from folks who aren't hipster feminists with only brief involvement with sex work.
It's truly great to have part-timers and people who did/do only a small amount of sex work speak about their experiences. I am glad that people who don't "need" to be involved in the fight for sex workers rights care to do so anyway. It also testifies to how sex work is not a monolith and can often be something people do once in their lives, or for a few months, or a few years, or with one special patron they see twice a year. I am not dismissing those folks and their stories or their work as activists, but for people who have flat-out spent less time sex working, they sure do comprise a whole lot of our tacit leadership and spokespersons.
The vocal sex worker scene needs more people whose primary motivation wasn't a quick bout of fun self-exploration. That's a totally valid reason to do sex work, and I'm not saying you're bad or irrelevant if it describes you, but it's simply not representative of sex workers in this country as a whole. (I enjoy the explorative and creative aspects of my work, but it's still my full-time job that I do for money.) The over-representation of sex-positive dabblers also contributes to the anti camp being able to dismiss sex worker activism as something by and for a tiny minority of the most privileged and "happy hooker"-esque. Even if we love our work, as I do, I think we do ourselves a disservice by over-selling the erotic/transgressive/feminist aspect of it in an attempt to counter false stereotypes that all sex workers are abused addicts who hate their jobs.
When I feel extra cynical, I wonder if there's some kind of unwritten rule that says the less sex work you've done, and the longer it's been since you've done it, the more aggressively you ought to shout about how you're a sex worker and thrust yourself into public conversations as such. (Of course, this rule does not apply to typical sex workers, it applies only to the educated feminist types.) I've been a full-time, no-"real"-job sex worker my entire adult life, and frankly, I think this buys me a bigger seat at the table than someone who appears in a few porn videos a year, or was a stripper for a semester a decade ago. (Just as, of course, I think people who've been sex workers since before I was born deserve an even bigger seat at the table than I do.)
This doesn't mean I dislike part-time or former sex workers (I adore many of them and think they've made some amazing contributions!), nor do I think that they shouldn't be included, or that they aren't "real" sex workers. I simply want the folks with the most at stake and the most experience to have the most say in what's going on and how their jobs are portrayed. Radically offensive perspective, I know.
2.) The sex worker rights movement needs to make itself and its issues accessible to more supporters and sex workers, not just feminist bloggers, the kinkster/sex-positive scene, and academics.
If you were to casually surf across popular sex workers rights blogs and articles, you'll find stuff like how to reframe human trafficking through a lens of post-colonial theory, impassioned calls to stop cis-sexist language constructs, and the forced rehabilitation centers in Cambodia. These are all excellent and fascinating topics of discussion to me, but (sadly!) they only interest a very small amount of other people. Sex worker discourse is dominated by people who chose to forget that most folk in America aren't familiar with the idea of being "cisgender", can't find Cambodia on a map, and all they know about "colonialism" is that pilgrims wore funny hats.
Your average person (sex worker or potential ally) does not have a graduate degree-level understanding of gender, feminism, or immigration politics. They don't even possess the vocabulary to join the conversation we're having amongst ourselves. Think of it this way: we're trying to implore people, "Save the whales from extinction!", except their concept of what a whale looks like is "a grey cow that can breathe under water", they don't know what save implies in this context, and they need to look up extinction in a dictionary because they've never heard the word before. The steep learning curve is alienating. When I see so many sex worker rights discussions going on, I wonder if some people have ever ventured outside of the intellectual pervert cliques of New York City and San Francisco.
It's not like I disagree with what most of the brainy clique is writing, or think they should stop saying it, but I'm a pragmatist who knows that deconstructing every facet of hetero-normativity is not the most pressing issue for most sex workers. Yes, everything is connected, "let's not be single-issue", I get that - but some people are like a chef so busy trying to explain how to make impressively intricate fondant cakes that they forget that their audience hasn't even mastered Jello instant pudding yet. I'm not anti- fondant cake, but let's start with getting everyone on board with that just-add-milk-and-stir thing, and then work our way up from there, shall we?
If you want to change the world, you have to be able to meet people where they're at, to explain things to average people using plain language. Broad-based social change is not a competition to see who can talk the furthest over the heads of the general public. That famous quip about how "the only thing that's ever changed the world is a small group of committed people" is complete bullshit. You do need those core instigators, but if it starts and ends there, your cause is doomed.
Further, sex workers really need to reconsider what it means to "build bridges with other communities." We can get every last feminist sex blogger and BDSM enthusiast to say they agree with our cause, but, well... that's not really progress. The way I see, the root thing we're working to change is public opinion and stigma before we can do anything else - like changing or repealing laws - and sex workers need to actually reach out to the general public. I love sex bloggers and kinksters and think they have been great allies, but they are members of the choir, not the people that we most need to reach. It seems like 99% of outreach efforts are focused on influencing less than 1% of the population. We need to stop kidding ourselves and acting like it's a major accomplishment to convince someone who's already devoted to transgressive sexuality that they should support sex workers, too. (I'm not dismissing our cool allies in the pervert scene, I'm stating that we need more allies.)
3.) The "working" class needs to be at the forefront of the sex workers rights movement.
In Jim Goad's polarizing book, The Redneck Manifesto, he lays things out thusly:
The working class doesn't write a lot of history books. The working class doesn't produce many movies or radio shows. The working class doesn't need to hire media consultations or theatrical agents. The working class has played an itty-bitty role in fashioning its public image.
That's because the working class was too busy working.
I might not be "working class" in the sense Goad means it, but I'm "working" class within the sex work scene in that my focus has been on actual sex work, not on writing about it for liberal news sites and academic journals, debating anti-prostitution activists on TV, or promoting myself as a guest lecturer available to talk to college students about "feminist porn". Even as I blog, consider writing a book, and start expanding into doing more political stuff, I'm still working a full-time job as a pornographer and web cam performer, which is where I devote most of my energies.
I know we're all busy, but I'd like to see more sex workers take just a bit of time to get involved in something, or speak out, or share their stories. I don't want sex worker politics to belong only to a handful of feminist intellectuals, I want to see blogs and contributions and stories and ideas from people sprinkled all over the country, doing all sorts of different work, especially those who have no prior experience with activism and political organizing. I want to see new faces. I want these faces to be diverse, but without refusing to acknowledge the reality that most sex workers are able-bodied cisgender women who adhere to mainstream beauty standards.
It saddens me to see any sex worker feeling like there's no place for them because they're not a punky queer hipster (pseudo)intellectual. It's such a bizarro-world scenario where a a teeny little minority of (ex) sex workers can make the majority feel like they are the ones who don't fit in. I know a number of long-standing, smart, politically-minded, and/or boundary-pushing people whose work and opinions don't get mentioned in political sex work and "feminist porn" discussions because they don't fit into the established superficial mould of what a "smart sex worker" is supposed to look and act like. Is sex worker activism a momentum-gathering social movement or a temporarily trendy subculture, like ironic mustaches?
I stated that I'm calling for a "working" class uprising, and I chose that word for a reason. I didn't call for a coup. I don't want to silence anyone or tell anyone to stop doing what they're doing. I am calling for the rest of us to literally rise up, to become the dominant voices not because we take voices away from others, but because we are speaking up for ourselves. If you don't like how things are going, or don't feel represented by the current sex worker political scene, it's up to you to make sex worker politics yours through your own participation.
4.) I live up to what I ask of others, so I'm starting a new project. Its focus is on providing accessible information about sex work to a general audience.
I've had an idea for this independent project floating around in my head for a while, and decided that now is the time to finally get on it. Independent as in something I can operate mostly by myself, without joining an existing group and devoting time to organization meetings, worrying about consensus processes, and frankly, having to rely on other people - who may end up flaking out on me. While I will be asking for input, advice, and help from other people, I'm a ultimately a lone wolf, and I want something that's mostly operated by me, because then I know it will get done.
The political work (I sort of hate the word "activist" because of the subculture scene image it implies) I've been involved with off-and-on over in the last decade has been of a very different framework than general education and outreach. My experiences are with more targeted issues where there's some clear goal and there are more definitive metrics to gage success. Changing the big picture for sex workers is fucking hard. This isn't "let's get this company/person to stop/start doing this specific thing." Sluts and whores (and women falsely perceived to be so) are some of the most hated people across every human culture in the world. Every single religion is anti-sexuality, and that affects our global psyche in ways I don't think all people realize or care to admit. So, while this isn't little Furry Girl's first try at doing something political, it's a truly challenging construct due to its vastness and how much it's ingrained in our world. Also, it's funny to me that I generally agitate for more "radical" positions on issues, but what most needs to be done for sex workers is providing polite, 101-level basic public education, so what's what I'm going to do.
The launch date on my project hasn't been determined yet, but some time in the spring. I promise, it will be good, and I'll write more about this soon. In the mean time, if you have a fancy-pants job and aren't hurting too badly from the recession, I would appreciate any early-bird donations to get the ball rolling.
I've decided on what I have the skill, time, and interest to contribute. What will you start doing this year?
[Edit to add: this project is now launched at SWAAY.org]
by Furry Girl
Something happened at the end of 2010. I finally became Andy Warhol.
"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches." -- Andy Warhol
Just kidding. I don't think I'm that famous. (And unlike him, not one feminist has actually tried to murder me yet.)
But, I've finally hit that point - sparked by a frothy mixture of more people talking about me, and more letting go of keeping up with haters - where I'm not even trying to read everything people say about me any more. Google Alerts for my name and my blog are only glanced at, not read in their entirety, and certainly not used as motivation to jump into fights with people on the internet about whether or not I am an asshole. (I already know I'm an asshole. I just happen to be an asshole who's correct most of the time, like all the best villains of fiction.)
Haters are so funny. I'll never get over the hilarity of how verbose and devoted people get when obsessively, repeatedly explaining to me how "boring" or "unimportant" they find me, and I've attracted heaps of those detractors-cum-fans in the last six weeks between two popularity spikes. (Although, an all-time favorite insult was from two or three years ago, when a Republican pornographer launched her triumphant fuck-you at me on a forum. She revealed that she found me so extremely boring that she even wrote a whole blog entry about how boring I am. Yeah, uh... you sure showed me!) It's like being in kingergarten and knowing who secretly likes you based on who bothers to throw dirt at you, except now, the dirtiest dirt to be thrown is accusations of having bored the hater. Let the record reflect that I'm not the one who's hounding my political opposites, following them around the internet in the excited hopes that maybe they'll pay attention to me. I stay in my own virtual house for the most part - something of an internet cat lady shut-in, I suppose. I hardly even comment on my friends' blogs (sorry!), let alone spend my life seeking out blogs of strangers I can dislike so I can self-righteously lecture them about exactly why I dislike them. What a bizarre and neurotic thing to do!
No one whose opinion I care about has attacked me, but I did earn praise from three people I admire. Penn Jillette called me a hero on Twitter for my TSA protest, Dan Savage quoted my thoughts on rape in a post titled "What She Said,", and Laura Agustín commented in support of my rape piece. I'm going to cherry pick and say I got all the external validation I could want between those three. And, of course, there was a torrent of people commenting all around the web about how I'm a monster who's basically responsible for everything bad that's ever happened to anyone. It's pretty rad that I somehow manage to simultaneously be the most insignificant yawn-fest people have ever deigned to notice, and also powerful enough to be personally responsible for stuff like "rape culture" and terrorist airplane hijackings. I'm an enigma like that.
A couple of months ago, I received an unsolicited email from a literary agent asking me if I had a book proposal she could check out. Seeing as how getting my shit together and writing a sample chapter and proper proposal was already on my "things to do in the near-ish future" list, it was very flattering to have someone express interest without me even trying. And, maybe it will go no where and no publisher will want to print anything I say - I'm not going to get over-excited. (I have a major loathing of how commonly people brag about how they're "writing a book," like just saying it out loud means you're halfway to winning a Nobel Prize. Ain't nothing special about writing a book, kids - you don't get any bragging rights until all those words are, you know, being purchased in stores in book format.) Even with that cynicism in mind, I'm flattered by the interest. I wonder, snidely, how often literary agents track down blog comment trolls to say things like, "Your scathing paragraph of how [so-and-so] is ugly and stupid was absolutely brilliant! Please send me a book proposal and sample chapter as soon as you have one. You have a unique voice!"
(Seriously - has anyone ever gotten a book deal based on their "work" as a commenter on blogs? Has anyone ever parlayed posting comments on other people's web sites into anything substantive or memorable?)
by Furry Girl
The first person who ever made me fear for my life was an avowed pacifist. He was my boyfriend, and he lost his temper, threw me to ground, pinned me down, and head-slammed me until several of his guy friends dragged him off me. This was at the same time that he became obsessed with Gandhi and decided that protesting was unethical because it had the potential to make someone uncomfortable, which was, according to him, a form of unacceptable psychological violence in which activists must no longer engage. I later had my head smashed into the edge of a tiled kitchen countertop by an environmentalist boyfriend, too. I've twice experienced a panic at the hands of a "do-gooder" that my skull was going to be cracked open. You don't need to convince me that abuse exists in even the most purportedly enlightened circles.
I have also witnessed a number of instances of people in activist and political social scenes who have use calculated accusations of rape, abuse, and assault out of spite, broken-heartedness, desire for attention, and to deflect from their own behaviors. Why does this happen? On the left side of the political spectrum, people are awarded unflinching acceptance of all claims of sexual misconduct. This harm lasts forever, even if later proved false or rescinded by the accuser once they've stopped being mad at their ex. I have friends who have been slandered by former lovers, and I've seen how the stigma scars their lives. I've seen this happen in different countries, in different social causes/subgroups, among people with different class backgrounds, different orientations and genders, and different ages. It's not been just a one-off thing that could be chalked up to a small and localized problem, like, "Gay animal rights people in Tuscon under 25 tend to do this."
I have no idea if WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange might have had sex with two of his fans without using a condom every time, or whether a condom broke. I don't know whether, if true, it was coerced unprotected sex, or consented to in the moment and later regretted. (You don't know the answers to these questions, either.) I spent several hours reading articles from both pro-and anti-Assange camps, and the more I read, the more the stories and circumstances of his accusers sounded fishy, and the more hysterical his detractors got with cherry-picking information, flat-out lying, and using over-the-top emotionally-manipulative language.
Here's the story from what I can tell: "victim one" bragged about having trophy-fucked Assange, threw a party for him the day after he "raped" her, and only decided she'd been "raped" after finding out she wasn't his only lover. Earlier this year, her blog promoted exacting malicious revenge on men who are unfaithful. (This series of events apparently could sound suspect only to a "rape-apologist"?) Once two jilted Assange groupies discovered each other, the women who'd previously stayed friendly with Assange even after their "assaults" (while thinking they were his only girl) got upset and decided to go to the police. And, even then, they didn't go to press rape charges at first, they went to see if they could force Assange to undergo STI testing. After there wasn't any evidence to charge him with anything, one woman changed her story to claim that, yes, actually, she did recall that he held her down with his body weight when they had sex, and so she was a rape victim. (The feminist hysterics have been holding up that part as their key lynchpin in their witch hunt. Because obviously, only a rapist would be on top of a woman during sex!)
So, are Assange's accusers victims of a powerful and horny political celebrity, or are they pissed off jealous fangirls who assumed Assange would reciprocate their adoration if they pursued and seduced him? It's a fair question to ask about motivations and truthfulness here, but anyone who's been asking gets shouted down with screams of "YOU SUPPORT RAPE!" It's a very offensive logical fallacy: question whether Assange is actually a rapist, and it means you must think rape is awesome.
Our post-feminist western culture celebrates women doing pointlessly spiteful things to men. This is the "triumph" of decades of fighting real sexism: narratives where women blow up an unattractive suitor's truck (Thelma & Louise), or burn all their husband's possessions when he wants a divorce (Waiting to Exhale) are chick flick classics. Women are generally given free passes to control, abuse, and seek vengeance that they would never be allowed if they were men. The solution to gender-based injustice is never to just reverse which gender the injustice gets brought against.
When lefties fanatically spearhead every rape/abuse allegation leveled by anyone, they are creating an environment that enables and even encourages false accusations from angry parties. While it's a travesty that police and courts have historically not often believed the claims of people who have been sexually assaulted, the solution is not to unquestioningly champion and celebrate anyone who says they are a victim. Never believing and always believing allegations are both wrong. Rape and assault are awful, fucked up things, but that doesn't mean accusations shouldn't be subjected to any degree of fact-checking or skepticism. Murder is awful, too, and even with badly flawed judicial systems, we still generally try and sort out the facts and give the accused their day in court and a chance to defend themselves.
Hysterics will no doubt claim that I'm defending rape or don't take it seriously. On the contrary: I consider rape and sexual assault accusations to be so serious that they deserve extra consideration and yes, even questioning when it's warranted. I think we're obligated to turn a critical eye on potentially fraudulent allegations. As someone who recently sung the praises of vigilante justice, I'm all in favor of exacting harsh revenge upon rapists, predators, and abusers - but if you're going to do that to someone, you had better be sure.
What is the workable alternative to having some degree of caution about rape accusations? What solution do the feminists propose? Is their argument that rape is so terrible that it's morally justifiable to mindlessly destroy innocent lives in the pursuit of ferreting out any potential rapists? (The term for that is collateral damage, and it's generally used to gloss over and negate civilian casualties in warfare.)
Julian Assange deserves a right to defend himself, have legal representation, question the lack of evidence of wrongdoing, and address lies being spread in the mainstream and liberal press. (Example: he didn't "flee Sweden to avoid prosecution" as the feminists are claiming - he stuck around some 40 days after the accusations surfaced, trying to see if police wanted to take a statement from him. Assange also willingly turned himself in - hardly the hallmark of a "flight risk trying to avoid going to court".) I don't know what transpired between himself and his "victims", but I do know that thus far, I'm not convinced he did anything more discourteous than failing to make clear to his Swedish ladyfriends he wasn't looking to settle down and marry them. Maybe my guess will be proved wrong. I'll keep an open mind, and I challenge others to do the same, especially when it comes to such incendiary topics. Google the matter for yourself, pick an array of articles to read (start with this post, perhaps), and form your own opinion based on a metric other than "anyone accused of rape is guilty, because rape is wrong."
Being around activist types for over a decade - and witnessing the fallout of how some of them go nuclear on their former lovers - I've been taught to be very suspicious of accusations of sexual impropriety when they involve "politically-minded," lefty, and feminist people. Don't blame me for requesting fairness to all parties - vilify the scoundrels who cry wolf just to get back at an ex, mocking real survivors and make it harder for them to be believed. Just as much as rapists and abusers, fakers are the true villains of this topic.
by Furry Girl
As it says in the header of my blog, my political philosophy is informed primarily by Patrick Swayze's character in Roadhouse: "I want you to be nice until it's time to not be nice."
There are two types of "politically-engaged" people: those who are concerned with reality, and those who are concerned with theory, and rarely the twain shall meet. There are those who work hard, with what they have, in the here and now, to make the world a slightly less shitty place. Then there's the theory camp, which likes to hem and haw about "what ifs", focusing on keeping their educated analyses in a consistent and tidy spreadsheet. They criticize and dismiss the works of the reality camp as not being perfect enough, while they themselves contribute nothing but armchair commentary about how things should be done. I despise the theory class with every fiber of my being. Always have, always will.
I've been sitting back and waiting to post about the final nails in the coffin of "Alexa di Carlo". While I doubt the saga is complete, I've decided it's time to write something about the whole thing before the sex blogging community forgets and goes back to busying themselves with writing sex toy reviews. Plenty of other people have written pieces rehashing what's happened, so check out these select bits of commentary by Expose A Bro (the kick-off post that details all the information of the outing), Charlie Glickman, Belle de Jour, The Sexademic, Miss Maggie Mayhem.
The dirty laundry in a nutshell: "Alexa" was the name of a fake escort who gave bad/dangerous sex advice on "her" blog, The Real Princess Diaries. "Alexa" pretended to be an academic, stole photos from real sex workers and passed them off as herself, mocked and harassed sexuality activists, and was generally know for churning out poor-quality erotica about her adventures, which read like the cliche and misinformed fantasies of a man who wished he was a sexy woman. "Alexa" also had another online persona, "Caitlain", that hit on underage teenagers, tried to get them to tell her in graphic detail about their sex lives, and even solicited and received nude photos from these minors. But the infodump doesn't stop there - when "Alexa" was outed as being a frumpy dude in Delaware named Pat Bohannan, another secret scam was revealed his photo began to circulate. "Alexa" was privately coaching newbie sex workers and other women to try out her favorite and most trusted client client, Pat Bohannan. Collecting underage porn and convincing women to enter prostitution are both prosecutable crimes, and apparently, the guy has been reported to law enforcement.
As a community, many people came forward and offered their little puzzle pieces of information on the guy, and the picture formed was that of a devoted sexual predator - whose online web of deception and law-breaking was halted by the transparent collaboration of many sex bloggers, sex educators, sex workers, academics, and youth. I can't think of a better example of what sex workers are always telling the world - it is those within sex worker communities who are in the best place to identify the truly dangerous criminals.
What I want to draw your attention to is not the "Alexa"/"Caitlain"/Pat clusterfuck itself, but the reactions to it, and how it reinforces all the things that I loathe about political discussions and how we react to anger, especially when it's coming from women.
As this all unraveled, the internet was quick to explode in commentary. While many noted people wrote smart things about the messy, awful situation, every two-bit sex blogger from here to Kansas was also chomping at the bit to get their own post online to offer some contrarian counter-point in a desperate attempt to get traffic. Many such commenters have been pushing a nonsensical slippery slope angle. There's been a lot of babble about the horrors of "vigilant justice", and comparisons have been made to "witch hunts", "lynchings", and "unthinking angry mobs."
I'm an antiauthoritarian, and so as far as I'm concerned, "the justice system" and "the police" are simply vigilante justice implemented and accepted by majority rule. I'll assign my opinion on acts of either "law enforcement" or "vigilantism" on a case-by-case basis. "Vigilantism" is an accusation I've seen commonly used by a majority to dismiss efforts on behalf of the marginalized (or those who perceive themselves to be marginalized) to actualize their own immediate self-defense and self-offense, often after being failed by official systems.
Vigilantism (and by extension, all controversial methods of creating change or redressing grievances) is neither ethical nor unethical as a whole - is it a tactic, not a philosophy. For example, would I consider it an ethical response to break someone's legs for cutting in line at the grocery store? Of course not, but that is not because I believe that violence is always wrong. When a friend of mine once happened upon a gay-bashing and intervened by assaulting the attackers, I thought that was awesome. This doesn't mean I think that breaking people's noses is always the best solution to every problem, but violent bigots are rarely compelled to stop through means other than a violent response. Politically-engaged people seem to have the darnedest time wrestling with these issues of tactical dogmatism.
Outing and publicly shaming someone is a tactic, and one that I personally think was ethically correct in the "Alexa" situation, because it was a case of a persistent sexual predator who was causing harm to people - most obviously, the women he tricked into having sex with him, and teens who felt violated by sending him nude photos of themselves. Various people have tried other methods of ridding the community of "Alexa"/"Caitlain" for years. He was able to persist because of shame and silence, and his complete public outing shattered his power. I remain in agreement with Dan Savage's take on similar matters. To paraphrase: outings are brutal, and must be reserved only for brutes.
There's this idea floated by people are who not terribly mentally sophisticated that if the sexuality community supports a "vigilante" outing of this one man, no matter how vile or illegal they admit his behavior to be, then the community surely has opened itself up to being obligated to support all outings of all people in all instances. This is the sort of junk you get from the theory class - they're too busy working on keeping their theories perfectly consistent. They might as well be arguing, "I am against putting people in jail for murder, because once we start jailing anyone for anything, we will have to jail everybody." There is no slippery slope. It's lazy thinking, pure and simple, from people who don't care enough to determine ethics on an individualized basis, and prefer to make sweeping decrees without paying any attention to circumstance. It's morality as an auto-reply form letter.
Throughout this latest (and hopefully final) bout of "Alexa"-induced drama, there's been a strong undercurrent of some people smugly clucking their tongues at women who are angry, dispassionately reminding us to not get bees in our dainty bonnets. The nerve of us ill-mannered floozies for losing our cool! How dare we act up in such a crude and extreme manner as to cuss and use all caps?
It's highly impolitic of women to ever be hateful, no matter if what we're screaming about is something as cut-and-dry as anger directed at a sexual predator. Even when this attitude is coming from people who consider themselves progressives or radicals, it still feels like someone trying to drag women - kicking and screaming, of course - into a past where women were not allowed to be upset, and it was their job to keep up decorum and suffer injustices quietly.
I've long felt like the most uncouth person in the world, because I readily admit my capacity for great scorn. I genuinely do hate oppressive people and groups, and unlike silly hippies, I absolutely do identify certain people and groups not as lost souls in need of saving, but distinctly as enemies. I hate, and I love. I smile at things like the creep behind "Alexa" losing his job, and I take care of my friends and my community with great affection. I cheered aloud and clapped my hands when Andrea Dworkin died, and I feel real pain and sadness when I see people in my communities suffer tragedies. I don't hide my so-called "ugly" feelings, I don't play Stepford Activist. You might catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but when your underlying goal is to kill flies, why not just use a flyswatter and save your sweet stuff for those who deserve it? I express anger on a regular basis, and as such, I'm violating an unspoken social rule of most progressive scenes: there's this idea that the first person to get angry loses the battle, as though ours is a race to see who can be nicest to predators, criminals, and abusers as they work to destroy us. Anger, spite, hatred, and a desire for revenge are supposedly never an acceptable response to injustice - least of all, from women.
After the release of the Afghan War Logs, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange commented to the media, "I love crushing bastards." I'm a WikiLeaks fan and supporter, and that line is one of my favorite things I've seen come out of Assange. It's so perfect in its simplicity - taking satisfaction in exposing war crimes. Later, at a more informal conversation with the British press, a journalist said something to him like, "A while ago, you made this tongue-in-cheek statement about how you love crushing bastards...", and Assange corrected him with his standard calm fierceness. No, he wasn't joking. He loved crushing bastards.
I wish more people stood up and admitted their love of crushing the bastards in their lives, and of the need for more bastards to be crushed. You are not a monster because you hate bad people and bad social constructs. I happen to think there's something dead inside you if nothing stirs hatred within you. Hatred and anger are passions, like love and joy, and I've found that people either have deep passions or they don't, but no one is truly comprised of all hatred or all love. Some of us are just more intense and open about all of our feelings.
I imagine that The Obtuseness Brigade will process this post as "Furry Girl says that violence and hatred are the only way to achieve social change, and that everyone should carry out acts of vigilante justice against anyone who annoys them." Oh well. Those types always need something to whine about.
Seeing as how quotes from movies starring Patrick Swayze are the final arbiters of all matters, I'll close with another - this time, Red Dawn.
"All that hate is gonna burn you up kid."
"It keeps me warm."
[Note: I will not be publishing any comments from people who want to debate or defend the actions of "Alexa"/Pat Bohannan. That's not the point of this post, so you'll have to take it elsewhere.]
by Furry Girl
Last weekend, a conference took place in Boston for an organization called Stop Porn Culture. Homely academics and anti-sex worker activists gathered to express their latest justifications to one another about why they're afraid of kinky sex and jealous of women who attract the male gaze - er, I mean, why they're against pornography.
Three sex bloggers also went to the conference of (by one estimate) about 150 attendees. Violet Blue put up a counter-Stop Porn Culture blog, Our Porn, Ourselves, to raise awareness of the fact that lots of women love porn. (Anti-porn activists struggle to always frame their argument in terms of men versus women and porn versus women, which is an false dichotomy. They insist that your only choices are that you support women's rights, or you support the sex industry. They get major constipation-face if you point out the massive plot holes in this gender-segregation story, such as gay porn, dyke/queer porn, and women who are consumers/clients - let alone the issue of women sex workers themselves who are happy with their work.) Over on Twitter, a group of people were back-and-forthing about the conference, but it was a discussion that mostly left me shocked as to how obtuse and paternalistic some "allies" can be.
At the outset of the discussion, I was reprimanded by several people and told I'm mustn't even joke about porn being evil since I'll surely get quoted out of context and harm the cause. I wonder what it's like to feel like to be so smugly self-important that you refrain from all use of sarcasm, finely honing every tweet to make sure that no one could ever misquote you or take offense at what you typed, because surely, your 140 character tweets hold within them the future of discourse on sexuality? I'm always ruining things for the proper upstanding folks - this time, I was guilty of debasing Twitter to a mere vehicle of amusement and brief exchanges, rather than the erudite academic journal for which everyone else uses it.
The core concern from most sex blogger types commenting on the topic, though, is that apparently, "we" need to respect anti-sex worker activists, "be kind" to them, and seek to engage them politely and find common ground - not be angry or sarcastic like me. Easy for you to say, folks - they aren't trying to put you in prison or take your business away from you. How big of you to be cordial to those who are not seeking to make your life more dangerous or difficult. It's no real skin off your enlightened backs to tut-tut philosophically at people about how they should react to their oppression when you're not the one being oppressed. It's armchair politics at its most offensive.
This isn't just an annoyance of mine with sexuality issues, it's a problem amongst liberals/lefties and how they discuss all sorts of political issues. I think the underlying problem is that these sorts of people just can't stand the jarring, ego-deflating idea that their opinion as an Very Concerned Outsider isn't as important or valid as the opinion of an insider. It isn't. (As a white chick, I would never harangue a person of color about why my opinion of how to handle racism is better than theirs.)
I absolutely do not aim to build bridges with extremists who hate sex workers and want us penniless and in prison, any more than I aim to do so with people who commit anti-queer hate crimes. I wouldn't really even want to debate them directly, unless I felt the particular forum was large and neutral enough. People who have devoted their lives to taking away freedoms from other people are not seeking compromises and rational conversation - they are devout ideologues, not misguided random citizens that just need the real facts.
Ours is an info war of changing attitudes, and then laws, to grant us rights, respect, and dignity. I'm not going to use my energy trying to cozy up with the group of people who are the least likely to ever change their outlook on the issue. It's simple strategic thinking - when you waste your limited resources fighting impossible battles, you're neglecting a lot of perfectly winnable battles. For example, if your goal is to get people to become atheists, you don't have to be terribly bright to realize that an effective way of doing so is not by flying to Saudi Arabia and pestering fanatics who have made a pilgrimage to Mecca. It's not engaging in a "public debate" that could convince a larger audience of your logically-superior argument, it's ramming your head into a wall in a place where the dialog is controlled and utterly dominated by the most hardcore of your opposition. (I do, however, fully support spying on your enemies in their native environments so you can understand their agenda better.)
One of the women urging "us" to respect people who put sex workers at risk complained that I was "devaluing other opinions". Twitter being so succinct, I'm not sure if she meant that I shouldn't devalue the opinions of anti-sex worker activists, or that I shouldn't devalue her opinion that we need to work with them and engage them at their own conference. As I thought about how to parse it, though, I realized it didn't matter. Why, yes, actually - I do devalue the opinions of people who aren't sex workers that feed a need to tell me what to do. Whether you're an anti-porn feminist or a pro-porn feminist.
Oppressing sex workers isn't an opinion. It's an action. I could care less if these nutters sat in their cat-filled spinster apartments and didn't like porn - that's an opinion. But they're not content to just not watch porn themselves, they try to force their world view on the rest of us. Anti-porn and anti-sex worker activists are political organizations that take actions by lobbying governments to restrict sex workers' access to safe working conditions and to imprison them for being indecent and sinful. Since we're getting technical here, I do "respect their right to have an opinion", but these people stopped having merely "an opinion" a long time ago. It makes me think of those who were defending the Mormon church for "just having an opinion about gays" in 2008 when they illegally financed the massive propaganda campaign that took civil rights away from queer couples in California.
Being more "kind" or "respectful" towards people who've built profitable careers creating panic, purposefully lying to the public, pressuring governments to pass bad laws, and bashing sex workers isn't going to make them switch teams. These are not people who can be engaged with in a reasonable debate using facts, calm voices, and warm handshakes. Being a smart activist means knowing the difference between those who are distinctly and unabashedly your enemy, and those who are on the fence and could benefit from hearing from you. Being a smart sex worker ally, I would further contend, includes not spending your time patronizing me about why I ought to respect people who seek to drive me out of business and into jail.
(PS: After I wrote this post, I did more catching up on blogs and found that Audacia Ray had already written something on the chatter and counter-organizing around the Stop Porn Culture conference. Here's her post that also discusses the pointlessness of debating anti-porn radicals.)
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 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
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- 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
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna