by Furry Girl

12.16.10

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  This harm lasts forever, even if later proved false or rescinded by the accuser once they've stopped being mad at their ex.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

11.10.10

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 JourThe 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

06.14.10

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.)





by Furry Girl

05.28.10

Throughout my life, I have repeatedly had my beliefs and politics put to the test, which tends to end in me doing this thing that terrifies most people: bridge-burning.  Here are three of those stories - most notably, why I refused to speak at last weekend's Sex 2.0 conference due of the involvement of Carnal Nation, and why their presence made event an unsafe spaces for sex workers.  Bear with me - I know this is a frighteningly long post, and it's about my personal experiences as well as just the main controversial issue.

Years ago, I stood in a friend's kitchen on my cell phone, staring intently at his spice rack in disbelief.  I'd just found out that someone I'd considered a trusted friend committed a horrible violation against another person. Later, I burst into tears outside on the street, feeling so sick and pissed off.  Most of this man's friends stood by him.  They made excuses.  They told outright lies.  They came up with explanations about why what he did wasn't actually that bad - if he had done it at all - and why him being such a "good person" basically negated what he might have done anyway.  A man who was very popular in his social circle victimized a lesser-known person, and I was one of the only voices publicly standing up against him.  One of his defenders was perplexed by my anger.  It didn't happen to me.  Someone else continued to live in fear and torment, so why did I care so much?  I was given the choice between many personal friendships, and the political/ethical beliefs I have espoused for years about standing up against those who take advantage of others.  It was theory versus reality.  I made the right choices.  And I lost friends over it.

Last year, a guy in the San Francisco nerd scene posted a "humorous" guide on his blog about how to drug and date rape women.  I Twittered angrily about it.  I asked people to confront him in person at the monthly event he organizes.  I hoped he'd be kicked out of his scene for being such a blatant misogynist.  Nothing happened.  Months later, I brought it up again, and some people who are friends with both myself and Mr. Rapejokes stopped following me on Twitter immediately.  So, given the choice, a sect of the San Francisco nerd world stood by someone who thinks the idea of raping drugged women is hilarious.  I bluntly forced a mutual friend to pick between us, and she picked Mr. Rapejokes and dismissed the topic as "drama".  I was the one who lost friends over what he blogged, not him.  Theory versus reality, and again, I made the right choice and I'm glad I spoke out.

Last week, as my Twitter followers and many others are already aware of, I boycotted the third Sex 2.0 Conference.  I'd attended the first two Sex 2.0 conferences, loved them, and spoke on two panels at the previous one.  I was scheduled to be a speaker this year on a panel about sex work, and I pulled out days before the conference because I refuse to participate in an event that is not a safe space for sex workers.  I've been a sex worker for 8 years, and in case it needs mentioning, I'm big on the idea of places where we can chill out and talk about our lives and our work without dealing with verbal or even physical attacks from those who don't look kindly on us. Real safe spaces for sex workers matter to me.  Sex 2.0 used to be one of those spaces.

Sex 2.0 stopped being a safe space for sex workers when it welcomed in Carnal Nation, an online media company that caters to the sex-positive community.  You see, a while ago, a stalker popped up offering cash rewards for anyone to out/stalk/harass sex workers at their homes.  Carnal Nation defended endangering the lives of sex workers as important "free speech", giving promotion to the stalker and belittling and mocking the women being stalked.  Because of this stalker, people were, and still are, genuinely scared for their safety.

Whatever that official or unofficial connection was, Carnal Nation was allowed by Sex 2.0 organizers to be present at the conference in spite of the criticism of many people.  They could have picked the concerns of sex workers and our allies over a bit of publicity for the conference - barring Carnal Nation from covering the conference - but the organizers picked publicity.  The consolation prize was that if anyone wanted to talk about why they resent Carnal Nation for endangering the lives of sex workers, they were allowed to be interviewed about it. Yeah, I'd love to give Carnal Nation free content for their web site, that's exactly the aim of my boycott.

One of the defenses of Carnal Nation's presence at Sex 2.0 is that no one had to be interviewed - it was just a media outlet that you could talk to.  I've never said I was opposed to Carnal Nation's involvement because I thought they'd force all attendees at gunpoint to give interviews, the point is that Carnal Nation was allowed in the door at all.

What if Carnal Nation was a company known for mocking gay-bashing and dismissing groups that advocate violence against queers as "important freedom of speech"? I have no doubt that such a media outlet would have been barred from Sex 2.0.  Sex workers, however, are apparently not a vulnerable minority that deserves to come together in a space free of media companies that think our safety makes for nothing more than an amusing libertarian argument.  Well, sorry, Carnal Nation, but the women being stalked are not abstract philosophical constructs.  Two of them are my friends - not debate fodder about the importance of yelling fire in a crowded theater.

As a scheduled speaker, I felt as though refusing to attend was the biggest stink I could make as just one person.  (I got a refund for my Sex 2.0 ticket and donated that money to the Desiree Alliance conference - a sex worker event going on this July in Las Vegas.)  This did get people talking: online, on the Sex 2.0 email discussion list, and at the conference itself - both in sessions and unofficially.  I wish I had something prepared for public dissemination last week, however, I've been mulling over exactly what to blog and gathering input from others.  I hope this full explanation makes more sense of the issue to those of you not already familiar with what happened.

I won't be linking to the exact article because of its menacing content, and I ask that if you comment about this issue, you don't link the article, either.  I ask that you not name or link to the web site offering cash for people to out/harass sex workers.  I ask that you do not state the names of the women who are targeted by the stalker's web site without their permission.  Basically, be the opposite of Carnal Nation - be respectful and responsible.  When and if Carnal Nation posts a defense of itself on its own web site, I hope you will ignore it, rather than pouring your energy into their comments section and giving them traffic.

John Pettitt, owner of Carnal Nation, wrote in his short article about the controversy,

While we regard [stalker] as repugnant CarnalNation believes in the right to free expression, if Larry Flynt can offer a bounty for cheating Republican politicians it's equally defensible for somebody to pay for information on sex workers. Neither is a morally defensible position but morals are personal and free speech transcends personal morals. It comes down to a simple truth It's the unpopular speech that needs protection.

In the spring of 2010 CarnalNation will begin letting our users publish their own content in personal blogs. One of the reasons we decided to provide this service is the fact that a well orchestrated mob can cause a service like blogger to remove content they don't like by flagging it for terms of service violation. We won't do that. In fact if it's legal (that is a court hasn't told us to remove it) it will stay up no matter how much we disagree with it. That doesn't mean we won't be critical but it does mean we can only disagree with attempts to silence [stalker].

So, according to Carnal Nation, the most important thing in this situation was that stalkers need "protection" to harass sex workers, because a stalker's "free speech" rights trump safety concerns from a highly vulnerable population that is regularly attacked, raped, and murdered?  Further, that the stalker is the real victim in the situation because people had been trying to get the stalker's blog taken offline?  Of course, John Pettitt tried to cover his ass by saying the site is "repugnant", but he still still gave it tons of free publicity and defended how important it is that we stand up for "unpopular speech", aka, harassing/outing sex workers.  Having the stalker promoted and legitimized on a well-known "sex-positive" web site was done, in my opinion, simply to get a lot of comments and traffic.

And comments there were!  In a section a mile long condemning and debating John Pettitt, sex-positivity super-heroes and sex workers including Monica Shores of $pread MagazineHeather Corinna, Tasty Trixie, Kat of Kat's Stories, Mistress Matisse, Melissa Gira, Sarah Sloane, Annie Sprinkle, Jill Brenneman of SWOP East, and Sadie Lune spoke out against this irresponsible and dangerous behavior from Carnal Nation - and that's just on Carnal Nation's own web site.  Much more has been said elsewhere.

Carnal Nation has proven that they are happy to cover sex workers as titillating new items, but will quickly kick us in the teeth when we're down.  (Hey, that sounds exactly like the hostile mainstream media!)

Speaking of using sex workers to make a profit, former writer for Carnal Nation, and $pread Magazine editor, Monica Shores, has been involved in a multi-month battle trying to get paid for articles she'd written for the company in the past.  She believes Carnal Nation is refusing to pay her because she's criticized the company, and as of now, has still not be paid for work she did months ago.  Whether or not she ever will ever be paid still remains to be seen. [Update on 6/15: Monica has finally been paid.  But, I've heard from another sex worker and former Carnal Nation writer who is owed money by the company.  It's an interesting trend.  Are there any more people out there who've worked for Carnal Nation and not been paid as promised?]

In speaking out on the issue of Carnal Nation at Sex 2.0, I lost friends.  I made sure I'll never be welcome in the Seattle kink community.  I even received a not-too-thinly-veiled threat against myself if I continue to speak out against Carnal Nation. But you know what really fails to motivate me to shut up about my concern for creating safe spaces for sex workers?  It's threats to my personal safety.

I hope that this whole mess will allow more people to take a moment to think about what it really means to create safe spaces for sex workers.  You would think it wouldn't be that hard for supposed allies to grasp the basics like, "Don't allow in companies that defend violence against us", but apparently, it is.  This was an instance where I felt the need to point at one conference as the perfect example of how not to make an event safe and welcoming for sex workers.  This is a bigger fight than just Carnal Nation, so while I do hate to give them so much attention, and will no doubt be called a hypocrite for doing so, I also want my community to know their true face, and to be on the lookout for more wolves in sheep's clothing.

I feel like an activist cliche to write profusely about a problem, but offer no concrete solution.  I hope all sex-positive people can talk about ways to make more spaces welcoming and safe for sex workers, because it's not just about one offensive web site or one stalker.  It's about living in a culture that has no regard for our safety, our human rights, our dignity, and our lives - and trying to change that culture, bit by bit.  My little bit to add right now is publicly calling out Carnal Nation and hoping that in the future, they will be banned from spaces that are supposedly safe for sex workers.

Conferences are about like-minded people getting together, talking about common interests, meeting old friends, making new ones, and that buzzword that's everywhere now: networking.  In an age where people treat "networking" like it's the only currency that will ever matter, we get nervous about speaking out on controversial issues, even when we know something is wrong.  We don't want to lose a friend, a blogroll link, an ability to use a connection to ascend social or career ladders.  So, what does "networking" mean to you?  Does it include overlooking things people do that are dangerous or abusive, or allowing people to defend those who are dangerous and abusive?  Will you keep your mouth shut so as to not come across too angry, oversensitive, and socially ungraceful?

I'm not afraid to do battle about the issues that matter to me - and every time I do so, I know I'll lose friends and burn bridges.  I do it anyway.

I don't even know what a fucking bridge looks like any more and how easy it must be to have a world filled with them.  But after a lifetime of being a loud-mouthed cunt, I'm a damn strong swimmer.

* * *

(You can read Sequoia Redd's blog post for her perspective on this issue.)





by Furry Girl

12.22.09

Merry Festivus, everyone!  It's time for the airing of grievances.

For those of you just joining us, there's been a storm of controversy lately over whether or not Alexa, a prolific blogger who claims to be a high class escort, is a fake.  (See posts by Monica Shores, Jenny DeMilo, Mistress Matisse one and two, Tasty Trixie, and Kat.)

Well, there isn't a really controversy at all- more like a consensus.  Every sex worker whom I've seen weigh in on the issue either blasts Alexa as a blatant fraud, or says that they are highly suspicious.  As I Twittered last night, I find it amusing that Alexa's ardent supporters are comprised almost entirely anonymous nobodies and horny men who post in her comments section.  And, with slight hesitation, I added, "It makes me laugh my ass off to see the only 'somebody' who's supporting Alexa is a woman who's practically a faux ho blogger herself."

That "somebody" is feminist blogger Amber Rhea.  (This rant has been in the back of my mind for some time, but the Alexa scandal, and Amber's reaction to it, has finally brought it out.)

I won't sugarcoat- I disliked Amber from the start.  She embodies all the useless whiney things I can't stand about feminism, with the exception that she "supports sex workers rights".  Amber inserts herself into sex worker circles whenever possible, and to a casual follower of her online presence, she can easily be mistaken for a stripper based on how she choose to describe herself.  (Indeed, Amber's blog feed was syndicated by a sex worker rights group alongside other blogs written by sex workers until I pointed out that she isn't a actually sex worker.)

At first, when I was only vaguely aware of who Amber was, I assumed she was a stripper.  With her circulating in the online sex worker scene and calling herself a pole dancer at every chance she has to describe herself, and blogging and Twittering about her latest pole tricks, is it any wonder how I could have been mistaken?  When I had the time to properly read her blog and Twitter stream, I came to learn that Amber is a white collar office worker and blogger who enjoys taking classes in pole dancing as a hobby.  Look no further than her "about me" page on her blog for how she opts to show herself to the world:

amber

Amber is a smart woman who's obviously thought a lot about both images and language, and as such, I find it impossible to believe that it's an accident that she makes herself look like a stripper online.  Of course, Amber doesn't actually lie and say that she's a professional stripper- she's wisely left herself plenty of plausible deniability.

It's as though you had an online persona where you describe yourself as a pilot and post photos of yourself in uniform at airports, hang out in forums for pilots, and debate issues related to commercial flight, and then look innocent and surprised when people assume you're a real licensed pilot.  No, no- you simply enjoy playing a pilot in flight simulator computer games at home, and have no idea how anyone could have been confused.

I believe Amber purposefully misleads her casual readers so they will give her opinions on sex work more weight that they perhaps deserve.  As many have pointed out in the Alexa scandal, being a sex worker is quite stylish right now, and I've long seen Amber as grasping at the hipness, eager to gain status for her online presence with insinuations that she gyrates for cash.  That's pretty offensive to those of us who've taken the real social risks of being marked for life as fallen sluts.

So, as I was looking at the comments on Alexa's blog post defending herself, it was really no shock that the only recognizable supporter was, of course, Alexa's sister faux ho, Amber Rhea.  Read Amber's template-"feminist" defense of Alexa here.  Or read her Twitter posts here, such as "Really, must sex workers vilify each other?"  (Wow, what a vapid statement on peace-making for a non-sex worker to make about sex workers being rightfully angry at a fake who steals from real sex workers?)

Could it simply be sex workers' criticism of Alexa hits too close to home for Amber?

If Amber wanted to be an actual sex worker ally, rather than just riding sex worker coattails to look interesting, she would learn her place.  Amber is an outsider, and as such, that place starts, ends, and is filled with listening to sex workers.  It is telling about Amber's status as an "ally" that she picked the side of someone sex workers accuse of being an liar, a thief, and even putting us collectively at risk by misleading clients about what to expect.  Given the choice, Amber chose to side against the opinions sex workers and completely dismiss their valid and politically well-reasoned questioning of Alexa. What an friend we have in Amber!

I'm publicly bringing up my thoughts on Amber now because I hope we can learn from the Great Alexa Scandal that it's not just the obvious frauds and liars that we need to be wary of.  To me, Amber's subtle acts of fakery are far more ethically repugnant than Alexa's obvious grand-scale fictions.  Especially since they're coming from a woman who is gladly welcomed into sex worker rights circles by many whom I respect.

The take-home bit I hope people will contemplate is what it means to be a genuine sex worker ally, as well as what it means to be a "faux ho".  I've answered these questions for myself, and I've concluded that Amber Rhea and Alexa DiCarlo look pretty much the same on both issues.

I'll end now, where we began, by wishing everyone a very happy Festivus season.  Maybe my favorite fake stripper will lend us a pole?





by Furry Girl

05.13.09

sex20matchandi

Conference organizer Match and I at the porn and brownies party. We're 2 of only 4 people at the conference of 166 who don't call ourselves feminists. Photo by Diva.

Since the weekend in DC, I've been decompressing in a friend's place in Manhattan, objectifying his body and eating the city's most delicious vegan foods.

This year's Sex 2.0 conference had at least 50% growth since last year's event in Atlanta. There were a lot of awesome faces, a sexycute porn shoot, tons of cupcakes, a strong representation of sex worker issues, oodles of intelligent conversations, and very few creepers. On the down side, I barely got to say hello to some people since there was just so much good stuff happening. For a reclusive pervnerd like me, it was overwhelming, but in a positive way. FurryGirl.com has been online for over six years and receives over half a million unique visitors per month, but this was the first time I really felt like anyone has ever heard of me. Even when not wearing my name tag, I had some people do the "O hai, you're Furry Girl, right?" Strangeness.

In my mind, Sex 2.0 2009 kicked off online, with a critical post by previous conference organizer Amber Rhea. Coupled with the many comments, it was a perfect microcosm of why I longer identify as a feminist. It was like playing a game of Cliche Bingo, down to how the commenters (basically) split apart into two camps of opinion: The Feminists and The Sex Workers. (And, of course, it didn't occur to any of the feminists that if the sex workers and a transwoman felt unwelcome by feminists, then maybe the problem wasn't that the sex workers and transwoman were the ones who needed to modify their beliefs.)

There was a pinch of other random bitching and moaning here and there at the conference- complaints that carried as much weight as freaking out about how unfair it is that Wikipedia's entry on your favorite subject is only a stub. While I do plenty of criticizing the world myself, I'm not one to knock a transparently-organized unconference for not reading my mind and creating the panels I wanted to watch. One of my greatest hot buttons is when people complain about that which they have taken absolutely no steps to positively remedy, instead, choosing to pick at people who are doing something.

Moving on- I was a part of two panels. (See the list of the all talks/panels here.) I even wore my Inter-Web Debaters Club shirt so as to solidify my commitment to not fighting too much with people in person. I experienced not one real clash, bless my caustic little heart.

The first panel, Customer Relations for Sex Workers (with Sabrina Morgan, Renegade Evolution, Kimberlee Cline, Monica, Ellie Lumpesse, and David) started in a really solid direction to address issues of safety, how we've changed how we relate to our clients over the years, and a bit about how to screen clients for sex workers who do offline work. The conversation got a bit derailed into a discussion on one's rights when arrested and how to deal with the police, but it only goes to show how many different sex work topics the audience was interested in talking about. A group of us later convened in the hotel bar over champagne to get into a lengthier discussion about the ways in which we stay in touch with clients, the development of genuine friendships, fantasies we feel uncomfortable with (forced feminization and race play were two topics), and an annoyance with sex workers who engage in shit-talking on clients with "weird" fetishes.

The second panel I was a part of, Revisiting Naked on the Internet (with Audacia Ray, Amber Rhea, and Melissa Gira) had me as a bit of the odd-duckling-out. Not being a professional writer or someone who's changed a lot in the two years since the book's release, I didn't have much to give as an update. Dacia turned the conversation to online feminist spaces, where I had to try and not panel-jack by briefly explaining why I no longer identify as a feminist and why the term doesn't mean anything to me any more. (The writer from Feministing.com didn't even jump out of her chair and stab me in the eye with a fork, which was pleasantly surprising.) I told the group, "I was sick of seeing 'feminism' as a euphemism for 'awesome'." Jack hollered out at me, "Are you an awesome-ist?", to which I replied, "I am a militant awesome-ist!" (Thank you, dear Jack, for helping me inject some levity.) One of the other issues brought up in the panel was how profoundly exhausting is is for sex workers (and their allies) to always be on the defensive and doing "101" work. Surprise: We get tired of having to justify our existence to feminists who can't be bothered to educate themselves about our real issues and demands.

All in all, an excellent fucking weekend.





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