by Furry Girl
[Updated: I didn't get enough sponsorship money to attend these events, but thank you to people who did offer a pledge. Hopefully there will be another such opportunity in the future.]
It's no secret that I'm an atheist. Debating religion was the first political issue I learned inside and out. When I was 6 or 7 years old in flyover land, understandably unaware that there was any difference between church, state, and schools, I wrote a letter to my principal demanding he address the hypocrisies of his faith. I could take apart the absurdity of religion before I learned how to do multiplication tables, and at an early age, I developed a strong affinity for science, nature, and books. (And it bums me out to see how commonly people view "science" and "nature" as opposing ideas.)
I would love to see more crossover and networking between sex workers' rights advocates and the organized skeptic, atheist, and pro-science communities. I want to bring sex work issues outside of the sex-positivity and radical sexuality scene in America. I want sex workers' rights to appeal to the sort of people who have never fisted anyone, basically. I want our serious political issues to be framed as the serious things they are, not just another branch of transgressive left-wing sexuality. (And I say this as someone who is kinky and invested in "alternative sexuality," but I draw a distinction between a human/labor rights issue and a sexual fun issue, and I wish more visible American sex workers also separated the two.)
There's a big event coming up shortly, the Reason Rally in Washington, DC, which is aiming to be the world's largest secular event. I would love to attend this as an ambassador of sorts for sex workers' rights, and to work on gaining allies in a space where I think we have a great chance at being heard. This isn't some feminist sex conference or BDSM event where sex workers aren't actually getting outside "the bubble," but something that will have a wide variety of smart people who pride themselves in looking at things logically and ripping apart emotion- and nonsense-based arguments. And, bonus! American Atheists are holding their national convention on the Sunday and Monday following the Reason Rally. Two skeptic events for the price one one (flight)! It's cool to see other "sex world" folks on these events rosters: Greta Christina and Dr Marty Klein.
by Furry Girl
I've spent almost the entire last 5 days researching the groups that Google is now funding. Please see the campaign page and read something I've put a lot of time info!
Why are sex workers' rights supporters upset with Google?
Google announced last week that they are making the largest-ever corporate donation to "ending modern day slavery": an impressive $11.5 million dollars. We applaud and support Google's desire to fight slavery, forced trafficking, and exploitative labor conditions, but Google's funding recipients include three NGOs that cause serious harm to sex workers in around the world: International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale. As small sex worker support services struggle for funding to serve their communities, it is offensive to watch Google shower money upon a wealthy faith-based group like the International Justice Mission, which took in nearly $22 million dollars in 2009 alone. (In contrast, the St. James Infirmary, a San Francisco clinic that provides free healthcare to sex workers, operated on only $335k in 2010.)
Does Google know what their money is really supporting? Let's take a look at what you won't read about on the front pages these groups' glossy web sites.
Also, I'll be protesting outside of Google's Seattle building on Wednesday from 2-4pm (on the bridge next to it, to be specific). There are also protests in other locations, too, so check the campaign page. Please join me so I don't have to feel like a lonely sad protester.
by Furry Girl
In the last month, there has been more and more talk from some sex workers about how awesome the Occupy movement is, including some of my ho activist friends on Twitter who are part of different Occupy encampments. SWOP-NYC has a pro-Occupy post, Jessie of SWOP LA throws in her support, Trisha wrote about the issues of SlutWalk and Occupy, and Melissa Gira Grant wrote a strangely pearl-clutching piece about how sad it is some people -gasp- do sex work to pay for college.
I've been wary and on the fence about the Occupy movement and its vague, utopian, barely-articulated aims. Occupy embodies basically everything I hate about the left, and the best I've been able to muster so far is feeling sorry for people who have been assaulted by police. Today, I went from on the fence to against Occupy Seattle. I was trying to get to the nonprofit vegan grocery store, Sidecar, a place I'm happy to support because all the proceeds go to an animal sanctuary. I sure timed my bus errand poorly, because I ended up behind an Occupy Seattle march.
First off, the protesters went out of their way to disrupt as much traffic and transit as possible. I talked to my bus driver, and he said the group had told Seattle Metro they would be marching along a certain route, giving Metro a chance to divert buses in the area to another street. Once the time came for the march, however, the Occupy folk changed their official plan and went down the street where they knew Metro buses were being re-routed, all to maximize problems for commuters. That's a pretty asshole move. How is going out of your way to screw up as many public transit lines as possible harming the super-rich? Are there a lot of country-ruining billionaires on the bus during rush hour? I guess I never noticed them though all the students, disabled people, punks/hippies, elderly people, nonwhites, single moms, young folk, and homeless-looking people who typically make up much of Metro's ridership.
After half an hour on a bus that was barely moving, I gave up and angrily walked home in the freezing rain, knowing it would have taken hours to get to my destination. Congratulations, anti-capitalists, you prevented me from spending my money at a nonprofit, so I shopped at a corporate grocery store instead. I went home and watched the clamor unfold on Twitter. The march had moved on to occupying a bridge, shutting down traffic in both directions. This bridge is one of the connections between the central Seattle area and the University of Washington and the outlying suburbs, as well as a major hospital complex at the university. Occupy Seattle was cutting off a key route for hospital access, which could genuinely cost lives if ambulances had to re-route and go back to other another bridge in an emergency.
Less than 24 hours after winning national sympathy when Seattle police pepper-sprayed a small elderly woman, Occupy Seattle experienced a big wave of hatred from the general public, pissed off at missed meetings, missed classes, missed flights, and being stuck in traffic for no good reason. Twitter users were cheering for them to be beaten, shot, pepper-sprayed, and many hoped aloud that the bridge would collapse, or that protesters would fall/jump to their deaths. Comments on various local news websites all echoed similar opinions - anger, annoyance, confusion, and rooting for harm to befall protesters. There were countless comments where someone said they supported Occupy before, but this changed their minds.
Any sane activist would be thinking, "Oh shit, we made a huge fuckup here. The public is angry at us, we're blocking hospital access, and we're not accomplishing anything other than showing people that we like to cause pointless disruptions. This has been an absolute disaster."
Instead, the resounding consensus among protesters on Twitter was that the event was a massive success, and Occupy Seattle marchers and supporters responded to people who disagreed by making fun of them, insulting them, telling them they are the enemy, and generally celebrating the fact that the public had turned against them after the bridge occupation. It was like watching some spoiled punk teenager gloat about how they're really "sticking it to the man" by pissing off "the squares" with their green hair.
What today highlighted for me is my growing uneasiness with how Occupy protesters continually scream that they are "the 99%," insisting that they represent just about everyone in the country. I don't like seeing strangers keep arguing that they are my spokespersons, that they can attest to the interests and beliefs of most Americans, that they are protesting "for me," and even that they are me. This creepy rhetoric reminds me all too well of how anti-sex worker crusaders always insist that they are acting and speaking on our behalf, without ever deigning to listen to us. There is something deeply and profoundly fucked up about declaring oneself the mouthpiece for people whom you don't know, aren't trying to get to know, and in many cases, who actively oppose what you are saying and doing, such as it the case of the vast numbers of Seattle folk irate over having their evening disrupted by a core group of perhaps a hundred protesters who were trying to stay on the bridge as long as possible.
Where this whole thing goes from eerily cult-like to comical is that the people who pretend to be and represent "the 99%" are a tiny minority, even in a large left-leaning city, and they were causing a problems for the majority. Occupy Seattle wasn't representing the desires of anyone but themselves, least of all working and lower-income people who rely on public transit to get around the city.
Occupy Seattle: you are not the 99%. You do not represent me, you do not represent Seattle, and I wish you people would stop insisting that you do. A group that relishes in causing disruptions purely for the sake of causing disruptions does not embody the key political concerns of most Americans, any more than a right-wing billionaire does. You are an obnoxious minority that continues to further isolate itself from the rest of the public, and I can't think of one positive thing you have contributed to my city.
But all that doesn't matter. According to Occupy Seattle kids, the fact that I dislike them just means that they've been victorious in their protest, despite the fact I will never be earning in the top 10%, let alone the top 1%.
As a sex workers' rights advocate, my life would be so much easier if the sole metric by which I judged an activist "success" was how many members of the general public I could get to hate us. It's easy to turn the public against you, any lazy dipshit can do that. Influencing the public to adopt more progressive and tolerant ideas? That's not as adrenaline-soaked and fun as instigating confrontations with the police, but it leads to actual and long-lasting change, which is precisely the kind of work that needs to be done.
Update one: In looking at more local coverage, the first three comments on a cheery pro-Occupy article on SLOG summed up today's debate so neatly, especially the middle one as being the most used defense by bridge protest supporters.
Gern Blanston: "Claim it for the 99 percent." What a fucking joke! When they shut down a bridge, or a busy downtown street, they're preventing everyone else from going about their daily lives. They're just a bunch of self-important, grandstanding pricks. They don't speak for me.
what_now: Maybe there are things that are more important than people going about their daily lives?
LJM: the problem is that you're suggesting that one group of people know which "things" are "more important" than going about their daily lives, and which "things" are less important. You can use this reasoning to justify any type of inconsiderate behavior by people who claim to be doing it for your own good.
Update two: Seattle Central Community College - where Occupy Seattle set up residence after moving from their original location in the shopping district - has been complaining about the public health hazards being created by the camp in the form "accumulations of garbage, poor food handling, discarded syringes and needles, fire safety hazards, dog feces, and disposal of wastewater." Congratulations again, Occupy Seattle, you've succeeded in be-filthing a facility that caters to lower-income people. That's really sticking it to the evil super-rich, isn't it? (As I saw someone else point out today, if they really want to stick it to banks through civil disobedience, why not occupy bank-owned foreclosed houses?)
Occupy supporters are seemingly unable to come up with non-false dichotomy arguments to support their protest at the bridge. It's all hyperbole like, "Oh, so you love watching billionaires raping the country?" or one who told me that I must be too busy fawning over the Kardashians to care about anything else. You can be against Occupy Seattle and its dumbass tactics without being pro-cop, pro-bailout, pro-apathy, and pro-status quo. I was, in fact, anti-status quo before this new wave of Carhartt Warriors grew their first pubes. (Do dirty anarkids still wear Carhartts? Am I totally dating myself in my choice of derisive terminology?)
Also, I actually do support using disruptive and controversial protest methods, but only when they are targeted and/or express a clear message and demands. (Examples being crashing a shareholder meeting to send a message that a corporation should stop engaging in such-and-such practice, or civil disobedience on a logging road that prevents logging companies from cutting down any trees that day.) Making things hard on huge numbers of Seattle residents who just want to get home from work makes people hate you, and accomplished absolutely nothing. Yes, it got media coverage and attention, but so what? Is the only goal of Occupy Seattle to get lots of bad press? Does getting bad press fix the economy or make one single person's life better? No, but it sure is easier than engaging in strategic activism or doing something positive.
by Furry Girl
At fucking last!
Despite having completed the billboard fundraiser almost two months ago - thanks to 115 awesome supporters - the SWAAY billboard campaign has been on hold. I haven't been trying to keep anyone in the dark, but every time it seemed like headway was being made, the billboard would get shut down by someone else, which is frustrating. Even now, after signing a contract, agreeing upon a start date, and the billboard itself having been printed, I'm still nervous to publicize that date, because it feels like jinxing things.
Every major (and many minor) outdoor advertising companies in LA rejected the pro-sex worker billboard, leaving our ad guys guys at Epic Step pretty shocked that a polite text-only billboard would encounter such a massive wall of resistance. (San Francisco's St James Infirmary has also faced an uphill struggle lately to find a company willing to accept their money. Their ad campaign ended up finding a home with Muni bus ads.) I really have to hand to to Epic Step, as the small company went above and beyond to find a way to get our message out.
The billboard was rejected by Clear Channel, CBS, Lamar, Regency, Van Wagner, Avant Outdoor, LA Transit Authority, and Outdoor Solutions. However, the big three companies are no strangers to taking money from controversial causes and campaigns. Clear Channel, Lamar, and CBS have hosted billboards featuring racist, anti-gay, anti-church/state separation, and anti-sex worker/anti-client billboards. On the other hand, CBS and Lamar have hosted pro-marijuana ones, and CBS had a WikiLeaks billboard, so these companies are no strangers to "weird" causes that I support, either.
You can click see a large version.
This is not to say that I think people should not be allowed to express views that differ from my own, simply to point out that the big three advertising companies have no problem with other controversial campaigns. They are clearly making decisions with who they're willing to do business - which is their right - but they've decided that the ad dollars of religious nutjobs, the police, racists, bigots, and even those who are (potentially) breaking laws are more acceptable than the ad dollars of sex workers. (I'm pretty flattered that sex work is even more controversial to ad companies than WikiLeaks, honestly.)
In the end, the guys at Epic Step found RoadSign Adverts for us, which is a mobile billboard company. Mobile billboards seem to be a bit of a "last resort" option for those rejected from the mainstream, and have been favored by folk like strip clubs and anti-abortion activists. SWAAY's billboard will (assuming nothing else goes wrong) be starting later this month, and will be driving around in LA for 7 days. I'm hoping that maybe this will be a blessing in disguise, and that the mobile billboard, because of their rarity, will garner even more attention than a standard stationary billboard. The mobile billboards are more expensive, so what we fundraised to pay for 4 weeks of a standard billboard only buys us 7 days of a mobile one.
Since the billboard size was a bit different than a stationary billboard - taller, but less wide - I did change the text very slightly to make it fit better. I imagine supporters wouldn't mind. Here's what LA is going to be seeing soon:
So, three cheers for Epic Step and RoadSign Adverts! I'll write a proper press release for distribution when the truck starts running, but for now, I wanted to bitch about the backstory and rejections. Also, looking ahead, I've asked Epic Step to start feeling out billboard companies in New York City and Washington DC, since I would like to make this a national campaign. I don't know if I'll start the next fundraiser in November or in the new year, since holidays have everyone vying for donations and money, but we'll see. I'm excited to see what kind of attention this project is going to generate.
by Furry Girl
In the last week, I've seen lots of tweets about the Occupy Wall Street protest currently happening in Manhattan. It's a protest camp first proposed by the glossy I'm-a-Whole-Foods-dwelling-yuppie-but-I-like-to-pretend-I'm-an-anti-capitalist-revolutionary magazine Adbusters. The "occupation" of "Wall Street" has thus far seen a few dozen to few hundred people hanging out in a park down the street from the New York Stock Exchange. (What you don't hear often is that this "occupation" is taking place in a private park where the protesters were given permission to stay. The whole thing makes me think of an angsty teenager "occupying" their parent's living room in an act of defiance.) The Occupy Wall Street protest doesn't have aims beyond some kind of vague "stop bad things," "end capitalism," and "no more corruption." Earlier this month, the protest organizers were using an online poll (open only to people with a Facebook account) to vote on what the protest was trying to achieve. Something like 80 people were arrested on Saturday, but the group has insisted it will continue. A friend of mine reported this morning that the "occupation" is currently a few dozen anarchist kids sleeping outside.
Whereas supporters see Occupy Wall Street as a leaderless revolution on par with the Arab Spring that overthrew oppressive dictators, I see a small, confused group of white people who have no idea what they're protesting, what they want, and how to go about getting that end result. I'm not at all against leaderless protest movements, but you can be leaderless, diverse, and democratic and still have some plans, goals, and strategies. Getting people to show up in a small park isn't a revolution in and of itself.
It's all good and well to make a sign that tells people to "fire your boss," but how exactly is the average worker in America going to go about doing that? Telling people to "fire your boss" is easy when you're flexibly-employed or privileged enough to be able to participate in "occupations," or a young traveling protester who is happy eating out of dumpsters and being filthy. The group has been organized under the banner of "we are the 99%," but I really doubt the average working class person struggling to survive in this economy could either find the free time and financial resources to travel to Manhattan to attend, or, once there, gain anything useful from listening to the protesters. Why not try to give all those regular working people tools to create actual change in their lives? Why not use all the geek power behind this protest's social media presence to create an open database of people by area and occupation to help them find other workers to form collectively-owned businesses? And use the streaming video feed from the "occupation" to give workshops on how to start a worker-owned co-op or small business? And that's just one idea I had after seeing a photo of a "fire your boss" sign. Sure, "work hard and start your own ethically-run company" isn't a very sexy tagline, but it actually does mean firing bosses.
If you want to overthrow something big - a government or capitalism or whatever - you're not going to do so as a scruffy "outsider" group of people sleeping on the street without a plan or tools for implementing change. Successful revolutionary movements provide people things that the state isn't, plain and simple. Revolution is about stepping up and showing the masses that you can do things better, not dropping out and sitting in a park, hoping that those beleaguered working class people you've read about in Adbusters will show up en masse and let you lead them to their salvation. One of the most revolutionary projects across the 60s and 70s protest movements in America were the breakfast programs set up by the Black Panthers. Lifting up your community with a long-term strategy like giving poor kids free food so they can pay attention in school might not be easy like holding a sign that says "smash capitalism," but it's stuff like that that really counts. Remember, you have to demonstrate that you know how do it better, and you have to offer people things the current regime does not. Occupy Wall Street uttery fails by that test. Sadly, even the stupid Tea Party does a better job at getting large numbers of working class people on their side.
Whenever I air criticism of things like this, I get the common response: "at least they're doing something!" There's this idea that so many people who consider themselves activists have that "doing something" is of paramount importance, and it doesn't matter what you're "doing," so long as you can tell people it's "better than doing nothing." Yes, the people hanging out at Occupy Wall Street are "doing something," but what, exactly? That's what no one can explain to me. They've gotten some media attention to the idea that some Americans aren't happy with the current state of the economy, I suppose, but that's hardly news.
"Doing something" isn't doing something unless you're actually doing something.
Here's how to do something:
* Decide what you're against. Make it well-defined, not "I'm against greed."
* Decide what you want. Make it a clear goal, not "No more corruption."
* Explain what exactly you're going to do to get from point A to point B. Look at the history of other social change movements and figure out what tactics best suit your cause, and which tactics are likely to fail. Remember that just because you're "doing something," it doesn't make that something effective.
* Follow through and modify tactics as necessary until you achieve your goal.
It's pretty amazing to me how few people who consider themselves activists can't master these simple steps for how to have a campaign. So many people seem to think that endlessly restating what they're against, or what they want, will somehow magic those things into happening. I see this with sex workers' rights activists a lot. There's a lot about "Stop violence against sex workers" and "We want decriminalization," but there doesn't seem to be much of an overall plan other than continuing to repeat those demands within our echo chamber.
With my project, SWAAY.org:
* I am opposed to marginalization and violence against sex workers that is the result of bad laws and social stigma.
* I want full decriminalization and for sex workers to be an accepted part of society.
* The only way to get any of these things is to get the public on board and educate them about our issues. You can't change an ingrained social stigma and laws when the majority of the public is against you. It amazes me that there is almost no sex workers' rights activism that does any sort of public outreach or education, since that is generally the foundation of any social change movement. (And no, having a blog that a member of the general public could conceivably find does not count as "public outreach.") With SWAAY, my goal has been to get people interested in the topic, using both DIY campaigns like the "respect sex workers" stickers, and paid media campaigns like the upcoming billboard to draw viewers to a web site that gives people the basics in an accessible manner.
See, it's not that hard. Coming up with a goals and a plan is the easy part of activism, the tough work is in the implementation. If a group or person can't handle putting together a reasonably well thought out foundation, I don't give their cause much of a chance of succeeding.
I've turned off comments on this post because I'm tired of reading stupid nonsense from people who couldn't debate their way out of a wet paper bag.
by Furry Girl
I've long complained that the sex workers' rights movement in America fritters away too much of its energy on art, feminism, and intellectual theories, and mostly ignores practical activism, like educating the public or chipping away at bad laws. I thought it would be good to take a look at some numbers so everyone can make an honest comparison of how American sex workers' rights activists prioritize their time.
I decided to base my data on the program from last summer's Desiree Alliance conference. (In my opinion, this is fairly representative of what I see elsewhere, although it excludes all the time people spend navel-gazing about feminism and the meaning of gender.) I grouped each scheduled conference session into a larger category, and counted each slot towards one category only, based on my opinion of what category best described the session. Here are the results:
[*Open mic nights and sex worker art/performances sometimes listed only a start time. I would guess that this category is at least twice as time-heavy as the 3.5 scheduled hours listed in my graph.]
Based on how time was distributed at the key US sex workers' rights conference, we can conclude that:
* Making art is 343% more important than understanding the legal issues of one's work.
* Academia is 271% more important than activist organizing.
* Yoga and meditation are 499% more important than networking with other people and social movements.
* Anti-oppression discussions, combined with minority topics, are 56% more important than having business and financial skills.
* Harm reduction for street-based sex workers and drug users is 158% more important than activist organizing.
* And my personal favorite: witchcraft and new age spirituality are 300% more important than protecting your personal privacy.
I'd say this chart is basically upside down for what most sex workers in America would consider important to them.
by Furry Girl
(A sampling of images of covered women in the midst of Egypt's revolution during the last week. More photos of women in this gallery and this one and here, too - not all of whom are Muslims or wearing headscarfs, niqabs, or chadors. There's also an album for Facebook users, requires login.)
Before reading my post, you should know a bit about the situation on Egypt. If you have not been closely following international news, I made a comic/infographic explaining the January 25h revolution through Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, so at the very least, go read that for the basic context. If you want more information, here are three short videos that I liked, with totally different tones - the first has upbeat scenes from Egypt and Tunisia (which ousted their dictator recently), the second is a heartwarming look at Egyptians taking care of each other and the city of Cairo, and the third is a serious vlog made by a brave young woman who helped start this revolution. For stuff specifically about women taking part in the Egyptian revolution, see pieces from Slate, Matt Cornell, Newsweek, Global Voices, Democracy Now, and The New York Times. Lastly, you can watch ongoing events on Al Jazeera English's web stream - this is still unfolding!
I made my most controversial and widely re-posted tweet on Twitter a week ago. Here's a sentence that proved even more polarizing than I expected:
I hope that western feminists who infantilize Muslim women see photos of Egyptian women in burqas rioting against a dictatorship.
Aside from some angry stupids, my statement received good responses from both cool Western folks and residents of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. (As an aside, for those calling me out for using the term "burqa" when the photos from Egypt show women wearing scarves and chador/niqabs/hijabs: yes, I knew that. Accessible language is important to me, and everyone American has an idea of what "burqa" means. And, Twitter only allows for so many characters.)
For most people, the idea of a sex worker supporting covered Muslim women sounds absurd. What could we possibly have in common?
I do feel a sense of solidarity with Muslim women who are belittled for choosing to wear an abaya, chador, niqab, burqa, or what-have-you. As a sex worker and a devout atheist, I am hardly what you could consider an apologist for the injustices women suffer in the MENA region and how Islam views women/sexuality in general. But, that doesn't mean Muslim women are feeble-minded weaklings. I know what it feels like to have other women decide that you're too stupid to be allowed to make your own decisions. Western feminists, by and large, claim that I have been brainwashed by the patriarchy, and must be "saved" from my decision to work in porn. Likewise, the same people tend to impose their judgments on Muslim women, arguing that they need to be "saved" from the religious brainwashing forcing them to adhere to Islam.
It's easy to feel paternalistic towards Muslim women - the more covered, the more pitied - and they are definitely a caricature in the West for what "oppressed" and "sexism" looks like - just like sex workers. The same people who say it's hypocritical for covered Muslim women to demand freedom in Egypt will also scoff at sex workers demanding respect in the states.
One of the things I often remind people is to remain conscious of is whether their desire to "help" others is rooted more in solidarity, or in paternalism. It's a troubling dynamic to me, and not only because I'm in a group of people greatly affected by it. It's a very slippery slope to start deciding that other adults are incapable of deciding what they want to do with their lives. Would you have any interest in building bridges with someone who condescendingly believes you can't be trusted to decide what to do with your life and what clothing (not lack thereof) to wear?
When dealing with social issues like Egypt's revolution, you have to look at things first not through the lens of feminist gender analysis, you have to get basic and consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs. (For those unfamiliar, it's a pyramid setting up human needs, starting from food/water/shelter, and being topped out with self-actualization.) Think of it also as a "social change hierarchy of needs": you can't lecture people about how they should focus on pondering whether wearing head coverings are sexist, when paying for food is a daily struggle for them. This might come as a surprise to some, but when people don't have money for bare necessities, live in daily fear of the police, and have no hope for their futures, they're not laying in wait for middle and upper-class liberals in America try and dictate a political agenda to them. I would love to see full gender equality in the MENA region, but I'm sick of seeing people doing the "let them eat cake" thing in regards to Egypt.
The situation in Egypt is exciting to me not only because the revolutionary spirit started in Tunisia is spreading, but because so many of the protesters seem to be young and less conservative than previous generations. This gives me hope that this is a win for women - both in the long and short term. American conservatives are busy fear-mongering about radical Islam, arguing hyperbolic nonsense that if Egypt's president leaves, sharia law will be instituted and women will be beheaded in the streets of Cairo. After seeing so many women boldly rising up, screaming at male police, demanding the present leave, organizing a revolution, and getting involved in changing their country at the grassroots level, I don't think the women of Egypt would stand for it. We Enlightened Western Liberals don't need to save them. They're saving themselves.
(I don't want the comments on this post to turn into a debate abut Islam or religion in general, so save it for one of my posts that specifically address religion and sexuality, okay? PS: Tracy Quan has also written about covered Muslim women. See her 2006 piece here.)
by Furry Girl
At last month's Desiree Alliance conference, I recommended a talk called "Privacy Is Dead- Get Over It", by private investigator Steve Rambam. He has been giving versions of this talk for years, and this latest version was given at The Next HOPE in New York City in July 2010. It's not at all geared towards a sex worker audience, nor is it about how to avoid stalkers and other pests that sex workers face, but it's an excellent general introduction to how our "private" lives are anything but.
While Rambam's personal politics are of a conservative bent, he seems to take delight in shattering any lingering illusions of the paranoid and privacy-conscious, spelling out how our lives are all being tracked by private investigators, telecommunications companies, and non-governmental databases. This is the talk I try to get people to watch if they're curious about the idea of personal privacy in the digital age, and they tend to come away horrified.
Unlike a lot of material out there on the privacy topic, Rambam's talk is not about how The Government spies on us, it's about how corporations spy on us- and how we, as individuals, are the ones who help them do so. When a friend of mine got out of prison, I asked him if they had him on an ankle monitor. He held up his smart phone and said, "No, but I got me on this!" Personally, I pay AT&T $143 a month to track my whereabouts at all times. This is why I hate it when silly little lefties say stuff like "Orwell was right" or "We're living in Orwellian times now". No, no we're not. Orwell was wrong, Ray Bradbury was right. We The People will not be oppressed by force and coercion and frightening big brothers, we will gleefully and willingly give up any and all personal liberties in the name of gaining shiny amusements. Oh hey, did you hear the a iPhone is coming out? Let's go wait in line all day!
This year's talk focuses heavily on how Google catalogs everything about you in order to sell you things, and just how much data we are all hemorrhaging every time we do anything online, make a phone call, or even just carry our mobile phones around with us. (News to me was Google's upcoming plans to be an electric utility that uses smart grid technology. This means they'll know what you're doing with your appliances and light switches, down to when you open your refrigerator door. I wonder if a Hitachi Magic Wand gives off some sort of unique power-draining signature in the outlet in your bedroom? Ceiling cat is watching you masturbate!)
Jacob Appelbaum, another speaker from The Next HOPE conference who I mentioned last month, touched upon Google in a recent Rolling Stone piece: "It's not just the state. If it wanted to, Google could overthrow any country in the world. Google has enough dirt to destroy every marriage in America. [...] At some point people are going to realize that Google has everything on everyone. Most of all, they can see what questions you're asking, in real time. Quite literally, they can read your mind."
by Furry Girl
[The title for this post is a quote from Lee Harrington, from the amazing relationship roundtable titled "Your Girlfriend SUCKS!... for Money!" The context of his quote was among commentary on those of us with the overlapping traits of being sex workers, kinksters, and polyamorous/non-monogamous.]
It's no secret that my spring was really shitty. I had two bad splits from people I was involved with, and wasn't feeling motivated to do much of anything besides sleep. My summer, however has been amazing: filled with travel, good friends, excellent food, partying, sex, and seeing inspiring people fighting for various issues. If I was a low-IQ midwesterner, I'd label the season "chicken soup for the soul", but since I'm a city-dwelling vegan rationalist, I prefer "come shots for the sapient."
At the end of July, I spent 10 days in Las Vegas - which is the most loathesome place in the entire world - and ended up loving pretty much every moment of it. I was there primarily for the Desiree Alliance conference, but as coincidence would have it, the 2010 whorecon overlapped precisely with a couple of nerd conventions that I've attended in the past. I don't think I'll ever have more people I love occupying the same city at the same time.
Thank you so much to the Desiree Alliance conference organizers, volunteers, speakers, and attendees for carving out a wonderful place to be in Las Vegas for a week. I liked that an over-arching theme in so many presentations (I was mainly interested in the business tract, mind you) was the importance of working independently, and how empowering it is to be calling your own shots. I couldn't agree more.
One of the things I want to praise is the conference's expectations form, which all presenters and attendees were required to read and sign at registration. This policy was apparently based on an agreement from Dark Odyssey, at the suggestion of Sarah Sloane. It's a kick-ass statement on the rights and responsibilities of participants at a sex-positive event, so I'm quoting it in full. (Same list of expectations for attendees as for presenters/volunteers, just different titles for each form.) Readers know that I've long had a huge bee in my bonnet about people/conferences not being real allies to sex workers. Consider this a starting point for making your events safe spaces for sex workers.
Our Expectations of Presenters and Volunteers:
Our presenters and volunteers are the public face of Desiree Alliance, and we ask that all presenters and volunteers agree to support the following ideals during their time at the conference:
A) As a presenter or volunteer, you are in a position of trust regarding attendees' identities & levels of privacy. In order to protect all attendees, we ask that you:
-Respect that some attendees have separate identities for separate parts of their lives; do not disclose personal information about them without their express permission.
-Do not share with people outside of the Desiree Alliance conference any information about who is and is not in attendance.
-Identify them at the conference with the name that is on their badge, even if you know them by another name.
B) You understand and agree to practice the principles of Desiree Alliance including diversity, respect, tolerance, acceptance, openness, and non-judgmental support. You understand and agree to not make any assumptions as to the sexual orientation, partner choice, physical ability, race, spiritual affiliation or belief, class, kink or sex work interests of any attendee.
C) You understand and agree to practice a gender neutral policy. Desiree Alliance is committed to being a safe, inclusive, welcoming, and positive space for people of all genders. We ask that you do not make any assumptions about someone's gender identity, genital configuration, or the pronouns they prefer. Please respect everyone's self-identification. If you are unsure about how someone would like to be referred to, please just ask them.
D) You will take your role as presenter or volunteer seriously and professionally. Know that you are a representative of Desiree Alliance. You will not use your position to practice or promote classist, sexist, racist, homophobic, or other kinds of bigoted behavior. You will abide by the rules of the conference which include local laws and hotel policies.
I was involved in a couple of presentations, both of which seemed to be quite well-received.
The first was one I did was titled "Solo girl: An introduction to operating your own porn site". I was nervous about being able to condense all the material I wanted to cover into a 40-minute time slot, but amazingly, I did so, with 4 minutes to spare. I skipped out on all the personal storytelling, and went at things point-by-point, hitting the most useful and practical advice I could think of for aspiring indie pornographers. I will not be posting my slides or notes for this presentation online. It remains my opinion that if you're serious about starting a business, you can be serious enough to travel to an industry conference for your new chosen profession.
The second was a panel I did with Amanda Brooks, Dr Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour), and Alex Sotirov, titled "Safety for Sex Workers Through Personal Privacy: Digital and Real-World Techniques For Safeguarding Your Identity and Your Life". I believe that a recording of this panel will be made available soon, and I'll post that once it appears. Brooke and Alex are also planning to expand a bit on the material they covered at the conference, and I'll post their notes here. (Not sure if Amanda plans on posting her materials on her own blog, but she highly recommended the book "How To Be Invisible" by JJ Luna.) I'll also post a separate entry covering my portion of the panel. This topic could have easily been a half-day workshop, but I think the four of us did a kick-ass job of narrowing things down to the most important basics that every sex worker needs to know.
To get a feel for what else went on at the conference, see the schedule here. Personally, my favorites were Dr Joycelyn Elders' keynote, Kimberlee Cline and Mariko Passion's talk on coming out to friends and family, Kirk Read's keynote (watch video), Serpent Libertine and Bebe's ethical sex worker discussion, Nina Hartley's keynote (watch video), and the roundtable on sex workers and relationships.
I especially liked the relationship discussion because it's a subject that's been extra-present in my life this year, and it's good to be amongst other people who've experienced similar issues at some point or another. I had been with a primary partner/dominant I was in love with, but no matter how happy I was at any given moment, there was always an unspoken expiration date on our relationship. What he was really looking for for a girl who restrains her kink to the bedroom, her weirdness to an annual trip to Burning Man, and was, overall, a person with a non-embarrassing occupation with whom he could have a litter of children in the suburbs and share a mostly heteronormative life. That is not now, or ever will be me.
The transgressions I've made against traditional society (as a sterilized, clamorous, out-and-proud sex working pervert) aren't things that most people can deal with. They're not piercings you can remove, tattoos you can cover, funny-colored hair you can dye back to normal, or the occasional tab of acid you can plausibly deny ever having taken. They're not surface-level personality quirks purchased from Hot Topic - they're the things that define the core of who I am as a human being. Through the experiences with my main ex, along with having another guy ditch me solely on the grounds of my being a sex worker, I've been coming to realize how deeply and permanently totally fucking aberrant I am in the eyes of society, and that I need to work even more diligently at repelling mates who aren't okay with who I am. (I already knew I was weird, and tried my best to warn people of that, but I'm apparently not working fervently enough at this task.)
My contribution to the relationship discussion was pointing out that those of us who are sexually different in some way or another are basically in two camps when it comes to finding mates. You can try to gently ease people in - such as another person's suggestion that one start out by telling a partner that they used to be a dancer and see how the they react, and then consider telling them the whole truth from there. This has never been my strategy, because it means hiding who I am by default, and the whole dynamic seems designed to put sex workers on the defensive about the lies and omitted truths upon which they founded their relationships. It's too sneaky and dishonest for me. My strategy is one I flatly referred to as the scare 'em away plan. I am upfront with anyone I consider dating or hooking up with- I want them to run away, as soon as humanly possible, if they know they aren't going to be okay with me making a living taking my clothes off for strangers. I don't want to build a sexual and romantic relationship with someone - pulling a bait and switch, essentially - and tell them the truth only after they've gotten attached to me. Such a dynamic seems doomed to fail and hurt all parties, although it does work out for some sex workers.
And anyway, why would I want to fuck someone who might be anti-sex worker? A few years ago I had a brief tryst with a guy whom I later learned to be a homophobe, and I felt so icky that someone like that got to have his dick in my mouth. I can't imagine wanting to set myself up for such potentially disgusting and hurtful discoveries every single time I got involved with anyone. I don't want to fuck or love people who might despise me if they actually knew the truth about me. So yes, please- let them run screaming, because I'd be running away screaming, too.
Dating/mating as a sex worker isn't easy. I wish we could have a weekend retreat or unconference on this subject, open to sex workers and their partners. I wonder if there would be many takers for such a thing if I tried to cat-herd people into doing that at some time in the future?
by Furry Girl
I'm still on the road this week, but I wanted to post a quick "I'm still alive" in the wake of the amazing Desiree Alliance conference last week. I'll have a proper blog post on the conference shortly, but I thought I'd share a few photos in the mean time.
Myself and Larry Flynt's gold wheelchair at The Erotic Heritage Museum:
My self-modified guest badge to attend an event at Blackhat, a hacker conference going on at the same time as whorecon:
The day after our conference, Kimberlee Cline suggested that we go to Lake Mead so her dog, Stella, could get some exercise. Thus began an afternoon of jokes involving wet bitches and hot whores. Here's Elizabeth from Detroit, Kimberlee, and myself, photographed by Don:
On the way back from the lake, I spotted a Walmart-sized megachurch and insisted we pull off the highway for a photo op. Here's Kimberlee in the hat and me in the red dress:
Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Vaguely similar blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Women Against Feminism