by Furry Girl

04.24.14

Though not nearly as big a list as my previous roundup of mentions of sex workers in US diplomatic cables, I did take a look though the latest Wikileaks release for the term "prostitute."  The Carter Cables, as they've been titled, are 367124 new items in the WikiLeaks Public Library of US Diplomacy.

* An October 1973 cable from South Korea complains about how "unenlightened" and unconcerned with "individual rights" the country's judicial system is because its prosecutors are appealing an initial "not guilty" verdict against two US soldiers who raped a local prostitute. The military seeks to get the men off the hook by finding possible technical errors in due process.

* An August 1974 cable from the Netherlands reports on Christians living in tents protesting in the red light district, who claim they fear arson attack from "100 pimps": "POLICE SPOKESMAN TOLD LEADERS BILL LOWRY AND JOE GREER THAT GROUP COULD PREACH GOSPEL ON STREETS BUT COULD NOT PREVENT PROSTITUTES FROM RECEIVING CUSTOMERS, WHO RESENTED DISTURBANCES IN VICINITY OF BROTHELS. HE SAID THAT POLICE WILL ARREST ANY MEMBER OF GROUP WHO VIOLATES DUTCH LAW AS WELL AS TAKE ACTION AGAINST ANY PROSTITUTE OR PROCURER WHO ASSAULTS MEMBER OF GROUP. IN RESPONSE, ACCORDING TO POLICE CONTACT, LOWRY AND GREER INDICATED THAT GROUP WILL CONTINUE TO PREACH IN RED LIGHT DISTRICT, BUT PROMISED THAT MEMBERS WILL OPERATE WITHIN FRAMEWORK OF DUTCH LAW... LOWRY SAID THAT HE HAD INFORMED POLICE OF RUMOR THAT 100 PIMPS MIGHT ATTEMPT TO BURN DOWN TENT SAME NIGHT."

* A March 1975 cable from Malta cable tells of international military solidarity in helping a US Navy seaman who murdered a prostitute secretly escape the country: "SEAMAN HAD BEEN CHARGED IN 1971 WITH THE MURDER OF A MALTESE PROSTITUTE BUT HAD BEEN FOUND TO BE INSANE BY THE MALTESE COURTS AND THEREAFTER INCARCERATED IN A MALTESE MENTAL HOSPITAL. OUR BASIC ARGUMENT WAS THAT SINCE NEITHER WE NOR GOM DESIRED ANY PUBLICITY CONCERNING THE SEAMAN'S EVACUATION FROM MALTA, WE THOUGHT THE SIMPLEST AND SUREST WAY WOULD BE VIA A QUICK TURN-AROUND USN FLIGHT TO THE RAF PORTION OF THE AIRFIELD HERE. GOM ATTORNEY GENERAL MIZZI, TO WHOM AMBASSADOR MADE HIS APPROACH, ACCEPTED THAT THIS WOULD BE BEST WAY OF AVOIDING PUBLICITY AND SOMEWHAT NERVOUSLY AGREED TO PUT SUGGESTION TO MINTOFF. WE RECEIVED AN IMMEDIATE AND VIGOROUS NEGATIVE RESPONSE: 'NO USG MILITARY AIRCRAFT OF ANY KIND.' AS SOME ADDRESSEES AWARE, RAF THEN CAME TO OUR RESCUE AND EVACUATED SEAMAN FOR US."

* Three 1974-1975 cables from Greece discuss some typical interactions between US soldiers and prostitutes. American sailors charged with beating and robbing prostitutes in two separate incidents: "TO DATE, GREEK PRESS HAS NOT GIVEN AS WIDE OR EMOTIONAL COVERAGE TO THESE INCIDENTS AS IN PREVIOUS INSTANCES OF ASSAULTS BY U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL ON GREEK CITIZENS." Five members of the US Army suspected in murdering an alleged prostitute in Crete.  A follow-up to that report notes the group of men getting in "altercations" with cab drivers on the same name as the murder.

* A July 1977 cable from Chad details the murder of a Florida man for attempting to rob a prostitute: "HE MET A LOCAL PROSTITUTE AT THE 'LE SELECT' NIGHT CLUB AND DECIDED TO GO HOME WITH HER... SOMETIME IN THE EARLY MORNING OF 1 JULY, SUBJECT HAD FINISHED WITH THE GIRL AND WANTED TO DEPART. HE BECAME INVOLVED IN A DISPUTE WITH THE GIRL ABOUT MONEY. APPARENTLY HE DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY HER, AND SHE DEMANDED SOMETHING OF VALUE AS COLLATERAL. A SCUFFLE ENSUED AND SUBJECT PUSHED THE GIRL AGAINST A WALL, KICKED HER DOOR DOWN, AND RAN AWAY. BUT THE GIRL LIVED IN A WALLED COMPOUND, AND SUBJECT HAD TO SCALE THE WALL TO GET AWAY. WHILE HE WAS SCALING THE WALL, THE GIRL CALLED OUT THAT THERE WAS A THIEF. WHILE MR. TEOFANI WAS ON TOP OF THE WALL, PREPARING TO JUMP TO THE STREET BELOW, A NEIGHBOR THREW A LOCAL STYLE THROWING KNIFE THAT PENETRATED MR. TEOFANY'S CHEST OVER THE HEART. HE APPARENTLY FELL TO THE STREET, SUCCEEDED IN PULLING OUT THE KNIFE, STAGGERED A FEW FEET AND DIED. ACCORDING TO THE POLICE, SUBJECT WAS NOT ROBBED AS HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN THOUGHT."





by Furry Girl

06.13.13

"Over the past year, there have been a number of headline-grabbing legal changes in the US, such as the legalization of marijuana in CO and WA, as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage in a growing number of US states.

As a majority of people in these states apparently favor these changes, advocates for the US democratic process cite these legal victories as examples of how the system can provide real freedoms to those who engage with it through lawful means. And it’s true, the bills did pass.

What’s often overlooked, however, is that these legal victories would probably not have been possible without the ability to break the law.

The state of Minnesota, for instance, legalized same-sex marriage this year, but sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001. Likewise, before the recent changes making marijuana legal for personal use in WA and CO, it was obviously not legal for personal use.

Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. If perfect law enforcement had been a reality in MN, CO, and WA since their founding in the 1850s, it seems quite unlikely that these recent changes would have ever come to pass. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship?"

-- Moxie Marlinspike in We Should All Have Something To Hide on thoughtcrime.org





by Furry Girl

04.04.13

I've noticed my local government's anti-trafficking ads on the sides of buses, but haven't mentioned them on my blog.  Then I really saw one yesterday that did something I have never, ever seen before from a mainstream anti-trafficking campaign: declare that women can be traffickers and men can be victims.  Sure, this dynamic is no shocker to people who actually know anything about migrant labor, but to see it in a county-funded ad campaign blew me away.

busad

King County's anti-trafficking campaign has many flaws, of course, but I will say that I appreciate that the ads are not just about sex slavery.  The campaign uses the Polaris Project, a Christian morality NGO as a "fact" source; is partnered with the Somaly Mam Foundation, which sends Cambodian sex workers to private prisons where they are sexually abused; and links to a Shared Hope International anti-prostitution page as a resource.  So the campaign is deeply problematic and based in the lies of anti-sex worker hysterics and religious nuts, and I'm not defending that.

But I think this is still a tiny, possibly hopeful step in the right direction, because the campaign is about the many faces of forced trafficking, not just the sexy sex trafficking for sexy sexual abuse thing that we normally see.  There are three ad designs, and only one is about sex trafficking.  The other two imply domestic labor.





by Furry Girl

03.30.13

I am pleased to see that a new fight is gearing up against the United States' horrible 2257 regulations, and I want to tell my readers about why "a porn regulation" should matter to them as sex workers, sex workers' rights activists, and privacy rights supporters.

"2257" is shorthand for the numerical code of the irritatingly-named Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act.  You can read about it in detail on Wikipedia, but the short of it is that when you appear in adult productions in the US, you as the performer/model must give the production company/photographer two forms of identification and sign a bunch of paperwork promising that you are over 18.  (Which is its own absurdity, because there have been a few instances of 16 or 17 year olds getting fake IDs to work in porn, and any contract a minor signs is void anyway.  The contract doesn't do a thing to guarantee age, and does not prevent a determined teenager from working in porn.  It's the producer who is punished, even if they do everything they possibly can to screen out a lying underage worker.)  2257 laws, like all ridiculous, anti-privacy, anti-free speech measures, are "to save the children."

There are many good reasons to oppose 2257 regulations as they stand now, not the least of which is that it's an attempt by the government to strangle the sex industry and stifle sexual expression online through red tape and excessive paperwork-keeping requirements.  As someone who both appears in and produces online porn, 2257 is a problem from all sides for me, but there are two facets which I oppose the most.  (I covered this topic in my talk in privacy at the 2010 Desiree Alliance conference, and I really wish more sex workers understood what happens to their information once they sign waivers and let their IDs be photocopied.)

First off, 2257 laws are a horrifying problem in terms of privacy for models and performers.  I am required to keep records of the name and legal address of all people who appear on my websites, and to keep copies of two forms of ID, one of which must be government-issued and have a photo.  If I pay them over $600 US in a year, I am required to note their social security number for tax purposes.  I am required to keep these model releases and IDs organized by legal names and stage names, and where the images appear.  I am required to have these records available for inspection by the federal government to prove that my web sites are not actually filled with child pornography.

As a small-scale pornographer who only produces exclusive content, I keep all of these records to myself, but with the vast majority of porn, content is shot with the purpose of re-selling and licensing it out to many sources, which means a performer who thinks they are entrusting their name to one photographer may end up giving it to hundreds of people.  Any random person can search for companies reselling and licensing adult content, and with a purchase, buy performer's legal names, social security numbers, and addresses.  I've even seen online content sellers that allow new customers to try their content for free, meaning they are literally just handing out copies of performer's personally-identifying data to anyone who asks.  This should rightly scare anyone who has ever signed a model release for an adult company.  I even hesitate to talk about it this part of the porn industry publicly, because it's the easiest way for a stalker to find a porn performer.  It's not as easy as Googling, "Sally Sweetsucker home address," but a determined stalker can comb through enough adult content resellers and have a good shot at finding their target.

My second main problem with 2257 as a small-scale pornographer is that I am required by law to list my legal name and home address (because that is my business location and primary place of production) on the front page of my web sites.  (This is not allowed to be a PO box or an office you rent just for the purpose of record-keeping.  It has to be staffed during business hours, and where you actually shoot your content.  That might work for a big studio with a building with security, but not for small-timers.)  In my decade in the business, I have only ever met one small-scale producer that complied with that portion of 2257 regulations, and I was shocked that they did.  Independent pornographers and sex workers like myself should not have to choose between a fear of federal prosecutions and prison time for violating this aspect of 2257 laws, and a fear of overzealous stalkers coming to our homes to rape or assault us. When I started in 2002, it was allowed to have an attorney serve as the official record-keeper of your 2257 documentation, but that changed years ago during the Bush administration.  Many small-scale pornographers simply pulled out and found new jobs, too scared of making the horrible choice of federal prison or being attacked by stalkers.  No one should have to make that choice.  No one should be put in such an extreme a lose-lose position.

There have been legal challenges in the past to 2257 laws, but the fight continues.  The Free Speech Coalition has launched a new web site asking for help funding their battle, and you should support it.  2257 laws endanger the lives and safety of sex workers, but this issue is never discussed in sex worker advocacy circles.  Porn production regulations are more institutionalized and abstract that the immediate concerns of escorts/prostitutes/etc who fear arrest, assault, and rape, but it's just as real, as just as serious.  Please support the effort to fight against 2257 laws, and spread the word.





by Furry Girl

03.16.13

I only had a handful of online interactions with Shannon Larratt, but I admired him, and I am saddened to hear from our mutual friend Bella Vendetta that he has taken his own life after years of struggling with the pain of a degenerative medical condition.  You can read his farewell blog post here.

Shannon Larratt isn't a household name by any means, but if you're someone who knows your stuff about porn, kink, body modification, subculture, and "the extreme and weird," he was an icon.  I've been ranting a lot recently about the feminist porn and sex-positivity scenes for their self-absorbed nature, endlessly lavishing praise on themselves about how "revolutionary" they are for owning vibrators or publishing punk pinups.  Hearing of Shannon's death makes their silly claims ring all the more hollow and insulting.

Shannon wasn't a pornographer, but he was a true pioneer when it comes to explicit imagery and pushing the bounds of freedom of expression.  As the founder of BMEzine, a long-running body modification community, Shannon boldly published the most "extreme" and "shocking" imagery on the web: the "BME Hard" section of his web site contained photos of voluntary castration, cliterodectomy, nipple removals, testicles turned into pincushions, and just about everything "weird" that a person could do to their body and genitals.  (While most of what was published in the BME Hard category isn't my "thing," I fervently defend everyone's right to modify their body as they see fit, and to use their bodies as a canvas of personal expression, experimentation, connection, and sexual fulfillment.)  For his work in pushing the envelope and putting himself at risk of obscenity prosecutions, we are all in Shannon's debt, whether we are pornographers, kinksters, artists, body mod practitioners, or just people who don't believe in censorship.

When I wanted to launch one of the web's only menstruation porn sites back in 2005, EroticRed.com, Shannon was the person I looked to to answer the question, "Who the hell is going to be willing to process credit card payments for something this weird?"  (All credit card companies and intermediary banks have policies about what you are allowed to sell while using their services, which almost always prohibit porn that features blood.  So, if you're doing something banned, you hop around from sketchy startup biller to sketchy startup biller as you wait for them to get shut down by their own upstream banking providers.)  It was Shannon who connected me to a billing processor so that my site could become a reality.  While that billing processor did eventually go under, as do all the billers for "extreme" imagery, I never would have been able to get my project launched otherwise.  Shannon and I shared the frustration of credit card companies enacting censorship policies against our work, all long before WikiLeaks named and popularized the concept of a corporate "banking blockade" against material deemed socially unacceptable.

Goodbye, Shannon.  As a fellow publisher of the "extreme" and passionate believer in bodily autonomy and freedom of expression, I owe you one.  Thank you so much for everything you've contributed to the world.  To my readers: I want you to know who Shannon Larratt was, and I want you to know that if you're someone out there on the fringes, he may have helped pave the way for you.





by Furry Girl

02.20.13

One of the most common replies I get on Twitter, via email, and when I allowed comments on my blog has been some variant of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

In this form of faulty reasoning one's belief is rendered unfalsifiable because no matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the goalposts so that it wouldn't apply to a supposedly 'true' example. This kind of post-rationalization is a way of avoiding valid criticisms of one's argument.

Example: Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge.  [Source]

This line of thinking is constantly deployed by the sex-positive feminist crowd who want to distance themselves from the myriad embarrassments of mainstream feminism.  The tiny, powerless minority of sex-positive, pro-autonomy feminists rabidly insist that they are the one truly true feminism, and that all the other feminists are splinter sects that simply don't understand "real feminism."  (As an ex-feminist myself, I'm embarrassed that I wasted untold hours of my young life having these exact same conversations.  So I know them inside out, from both sides.)

Why do I hate these comments with such a passion?

"Good feminists" are a tiny minority, even though they claim they're the truest feminists

Part of the reason it's annoying to deal with this logical fallacy is because sex-positive, pro-autonomy, anti-victimhood feminists are a small minority compared to all the other feminists they instantly dismiss as "not real feminists."  Large national feminist organizations and women's studies departments are not run on "good feminist" principles, they are run by the oppressive and anti-sexuality feminists who represent mainstream feminist values.  "Good feminists" aren't the ones being brought in as experts by governments to write new anti-sex worker and anti-porn laws.  Just because all of feminist friends you have are "good feminists," that doesn't mean "good feminists" make up a real majority, it just means you're trapped in a feedback loop of confirmation bias.  I could conclude that most cats are male grey tabbies based on the sample population within my immediate view, but that doesn't mean it's true.

"Good feminists" are outliers, and the fact that they think they represent the majority feminist viewpoint just shows the degree to which they're devoted to willful ignorance of anything that conflicts with their images of themselves and their cutesy, feel-good interpretations of feminism.

"Good feminists" have no political power, nor do they seek it

With very few exceptions, "good feminists" are too busy congratulating themselves for being liberated to waste time on boring stuff like lobbying or working on public outreach.  They always seem to have endless money and time to fly around the country attending sex-positivity conferences, going to Empowered Anal Sex 101 workshops at upscale sex toy shops, and dressing in designer threads for the most nauseatingly self-congratulatory event ever conceived, the Feminist Porn Awards.  "Good feminism" is literally nothing more than masturbation.  I used to believe that the sex-positive scene was building towards a bigger something, but after a decade of being around it, I now know that it's only about narcissism and reveling in how naughty it is to be sexually transgressive.  There's no goal, no endpoint, nothing more substantive than endless recycled discussions about meanings of sexuality and gender.

I love kinky sex, masturbation, and DIY porn as much as any of them, but it makes me seethe with anger how often that scene used the word "revolutionary" to describe themselves and sell their products.  There's fuck-all nothing "revolutionary" about basking in the privilege of how delightful it is to loll about playing with high end dildos and having plenty of free time for orgies and philosophical discussions about the meaning of it all.  This is why I refer to sex-positivity as the "girlie version" of Crimethinc and other forms of self-indulgent drop-out culture lifestyle anarchism that operate under obtuse slogans such as "Poverty, unemployment, homelessness: if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!"  But as we all know, white and privileged people go totally apeshit for any philosophy that assures them that merely by having fun, they are changing the world.  "Revolution" is a mix of the boring, stressful, dangerous, heart-breaking, difficult, and time-consuming, which is why so few people engage in it, but flock to schools of thought which allow them to have the label "revolutionary" without ever taking a risk or doing any work.  Your typical "good feminist" engages in "sex-positive activism" by assuring one another that they are bold "revolutionaries" for watching punk porn or buying buttplugs.

In contrast, mainstream feminists have their shit together, complete with well-funded and powerful NGOs, huge salaries, and national respectability, and they work tirelessly to pass laws around the world that make things more dangerous for sex workers or seek to enact anti-free speech censorship policies (such as in feminist-run Iceland).  Feminists who have any shred of influence invariably use it to be "bad feminists," whether it's criminalizing indoor prostitution in Rhode Island or holding tenured women's studies jobs so they can terrorize impressionable young women into feeling victimized by the world around them.  Mainstream feminists know that you don't change the world with a Hitachi Magic Wand, you change it by being effective political lobbyists.

So long as "good feminists" have zero effect on either policy or popular thinking, they are irrelevant.

"Good feminists" are more interested in wasting their lives attacking people like me and apologizing for the wrongs and oppressions of mainstream feminism than they are doing anything productive

This final one is more sad than angering.  But hey, it's easier to tweet No True Feminism comments at me all the time than it is to do something useful to change the world in measurable ways.  Instead of going after the "bad feminists," the "good feminists" would rather pick fights with the people they claim to have the most in common with, lecturing us about how great feminism is if we can just get past a few bad apples.

Ultimately, even the "good feminists" are more concerned with their cult-like devotion to the label of "feminist" than they are with anything else.  The label matters above all else.  I have no use for people refuse to part from a ideology that calls transwomen monsters, that seeks to take away as much freedom of speech/press as possible, that calls sex workers "house niggers," that believes women need to be told how to think, that says women who enjoy feminine clothing are brainwashed idiots, that profits from convincing women that they are weak and powerless, that denies that women have free will, and that loves subjecting sex workers to state violence in the form of criminalization.  I will never willingly group myself with oppressors, which is why I am not a feminist, even a "good feminist."





by Furry Girl

12.12.12

Last week, my state (Washington) became the first in the nation to legalize possession and use of marijuana.  Colorado will follow suit next month after a similar measure there won during the November elections.  I am happy to live in a state where we have physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill, one legalized recreational drug, marriage equality, oodles of places where one can get an abortion, no death penalty, and state-level open carry of firearms (though Seattle city bans it).  Overall, Washington is comparatively more respectful of people's rights and choices than are many other states.

Today on reason.com, Jacob Sullum wrote a short piece on why states like mine are doing well on the gay marriage and pot legalization front, and it underscores why I keep harping on the need for sex workers to be "out" as our most important form of activism.

Just as an individual’s attitude toward gay people depends to a large extent on how many he knows (or, more to the point, realizes he knows), his attitude toward pot smokers (in particular, his opinion about whether they should be treated like criminals) is apt to be influenced by his personal experience with them. Americans younger than 65, even if they have never smoked pot, probably know people who have, and that kind of firsthand knowledge provides an important reality check on the government’s anti-pot propaganda.

For sex workers who aren't out to anyone, the idea of admitting to what they do for a living can be extremely intimidating.  What I suggest is to start small.

At the 2010 Desiree Alliance conference, I met a woman who was fairly new to escorting.  If I recall correctly, either no one in her life or only a couple of trusted friends knew, and the Desiree Alliance conference was her first sex worker event, and she'd traveled from out of state to see what it was all about.  A computer security conference was happening the same week as our event, so I had friends from another part of my life who were also in Vegas.  One evening, I went out with them to have dinner and hit a few nerd parties, and the new escort joined us.  I gently challenged her to try being out for that one evening, with a group of people she'd never have to see again, just to "try on for size" what it's like to be an out sex worker.  Rather than inventing stories about herself, she was plainly telling people she's an escort, and discovered it wasn't the end of the world, and she wasn't going to be mocked and shamed by everyone she encountered.  Granted, I had already "broken the ice" on the subject of sex work with some of the people we encountered that evening, but I think the woman was still surprised how normally and politely she was treated, and later sent me a very sweet thank you for the evening.  We didn't stay in touch and I don't know how things worked out for her, but I hope that one night of being an out sex worker gave her some courage to be out in her own city and with her regular friends and family.

If you're a sex worker still afraid of coming out, start small.  Go to a bar in the next city over, or a music festival out of town, or just tell the person sitting next to you on the bus or subway.  Try openness on for just a day, or even 15 minutes.  You will get some bad reactions, but I think it will surprise you how many people won't be an asshole to you.  Be prepared for questions, which you can choose to answer or not.  The most shocking thing of all may be meeting someone who themselves has done sex work and never told anyone.  (Only happened to me once, with a seat neighbor on an airplane, but it was still pretty awesome.)





by Furry Girl

06.15.12

After spending part of May looking exactly like the Forever Alone Guy and trying to diagnose a mystery ailment, it turns out that I had the mumps.  (No, I didn't take a photo of my weird face while I was sick, I felt too gross and ugly to immortalize it.)  After all the hours spent researching every country I've visited in the last few years in search of a tropical disease that might match my symptoms, I got the most pedestrian of diagnoses.  (It should be noted that Brooke Magnanti made the correct guess before anyone at my local clinic.)  It wasn't fun at all: the swollen lumpy face, the weird looks from strangers, all the of blood draws to test me for rare diseases, and about $1100 in medical bills.  I did receive the MMR vaccine as a child in 1985, but it did not take hold, as was also the case for Brooke, who contracted the mumps three years ago herself.

I consider my personal experience with the mumps as a success story for vaccination.

As my regular readers/Twitter followers know, I am a supporter of vaccination programs, and it's one of the few areas where I advocate heavy-handed state intervention into people's lives to force them to do something against their will.  I oppose any "religious" and "personal belief" exemptions to mandatory vaccination programs, and I consider it child abuse to deny your offspring medical care just because you don't believe in science.  While I'll laugh and smirk at adults going to naturopaths and chiropractors, I don't really care if adults want to throw away their money on that crap when it doesn't affect anyone else.  However, vaccination is a totally different story, because it doesn't just affect your family, it puts everyone at risk.

The anti-vaccination movement is not, as some might think, a product of the lunatic fringe of Christianity.  The people who oppose vaccination and profit from spreading lies and hysteria about the supposed "dangers" aren't just religious conservatives like Michele Bachmann trying to keep the HPV vaccine from saving lives, but often liberal/left wingers who champion a bunch of nonsense about the supposed evils of "Western medicine," aka, medicine that is actually proven to be effective at treating illness.  In the United States, especially in "progressive" areas like Seattle, we are experiencing increasing outbreaks of preventable illnesses because of anti-science dumbasses who are so selfish that they are willing to risk killing their own and other people's children on their vague unsupported guess that maybe everything humans know about biology, chemistry, physiology, epidemiology, and medicine might be wrong.  It's a very risky gamble with astronomical odds of being correct, and these people are playing this game at the expense of vulnerable members of society: babies and children who cannot or have not been vaccinated, and adults with compromised immune systems.

Why does vaccination go beyond a simple personal choice to do something potentially dangerous, like not wearing a bike helmet, or drinking alcohol, or visiting countries experiencing political unrest?  I strongly support people doing whatever risky things they like with their own bodies, but the personal liberty argument does not hold up when it comes to vaccination.  Successful vaccination programs require what's called "herd immunity," whereby diseases are controlled and essentially wiped out because most people in a society have protection.  Even if one kid in a school of 500 gets measles, it's not going to become a major outbreak if the other 499 children have had their vaccinations and the illness can't spread like wildfire through the community.  Some anti-vaccination people try to twist the issue of herd immunity, claiming that since most kids are vaccinated, then it doesn't matter if their kids are potential vectors of disease.  (That's like making an argument that it's perfectly okay to drive drunk just because most the majority of people drive sober, and so those other people will hopefully be alert enough to get out of the way as your car careens into oncoming traffic.)  The "free spaces" in herd immunity must be reserved not for anti-science conspiracy theorists, but for children and adults who truly cannot be vaccinated, such as young babies and people with immune system disorders whose bodies couldn't handle vaccinations.  Herd immunity is a biological/social safety net that is easily broken when too many people think they're entitled to use it.

Anti-vaccination crazies cling to all sorts of arguments to support their beliefs.  Some claim that vaccines cause autism (they don't).  Some claim that their God doesn't believe in medical intervention.  Some claim that all of "Western medicine" is some kind of patriarchal oppression, and that we must go back to the glorious old days of having sacred medicine women.  A recent anti-vaccination nut I met was opposed to it on the grounds that suffering - including getting polio or AIDS - is all a part of our magical life journey, and that it's wrong to deny humans those character-building opportunities.  Whatever banner they are waving, these people are not only fucking crazy, but also dangerous.  I don't want to see already-disadvantaged and vulnerable kids like an infant born with HIV have to suffer the added complications of measles or polio because some stupid hippie who thinks we shouldn't interfere with Mother Nature.

Back to me and my mumps.  I was vaccinated, but I still got the disease.  This is the sort of extremely rare case that anti-vaccination crazies would hold up as anecdotal proof that vaccines are evil and don't even work anyway.  On the contrary: getting the mumps has made me even more pro-vaccination.  That I was unknowingly susceptible to the mumps and did not get the illness until the age of 28 is a success, not a failure, of vaccination programs.  I owe a debt of thanks to the parents of the kids in my elementary school who got their children vaccinated.  I owe thanks also to middle schools and colleges for requiring MMR vaccinations as a condition of entry (even though some people still manipulate their way out with "philosophical" exemptions).  I am thankful that the "herd" I grew up in did vaccinate, which is why, unlike my parents and grandparents, I never knew a single kid with polio when I was growing up.

Because of the spectacular success of vaccination programs in the developed world, my generation is quick to forget how terrible the diseases are that we now vaccinate against, but they should try talking to some older people in their community.  They should ask their grandparents how scary it was to wonder if their children might be crippled by polio or die from diphtheria.  A couple of generations ago, you didn't have loony parents like Jenny McCarthy marching in protest of the government and science for trying to eradicate diseases, nor will you find an anti-vaccination movement in developing countries where these illness still claim countless innocent lives.  In short: you don't see opposition from people who know, on either an emotional or scientific level, what these diseases actually mean.

In closing, I always liked this nice visual demonstration from Penn & Teller's Bullshit, which shows that, even if everything the anti-vaccination crazies believe were true, they'd still lose the argument.  Read more in-depth information about vaccination and "alt med" nonsense over on Science-Based Medicine.  If you're more into books than blogs, check out Rose Shapiro's Suckers or Simon Singh's Trick or Treatment.





by Furry Girl

06.12.12

"But Sexual Harassment law was never designed to protect women from merely feeling uncomfortable.  In a typical workday, men and women alike face many sources of discomfort: atheists face clerks wearing crosses; able-bodied people face colleagues in wheelchairs; Fundamentalist Muslims and Jews face professors dressed with arms and legs uncovered; the infertile face coworkers' desks with photos of their kids, and parents are given time off for parenting events such as piano recitals.

No, the law is designed to simply create a level playing field of opportunity—not of emotional experience.  It doesn't require anyone to be a mind-reader, it doesn't undo the normal uncertainties of social interaction, and it doesn't require anyone's social skills to be smooth as silk.  Occasionally feeling offended is still considered part of the cost of being out in the world.

[...]

The topic is particularly poignant when the people involved are progressive political activists.  If we expect to go out and communicate effectively in a world that is often hostile to our ideas, we need to have the emotional skills to tolerate a wide range of responses.  If we can't even handle a friendly sexual invitation in a genuinely safe environment without losing our composure, how can we tolerate the rough-and-tumble of the world out there?"

-- Dr Marty Klein in Sexual Harassment or Unwanted Sexual Attention? on sexualintelligence.wordpress.com

 





by Furry Girl

05.25.12

Women With A Vision is truly one of the most outstanding sex worker and harm reduction organizations in the US.  They're not part of the big city sex worker hipsterati, fawning over their own navels and lecturing people about obscure philosophical ideas.  WWAV rolls up their sleeves and directly helps those who most need help, and they do it without a lot of publicity and glory - or funding.  WWAV achieved a notable victory for sex workers in Louisiana by helping overturn a law that required convicted prostitutes to register as sex offenders, a bad law which pushed the most marginalized people even further out of society.

An arsonist broke into the WWAV office last night, destroying almost everything, and they need our help rebuilding.  Please see their donation plea on their web site.  Circulate the link on your social networks, and guilt-trip your friends with money into making a (fully tax-deductible) donation.  Here's a short list from their web site of what your donations can make possible:

$50 will buy a case of male condoms;
$100 will cover a month supply of harm reduction kits,
$250 will replace one of our reproductive health models;
$500 will enable us to make a month’s supply of hygiene kits;
$1000 will buy a case of female condoms; and
$2000 to replace our two cases of OraSure rapid HIV tests.

WWAV is also asking for in-kind donations such as computers and office supplies, furniture, and dressy clothing for women who are transitioning out of sex work and need something to wear on job interviews.  Do you have some extra clothing or shoes in your closet that could use a new home?  A laptop left over from your last upgrade?  Or perhaps you're in the New Orleans area and have furniture you're not using?  Everyone can pitch in, and every dollar counts.  Please send WWAV something right now, even if it's just $1.





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