by Furry Girl
"We know the prime users of alternative medicine worldwide - it's those middle-aged, middle-class, educated women with a high disposable income. The younger end of this group is also likely to take their children to naturopaths and cranial osteopaths, to avoid having them immunised and to medicate them with shop-bought homeopathic and herbal remedies. Alternative medicine offers these women a way to take control, to be remarkable in their day-to-day lives and to make them feel as if their needs as individuals are being attended to. It touches them, both physically and emotionally, at a point in mid-life when many women in our society say they are beginning to feel invisible... Marketing executives have been quick to appreciate the strong appeal of CAM for women.
Alternative medicine knows precisely how to make every user feel special. CAM [Complementary and Alternative Medicine] says you are unique so your treatment needs to be carefully calibrated to reflect your individuality... What matters is you, not your illness symptoms or even whether you actually have any identifiable illness or symptoms.
It is an abiding paradox that alternative medicine is used most keenly by the generation of women who, in the form of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s, asserted that it was 'our bodies, our lives, our right to decide' and rejected paternalistic medicine in the delivery room and beyond. Yet these same women now want to be told what to do by a shaman."
-- Rose Shapiro, in her book, Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All.
My favorite part of this book was the commentary on the gender politics of pseudoscience, and the embarrassing fact that women will gleefully line up to empty their wallets for any woo-woo nonsense that holds their hands and tells them that they're beautiful and unique snowflakes.
Quack "medicine" should be decried for the same reasons as scented vaginal douches (which also profit from purposefully exploiting women's insecurities). Instead, the very people who would balk at shame-centric, unhealthy "feminine hygiene" products are the same people in the "natural alternatives" section of the pharmacy picking up another expensive a tube of sugar pills that promises to truly appreciate their specialness.
by Furry Girl
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
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.
by Furry Girl
"The Web sites I found, trolling through hundreds of Google hits for 'egg donor' were similar, placing heavy emphasis on the motivation of donors. They spoke of fulfillment, of 'making a difference,' of 'one of the most loving gifts one woman can give to another.' The pictures were of babies, clouds, building blocks. The site I chose was among the most thickly written, its invitation to donate dripping with hyper-feminized expressions of motherhood and generosity. It was the linguistic equivalent of a doily.
The application also asked, 'What is the least amount of compensation you will consider accepting for an egg donation?' Elsewhere, the agency stated that it would not accept requests of more than $10,000. So I typed in: $10,000.
When I suggested later that the egg-for-dollars swap is hardly a donation, [the doctor] looked genuinely confused and changed the subject to my egg-producing potential.
The mainstreaming of fertility treatments contributes to a larger concern among cultural conservatives, who worry egg donation is a step on the way to the much-feared designer baby. 'Do you really want to pick a kid the way you shop for a car?' Reader's Digest asked in 2001. Feminists, too, find the mixture of capitalistic enterprise and female bodies disturbing. The Nation's Katha Pollitt has called surrogacy 'reproductive prostitution.' Sexual anxieties make for strange bedfellows: In 2004 National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote a column slamming egg donation, approvingly quoting Pollitt.
While egg prices range from a few thousand dollars to $30,000 or more, ASRM guidelines recommend donors receive a maximum of $10,000, above which compensation is deemed 'inappropriate.' Paradoxically, such guidelines are sold as being in the interest of the donor, usually portrayed as cash-strapped and naive. In the words of the President's Council on Bioethics, such women tend to be from 'financially vulnerable populations,' which implies they need protection from the temptation of incurring bodily risk for profit."
-- Kerry Howley in Ova for Sale on reason.com
I support the consensual selling of organs, bodily fluids, tissue, and eggs/sperm, as well as women renting out their uteruses for surrogacy, or people being paid participants in medical research. The same arguments hurled at sex workers are also deployed against other "weird" or "possibly dangerous" uses of one's body for income. (Though very few people will apply that condemnation of occupations with physical injury risk to sports, agriculture, construction, the military, manual labor, or any number of blue collar jobs.)
Also: the euphemisms and bullshit parade that accompany egg-selling remind me of the prostitutes who put on airs about how they are "erotic journey facilitators," "tantric healers," and "sacred goddess practitioners."
by Furry Girl
"...let's stop blaming men ('all-male church,' 'mostly-male Congress,' 'male-run Fox News,' etc.) for doing all this bad stuff to women.
Women vote to put anti-sex politicians in office; a majority of women voted for Republicans in the 2010 Congressional election. Women support the churches that keep anti-sex politicians in office. Women buy the newspapers and consume the radio and TV programs (like Rush's) that promote moral panics about sexuality.
And let's remember that when women get political power they typically act like men when it comes to sex. Both Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin are aghast about Rush—not about what he said, but about how he’s been held accountable for it. And virtually every female Republican governor and Congressmember of the last decade has voted to restrict access to abortion and birth control."
-- Dr Marty Klein, in It’s Not A War On Women—It’s A War On Sex on sexualintelligence.wordpress.com
by Furry Girl
I'm not a mainstream LA porn performer, so I don't write much about mainstream porn. I tend to avoid writing about topics where I don't have a lot of personal experience, even if I have a lot of second-hand knowledge. (This is why I don't write much about prostitution here - it's not that I don't absolutely support decriminalization, or know how to debate the issue inside and out, but I'd rather people read about prostitution-specific issues from those doing that form of sex work.)
However, I hadn't seen anyone post the exact regulations that will go into effect in LA on March 5th, so I figured I'd go look up the laws and do it myself. You can read the full 6-page PDF document I downloaded from the LA City Clerk's web site.
The people of the City of Los Angeles hereby find and declare all of the following:
(a) The HIV/AIDS crisis, and the ongoing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections as a result of the making of adult films, has caused a negative impact on public health and the quality of life of citizens living in Los Angeles.
(b) Safer sex practices are a prime method of preventing and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
(c) The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has documented widespread transmission of sexually transmitted infections associated with the activities of the adult film industry within the City of Los Angeles.
(d) The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has opined that the use of condoms is the best and most effective way to stem the spread of sexually transmitted infections within the adult film industry.
The people of the City of Los Angeles hereby declare their purpose and intent in enacting this ordinance to be to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted infections resulting from the production of adult films in the City of Los Angeles, which have caused a negative impact on public health and the quality of life of citizens living in Los Angeles.
Porn production is not the root cause of HIV/STIs, I wish so badly that people would stop repeating that as though it were a fact.
First, there is no "ongoing epidemic" of HIV in the porn industry. I don't know how to calculate the numbers, but a lot of sex happens on porn sets in LA. We can all agree it's "a lot," right? And every couple or few years, there have been HIV scares in porn where sadly, a small number of performers are infected. (The HIV cases seem to all originate with a performer who has unsafe sex with "civilians" in their private life, and then brings the virus to work.) While any new HIV infection is unfortunate, a few cases of HIV every few years is not an "epidemic," it's an anomaly. According to the CDC, about 50,000 people are infected with HIV every year in America.
The ordinance starts off big about HIV/AIDS, the most scary diseases, but then the language changes to read "sexually transmitted infections." Yes, people get minor STIs in porn, and it's not a secret. Risking an occasional case of chlamydia (easily treated with antibiotics), or even getting herpes, is part of the known risk of working in the porn industry. You know who spreads more STIs per sex act? Everyone else. How about the city devote its resources to providing free condoms and accurate sex education in every middle school and high school? That's a group I'm more concerned about. The porn industry is already hyper-vigilante about STI reduction, it's the last population that needs the government's meddling on that front.
While almost all porn performers strongly oppose condom laws, it's important to emphasize that condoms are not the only way to reduce one's risks, and nor are condoms flawless. Their efficacy on reducing the transmission risk of genital warts, HPV, and herpes is debatable, so condom or no condom, those skin-to-skin STIs can be shared. The ordinance's justification and language makes a huge error by implying that "safer sex" means "sex with a condom." In fact, "safer sex" is not a single idea or product like a condom, but a term that implies a wide array of options which can be deployed by themselves or in combination. Condoms are one way to reduce your risks, but they're not the only way. "Pulling out" is also a safer sex tactic. Regular STI screening is a safer sex tactic. Only having sex with partners whose STI status you trust is a safer sex tactic. Improvising "dental dams" from plastic wrap is a safer sex tactic. Only sleeping with one person your entire life is a safer sex tactic. Taking medication if you have herpes is a safer sex tactic. Safer sex is a spectrum of choices to reduce one's risks, it is not some single-meaning word that stands in only for condoms.
An "adult film" is defined as any film, video, multimedia or other representation of sexual intercourse in which performers actually engage in oral, vaginal, or anal penetration, including but not limited to penetration by a penis, finger, or inanimate object; oral contact with the anus or genitals of another performer; and/or any other activity that may result in the transmission of blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials as defined in California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193(b).
(4) All producers of adult films issued permits under the authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to Section 12.22(A)(13) of this Code or any other law authorizing the issuance of permits for commercial filming are required to maintain engineering and work practice controls sufficient to protect employees from exposure to blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials controls consistent with California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193.
(5) Any film permit issued under the authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to Section 12.22(A)(13) of this Code or any other law authorizing the issuance of permits for commercial filming for the production of an adult film must expressly condition said permit on compliance with subsection (4) of this section. Any such permit shall contain the following language: "Permittee must abide by all applicable workplace health and safety regulations, including California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5193, which mandates barrier protection, including condoms, to shield performers from contact with blood or other potentially infectious material during the production of films."
(6) The City shall charge, or shall direct any other person or entity contracting with the City to administer the film permitting process, to charge, entertainment industry customers seeking permits for the production of adult films a fee sufficient to allow periodic inspections to ensure compliance with the conditions setforth in Section 12.22.1 (B)(4).
Disappointingly, there's nothing about how these "periodic inspections" will occur, or who is held responsible if a violation is in order. From the wording of the law, and it being based on filming permits, I'd assume the studio/producer/director would be responsible for paying a fine for facing charges. Are performers themselves seen as passive victims of a greedy and corrupt porn studio if they reject condoms and then a condomless sex act is filmed? I'd love to know how enforcement will work, and if the regulations will be used to crack down on porn makers, or performers as well.
So, what's in this Title 8 Section 5193 that keeps getting mentioned? A gigantic long page of definitions about what constitutes a bloodborne pathogen or bodily fluid. It's written for people in the medical and research realms who may get needle sticks or be exposed to contaminated bodily fluids at work, and how to dispose of medical waste and needles. There's also a lot of vague language about "personal protective equipment," but how that will be defined when it comes to porn is unknown. It could mean condoms, it could mean that each performer is legally required to wear a bright yellow hazmat suit like someone in a movie about a zombie or plague outbreak. Will LA enforce the part of these workplace regulations that say one is required to wear a "face shield" or "protective bodily clothing," or even use a respirator? Is this what porn could look like in the near future?
These new regulations go into effect in a couple of weeks. How they end up being enforced is anyone's guess. Based on the vagueness of the rules, and how any porn where performers are not wearing a full hazmat suit could technically be held in violation of the laws, I'd predict selective and politically-motivated prosecutions. Did your studio kick and scream to oppose the law? I wonder if the safety inspectors will be paying you a visit first. Better have those face shields ready.
Edit: One of my Twitter followers brought up an important point: what if studios carry on as normal and just agree to pay fines? I don't know what the fines are, or if jail time is also a part of the deal. But, if it's a $500 fine on a production with a $10,000 budget, maybe it will just be another cost of doing business in LA. An unfair increase, of course, but perhaps this is a case where it's better to just pay the fine than comply with the law.
by Furry Girl
"On the subject of ethics in sex work research, we usually think of the insensitivity and careerism of researchers whose interest is in obtaining information they will take credit for. I want to point to another problematic angle: the issue of whether those being researched are honest with researchers. Why, after all, should people who are being treated as objects of curiosity tell the truth?
To put it another way, keeping secrets may help sex workers gain independence or control over projects to help them. Talking about sexual risks with people who think it's wrong to ever take any risks may cause them to treat you as irresponsible. Admitting the desire to stay in sex work after getting out of the clutches of abusers can render you ineligible for victim-protection programmes. The best policy may be to omit certain information from responses or to put on the expected front.
-- Dr Laura Agustín, in Alternate Ethics, or: Telling Lies to Researchers on lauraagustin.com
by Furry Girl
Last night, I was doing some reading about the most popular political panic of the mid-80s, and stopped to tweet, "Sex work activists should read about the political manufacturing of the crack 'epidemic.' 25 years ago, it was crack; now it's trafficking." I'm no expert on drug issues, but I feel like I should explain my comment in more detail, so here is a (non-exhaustive) list of parallels between the crack epidemic and the sex trafficking epidemic. I think it would benefit sex workers' rights supporters to look at how another moral panic was whipped up and profited from by those with special agendas.
Medicalized diagnoses, criminalized cures
First, I have to start out with an important note on how language is used as a tool to frame an issue in one's favor. Proponents of both the crack craze and the idea of sex trafficking as a vast and ubiquitous problem (and inseparable from consensual sex work) use language of health problems like epidemic, plague, disease, and addiction, but their proposed solutions to both are arrest, shaming, further marginalization, and punishment. Imagine if police responded to the health problem of people having the flu this winter by conducting taxpayer-funded raids, kicking in the doors of homes where people were suspected of staying home sick - arresting them, subjecting them to fines and imprisonment, and even keeping a public registry of the dangerous monsters who have been convicted of carrying the flu, preventing people who ever had the flu to be able to lead a non-flu-tainted life. But we don't do that to flu sufferers for that "epidemic."
Causes and effects
Continuing on with of the topic of medical euphemism is the issue of confusing symptoms with causes of social ills. The crack "epidemic" was framed by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum as not a symptom of poverty, inequality, and larger social disparities, but as the cause of social problems in the first place. Urban ghettos weren't getting worse because of the lack of social services, educational opportunities, affordable healthcare, and quality jobs, they were simply suffering from crack cocaine. Sex trafficking is also seen not as a response to social forces such as some countries having more wealth than others, the desire to go abroad to earn better money, few employment options for undocumented migrant workers, or the difficulties in legally entering a Western country if you're poor. No, sex trafficking is the social ill to be eliminated, and all that complex stuff about class, race, immigration, and gender gets neatly swept under the rug in favor of an explanation that lets people scapegoat manufactured omnipresent boogeymen while failing to address real social problems.
At last, an issue everyone can support!
As mentioned above, the crack panic wasn't just a right-wing pet project, but a topic around which both liberals and conservatives could battle to see which party could take the loudest and harshest stance. No more worrying about pesky minor problems like the economy and joblessness, let's give everyone a chance to come together and agree: the real issue plaguing the country is crack/sex trafficking. There are few topics around which both Democrats and Republicans will battle over who supports/condemns it more, and when such is the case, you have to consider the idea that such an issue is being used as a shiny distraction. (See also: hysteria around terrorism being successfully deployed by all politicians to keep people from thinking about eroding civil liberties and a tanking economy.)
Both panics exploded in popularity during major economic downtowns
The crack epidemic could be said to have peaked in the late 1980s, the same time as the US was experiencing a recession. Our current recession and financial meltdown dovetails perfectly with the rise of interest in and coverage of sex trafficking.
The solution to both problems is not harm reduction, but arrest and locking people up
Billions of dollars were spent on stateside law enforcement as a means to curb the "epidemic" of crack addiction, but where did that get us, as a country, aside from having the world's highest rate of incarceration? Likewise, does anyone really feel safer in when their tax money is used on costly police stings that arrest and jail prostitutes in hopes of being able to fin even one "trafficking victim"? Lots of money is wasted on "cures" that do nothing to help real victims, do everything to drive both victims and criminals further underground, and ultimately only achieve good PR and further funding for police, politicians, and other people with a stake in selling the moral panic. The solution is never to provide services to people at risk of exploitation, but to use arrests and imprisonment to try and cover up things that cause discomfort among members of the middle and upper classes.
Who needs evidence when you have hysteria?
Question the anti-crack rhetoric, and a public figure would be attacked as "soft on crime," and detractors could obtusely ask how one could be in support of the crack plague taking over the country. Similarly, if you question any part of the agenda of those selling and profiting from the sex trafficking scare, you are painted as being in favor of raping children and the sexual enslavement of millions. The topic is framed and such over-the-top hysterical ways, it leaves no room for reasonable discussion of the facts. Anyone who questions anything is a monster.
Emotional-tinged "statistics" trump real data
Parents were told that young people around the country were falling victim to crack addiction, and that "an entire generation" was hooked on the substance. However, even according to government surveys, cocaine use/experimentation of any kind had peaked among young people in 1982, and in 1986, while the media was touting the coming crackpocalypse, daily cocaine use of any variety among high school seniors was a mere 0.4%. (How many of them were crack users in particular is unknown.) Less than 4 out of every 1000 seniors is obviously not "an entire generation" addicted to crack, but boring facts like that have no place in a moral panic. (Just like boring facts rarely get any play in discussions about sex trafficking, where people prefer to fantasize about how millions of children are being captured and raped at every turn.)
The "epidemic" is portrayed as a personal threat to all Americans and their children
Those with something to gain have managed to hype both crack and sex trafficking as attacks upon the fabric of our culture over which everyone must worry, painting pictures of crack dealers hiding behind every corner, ready to get Johnny Quarterback hooked on drugs, or kidnap little Betsy Countryclub from her ballet lessons and sell her into a child sexual slavery ring. Everyone is a target, and the evil people are poised at this very moment to ensnare your children. There's no time to think, only to worry hysterically.
It's not about race and class, except when it is
With both the crack and sex trafficking panic, there is this pervasive undercurrent of fear of the other, fear of nonwhite and poor people, fear of them infiltrating us and ruining everything "we" built. The crack epidemic was about fear of poor, urban Blacks and Latinos, mostly young men who might be in scary gangs. The sex trafficking epidemic, when not about stealing your children for sexual slavery, has the more subtle racial component of a fear of migrant workers sneaking into "our" country and doing morally distasteful things with our husbands, our dads, our brothers, corrupting us, tearing at our family values, and making us impure by association.
Extreme cases are way more exciting than our routine problems
Alcohol, car crashes, and tobacco kill tons of people, but that's not very exciting, and such "mundane" deaths hardly every make the news. But comparatively-rare crack-related deaths and injuries became a top political issue for both parties. Likewise, spousal abuse, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault are accepted as facts of life, only making the news when there's some bizarre, celebrity, or "funny" angle to the story. Yet, when occasional cases of barbaric forced sex trafficking or the pimping of an underage girl are uncovered, it's held up by proponents as a major problem that is happening to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the country. The focus is always on exploiting extreme cases for political gain and financial contributions, and insisting that extreme cases are the norm.
The issues play well on TV and make for dramatic publicity stunts
In 1989, George Bush Senior held a famous press conference to hype the crack problem where he showed bag of the substance and declared that it had been seized in a drug deal in the park across the street from the White House. A photo of Bush holding the bag was printed in newspapers around the country, proving that crack was everywhere now, even in "good" neighborhoods, and thus, warranted the panic of all Americans. However, the backstory to that photo-op is much more interesting. Since no drugs, let alone crack, were available for purchase in Lafayette Park, the government needed to manufacture a situation that would make for good televison. An 18-year-old African American high schooler was cajoled to come to the park to sell the crack, a young man who famously asked the undercover DEA entrapping him, "Where the fuck is the White House?" I can't recall the last time a week went by that I didn't read about an anti-trafficking publicity push, carefully coordinated and framed for maximize sensationalism.
Now, the "war on drugs" is largely recognized as a failure
I can only hope the war on sex workers, framed as the "war on trafficking," will meet the same fate. I'd love to hear how anti-drug war activists were able to shift public perceptions from the early 90s onward, because we should really emulate whatever they've been doing. (Or how to play up everything the government and moral crusaders are doing incorrectly.)
If you have more interest in this topic, the most awesome and in-depth thing I read was The Construction of America's Crack Crisis by Craig Reinarman and Harry Levine. Hat tip to their research for providing a bunch of the information in this blog post.
by Furry Girl
Yesterday, I went to check my mail drop, and was happy to see an awesome new postcard from the St James Infirmary, one of my favorite nonprofits. They provide free healthcare and other services to sex workers and their families in San Francisco, and they need donations from people like you to keep their doors open.
Just like with the SWAAY billboard campaign, the St James Infirmary was rejected by a number of outdoor media companies, like Clear Channel. (Don't worry, the SWAAY billboard isn't dead, it's just taken ages to find someone willing to accept out money, but we've finally signed a contract and our billboard was sent to the printers this week. I've been waiting to post about that ordeal until I have a definite launch date to celebrate.) I'm happy to see American sex workers' rights groups getting on board with the idea that we need to engage the general public, so it's exciting to see this new campaign.
If you're in the Bay Area, the St James Infirmary is having a launch party on October 16th, so go celebrate with some of the most awesome sex workers' rights advocates in the country.
For the link-phobic, here are the lovely ads that will soon be appearing on the San Francisco Muni:
The last one, featuring Cyd, is my personal favorite.
(My only nitpick is that two of the posters mention being a mother as a means of showing the public that we're good people. I realize that this is probably a smart political tactic, but it will always bother me when parenthood is eagerly thrust forward by "weird" groups - atheists, queers, sex workers - to prove that they deserve to be seen as real human beings. So, if one is childfree by choice, or remorsefully barren, you deserve equality and human rights less than people who have kids? But I digress.)
by Furry Girl
My WikiLeaks cable search continues, and this time I spent a full day reading about how US diplomats cover abortion. A lot of the items I've seen mentioned with the cables are "big deal" political issues like terrorism, censorship, corruption, but I think it's also important to consider more "pedestrian" topics, such as the issue of abortion. Access to safe abortion services might not garner headlines like an leak about who we've tortured, but it affects far more people worldwide in their daily lives.
Most of the results for "abortion" are about the Catholic Church opposing it, snippets about sex-selective abortion in India and China, and brief mentions of forced abortions at the hands of human trafficking rings. Meddling from pro-life Republican Congressman Chris Smith came up in four cables about abortion, and that's just what I noticed as a casual reader. (What does your representative do overseas on diplomatic missions? Why not search the cables and see?)
This post is by no means exhaustive, and like my roundup of cables on sex work and prostitution policies, reflects only some of the things I found while poking around on CablegateSearch.net. If you find something else interesting, post it in the comments, or on Twitter with the hashtag #wlfind. If everyone spends just a couple of hours looking through the cables for a topic that's interesting to them, we can all find more stories in this huge repository of US diplomatic information.
Cables of note, mostly on abortion, plus two on FGM I stumbled across:
* A January 2010 cable from China discusses the country's sex-selective abortion and how it affects their gender ratio. "Social consequences of this imbalance include an estimated excess of over 30 million unmarriageable males, a potentially destabilizing force that threatens to cause unrest in the most economically marginalized areas, and could lead to increased gender violence through demand for prostitution and trafficking in girls and women." The @WikiLeaks Twitter account mention this earlier today. I still am wondering what defines one as an "unmarriageable male" in China.
* A December 2009 cable from the Vatican, marked SECRET, "reiterate" the Vatican's position on US healthcare legislation. "[Archbishop] Mamberti asked the Ambassador about the status of the health care legislation now pending before the U.S. Senate, and reiterated the concerns expressed by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops that the final version of the legislation not contain funding for abortion."
* A November 2009 cable from the UN summarizes a meeting on population, family planning, development, and climate change. Call me ignorant, but I wasn't previously aware that the Catholic Church has a representative at the UN. Really, why should they of all people get a seat at the table in UN population and family planning meetings? Does the Taliban get to have a place to influence debates on the global response to terrorism?
* An October 2009 cable from Colombia explains how the country's complicated system of having 4 types of courts hinders clear decisions on abortion rights. "In September, [Inspector General] Ordonez successfully scuttled the Mayor of Medellin's plans to offer abortion services at a new integral women's health clinic. Some hospitals and doctors still refuse to perform the legal abortions due to objections of conscience, and some judges have blocked the full implementation of the ruling. Ordonez argues that abortion is still a crime (punished by one to three years imprisonment) with specific exceptions, and not a right."
* An October 2009 cable from the Vatican summarizes a conference on getting more faith-based groups to work with governments on HIV/AIDS charity work. The Vatican's event had nothing to do with promoting condom use or sex education (surprise!), but on the importance of HIV testing and treatment for children, how to work to prevent HIV transmission between mother and child. The Vatican wants to see more groups providing care to children born with HIV, but has zero interest in addressing the reasons why babies are born with HIV or how HIV is most commonly transmitted. The US embassy considered this event "very successful."
* An October 2009 cable from Afghanistan on the situation of women weighs the pros and cons of a drug. "Hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death in Afghanistan. JPAIGO, a USAID implementing partner affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, conducted a study in which midwives and health workers provided expectant mothers with misoprostol, a drug that prevents hemorrhaging if taken immediately after delivery. The Afghan Government is cautious about using the drug, since it can also be used to induce abortion, which is illegal in Afghanistan."
* A September 2009 cable from Kazakhstan explores the many factors that caused one town, Temirtau, to be dubbed "The AIDS Capital of Kazakhstan". They include layoffs from the world's largest steel company, AcelorMittal, which once employed half the town. Later, on the subject of efforts to promote safer sex, "...only 1-2 percent of Temirtau's residents use contraception to restrict birth; abortion remains the overwhelming preferred method of birth control."
* A September 2009 cable from the Vatican covers a Catholicism conference headlined by Tony Blair and Jeb Bush. After defending the event from critics, the cable reluctantly notes, "It is, however, at the forefront of the cultural wars pitting traditional Church values against Western European secularism. As such, it works assiduously to advance Church teachings on controversial issues such as euthanasia, abstinence in the fight against AIDS, abortion, and the role and influence of religion in society." The cable refers to the conference as a success.
* An August 2009 cable from Morocco deals with abortion and family planning. "Abortions are legal in Morocco only to safeguard the health of the mother. The practical measures to garner permission for a legal abortion, however, are especially difficult. In addition to written consent by the spouse, the region's chief medical officer must approve all pending abortions. These stringent procedures mean that legal abortions are rarely approved beforehand."
* A June 2009 cable from Russia says that family planning efforts are having a hard time "gaining a foothold" in the face of religious and state opposition. "Svetlana Yakimenko, the Director of Project Kesher, an international women's rights NGO, told us May 21 that Planned Parenthood International had a difficult time gaining a foothold in Russia and faces opposition to its work from both the GOR and the Orthodox Church. [...] The GOR pursues an official policy of encouraging women to have as many children as possible in order to counteract the country's demographic problems..."
* A June 2009 cable from Poland discusses the country's abortion laws. It notes that "abortion is allowed only in three instances: when pregnancy poses a threat to the life or health of the mother, when pre-natal examinations indicate a high probability of severe birth defects or incurable disease, and when pregnancy was the result of rape. As women's rights NGOs point out, even those entitled to legal abortion under the strict anti-abortion law are often denied. Under Polish law, a doctor has the right to deny an abortion if it is in conflict with his/her conscience (so-called conscience clause)."
* A June 2009 cable from the Vatican seems to be written for Barack Obama, explaining what the Church wants to discuss on his visit. "Vatican officials grudgingly accept that abortion is legal in the U.S., but oppose making it more widely available. Internationally, the Vatican would forcefully oppose USG advocacy of legalizing abortion elsewhere, financing foreignabortions, or making abortion an international 'reproductive right.' The Vatican would welcome an honest, respectful dialogue with the United States on abortion."
* A June 2009 cable from Mexico covers the abortion debate in the country. Abortion is legal in cases of "confirmed rape," which makes me wonder what their rape certification process looks like. "Some pro-abortion NGO's claimed a modest victory in regulations requiring a response by state health authorities no more than 120 hours after a confirmed rape, provision of emergency 'morning after' contraception, as well as abortion on demand in rape cases. Such organizations, however, noted that the regulations require written authorization by law enforcement authorities who must certify that a rape had taken place (for victims under 18 a parent or guardian must also provide authorization)."
* An April 2009 cable from Guinea titled, "Exploring Fgm- Sorcery, Secrecy, And Livelihoods" talks about female genital mutilation and the women who perform it. "...Asst Poloff had a rare opportunity to interview women who actually perform FGM, or 'excision'. The interview took place at the community health center, with four local women in attendance. [...] Although any woman can attend the actual procedure, it is usually older girls who have already been excised and/or older female relatives such as aunts or grandmothers. [...] The excisers balked when questioned about the role of men in the practice of excision. The younger exciser explained that men would not 'dare' involve themselves in the domain of women." (And here we Westerners are told that FGM is caused by a thing called "The Patriarchy," not an empowered sisterhood of women. A cable from the UAE in 2005 notes that FGM is inflicted by "elderly women or midwives" when it happens in that country.)
* An April 2009 cable from India discuses sex-selective abortion and gender disparities in the country. "Though President Patil, India's first female president, claimed in her talk in December 2008, in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, 'Today, our women are competing on an equal footing with men,' the reality for many in western India belies this claim."
* A March 2009 cable covering the presidential election season in Slovakia notes how Catholic Church campaigns against one female candidate. "Recently, several bishops helped to ignite the Slovak 'culture wars,' by publicly calling on Catholic voters not to support her. Banska Bystrica's Bishop, Rodulf Balaz, recently went as far as to indirectly compare [her] to Hitler because of her attitudes toward abortion and gays."
* A November 2008 cable from Nicaragua speculates on whether the country's anti-abortion president is causing it to lose foreign aid. "Finland is not the first country to withdraw budget support from Nicaragua since Daniel Ortega became President. In August 2007, Sweden announced it would end its foreign assistance to Nicaragua, as a result of its decision to shift focus on countries in Africa and Eastern Europe. Observers in Nicaragua speculated that the true reason behind the Swedish decision was Ortega's prohibition of therapeutic abortion, an assertion denied by the Swedish Ambassador."
* A July 2008 cable from Ethiopia discusses inteference from an anti-abortion American politician. The country apparently doesn't want outsiders meddling in its laws, citing "the example of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, who adamantly opposes abortion. When Ethiopia's parliament passed a clause allowing abortion in instances when the mother's life was in danger, Congressman Smith severely criticized the Prime Minister and his government and is now a vocal critic of Ethiopia. If Ethiopia accepted funding from anti-abortion groups and overturned the Parliamentary law to be in compliance with Congressman Smith, it would not be a law truly embraced by the people of Ethiopia."
* A September 2008 cable from the Vatican is titled, "Catholic Movement Wary Of European Human Rights Discourse". The Church is upset that they think Europeans and their governments "are promoting the view that abortion, euthanasia and same sex-marriages are human rights," views that "betray" the "true essence" of human rights according to Catholic religious doctrine.
* A December 2007 cable from Kenya discusses various ways that religion influences politics in the country. On religious activism: "While some positions are clearly in line with church doctrine -- such as the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Kenya calling for aspiring leaders to reject abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty -- other leaders' declarations have been more political and have correspondingly sparked controversy." Good to know that the Catholic Church is always working hard on issues that really matter, like fighting against abortion access in developing countries.
* An October 2007 cable from Nicaragua covers abortion debates and the Catholic Church's role. Interestingly, anti-abortion politicians decided to turn it into a homophobic issue. "Agreeing that the only women in favor of abortion were homosexual, deputy Navarro scornfully called the female protesters 'lesbians, lesbians, lesbians' during his turn at the microphone." The US embassy concludes, "In our discussions with women's organizations and NGOs, we have made it clear that U.S. foreign policy does not condone or recognize the right to abortion."
* A May 2007 cable from Brazil covers the Pope's visit amidst debate on changing the country's archaic abortion laws. Ever the sensitive guy, Pope Benedict "asserted that the spreading of the gospel during colonization did not represent 'alienation of pre-Columbian cultures nor the imposition of a foreign culture.'" The cable also mentions "a Vatican proposal to make religious education obligatory in public schools."
* A March 2007 cable from Senegal plainly spells out that the position of the US government is anti-abortion. It covers the visit of pro-life US Ambassador Rees to discourage the country's adoption of the Maputo Plan, which aims to improve sexual health and family planning for the people of Senegal, and includes abortion. (Trivia: Rees was once a legislative aid to what US Congressman? Chris Smith!) "Ambassador Rees voiced U.S. concerns that the Maputo Plan of Action requires countries to integrate all HIV/AIDS programs with family planning/reproductive health programs, an integration that would likely divert badly needed HIV/AIDS fund to family planning, and also seemed designed to require African countries to make abortion more widely available. [...] During a 30-minute meeting with Minister of Health Abdou Fall on March 21, Ambassador Rees stressed that the Maputo Plan of action was not a consensus document, could create 'an abortion industry in waiting.'"
* A March 2007 cable from the Vatican reports on a "right to life" conference. "Addressing conference delegates during a private audience, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that the right to life must be supported by everyone because 'it is fundamental with respect to other human rights.' The pontiff then lashed out against interest in developed nations in immoral biotechnological research, 'the obsessive search for the perfect child' through genetic selection, a renewed global push for abortion rights and same-sex marriage, which is 'closed to natural procreation.'"
* A February 2007 cable from Portugal notes that the country is about to legalize abortion (up until 10 weeks). The country's leadership "hailed the outcome, underscoring that it would ensure Portugal's move toward modernity and place it among the world's contemporary democracies." I like that increasing abortion access is seen as a cornerstone of modernity and democracy.
* A January 2007 cable from the Vatican summarizes Pope Benedict's speech about what he thinks wrong with Africa. Abortion is apparently one of the key problems facing the continent.
* A December 2006 cable from Nicaragua talks about the country's abortion laws. "[Nicaraguan Minister of Health Margarita] Gurdian expressed regret that the medical community was shut out of the legislative debate that was strongly influenced by Catholic church and Evangelical group interests."
* An August 2006 cable from Fiji discusses the visit of US politicians, who discussed the pressing issues of abortion and war. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican Congressman, "expressed hope that Fiji would not support a UN program that he said advocates abortion as a means of family planning. A spirited discussion followed among several of the congressmen on abortion-related issues." The country was thanked for "Fiji's participation in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq." (At this point in time, Fiji probably had less than 300 troops in Iraq.) Perhaps in return for their support of the war, Fijian politicians were "very interested in prospects" that the 2000-ish Fijian citizens illegally living in the US can be shown "some consideration" in upcoming immigration bills.
* An August 2006 cable from Vietnam talks about the current state of affairs for the country's population policies, including what it defines as "real abortion". "[A government official] raised doubts about the reliability of abortion rate figures and stated that 93 percent of all reported abortions performed in Vietnam are actually 'menstrual regulation.' This procedure allows women to end a pregnancy during the first trimester by artificially triggering withdrawal bleeding. Some 20 percent of women undergoing this procedure are actually not pregnant and just 'want to be on the safe side,' he said. Therefore, the [government's population department] only considers mid- or late-term abortion cases to be 'real abortions' and has allocated funding to try to reduce the number of these cases, which account for seven percent of the reported abortions."
* A March 2006 cable from Vietnam mentions Congressman Smith's penchant for telling developing other countries what to do with their abortion laws: "Smith had promised to work cooperatively with Vietnam on the issues of combating trafficking in persons (TIP), preventing abortion and promoting religious freedom."
* A March 2006 cable from France summarizes how the US has been portrayed in the local press, including Bush's abortion politics. It quotes one concerned article: "This anti-abortion law does not concern South Dakota alone... When it comes to morals and culture, the wind often blows from the U.S. onto our shores. President Bush, spurred by the 'Christian right' is already waging an anti-abortion crusade worldwide. He is making anti-abortion legislation a condition for aid to poor and developing countries. This crusade will intensify if the right to abortion was questioned in the U.S."
* A January 2006 cable from South Africa expressed US concerns with what it considers "contradictions" in a newly passed law. "Under the new bill, a child can consent to medical treatment, including HIV testing and the purchase of contraceptives, at 12 years of age. Previously, under the Child Care Act, the minimum age had been 14. There are contradictions in the new bill. Having sex with a child aged 15 or younger is considered statutory rape, but the new law assumes a 12-year-old is mature enough to purchase condoms. Another concern is that, at 14 years old, children can now consent to surgical procedures, including abortion. However under the new bill, a girl can consent to giving up her baby for adoption only at 18, whereas previously, a 16-year-old could make that decision."
* A December 2005 cable from Vietnam talks about Congressman Smith's advice of using fake "pregnancy crisis centers". "On abortion, the Congressman noted that faith- based pregnancy-care and pregnancy-crisis centers are very powerful weapons in the fight against abortion."
* Another December 2005 cable from Vietnam states that Congressman Smith "is deeply concerned about the prevalence of abortion in the world". A Vietnamese official smartly notes, "Preventing abortions is a noble goal... a far better solution than abortion is to provide the social and financial methods and resources to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place."
* A September 2005 cable from El Salvador touches on the Catholic Church's anti-abortion lobbying in the country. "[Archbishop] Saenz Lacalle succeeded in an effort to prohibit legally all types of abortion, by busing Catholic schoolchildren to the Legislative Assembly to stage anti-abortion demonstrations. In an effort to influence legislators, Opus Dei also solicited thousands of signatures for anti-abortion petitions from churchgoers after Mass; some political observers viewed this as an inappropriate intervention in national policy on the part of the Catholic Church."
* A November 2004 cable from Brazil reports on an effort to amend strict anti-abortion laws to exclude cases of anencephaly, an extreme deformity that renders a fetus/baby incapable of surviving. An earlier cable on this potential exception notes opposition from a Catholic church group, stating they "will struggle for the preservation of the rights of anencephalics, especially the right to be born." (The Wikipedia page on anencephaly includes photos you may consider disturbing.)
* A January 2004 cable from Ghana mentions the country's abstinence-focused sex ed. "USAID,s program works to decrease the abortion rate by promoting family planning for married couples, educating girls and boys on abstinence and delayed sexual initiation, and advocating faithfulness between married partners (school-based curricula, Life Choices media campaigns and the Church's Counseling curriculum are examples)."
* A November 2003 cable from Croatia explains the Catholic church's role in politics. "Catholics were also directed not to vote for parties and individuals who support legalized abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriages."
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
Enjoy my writing? I enjoy presents!
Buy SWAAY shirts:
Browse by topic
- (Anti-) Beauty Standards
- 80s Movies' Wisdom
- Add to Your Lexicon
- Advice for Sex Workers
- Allies and "Allies"
- Atheism / Religion
- Book Reviews
- Crab Mentality
- Events & Happenings
- Frequently Addressed Accusations
- Government & Law
- Infographics, Memes, & Ads
- Kink / BDSM
- Labor politics
- Leisure of the Theory Class
- Love & Relationships
- Nutters & Moralizers
- Other Political Issues
- Privacy & Anonymity
- Queer / Gender
- Seattle / WA Local
- Sex Toys & Products
- Sex Work
- Trafficking / "Rescue"
- Transitioning Out of Sex Work
- Violence Against Sex Workers
- Women as Oppressors
New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna