by Furry Girl
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
"Other reviews of the prevalence of sexual material, even ones which are not particularly skeptical of its purported effects, come up with typical conclusions like People think sexually violent material will not harm them, but they worry about how it will affect others and Most people did not think that the availability of sexually violent material would affect rates of sexual violence.
Statements like those imply that we trust ourselves not to go over the edge when looking at porn, but we don't trust other people. Why? Why not give others the same benefit of the doubt we extend to ourselves? Is it ever intellectually honest to imagine that I am somehow unaffected by something in the fabric of our culture, but everyone else is powerless to resist its worst possible interpretation? Why is that kind of thinking unfortunately something that crops up time and again in anti-porn arguments?
The vast majority of those who enjoy a bit of rough and tumble want it with consenting partners. This is important to remember. People who like it rough do not want to actually rape you or to be raped. Understood? Can we keep repeating it until, you know, everyone finally gets this?"
-- Dr Brooke Magnanti, in Porn by the Numbers 2: Is pornography violent? on sexonomics-uk.blogspot.com
by Furry Girl
I am utterly baffled that I have to explain these things, but the sexy mommy mob is still hysterical after my comments on Twitter last week that feminist darling Madison Young is creepy-as-fuck for how she uses her baby as a non-consenting prop for her sexual politics and porn marketing. I don't expect to change any minds, and I'm not allowing comments on this post because I was sick of this topic days ago. But, since people are asking me for a "statement," and the sexy mommy mob is intent on growing this "story" into some kind of national outrage, I might was well clearly explain my position in one place. (I do appreciate seeing how, as this "story" moves out of the feminist porn scene, some other people share these opinions.)
The big take-home point that some people are missing: It's all about context. I am against breast feeding in places where people go to masturbate. Madison's posting of breast feeding photos and videos in her Twitter stream and on other sex-themed web sites is appalling to me. It's no different than breast feeding on stage at a strip club. Madison has spent her career making everything she does about sex. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. I'm a sex-loving pornographer myself! But you can't spend most of a decade purposefully building an environment where people come to masturbate and then feign confusion when someone like me "mistakes" that environment for being sexual.
It's hard to plead "there is absolutely nothing sexual about these photos/videos" when they are posted in sexualized spaces and/or crafted to look sexy. The most famous image shows Madison as a Marilyn Monroe knockoff. I've seen photos of other women breast feeding, and none of them bothered to put on a sexy dress and get their hair and makeup done first. For most moms with breast feeding photos, I bet they're probably wearing yesterday's sweatpants and looking exhausted, not trying to liken themselves to a famous sex icon.
I've been told that it's beyond Madison's control if sick people are aroused by her sexy breast feeding images. But if she would never want to encourage people to jerk off to photos of her baby, she should stop posting them in a place where she typically posts porn. Aside from all the innocent masturbators who clicked a blind link because they thought it was going to be kinky sex pics, who wants to see sexy breast feeding? Most of us would call them pedophiles. Best case scenario, Madison's sexy breast feeding schtick is an attention-getting ploy to sell her persona's "realness" so people will buy her "real" porn. Worst case scenario, Madison is knowingly creating masturbation material for pedophiles. Either way, it's revolting. (At what point does one cross over from sexualizing having a baby to sexualizing the baby?)
Madison's loyal fans have spent the last few days calling me an ignorant and cruel monster for taking Madison to task, but what about the actual victim, Madison's baby?
This issue is also about consent. The baby is not consenting to being used as a marketing gimmick for her mother's porn persona. There is a huge difference between consenting adults engaging in exhibitionism, and forcing creepy, pedophile-courting public voyeurism on a non-consenting baby. I am an exhibitionist myself, but I would never drag anyone into my kinks who isn't consenting to be a part of a scene. For all anyone knows, Madison's kid will be traumatized by her upbringing in public, and end up feeling extremely violated by the sexual attention Madison subjected her to as a child. Would you have wanted your mother breast feeding you for attention from horny adults, and for evidence of that to be online and linked to you forever?
I am against people using their children as props to serve an agenda. Madison's use of her daughter to push her politics is no different than when anti-abortion protesters or the Westboro Baptist Church uses their own unwitting small children as props. Kids aren't political tools to leverage for shock value, they're actual human beings who will one day be adults with their own set of opinions. To assume that Madison's baby will grow up and be thrilled that her mother used her to get attention for her porn persona is offensive and sad to me. Several have pointed out that I'm "no different," since I tweet photos of my cat. But, here's the key nuance they can't grasp: my cat will never be a sentient adult human with his own beliefs and a non-interest in being caught up in my pervy internet trail.
The sexy mommy mob doesn't like these "anti-sex worker" and "sexist" arguments, so they've turned it into a matter of rebutting things I never said.
I never said that no woman should be allowed to breast feed. I am not against breast feeding in public or private, I am against doing it in sexualized contexts. I would feel the same way if someone whipped out a baby at a swinger's club, so it's not just about the internet or porn.
I never said that sex workers (or kinksters) should not be allowed to have children, or that mothers can't be sexy. I have a number of kinky and sex working friends who are parents, and I know some sexy moms. They, however, possess good sense and boundaries and don't force their offspring to be a part of their exhibitionism and work. The kinky and sex working parents I know create separation between their lives, they definitely don't seek to combine them at every turn to prove how transgressive they can be. Not because my friends are prudes, but because they understand that it's deeply inappropriate to mix small children and horny adults.
I never said that no one should be allowed to photograph their kids or photograph breast feeding. I didn't comb through the Flickr pages of strangers until I found a random mother to criticize. I'm specifically talking about a porn star who is using her baby as an attention-getting prop in sexualized contexts.
This is not some kind of anti-"lesbian" hate crime. Madison is married to her male dominant/master, and I mostly fuck men, too. She and I are basically in the same boat, the difference being that I don't obsessively market myself as queer. I fail to see how my criticizing her constitutes an attack on "being queer," but some people are really grasping at straws for new ways to frame Madison as a victim of an injustice.
I hate what stuff like this does to the credibility of sex workers and pornographers as a whole. People like me try to tell regular folk that porn and sex work is about consenting adults, not weird stuff with kids and/or the non-consenting. To the sexy mommy mob, Madison is the greatest hero of her generation, but what about the other 99.999999% of America, the majority we need to get on our side in order to make any advancements for sex workers? If you seal yourself in the safe bubble of San Francisco, surrounded by adoring fans, then of course you're not going to care how you might be damaging the movement for acceptance of sex workers and porn.
I'm surprised that people like Gail Dines and Melissa Farley haven't seized upon Madison's baby fetish as yet another way to attack all of us. This is exactly the sort of thing they live to hold up as a non-representative example of how we're all horrible people. Anti-sex work activist Donna Hughes threw a fit a year ago when a small sexuality conference apparently allowed in a high school senior. For this, the organizer was branded, basically, a dangerous predator going after America's helpless children. If letting a consenting 17-year-old hear about sexuality is enough for the antis to launch a campaign that says kink bloggers are basically child molesters, I wonder what they would think of a porn star sexualizing the breast feeding of a baby? But of course, if the antis get wind of the controversy that Madison and her fans are so desperately trying to publicize, she will not be the one addressing the hard questions. She has her feminist porn "revolution" to worry about, and the rest of us - especially her baby girl - can go eat cake.
by Furry Girl
It's common for grassroots activists to have issues with creating good branding and messaging, and this topic is something I've been thinking about a lot this year with regards to the sex workers rights movement and what I want to do with my upcoming project. I've been trying to step back from things and look at them with a fresh pair of eyes. What concepts are we most getting across to the public? What are we directly telling them, and what are our actions more subtly telling them? (This is sort of an extension of the outreach post I wrote earlier this month.)
Graphics-wise, we rally around the image of a red umbrella. I have no idea how people came to pick this as our logo. Was it because sex work is so sad that there's a flood of tears, and the umbrella is protecting us from the tear storm? That's the best idea I can think of. If I don't get it, I'm guessing that the public doesn't get it either. It's not as vague a graphic/shape as, say, a red ribbon for HIV awareness, but it's also not as obvious as the Sierra Club's logo of a tree, or March of Dimes' logo of a figure cradling an infant. "We feel safe inside red umbrellas! We demand more free red umbrellas from the government! Stop beating us with red umbrellas!" I have no idea what we're trying to express.
Going deeper than my quibbles with confusing clip art, I think it's a mistake that the sex workers rights movement in the US is pretty much perma-linked with the radical sexuality/BDSM scene. I am a sex-positive pervert, but that doesn't mean that I think we ought to be tacitly pushing the message that sex workers rights is a niche concern only for sexual deviants. I've touched on this before, but wanted to stress it again.
Closely linking the sex workers rights and sex-positivity/kink worlds feels like a clique-y move, the banding together of big city sexual rebels to thumb their noses at the vanilla mainstream, not a political strategy that wins mass converts and legislative gains. I've said it many times: I don't want sex workers rights to be a cause only supportable by perverts. No other labor or human rights campaign would have a construct like this. "If you're not into sewing, then there's no room for you to express concern about sweatshops and working conditions in textile factories." Or, imagine if the gay rights movement had sodomy as its key piece of branding and activism, conveying a message that if you're not into ass-fucking, you're not hip enough to support equal rights for queer people.
And what about all the sex workers for whom the job is just a job? Must they be subject to grudgingly attending yet another erotic dance party/dildo decorating contest/porn screening fundraiser? I don't want those sex workers to feel alienated from their own movement just because they're not in the mood to attend a sexually-themed event as a form of recreation. Sexuality is a big part of my life, but I also have the self-awareness to realize that it's not that way for everyone, and not all sex workers identify as renegade sluts. (Most don't, I'm guessing.)
It's hard to envision what a sex workers rights fundraiser/event would look like if it didn't involve some combination of topless women, sexually explicit art, loud music, sex toys, and cocktails. Our message seems to be, "Support sex workers rights, because we're sexy people who throw a good party!" I don't mean to sound like an anti-party wet blanket, but it would be great to see sex worker events that reach out to public through a medium other than sexy outfits, booze, and dancing. What about a nice, wholesome bake sale - in the middle of the day? Sex workers have some amazing cooks in our ranks, so how about we show off a talent other than entertaining people with our sexiness? What about a "sex workers clean up a city park" day? Aren't we trying to show that we're a normal and productive part of our communities? By and large, public events that American sex workers organize are about mostly sexy/arty/party things, then some vigils for dead hookers sprinkled in. What message does that send? "We're creative sluts who party, then we get killed, and it's sad?"
Even with more multilayered events like New York's Red Umbrella Diaries, the dynamic of almost all of our happenings is that sex workers are for entertaining the public. Whether we're titillating the public by working as strippers or telling stories about working as strippers, it's still reinforcing the one-dimensional role of sex workers that our value hinges on our ability to amuse the normals via sexually-themed entertainments. (This is why I have the world's most boring sex worker blog. It's pretty much entirely devoid of stories about customers, even though I know that's what brings in the readers.)
I'd like to see the US sex workers rights movement brand itself more as a labor rights movement, a human rights movement, a free speech movement, a privacy movement, an immigration reform movement, and less of a "for badass sexual outlaws only" party bus. Sexual freedom and sex positivity definitely belong in that mix, but we're holding ourselves back by putting radical sexuality at the forefront with so much of what we do and who we bother reaching out to. Sex work is a complicated topic spanning all sorts of working conditions, classes, genders, and motivations. We're selling ourselves short to limit its appeal so greatly.
How do you want to see sex workers portray our cause to the public? What notes do you think we're failing to hit? What are similar causes doing it better?
(As with everything I've said this year that calls for more activism and more participation from more types of people, I know I'm going to get comments/tweets/emails bitching at me for daring to criticize existing activism. I'm not saying "we can never have a party again," or "readings and storytelling are evil and must be banned." I want to create balance by doing and calling for more of the things that I consider useful, not by censoring or preventing anyone from doing their projects. Spare me the "Why are you trying to stop ____ from doing ____?" commentary.)
by Furry Girl
"Eva Pendleton, writing in Whores and Other Feminists, has argued that the act of charging money can be subversive because it reverses the terms under which men feel entitled to unlimited access to women’s bodies.
For many performers, their job has taught them invaluable skills about how to stand up for themselves and how to protect their rights, integrity, respect, comfort, safety, boundaries and professionalism.
Their work often gives them the vernacular and practical experience in their wider lives as women to speak up about their individual beliefs, take control of situations, and exercise increased confidence, self-esteem and bargaining power.
Certainly I think mainstream society could learn a lot from the fetish community, who has an emphasis on communication, trust, boundaries and consent that is often largely absent from other relationships and workplaces."
-- Zahra Stardust, in In defence of stripping and sex work on thescavenger.net
by Furry Girl
As the dust settles a bit in the wake of all the discussion about Stop Porn Culture, many bloggers are still trickling forth with their own "and this is what all sides keep missing in their posts about the matter" posts. It's good to see the discussion keep going, and I'll be the latest to hitch my wagon on the end of the ongoing "people are missing the real point!" train.
A running theme I saw in the conversation about Stop Porn Culture, as well as at other times, was people commenting that we need to prove to anti-porn activists that feminist porn exists. These people's hearts are in the right place, but I don't think that tactic has any chance of swaying feminists who hate pornography.
Some sex workers and pornographers identify as feminists, some of us don't. As I complained once in a room full of people shooting daggers out of their eyes at me, I'm sick of seeing the word "feminist" being used as the sole or primary qualifier of whether or not a given idea/product/person is good or evil. It's sloppy, reductionist thinking. While I'm not at all against anyone calling what they do "feminist porn", and indeed love what comes out of the feminist porn scene, it's awfully tiring to see people act as though the only ethical porn out there is the stuff being made by a handful of small producers in San Francisco.
When people fixate on the importance of spotlighting and praising feminist porn, I, and others like me, are tacitly being slighted. Why is the label of "feminist" more important than the actual production of what's been discussed? How about rather than squealing endlessly about feminist porn, we use the term ethical porn instead? It makes more sense and actually explains, in simple English, what you're talking about. It would be nice to see inclusiveness towards all the awesome and ethical non-feminist pornographers (ahem - like me), and you'll also avoid the endless semantic debates with anti-porn activists over what feminist "really" means. Sidestep that bullshit - it's a useless distraction, and you'll never win an argument with it. Believe me, I spent years trying.
When we get lazy and use the word "feminist" as an all-purpose stand-in for "ethical", we create a false dichotomy by inferring all porn not marketed specifically as "feminist" is not produced ethically. This helps our enemies fracture us, and it hardly fosters productive dialog about the real politics and ethics of porn production. If we want to have open discussions about labor and production issues - rather than endlessly rebutting baseless accusations that watching porn turns men into rapists - we need to drop the loaded terminology and use proper descriptive words.
It's also irksome to see the way in which many people in the pro-porn community rush to decry anti-porner's highlighting of BDSM porn in their materials. While the anti-porners cherry-pick presenting the most graphic and kinky porn they can get their hands on - images of women being degraded, humiliated, and beaten - the pro-porn retorts to this emotionally-manipulative tactic annoy me just as much. It completely plays into the divide-and-conquer efforts of anti-porners. "Hey, most porn isn't violent and degrading! You're just using horrible examples! Most mass-market porn is wholesome, not abusive!" This only serves to further enforce the sex-negative overall social norm that kinky sex is defacto unethical and nonconsensual sex.
Excuse me, but since when did either side research the porn in question and figure out if the examples used by anti-porn nutters were produced under conditions that were agreeable to the performers? Whether the women in the images are doing artistic soft-focus implied nudes or having their faces rubbed into a puddle of piss on the floor, there's no way to tell by looking at an photo how the performers really felt about being a part of the production. When you're only looking at and talking about images of a pre-negotiated scene, you're glossing over everything that actually matters. It would be like asserting that a war movie is an illegal snuff film because you, as an audience member, are certain from the "evidence" you were given that you saw people get shot and bleed to death. Or, that since you found Hollywood's latest romantic comedy to be light-hearted and fun, you're absolutely certain that everyone involved with its production was treated fairly and loved working on the movie.
Guess what? I've met a lot of women who work in front of the camera doing "violent", "degrading", and "humiliating" porn, and they consistently gush about how amazing their work is and how happy they are with their jobs. I actually think I hear more kinky porn performers express happiness about their work, and more often, than I see even other happy sex workers glow about their jobs. Is that anecdotal evidence? Sure, but it's a lot of anecdotes - more anecdotes than the anti-porners can trot out in the form of a few ex-performers who later decided they regret their jobs and felt abused by having worked in porn.
To channel my inner Christian Bale: hey, it's fucking distracting when people chase the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn". Let's stop that, and focus on the comparatively boring issues of discussing labor politics within sex work.
by Furry Girl
I recently got some feedback on my blog that read like an auto-generated essay against porn and sex work, hitting all the key arguments that I've heard a thousand times, just rearranged in a different order.
It got me thinking, hasn't anyone made a bingo card about this yet? Apparently not, so I made one, with my top 25 most irritating frequently addressed accusations. (Click here to get a larger version so that you can print it out and play along at home.)
[Edit: Miss Renegade Evolution made a sex work bingo card about a year ago, which I missed. Go see her version here.]
by Furry Girl
2009 was good to me. It was the year I finally started blogging, the year I stopped giving a shit about trying to be a feminist (whatever that means), the year I bought a frosting gun for decorating cupcakes, the year I actively began shooting photos of other people, the year I discovered the joy of sex with hot tubs, the year I didn't get to go on a proper vacation, and notably in my personal life, the year I engaged in a lot more sex in a submissive role.
Killing off your feminist self and nurturing your submissive self? Major upgrade, I assure you.
For 2010, I'm aiming to kick the recession's ass via my great new strapon site, get back to doing pay-per-minute web cam shows more often, read more physical books instead of so many blogs and web sites, hopefully present on how to run a porn site at the Desiree Alliance conference, and, as always, find more awesome people that give me a girl-boner. It's already been off to a good start with an epic voyage to Antarctica (a post on that coming soon), so I need to work hard to keep raising my own bar and being the militant awesome-ist I pledged to be last year.
by Furry Girl
"Saw an 'adult gigs' ad for actresses, unrated movie, sexual contact. Interesting stuff. I wrote my inquiry- and I think I'll decline.
The premise? It's rape, of course, the only type of sex that mainstream movies care to show explicitly. The man gets caught, justice served-
-but it's still rape porn, adding titillation to women's violence in the guise of realism. Fantasy I get but this is mainstream- not fantasy
And thus do I come to understand the difference between fiction & fantasy. Fiction is made up, fantasy consciously imagined knowing limits.
Fantasies are what we imagine knowing they may happen and often probably should never happen. Fiction happens to other people, could happen.
I'm comfortable portraying sexualized rape (trans, male or female, in whatever combinations) as fantasy, but not as fiction."
-- Sabrina Morgan, on her Twitter at Twitter.com/SabrinaMorgan
by Furry Girl
"Some feminists say that sexual female submission, or violent sex, is never okay. Clearly as someone who both seeks and gives such, I don't agree. It's also been suggested that my social conditioning makes me equate violence and sex. 'Spose that's possible, but I don't like arguments that assume I am stupid and blind."
-- Calico, in Unforgivables on blog.misscalico.com
Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Vaguely similar blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Women Against Feminism