by Furry Girl
I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles
by Lily Burana
A few weeks ago, I was doing a purge of my Amazon wishlist. When I came to Lily's Burana's I Love a Man in Uniform, I thought to myself, "Yeah, I liked her book about stripping and her legal fight against stage fees, but I only have so many hours in my week, and it's not like being married to someone in the military is something I'll ever need to know about." I almost deleted it, but figured I'd go ahead and read the book if someone else bought it for me.
Days later, I ran into a guy who I hadn't seem since we had a one-weekend stand in San Diego the spring of 2003. (We hooked up a few days after the US invaded Iraq for Gulf War 2.) As it turns out, he'd recently moved to Seattle, and had even gotten cuter in the last 9 years. We went out to dinner, where he revealed that one of the things he'd been up to since our tryst was that he'd been in the military. I laughed, and I assumed he was joking. What kind of sassy punk street artist willingly signs up for the US military? (I'd seen An Officer and a Gentleman - since when did the military even allow you to join if you have tattoos?) The guy's reasons and experiences are his story to tell, but overall, his intentions were good. I've seen a couple of photos of him from his enlisted days, and it's still hard to believe it's him in the fatigues, sporting a Forrest Gump haircut.
After our date, which lasted until 7 or 8 in the morning when we finally fell asleep, I ordered I Love a Man in Uniform, laughing at myself about how I'd assumed its contents would never even remotely apply to any situation I would find myself in. (This is not to say that I've found love at second sight, and am now plan on marrying my retired military fuck buddy. Don't worry, dude, I haven't gone all bunny-boiler on you! I do, however, like to put effort into learning about the people who share my bed.)
Lily Burana (@lilyburana) is perhaps best known as the author of Strip City, a memoir of her experiences as a stripper and peep show performer, including a legal battle in San Francisco against stage fees. At the end of the book, she has retired from sex work and fallen in love with a cowboy in Wyoming whom she plans to marry. I have always appreciated her fairly contented parting with sex work and activism, and ability to go forward knowing that she'd made a small dent, even if she didn't change the whole industry.
In this second memoir, I think Burana was able to make her specific scenario as "punk stripper turned military wife" universal, and I'd argue it speaks to plenty of aging sex workers like myself and those who are in some way moving from or between a "weird" life and a "normal" one. Here's a passage about Burana's failed relationship with her Wyoming fiance which deserves highlighting:
He wasn't a bad person by any means. He just wasn't in love with who I am; he was in love with who I used to be. I couldn't forget the time he referred to me as his "sexy Playboy model." It was 2001. I had modeled for Playboy in 1996. I was in Playboy in the previous century. If he'd built his esteem for me on something I couldn't possibly sustain, then where could we go from there? There's no such thing as an eternal vixen, even the dorky, alterna-girl variety. You get bored. You burn out. You turn thirty. The job description includes built-in obsolescence. I didn't want to be some post-stripper ghost-bride -- forever toting the shadow of my old self with me through my married life, stunted and soured by my own over-reliance on my past. It would mean living as a twisted Dickens heroine, wedded but locked into the persona I had already outgrown, becoming more snarled and diminished by the day. Miss Havisham of the pole.
There's a lot to like about Burana's writing and her life story, but my big gripe with this book is that "I Love a Man in Uniform" isn't just a title. Her uniform fetishist-level attention to detail for her husband's war paraphernalia takes up a sizable chunk of the book. Many pages are spent gushing about how sexy her man is in his uniform, how sexy his patches and rank insignia are, and how sexy sexy sexy it all is - and with the assumption that of course, readers share this enthusiasm. Burana spends a good bit of time cooing about how military men are so strong and chivalrous and know how to fix things and open jars for women, as though such a list of cliche masculine traits are possessed only by male members of the armed forces, and the rest of us are stuck dating a bunch of sissy boys who burst into tears at the thought of manual labor or dealing with a spider. (In contrast, my own physically strongest and most stereotypically manly-man friend spent his younger days as a member of Queer Nation and participating in anti-nuke civil disobedience.) Burana's occasional reminders to readers that she doesn't support the war or abuses like those at Abu Ghraib are diffused by being intermingled with long passages about how everything to do with the military is just so sexy and so impressive and so manly. (She notes later in the book that she's had a lifelong issue with compartmentalization.) It also annoys me that much is written that suggests that only those serving in the military know the meanings of sacrifice or loyalty, like the rest of the world is filled with useless flakes who have never made any hard decisions or endured difficulties in the name of their ideals. For Burana, the US military embodies all that is sexy and noble in the world.
But here's the thing: if you're decidedly anti-war, and don't get whipped into a heightened state of arousal at the mere sight of camo, you're not going to be buying a book called I Love a Man in Uniform in the first place. A good writer knows their audience. With cover praise from a military publication, and Amazon reviews from people who found the book at their base's commissary, it's clear that this book wasn't written for someone like me.
It's not as though I believe everyone connected to one of the tentacles of the military is an evil person. My father and both of my grandfathers are veterans. A number of people in my social circles work for defense contractors. One of my most silly and joyous friends does nerdy stuff for a company that also makes cluster bombs. And then there's my new ex-military fuck buddy. The thing is, I care for and appreciate these people in spite of their work for the military, not because of it. I'd never say, "Hey man, can I lick the corporate logo on your paycheck from Raytheon? I'm going to picture that when I'm masturbating tonight."
But, even with all the book's girlish squealing about how sexy and manly military men are, Burana does have a solid and serious journey underneath that I enjoyed reading, including her time in therapy to deal with PTSD from childhood abuse. My favorite chapter, of course, is the one where Burana explores her prior life as a sex worker now that she's had years of distance.
When pondering the complexity of how who I was squares with who I am now, men tend to laugh, but women tend to get agitated. It taps directly into a basic female social anxiety: that a woman's past will cost her a future. Indeed, in some cases, that does happen. (Hi there, Miss Lewinsky!) I did worry that someone might snub me when they found out, and though he assured me that it wouldn't, I worried that it would reflect poorly on Mike. In the face of those fears, I tried to be Teflon Annie. Sometimes it worked.
Still, I didn't fret too terribly much, because I was learning that military people are sophisticated-- more so than civilians assume. They understand what it's like to be judged unfairly. Sex work and soldiering are both flash-point vocations-- rife with public misconceptions and stereotypes.
Then, Burana reminds me of some things I've been thinking about a lot lately:
I don't miss the hustle. When I danced, I thought of the dough in aggregate terms-- two hundred, three hundred, five hundred, a thousand dollars a shift. Only after I quit did I ever break it down: On a two-hundred-dollar night, ten guys paid me twenty dollars each to sit in their lap. Yet if a man at a bus stop had offered me twenty dollars to do the same thing, I would have spat in his face. Context becomes another form of compartmentalization.
Over the weekend, one cam client was particularly annoying, and I only netted $8 from our five minutes of paid time together. It's one of those moments when you step back and go, "What the hell just happened? Why did I put up with someone so rude - who got to see me naked - for less than the cost of a plate of pad Thai? Why should I feel this intruded upon for eight fucking dollars?" Making a couple hundred bucks from the comfort of home is greatly tempered by the realization that it was earned in such a piecemeal fashion. I wonder for how many sex workers that sort of realization is one of the things that inspires them to leave.
And Burana's big question, explored in much of the book,
The stripper life is far behind me and recedes more and more in the rearview mirror day by day. It is, literally, not my business anymore. But the threat of sex-specific scorn wakes me up, reminds me of where I've been. When I hear or read attacks full of fuming generalizations and analyses that are basically little more than finely honed hate, I feel moved to defend my fallen-angel comrades. These are people I know. These are people I love. On their uniform sleeve, combat veterans wear the patch of the unit with which they fought, even decades later. In a less visible way, I do the same: Hey, haters, I served in the porno trenches with these people. Deal. But if I didn't belong there, and I didn't belong at West Point, then where, exactly, did I belong?
Lily Burana ultimately found her sense of belonging in the West Point world with her husband. I'm genuinely glad when anyone from Team Ho finds their true place in the world, whether it's inside or outside of the sex industry. A married life in the military is certainly not the sort of happy ending that I want for myself, but despite that, I think we can all see Burana's tale as a success story.
Buy the book through this Amazon link and a portion of the sales price will go to SWAAY.
by Furry Girl
I just got back from two weeks in Australia, which is extra special because it was my final continent. One of my goals before turning 30 was to visit all seven, and I've done that with almost two years to spare. If you're interested in seeing photos from my Australian trip, or any of my other adventures, they're all on Flickr. I leave you with a photo of me photographing a turtle, taken by one of the dive staff on my trip to the Great Barrier Reef.
by Furry Girl
Thank you very much to the awesome people who sent me gifts from my Amazon wishlist: Raikin, Stella Maris, AP, BO, and CL! (Please make sure include your email address in the "gift comments" field on Amazon so I can send you a thank you.)
My new books:
* The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
* Not Bad For A Human an autobiography by Lance Henriksen, with Joseph Maddrey
* The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie Des Jardins
* Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles J. Wheelan
* Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature by Marcus Du Sautoy
* Whores and Other Feminists by Jill Nagle
* Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos
* The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self by Michel Foucault
* Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman
* Taste the Flavors (The Erotic Web) by Stella Maris (sent to me by the author, a fan of my sites.)
And who could resist the Breaking Bad chucks? MF sent them as a birthday present a while ago.
If you buy any of these above-mentioned books through their Amazon affiliate links, a portion of the price goes to SWAAY.
by Furry Girl
[Updated after NPR responded by snidely mocking me on their web site and refusing to so much as apologize. If they would prefer to handle this as an internet flame war, I'll give them one Google will remember until the end of time.]
This week, I got a surprising email from a friend. He'd heard an NPR program, On the Media, re-hash what was obviously one of my blog posts, but without attribution to either my pseudonym or my blog URL. It was about my FOIA story from a couple of months ago. I knew exactly what my friend was referring to, because I had declined an interview request from On the Media's pushy and annoying Sarah Abdurrahman last week. They'd gone ahead and done a story on me anyway, borrowing from my blog post, and I would have never known of NPR's theft if I didn't know someone who listened to the show.
The punchline is that On the Media portrays itself as a bastion of media ethics, bravely "[tackling] sticky issues with a frankness and transparency that has built trust with listeners." This wasn't just some Tumblr account with a dozen followers pilfering my work, but a nationally-broadcast radio program on NPR, which proudly cites that it "has won Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting and investigative reporting, the National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism and a Peabody Award for its body of work."
My FOIA story is definitely one of the most "journalistic" pieces I've ever had on my blog. Yes, it has snark, but it's also real original reporting. I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with over a dozen government agencies, waited for about 7 months, and then combed through over 400 pages of disclosure to find the pieces of the story I most wanted to tell. I wasn't just posting my opinions on a popular news item of the week that someone else broke, I was writing based on original source materials, for which I was the only civilian who has access. I was posting things that had never been online previously, but would be of interest to the public. If that's not "real journalism," I don't know what is.
Not only was my FOIA piece a genuinely journalistic effort on my part, it's also a very personal topic. I am especially protective of my work being stolen by NPR because it's about me and my experiences as an activist. I wasn't writing about FBI surveillance of the Black Panthers from 40 years ago, I was writing about the FBI surveillance detail that followed me for a few days. This is my story in every sense of the word.
I am referred to only as "a woman" in Sarah Abdurrahman's broadcast of minute and a half which carefully avoids using a name for me, and although the show's summary on the web does link to my blog (though still doesn't mention my name or my blog's name), I doubt many NPR listeners actually check every show's web summary after a story to see if any extra references have been added. I certainly have never sought out a radio show's web site to read a show's summary and make sure it reflected what I heard on the air. Radio is a broadcast media that provides audio news and commentary, the audience are listeners, not readers. An online summary is merely filler and search engine optimizing for their web site, another way to get listeners and money. NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman stole my work, and I didn't even get the benefit of some national exposure.
I publish my blog under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For those unfamiliar with Creative Commons, it's a way for "content creators" like me to protect their work while also allowing for sharing of ideas. It's a more personalized form of copyright protection that lets a creator specify what people can and can't do with their work. Creative Commons has held up in multiple courts around the world as a real copyright policy, including federal court in the US, so it's not a "made-up goofball license" as someone obnoxiously said to me on Twitter.
My specific Creative Commons stipulations mean that you can share, quote, and repost my writing, but you can't use it for commercial purposes, you are required to attribute it to my pseudonym and blog with a link, and that you can't make derivative works, defined as "You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work." The derivative works portion is a grey area, and whether or not the taxpayer-subsidized NPR counts as "commercial" is also up for debate, but NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman unquestionably violated the attribution requirements of my Creative Commons licensing. Even the one link they provided to my blog on their show summary page on the web (which probably has .0001% of the audience of their radio broadcast) didn't follow the attribution requirements. To quote my Creative Commons license conditions, "Attribution — You must attribute Feminisnt to Furry Girl (with link)."
As far as I can tell, the attribution portion of Creative Commons license has not yet been tested in court in the United States. It has been tested in Belgium and Israel, and in both cases, the content creator won the case. I would love to the the American test case for attribution.
NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman violated both the letter and spirit of my Creative Commons licensing, and in doing so, they have opened themselves up to legal action. [See my third update at the end of this post.]
Here's more of the backstory, which you can skip if you're short on time, and go directly to the final paragraphs of this post.
On February 28, after sending emails asking for an interview about my FOIA story at 8:55am, 10:58am, and 11:00am, NPR's Sarah Abdurrahman moved to Twitter and yet again contacted me at 12:55pm. (News flash: if I don't reply to your annoying messages within the hour, don't assume you need to keep contacting me over and over and over. This is considered bad internet behavior.) I normally delete and ignore messages from people who exhibit spammer-level cluelessness, but I was feeling generous, and replied to the first of Sarah Abdurrahman's emails, shown below.
From: "Sarah Abdurrahman" <SAbdurrahman@wnyc.org>
Date: February 28, 2012 8:55:59 AM PST
Subject: from NPR
I am a producer with the National Public Radio program On the Media, a media analysis show that covers topics from First Amendment issues, to new media, and everything in between. You can find out more about us at onthemedia.org. One of the topics we like to discuss is transparency and Freedom of Information…which is why I was so interested to come across your story about FOIA-ing yourself! If you are available, we would love to have you on our program to talk about your experience with FOIA. We are not a live show, so we can be fairly flexible with scheduling an interview. Are you available to join us? Thanks in advance,
Sarah Abdurrahman|On the Media
160 Varick Street, New York NY 10013
T: 646.829.4567|E: email@example.com
WNYC: WNYC.ORG|93.9 FM|AM 820
I do not feel like I'm the best person to speak on the issue of Freedom of Information Act Requests, or on the domestic surveillance of American activists. I really believe that "we" should only put forward the formal or informal spokespersons who are the best at a topic. It always annoys me when I see people who don't know an issue well trying to explain it to the media, especially media like a radio or television broadcasts. For those reasons, I declined the interview and referred Abdurrahman to someone whose work centers on that topic in which she was interested. (I'm omitting his name and credentials from these emails just to avoid dragging him into the mess.) I was already being too nice, in retrospect. I tend to err on the side of politeness when dealing with the media, even if they're annoying pests, because you never know when you might need them in the future.
From: Feminisnt <>
Date: February 28, 2012 3:06:34 PM PST
To: Sarah Abdurrahman <SAbdurrahman@wnyc.org>
Subject: Re: from NPR
Thanks for contacting me. I'm flattered by the offer, but I really don't think my case is particularly interesting or special. There are much more interesting topics when it comes to FBI surveillance of American activists, and I'd rather see a more meaningful case get air time. I agree that it's a great topic, but my situation isn't special, and I'm not an expert on FOIA issues in general. My particular incident of being followed went nowhere and resulted in no arrests, whereas some cases result in major prosecutions, illegal wiretaps, and far more amusing anecdotes.
If you're looking for someone to discuss government surveillance of activists, [redacted] would be a much better choice than me, and he's written a lot about surveillance and prosecution of [activists]. His email address is [redacted].
Sarah Abdurrahman refused to take "no" for an answer, and sent me two more emails, on February 28 and 29. Maybe it's a sex worker thing, but anytime someone openly disrespects my politely telling them "no," and continues to insist that I should acquiesce to their demands, I immediately close off and decide I will never have anything to do with them. Sex work teaches you nothing if not boundaries and how to assert your limits in the face of pushy people who feel entitled to your time and energy. If I say "no" to you the first time, I will never, ever change my mind if you keep bothering me.
The meta issue of NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman's theft and disrespect is this: the "legitimate" media - meaning anyone who can afford broadcast licenses or physical paper distribution, even if it's a "small" news organization like NPR - shits on bloggers and independent writers all the time. We're just a bunch of silly kids making lolcats and scribbling nonsense, except when we're not, and then the media will shamelessly steal our work. How often do you see CNN or a major news network not bother to send reporters to cover stories, but just read off the tweets from bloggers and others in an area? That's but one example of how the mainstream media loves to use bloggers and independent writers while stopping short of truly respecting their legitimacy as reporters. Bloggers are not only sometimes the best sources of news, but sometimes the only sources. We break new ground, we do original research, we look at source material the mainstream usually doesn't even bother with, and best case scenario, a "real" media agency might read a few sentences from us on the air amid their fluff. Add to the mix that I write mostly about sexual politics and sex work, and I'm beyond invisible, I'm the lowest scum on the "respectable writers" totem pole. It feels like a double dose of the disregarding sneer the mainstream press shows to both bloggers and sex workers. (Sex workers constantly cope with outsiders re-telling, re-purposing, and twisting our stories for their benefit, not ours.)
I've emailed a number of lawyers, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation about my issue, and I'd love to take this to federal court as a test case for the attribution requirements of Creative Commons. I haven't fired off my own DMCA takedown requests, because I'm generally loath to use the over-reaching DMCA laws, even when I'm in the right. I believe it's important to keep pushing the message that bloggers can be journalists, that Creative Commons is a real copyright that should be respected, and that the media can't just steal from small unpaid writers like myself. (See the EFF's guide to blogger's rights issues here.)
Aside from the occasional presents from my wishlist, I am not compensated for the countless hours I've poured into writing. I write about things I'm passionate about, and I do so without expectation of riches, fame, or ever "crossing over" into the world of "real" writing. I simply don't want news organizations and journalists blithely stealing my work without so much as attribution or a thank you, just so they can earn their salaries, ad/sponsorship revenue, or viewer donations at my expense. I don't think that's too much to ask. I put a lot of my time and pieces of my life out there to write my FOIA story. It's not fair that NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman get to illegitimately and illegally benefit from my efforts.
Update one, March 8th: On the Media's Katya Rogers posted a response on their web site. Rather than apologizing, they distort the situation and mock me. They've just thrown a bucket of gasoline on this fire, and made it clear they have no intention of apologizing for either their ethical violations or their legal violations. They even blame me for the situation because I didn't want to be interviewed for their story. Since when does a refusal to be interviewed translate as, "Instead, just steal my work without attribution"? As is often done by people who dislike me, I am dismissively referred to as "someone calling herself 'Furry Girl'," to draw attention to my pseudonym as a means to discredit me or make me seem unreliable. (Wait, but if I'm such a fake person who can't be trusted, why did they so desperately want me to be on their radio show, and why did they do a story on me?) NPR is particularly incensed and calls it "seriously beyond the pale" that I would dare to call out by name the journalist who stole my work. Oh, so that's the game? You don't want it showing up in Google that NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman engage in content theft from a blogger? Thanks for telling me how to proceed!
Update two, March 8th: This is something of a sidenote, but I feel it's worth sharing. A friend of mine posted a comment on On the Media's web site, which they manually edited. They didn't just delete a comment they didn't like in its entirely, they de-clawed his argument to make themselves look better. His comment linked to my blog as a reference for what I've actually said, which is in contrast to their twisting of what transpired. On the Media's comment policy does not bar commenters from posting links. This was a manual, selective edit of one person's comment to make NPR look better.
Update three, March 11th: After talking to some lawyers and people who follow copyright enforcement issues, on a financial level, it's sadly just not worth it to sue NPR. The problem is that it would cost me a huge amount of money in legal fees to get what would surely be only a small monetary settlement. For me, it's not about money, it's about the point that I require attribution, but no attorney wants to launch a federal copyright case on the hopes of getting a portion of what... $50? $500? It drives me up the wall that NPR can do whatever the hell it wants, violate any sense of journalistic ethics, no doubt knowing that any court settlement they'd have to pay out wouldn't be worth it to me to fight for. The professional media wins, the small blogger they're stealing from loses, simply because I don't their kind of audience and money. (And it stings extra that we, as American taxpayers, subsidize NPR. They're using my money to screw me over, and I don't have enough money to fight back.)
I will not be publishing comments from the NPR apologists (or employees?) who are starting to find their way to my blog. You can go fawn over NPR on their own web site, you don't get to take up space on my server to defend their shitty behavior.
by Furry Girl
I like this meme, so I made one about my work. Obviously, doesn't apply to all sex workers or all pornographers, so get out there and make your own! If you make a sex work related one, you can email it to me or send me a link and I'll post it here if you like.
UPDATE! After searching around, I found three other sex industry contributions. I love that I'm not the only person who immediately thought "sexual predator" for the "what society thinks I do" box:
by Furry Girl
Here's my seasonal public shout-out to the awesome people who bought me awesome gifts from my Amazon wishlist, including books written by two of my favorite Twitterfolk: @pennjillette and @evgenymorozov. Thanks to JV, HD, MM, SB, and BJ! (Please include your email in the "gift comments" field so I can send you a thank you email.)
My cool new books:
* The Art of War by Sun Tzu
* The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays by EP Thompson
* The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov
* God, No!: Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette
* Working Sex: Sex Workers Write About a Changing Industry edited by Annie Oakley
* The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller
I turn 28 this month, so as always, I shamelessly encourage birthday/Festivus gifts from my wishlist on Amazon. Click on the menu to sort by priority, as some items are higher on my list than others. I'm currently salivating pretty heavily over the $85 Breaking Bad shoes, hint hint.
(PS: If you buy any of these books through my links, a portion of the price goes to SWAAY.)
by Furry Girl
In the last month, there has been more and more talk from some sex workers about how awesome the Occupy movement is, including some of my ho activist friends on Twitter who are part of different Occupy encampments. SWOP-NYC has a pro-Occupy post, Jessie of SWOP LA throws in her support, Trisha wrote about the issues of SlutWalk and Occupy, and Melissa Gira Grant wrote a strangely pearl-clutching piece about how sad it is some people -gasp- do sex work to pay for college.
I've been wary and on the fence about the Occupy movement and its vague, utopian, barely-articulated aims. Occupy embodies basically everything I hate about the left, and the best I've been able to muster so far is feeling sorry for people who have been assaulted by police. Today, I went from on the fence to against Occupy Seattle. I was trying to get to the nonprofit vegan grocery store, Sidecar, a place I'm happy to support because all the proceeds go to an animal sanctuary. I sure timed my bus errand poorly, because I ended up behind an Occupy Seattle march.
First off, the protesters went out of their way to disrupt as much traffic and transit as possible. I talked to my bus driver, and he said the group had told Seattle Metro they would be marching along a certain route, giving Metro a chance to divert buses in the area to another street. Once the time came for the march, however, the Occupy folk changed their official plan and went down the street where they knew Metro buses were being re-routed, all to maximize problems for commuters. That's a pretty asshole move. How is going out of your way to screw up as many public transit lines as possible harming the super-rich? Are there a lot of country-ruining billionaires on the bus during rush hour? I guess I never noticed them though all the students, disabled people, punks/hippies, elderly people, nonwhites, single moms, young folk, and homeless-looking people who typically make up much of Metro's ridership.
After half an hour on a bus that was barely moving, I gave up and angrily walked home in the freezing rain, knowing it would have taken hours to get to my destination. Congratulations, anti-capitalists, you prevented me from spending my money at a nonprofit, so I shopped at a corporate grocery store instead. I went home and watched the clamor unfold on Twitter. The march had moved on to occupying a bridge, shutting down traffic in both directions. This bridge is one of the connections between the central Seattle area and the University of Washington and the outlying suburbs, as well as a major hospital complex at the university. Occupy Seattle was cutting off a key route for hospital access, which could genuinely cost lives if ambulances had to re-route and go back to other another bridge in an emergency.
Less than 24 hours after winning national sympathy when Seattle police pepper-sprayed a small elderly woman, Occupy Seattle experienced a big wave of hatred from the general public, pissed off at missed meetings, missed classes, missed flights, and being stuck in traffic for no good reason. Twitter users were cheering for them to be beaten, shot, pepper-sprayed, and many hoped aloud that the bridge would collapse, or that protesters would fall/jump to their deaths. Comments on various local news websites all echoed similar opinions - anger, annoyance, confusion, and rooting for harm to befall protesters. There were countless comments where someone said they supported Occupy before, but this changed their minds.
Any sane activist would be thinking, "Oh shit, we made a huge fuckup here. The public is angry at us, we're blocking hospital access, and we're not accomplishing anything other than showing people that we like to cause pointless disruptions. This has been an absolute disaster."
Instead, the resounding consensus among protesters on Twitter was that the event was a massive success, and Occupy Seattle marchers and supporters responded to people who disagreed by making fun of them, insulting them, telling them they are the enemy, and generally celebrating the fact that the public had turned against them after the bridge occupation. It was like watching some spoiled punk teenager gloat about how they're really "sticking it to the man" by pissing off "the squares" with their green hair.
What today highlighted for me is my growing uneasiness with how Occupy protesters continually scream that they are "the 99%," insisting that they represent just about everyone in the country. I don't like seeing strangers keep arguing that they are my spokespersons, that they can attest to the interests and beliefs of most Americans, that they are protesting "for me," and even that they are me. This creepy rhetoric reminds me all too well of how anti-sex worker crusaders always insist that they are acting and speaking on our behalf, without ever deigning to listen to us. There is something deeply and profoundly fucked up about declaring oneself the mouthpiece for people whom you don't know, aren't trying to get to know, and in many cases, who actively oppose what you are saying and doing, such as it the case of the vast numbers of Seattle folk irate over having their evening disrupted by a core group of perhaps a hundred protesters who were trying to stay on the bridge as long as possible.
Where this whole thing goes from eerily cult-like to comical is that the people who pretend to be and represent "the 99%" are a tiny minority, even in a large left-leaning city, and they were causing a problems for the majority. Occupy Seattle wasn't representing the desires of anyone but themselves, least of all working and lower-income people who rely on public transit to get around the city.
Occupy Seattle: you are not the 99%. You do not represent me, you do not represent Seattle, and I wish you people would stop insisting that you do. A group that relishes in causing disruptions purely for the sake of causing disruptions does not embody the key political concerns of most Americans, any more than a right-wing billionaire does. You are an obnoxious minority that continues to further isolate itself from the rest of the public, and I can't think of one positive thing you have contributed to my city.
But all that doesn't matter. According to Occupy Seattle kids, the fact that I dislike them just means that they've been victorious in their protest, despite the fact I will never be earning in the top 10%, let alone the top 1%.
As a sex workers' rights advocate, my life would be so much easier if the sole metric by which I judged an activist "success" was how many members of the general public I could get to hate us. It's easy to turn the public against you, any lazy dipshit can do that. Influencing the public to adopt more progressive and tolerant ideas? That's not as adrenaline-soaked and fun as instigating confrontations with the police, but it leads to actual and long-lasting change, which is precisely the kind of work that needs to be done.
Update one: In looking at more local coverage, the first three comments on a cheery pro-Occupy article on SLOG summed up today's debate so neatly, especially the middle one as being the most used defense by bridge protest supporters.
Gern Blanston: "Claim it for the 99 percent." What a fucking joke! When they shut down a bridge, or a busy downtown street, they're preventing everyone else from going about their daily lives. They're just a bunch of self-important, grandstanding pricks. They don't speak for me.
what_now: Maybe there are things that are more important than people going about their daily lives?
LJM: the problem is that you're suggesting that one group of people know which "things" are "more important" than going about their daily lives, and which "things" are less important. You can use this reasoning to justify any type of inconsiderate behavior by people who claim to be doing it for your own good.
Update two: Seattle Central Community College - where Occupy Seattle set up residence after moving from their original location in the shopping district - has been complaining about the public health hazards being created by the camp in the form "accumulations of garbage, poor food handling, discarded syringes and needles, fire safety hazards, dog feces, and disposal of wastewater." Congratulations again, Occupy Seattle, you've succeeded in be-filthing a facility that caters to lower-income people. That's really sticking it to the evil super-rich, isn't it? (As I saw someone else point out today, if they really want to stick it to banks through civil disobedience, why not occupy bank-owned foreclosed houses?)
Occupy supporters are seemingly unable to come up with non-false dichotomy arguments to support their protest at the bridge. It's all hyperbole like, "Oh, so you love watching billionaires raping the country?" or one who told me that I must be too busy fawning over the Kardashians to care about anything else. You can be against Occupy Seattle and its dumbass tactics without being pro-cop, pro-bailout, pro-apathy, and pro-status quo. I was, in fact, anti-status quo before this new wave of Carhartt Warriors grew their first pubes. (Do dirty anarkids still wear Carhartts? Am I totally dating myself in my choice of derisive terminology?)
Also, I actually do support using disruptive and controversial protest methods, but only when they are targeted and/or express a clear message and demands. (Examples being crashing a shareholder meeting to send a message that a corporation should stop engaging in such-and-such practice, or civil disobedience on a logging road that prevents logging companies from cutting down any trees that day.) Making things hard on huge numbers of Seattle residents who just want to get home from work makes people hate you, and accomplished absolutely nothing. Yes, it got media coverage and attention, but so what? Is the only goal of Occupy Seattle to get lots of bad press? Does getting bad press fix the economy or make one single person's life better? No, but it sure is easier than engaging in strategic activism or doing something positive.
by Furry Girl
Because really, what's sexier than an avocado?
Ho revolution programming to resume tomorrow.
by Furry Girl
Throughout my life, I've often felt like I'm in the middle. (Which is a positive way of phrasing that I don't fit in well anywhere.) I have too many fiscally-conservative views to be a proper leftist, but I'm not cheering for the uninsured to be left to die like some libertarians. While I have an unshaved crotch and don't have a mainstream LA porn appearance, I lack the tattoos and rainbow hair to demonstrate that I'm "smarter than your average porn star," as one popular alternaporn site marketed its collection. I also don't mesh perfectly with the American subculture of "empowered" sex workers, whatever that's supposed to mean.
There's this profile tacitly promoted by current sex workers' rights activism of how exactly one should look and behave if they are truly empowered: it's a movement for punks and anarchists, for feminists, for people devoted to deconstructing gender, for people with liberal arts degrees, for sex radicals and kinksters, for Pagans, for artists, and most importantly, for people who don't fit mainstream beauty standards. In short, the typical person drawn to ho activism is the typical person drawn to any sort of activism: one who constructs their identity around to how they are not like the rest of society. As a person who straddles the weird/normal border, I don't always feel like I fit in with American sex workers' rights activists, so I can only imagine what it's like for someone whose only "non-normal" trait is their occupation. I have no solution to the problem of the over-representation of "lifestyle outsiders" other than to do my best to encourage more typical sex workers to step up and claim their stake in their own movement.
Inspired by Annie Sprinkle's Anatomy of a Pin-Up, I thought I'd make an Anatomy of an Empowered Sex Worker.
Do you have what it takes to be empowered?
by Furry Girl
I wanted to drop a quick public thank you for this season's awesome gifts from my Amazon wishlist. Thank you to NT, SC & C, DG, DF, and MC. (Three came without a gift note. Please include your email in the "gift comments" field so I can thank you personally.) I don't get paid for writing, so getting tokens of thanks is always flattering. It's a nerdy economy: I create things for people to read, and am paid in books.
My cool new books:
* Vamps and Tramps by Camile Paglia (It's true, I haven't read any of her work before. But I've been repeatedly insulted I'm like her, so maybe we'll get along.)
* Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge
* Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America by Frances Fox Piven
* Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the US in Panama by John Lindsay-Poland
* After Subculture: Critical Studies in Contemporary Youth Culture edited by Andy Bennett and Keith Kahn-Harris
* Prostitution and Sex Work by Melissa Ditmore
* The Industrial Workers of the World: Its First 100 Years by Fred W Thompson and Jon Bekken
* Pretend We're Dead by Annalee Newitz
If you want to support my love of books and thank me for being awesome, check out my wishlist on Amazon, and click the option to sort by priority. (Some books are high on my to-read list, others are "when I get a chance.")
Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.
- 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 15 years because I don't believe in exploiting and killing others for my own petty amusements.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
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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