by Furry Girl
"Over the past year, there have been a number of headline-grabbing legal changes in the US, such as the legalization of marijuana in CO and WA, as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage in a growing number of US states.
As a majority of people in these states apparently favor these changes, advocates for the US democratic process cite these legal victories as examples of how the system can provide real freedoms to those who engage with it through lawful means. And it’s true, the bills did pass.
What’s often overlooked, however, is that these legal victories would probably not have been possible without the ability to break the law.
The state of Minnesota, for instance, legalized same-sex marriage this year, but sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001. Likewise, before the recent changes making marijuana legal for personal use in WA and CO, it was obviously not legal for personal use.
Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. If perfect law enforcement had been a reality in MN, CO, and WA since their founding in the 1850s, it seems quite unlikely that these recent changes would have ever come to pass. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship?"
-- Moxie Marlinspike in We Should All Have Something To Hide on thoughtcrime.org
by Furry Girl
I've noticed my local government's anti-trafficking ads on the sides of buses, but haven't mentioned them on my blog. Then I really saw one yesterday that did something I have never, ever seen before from a mainstream anti-trafficking campaign: declare that women can be traffickers and men can be victims. Sure, this dynamic is no shocker to people who actually know anything about migrant labor, but to see it in a county-funded ad campaign blew me away.
King County's anti-trafficking campaign has many flaws, of course, but I will say that I appreciate that the ads are not just about sex slavery. The campaign uses the Polaris Project, a Christian morality NGO as a "fact" source; is partnered with the Somaly Mam Foundation, which sends Cambodian sex workers to private prisons where they are sexually abused; and links to a Shared Hope International anti-prostitution page as a resource. So the campaign is deeply problematic and based in the lies of anti-sex worker hysterics and religious nuts, and I'm not defending that.
But I think this is still a tiny, possibly hopeful step in the right direction, because the campaign is about the many faces of forced trafficking, not just the sexy sex trafficking for sexy sexual abuse thing that we normally see. There are three ad designs, and only one is about sex trafficking. The other two imply domestic labor.
by Furry Girl
Last week, my state (Washington) became the first in the nation to legalize possession and use of marijuana. Colorado will follow suit next month after a similar measure there won during the November elections. I am happy to live in a state where we have physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill, one legalized recreational drug, marriage equality, oodles of places where one can get an abortion, no death penalty, and state-level open carry of firearms (though Seattle city bans it). Overall, Washington is comparatively more respectful of people's rights and choices than are many other states.
Today on reason.com, Jacob Sullum wrote a short piece on why states like mine are doing well on the gay marriage and pot legalization front, and it underscores why I keep harping on the need for sex workers to be "out" as our most important form of activism.
Just as an individual’s attitude toward gay people depends to a large extent on how many he knows (or, more to the point, realizes he knows), his attitude toward pot smokers (in particular, his opinion about whether they should be treated like criminals) is apt to be influenced by his personal experience with them. Americans younger than 65, even if they have never smoked pot, probably know people who have, and that kind of firsthand knowledge provides an important reality check on the government’s anti-pot propaganda.
For sex workers who aren't out to anyone, the idea of admitting to what they do for a living can be extremely intimidating. What I suggest is to start small.
At the 2010 Desiree Alliance conference, I met a woman who was fairly new to escorting. If I recall correctly, either no one in her life or only a couple of trusted friends knew, and the Desiree Alliance conference was her first sex worker event, and she'd traveled from out of state to see what it was all about. A computer security conference was happening the same week as our event, so I had friends from another part of my life who were also in Vegas. One evening, I went out with them to have dinner and hit a few nerd parties, and the new escort joined us. I gently challenged her to try being out for that one evening, with a group of people she'd never have to see again, just to "try on for size" what it's like to be an out sex worker. Rather than inventing stories about herself, she was plainly telling people she's an escort, and discovered it wasn't the end of the world, and she wasn't going to be mocked and shamed by everyone she encountered. Granted, I had already "broken the ice" on the subject of sex work with some of the people we encountered that evening, but I think the woman was still surprised how normally and politely she was treated, and later sent me a very sweet thank you for the evening. We didn't stay in touch and I don't know how things worked out for her, but I hope that one night of being an out sex worker gave her some courage to be out in her own city and with her regular friends and family.
If you're a sex worker still afraid of coming out, start small. Go to a bar in the next city over, or a music festival out of town, or just tell the person sitting next to you on the bus or subway. Try openness on for just a day, or even 15 minutes. You will get some bad reactions, but I think it will surprise you how many people won't be an asshole to you. Be prepared for questions, which you can choose to answer or not. The most shocking thing of all may be meeting someone who themselves has done sex work and never told anyone. (Only happened to me once, with a seat neighbor on an airplane, but it was still pretty awesome.)
by Furry Girl
It's been a busy month, but I wanted to post a photo from last week's Google protest in Seattle. The protest was just myself and @ishfery, a sex worker I'd previously only met on Twitter. (And, ornery cunt that I am, I'd wondered if she was real, since "in a post-Alexa world," I've come to suspect all sex worker bloggers who don't post photos of themselves are possibly creepy dudes.)
The protest of two went well, and I was certainly happy to not be alone. Being a lone protester makes you look like some kind of crazy trying to "educate" people about 9/11 being an inside job or something. One protester is a nutjob, two protesters are lovable underdogs. While I can make a banner I can hold by myself, it's hard to hold a banner straight and hand out fliers at the same time. What this photo doesn't show is that I had another sign on my back, hastily tied onto my scarf, reading, "Google Don't Be Evil!" The reason for the sign on my back was not just so Google employees in the building could see it, but because a little birdy alerted me to the fact that Google Seattle's web cam covered this portion of the bridge.
We probably handed out about 100 fliers, and had some really position conversations. One woman introduced herself as a budding filmmaker in the early stages of putting together a documentary about the partners of sex workers, and the troubles she was having trying to find people willing to go on camera to talk about those dynamics. A number of Google employees either emailed/tweeted, or said supportive things in person. One took a stack of fliers to hand out in the building. (At the end of the protest, I went to give the reception desk fliers to explain why we were there, and they already had them.) Everyone was extremely nice and interested, and the only detractor was a homeless-looking older man who told us to get a "real job." It sounds like the San Francisco and LA protests went well, too, and SWOP Bay Area has some photos online.
I'm now wondering what the next step should be. It being the Christian holy month, the world is half shut down until early January, so trying to do anything this week would be pointless. I'm curious if another round of protests is something people are interested in, and when to schedule that. (Second week of January, I'm assuming, since many people go out of town for Christmas and New Years.) I'm also wondering about effective ways to utilize internet-based activism as a part of this campaign. I am steadfastly against pointless, masturbatory "activism" like e-petitions, and with Google being such a massive company that doesn't exactly engage in dialog with the public, it's hard to know where to focus energies.
What I do know is that I'm happy to be working on a campaign that engages in real solidarity with sex workers in the developing world. Though Google's shitty NGOs do things that harm sex workers right here in America, the brunt of their harm us directed as the poorest and most marginalized people in the world. Some of the current crop of sex worker "activists" engage in "activism" in the form of attacking people online about which words they're allowed to use and how awful they ought to feel about the erratically-defined issue of "privilege," but it's just bullshit posturing that accomplishes nothing other than making a few people feel self-righteous. If you surveyed sex workers in the developing world and asked what American activists could do to help them, I'm pretty sure that not one respondent would beg us to spend more of our time bludgeoning each other with freshman-level identity politics and feminist dogma on Twitter. I love having an issue around which we have discuss the tangible effects of neocolonialism and Western do-gooderism, and what it really means when these NGOs say they want to "rescue" sex workers. I don't know where the campaign will lead, and if we'll be able to pressure Google into supporting non-missionary, harm-reduction and rights-based services for sex workers, but this is the general direction I'd like to see American sex worker activism go.
My friend Jacob Appelbaum made a comment during his talk about Tor at a nerd convention that stuck with me because it concisely and politely explains what white Western political folk like myself should be doing with our time: "You should consider using your privilege to help other people."
by Furry Girl
I've spent almost the entire last 5 days researching the groups that Google is now funding. Please see the campaign page and read something I've put a lot of time info!
Why are sex workers' rights supporters upset with Google?
Google announced last week that they are making the largest-ever corporate donation to "ending modern day slavery": an impressive $11.5 million dollars. We applaud and support Google's desire to fight slavery, forced trafficking, and exploitative labor conditions, but Google's funding recipients include three NGOs that cause serious harm to sex workers in around the world: International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale. As small sex worker support services struggle for funding to serve their communities, it is offensive to watch Google shower money upon a wealthy faith-based group like the International Justice Mission, which took in nearly $22 million dollars in 2009 alone. (In contrast, the St. James Infirmary, a San Francisco clinic that provides free healthcare to sex workers, operated on only $335k in 2010.)
Does Google know what their money is really supporting? Let's take a look at what you won't read about on the front pages these groups' glossy web sites.
Also, I'll be protesting outside of Google's Seattle building on Wednesday from 2-4pm (on the bridge next to it, to be specific). There are also protests in other locations, too, so check the campaign page. Please join me so I don't have to feel like a lonely sad protester.
by Furry Girl
In the last month, there has been more and more talk from some sex workers about how awesome the Occupy movement is, including some of my ho activist friends on Twitter who are part of different Occupy encampments. SWOP-NYC has a pro-Occupy post, Jessie of SWOP LA throws in her support, Trisha wrote about the issues of SlutWalk and Occupy, and Melissa Gira Grant wrote a strangely pearl-clutching piece about how sad it is some people -gasp- do sex work to pay for college.
I've been wary and on the fence about the Occupy movement and its vague, utopian, barely-articulated aims. Occupy embodies basically everything I hate about the left, and the best I've been able to muster so far is feeling sorry for people who have been assaulted by police. Today, I went from on the fence to against Occupy Seattle. I was trying to get to the nonprofit vegan grocery store, Sidecar, a place I'm happy to support because all the proceeds go to an animal sanctuary. I sure timed my bus errand poorly, because I ended up behind an Occupy Seattle march.
First off, the protesters went out of their way to disrupt as much traffic and transit as possible. I talked to my bus driver, and he said the group had told Seattle Metro they would be marching along a certain route, giving Metro a chance to divert buses in the area to another street. Once the time came for the march, however, the Occupy folk changed their official plan and went down the street where they knew Metro buses were being re-routed, all to maximize problems for commuters. That's a pretty asshole move. How is going out of your way to screw up as many public transit lines as possible harming the super-rich? Are there a lot of country-ruining billionaires on the bus during rush hour? I guess I never noticed them though all the students, disabled people, punks/hippies, elderly people, nonwhites, single moms, young folk, and homeless-looking people who typically make up much of Metro's ridership.
After half an hour on a bus that was barely moving, I gave up and angrily walked home in the freezing rain, knowing it would have taken hours to get to my destination. Congratulations, anti-capitalists, you prevented me from spending my money at a nonprofit, so I shopped at a corporate grocery store instead. I went home and watched the clamor unfold on Twitter. The march had moved on to occupying a bridge, shutting down traffic in both directions. This bridge is one of the connections between the central Seattle area and the University of Washington and the outlying suburbs, as well as a major hospital complex at the university. Occupy Seattle was cutting off a key route for hospital access, which could genuinely cost lives if ambulances had to re-route and go back to other another bridge in an emergency.
Less than 24 hours after winning national sympathy when Seattle police pepper-sprayed a small elderly woman, Occupy Seattle experienced a big wave of hatred from the general public, pissed off at missed meetings, missed classes, missed flights, and being stuck in traffic for no good reason. Twitter users were cheering for them to be beaten, shot, pepper-sprayed, and many hoped aloud that the bridge would collapse, or that protesters would fall/jump to their deaths. Comments on various local news websites all echoed similar opinions - anger, annoyance, confusion, and rooting for harm to befall protesters. There were countless comments where someone said they supported Occupy before, but this changed their minds.
Any sane activist would be thinking, "Oh shit, we made a huge fuckup here. The public is angry at us, we're blocking hospital access, and we're not accomplishing anything other than showing people that we like to cause pointless disruptions. This has been an absolute disaster."
Instead, the resounding consensus among protesters on Twitter was that the event was a massive success, and Occupy Seattle marchers and supporters responded to people who disagreed by making fun of them, insulting them, telling them they are the enemy, and generally celebrating the fact that the public had turned against them after the bridge occupation. It was like watching some spoiled punk teenager gloat about how they're really "sticking it to the man" by pissing off "the squares" with their green hair.
What today highlighted for me is my growing uneasiness with how Occupy protesters continually scream that they are "the 99%," insisting that they represent just about everyone in the country. I don't like seeing strangers keep arguing that they are my spokespersons, that they can attest to the interests and beliefs of most Americans, that they are protesting "for me," and even that they are me. This creepy rhetoric reminds me all too well of how anti-sex worker crusaders always insist that they are acting and speaking on our behalf, without ever deigning to listen to us. There is something deeply and profoundly fucked up about declaring oneself the mouthpiece for people whom you don't know, aren't trying to get to know, and in many cases, who actively oppose what you are saying and doing, such as it the case of the vast numbers of Seattle folk irate over having their evening disrupted by a core group of perhaps a hundred protesters who were trying to stay on the bridge as long as possible.
Where this whole thing goes from eerily cult-like to comical is that the people who pretend to be and represent "the 99%" are a tiny minority, even in a large left-leaning city, and they were causing a problems for the majority. Occupy Seattle wasn't representing the desires of anyone but themselves, least of all working and lower-income people who rely on public transit to get around the city.
Occupy Seattle: you are not the 99%. You do not represent me, you do not represent Seattle, and I wish you people would stop insisting that you do. A group that relishes in causing disruptions purely for the sake of causing disruptions does not embody the key political concerns of most Americans, any more than a right-wing billionaire does. You are an obnoxious minority that continues to further isolate itself from the rest of the public, and I can't think of one positive thing you have contributed to my city.
But all that doesn't matter. According to Occupy Seattle kids, the fact that I dislike them just means that they've been victorious in their protest, despite the fact I will never be earning in the top 10%, let alone the top 1%.
As a sex workers' rights advocate, my life would be so much easier if the sole metric by which I judged an activist "success" was how many members of the general public I could get to hate us. It's easy to turn the public against you, any lazy dipshit can do that. Influencing the public to adopt more progressive and tolerant ideas? That's not as adrenaline-soaked and fun as instigating confrontations with the police, but it leads to actual and long-lasting change, which is precisely the kind of work that needs to be done.
Update one: In looking at more local coverage, the first three comments on a cheery pro-Occupy article on SLOG summed up today's debate so neatly, especially the middle one as being the most used defense by bridge protest supporters.
Gern Blanston: "Claim it for the 99 percent." What a fucking joke! When they shut down a bridge, or a busy downtown street, they're preventing everyone else from going about their daily lives. They're just a bunch of self-important, grandstanding pricks. They don't speak for me.
what_now: Maybe there are things that are more important than people going about their daily lives?
LJM: the problem is that you're suggesting that one group of people know which "things" are "more important" than going about their daily lives, and which "things" are less important. You can use this reasoning to justify any type of inconsiderate behavior by people who claim to be doing it for your own good.
Update two: Seattle Central Community College - where Occupy Seattle set up residence after moving from their original location in the shopping district - has been complaining about the public health hazards being created by the camp in the form "accumulations of garbage, poor food handling, discarded syringes and needles, fire safety hazards, dog feces, and disposal of wastewater." Congratulations again, Occupy Seattle, you've succeeded in be-filthing a facility that caters to lower-income people. That's really sticking it to the evil super-rich, isn't it? (As I saw someone else point out today, if they really want to stick it to banks through civil disobedience, why not occupy bank-owned foreclosed houses?)
Occupy supporters are seemingly unable to come up with non-false dichotomy arguments to support their protest at the bridge. It's all hyperbole like, "Oh, so you love watching billionaires raping the country?" or one who told me that I must be too busy fawning over the Kardashians to care about anything else. You can be against Occupy Seattle and its dumbass tactics without being pro-cop, pro-bailout, pro-apathy, and pro-status quo. I was, in fact, anti-status quo before this new wave of Carhartt Warriors grew their first pubes. (Do dirty anarkids still wear Carhartts? Am I totally dating myself in my choice of derisive terminology?)
Also, I actually do support using disruptive and controversial protest methods, but only when they are targeted and/or express a clear message and demands. (Examples being crashing a shareholder meeting to send a message that a corporation should stop engaging in such-and-such practice, or civil disobedience on a logging road that prevents logging companies from cutting down any trees that day.) Making things hard on huge numbers of Seattle residents who just want to get home from work makes people hate you, and accomplished absolutely nothing. Yes, it got media coverage and attention, but so what? Is the only goal of Occupy Seattle to get lots of bad press? Does getting bad press fix the economy or make one single person's life better? No, but it sure is easier than engaging in strategic activism or doing something positive.
by Furry Girl
"I'll tell you what, we were tough faggots." -- Ed Mead
Ed Mead spent 18 years in prison after being a part of an armed revolutionary group in Washington state called the George Jackson Brigade, which was similar to the Weather Underground. Author Daniel Burton-Rose wrote of him,
Ed Mead was arrested relatively early in the Brigade’s trajectory, so he spent much of his organizing time behind bars. In his close to twenty-year sentence, Mead led work strikes, filed petitions, and generally did his best to fan the flames of discontent wherever he went. This made him something of a scourge to prison administrators, who bounced him through state and federal penal systems, moving him along whenever his organizing efforts began to bear fruit.
One of his more notable efforts was Men Against Sexism (MAS), a group of "tough faggots" who forcibly stopped the buying and selling of prisoners by prisoners for the purpose of sexual exploitation [violent pimping of weaker prisoners by stronger ones] in Walla Walla. During the group’s zenith in 1978, MAS proved so effective that a feminine male prisoner could wear a dress around without threat of violence. MAS backed up their work with homemade grenades, single-shot rifles, and a willingness to die to stop prisoner-on-prisoner rape. "Of all the political work that I’ve done," says Mead, Men Against Sexism is what I’m most proud of. (The group effectively disbanded after a foiled escape attempt in 1978 involving Mead, several other prisoners and an array of homemade weapons.)
Yes, Mead and others actually had smuggled weapons into the prison, including a gun Mead was ready to use on at least one occasion. According to Burton-Rose, the two men you see below holding hands debated killing members of a prison gang who defied their ban on "owning", selling, and raping other prisoners. Only under threat of death did the gang release an effeminate gay prisoner over whom they had claimed "ownership".
Tough faggot, indeed.
Writing on the back reads, "MAS [Men Against Sexism] member Ed Mead + Danny Atteberry (misidentified as "lovers" in CM ["Concrete Mama", a nickname for the prison]) walk the tier of Big Red, the isolation unit at Walla Walla State Pen. 77 or 78 <probably."
Download a 300 dpi high-quality scan here.
Writing on the back reads, "Photo from the epic struggle of prisoners in Walla Walla's Intensive Security Unit, '78, in which Ed was involved. The [George Jackson] Brigade attempted a bombing of the Capitol Complex in Olympia in support of the prisoner's strike."
Download a 300 dpi high-quality scan here.
These are scans are from copies found in a friend's musty old box of activist stuff from the 1970s and 1980s. As far as I could tell from poking around on Google Images, this is the first time these have been posted online. I can't help but love the fuck out of these photos of queer resistance from inside prisons in the 1970s.
UPDATE: One of my lovely readers, Michael, posted the source for these images:
These photos are from the book "Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles From Walla Walla" that came out in the early 80's. It's really great, but rare and hard to find. There are some on Amazon but they're kinda spendy. There's a whole chapter and set of photos (these included) about political prisoners and Ed Mead. Also a ton about transvestites behind the walls. Buy it if you can afford it. I believe John Mccoy took these photos.
* * *
For even more forgotten radical history from my area, one of the other members of the George Jackson Brigade, Janine Bertram, was a co-founder of the Seattle chapter of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), an early sex workers rights group. Janine wanted the government out of sex workers' business completely, and was quoted as being opposed to compromises that "would have made the state the pimp." The Seattle chapter of COYOTE later changed its name to the Washington Association of Prostitutes and created a job training program to teach women male-dominated skills, such as welding.
(I learned about this little piece of the ho revolution from Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s.)
by Furry Girl
Throughout my life, I have repeatedly had my beliefs and politics put to the test, which tends to end in me doing this thing that terrifies most people: bridge-burning. Here are three of those stories - most notably, why I refused to speak at last weekend's Sex 2.0 conference due of the involvement of Carnal Nation, and why their presence made event an unsafe spaces for sex workers. Bear with me - I know this is a frighteningly long post, and it's about my personal experiences as well as just the main controversial issue.
Years ago, I stood in a friend's kitchen on my cell phone, staring intently at his spice rack in disbelief. I'd just found out that someone I'd considered a trusted friend committed a horrible violation against another person. Later, I burst into tears outside on the street, feeling so sick and pissed off. Most of this man's friends stood by him. They made excuses. They told outright lies. They came up with explanations about why what he did wasn't actually that bad - if he had done it at all - and why him being such a "good person" basically negated what he might have done anyway. A man who was very popular in his social circle victimized a lesser-known person, and I was one of the only voices publicly standing up against him. One of his defenders was perplexed by my anger. It didn't happen to me. Someone else continued to live in fear and torment, so why did I care so much? I was given the choice between many personal friendships, and the political/ethical beliefs I have espoused for years about standing up against those who take advantage of others. It was theory versus reality. I made the right choices. And I lost friends over it.
Last year, a guy in the San Francisco nerd scene posted a "humorous" guide on his blog about how to drug and date rape women. I Twittered angrily about it. I asked people to confront him in person at the monthly event he organizes. I hoped he'd be kicked out of his scene for being such a blatant misogynist. Nothing happened. Months later, I brought it up again, and some people who are friends with both myself and Mr. Rapejokes stopped following me on Twitter immediately. So, given the choice, a sect of the San Francisco nerd world stood by someone who thinks the idea of raping drugged women is hilarious. I bluntly forced a mutual friend to pick between us, and she picked Mr. Rapejokes and dismissed the topic as "drama". I was the one who lost friends over what he blogged, not him. Theory versus reality, and again, I made the right choice and I'm glad I spoke out.
Last week, as my Twitter followers and many others are already aware of, I boycotted the third Sex 2.0 Conference. I'd attended the first two Sex 2.0 conferences, loved them, and spoke on two panels at the previous one. I was scheduled to be a speaker this year on a panel about sex work, and I pulled out days before the conference because I refuse to participate in an event that is not a safe space for sex workers. I've been a sex worker for 8 years, and in case it needs mentioning, I'm big on the idea of places where we can chill out and talk about our lives and our work without dealing with verbal or even physical attacks from those who don't look kindly on us. Real safe spaces for sex workers matter to me. Sex 2.0 used to be one of those spaces.
Sex 2.0 stopped being a safe space for sex workers when it welcomed in Carnal Nation, an online media company that caters to the sex-positive community. You see, a while ago, a stalker popped up offering cash rewards for anyone to out/stalk/harass sex workers at their homes. Carnal Nation defended endangering the lives of sex workers as important "free speech", giving promotion to the stalker and belittling and mocking the women being stalked. Because of this stalker, people were, and still are, genuinely scared for their safety.
Whatever that official or unofficial connection was, Carnal Nation was allowed by Sex 2.0 organizers to be present at the conference in spite of the criticism of many people. They could have picked the concerns of sex workers and our allies over a bit of publicity for the conference - barring Carnal Nation from covering the conference - but the organizers picked publicity. The consolation prize was that if anyone wanted to talk about why they resent Carnal Nation for endangering the lives of sex workers, they were allowed to be interviewed about it. Yeah, I'd love to give Carnal Nation free content for their web site, that's exactly the aim of my boycott.
One of the defenses of Carnal Nation's presence at Sex 2.0 is that no one had to be interviewed - it was just a media outlet that you could talk to. I've never said I was opposed to Carnal Nation's involvement because I thought they'd force all attendees at gunpoint to give interviews, the point is that Carnal Nation was allowed in the door at all.
What if Carnal Nation was a company known for mocking gay-bashing and dismissing groups that advocate violence against queers as "important freedom of speech"? I have no doubt that such a media outlet would have been barred from Sex 2.0. Sex workers, however, are apparently not a vulnerable minority that deserves to come together in a space free of media companies that think our safety makes for nothing more than an amusing libertarian argument. Well, sorry, Carnal Nation, but the women being stalked are not abstract philosophical constructs. Two of them are my friends - not debate fodder about the importance of yelling fire in a crowded theater.
As a scheduled speaker, I felt as though refusing to attend was the biggest stink I could make as just one person. (I got a refund for my Sex 2.0 ticket and donated that money to the Desiree Alliance conference - a sex worker event going on this July in Las Vegas.) This did get people talking: online, on the Sex 2.0 email discussion list, and at the conference itself - both in sessions and unofficially. I wish I had something prepared for public dissemination last week, however, I've been mulling over exactly what to blog and gathering input from others. I hope this full explanation makes more sense of the issue to those of you not already familiar with what happened.
I won't be linking to the exact article because of its menacing content, and I ask that if you comment about this issue, you don't link the article, either. I ask that you not name or link to the web site offering cash for people to out/harass sex workers. I ask that you do not state the names of the women who are targeted by the stalker's web site without their permission. Basically, be the opposite of Carnal Nation - be respectful and responsible. When and if Carnal Nation posts a defense of itself on its own web site, I hope you will ignore it, rather than pouring your energy into their comments section and giving them traffic.
John Pettitt, owner of Carnal Nation, wrote in his short article about the controversy,
While we regard [stalker] as repugnant CarnalNation believes in the right to free expression, if Larry Flynt can offer a bounty for cheating Republican politicians it's equally defensible for somebody to pay for information on sex workers. Neither is a morally defensible position but morals are personal and free speech transcends personal morals. It comes down to a simple truth It's the unpopular speech that needs protection.
In the spring of 2010 CarnalNation will begin letting our users publish their own content in personal blogs. One of the reasons we decided to provide this service is the fact that a well orchestrated mob can cause a service like blogger to remove content they don't like by flagging it for terms of service violation. We won't do that. In fact if it's legal (that is a court hasn't told us to remove it) it will stay up no matter how much we disagree with it. That doesn't mean we won't be critical but it does mean we can only disagree with attempts to silence [stalker].
So, according to Carnal Nation, the most important thing in this situation was that stalkers need "protection" to harass sex workers, because a stalker's "free speech" rights trump safety concerns from a highly vulnerable population that is regularly attacked, raped, and murdered? Further, that the stalker is the real victim in the situation because people had been trying to get the stalker's blog taken offline? Of course, John Pettitt tried to cover his ass by saying the site is "repugnant", but he still still gave it tons of free publicity and defended how important it is that we stand up for "unpopular speech", aka, harassing/outing sex workers. Having the stalker promoted and legitimized on a well-known "sex-positive" web site was done, in my opinion, simply to get a lot of comments and traffic.
And comments there were! In a section a mile long condemning and debating John Pettitt, sex-positivity super-heroes and sex workers including Monica Shores of $pread Magazine, Heather Corinna, Tasty Trixie, Kat of Kat's Stories, Mistress Matisse, Melissa Gira, Sarah Sloane, Annie Sprinkle, Jill Brenneman of SWOP East, and Sadie Lune spoke out against this irresponsible and dangerous behavior from Carnal Nation - and that's just on Carnal Nation's own web site. Much more has been said elsewhere.
Carnal Nation has proven that they are happy to cover sex workers as titillating new items, but will quickly kick us in the teeth when we're down. (Hey, that sounds exactly like the hostile mainstream media!)
Speaking of using sex workers to make a profit, former writer for Carnal Nation, and $pread Magazine editor, Monica Shores, has been involved in a multi-month battle trying to get paid for articles she'd written for the company in the past. She believes Carnal Nation is refusing to pay her because she's criticized the company, and as of now, has still not be paid for work she did months ago. Whether or not she ever will ever be paid still remains to be seen. [Update on 6/15: Monica has finally been paid. But, I've heard from another sex worker and former Carnal Nation writer who is owed money by the company. It's an interesting trend. Are there any more people out there who've worked for Carnal Nation and not been paid as promised?]
In speaking out on the issue of Carnal Nation at Sex 2.0, I lost friends. I made sure I'll never be welcome in the Seattle kink community. I even received a not-too-thinly-veiled threat against myself if I continue to speak out against Carnal Nation. But you know what really fails to motivate me to shut up about my concern for creating safe spaces for sex workers? It's threats to my personal safety.
I hope that this whole mess will allow more people to take a moment to think about what it really means to create safe spaces for sex workers. You would think it wouldn't be that hard for supposed allies to grasp the basics like, "Don't allow in companies that defend violence against us", but apparently, it is. This was an instance where I felt the need to point at one conference as the perfect example of how not to make an event safe and welcoming for sex workers. This is a bigger fight than just Carnal Nation, so while I do hate to give them so much attention, and will no doubt be called a hypocrite for doing so, I also want my community to know their true face, and to be on the lookout for more wolves in sheep's clothing.
I feel like an activist cliche to write profusely about a problem, but offer no concrete solution. I hope all sex-positive people can talk about ways to make more spaces welcoming and safe for sex workers, because it's not just about one offensive web site or one stalker. It's about living in a culture that has no regard for our safety, our human rights, our dignity, and our lives - and trying to change that culture, bit by bit. My little bit to add right now is publicly calling out Carnal Nation and hoping that in the future, they will be banned from spaces that are supposedly safe for sex workers.
Conferences are about like-minded people getting together, talking about common interests, meeting old friends, making new ones, and that buzzword that's everywhere now: networking. In an age where people treat "networking" like it's the only currency that will ever matter, we get nervous about speaking out on controversial issues, even when we know something is wrong. We don't want to lose a friend, a blogroll link, an ability to use a connection to ascend social or career ladders. So, what does "networking" mean to you? Does it include overlooking things people do that are dangerous or abusive, or allowing people to defend those who are dangerous and abusive? Will you keep your mouth shut so as to not come across too angry, oversensitive, and socially ungraceful?
I'm not afraid to do battle about the issues that matter to me - and every time I do so, I know I'll lose friends and burn bridges. I do it anyway.
I don't even know what a fucking bridge looks like any more and how easy it must be to have a world filled with them. But after a lifetime of being a loud-mouthed cunt, I'm a damn strong swimmer.
* * *
(You can read Sequoia Redd's blog post for her perspective on this issue.)
by Furry Girl
To prepare for a British friend coming to visit Seattle, I picked up "Weird and Wacky Washington Places" from the library to see if there's anything neat I hadn't heard of. What's weird and wacky? A banana museum, the Space Needle, Slug Fest, the Jimi Hendrix statue, and the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway.
As surprised as I was that Gary Ridgeway is listed in a guidebook of zany and funny things for tourists, I was also struck by the authors' omission of the fact that his victims were (mostly) sex workers. Is that a good thing- does it reduce the horror of his crimes in the eyes of normal people if he was "just" killing prostitutes? Or is it a bad thing- glossing over an important case in terms of getting international attention focused on the violence against sex workers?
I'm still not sure which part of this perturbs me the most.
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
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