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Archive for December 27th, 2010

The better a work is, the more it attracts criticism; it is like the fleas who rush to jump on white linens. –  Gustave Flaubert

Last Tuesday (December 21st) I received a request for moderation of a comment on my column of December 13th.  As regular readers know, I don’t approve comments from posters who seem very belligerent because once a particular commenter is approved all subsequent comments by that same poster are automatically approved; I don’t want anyone who seems prone to negativity having free reign to scatter such comments all over my board while I sleep, eat or otherwise live normal (offline) life.  I have no wish to censor anyone, but I reserve the right to maintain a positive tone in my own site.  Since the commenter is a fellow supporter of whores’ rights I felt I should reply via email, and did so.  The following is the series of emails which resulted; I asked for permission to publish this and he did not answer, but since he intended the discussion to be read by everyone in the commentary I see no harm in featuring it in a column instead.  The following messages are reproduced exactly as written, with no additions, subtractions or modifications other than the correction of four typos (two each) and the truncation of my signature line to simply “Maggie McNeill”.  N.B. :  The term “cisgendered” is a neologism meaning people who aren’t transgendered.

His initial message:

I don’t mean to defend Burts’ actions, but your critique would do well to exclude the whorephobia and homophobia on which it is founded.  Your explicit and stigmatizing language (e.g., undermining Burts’ statement that he has a girlfriend by claiming she is a beard, your overwrought scare quotes to mock homosexual men, and your very clear hatred for gay and-or bi male escorts as perceived vectors of disease) betrays your motivations.  Get with it; there are men and women, including transgender men and women, in the sex trade that don’t fit into your neat little hierarchy of needs, and we deserve the same rights and the same respect you demand for nontrans women trading sex.

Also, your assumptions, as well as those of the ACLU’s, about the application of ‘prostitution’ laws being more often applied to women more than men are an oft-repeated and misleading factoid.  While it is true that ‘prostitution’ laws (i.e., with ‘prostitution’ in the title) disproportionately affect women, this is especially so for transgender women.  Also, studies show that, for instance, young men who trade sex are 160 percent more criminalized than women, only using different laws (e.g., possession, assault, loitering, etc.).  See the recent study by Dr. Ric Curtis on minors who trade sex in New York City.  The study, which was sponsored by the Department of Justice, also found that an estimated 54 percent of minors who trade sex in New York City are nontrans boys, not all of them gay-identified.  Consider that the next time you dismiss queer and trans sex workers, as well as straight-identified male sex workers who serve men, as a minority.

The fact is that queer and trans hookers were throwing heels at the police at Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall before you were old enough to buy a beeper.  Your consistent misrepresentations are harmful to solidarity in the movement.

My reply:

Dear Will,

I’m sorry, but I can’t approve this sort of comment for my blog.  While I accept criticism, I do not allow commentary which criticizes my refusal to subscribe to groupthink and accuses me of nefarious psychosocial motives where there are none.  I have written about the misuse of the word “homophobia” (which doesn’t mean what you use it to mean), and though I have nothing against homosexual men you cannot be convinced of that and allowing you to start a flame war is therefore pointless and unproductive.  The only “clear hatred” is in your mind; just because others disagree with you doesn’t mean they “hate” you.  The presumption that they do is, quite frankly, childish; hatred is an immature, destructive reaction to fear and/or anger and I do not partake of it, not even toward men who raped me.

I absolutely agree that homosexual and transsexual prostitutes deserve equal respect, but since I know nothing about their world it would be extremely presumptuous for me to say anything about them.  Others have blogs in which those issues are covered; mine is not among them.  My primary focus is on female prostitution, with a strong emphasis on pointing out that we aren’t so different from other women.  As you can see if you view it rationally, talking about male prostitutes or transsexuals would result in distraction from that emphasis.

As I said to a commenter on Bound Not Gagged recently, we are on the same side.  That does not mean we must travel in lock-step, however, and indeed to promote such unity of rhetoric is destructive to the point we’re trying to make that whores are nothing to be afraid of (and therefore inevitably repressed).  Non-whores don’t all spout the same rhetoric, and neither should we.  Diversity of opinion isn’t destructive to solidarity in the movement; attempts to impose an agenda of “correct” speech and thought are.  I became a whore in part because it allowed me freedom from arbitrary rules, so as you can imagine I’m no more interested in subscribing to your notion of “correct” language and tone than anyone else’s.

If you like, I will print both your letter and this response within a column next week; if you prefer that I don’t I will honor that request.  We are not enemies, but not even allies have to agree on everything nor necessarily like each other at all times.

Maggie McNeill

His response:

Glad to hear your snide conjecture and censorious conduct is not just a performance for your readers.  Try to hide behind the accusation that this is about being ‘PC’ all you want, but I suspect you’re a cold and selfish egoist who doesn’t have the ovaries to think and talk and work in solidarity with your peers who are equal stakeholders in ending whore stigma and criminalization.  Talking about men and women, including transgender men and women, who did not fit into your boxes would distract from the point?  It in fact undermines the anti-sex work argument that prostitution is always already ‘violence against women.’  Consider that many straight-identified men trade sex with men for money, and yet the right-wingers aren’t trying to rescue them.  You’re repeating the same fallacy as your enemies.

I’m not asking you to stop focusing on nontrans women, I’m asking you to edit your language to indicate that there are others in this trade besides straight cisgendered white women.

My final reply:

Dear Will,

I have never implied that “straight cisgendered white women” are the only ones who prostitute ourselves; in fact I have made many comments to the contrary.  It seems to me that you derive your criticisms from the reading of a small number of my posts, and that you interpret not mentioning something as tantamount to condemnation of it.

As for “I suspect you’re a cold and selfish egoist who doesn’t have the ovaries to think and talk and work in solidarity with your peers,” I repeat that groupthink is neither necessary nor desirable in activism.  That’s the mistake the feminists made, and it does not behoove us to repeat it.

Will, I have no quarrel with you or with any other person who cares about this cause, but I cannot be bullied into dancing to somebody else’s tune.  I will continue to fight the good fight in my own way, just as you will fight it in yours.  I wish you good luck on your own path, just as I hope for it on mine.

Maggie McNeill

Since this is the second such attack on my style in just a few days, I think it’s pretty clear some activists are making incorrect assumptions about what I’m trying to do here.  Though I stated it pretty clearly in my introduction, I think it’s time for an elaboration and I will publish that on Saturday, January 1st.

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