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Archive for September 19th, 2011

It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?  –  Henry David Thoreau

On the night of August 21st, the popular BDSM social networking site FetLife crashed, and the person who sends out Twitter messages for the site made a stupid, puerile joke: “Whoops… FetLife just went down like a drunk hooker…”.  As you might imagine, a huge brouhaha ensued, as reported by Kitty Stryker in Tits and Sass on August 31st:

Last Sunday, BDSM community site FetLife did what a lot of popular sites do every once in a while—it crashed.  And the person running FetLife’s Twitter account made a poorly chosen joke:  “Whoops… FetLife just went down like a drunk hooker…”, later saying that they “Couldn’t think of anything better to say!” and “I make equal fun of everyone.”  People (most of them polite) called FetLife out on both the comment and what sounded like a justification wrapped in apology packaging.  All in all, they were pretty gentle reactions for a tweet that encouraged the stereotype of the incapacitated hooker…Why is a drunk hooker joke a problem?  In this case, it’s the context.  I have friends who make offensive jokes sometimes, though they’re far too sensible to post them in a public forum.  But FetLife is not a person, it’s a company.  And a company—particularly a sexually oriented one with a focus on alternative sexuality—should not be fucking around with jokes about marginalized people.  It’s bad marketing.  More than a few sex workers donate to the site, so they’re pissing off the people who financially back them…FetLife apologized, eventually with more sincerity, even thanking people for calling them out because they wouldn’t learn otherwise.  Fine.  And it might’ve blown over, especially if they had gone out of their way to demonstrate how they do actually support sex worker rights…But where it really became an issue was with a rant on EdenCafe…People who were saying “not cool, FetLife” were dubbed “rape culture warriors” hell-bent on demanding censorship and “full of fire and brimstone” (Rayne’s words, not mine).  She said she didn’t understand why people were so upset, that it was just a bit of harmless humor and, anyway, “everyone has their detractors.  It’s part of life”…

Kitty goes on to explain why it was offensive, etc.  But I’m not really interested in whether the reaction was excessive or proportionate; what I’m wondering is why sex workers and their supporters can get so damned worked up about issues inside the sex worker and kink communities which have very little effect on our lives and freedom, but largely remain silent when we’re attacked in the mainstream media.  Let someone on FetLife make a frat boy joke, or a porn star come out with some tasteless “art” which virtually nobody outside of San Francisco will ever see, and the commenters start buzzing like a broken hornet’s nest.  But let CNN or Newsweek or Huffington Post or a newspaper site print yet another asinine article insulting sex workers and spreading myths and lies about us to the general public (which then supports greater persecution) and it’s crickets chirping.  I spend hours every week commenting on such stories, posting links to sites which contain facts and refute libel, and though there are some others who do this (including many of the activists who comment here or whom I’ve mentioned often), it tends to be the same ten or twenty people every place I look.  Where are the rest of the outraged multitudes?  Why are scores of people ready to attack others within our community and allied communities, but only a meager handful can be bothered to attack stories written by people who want our profession destroyed and all of us imprisoned or consigned to Orwellian reprogramming regimes?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those who commented on either side of the FetLife or Madison Young controversies; far from it.  I’ve wasted considerable time commenting on tempests in teapots myself, but I also spare the energy to write about the important issues.  What I’m saying is this:  activists and supporters need to invest our energy more wisely.  If you have time and outrage to spare, by all means comment about every incident which annoys you.  But if you have limited time and emotional energy, why not direct it toward dealing with our enemies rather than squabbling with our friends?  Readers, every time you see a story which insults whores, reinforces negative stereotypes or spreads disinformation about us, post a link to it in a comment here so others can be alerted to it and post comments there if they feel so moved.  If you have a Twitter account, call attention to it that way.  I can tell you this without fear of contradiction:  If every single internet story which promoted “sex trafficking” hysteria, praised persecution of whores or contained insulting stereotypes was answered by negative and corrective replies from six dozen different sex workers and supporters, people would start to notice.

Another area in which we’re wasting our resources is in the judicial system.  Every hooker who’s ever been tricked by the costumed clowns knows that it’s impossible to win in criminal court, but civil court is an entirely different matter.  Consider this lady’s strategy, reported in the September 7th Orlando Sentinel:

A convicted prostitute…claims she was “severely and permanently” injured after being tased by Orange County deputies, and is now suing for more than $1 million.  Sonia Uhlmer recently filed suit in Orlando federal court against deputies James Brannon and Anthony Shea…[stating that] Brannon and Shea used excessive force when they arrested her about 3:30 a.m., Sept. 2, 2007… Uhlmer’s attorney, Paul E. Bross, told the Orlando Sentinel that…the Sheriff’s Office report [was] a “complete lie and fabrication,” and said the document states Uhlmer was in the center lane and was trying to commit suicide by running into oncoming traffic.  Deputies used physical force and tased Uhlmer…[who] was taken into custody under the Baker Act and transported to an Orlando hospital…the lawsuit said Uhlmer’s injuries “were so severe, and the recovery period was so long, that she suffered great mental anxiety and distress in addition to her pain and suffering”…Prosecutors did not file formal charges against Uhlmer in that case, the suit said…[but] Uhlmer has been arrested several times in Central Florida and has [previously] been convicted of prostitution.

This, I believe, is the way to go.  Virtually every prostitution-related police report is a tissue of lies, and many if not most stings involve some level of violence or sexual assault against the arrested whore.  As many high-profile civil rights cases have demonstrated, it isn’t necessary for the plaintiff to prove her case to accomplish the desired objective; all that is necessary is that the case be credible enough that the sued jurisdiction’s lawyers or insurance company decides to settle.  If a large enough number of prostitution busts and stings result in expensive and embarrassing lawsuits, it will only be a matter of time before those who hold the purse-strings decide that chasing whores isn’t worth the trouble.  Obviously we want decriminalization in the long run, but until that day comes I’d be satisfied with a moratorium on the constant persecution.

One Year Ago Today

April” is the tragic story of a troubled woman which provides an important object lesson in the real human consequences of our society’s obsession with “punishing” consensual behaviors.

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