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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

There’s this notion of treating sex workers like children who need watching over, but we don’t, and our model is evidence of that.  –  Catherine Healy

eugenics treeFor years I have held the position that the cause of sex worker rights, as part of the whole fabric of recognition of the individual’s right to be unmolested by the state due to private sexual behavior, must inevitably succeed.  As civilization has developed, respect for individual civil rights has steadily grown; certainly the growth has been neither smooth nor consistent, but as a rule the rights of individuals are greater at any randomly-selected point on the timeline of history than they were at any randomly-selected previous point.  For the past century or so the development of individual rights has been impeded by the cancer known as Progressivism, the belief that “experts” have more right to determine what is “good” for any individual than that individual has to determine that for himself, and that said “experts” have the right to dispatch armed thugs to use violence to punish those who dare to violate the arbitrary pronouncements of those experts, in order to terrorize the greater population into meek obedience.  But the bloody consequences of “progressive” thought are at last becoming obvious to all but the True Believers and the hopelessly collectivist, and it’s only a matter of time before drug prohibition follows eugenics, and prohibition of pragmatic sexual activity follows prohibition of non-procreative sexual activity, onto the ash-heap of history.

In recent years, the prohibitionists who saw this trend have been fighting a last, desperate, all-out campaign against the inevitable; it’s no accident that “sex trafficking” hysteria appeared on the scene immediately after three huge developments in sexual freedom (loosening of restrictions on sex work in Germany, decriminalization in New Zealand and the abolition of “sodomy” laws in the US) made it obvious that state control of individual sexual behavior was on its way out.  But any campaign driven entirely by disinformation, conflation, negation of individual agency and pure moral panic cannot last forever, no matter how many billions are pumped into it; slowly but surely the truth will out.  Since the summer of 2012 momentum for decriminalization has been building outside of the demimonde, and a broad coalition of UN agencies, health officials, human rights groups, think tanksacademics and journalists has joined sex workers in demanding that the state keep its filthy hands out of whores’ lingerie.  For over two years now I’ve been waiting for signs that our society had reached the watershed moment, the point at which the momentum would begin to run away from prohibition and toward respect for individual rights again, and I think that finally came two weeks ago when Amnesty International declared its support for decriminalization.  Since then, prohibitionists’ wailing and gnashing of teeth has largely been drowned out by the sounds of jubilation from the harlots’ camp, and a chorus of assent from many who had remained silent on the issue for a long time, such as drug anti-prohibitionist Richard Branson; even prohibitionist-leaning news organizations like The Guardian and Al Jazeera published op-eds cheering the Amnesty decision.  But none of them were as welcome to me as the statement from venerable GLBT rights group Lambda Legal:

…we…applaud and support Amnesty International’s recent resolution to protect the human rights of sex workers by calling for decriminalization of sex work…For many LGBT people, participation in street economies is often critical to survival…Transgender people engage in sex work at a rate ten times that of cisgender women, and 13% of transgender people who experience family rejection have done sex work…LGBT people are regularly profiled, harassed, and criminalized based on the presumption that they are sex workers, contributing to the high rates of incarceration and police brutality experienced by these communities …Laws criminalizing sexual exchange—whether by the seller or the buyer—impede sex workers’ ability to negotiate condom use and other boundaries, and force many to work in hidden or remote places where they are more vulnerable to violence.  Research and experience have shown that these laws serve only to drive the industry further underground…We look forward to working…with sex workers and…Amnesty International, to replace laws that criminalize sex work with public policies that address sex workers’ real…needs.

Lamda-LegalThis is huge; Lambda was a major player in the advances in gay rights over the past forty years, and its support may give our movement the much-needed legal firepower that the ACLU’s abdication of its responsibilities has cheated us of for decades.  To be sure, the conditions mentioned in this statement are nothing new, and had mainstream gay rights organizations not been obsessively dedicated to pursuing the agenda of white, middle-class, monogamous, vanilla gay folk for this entire century so far, they could have been addressing these issues long ago.  But if they’re willing to stop ignoring us at last, and to put their might behind us in earnest, I for one am willing to forgive them.  Gay rights groups, anti-prohibitionist groups, sex-positive groups…I don’t know where you’ve been hiding for the past eleven years, or what you’ve been waiting for to speak up.  But if that’s finally changed, we can discuss it later; right now you’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and we are sorely in need of your help.

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The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  –  Sanskrit proverb

So a couple of weeks ago, this item hit the internet:

…The sex industry should be fully decriminalised, the Westminster based Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said in a new report.  The IEA argues that existing attempts to restrict prostitution are “ineffective, ill-informed and a waste public money”…The…report says rules that criminalise sellers directly, or criminalise third parties who supply them with services, simply push the sex industry underground, increasing the risks for sex workers.  “The very concept of prostitution is no longer workable in today’s fluid sexual markets, where anyone can meet anyone, on whatever terms they choose,” said report author Catherine Hakim.  “Decriminalisation is the only workable way forward. The proposal to copy Sweden and criminalise customers in the sex trade is a complete waste of public money, unforgiveable in a time of austerity”…

Catherine HakimOne would think this news would’ve been welcomed by activists; every additional voice calling for decriminalization not only adds to the chorus, but also increases the chance that any given politician will be in direct contact with one of those voices.  But was that what happened?  Nope.  Instead, I saw numerous voices declaring that the cause of sex worker rights “doesn’t need” this support because the IEA endorsed decriminalization for the “wrong reasons”.  You know, kind of like prostitution is criminalized because it’s sex for the “wrong reasons”.  But it wasn’t just one “wrong reason”; oh, no!  As I’ve explained before, neofeminists do not like Catherine Hakim, because she says things like this:

The report by the social scientist Catherine Hakim says that international surveys have demonstrated a large gap in sexual desire between men and women which “cannot be dismissed as an outdated patriarchal myth as argued by some feminists”.  Dr Hakim says the “sexual deficit” between men and women “helps to explain many puzzles, including why men are the principal customers for commercial sexual entertainments of all kinds…male demand for sexual entertainments…is…growing, and ineradicable”, she concludes.  She says the available evidence suggests that prostitution and pornography have no damaging social impact and may even help reduce sex crime.  Dr Hakim says: “Spain, where prostitution is legal, also has exceptionally low rates of rape”…

These statements should not be controversial to any whore, yet for some people common sense and personal experience are always trumped by “feminist” dogma, despite the fact that most people who adopt that self-identifier are our implacable enemies.

cliqueSex worker activists who care more about “feminist” nonsense than about our cause, or who think that we have the luxury of working only with would-be allies who can pass some sort of ideological purity test, need to get the hell out of sex worker rights activism; they are sleeping with the enemy and cannot be trusted to do what is necessary to advance our struggle.  This is a war, not a game; our enemies use tactics specifically intended to expose us to police violence and starve us to death if we manage to escape that.  They are perfectly willing to make whatever alliances are necessary to advance their cause, and to employ doomsday weapons that cause widespread collateral damage, yet some of the people on our side still treat this as a jolly game in which the identity of one’s playmates is far more important than the outcome.  If that’s the way you feel, please go home and find another cause; we need allies who will actually help us, not cliquish schoolgirls who want to turn down three-quarters of our potential allies because they’re boys, have cooties, wear unfashionable clothes or live in the wrong part of town.  Anyone who is willing to watch the bodies of her sisters continue to pile up because she’s too prissy to sit down at a table with people whose philosophies differ from hers is helping the prohibitionists, and that makes her a liability at best and an enemy at worst.  But anyone who speaks up for the decriminalization of sex work is the enemy of prohibitionists, and that makes her my friend and ally.

 

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I just don’t get why an intelligent girl with a good family and  boyfriend would start to sell her body.  She was so honest and let me look for a few seconds into her soul, and I saw who she is and I don’t think she wants this.  I want to help her, but to her I was just another bad guy who paid for that and don’t deserve her respect.  I want to understand why is she doing this.

The Shadow 2-15-38Sell her body“?  Do you mean she started doing sex work?  You mean she chose an extremely lucrative job with shorter hours than most, extreme flexibility and no boss?  Sounds pretty damned intelligent to me; in fact, it’s the career I chose as well, and I’m generally considered to be reasonably intelligent.  Now, if you meant something more literal, like selling blood or eggs or some other part of her body, I stand corrected; however, something tells me that you just mean she became a whore.  She chose one job over the other options available to her, for the same sorts of pragmatic reasons anyone chooses his or her job over the others available at the time.

You say she “let you for a few seconds into her soul”; I’m not sure what sort of mystical or pharmaceutical process was involved there, but I can assure you that unless you are The Shadow or Dr. Strange or something, I sincerely doubt it was her soul you saw.  To be honest, it sounds to me what you were seeing was the constellation of your own needs you projected onto her.  You seem to have some sort of guilt (“I was another bad guy who paid for that”) about a simple business transaction, and you appear to load sex down with all sorts of Deep Meaning and metaphysical weight that it simply does not have, except in the minds of people conditioned from an early age to believe a load of rubbish about how something even dogs and chickens engage in is somehow a “sacrament” when highfalutin’ monkeys with notions do it.

You’re probably thinking about now that I’m an incredible bitch, and that I’m being very mean to you.  On the contrary; I’m doing you the great favor of trying to wake you up to the fact that sex is nothing more than a biological activity, and that the only “meaning” and “sacredness” it has is that which we choose to invest in it.  Eating can be a rich and wonderful bonding experience and the center of powerful rituals…or it can be a mundane thing one does because one is hungry.  And nobody pretends that the latter somehow “violates” or “degrades” the former, nor that there’s anything wrong with cooking or serving food for pay.  Nobody would say a waitress is “selling herself”, or pretend that a diner is “bad” for buying a hamburger.  And nobody, but nobody would pretend that there is some deep psychological motive behind a cook working as a cook, nor state that he could tell in a few seconds that said cook “really didn’t want to do this”.  Sex work is work, nothing more or less, and sex workers have the same range and complexity of feelings about it as other people have about their jobs.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Diary #264

20150709_003841Some weeks are such a mixture of good and bad that it’s hard to decide which outweighed the other, especially when the good was so very good and the bad was so very bad.  On the one hand I got to visit with one of my favorite gentlemen, attend an excellent party, spend an evening with Kaytlin Bailey and serve as emcee for the Sex Worker Appreciation Day comedy & variety show, which was a great success; I’m also preparing for my first visit home since February.  But on Sunday morning, Grace called to tell me by beloved kitty Friday (whose “stage name” on this blog was “Nancy”) had suddenly fallen ill; by 2 PM she was gone.  I suspect the culprit is a virulent parasite spread by ticks which took one of our outside cats last year; it races through their little bodies and kills in hours or days, and there is as yet no cure.  I know that she had a good and happy life, that she was loved and cared for; I know that her death was mercifully swift, and that many pets and humans die long, slow, agonizing deaths that take months or years.  I know that death comes to all of us, great and small, and that I’m generally very philosophical about it.  But I also know that for all of my hard-as-nails demeanor, razor-sharp wit and iron logic, I’m still a soft-hearted woman with overdeveloped maternal instincts, and that it’s incredibly painful for me to lose someone I love …even if that someone lacks the gift of speech.  And the fact that I wasn’t there to hold her at the end, or to somehow prevent this from happening, makes it all that much worse; so did having to tell Matt, who loved her at least as much as I did and probably more.  Yes, I’ll be fine; I’m a big girl and nobody involved in Sunday’s show even guessed that I was grieving inside, because whores are experts in feigning moods.  But just the same, I really wish my happiness didn’t always have to be mixed with pain and sorrow.

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My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
 –  Samuel Francis Smith

homeland-securityI’m always a little astonished when I encounter someone, online or off, who says something like “The United States is becoming a police state” or “may become a police state” or the like; I can only assume it’s because the realization that what was once called “The Land of the Free” has been a full-blown police state for over a decade now is too terrible for many people’s minds to accept.  The term “police state” is not a well-defined one, but I think most people would agree that such regimes are characterized by extensive surveillance of the population; a huge number of arbitrary laws punishable by disproportionate penalties; a slow and arbitrary court system in which the outcome of important cases is essentially pre-ordained; a requirement that ordinary citizens carry identity documents everywhere and present them to officials on demand (“papers, please!”); a bloated police force whose powers are limited only by the imaginations of officials and whose members are able to inflict violence upon anyone they choose without any consequences whatsoever or recourse of any kind for the victims; and a powerful bureaucracy which regularly violates the laws which supposedly constrain it and ignores due process when it proves inconvenient.  For good measure, let’s throw in worshipful reverence of officials and a media which largely parrots every press release those officials come out with, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to come up with some way in which the US isn’t a police state.

One might be tempted to be somewhat pessimistic about the US’s descent into naked fascism; after all, the country was founded on the right of the individual to be free of tyranny, and our present governmental system practices nearly every one of the abuses Jefferson and Company complained about in the Declaration of Independence.  But this is nothing new; the Roman Republic was founded on anti-royalist principles, and yet the Roman Empire which replaced that republic was as bad as any monarchy.  Nor was it obvious when the tyranny replaced the republic, except in retrospect; Romans went right on thinking of their country as the same one their ancestors had loved and died for.  Many Americans who would recognize that another country had changed beyond recognition are blinded by the myth of “American exceptionalism”, the irrational belief that the United States is somehow magically different from any other country in history…you know, kind of like how kings ruled by Divine right because they were just so much better than other human beings.  This is not fact or even politics; it’s religion, an irrational faith held in defiance of mountains of proof to the contrary.  “Freedom” has become nothing but a worship word, and the flag is venerated like an idol; cops are the priests and politicians the bishops, and those who violate – or even question – the holy Laws are dealt with like heretics.

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You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. – Sam-I-Am

Green Eggs and HamTwo and a half years ago I published “Due Consideration“, in which I discussed issues on which I had changed my mind due to the persuasive arguments of others:

Despite my steady progress toward cronehood, I find that I still do change my mind on some things from time to time.  Really, this isn’t surprising; while most people become steadily more conservative as they age, I have become steadily more radical.  The reason should be obvious:  as many of you have observed, I am unusually pragmatic and unafraid to follow ideas and observations to their logical conclusions…

But that column only discussed areas in which my political ideas had changed; my personal ideas hadn’t shifted at all, not for a very long time.  And while I guess that isn’t especially unusual, neither is it conducive to personal growth; there were some things I had done the same way, or refrained from doing at all, or felt a certain way about, that were supported by absolutely no good reasons…or at best for reasons that ceased to be relevant twenty years ago.  In fact, some of these things were counterproductive, impeded my happiness, or were downright harmful.  So when I started looking at myself last autumn in the wake of my tour and my impending divorce, I began to see clearly that there was a lot of emotional, behavioral and psychosexual baggage best left behind at the station when I boarded that train for Seattle last November.  I resolved to open myself up to new ideas and experiences; to refrain as much as possible from continuing to do things merely because I had always done them that way; and to recognize that “I’ve never done that before” is an argument for trying something rather than an argument against it.  Though all of my friends (including Matt) have encouraged me in my journey of discovery, Jae & Matisse have been instrumental in making it happen; Jae encourages (some might say “goads”) me to keep an open mind about things and refuses to let me sell myself short, while Matisse is a genius at making me comfortable and providing me with irresistibly-attractive opportunities for exploration.  You might say that Jae pushes, and Matisse pulls, and my other friends cheer me on or even strap roller skates to my feet, and in the end I nearly always discover that I really do like green eggs and ham, after all.

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I agree with you that “a whore is a whore is a whore”, but it’s one thing to say that and quite another to practice it personally.  I have nothing against women who advertise on Backpage – two of my best friends fall in that category – but the prospect of doing it myself results in a special kind of revulsion.  How would you propose that a whore more accustomed to the “high class call girl” route get over that kind of internalized whorephobia?  It’s not morality, and it’s not even logic; my mentor has suggested that my earnings would improve considerably if I’d get off my damn high horse, work in the big cities at the market rate taking callers on short notice, and quit waiting on men to book long sessions well in advance.  I just can’t stomach the idea of myself as “that kind” of whore, even though I was once previously successful working like that and could use the money.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.  None of us can help what squicks us out, and sometimes the squick factor is stronger than the desire for money.  There’s also the simple fact that we’re all good at different things; “high-end” GFE is so natural and easy for me I can practically do it in my sleep, but domination takes effort and PSE is so hard it’s practically impossible.  But I have friends for whom the order of difficulty is different, and some tell me GFE is so difficult for them they prefer to avoid it entirely.  I don’t think preferring to stick to what one is good at and avoiding what’s difficult or revolting is necessarily a sign of whorephobia; it could just be that you prefer to take a little pay cut to make your life easier (a sin against commerce of which I, too, am guilty).  If it doesn’t bother you that your friends do mid-range touring, and you don’t look back on your own past with disgust, and you don’t treat other sex workers any differently or talk down to them, your problem may not be whorephobia but rather the kind of genteel indolence which causes many of us to pick sex work over our other options in the first place.  If a woman prefers to do sex work because it gives her a higher return for less effort than “straight” jobs, it’s certainly no surprise if she chooses to do a form of sex work she personally finds easier and more palatable over one she finds less so.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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