Archive for September, 2011

Questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself.  –  Sign displayed in an office of “The Village”, from the classic TV series The Prisoner

As I stated in my column of September 18th, I sometimes get  replies to my “Black Men” post of a year earlier that demonstrate a total refusal to accept my explanation of why a noticeable percentage of escorts won’t see black clients; here is an example I received just a few weeks ago which, ironically, demonstrates the very point he’s trying to refute:

What’s wrong with a man demanding to get what he pays for?  You said some want to use up the full time with sexual activity…is this not what the deal is based on?  I think many escorts take advantage of kind hearted (a lot of them older men) customers, it’s bullshit.  So when a guy comes along and just wants what he paid for they are suddenly put out by this. 

I’m afraid not.  Demanding that every minute of the time be taken up in rutting is NOT “what he paid for” because the price doesn’t assume that; it’s like going into a restaurant and complaining because every square centimeter of the plate isn’t covered in food.  Though I usually gave a price break for multiple hours, I didn’t do so if I knew the client was doing cocaine because the work of attending to him was much more difficult; the same thing could be said of a client who wants 60 full minutes of pumping.  Most girls even give a price break for dinner-date type calls because they’re much easier per hour than calls spent entirely in bed.

And even if it were indeed “what he paid for”, that doesn’t address the roughness, the rudeness, the haggling and the attempts at cheating her out of money, NONE of which are part of the deal.  What amazes me is why a number of commenters like yourself insist on attempting to defend the indefensible instead of simply not acting that way; this narcissistic behavior is just as absurd and unrealistic as that of women who insist they should be able to get drunk at a frat party and go upstairs alone with a stranger without being taken advantage of.  You don’t see me defending the actions of bad escorts or denying that they exist; I understand that they do indeed exist and I did my best when dealing with a nervous client to allay his fears so he would understand I wasn’t one of them.  Good customers (and there are many) recognize that poor customers to give rise to a negative perception of the whole group, and they behave in such a way as to let girls know they aren’t like that.

Why haven’t you corrected the egregious factual errors in the Wikipedia article on prostitution?  It’s full of Catherine MacKinnon and Melissa Farley stuff!

I know, it’s awful; I noticed it a while back.  Though I’ve corrected a little of the wording in the “consent” section I haven’t tackled the article in earnest yet because, frankly, I find it a bit intimidating.  I have fixed many minor errors in sex-work related Wikipedia articles (such as replacing the word “pimp” with “escort service owner” in several articles on madams) and even added a section to the “human trafficking” article, but I haven’t tackled the “prostitution” article yet because there’s so much to deal with and adding citations in Wikipedia is extremely time-consuming.  I tried to drum up interest in fixing it within a circle of pro-sex work academics, but nobody seemed interested (and I certainly can’t blame them considering my feelings on the matter).

But now that you’ve raised the question it’s going to eat at me, so I will eventually get around to it; in the meantime I’d like to ask my readers to help out a little.  Would those of you who have Wikipedia accounts please fix small but important errors (in the main article and all the others) when you see them?  Sometimes just changing the wording of a sentence makes a huge difference, for example, adding “opponents of prostitution feel that” to statements making incorrectly declarative negative statements.  And if anybody wants to volunteer to help revise that main “Prostitution” article, please let me know!

Can you change the design that appears next to my name when I comment?

No, but you can.  That design is automatically assigned by WordPress to commenters who don’t have a gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatar), so all you have to do is get yourself a gravatar and the next time you comment it will automatically replace that design you don’t like (even on comments you’ve already made).  Just go to Gravatar.com and register, and you’ll have the opportunity to upload any picture you like as your avatar.  From then on, it will appear next to your screen name whenever you comment on any gravatar-friendly site using the same email address you registered with.

Where do you find all the quotes you use?

I’ve always been fond of epigrams; I love the way they can set a mood, foreshadow content or provide the source for a title.  Edgar Allen Poe used them frequently, as did many other 19th-century writers, and though they’ve largely fallen out of favor Frank Herbert employed them to great effect in Dune (though he cheated by making up his own out of books from his fictional universe).  So I determined from the beginning that nearly every column would have one, and I consider them an integral feature of the blog.  Sometimes an appropriate quote will come to mind while I’m planning or writing a column; today’s was one of those.  Other times I half-remember a quote and Google for the exact wording, or else I’ll search a quote database (I usually start with the one on Dictionary.com) with an appropriate keyword.  When I write a biographical or historical column I keep my eyes open for a likely selection during the research process, and when the topic is related to government or law I consult a reference I found last October, which has provided dozens of good ones so far.  But every once in awhile I just can’t find anything I like, and then I keep trying all sorts of keywords that seem as though they might work, looking down lists until something finally strikes my fancy.  Those are the real pains, and I’m glad there aren’t many of them.

One Year Ago Today

Think of the Children!” discusses the bizarre Neo-Victorian belief that “children are as emotionally fragile as soap bubbles and the merest hint of sexual imagery before puberty can cause irreversible trauma”, and looks at two of its notable victims, Paul Reubens and Melissa Petro.

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A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  –  The Sherman Brothers

In my column of September 18th I related the story of how my 17-year-old self tried to gently explain to a very unattractive young man (whom I called “Ralph”) what he might do to make himself less so; it wasn’t easy because while I was trying to tell him the truth, I was also trying very hard not to hurt his feelings.  That’s very important to most normal women; we don’t really like distressing people, especially not men, so when put into a position where something unpleasant has to be said, many women simply lie to spare the other person’s feelings.  Those who don’t lie outright generally attempt to  soften the impact, often by downplaying the most painful aspects or using humor to cut the sting.

One of the things I said in the aforementioned column was, “Unfortunately, Ralph wasn’t really all that unusual; there are a lot of men who admit they don’t understand how women think, yet angrily deny any explanation a woman tries to give them.”  One of the most common denials takes the form of “that’s just your opinion”; by pretending in his own mind that the woman’s explanation is not a fact but a mere personal belief, he can still convince himself that many (perhaps most) women feel differently.  That’s the reason for the “racism” defense to the NBA issue; by accusing the woman of “racism” he pretends that the problem is based only in her (bigoted) opinion rather than in reality, and his ego is safe.  Most of my male readers are pretty open-minded guys, and judging by the comments I think most of y’all recognize that I know what I’m talking about and I’m careful to distinguish my opinions from things I’ve observed as fact or discovered through research or analysis.  Even so, there are probably a few of you out there who have your doubts about the whole women-look-at-sex-differently thing, so today I’d like to call your attention to a pair of recent essays from other women (one pro and one amateur) which back me up.  I think it’s important to do this because there are very few honest essays about this subject; neofeminists lie about it to promote their agenda, many sex-positive feminists misrepresent it for their own reasons, and most regular women lie or avoid the topic so as to spare men’s egos.  But these ladies have tackled it, using humor to provide Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar.

The first is an August 28th blog post from an English escort named Sensuous Amanda, which I discovered via cross-posting on Harlot’s Parlour:

If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard “I reckon I’d make a great male escort, don’t you think so?”  I’d have a significant amount of pennies.  What’s your point/the problem?  I hear you ask.  Well, there are several, to be honest.  For starters, the men who have the most unshakeable belief that they would be perfect male escorts, tend to be the ones who are 5’2”, average looking and (most importantly) humourless little personality vacuums…

Whilst I won’t say there is no market for straight male escorts, I will tell you that it is a teeny tiny market and it is awash with bright eyed hopefuls.  As far as I know, even the successful guys do it part time and have another job to pay the rent.  My guess (and that’s all it is) would be that there is a small demand for two types of male escort:

1)  The educated, well spoken, reasonably handsome, good listener.  The perfect gentleman who can listen to your problems, massage your feet, snuggle up on the sofa and can accompany you to any social occasion without drawing attention to himself for the wrong reasons and will have your fellow W.I. members frothing at the mouth with jealousy.  Not because he’s a young stud, (women – in general – don’t really work like that.  We would point, laugh and pour scorn upon the woman who turned up with a 20 year old shag toy)…but because he was the perfect gentleman.  The coveted Mr. Darcy.

2)  The 20-30 year old buff, tanned shag toy…[who] won’t be taken out in public…

The thing is though, that in general, women don’t want the first type to be a charade.  We want a man to be all of those things to us because he wants to be.  Not because we’ve just handed him a wad of twenties…Anyway, the point I was going to make, which has got completely lost in an avalanche of waffle, is this.  Boys, go for it if you want, but don’t rely on it for income.  For instance, my ex – a tall strapping chap, pretty good looking, in his early 30s at the time – advertised his services.  He’d seen what I was earning and decided that he wanted in on the action.  He never made a sodding penny.  Nothing.  Not so much as an email or a call.  Not even a timewaster.  However, he missed a trick.  He was bisexual and if he’d announced that in his advertising, things may have turned out very differently.  And THAT dear wannabe male escorts is the thing.  You wanna be a male escort?  Fine, you go for it sweetie.  You wanna make real money as a male escort?  Lube up, bend over and take one for the team.

The second one was a September 15th post on The Gloss which I discovered via a link on Tits and Sass:

The phenomenon of hiring a male stripper to celebrate your impending nuptials is a hard one to explain.  I, for one, do not quite understand the void that it fills in the life of the soon to be married woman.  In fact, if aliens arrived on this planet and the first thing they encountered was a greased up naked man tossing around a group of women, they would probably annihilate the lot of us, for being a superfluous species.  And yet, women continue to enlist oiled up muscle heads to entertain them at bachelorette parties, so clearly I am missing something.  I had a strict No Penis Policy at my own bachelorette party, a theme which one of my friends pointed out may have gone too far when we ended up at a strip club with topless ladies dancing around for us early Sunday morning.

Note the three chicks at stage right.

But to be honest, female strippers just make more sense to me than male strippers.  They’re (usually) hot ladies who take their clothes off while (mostly) men watch.  Men are highly visual beings, and there are actually a surprising number of body types on stage at the strip clubs I’ve been to…Male strippers are much different.  For starters, I’m sure some women lust after bare chested juice heads.  But most don’t.  And that is the standard model male stripper that arrives at your door…Simply put, women aren’t as visual about their desires as men are.  I think I can prove this with a simple comparison.  Men love magazines filled with scantily clad women.  This fact has kept Hugh Hefner wandering around a mansion in his pajamas for the last six decades.  Women?  Not so much.  This is probably why Playgirl  is a magazine for gay men.

All of that might also explain why male strippers don’t just dance for their patrons.  Often times they toss women in the air, rub themselves on their privates and bend them into positions and shapes that resemble terrible yoga poses.  If women weren’t paying for the pleasure of such treatment, these things would likely be considered criminal in a court of law…what you can expect when hiring a male stripper…[is] more like a gay cabaret show than anything involving my sexual fantasies.  And yet, women continue to pay for the pleasure of being swung around by these men before their friends get married…

And there you have it.  If you’ve got the time, I suggest reading them in unedited form because they’re  both quite amusing and the pictures on the male stripper one are priceless, and there’s one feminist commenter there whose tail-chasing performance (trying to convince the female author that her feelings and experiences are wrong because they contradict “social construction of gender”) is a lesson in itself.

One Year Ago Today

One Step Forward” reports the Ontario High Court decision, still being appealed by Ottawa a year later, which struck down Canada’s dangerous and tyrannical prostitution laws.

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Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant, don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart.
  –  Lou Reed, “Venus in Furs

Synchronicity is a strange thing.  Months will pass without news on a particular topic, then all of a sudden there’s an avalanche of stories which relate to it.  And so it has been lately with BDSM; we hadn’t seen a notable story on the topic since the beginning of June, then all of a sudden it’s back in spades just in time for the one-year anniversary of my three introductory BDSM columns.  First we had the report discussed in my September 15th column, then the big Fetlife brouhaha, then Monday’s column in which shockingly ignorant “researchers” equate women playing dominatrices in porn movies with female “empowerment”, and now this September 12th report of a scandal involving a dominatrix and a powerful British politician:

A dominatrix’s sensational story of sex, cocaine, and tabloid wrongdoing has revived questions over the relationship between Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-hungry News of the World and Britain’s Treasury chief, George Osborne.  Former escort boss Natalie Rowe…is claiming that the tabloid deliberately twisted her claims that she and…[Osborne] used to snort cocaine together years ago so that [he] was not tainted in the scandal.  The idea that Osborne…could have been deliberately cast in a sympathetic light by a Murdoch paper…raised new questions about whether the now-defunct tabloid was playing favorites with its political exposes [and] highlights the cozy ties between British politicians and the Murdoch press that Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to cut…

The story begins with Rowe’s 2005 claim that she and Osborne used to snort cocaine together years ago.  At the time, it was exactly the kind of story the brash News of the World loved — a mix of sex, politics and drugs…but…it appeared to take an unusually forgiving approach to Osborne, who at the time was managing Cameron’s bid to become leader of the British Conservatives.  Rowe now claims that News of the World reporters stole her story, which she was hoping to sell to a rival newspaper, and twisted the facts to make Osborne look better.  In an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. television, she accused the Murdoch tabloid of making her seem unreliable so as to undermine allegations against a man who now holds one of the most senior positions in the British government.  “They stole the story and then they didn’t even tell it as it should have been told,” Rowe said, according to a transcript of the interview due to be aired later Monday.  “They completely diluted it and made it look like I was not to be trusted…and all for George Osborne.”

Rowe’s claims that she, Osborne and his well-heeled friends indulged in cocaine together…are long-standing and have been repeatedly denied by the 40-year-old Osborne…Rowe claims that she was hoping to publish her allegations in the Sunday Mirror, which put out a story entitled “I snorted cocaine with top Tory boy” on October 16, 2005.  But the News of the World — under circumstances which remain unclear — got a hold of the story at the same time, running it under a less explicit headline:  “Top Tory, coke and the hooker”.  In an unsigned editorial published alongside the story, the News of the World said that Osborne “has now owned up to his encounters with a cocaine-snorting call-girl.  And robustly condemns drugs for the destruction they wreak”…

Then less than a week later, the top whoremongers in New York fired one of their top prostitutes for freelance harlotry on the side:

A well-respected lawyer in the state Attorney General’s Office spends her days toiling in securities fraud — and her nights moonlighting as a dominatrix…Alisha Smith, 36…becomes perky persecutor “Alisha Spark”…when she performs at S&M events…“They pay her to go to the events.  She dominates people, restrains them and whips them,” [a] fetish source said…Now Smith is on the receiving end of some serious discipline from her bosses at the AG’s office.  Yesterday, she was removed from her duties — for which she earns $78,825 annually — after The [New York] Post inquired about her saucy S&M lifestyle.  “The employee has been suspended without pay, effective immediately, pending an internal investigation,” said a spokesman for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  The spokesman would not elaborate on why Smith was being professionally spanked.

It comes just three years after she was lauded by then-AG Andrew Cuomo for her role in obtaining a $5 billion settlement from Bank of America and others in a securities-fraud case…Sources familiar with the issue say Smith’s punishment has less to do with her personal pleasure and more to do with the possibility that she profited from it…the Attorney General’s Office…requires employees to “obtain prior approval from the [Employment Conduct Committee] before engaging in any outside pursuit…from which more than $1,000 will be received or is anticipated to be received”…

The New York Post obviously has a fetish for getting former or part-time sex workers fired from their regular jobs; they were also the busybodies who exposed Melissa Petro last September.  Well, at least they picked on a lawyer this time instead of a teacher; maybe she can fight back.  And maybe somebody in New York should consider approaching her to do a little pro bono work for sex worker rights, now that she’s experienced stigmatization firsthand.

I’ll close on a lighter note, with this Susannah Breslin mini-interview of a Dallas dominatrix entitled, “The Dumbest Things About Being a Dominatrix”; while I agree with the interviewee that it’s really dumb that the so-called authorities “can penalize anybody who violates the social code of having all your sexual encounters be free,” I must point out that her contention that she isn’t a prostitute because she doesn’t have penis-in-vagina sex is equally dumb.  As I pointed out in my second BDSM column,

…the majority of [dominatrices] do not offer any other kind of sex, and indeed most of them do not consider themselves whores and may even be insulted if included in our number.  To them I say, “Tough titties, sisters!”  BDSM is a form of sexual activity; a woman who provides sex for pay is a prostitute; you provide BDSM for pay; therefore you provide sex for pay, therefore you are a prostitute.  Q.E.D.  You can call what you do “therapy” or “psychodrama” or whatever else you want, but it’s still sex.  What I provided was a form of therapy as well, but I’m still a hooker and so are you.

So there.

One Year Ago Today

Fallout” discusses the failure of political grandstanding to stem the rising tide of anti-prohibition sentiment in the United States.

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What I did is not such a great harm, with all these surplus women nowadays.  –  Rudolf Pleil (“The Death Maker”)

Though idealists prefer to deny it, Man is a predatory animal in whom the killer instinct is as natural as the sexual impulse.  An infant, given the power to do so, would destroy anyone who displeased him; it is only through maturation and socialization that we learn to curb our murderous impulses, or at least to restrict them to non-humans.  And thereby hangs the tale; some humans never internalize the wrongfulness of violence and only avoid it out of self-preservation (i.e., to avoid being caught and punished), while others find socially-sanctioned outlets for their violent impulses or sublimate them into non-physical forms.  But in all these cases there is still usually a thick enough layer of civilization that the individual is reluctant to attack others he perceives as being like himself, and this is where the process of dehumanization comes in; if he can convince himself that someone is somehow deserving of violence, or better still is less than human, he thereby shakes off the psychic fetters imposed by his upbringing which prevent him from attacking (or even killing) other humans.

Cops provide the classic example of this syndrome; though most of them are capable of functioning normally in society without victimizing others, many of them rationalize brutal, animalistic violence as acceptable if their victims are “criminals”, and with the vast expansion of laws in the past century that classification is no longer limited to genuine malefactors.  But even most cops reserve their most murderous rages for those officially (or personally) designated as subhuman, such as Jews, Gypsies or black people.  Many police departments use the slang term “NHI”, meaning “no humans involved”, for crimes committed against individuals that police consider not worth investigating; the term seems to have originated in Southern California in the 1960s and gained more widespread usage in the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Does anyone doubt that if crimes committed against such individuals are ignored by police when a stranger commits them, that they will not be actively covered up when committed by a “brother officer”?  And since prostitutes are included in the “NHI” category, we are all too often raped, robbed, beaten or otherwise victimized by cops with almost complete impunity.

Because of our “outsider” status, it’s very easy for the weak-minded to dehumanize whores.  Under a criminalization regime we are “criminals”, according to Judeo-Christian tradition we are “sinners”, to aging wives we are “homewreckers” and to insecure men we represent the unacceptable truth that women are in control of the sexual sphere; even neofeminists like Melissa Farley represent us as helpless, passive, faceless victims of men, thus justifying their constant attacks on our lives and livelihoods despite their claims of universal sisterhood.  Sometimes dehumanization is very subtle, as in the case of the clients who raped me or the trafficking fanatic in my column of one year ago today who was quick to attack a real prostitute for daring to be something other than an undifferentiated thing to be “rescued”; other times it’s horribly overt, as in this hate-comment I received on the same column.

But the most extreme dehumanization of prostitutes occurs in the minds of serial killers, who target us with terrifying regularity.  Sometimes the reason is practical; as the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, expressed it, “I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”  Few people notice missing streetwalkers, and because of “NHI” attitudes police aren’t usually very eager to investigate such cases until mutilated corpses start turning up.  But in other cases such as that of Jack the Ripper, the killer’s psychosis is specifically focused on prostitutes, probably because they are living representations of a female sexuality he hates and fears.  And recently-identified serial killer John Boyer, whose story appeared in the Huffington Post on September 18th, appears to have been somewhere in the middle:

Long-haul trucker John Boyer…[is] accused of at least three slayings and is suspected in a fourth.  Boyer has pleaded guilty to killing a woman in North Carolina and faces murder charges..in Tennessee and South Carolina…The similarities of the cases and the apparent lack of remorse from Boyer have investigators encouraging their counterparts along highways around the Southeast to review unsolved killings and missing person files.  Even his own attorney in the North Carolina case felt uneasy around him and wondered what else he might have done.

“I think there are a lot more.  There’s no telling.  This guy traveled all over the country.  Hopefully we’ll get more of these cases solved through DNA,” said detective Scott Smith of the Hickman County, Tenn., sheriff’s office.  In the case Smith investigated, Boyer picked up 25-year-old prostitute Jennifer Smith in April 2005 and brought her to an abandoned parking lot just off Interstate 40.  The two argued over money, and Boyer strangled the victim with the seat belt of his truck, dumped her body from the cab, and drove off…her body was found in 2005 by a highway worker, but it took two years for investigators to match DNA found on her body to a sample Boyer gave after pleading guilty in North Carolina.  Boyer confessed to the killing…but he also went on a tirade against women…

The investigator was chilled by the hatred toward women from a man who had never been married and lived with his mother near Augusta, Ga…Darlington County, S.C., Sheriff’s Capt. Andy Locklair immediately got the same impression when he stepped into an interview room to question Boyer about a killing in that state.  The first thing Boyer said to him was:  “What [bitch] are you here about?”  [The body]…of 34-year-old Michelle Haggadone…was found in April 2000 beneath pine straw at a parking area on Interstate 20 near Florence, about 30 miles from the truck stop where Boyer had picked her up.  Boyer immediately denied killing Haggadone, lashing out at Locklair and an investigator with him.  “He said he had slept with a lot of prostitutes and a lot of them were detectives’ daughters or prosecutors’ daughters,” Locklair said…”I’m not a behavior science expert, but he has some deep, deep issues with women.”  Haggadone was strangled with a wire or cord after the two argued over the price of her services, authorities said.  Her body went unidentified for a decade, until a DNA sample from a relative matched a sample from her body…Locklair and another investigator realized several aspects of the crime, like what the victim was doing and where and how she was killed, matched the earlier slayings linked to Boyer…[who] will be taken to Tennessee to face a first-degree murder charge after his North Carolina sentence ends.  Boyer is serving a sentence of up to 12 years…after pleading guilty in 2007 to second-degree murder for killing Scarlett Wood in Wilmington four years earlier.  Boyer said he was doing drugs with the 31-year-old prostitute when they had an argument, he pushed her, and she struck her head on furniture…but an autopsy found Wood suffered broken ribs and facial bones, and her pelvic bones showed signs of a stabbing.

…Boyer is [also] a prime suspect in the death of 26-year-old Rose Marie Mallette, who was reported missing in 2001, said New Hanover County Sheriff’s Det. Ken Murphy, a cold case investigator in Wilmington.  The reported prostitute’s remains were found wrapped in a blanket in an industrial area of the city a year later, the back of her skull crushed…Monica Caison, founder of Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons in Wilmington, said investigators need to look at three cases where women disappeared over five months in 1995 in Brunswick County, N.C., just west of Wilmington.  “We have a lot of unsolved missing persons in the general area…Mr. Boyer was known to frequent… that alone warrants a second look,” Caison said.  At least two of the unsolved cases involve woman who were small and slightly built, like Boyer’s other alleged victims…

According to this two-year-old story from the Telegraph, Boyer’s not alone; the FBI suspects a number of serial killers are working as long-haul truckers, the better to cover up their monstrous deeds.  Undoubtedly Boyer is responsible for at least a few of these 500+ unsolved murders, but the others are still out there.  Still, as an FBI agent quoted for the article said, “Many of the victims have been prostitutes and other women with high-risk lifestyles…We don’t want to scare the public and make it seem like every time you stop for gas you should look over your shoulder.”  And though he tacked on the obligatory “they didn’t deserve to die,” I think the general gist of his statement is clear; it isn’t real women who need to worry, only surplus ones.

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.  –  Alice Walker

In 1970 Carol Hanisch published a second-wave feminist manifesto entitled “The Personal is Political”, and its title soon became a big feminist catchphrase.  The only problem with that is, it’s a load of crap; usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open for increasingly tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives.  The idea that “the personal is political” is borrowed from Marxist dogma and basically means that nearly any problem experienced by an individual woman is the result of “systematic oppression.”  If she’s unhappy or has a screwed-up life it isn’t because she’s irrational, poor, uneducated, overly emotional, foolish or unlucky in the genetic lottery, or because she’s made bad choices, or because the world is intrinsically unfair and many people of both sexes are unhappy and have screwed-up lives; it’s because she is oppressed by the Patriarchy.  This is, of course, a fundamentally defeatist, paranoid and narcissistic view which removes responsibility from the individual and places it into a social context that encourages permanent class warfare (or in this case, gender warfare).  Since the two sexes are different by nature and will always be unequal in one way or another, this provided political feminists with a path to political power; women were essentially told that their situation was hopeless unless they supported the schemes of the feminist leadership in its brave and determined struggle against the Male Overlords.

There are many kinds of power, but the inherent simple-mindedness of second-wave feminism recognized only one type, political power, because it was the one political feminists craved and also the one women in the postwar era had least of.  Power had to be portrayed as something entirely external to the individual, which helps to explain how neofeminism was able to take control of the movement so quickly; if women realized that one of the greatest (and biologically speaking, the greatest) forms of power, namely sexual power, was already ours from birth, the Neomarxist catechism would be revealed as absurd and organized political feminism would collapse.  So neofeminists intentionally reversed the truth, portraying sex as something men used to control women rather than the other way around.  Second-wave feminism had launched itself by proclaiming that a woman could not take power for herself; she had to be empowered from outside (by a benevolent government controlled or at least influenced by political feminists).  Neofeminism merely established a dogma designed to cut women off from their own natural powers by alienating them from their own bodies and femininity, the sources of those powers.  To use a concrete analogy, the only way to consistently sell baby formula is to dry up women’s own milk or to convince them that nursing is unhealthy, disgusting or morally wrong.

“Empowered” is a deceptively simple word; it seems straightforward enough until you realize its underlying assumptions.  To “empower” someone is to grant her power; it automatically implies A) that she hasn’t got any in the first place, and B) that such power is the speaker’s to give.  Using the word in an active sense (“we need to empower women”) establishes the speaker or his organization as the intrinsic superior and benefactor of the person or persons so “empowered”, and using the word in a passive sense (“an empowered woman”) robs the person so “empowered” of agency, reducing her to the passive recipient of someone else’s benevolence just as people were imagined to be “granted” rights by a king in archaic political theory.  Consider the way bureaucrats from Western nations use the word in reference to the people of developing nations, and you will understand how neofeminists and politicized second-wave feminists view other women.

The word “disempowered” is equally patronizing because it implies that the one so “disempowered” (usually a woman) is a weak, passive, vegetable organism who can be “empowered” or “disempowered” at will by her political masters as easily as one installs or removes batteries from a toy.  With all that in mind, take a look at this article by Tracy Clark-Flory from the September 12th Salon:

…a new study investigates the link between a country’s relative gender equality and the degree of female “empowerment” in the X-rated entertainment it consumes.  Researchers at the University of Hawaii focused on three countries in particular:  Norway, the United States and Japan, which are respectively ranked 1st, 15th and (yikes) 54th on the United Nations’ Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM).  To simplify their analysis, their library of smut was limited to explicit photographs of women “from mainstream pornographic magazines and Internet websites, as well as from the portfolios of the most popular porn stars from each nation.”  Then they set out to evaluate each image on both a disempowerment and an empowerment scale, using respective measures like whether the woman is “bound and dominated” by “leashes, collars, gags, or handcuffs” or “whether she has a natural looking body.”  Their hypothesis was that societies with greater gender equity will consume pornography that has more representations of “empowered women” and less of “disempowered women.”  It turned out the former was true, but…the latter was not.  “While Norwegian pornography offers a wider variety of body types — conforming less to a societal ideal that is disempowering to the average woman — there are still many images that do not promote a healthy respect for women,” the researchers explain…

All researchers have biases which negatively impact the objectivity of their studies, but it’s rare that any outside of “women’s studies” are so glaringly obvious.  These academics are clearly laboring under the delusion that sexual desires are “socially constructed”, revealing a deep ignorance of biology and evolutionary psychology.  Furthermore, they clearly accept without question insulting and ignorant neofeminist beliefs about BDSM, have what I can only interpret as bigotry against cosmetic surgery and promote the degrading collectivist notion (perhaps related to the neofeminist gestalt myth) that it is “unhealthy” for men to be attracted to whatever kind of women they’re attracted to because it might make less attractive women feel bad.  Flory, who is generally pro-sex and pro-sex work, sees the flaws in these assumptions:

…One explanation might be that…cross-cultural biological imperatives are reflected in pornography.  Some of the study’s disempowerment markers could be more a reflection of the gender disparity in porn’s audience.  The researchers note, “In a large portion of hardcore pornography…the erect penis is the most important organ” and “women are often used as little more than receptacles for the penis.”  Is that because of sexism or because porn viewers, who are largely men, identify with…the male member?

…You can’t so easily equate dominance with empowerment and submission with disempowerment.  Take, as one example, that the researchers designate a woman in an “authoritative” position as a sign of empowerment.  That formula can be easily upended — clearly, submission feels empowering to plenty of people.  It’s also awfully subjective:  The popular line within the BDSM community is that it’s the submissive that has all the power, because they’re the ones calling the shots…sex isn’t always empowering or disempowering, equitable or inequitable — it’s much too complicated for that.

The researchers’ appalling ignorance of BDSM is apparent in their interpretation of dominatrix characters as a sign of female “empowerment”, despite the fact that such characters are as much archetypal male fantasy figures as are female slaves.  Actors play roles; to assume that an actress playing a dominatrix role is somehow more “empowered” than one in a sub role is as ridiculous as assuming that the actor playing a king in an historical drama must be the star simply because his character is more important inside the fantasy world of the movie.  But the most important point to note is the researchers’ patronizing assumption that male porn viewers are so impressionable that their level of “respect for women” can essentially be programmed by the content of their wanking material, and that women are such passive, childlike beings that mere images on a screen can grant them “power” or take it away.

One Year Ago Today

Imaginary Victims” examines the difficulty trafficking fetishists have in coming up with even a few poster children to represent the phantom multitudes upon which their propaganda depends.

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Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome.  –  William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (V, ii)

One year ago today I published “Pet Peeves”, a column which described five sex-related things that really, really irritate me:

1)  Men yanking the pillow out from under my head during sex
2)  Hitler moustaches (aka landing strips) in women’s pubic grooming
3)  Misuse of the word “vagina”
4)  Vulgarity
5)  Misuse of the word “homophobia”

Readers with analytical minds probably noticed immediately that 60% of these involve words, and that should come as no surprise because at least 99% of my readers have probably noticed that I really love words.  As a writer, words are my tools, and I cherish them and baby them the way a good mechanic cares for the tools of his trade.  And just as a good mechanic always uses the right tool for the job rather than trying to make do with whatever happens to be nearby, so I insist on using the right word; if I can’t find it right away I’ll sometimes sit staring at the monitor thinking, or else typing and deleting a number of different ones until I’m satisfied.  More often I’ll just continue on at full speed, then replace words which don’t quite work to my satisfaction in the proofreading process (fun fact:  I proofread each of my columns at least three times, the third of which is immediately after I publish it).  So by the time most of you read any given column, you can be reasonably sure that any word you see is the exact one I wanted to use, even if it’s one that you have to look up (as some of you are fond of teasing me).

And just as some mechanics are annoyed by seeing others misuse or abuse their tools, so am I annoyed by the misuse or abuse of words.  I don’t mean mere imprecision; my vocabulary is freakishly large and I don’t expect most people to have quite so many words at their disposal for every nuance of meaning.  No, what I’m talking about is the calculated and willful misuse of words by people who know better, which in turn influences others to use those words incorrectly (see my explanation about “homophobia” in last year’s column).  Everyone picks up words and phrases from friends, family, television, books and other sources; I hope I’ve introduced some of my readers to some useful words and phrases (including my own coinages such as “neofeminist” and “lawhead”).  Those who enjoy a particular show or writer or whatever will tend to adopt memorable or catchy examples of that source’s unique vocabulary, and if the source is very popular one eventually starts hearing the new word or phrase all over the place.  Some of these words or phrases are useful (despite never having seen a single episode of Seinfeld, I have caught myself saying “yada yada yada”), while others are merely annoying counter-words (if I never hear “Where’s the beef?” or “Cha-ching!” again it will be too soon).  But some really, really grate on my nerves, usually because I perceive them as vulgar.

It’s important to understand what I mean by “vulgar”; as I said in “Pet Peeves”:

I don’t meant honest discussion of sex; that is not vulgar.  Nor is the use of one-syllable Anglo-Saxon words such as shit, fuck, cunt, cock, etc which were in normal usage until the Norman overlords of England turned their noses up at them due to their peasant origins.  No, when I speak of vulgarity I mean leering, childish, dirty-sounding “euphemisms” for sexual acts and body parts which are actually much more offensive than just using the four-letter words.  Even worse are juvenile masculine attempts at “humor” derived from describing sexual terms in the most disgusting way possible.  As regular readers know I’m the farthest thing in the world from a prude, but this kind of filthy talk makes me want to slap the speaker and then wash his mouth out with soap.

I am absolutely delighted to state that in over 10,000 comments to this blog, I have seen only a tiny number of words or phrases I would deem vulgar; so few, in fact, that up to now I’ve completely ignored them.  But recently, my refined sensibilities have been repeatedly jarred by the use of certain vulgar phrases which apparently originated on men’s rights websites; what makes these phrases particularly odious to me is that they trigger two of my pet peeves simultaneously, because they are vulgar permutations of the word “vagina”.

esophagusWhen I was a lass, one rarely heard the word “vagina” outside of a sex-ed lesson or gynecologist’s office; in everyday speech we used “pussy” (or other terms like “cunt”, “twat” or “coochie”) to mean either the vagina or vulva.  But that started to change in the past decade; feminists (possibly due to the influence of the play The Vagina Monologues) started to use the word colloquially (and confusingly) to mean either “vagina” or “vulva”, which is rather like everyone suddenly deciding to use the medical term “esophagus” in place of common words like “mouth”, “tongue”, “lips”, “throat” and even “windpipe”.  Once women in the general population started doing this men followed suit, and then the term even seeped into non-anatomical slang uses (such as a gutless man being called a “vagina” rather than a “pussy”).  So it’s absolutely no surprise that the once-sterile term has now begun to sound vulgar, particularly when used in such ugly constructions as “mangina” (a male feminist or lap dog) and “gina tingles” (the entire female sexual experience reduced to a mere physical sensation).  And since (as detailed above) I find this sort of vulgarity deeply revolting (you don’t know how hard it was for me to type those terms), from here on out I’m going to replace them wherever I see them in comments.  Please, by all means use “vagina” to mean “vagina”, but let’s not have any more of these vulgar, quasi-misogynistic, “cute” distortions, OK?  I’m not upset with those of you who’ve used them in the past, nor am I trying to insult you or make you feel bad; every person is different and you may not see those terms as icky or off-putting, which is exactly why I’ve written this post.  I just wanted to let everyone know how I feel in the gentlest, nicest way possible.

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Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.  –  Phil Kerby

Every year, the last week of September is Banned Books Week, a celebration of intellectual freedom sponsored by the American Library Association.  Since I haven’t actually worked as a librarian since 1995 I have a tendency to forget about the event until just after it’s over, but since I didn’t exactly have a venue from which to speak about it in my stripping and escorting days it hardly mattered.  Last year I remembered just in time to mention it in “The Camel’s Nose”, published on the very last day of the observance, but this year I was fortunate enough to spot a press release a full week ahead of time, which gave me ample opportunity to write this.  I’m usually pretty skeptical of “Official Whatchamacallit Week” type things, but I find the idea of a week specifically dedicated to reading books which busybodies want to stop people from reading to be irresistibly subversive.

As this map indicates, we don’t really have a lot of censorship challenges in Louisiana; even though the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom estimates that only about 20% of all book challenges are reported, the dearth of Louisiana-based incidents is supported by my own experience.  Perhaps it’s the same laissez-faire French attitude which renders most South Louisianans unable to get worked up about nudity, or maybe it’s that other libraries there took the same practical approach we did.  If anyone came in with a complaint about a book, we simply asked them to fill out a form we had for just such an eventuality; it asked the complainant to fill in the page numbers on which the offending passages occurred, to explain what his complaints about those passages were, and to write a short essay explaining how he felt those passages were objectionable within the context of the book.  Only once in my library career did I have to issue such a form, to a group of “holy rollers” from the local fundamentalist church who had got the bright idea that they were going to challenge some book (I honestly can’t remember which).  Needless to say, neither form nor complainants ever came back.

Nowadays, the vast majority of censorship attempts are advanced under the “Think of the Children!” banner, and therefore the number of challenges to books in literature curricula and school libraries dwarfs those aimed at other types of libraries; once public libraries are added to that figure what remains is negligible.  Since ALA began keeping statistics in 1990, there have been a total of 4048 reported challenges to books assigned for classes, 3659 reported challenges to books in school libraries and 2679 to books in public libraries…and only 798 to all other institutions combined.  Here, too, Louisiana tends to be very tolerant; in high school I was assigned many of the books which are frequently challenged or banned, and remember that I was taught by nuns!

The images in this column represent many frequently-banned books; two of them are from ACLU posters which are here in PDF form.  The ten most often challenged books of last year, and the excuses would-be censors gave for demanding their banning, were as follows:

1)  And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

This children’s book in which two male penguins adopt and hatch out an egg was challenged on grounds of homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and “unsuited to age group”, a clever dodge which allows censors to pretend that they wouldn’t object to the book if it were assigned to children who were older than theirs.  Of course, the fact that the excuse is used even in high school challenges exposes it for what it is.

2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

This semiautobiographical novel about a young Indian who decides to transfer from the reservation school to an all-white high school was challenged on grounds of offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexual explicitness, violence, and “unsuited to age group”.  One noteworthy point: though we tend to think of censorship as the province of so-called “social conservatives” (and indeed, “sexually explicit” and “offensive language” are still the two most frequent excuses), so-called “social liberal” excuses such as violence, racism, sexism and “insensitivity” have become gradually more popular in the last two decades.

3)  Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

This classic dystopian novel was challenged for reasons of “insensitivity”, offensive language, racism and sexual explicitness; a Missouri challenge from 1980 sniffed that “it makes promiscuous sex look like fun”  (your point being?) and in 1993 a California parents group objected that the sexual norms in the fictional culture contradicted the school’s “abstinence only” sex education course.

4)  Crank, by Ellen Hopkins

This semiautobiographical novel has been compared favorably to Go Ask Alice (another frequent target of the thought police); it depicts the narrator’s struggle with addiction to crystal methamphetamine and was challenged because of drugs, offensive language, racism and sexual explicitness.

5)  The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins

These novels of a dystopian future were challenged due to sexual explicitness, violence and “unsuited to age group”.

6)  Lush, by Natasha Friend

This story of a teenage girl coping with her father’s alcoholism was challenged for drugs, sexual explicitness, offensive language and “unsuited to age group” (because obviously young teenagers never have alcoholic parents).

7)  What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

This verse novel of teenage angst was challenged on grounds of sexism, sexual explicitness, and of course “unsuited to age group” because real teenage girls never think of sex until they turn 18; before that they’re innocent, virginal “children”.

8)  Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich

It’s rare that a nonfiction book makes it into the most-challenged list, but I guess Ehrenreich’s exploration of the plight of the working poor is just too uncomfortable to contemplate for people who think living hand-to-mouth as a waitress or Wal-Mart clerk is preferable to making a good living as a prostitute.  The official reasons for challenges were drugs, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint and “inaccuracy” (because obviously the challengers were all economists).

9)  Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie

It’s a collection of stories by queer youth.  Need I say more?  Reasons: homosexuality, sexual explicitness.  Big surprise.

10)  Twilight (series), by Stephanie Meyer

Well, maybe the censors are right once in a while…just kidding!  The challenges weren’t based on lack of quality or sparking an inane fad, but because the books are sexually explicit, promote a religious viewpoint, feature violence and (all together now) are “unsuited to age group”.  I wonder if any of the censors would feel differently if they realized these books are actually abstinence propaganda?

I haven’t read any of these books except for Brave New World, and therefore can’t vouch for their quality.  But that never stops censors; few of them bother to read works before trying to ban them, which is why our little complaint form stopped them cold.  They just complain about the presence of certain “dirty” words or passages without making the least attempt to judge the work as a whole, and many of them don’t even go that far; they simply parrot the complaints of others in their club, church or other social group.

It’s bad enough when parents censor their own kids’ reading; though I have many complaints about my mother’s overprotectiveness I must give her credit for never, ever censoring our reading material.  When a public librarian once tried to stop me from taking out adult books (I was eleven if I recall correctly) my mother left standing instructions that I was to be allowed to read and borrow anything I liked, without restriction.  But far too many parents go in exactly the opposite direction; they not only want to restrict the intellectual freedom of their own children, but that of other people’s children as well.  And while I don’t think society should interfere in a parent’s child-rearing decisions (and censorship only encourages the kids to read the forbidden material anyhow), campaigning to restrict the personal rights of others to do as they like because it offends one’s own sense of morality or propriety is totally unacceptable in a free society.

One Year Ago Today

Out of Control” discusses the dangers posed by unbridled male sexual impulses and points out that current American laws sabotage the mechanisms evolved by society to channel those impulses.

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Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.
  –  Tom Jones, “Try To Remember” from The Fantasticks

At 9:04 GMT (4:04 AM CDST) this morning, the sun crossed the celestial equator on its way south, signaling the long-awaited arrival of astronomical autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and that of astronomical spring in the Southern; I hope my readers there don’t have a miserable, oppressively hot summer as we did here in the United States.  I am certainly enjoying the shorter, cooler days which have already arrived!  One year ago today I published a column containing an essay by my witch friend, JustStarshine, explaining the spiritual significance of this day for pagans; those of you in the Southern Hemisphere may prefer to read this essay on the vernal equinox instead.  In any case, I’m taking the day off; I’ve a feast to prepare and this is also the day when we switch everything to autumn mode (reversing the ceiling fans, putting blankets on the beds, replacing the wind baffles on the doghouse, etc).

I wish all of my readers a happy Mabon, and ask that whatever your beliefs may be, you all receive success and happiness in your personal, sexual, emotional and professional lives.  Blessed Be!

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As I said in my column on the Ouled Nail, the tribe’s origins are lost to history, but we can be certain their dancers were already entertaining travelers by the time the Arabs appeared in the 7th century CE.  And since the antecedents of the Berbers were painting on the rocks at Tassili some 2000 years before the last glaciers retreated from Europe, it may be that their customs are very ancient indeed and could perhaps be related to the myth that North Africa was ruled by the Amazons in the time of Atlantis.  I will not ask you to imagine a period so remote; for the purpose of this story, I ask that you grant me only that the dancing harlots of Algeria were already practicing their customs as I described them roughly 1000 years before the advent of the Arabs.

“Grandmother, what are they like, the men from the sea?  Mother says they are different from our men and even from the nomads and merchants.”

“And so they are; they have great wealth and learning, but they are filled with a restlessness which drives them to change the world, so that they are often ill at ease with even their own customs, much less those of others.”

The girl’s face clearly registered her confusion, so her grandmother said “I shall tell you a story of one such man, a regular patron of mine for many years, and then perhaps you will understand.

“The Wheel of the Year had turned all the way ‘round once again, and the sun had come to the place in his dance which signaled it was time for us to go down to the city.  And so my husband and brother loaded our camels and we bade them goodbye and rode down to seek our fortunes as I had fourteen times before, and as my mother and her mother before her had ridden in their turns.  I was married by that time and so no longer danced or allowed men to come in to my room, but my two younger sisters needed my guidance and that year my own eldest daughter, your mother, was at last old enough to begin working for her own fortune.

“I knew the way well and there were no mishaps, and this well pleased your mother, for she was full of the fire of youth and would have chafed at any delay in her debut.  It was all I could do to restrain her enthusiasm sufficiently to enforce rest upon our arrival; given her way she would have been dancing for her first coins ere the sun set!  But the next day was soon enough; as I told her there was no need for haste, and she would not be any the poorer at season’s end for having rested from her journey.

“The next night we laughed, her aunts and I, as I had known we would; all the years of lessons could not have prepared her for the exhaustion of body and mind one feels after one’s first day of dancing for strangers.  But she had done well, and the men had been kind, and I knew that by the time the merchants from Carthage started to appear in a few weeks she would be ready to impress them as I had done at her age.  And this was important, as it will be for you, for in addition to their gold they bring pearls, incense, perfumes, raisin wine and fine purple cloth, and other precious things from across the sea.  But to gain these treasures one must employ all of her charms to stand out from the other girls, for Carthage is a great city and her men have seen wonders and lain with the beauties of many nations.

“Soon they came as they always did, few in number but with sufficient guards to protect the expensive goods they brought to our land to trade; they were met by nomads bringing gold, ivory and precious stones and sometimes even the elephants the Carthaginians prize for their army.  And when the trading was done for the day they wanted entertainment, and I am proud to say your mother won their money with as much skill as some girls who had been dancing for years.  I knew that they were led by a man who was very fond of me, Mago by name, because he had already sent one of his servants to ask if he might visit me that evening as had been his custom for fourteen years.”

“But surely you did not lie with him!”

“No, child; when I found a husband I gave up earning money thus, as you will when your turn comes.  But he still enjoyed dining with me and talking to me, and as the needs of his body could be satisfied by my younger sisters he was content to respect my vows.  But I found my old friend in a strange humor that evening; he was strangely silent at dinner, and ate little of the fine food I had prepared for him.  He seemed overwhelmed with melancholy, and asked me strange questions he had never asked before; ‘Why do you live in this way?’ he asked, and ‘Do you not want better for your daughter?’  It quickly became clear to me that it was the presence of your mother which had affected him so; he knew of our customs, and indeed had met my own mother in the days when she travelled to town with me.  But because he had come to know me, it seemed to him a different thing for me to train my own daughter as a harlot than for others to do so.

“‘This is the way of our people,’ I told him, ‘and it has ever been so since the days when antelope grazed on the grasses of this land which is now a desert.  I learned the craft from my mother, as she learned from hers, and so on back to the Great Mothers of the beginning.  And as I have taught my daughter so she shall teach hers, and each shall dance and work and love in her season until the end of the world.’  But my words only agitated him; he spoke of ‘progress’, and ‘sacrifice’, and the latter word came with great bitterness and eyes shining with unshed tears.  I told him I did not understand, and he said that it was our job to build a better world for our children, one which was kinder to them; I replied, ‘any changes we make to the world are mortal, just as the things of the world itself.  Did you not yourself tell me long years ago that Carthage is the daughter of an older empire, now since fallen into ruin?  And no doubt that empire was built on the bones of another, and one day great Carthage herself must die as we all die.  Each learns from those that have come before, as we learn our trade from our mothers; each dances in her youth, and accumulates wealth and stature, and brings forth offspring and then moves on.  Summer gives way to autumn, and autumn to winter; we can teach and advise the young, but they must earn their own rewards.  We cannot do it for them, nor force them to live in a way appropriate to the mature or old.’

“But it was no use; he heard my words but there was a secret pain in him, something of which he would not speak, and he looked upon your mother and sighed with profound sadness.  Then he took from his satchel a great treasure, a jar of the purple dye worth twenty times its weight in gold, and presented it to me in trust for your mother, ‘To hasten the day when she can buy a house and have daughters of her own,’ he said.  Then he embraced us both and left, and never again did I see him after that night, though she and I returned every season, always staying in the same house, until she married.”

Dihya sat quietly for a moment, and then shook her head and said, “Strange indeed.”  And then, “Thank you, grandmother,” and excused herself to join a group of her friends she had espied through the window.

Her mother had remained quiet throughout the story, but after the girl had quit the room she spoke.  “Though almost twenty years have passed I well remember that night, and often have I thought upon the man who endowed me with such a valuable gift, yet asked for nothing in return.  Was it merely a token of his love for you?”

“No, it was more than that,” the older woman said.  “He and I were both reasonably certain that he was your father.”

One Year Ago Today

The second part of my very first Q & A column.

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The right to be respected is won by respecting others. – Vasily Sukhomlynsky

I never fail to be amazed by the cluelessness of some people.  In this increasingly pluralistic world, increasing numbers understand that it is reprehensible for any group to spread lies about a minority, to dehumanize its members, to represent them as imbeciles and to advocate their legal persecution.  Most hate groups recognize that they themselves constitute a minority, and look upon their own persecution as the inevitable result of their struggle to defend the Holy Truth revealed to them by their anointed leaders.  But one such hate group, once very powerful but now slowly but steadily shrinking in size and influence in most civilized parts of the world, recently demanded the right to insult and attack others without being insulted and attacked itself; it “demand[ed] the right to exist, think and work from [the] perspective” of trying to deny another minority group the same “right to exist, think and work,” and furthermore declared it “unacceptable” that its hostile, violent rhetoric and political lobbying should be recognized as hostile and violent.  I am not making this up; take a gander at this June 23rdLetter to the Feminist Movement” called to my attention by the ever-vigilant Brandy Devereaux:

In the wake of a series of targeted attacks–sometimes subtle, other times blatant–aimed at abolitionist feminists, we call on you, as members of the feminist movement in Québec, to react.  Abolitionist feminists address the fundamentally patriarchal but also racist, capitalist and colonialist nature of the institution of prostitution.  The purpose of their…work is to equip feminists with information and tools to enable them to argue that the sex industry is illegitimate and must be eradicated.  They also seek to ensure that women have the right to extricate themselves from the exploitative conditions inherent to this industry…They know that all feminists do not agree with their analysis.  But they demand the right to exist, think and work from this perspective.

Abolitionist feminists are publicly denigrated, and, in diverse settings such as universities (including professors) and the social media (individuals’ and group Facebook pages, blogs, websites), are characterized as:  “moralizing Christians; old, fat and ugly women who have nothing to do; crazies; sluts and Nazis”…Abolitionist feminists are explicitly combatting male violence, yet they are told they are “endangering women in prostitution,” and – the ultimate insult–that they are “committing violence against women in prostitution!”  Feminists who take the risk of naming and denouncing men’s violence…are accused of committing violence against other women.  Regardless of our past or our experience as feminists, we believe that it is always, and has always been, unacceptable to tolerate feminists’ use of tactics designed to silence other feminists, even when we are in disagreement…It is unacceptable to say that abolitionist feminists are committing violence against women in prostitution…

Did you catch that?  They want to silence people who insult them on the grounds that it is unacceptable to silence other feminists, and it’s OK for them to denounce what they perceive as violence, but not OK for sex worker rights supporters to denounce them for what we perceive as violence.  The trip down the rabbit hole continues:

In fact, for the last 20 years in Québec, it has been very difficult to find space in which to present abolitionist feminist analysis…abolitionist feminists…hope, through their actions, to enable increasing numbers of women to understand that abolitionist feminist analysis is most consistent with their principles of liberty, equality and solidarity, they respect the right of individual women and groups to arrive at their own position…we would nevertheless like feminists to exhibit feminist solidarity by opposing the tactics of denigration and boycotting.  We reiterate our respect for the fact that some feminists do not share the analysis of feminist abolitionists.  But to call abolitionist feminists names, to “study” them as a phenomenon of violence against women, and to call for a boycott of groups like the Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle on the pretext that abolitionist feminists are a danger to women far exceeds the threshold of fair and reasoned debate.

In other words, it’s acceptable for prohibitionists to seek to eradicate what they believe is a danger to women, but unacceptable for other feminists to seek to eradicate what they see as a danger to women.  And it’s “fair and reasonable” for prohibitionists to “study” prostitutes, but not for sex worker rights advocates to study prohibitionists.  Just making sure you’re following this watertight logic.

…This is why we are calling on you today to help put an end to these tactics so that we can debate freely…We are asking you to refuse to tolerate or endorse this denigration or to participate in any way in silencing feminist abolitionist discourse.  Whatever the analysis of certain feminist groups or the issues at stake, we are asking you to act when these groups are treated as “crazy” or “violent”…

Even when they’re, like, crazy or violent.  But wait; you don’t know the half of it yet.  This letter claims that poor widdle neofeminists can’t find any soapbox from which to peddle their hate; they claim they’re being wrongfully ganged up on, insulted and marginalized and that all they want is “fair and reasoned debate.”  They don’t have any actual evidence to back up these claims, such as reports of specific incidents at feminist convocations or anything, so we’ll have to seek it elsewhere; how about a report from Xtra! on the recent “Women’s World 2011” conference, which began in Ottawa (not so very far from Montreal on a global scale) just ten days after the date of the letter:

At the recent Women’s World 2011 Conference held in Ottawa, sex workers and their allies found themselves silenced and outnumbered by anti-sex-work groups and a controversial art exhibit entitled Flesh Mapping:  Prostitution in a Globalized World…Designed to bring together researchers and activists on women’s issues, this year’s event unexpectedly highlighted a deep and painful fissure in the feminist movement, with hostile clashes at the sex-worker advocacy panels and in the common spaces over the course of the five days.

The week’s schedule included numerous panels arguing, from various angles, to end global prostitution.  This movement, more commonly associated with an earlier generation of anti-pornography, anti-sex-work feminism, argues that sex work is inherently exploitative of women…In comparison, pro-sex-work groups at Women’s World were small in number…and…[argued] for safer working conditions, harm-reduction strategies and the option to choose their occupation.  Together they support groups like Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), which has made significant grounds in arguing for decriminalization in Canada.  The chasm between the two groups became obvious at the…Flesh Mapping [exhibit]…which… included 70 used bed sheets as canvases [to express] sentiments…“that denied our existence and our choice, that denied the existence of choice in the sex industry at all,” [one attendee said].

…Oral presenters at the two sex-worker advocacy panels were also harassed…After the presentations…one audience member suggested that the presenters were perpetuating not only patriarchy but also the “oppression of capitalism” with their choices [and] a group of anti-sex-work supporters stood up and cheered…then “stood congratulating each other…They were there to humiliate us, to silence us, to laugh at us, to yell at us,” [escort attendees said]…A representative for Women’s World shared her disappointment at the events:  “We now recognize that pro-sex-worker activists felt unsafe at the congress.  We take this very seriously and have plans to dialogue with representatives of that community about how to ensure the situation is not repeated at future Women’s Worlds and similar gatherings”…

Given the current state of Canadian law, the neofeminist rhetoric spouted at the recent prostitution law hearings in Ottawa and the omnipresence of the prohibitionist dogma in mainstream American media, which of these contradictory views do you feel more closely reflects the present situation in Canadian feminism?  I know who I believe, though I certainly wish it were the other way around.  Still, it’s inevitable that it will become so as third-wave feminists become the majority, and the “Letter” is a preview of the sort of delusional whining we can expect to hear a lot more of once the shoe really is on the other foot.

One Year Ago Today

Q & A (Part One)” was the very first column in which I answered questions sent in by readers.

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