Archive for Sex+ Government
As the title of this post may suggest, if you find yourself not interested in politics or feminism or expressions of my perspectives on them, you may want to skip this post.
A few days ago, I read an article from Glamour magazine that came out months ago and had been on my “to read” list ever since: “President Barak Obama Says, ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like.'”
By the time I finished reading it, I was openly crying. The juxtaposition of my reasons for such was breathtaking.
For context, I want to back up a moment and share a post I made to my personal Facebook profile on November 10:
“Yesterday I felt horrified that Trump won. Today I feel devastated that Clinton lost. She worked so hard (for decades), is so qualified, was so prepared. She lost to a man who by no stretch could be called any of those things. I see it as (among other things) wretchedly unfair. I also feel a considerable part of the populace of this country has either forgotten, doesn’t realize, or doesn’t take seriously that the presidency is in fact a job. Yes, the campaign cycle has been reduced to a sensational media show in this country, but being President is an actual job that requires attendant skill and expertise, and this country has elected someone who has demonstrated zero experience and qualifications to hold it, in addition to demonstrating no discernible interest in learning that I have observed.
All that is leaving aside for the moment the myriad reasons I feel profoundly appalled that Trump was elected in the face of what he did demonstrate. This post at the moment is not a call to action or an offering oriented toward uplift or helpfulness (those may come). It is simply an expression. An expression of sadness, of lamentation, of some things I feel right now amidst many other things I have felt, do feel, and will likely feel.
Love to all.”
That reflects how I feel now as precisely as it did then.
To return to the article, which was written by President Obama, I hardly know how to describe what an inspiring, insightful, incisive, beautiful offering I found it to be from a person I’m so grateful this country has had the honor of the leadership of for eight years. Perhaps my favorite line was, “And yes, it’s important that [his daughters’] dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”
As they absolutely should. I was, quite simply, moved to tears by the gratitude and resonance I felt in the face of such exquisite awareness, articulateness, groundedness, and respect for humanity. It was truly one of the most beautiful pieces on feminism I had ever read.
Simultaneously, I was crying because it was literally almost painful to read such a profound exposition against the backdrop of knowing we had just elected as the next president a man who has unambiguously asserted sexist, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, and indeed misanthropic (I have seen it said and understand myself that “all hatred is self-hatred”) views in both personal and political/social contexts. Throughout the election cycle, I had perceived it as disgraceful that such a candidate had made it as far in the electoral process as he had; that he was actually elected to the presidency indicates such profound ugliness to me about our country I’m not sure I know how to articulate it.
The contrast was staggering. And for me, there are two separate though obviously related issues at hand. One is the prospect of Donald Trump’s being President. Of course I find that horrifying given the things I interpreted him as saying and the astonishingly low capacity to self-regulate I observed in him throughout his campaign. The other is that, regardless of what he demonstrates or instigates or accomplishes as President, a considerable portion of the populace of this country voted for him to be the leader of it in the face of his unabashed expression of perspectives embracing sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia of all stripes. In a nod to rape culture, this country voluntarily put in a position of (tremendous) power a man who explicitly condoned sexual assault. Whether or not Trump governs the way he campaigned, he still campaigned as he did, and almost half the people voting in this country voted for him amidst the tremendous unconsciousness and service of fear he displayed. Yes, I am horrified by the idea of his being President. I am at least as horrified that he was elected as such.
I have seen a proposition that a large proportion of his voters were rural, white, poor people. I don’t necessarily doubt that. And I have not been in the situation those voters have, which I truly and deeply appreciate. In the case of those voters, it is wrenchingly sorrowful to me that there are people in this country who find themselves in a position so dire that they feel compelled to vote for someone who demonstrates intentions to harm entire populations based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion in order to feel their own situation will improve or even that they will survive. (Very sadly, I have not and do not for one second feel Trump intends or desires to do anything at all to help those people. I did not at any point during the campaign see any indication that he has or has ever really demonstrated any desire to help anyone but himself.)
For those who are not in that situation and who also voted for Trump, I have seen a number of posts in the relatively sparse perusal I have been doing of social media since the election that seem to want to offer assurance of the understanding that they themselves do not consider themselves racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc…. I acknowledge that I am not there at this time. However much those voters may not feel or want to identify with supporting racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia themselves, they voted for a ticket that did, making their vote complicit with allowing those perspectives to ascend to representation in the highest level of official authority in this country. I don’t know how we could not yet as a species, or at least as a country, have come to understand that passive support of violence and oppression represents a stark and potentially grave threat, but I fear we may be in for another lesson to assist us in doing so.
Right now, I take a deep breath and reaffirm the appreciation I feel that our current President, in the piece that inspired this blog post, understands and offers such an aware, humanitarian, enlightened perspective and understanding of feminism’s importance, along with a resting, even amidst the revulsion I feel, that there are others out there who understand…that humanity is aware in part of things like intrinsic human equality even as other factions have not yet caught up to that level of awareness. That there is shadow in all of us and our work to see and release our own helps release the collective shadow that has so grossly emerged at this moment in United States (and human) history. And that we are still, and always, all One.
In answer to the perspective I have been seeing expressed that Donald Trump must now be given the “chance to lead”—of course he’ll get a chance. There’s nothing I (or anyone else) can do about that now.
I regret that this nation saw fit to offer him one.
-Barbara Kingsolver (“End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House”)
Today, March 3, is International Sex Worker Rights Day. I interpret this as a day to educate about, support, and advocate for the rights of sex workers everywhere. I have blogged about this day here at The Green Light District since 2010, when I first learned of it.* This year, as I did in when I first blogged about it 2010, I’m going to offer a small roundup of pieces that, to me, celebrate the progression of sex worker rights and sex worker rights awareness in the last year. (Some of these will have appeared in Recommended Reading.)
Before I do, I’d like to comment briefly on one thing I haven’t covered a lot in my posts here about sex work. That is the idea of the “Swedish model,” or criminalizing the purchase of sexual services rather than the actual act of selling them (i.e., criminalizing the client instead of the practitioner).
I’d like to ask anyone reading this and/or who supports such legislation to imagine the purchase’s of the service or product you sell in order to make a living being criminalized. Not the service itself—you go on about your merry way making a living selling it—only the purchase of it. That way they’re taking it easy on you, right? They won’t criminalize the way you make a living. Whew! They’ll just criminalize the act of actually purchasing it from you.
Please consider how that would affect your business. Truly, please consider it. And while you’re at it, please consider what kind of clients you’d get. (In case it isn’t obvious, I’ll give you a hint: you’d get ones who don’t mind breaking the law.) Feel safer now doing your job?
If you’ve spent more than seven seconds on my blog, you probably know I support the decriminalization of all forms of sex work (and certainly do not support criminalizing the purchase of these services if sex work is decriminalized). Sex worker rights, of course, extend beyond criminalization, but legal status is one of the most prominent areas in which sex workers’ health and lives are endangered because of (as I see them) misguided laws and subsequent labor rights infringements.
Without further ado, following are a few measures since last March 3 that seem to indicate a widening of the understanding of sex workers’ rights and the ways laws have inhibited and still do inhibit them:
Happy International Sex Worker Rights Day 2014!
“Sex worker wins harassment case”
March 1, 2014
This is truly heartening to see.
This contains so many important and helpful distinctions and insights. I was thrilled to discover it. (It is not dated, but it was new to me, and the comments on it appeared earlier in 2014.)
“Sex worker fights for victims of rape, assault”
December 14, 2013
While I could hardly stand to read that this kind of legislative initiative had been allowed any credence whatsoever, since it was, I appreciate this article (and certainly that said legislation was rejected) even more.
“Does banning prostitution make women safer?”
July 8, 2013
I’ve long appreciated the in-depth and articulate responses Laura Agustin has managed to give to repeated questions like this via her extensive research on sex work in myriad geographical regions and contexts.
(Bonus commentary: Speaking of Laura, if you are interested in reading a longer discussion from her on this subject, I recommend this from August of last year: “Prostitution Law and the Death of Whores.”)
Last summer, the “No Condoms as Evidence” bill, which disallows the use of condom possession as evidence of practicing prostitution, passed the New York State Assembly. While prosecutors in New York had already stated they would not accept condoms as evidence of prostitution, legislation prohibiting the practice would protect sex workers (and others) from the atrocious application of law enforcement’s confiscating and presenting condoms as evidence of intent to partake in prostitution.
I blogged about this years ago, as I was and am appalled by the idea of making the receipt of funding for HIV prevention contingent on overtly opposing prostitution. I was/am so pleased to see the Supreme Court overrule such an absurdity on First Amendment grounds.
“International Sex Worker Rights Day 2013” (2013)
“An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh” (2012)
“Bittersweet Balloons” (2011)
“International Sex Worker Rights Day” (2010) “Further division is not the answer—division is not the answer…”
-Ben Lee “I Love Pop Music”
Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I acknowledge I have not yet planned or composed a blog post for the day—but I don’t feel I ever want the day (or International Sex Worker Rights Day on March 3) to go by unacknowledged on my blog, even if it is just a placeholder post to announce that that is indeed what day it is.
At the least, I traditionally light my red candle today. I just searched for it and don’t seem to know where I put it after last year’s lighting. So I just called Rick Write to ask him to pick me up a new one on his way home, and I will light it as soon as he gets here. Though it won’t be lit very long today, as we have plans away from home for most of the evening, it is done with full reverence for all sex workers who have experienced violence in the context of their work. The flame itself may be relatively brief, but the ongoing fire of love and support for my fellow former and current sex workers is always in me.
And, of course, I hold in love all who have ever experienced or perpetrated violence and hold a deepest wish for our awakening out of the unconscious constraints and limitations that drive it.
Love to all, everywhere, always,
P.S. As I finish and post this, my red candle has arrived and is now lit.“What will I tell my daughter, what will you tell your son…that we were nothing but a shadow, a faceless generation void of love?…”
-LIVE “What Are We Fighting For?”
When I started working as a webcam model several years ago, I had been writing erotica just long enough to have been exposed to Violet Blue and correlative sources I considered credible in sex education and sexual health (most notably Good Vibrations, whose online magazine had also published my work). I was certainly no expert, though; I had heard this word “phthalates” and that it was in a lot of sex toys and that contact with it wasn’t particularly good for you.
neurotic about very cognizant of germs, I did careful research to make sure I was getting toys that could be unambiguously sterilized. I somehow learned enough to be aware that a toy that was 100% silicone was not going to have phthalates in it, and I understood I could sterilize it too. (This is because, as I understand it, it is nonporous, which is what one generally wants one’s sex toys to be). Glass appeared to be the same way.
Thus, because I just barely knew enough to discern credible sources and reputable sellers, I managed to procure quality sex toys on my first try, purchasing a silicone dildo direct from Tantus and a glass one from Good Vibrations. (I’ve since added a few from the highly-recommended njoy line to my collection.)
Unnervingly, however, had I not already been exposed to the high-quality information from educators and retailers in the community whose company I am so glad to now keep, knowing I should get a toy made of 100% silicone might not have been enough. Because manufacturers of sex toys, or what are sometimes called “novelties,” aren’t required to follow standards of accuracy when listing the materials in their toys.
In other words, they may lie.
That’s because there is no official oversight of the sex toy industry. In a way, this does not surprise me. At this juncture, our culture seems to have a hard time acknowledging sexuality in any kind of a sincere, curious, or grounded way; if it is not imbued with disturbing and arbitrary puritanical standards, it tends to be at best treated with avoidance and/or pubescence and generally not recognized as a subject to take seriously.
As may be obvious, it is a subject I take seriously. Delightfully, I am not alone—the three individuals behind the brand-new nonprofit organization Dildology.org take it seriously enough that they are ready to put their time and attention into helping the public understand what is in the sex toys they’re using on/in their bodies.
Dildology.org intends to provide material verification services and maintain a public database of the results, adding transparency and oversight to the industry while educating the public about the science behind pleasure products. We stand on our own, uninfluenced, and we are dedicated to protecting the health and wellbeing of the dildo-loving population at large through education (and maybe a little entertainment).
Phthalates, which I mentioned earlier, are prominent in some sex toys. They are, incidentally, not allowed in children’s toys in the U.S.—by order of a government regulation. That makes me not really feel like I want them in a product that is touching and going inside my body either. And phthalates aren’t the only potentially harmful material sex toys may contain. There’s a reason I included this post from Dangerous Lilly, one of Dildology’s founders, in a Recommended Reading post back in 2010.
One of the reasons Dildology’s service seems so valuable to me is that, due in large part to the circumstances I lamented above about sexuality/sexual health/sexual pleasure not seeming treated as the venerable subjects I feel they are, it seems to me that some people may feel self-conscious about discussing sex toys and thus not ask those of us who would be more than happy to proffer information about them. To me, this makes Dildology.org even more vital as a central, publicly accessible resource to check the safety and reliability of sex toys and companies. Not only will it provide far more advanced and reliable information about the materials in specific toys than even the extensive research I did, but it will counteract anyone’s unawareness of where to even start looking for such information and/or embarrassment about asking someone who does. I happened to know where to look to find the information I needed. Many people don’t.
At the same time, I was also having amazing conversations with people about how using sex toys enriched their sex lives. Helping them experience their first orgasms, prolonging partnered sex, revitalizing relationships. How they were falling in love with masturbation, experiencing intense self-esteem boosts from embracing their quest for pleasure. I was purchasing and personally testing every dildo I could get my hands on, going through a transformation of my own sexuality through sex toys.
And of course that makes sense to me. I’m all about this kind of personal sexual revolution and aim to support it myself however I can. While I don’t review or even collect toys very much myself, I appreciate their relevance and potential importance to the sexual journey of many. That, again, is one of the reasons I’m blogging about this today.
Another is that the kind of reliable testing Dildology.org will be doing is not cheap—which is why I’m participating in this blog carnival to support them in asking for financial donations. In order to remain unbiased, Dildology.org will not be accepting advertising (they will be somewhat like the Consumer Reports of sex toys). Their funding will be coming solely from the grassroots base that supports, appreciates, and benefits from what they’re doing.
My hope is that at this point you feel sparklingly inspired to donate to Dildology.org. :) If you don’t quite yet, please take a look at this list of extra incentives offered in conjunction with your generous donation. All incentives include the products/prizes included in the previous lesser incentive levels as well:
- Donate $15 and get a 15% coupon for SheVibe.com.
- Donate $25 and get a Dildology spyglass crossbone sticker when the fundraising goal (of $20,000) is reached.
- Donate $50 and get an official “DILDOLOGIST” t-shirt when the fundraising goal is reached.
- Donate $100 to be included on the website’s donor list.
- Donate $250 and choose one of the next products Dildology.org tests.
- Donate $500 to receive naked pictures of the founders. (Note: This is qualified with a parenthetical “maybe” on the site. ;).)
If you use sex toys and care about knowing whether the ones you use are safe for your body, or if you don’t use sex toys and care that people who do know the ones they use are safe for their bodies, you’re our audience. (Welcome. ;)) I hope that you’ll care enough about it to support Dildology.org as they work to get this revolutionary venture off the ground. Perhaps even someday, the sex toy industry as a whole will be accountable to accuracy, health, and quality, and we’ll be that much closer to a world where sexuality is something to appreciate, discuss, and take seriously just like food or medicine or children’s toys. I truly feel this kind of grassroots endeavor is exactly how that starts.
-30 Seconds to Mars “Hurricane”
Today (March 3) is International Sex Worker Rights Day.
Years ago—and I don’t remember what exactly prompted me to examine the issue—it occurred to me that prostitution should be decriminalized (or more accurately, I could find no compelling reason for prostitution to have been made illegal in the first place). After I felt that way for a while, it occurred to me to question just what exactly was immoral about it as well. I accept that for some people, an answer to that would be easy to formulate. I hold too that for others (myself included), the answer would be nonexistent. And that makes sense, because sexuality and its correlative ethics are very individualized things. Despite valiant societal efforts to make everyone conform to the same standards and behaviors in the sexual realm, they have continued to be and will continue to be personally unique. As well they should.
While I understand sex workers to be anyone who works in the sex industry, such as strippers, pornographic performers, phone sex operators, etc., I am choosing to focus in this post on whores (so that from this point on in this post when I use the term “sex worker,” I am referring to that particular variant).
Two of the ways I feel we do the greatest disservice to sex workers and actually, the general population, are by 1) refusing to acknowledge and devote attention to nuance and degree in discussions about sex work and 2) repressing and avoiding sincere examination of sexuality in general. To start with the latter, if each of us was to attend to ourselves, to explore how sexuality operates in us and influences us on conscious and unconscious levels, society would begin to open up around this realm—instead of acting in the pubescent, oppressive, puritanical, unconscious way I feel it has tended to act. This in turn would allow us to interact and engage in sexual—and other—ways so much more consciously that I suspect a lot of the discomfort around sex work would disappear (as a lot of our discomfort around sex in general indeed dissolved).
Until or unless that happens, recognizing the nuances surrounding sex work seems essential to me in supporting human beings practically and recognizing sexual and gender rights and autonomy ideologically. Some sexual labor is forced, which is hideous and unacceptable. Some sex work is not done enthusiastically but is chosen over other options to earn a living—which probably describes a lot of people’s jobs. And some is chosen freely from a position of the privilege to choose from a number of other professions or options.
These are just three basic scenarios, along a spectrum on which numerous further distinctions exist. Yet as basic as they seem, these kinds of considerations frequently seem utterly absent to me in discussions about sex work and especially potential “responses” we have to it. Some people, indeed, seem to treat the sex industry as if the entirety of it is a problem to somehow try to eradicate. (I of course find this both nonsensical and arbitrary.)
This especially seems the case to me in regard to female sex workers. Sometimes it has seemed to me that society finds the female whore so unnerving that it doesn’t actually even want her to be in control. As if, deep down, we would rather have her be a victim—doing something she desperately doesn’t want to do, that is abnormally and intrinsically degrading her, than sexually comfortable and autonomous and flouting society’s rules. In this way, even those who are sympathetic to sex workers still take, through their condescension, a degrading stance toward them—or at least toward their profession, which if it is indeed freely chosen, amounts to the same thing. If she’s a victim, she’s not so threatening to the cultural constraints by which we generally live without question. We aren’t—don’t have to be—so afraid of her.
Regardless of one’s profession, it is not acceptable for individuals to be treated cruelly and have their rights arbitrarily violated and disrespected. This happens to sex workers all the time, but society justifies its lack of caring by noting the profession’s supposed inappropriate nature and subsequent illegality. What it appears to me we are saying when we do this is that people who have determined that their circumstances, perspective, or interests allow for them to provide sexual acts as a professional service and thus not conform to some proposed societal sexual standards have somehow relinquished their fundamental humanity and correlative rights. Our dismissal of the dangers sex workers may experience in their line of work (largely due to its illegality and the general sexual unconsciousness of our culture) as “deserved” or at least inevitable demonstrates, upon reflection, that we would rather have sex workers be assaulted or even dead than sexually in control and providing their expression of such as a service for money.
At this point I feel a sharp, chilling horror at the ease with which we despise sex workers and consider them almost universally unworthy of respect. Ideally, we take our proclivities and capacities and offer them as a service in some fashion, developing and refining them along the way. I truly do not understand why it seems so difficult to recognize this phenomenon in sex work as in any other industry where we don’t seem to have a problem seeing it. I continue to aspire to support society in understanding this and to support sex workers in whatever way(s) I can. Wishing all the best on this International Sex Worker Rights Day, March 3, 2013.
“It is not sex work that exposes sex workers to violence; it is our willingness to abandon sex workers to violence in an attempt to control their behavior.”
-Melissa Gira Grant “The War on Sex Workers”