Archive for Sex+ Freedom/Rights

June 19th, 2019

A Focus on Abortion Access

A couple weeks ago I heard Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, say on NPR’s All Things Considered that if Missouri’s single abortion clinic were unable to provide abortions, people seeking abortions in that state have the fortunate circumstance of Missouri’s being surrounded by eight different states, so that many facilities that provide abortions are “very close by” there.

How handy! Arkansas, for example, which is so well known for its rich abundance of reproductive health facilities, is a mere 150-mile hop, skip, and jump from central Missouri. What a relief! Such a relief, in fact, that while they’re at it, perhaps they should stop selling Viagra in Missouri and just send anyone wanting it to one of the very-close-by neighboring states to pick it up. It’s fair to assume, incidentally, that people seeking such health care measures are just sitting around with gas-filled vehicles looking for something to occupy their time, yes?

Something I’m aware of about myself is that when I get sarcastic, it means I’m so pissed off I can hardly see straight and haven’t quite processed that yet. So I’m taking a deep breath now. And what I mean to say is that if you don’t want people with uteruses to legally have the same bodily and sexual autonomy as people without uteruses, please acknowledge that and spare any listening audiences the malevolent condescension of pretending you give a shit about the health and well-being of such people.

Case in point: the interviewer asked two direct questions about patients seeking abortion care, and Dr. Williams’s answers to both did not reference or mention patients a single time. While telling, this is not surprising. Because he doesn’t care about them.

For those who want to talk about killing the unborn, this is my serious response: You prefer killing already born or grown people via war, economic policies that encourage poverty, and inaccessible healthcare? Obviously we see this differently. But if you want to say that abortion is murder and leave that statement as the singular reason abortion is wrong or should be illegal, I will assume you are 100% against all war under all circumstances. If you are not, that means you find “murder” justifiable under some circumstances. When and why is it okay? When it is government-sanctioned and done to people on the other side of the globe by people in uniform? Yes? No? If it is not the case that you are against lethal warfare under all circumstances, then that means you find killing people justifiable under some circumstances, so you need to come up with why it is not justifiable in the case of abortion if you think killing someone is what it is. Simply falling back on the statement that it is “murder” does not work, as we just established that you do not find murder 100% unacceptable or unjustifiable in and of itself.

I’ve said this before, and I continue to find it an important consideration on the subject of abortion: pregnancy and childbirth are unique. I don’t think they can be compared to anything else, so using a framework of comparison—whether the fetus is a “person,” whether abortion is “murder”—seems foolhardy to me. If you find it unacceptable for a pregnancy to be terminated, then you do. Perceiving the subject of that pregnancy as something you have anything to do with while it is inside and depends for survival on someone else’s body is beyond comprehension to me. Unless you are the impregnator or intimately partnered with the pregnant individual, that pregnancy has nothing to do with you, and you have nothing to do with it. Even if you are the impregnator or partner of the pregnant person, it is the case that the individual carrying that pregnancy is its sole connection with life, and it is that body and that person who chooses how to interact with it.

If that person chooses to engage them as such, others may certainly be in consultation about it. But the common thread in all pregnancies remains that except in cases where a pregnancy releases on its own (miscarriage), the pregnant person (assuming they are an autonomously competent individual) is responsible in all stages of the pregnancy for interacting with it the way most resonant for them, whether that is choosing to release the pregnancy via abortion services, continuing with the pregnancy through birth, feeling compelled to release the pregnancy for tragic reasons after it had been received as desired, or other scenarios as may arise. If a pregnancy is embraced as desired, ideally all the circumstances surrounding it result in a life-affirming and healthy pregnancy and birth. Whether or not this occurs, the position of the individual harboring the pregnancy as the ultimate authority on it throughout the process does not change.

To return to the subject of Missouri, I am aware of the legal strategy of what they and other states are doing, and I feel confident that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in the foreseeable future. Obviously, I can certainly appreciate the activism protesting that: Human-made laws that circumvent the autonomy of a pregnant individual and force a potential human being to form in and emerge from a being and body that does not desire or consent to that process is a literal perversion of the phenomenon of the creation and birth of life. Yes, such a specter is profoundly appalling to me. The ignorance and unconscious distortions that motivate a desire for such perversion similarly dismay me, and they are clearly operating to an ominously prevalent degree in current society.

That said, I see the loss of Roe v. Wade’s precedent as a legal protection as close to an inevitability as long as the government of this country continues in the form it has since its creation. I thus admit I feel more urgently oriented toward practical organizing in terms of helping people get abortions once doing so is criminalized again in this country. How will networking and technological advances best be leveraged to help people seeking abortions get them and help people obtaining and providing them stay out of jail? A recent article by Rebecca Traister speaks directly to this question:

“[T]hese organizations already exist, are founded and run by women of color, have long been transporting those in need of reproductive care to the facilities where they can get it; they are woefully underfunded. The trick is not to start something new, but to join forces with [those who have already been organizing around abortion access for those denied it]. . . . Distinguishing the work of abortion funds from the policy fights in state houses and at the capitols, Hernandez said, ‘whatever happens in Washington, and changes in the future, women need to get care today.’

“And whatever comes next, she said, it’s the people who have been doing this work for years who are likely to be best prepared to deal with the harm inflicted, which is a good place for the newly enraged to start. ‘If and when Roe is abolished,’ said Hernandez, ‘the people who are going to be getting people to the care they need are those who have largely been navigating this already and are already well suited for the logistical challenges.'”

Safe, professional, legal abortion has indeed been inaccessible to a number of people and populations for some time due to legal intrusions such as the Hyde Amendment, waiting periods, minor consent laws, and other legislation orchestrated to impede the accessibility of abortion services. That the legal orientation in the United States currently appears to be continuing in that direction is abhorrent, and simultaneously, a shift in how we support reproductive justice (from working to defend Roe to supporting the population after abortion is criminalized in some states for all people in those states) seems, however wretchedly, called for to me.


  • “Every road they led you down felt so wrong, so you found another way…”
    -Lindsey Sterling featuring Andrew McMahon “Something Wild”

  • June 12th, 2019

    Autonomy, Ignorance, and Porn

    Some readers may have heard about the recent kerfuffle over a high school newspaper that carried an article based on an interview with a senior (eighteen years old) at the school who was working in porn. When the school administration heard the article was in the works, they asked to be able to see it before the paper went to press. The paper’s faculty advisor, a journalism and composition teacher at the school, refused. She was subsequently threatened with disciplinary action up to potential firing, which made national news. (Note: For anyone who doesn’t understand why it would be such a big deal for her to have allowed the administration to read the article before it was published, it would be the equivalent of the United States government’s requiring that media outlets run things by them before printing them. I hope that illuminates the debilitating chilling effect such would have on the press. Indeed, it represents the antithesis of the purported purpose of the press in the US.)

    I first appreciate the teacher’s steadfastness in refusing the administration’s demand even in the face of potentially losing her job. (The appalling behavior as such of the administration is an entire subject in and of itself that I am not covering here.) I also find the uproar about writing an article about a student legally and consensually working in porn both maddening and disheartening. It’s as though we sadistically cannot handle a sex work narrative that doesn’t fit with the collective view we seem to have of the suffering, exploited, defeated sex worker. I feel saddened by this because wouldn’t people rather discover that someone is not suffering the way they assumed than be right? Even if we have to let go of our preconceptions and misguided notions based on (sometimes innocent) ignorance, is it so much to ask to listen to sex workers and allow them to have credibility on the subject of their own lives and experience?

    On top of that, I then saw an online comment about the story that quite increased the ire I experienced. I’m sorry that I have to paraphrase it here as, even after a valiant search, I was unable to relocate the comment. Here was the gist of it:

    “What the article should be about is people luring young girls into this kind of work, because does anyone believe she really didn’t start until she turned eighteen? That idea is ridiculous, and people in the porn industry need to stop preying on children.”

    To some degree the ignorance this commenter displays is understandable because one would not necessarily know of US Code 2257 if one has not worked in the porn industry. If one has, however, they are likely aware that they are not going to find any legitimate producer who does not require two legal forms of ID that indicate that any performer is at least eighteen years old. Said producer will make photocopies of these proofs of identity and keep them as legal records. Why? Because if they don’t have that information available and are questioned about it, they are in violation of 2257 and may face steep legal repercussions as such.

    The 2257 law relates to record-keeping and was purportedly created to prevent underage participation in pornographic endeavors. Essentially the law requires, among other things, that anyone owning and producing depictions of sexual acts acquire and maintain proof of the age and identity of any person visually portrayed performing such acts. So if Person A sees a pornographic video with Jane Example in it and says to a law enforcement agency, “I want proof that Jane Example is at least eighteen years old,” 2257 allows said law enforcement entity to indeed ask whoever displayed Jane Example engaged in sexually explicit acts or positions for proof that she is at least eighteen years old. If they don’t have it, they’ve violated 2257 and can face prison time. It doesn’t matter if Jane Example appears to be fifty years old and is very obviously not under eighteen. The law states that under circumstances in which an individual appears engaged in sexual acts, legal proof of that person’s identity and age of at least eighteen must be accessible to law enforcement via whoever is in control of displaying such content to the public or others.

    The notion that people producing adult pornography at this time would be willing to risk the significant legal penalties of having anyone underage work for them when it is relatively easily to obtain proof that someone is not, and when there are a plethora of available workers that are of age, is frankly ludicrous. Thus, a comment like this is patently indicative of the ignorance that pervades on the subject of sex work and this rather baffling assumption that underage involvement in that industry is undifferentiated from consensual adult participation in it.

    So yes, commenter to whom I wish I could refer by name, I do believe Ms. Fink did not start in the industry until she was eighteen. Were you to read the above, I hope you would, too.


  • “The whole damn world is just as obsessed with who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex…”
    -Bowling for Soup “High School Never Ends”

  • October 3rd, 2018

    It’s Only Natural…Or Is It?

    When I see claims about what is “natural” in contexts using natural as an argument for adhering to a particular behavior, I tend to wrinkle my brow. The argument—what is “natural”—seems a dubious one to me in that numerous things in which we have engaged historically and currently don’t necessarily seem natural.

    I’m not sure what’s natural, for example, about inventing and building a cell phone and using it. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, just that I’m not sure what seems “natural” about it. To go even further, medical interventions, especially in contexts involving modern medical discoveries and technology, seem to me they could be deemed “unnatural.”

    So if the postulation is that we shouldn’t be doing things that aren’t “natural” (I have seen non-heterosexual behavior or attractions, for example, labeled as such) or should stick to engaging in what is, I wonder exactly what those parameters would entail. And in wondering that, I question further that if one does not postulate that everything “unnatural” should be eradicated from our existence and pursuits, then why should some things considered not natural be? How are these chosen, and why is this criterion applied selectively? Continue reading

    August 11th, 2018

    Pernicious Perspectives and the Abomination of #FOSTA / #SESTA

    I’ve written about sex work numerous times on this blog (click on the category “Sex+ Work” to the left to see how many). I advocate decriminalization of all forms of consensual sex work and dream of the day the social stigma around it has dissolved.

    And I feel a bit like I perceive a new conundrum around it. I used to think that the majority of people just didn’t understand. That there was so much ignorance around sex work because the perspective that sex workers are sub-human and undeserving of basic rights and respect and autonomy was questioned so infrequently, assumed to be acceptable so automatically, perceived so often without even conscious choice or recognition, that people failed to realize how arbitrary, unfounded, and inhumane that perspective is. I truly thought that if people stopped to consider the existence of consensual sex work as an industry like most others, they would quickly recognize how nonsensical and tragically misguided the mainstream perspective around it was.

    Now, I find myself wondering if that was naïve of me. It has seemed more and more evident of late that some people simply don’t like sex work or that it exists. Yes, I have understood this to some degree, but as I mentioned, I truly trusted that in large part, it was ignorance rather than malevolence that drove the perpetration of dismissiveness, degradation, and dehumanization of sex workers. Continue reading

    November 16th, 2016

    On Politics and Feminism

    Pantsuit Nation selfie, Election Day 2016

    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: Continue reading