Archive for Sex+ Freedom/Rights
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”)
Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Sex and Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays (on sale now at Amazon and iBooks), the inaugural single-author book from prolific sex writer, erotica editor, and cupcake connoisseur Rachel Kramer Bussel! I am delighted to be participating in the tour, which you may find and follow along with here. In addition, Rachel is holding an in-person book release party on November 17 at Sweet Revenge—find all the details on that on the Facebook invitation.
This may sound far-fetched, but the fact is, the first paragraph of the introduction of Sex and Cupcakes captivated me. Intensely. Those six sentences resonated with me so much and struck me as so full of insight that I came to write this sentence down literally before I’d even gotten halfway through the introduction. Upon finishing the introduction, I honestly didn’t know how one could not find it electrifyingly intriguing. I certainly did.
Full disclosure: Rachel has bestowed upon me the honor, many times, of publishing my work in her anthologies. Exactly half of the stories in my first single-author short story collection, If… Then, were previously published in anthologies edited by Rachel. Three of the stories in my second collection, Safe, were. She has published me more than all the other editors who have combined (not counting, of course, the publisher of said brand new collections). I have loved working with her and am truly honored to have made so many appearances in her compilations.
So one could say I might find it difficult to offer a “fair” or “objective” review of a volume she penned in its entirety.
Perhaps. But one could also say that I have felt drawn to submitting to her anthologies and working with her because I have familiarized myself with and followed her work, much of which has included nonfiction writing for a variety of publications, and found it consistently resonant and compelling. That would be accurate, and I suspect it goes far in accounting for the enthusiasm and appreciation I feel for her first single-author volume of nonfiction essays. I guessed that I would like Sex and Cupcakes enough to rave about it, and I was correct.
Sex and Cupcakes is a compilation of nine of the author’s luminous essays in one place, offering a (luscious buttercream frosting) taste of her extensive examination of, as she herself puts it, “how ideas about sexual freedom impact our society.” In addition to penetrating explorations on universal themes of life, sex, connection, society, and various correlations therein, the author also delves deep into her own personal experience, offering memoir of a captivating and illuminating nature that, we eventually see, frequently harkens back to these universal themes and macrocosmic observations of social phenomena.
To me, “My Boyfriend’s Fat” exemplified this juxtaposition, gracefully weaving the author’s inner perspective on her intimate relationship with insights into society’s (astonishingly intrusive and, as I see it, relatively arbitrary) relationship with fat, adding in level-headed recognitions about how the circumstances of said fat affect her and her boyfriend’s lives. It was one of my favorite pieces.
I also found myself loving and strikingly relating to “Monogamishmash,” an essay that, as I experienced it, displayed a trait I noticed throughout my reading of Sex and Cupcakes. It is that Rachel doesn’t hold back from displaying her personal vulnerabilities and uncertainties in the memoir within these pages. I found this to make the writing more authentic, engaging, interesting, and relatable. I have the feeling she writes with not only a desire to express herself but also to offer connection to her readers, who may find things here to relate to, discover about themselves, feel relief about seeing in another. In short, as Rachel puts it herself in the title essay, “I hope … my books and writing have helped open other people up as well.”
Speaking of the title piece, which is, of course, called “Sex and Cupcakes,” it seemed to me to be the highlight of the compilation. This was not just because it is significantly longer than the rest of the essays but also because it offers a comprehensive glimpse into these two aspects of the author’s life that have become, somewhat unexpectedly, so pivotal to her everyday existence and her career. Their juxtaposition and the author’s presentation of how she experiences the professional, social, and personal implications of each not only makes for interesting reading but is also, as usual, filled with the incisive observations and assessments the author has established as characteristic throughout the volume.
It’s worth noting that in addition to the curiosity, contemplation, exploration, and openness Rachel offers in these pieces, she is also simply a skilled writer. Thus the content she provides is not only compelling to peruse but is noticeably complemented by clear, lovely prose to express it.
Never, as I interpret it, does the author presume she is speaking for or representing anyone but herself, which I find a grounding and ingratiating characteristic in almost any writing but particularly in memoir or social commentary. As she says in “Sex and Cupcakes”: “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend to. What I do have is a curiosity about my own and others’ sexuality, about what turns people on and how those interests relate to the culture at large.”
Those two sentences encompass a summation of how I ultimately experienced Sex and Cupcakes: as a diverse collection of curious, probing, sincere musings of someone who is truly and unapologetically fascinated by sex. As one who has that in common with the author, this book was an endeavor I actively appreciated.
If you’ve ever read the author’s work online (and if you have an interest in relationships, sexuality, and/or memoir, you probably either have or will want to) and appreciated it, Sex and Cupcakes is something you’ll almost certainly want to devour as a comprehensive taste of the thoughtfulness, relatability, and insight she has to offer. If you haven’t yet been exposed to her work, I recommend this volume as a superb place to start.
In the title piece, Rachel says (accurately, it seems to me), “Focusing on sex as an intelligent point of conversation, as something lively, worthy and interesting, is beyond the pale for a lot of people.”
It is certainly our gain that the author is not one of them.
“There is a particular kind of venom that comes out when you speak and write about sex, whether it’s autobiographical or not. You reveal a vulnerability and tap into the dirty little secret of our supposedly sex-saturated, anything-goes American culture: that deep down, we are pretty prudish.”
-Rachel Kramer Bussel, in the title essay of Sex & Cupcakes
Like many of Scarleteen’s careful, thorough, detailed posts, this post may seem long. I implore you, please, to read it anyway.*
May 1 is my birthday. I would truly prefer it not also mark this year the day Scarleteen had to shut down any of its vital services because of a lack of funding.
I participated in Scarleteen‘s fundraising blog carnival a few years ago, and as I said in that post, from the time I considered creating my own website, I knew Scarleteen would be the place to which I linked on my entry page for potential visitors who were not yet eighteen. It is that way on my site now, and it has been ever since it was launched.
I am one of those people Heather refers to that raves about what Scarleteen does and refers people there regularly but in the midst of whom Scarleteen still has not been able to adequately financially support itself. And she’s right that it’s (past) time for me to step up and support Scarleteen financially in addition to supporting them the other ways I do. After I read her post, I did. I hope you will too, if you are in a position to. I recognize the particular importance of this in that a lot of the people Scarleteen helps aren’t in a position to offer financial support—the organization is specifically geared toward young people, who often don’t have such disposable resources.
I’m reminded as well of a post I wrote a few years ago thanking sex educators. I still feel this way, earnestly, and I see Heather Corinna as truly one of the pioneering ones of these—she supports, without judgement or condescension, and with caring and an obvious deep well of knowledge, young people: some of the people society most seems to want to deprive of support and understanding around sexuality and to whom this deprivation does a unique disservice.
I truly hope all reading this will consider donating to Scarleteen and/or helping however they feel they can. I see the work of this organization as phenomenal, and I promise you, Heather and Scarleteen, I am pulling for you. It has become a birthday wish for me this year that you get the funding you need and find yourselves in a position to continue the monumental, deeply relevant work you do.
“And when the hardest part is over we’ll be here, and our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear…”
-Brandon Flowers “Crossfire”
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?”