Friday, February 29, 2008

Why do you hate men? Are you a man-hating dyke?

The fact that so many of the non-radical men with whom I have anti-prostitution arguments end up saying something to this effect is very telling. First off, I need to be called names and insulted if I dare to contradict their right to pussy. Second, I obviously don't understand the way the world actually works because I am deranged with hate for men, rendering my opinion moot because I'm not in my right mind. Third, it's hinted that I am only able to say the things I say because I am a big hairy dyke and who just couldn't possibly understand heterosexual people, rendering my opinion moot because I actually have no knowledge of interactions between the sexes.

In the face of this sort of irrational hatred, any assertions or demonstrations of the fact that I don't hate men and do like to have sex with some of them go unheeded. The point, after all, is to malign me, not to prove me wrong since that is impossible for the guys who are asking me these ridiculous questions.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What do men (and those who present as something other than female) have to contribute to a discussion about sex work?

"Feminist" pro-sex work advocates will tell you that sex work is a question of what a woman wants to do with her body and that as something other than a woman you have nothing to offer to the conversation. They are wrong. Sex work is heinous exploitation, and as a human being, you have the right and obligation to vociferously condemn heinous exploitation.

Let's re-frame: Do you think your mom is more than a breathing sex toy? If you're straight, do you think your female significant other is, in fact, human? Would you say that you generally like women and feel bad about the fact that they are being oppressed? Then you should feel equally bad about the existence of the sex industry, an important aspect of this oppression. Do you advocate, fight for, organize for, philosophize about, and/or otherwise make a mainstay of your core beliefs the proper treatment of poor people, working-class people, and members of historically oppressed races without actually being all three? Then you should feel just fine about doing the same for women without actually being one.

This is not to say that you should rush head-on into anti-sex work circles and try to take a glamorous leading position doing something chivalrous. That would make you part of the patriarchal problem, a paternalistic protector seeking glory through the shielding of the delicate ladies. But there's no reason why you shouldn't have an opinion, share that opinion with other people, and work to make use of sex workers unacceptable among the men you know. There's no reason you shouldn't organize at all. Basically, being supportive of anti-sex work causes without trying to take them over them is pretty much an extension of and exactly like being a feminist-supporter.

(If you don't know what "feminist-supportive" and "pro-feminist" mean, you have some reading to do.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't sex workers use protection and therefore avoid all diseases?

You mean like herpes, molluscum, HPV, vulvodynia, and any of the other STIs that can spread through and around condoms and are well-nigh incurable? The truth is that many sex workers negotiate protection according to what they are comfortable with and how much money they are trying to get from an individual client, while many pornstars aren't allowed to use condoms at all. Just because you had sex with an escort who looked young and healthy to you and used a condom with you does not mean that she isn't secretly dropping heroin into her eyeball between appointments in which she engages in unprotected sex to raise extra drug cash on nights when you don't see her.

Also, condoms sometimes break. Even if the odds are very small when condoms are used correctly, people who get paid to have sex for a living have a lot of sex. Things which have a tiny chance of occurring every time someone has sex become much more of a risk when she has sex five times a day for a year, with hundreds if not thousands of partners over the course of a relatively short time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why do you have such a beef with anarchist sex workers?

Because they are exchanging their labor and their bodies for money and then turning that around to somehow present as a part of their anti-capitalist radicalism. Sex work is just another form of exploitation and should be seen as such even by the people who think it's no different from working retail. After all, aren't you fighting for a revolution after which nobody has to work retail either?

Also, the anarchist movement on the whole tends to be very good about women's issues and very pro-feminist. It pains me to see well-read radical people who identify as anarcha-feminists and feminist allies doing something so highly anti-woman and pro-patriarchy as supporting and endorsing sex work.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What about female clients?

What female clients? These people are almost nonexistent. Certainly, I saw hundreds and hundreds of men before even one woman tried to approach me. And even if there are female clients, the inherent sexism of seeking out as the ideal sexual scenario simulated rape of an objectified woman is hardly lessened just because the person doing it is female.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What about woman-run agencies?

I would never ever have been stupid enough to work for an agency run by anybody but a female former or current prostitute myself. Certainly, there are all sorts of horror stories out there about pimps who lure women in by posing as the owners of agencies and then essentially kidnap them, and I've always suspected male owners of escort agencies as wanting nothing more than to sample the goods all day long.

That said, just because you're working for somebody who probably won't rape or hit you does not suddenly mean your agency is the greatest thing in the world. Women who run agencies are still doing it for the money, and as with any employer, that precludes having the personal safety and well-being of an employee as a number-one priority, no matter what they say.

Also, the women running these agencies may very well be operating with the same blind spots that affect any number of pro-sex work feminists and pro-feminist sex-workers, not to mention sex-worker "supportive" communities. That is, they can and do actively deny that they are participating in a system that causes harm to anybody. They can and do actively deny that prostitution hurts anybody ever.

When presented with evidence that their employees and friends are being harmed by prostitution, these women ignore in order to protect their worldview, resulting in further harm to and lack of justice for those working under them. When pressed, they are just as likely to lash out and blame the victims of prostitution (prostitutes) for anything that goes wrong as any "sex-positive" feminist. It's akin to a man blaming a woman for getting raped rather than risk considering the patriarchal system in which we live.

Certainly, a woman who actively promotes sex work in an attempt to make herself feel better about her own choices and enforce a worldview which allows her to keep calling herself a "sex positive sex worker" is often going to be an active recruiter of more confused young women. A woman who makes all or most of her income by prostituting other women is going to have a strong incentive to recruit as well. And recruiting women to sex work, which is personally, emotionally, and mentally destructive, is evil regardless of the gender of the perpetrator.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

But my porn is feminist!!!

Most of the "feminist" porn I have ever seen involves women who got their careers started in mainstream porn getting together in pairs where one woman plays the "dominant" (male) partner and forces huge sex toys into the other woman as some sort of substitute for the gigantic aggressive cock (attached to a male pornstar) that for some reason (the desire to appear feminist, perhaps?) they didn't actually hire for the film. Penetration is still the ultimate goal and the women hired are about as challenging to patriarchal beauty standards as your average Suicide Girl, which is to say that they have a couple easily removed piercings and funny-looking hair attached to the body of your average porn actress. How any of this is anything but mainstream porn in a slightly different setting and without male actors is beyond me.

If you honestly believe that your feminist porn is different, that's great for your ability to sleep at night. However, I'm more inclined to believe you're missing something than I am to think that commercially-produced porn which is created to appeal to a large segment of a patriarchal society could actually somehow end up being honestly pro-feminist.

I'm not some sort of killjoy saying that seeking out a little visual stimulation is a bad thing, but why on earth can't you just find some amateur porn produced by actual couples who are experienced at negotiating each other's boundaries and who actually get off on you watching them, people who aren't getting paid? Lord knows there's a whole lotta internet out there, and this stuff isn't very hard to find.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's your problem with street-walking?

It's ridiculously dangerous and the compensation is ridiculously low. It's a lower caste of sex work with higher risk and less pay that seems practically invented for women who society thinks of as somehow "undesirable" due to their being transsexual, an ethnic minority, poor or working-class. A woman who insists that she enjoys street-walking and that I should not presume to infringe on her rights by interfering is

1) insisting that she likes a high risk of STIs, murder, rape, beatings, arrest, police abuse, and being forced into sexual slavery by any pimp who decides that she isn't doing well enough on her own. This is mental illness and emotional disturbance, not free choice.

2) desperately trying to make herself feel better about trauma by pretending she enjoys it.

3) the vast minority.

I am very tired of privileged sex workers trying to refute my claims of inherent class and race bias in the sex industry by telling me that they know of one or a few women who claim to be okay as street walkers. This is exactly the same thing as a man claiming that sexism does not exist because he or his friends are nice people or a white person claiming racism doesn't exist because they as an individual are not racist. The fact that you can point to a few self-proclaimed happy hookers doesn't mean as much when I can track down a few hundred thousand who are not.

You can also point out to me that you know of an individual black woman in the upper crust of the sex industry (usually compensating for her color by acting or being as upper-class as possible), but the exceptions prove the rule of a racist classist industry- they certainly don't suddenly dispel all charges of bigotry. They just add the charge of tokenism.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How do class and race affect different women's approaches to sex work?

The best agencies and the wealthiest clients are far far far less likely to hire black women in most cities in America, even if these clients are black. It should not be at all surprising to anybody that the sort of men who are completely susceptible to messages that they absolutely need to be sleeping with a stereotypically beautiful woman half their age would also absorb messages that black women are less "classy" and therefore work to avoid them. In effect, the "awesome" and "empowerfulling" sex work that many white women wax poetic about in their flimsy rationalizations is simply not accessible to most working-class black and hispanic women because the industry is inherently racist and classist.

However, the same women who claim to be feminists, fighting for the right to "do what they want with their bodies" over the objections of privileged white men seem to be willing to completely overlook the privilege from which they operate and the racism of the system they are supporting when they support the sex industry.

Ladies, here's a newsflash: Black, latino, and other women who aren't white or from one of the asian countries that allows male hobbyists to play into some sort of orientalist fantasy (Indonesians are not sexually exciting but Japanese are, for some reason), don't have the same access to your "awesome" "empowerfulling" sex work. They are far far far more likely to have to work for abusive pimps, in dirty massage parlors, on street corners, and for far far far less money.

For a privileged sex worker to complain the stories of sex workers who are overtly abused are widely over-reported is just not true. The majority of female sex workers in the world, according to any reliable study, do not want to be sex workers. To insist that these women do not exist is to silence those whose class/race/other have caused them to have a different viewpoint from you, and doing this is bigotry. For a privileged sex worker to assert that only a quarter of women in sex work are overtly abused and that this number is somehow not terribly relevant, as a group of pro-sex work advocates recently did in their letter to the UN, is completely inexcusable because what it really says is that 25% sexual slavery is okay. And it leads me to wonder if it's okay because it's not happening to the people writing these letters, the privileged. It leads me to wonder if these women just care a little bit less about the sort of person who ends up in lower end sex work.

There is always going to be higher and lower end sex work. This is one of the rules of capitalist systems. If there is an expensive and high-quality version on the market, there will also be an inexpensive and low-quality one. Companies like Whole Foods cannot comprise the entire grocery sector, but somehow "sex workers' rights" advocates fail to empathize with the human beings who would end up working in the prostitution equivalent of a Wal-Mart, and I'm rather sure that on some level it's because these other women don't look/sound/act enough like them.

Somehow, these "sex worker activists" seem to feel that their struggle to be allowed to be sex workers because they should always be allowed to do whatever they feel like even if it is obviously hurting them or even if it hurts other women is somehow far far more important than the struggle of underprivileged women to avoid sex slavery and gain basic human rights. This conviction that your problems somehow trump those of everybody else's, no matter how horrific the problems of others may be compared to your own, is the very definition of privilege, and it needs to end now. Arguing that people need to stop making you feel bad about your "work" at the expense of a focus on ending sexual slavery is ridiculous, and can only make sense to the privileged sex worker, the unconscious bigot.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What about dommes? They're in control because they're beating the guy up.

No, they're not.

1. Their clients are paying for a service and as the customer who can withhold pay or tip generously maintain a degree of control that the domme cannot obtain by tying up a guy who is asking her to. The customer is in almost complete control during a session because he controls the domme's income. He is only paying her to pretend that this is not the case, and to pretend in exactly the way that he wants.

2. For many clients, whether a domme is attractive according to their standards is at least as important as whether or not she's good at what she does. A job in which your beauty must be constantly rated by men who see you as a purchasable asset is necessarily sexually degrading.

3. Men who have been raised to associate violence with sex are in fact enforcing the patriarchy by paying for violent sex. Duh.

4. The view of sex which pits man against woman as two diametrically opposed forces is actually enforced when women momentarily gain control in the course of a domination session. Notice that dommes are not being paid to simulate acts committed between two equals.

5. The entire psychological profession has decided that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its symptoms can be the result of witnessing or committing heinous acts, so a woman who repeatedly engages in painful violence against other human beings may be opening herself to damaging, serious emotional disturbance.

This isn't to say that I think that all kinky people are emotionally disturbed or likely to get PTSD just because a domme might any more than I'm saying that all people who have sex are going to feel violated by it just because a prostitute would. When someone is genuinely turned on by tying up their consenting partner, they may not view themselves as committing a violent or sadistic act. However, the issue for pro-dommes is that they are doing it for the money, not the sexual arousal, and they may in fact be quite upset by whipping people for a living.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

If people shouldn't frequent sex workers, then how are sex workers supposed to make money?

or "You secretly want us all to starve to death, don't you?"

No, I want there to be better options. And a society that respected women enough not to turn them into prostituted, pornulated objects would probably be better at supplying better options for them.

(A society that respected the poor and working class would also be better at supplying other options while an anti-capitalist society would be fantastic at supplying other options, but I am trying to make this FAQ accessible to non-radicals.)

What's sort of hilarious about the argument that if I don't support clients' decisions to see sex workers then I must want sex workers to starve is that it is constantly being made to me by avowed anarchists. Excuse me, but does the fact that you disapprove of wage-slavery mean that you want all wage slaves to starve? Does the fact that I don't think we should keep domesticating cows mean I want all the ones currently on the planet to be tortured to death? Stop equivocating.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Should It Be Illegal to See a Sex Worker?

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of making things illegal, and I've wavered back and forth a lot on this point. In the end, I believe that sex work is a crime which is committed on a sex worker by the society they live in, the people who they work for, and the men who pay them for sexual acts. Retribution would make me feel much better, period. In fact, I sincerely hope that someday Larry Flynt finds himself surrounded by five hundred knife-wielding angry former sex workers and that on that day, the nearest cop is about two thousand miles away.

But fantasies aside, I don't like police, I don't like jails, and I do like education.

If a man tells me he has seen a sex worker before but does not do so regularly, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt in thinking that he has made a tragic mistake due to the way our society indoctrinated him and fed his concept of his own manhood into his ability to be sexually violent towards another human being. I tell my story before I point out to him that the sex worker involved was a suffering person. I try and explain to these men that to see a sex worker is to abuse her, and that to see a sex worker on a regular basis is to be abusive. Period. Every time this has happened, the guy in question seems to understand me and agree with me pretty quickly.

What's surprising is the number of men who have seen sex workers before to "see what it was like" or who were pressured in all sorts of insane ways to see a sex worker by their friends. (If my friend had paid someone else to have sex with me or even roused me enough to pay while I was too drunk to remember where I was or what was going on, I would call that friend a rapist and never speak to them again.) What's surprising is that most of the men who I have met outside of my own stint as a sex worker who have seen sex workers at some point in their lives are deply queazy about the whole ordeal. They didn't seem to particularly enjoy it. I think if we lived in a society that de-glamorized and de-mythologized sex work while teaching men to treat women appropriately, this first category of men would not exist. It just doesn't seem to me like they really wanted to see sex workers in the first place at all. There doesn't seem to be much point to me in arresting somebody like this, or even punishing them once they've come to understand that what they did was wrong.

(If they don't understand it was wrong, odds are they will someday turn into regular users of sex workers. Also, I should be allowed to punch them.)

There are, however, men who see sex workers on a regular basis for any number of reasons. I met quite a few of these men when I was one, and in my opinion they were all suffering from mental/emotional defect. In fact, attempting to buy and sell people and sexual intimacy as if it were pizza is practically the definition of having emotional issues. Some of the younger ones seemed horribly lost, including one who ended up tracking down my non-professional email address, Ebay account, etc. (As it turned out, his sister had recently died, and he left me alone shortly after he started seeing a psychologist.) A lot of them were in disastrously unhappy marriages and were so desperate to avoid emotional intimacy that they refused to have sex with anybody but prostitutes who they knew hated them. A frightening number of them appeared to be sociopathic or psychopathic. A few of them were obvious sex-addicts of the kind I had not before known existed, compulsively seeking out a sexual encounter with a stranger, any stranger, many times a day, regardless of the fact that they didn't actually like it.

I think these men need professional help. I think the vast majority of men who see sex workers, even on a regular basis, need professional help. I'm not saying they need a pill or anything, but I do think that a trained psychologist probably has a lot more business dealing with these men than a police officer does. I'm not saying I'm not angry at them or that they don't deserve some form of punishment, just that I'd prefer a punishment that didn't make them more abusive in the long term, as jail is likely to.

In some cases, like that of the sociopath and psychopath, psychiatry alone has its limits and they probably ought to removed from society at large, but hey, that's what inpatient treatment is for, and the odds of rehabilitation are still much higher than they would be in a prison. (As long as they're all hanging around, one might as well study their disorder in hopes of finding an effective way to alter their behaviors so as to make them less of a danger to others. )

Monday, February 4, 2008

Do You Think It's Immoral to See Sex Workers?

Of course. As I have explained repeatedly, a woman engaging in prostitution is likely not mentally stable, afraid of starving to death through her inability to find other work, or both. To have sex with someone under threat of starvation and homelessness, or to have sex with someone who is too greatly emotionally disturbed to register what they are doing is and always will be an immoral thing to do.

Dear John,

I'm very sorry if you can't persuade anybody but prostitutes to have sex with you, but I fail to understand why your pain at not getting laid is more important than the pain of a woman you just paid to rape. Stop being so selfish.

The same argument applies, to a lesser degree of course, to interactions with strippers or other sex workers not directly involved in prostitution. It's just not ethical to pay someone for a lap dance if they have no better options, and you certainly can't argue that it's not hurting her to give you a lap dance as long as nobody has sex. It hurts a lot to know that the world is full to the brim of men older than your father who think of you as nothing but a sellable piece of ass.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Do you think it's dangerous to be a sex worker?

There are an enormous number of studies regarding this topic, but I'm only linking three. Feel free to tell me about more.

One disproves the notion that strippers and other "legitimate" sex workers are somehow immune to victimization by studying the rate at which strippers are assaulted and abused by customers, bosses, and the men being paid to protect them.

A second discusses the rate at which street-walking prostitutes use protection (about 25%) and discusses the extreme economic pressure that for most street prostitutes constitutes the primary driving force behind their "decision" to prostitute. In addition, the second study discusses the extremely low level of condom-use among street-walkers and the fact that the protection these women could be expecting from the police usually comes not in the form of referrals for help with drug addictions or employment aid, but in the form of demands for free sex in return for lack of arrests or convictions.

In case those of you who have watched "Sin City" a few too many times are still convinced that all street-working prostitutes have their own machine-guns, are karate experts, and are total experts at protecting themselves from everybody who therefore desire no protection ever, the third study discusses the rate at which street-walking prostitutes are violently victimized on a regular basis.

Given the reading, my answer is yes, though levels of danger vary enormously. Do I think it's dangerous to be a porn actress? If we're talking mainstream porn then yes, though not as much as with other types of work. Mainstream porn actresses are at a much-heightened risk of disease while the cameras are rolling, but in addition to that, they have to deal with their fame when the cameras have stopped. A woman who is payed to give men all over the world the illusion that she is fair game for any of their violent fantasies and remains sexually available to all of them at all times certainly has to worry a little bit more than the rest of us about who might recognize her when she's buying groceries.

Do I think it's dangerous to be a stripper? Of fucking course. First off, the place is run by straight men and secured by straight men, and I've seen some of those straight men display a lot more interest in whether a given stripper will have sex with them than in her safety. Second, even if the boss and security are respectful and on a dancer's side, the room is full of drunken men, some of whom are big enough assholes to attempt to follow a girl home to rape her. The security guys wouldn't be there if this wasn't the case. Perhaps it's safer with security guards present, but it's certainly not as safe as if one wasn't dancing in the first place, and security guards can't protect a woman from the customer who she accidentally runs into while off the clock.

Do I think it's dangerous to be an escort? I was raped repeatedly as an escort, so yes. Going into a bedroom or hotel room alone with a strange man and hoping he hands you a couple hundred after you have sex with him is just a bad idea. First off, exact boundaries are not negotiated ahead of time and some men very aggressively seek uncomfortable sexual acts or unprotected sex and will not take no for an answer. Second, agencies on the whole tend to have much worse security than strip clubs. If a girl gets in trouble while working outcall, there's not always a whole lot she can do but grit her teeth and bear it until the car shows back up. Essentially, escorts are trusting a total stranger not to rape or beat them for no reason other than that he claims to have the money and he might have shown their boss what may or may not have been his real ID. Oh, and he's already proven that he doesn't like women very much by requesting to see a prostitute in the first place.

Do I think it's dangerous to be a street-walker? I can't believe that people would even ask me this ridiculous question, but I've had people make the argument to me that it's safe because "the women look out for each other" or "police themselves," so I guess I have to mention the very obvious fact that they aren't doing a good job of it. Hookers are open to extreme violence and regularly experience it. Period. Men who want to assault a woman and run away will go for the women who it's easiest to do this to, and that's hookers. The fact that these women are sought out as a group by predators more than almost anybody else renders their situation dangerous, and it's hard for them to do much about that when their job requires that they get into cars or go into alleys with strangers and have sex with these strangers without ever seeing an ID.


There are other categories of sex workers, like dommes for example, who share most of the dangers that an escort does. However, it should be noted that the biggest danger faced by a lot of sex workers is that the police and courts are all staffed by people who hate them and believe they are getting what they deserve whenever a violent act is committed on them. The possible exceptions to this are fetish and porn models, porn actresses, and strippers, who are legitimized by arbitrary laws about which sex work is acceptable and which is not.