June 2, 2008

Fourth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy

Welcome to the fourth edition of the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy! I’ve gathered a bunch of posts that I find interesting and thought-provoking – initially I tried to organize them according to different themes (sex and the law, sex work, porn, etc) but there was just too much cross-over. So you’ll just have to deal with one big long messy list of links and quotes.

Why Sex Workers Can’t Calm the F Down About Trafficking Articles

The problem sex workers have with some (many?) articles about sex trafficking is not that they don’t acknowledge the sex workers rights movement, although I’m not gonna lie, it’d be nice to get even a fourth of the coverage that sex trafficking does, but rather that sex trafficking laws often have serious detrimental effects on working women of choice, and most articles on trafficking entirely omit this reality. (The situation in Cambodia is one of many examples.)

Such articles are, practically speaking, extremely dangerous to voluntary sex workers. They enforce the idea that all sex workers are victims and rally the public to support laws that are often disingenuously and/or simplistically explained. This is particularly true when the article in question doesn’t bother to mention the omnipresent conflation of all prostitution with trafficking, and in doing so, furthers that conflation.

So calling out such articles, when we do it, which is probably not nearly as often as we should, is not us being bratty or overly sensitive. It is us fighting to keep ourselves and our friends and our family as safe as possible and to keep our movement from losing whatever tenuous ground we’ve secured.

“slut” the endearment formerly known as “bff”

A while back, I ran a health seminar for a group of high school girls. Before we started I handed out a sheet with questions like: What do you want to get out of this program? Are there any issues you think we should talk about? What is one thing you really like about your group of friends and one thing you find challenging about them?

I asked the girls to answer the questions anonymously and then to give them to me when they were done. When I got the papers back, I kept on seeing the same thing. Girl after girl had written that something she didn’t like was how everyone called each other skank, slut and ho.

“Wow,” I said to the group after glancing over the sheets. “It seems like there’s a lot of name calling going on.”

“What are you talking about?” I heard from an obvious Alpha sitting front and center.

“Well,” I told her, “A lot of people seem to be uncomfortable being called things like ‘slut’ by other girls.”

Synthetic Performances: Sylvere Lotringer, Second Life, and the Politics of Perversions

What are we to make of the recent Supreme Court ruling on United States v. Williams? Now, just telling someone you have child pornography on your computer is a federal offense — even if you don’t. The New York Times wrote an editorial against the Supreme Court’s decision, explaining how, as much as they’d rather not stand on the perceived side of a child pornographer, “this law is drawn in a way that also criminalizes speech that should be protected by the First Amendment.”

Justice Scalia wrote there’s no “possibility that virtual child pornography or sex between youthful-looking adult actors might be covered by the term ‘simulated sexual intercourse,’” which further muddles this issue. Saying you have fake child porn is illegal, but the images are perfectly ok — no matter how skilled the photoshopping?

The UK ‘extreme’ p*rn law

Some feminists in the UK have responded favourably to this new law on the grounds that “extreme” pornographic websites promotes violence against women in the name of sexual gratification. Some even argue, “Pornography killed Jane Longhurst”.

The fact that Coutts was known to be fascinated with asphyxiation before he was looking it up on porn sites seems to be lost in this. Coutts had said himself he wanted to kill women from the age of 15. Believing that these thoughts would one day lead to criminal actions, he sought psychiatric treatment – this was twelve years before the murder. Five years before the murder, he discussed his obsession with his GP.

Yesterday at the clinic I got wedged in the middle of a client’s abusive relationship.

When I circled around to them, greeted her by name and motioned with my arm a bit protectively around her back for us to walk back into the clinic, and we tried to go in, he stepped in front of me, as well. He stepped in front of me, arms waving as if flagging down a driver who has come to help you when your car has broken down — as if clearly, I was help en route for him — and said, “She won’t LISTEN to me!”

It wasn’t just what he said, but the way he said it; the way he said it with this confidently held belief that I was on his side, that her disobedience was preposterous, and that, of course, her compliance to him would have been my primary or sole concern. I had to fight off the very nonproductive urge to say something to the effect of, “Oh dear! She won’t listen to you? That’s not right at all. Why don’t us uppity little ladies just sit down and you can tell us how it is since we’ve clearly lost our marbles all thinking for ourselves. I just don’t know what’s gotten into us. I am so sorry. Daddy knows best!”

Instead, still trying to get us both past him and back into the clinic, I said, very firmly, “I don’t care. I am taking her inside where she is safe, and you need to leave.”

He then said, “But she’s my WIFE!”

Anti-Gay Marriage Activists, I Feel Your Pain

Lie: “This will destroy traditional marriage.”
Fact: You know it hasn’t done so in Massachusetts, or in Spain, an even more traditional society. Traditional marriage has been destroying itself quite energetically in America for years, BEFORE gays could marry.

Lie: “Marriage is intended to facilitate procreation.”
Fact: You know that if this were true, marriage would be denied to couples who were infertile, post-menopausal, or committed to being childless. The state doesn’t do fertility tests before issuing marriage licenses.

Lie: “Children are better off with a heterosexual couple.”
Fact: You know there are no reliable studies showing that kids do better with straight parents. You know there are LOTS of studies showing that kids do as well with gay parents as with straight parents with similar incomes and education. And you know that half of all heterosexual married couples get divorced. Do you argue that having divorced heterosexual parents is good for kids?


Today I did court advocacy for a woman named Goddess Diana, a tantric massage provider that was arrested and as of this afternoon, evicted from her condo on Chicago’s north side. Diana is a wild-child, free spirit type who has been practicing tantra for several years and was providing sessions out of her condo building on a major street in a hip, yet highly gentrified neighborhood. Normally tantra providers usually fall under the radar of law enforcement, as their practice is a bit too esoteric for the average joe to understand, but in this particular case, Diana was basically railroaded by her nosy neighbors.

Unfortunately, Diana’s biggest folly may have been purchasing a condo in a three flat sandwiched between two yuppified, similarly surnamed couples, one with a child. And of course, yuppies are always trying to protect their children from something they might perceive to be dangerous, despite how harmless it really is. Diana’s neighbors took offense to her artistic lifestyle and bohemian appearance and began mounting a plot to get her out of the building. They searched online for information about her business, found it was sexual in nature, and mounted a camera in the lobby of their building to watch the comings and goings of Dian, her friends, and her clients. The video from these tapes was then posted on You Tube, complete with Diana’s name calling her a “whore” for all the world to see.

A feminist response to the new “feminist” anti-porn theory

It’s official! The anti-porn feminists (remember “Porn is the theory, rape is the practice”?) have finally realized that their “porn causes rape” theory was wrong. Dead wrong. Not even close. Unfortunately, without skipping a beat they’ve invented a brand new theory for why porn is still evil.

Now, I hate to call attention to this essay by Naomi Wolf (or even read it for that matter), but it’s sadly been popping up around the Internet lately as a feminist theory, and I’ve had some requests for a feminist response to it.

Five reasons why women really do need to get off the Internet

That’s it, I’m leaving. And I’m taking the hot ones with me. Women of the Internet, it’s time to go. It’s dangerous online for us in tech. As long as we were moderating “coping with cutting” LiveJournals and keeping Zappos rich by shoe shopping, the Valley and the men who made it paid us little mind. But if we dare be more than pretty eyeballs driving the market, we must challenge the deep misogyny pulsing at the heart of the hypertext transfer protocol. Consider this a collective Swiftian kick to the panties. Follow me, for this is why we have no hope here…

Sex Workers In The Myths

I had a friend who had gone to school and become a massage therapist ~ yes, the “real & legit” kind. Her dates & boyfriends were constantly expecting, even demanding, free massages. Her response was, “This is my job; will you perform your job for me for free?” But it still didn’t stop the whining and requests…

Now imagine you’re a sex worker in a relationship. Don’t you think you’d be asked for acts when you’re not in the mood ~ and then hear, “Well, you do it for Johns…”

My response was always, “Well, then pay me my rate.” That always shut them up. But still, they asked, expected, whined… And they thought that since I was getting it all day, I didn’t need foreplay. (Too many men think this for various reasons; but I’ll keep this specific to escorting.)

All of this is to say that the issue of sex worker relationships is, like any relationship, complicated. Do we ask massage therapists, cooks, childcare providers ~ any service professional how satisfying their relationships and sex lives are?

See also: Myths in Sex Work: Not Such a Delicious Irony

5 Comments on “Fourth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy”


[…] Waking Vixen » Blog Archive » Fourth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy (tags: women feminism carnival sex sexwork) […]


[…] Waking Vixen » Blog Archive » Fourth Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy (tags: carnival sexpositive feminism sexuality blogging) […]


[…] like “self-described” or “self-proclaimed”. Even the Carnival is called “Sexual Freedom and Autonomy”. I didn’t really ever declare myself “sex positive”. The closest I really came […]

8:12 pm

Response to “Why Sex Workers Can’t Calm the F Down About Trafficking Articles:”

I agree completely with the article.

I understand why some voluntary sex workers oppose the articles on trafficking as detrimental to the progress in establishing a public victim-free sex worker movement, but really the larger issue is the way that perspectives on sex work are dichotomized. As a voluntary sex worker myself, I feel conflicted about blogging about the negative aspects of my work, particularly any connection to sex addiction & assault, for fear of reinforcing the myth that someone wouldn’t be a sex worker unless they were victimized or seriously fucked up. But it also doesn’t ultimately serve another sex worker, for example, who is looking to connect with my experiences if I censor myself and pretend like everything’s fine and dandy.

Our experiences as voluntary sex workers are varied and deserve equal recognition, but I also recognize the way that mass media prefers to reduce the complexity to good vs. bad, the “whore goddess of sexual freedom” camp vs. the “coerced young addict with self-esteem problems” camp. Ultimately, trying to control what an outside media source wants to make of us is a Pyhrric victory, alienating/silencing those of us who have found harm or complexity in our work.


[…] in June 2008 I hosted the Fourth Carnival of Sexual Freedom and autonomy – and I’m doing it again! You can find out more about the Carnival here – this […]

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