Monthly Archives: December 2012

The slut shaming site: outing and extortion – and it’s all LEGAL

http://www.potentialprostitutes.com is a website where anyone can submit a name, phone number and other details to forever create a record f that person being a prostitute. The site calls sexworkers “offenders” and encourages the general public to “report an offender” so sexworkers will be taught “a lesson”. There is no mention of clients’ roles or ‘culpability’ in the committing of such “offences”. So, we’ve got slut shaming and whorephobia in one near little package of malicious Naming-and-Shaming Gone Wild.

But wait, there’s more! As no doubt you’ll have guessed, the women featured on the site are more likely the victims of school bullies, colleagues, exes and neighbours than actual sexworkers. So, that’s libel. And any sexworkers who are on the site got there by exes or nasty “friends” who are keen on revenge instead of “reporting offenders”. Some “reporters” may actually be clients who have had a bit of a tiff with the sexworker in question. So, let’s recap: if they’re not sexworkers, that’s libel. If they are sexworkers, it’s very unethical to out them and they might lose their job (Melissa Petro was a teacher fired for being a call girl in her student days), get evicted, or even get murdered if they come from certain backgrounds/communities or live in certain countries.

So, it would be reasonable to expect that if a pissed-off colleague types your details into that site in a moment of rage, you’d be able to get them taken down. Well…yes. But you’ve got to pay. Bad luck if you’re a student, poor, or just got fired when your boss saw the site.

Sadly, though many “reporters” are no doubt evil scum, some may not realise the harm that can result by typing in someone’s name to that site. It’s not hard to imagine teens putting in their parents’ or teachers’ names, or friends putting in each others’ names as a joke. Or even people putting in their own names, or made-up names. Fictitious identities may cause problems for anyone with the same name as the fictitious name (The tumblr blog Predditors outed many people who posted ‘creepshots’, yet misidentified a few because of similar usernames). We still tend to regard the internet as an ‘unreal’ space, while bosses and the law regard the internet as a real space – and as a public one. We forget that the internet is forever.

This site may remind some of you of “revenge porn” or “accidental porn” sites such as IsAnybodyDown, where exes of both genders post nude photos of their ex, who then has to pay to have the photos taken down. But at least sharing sexts is quite prevalent; it is very unethical behaviour, but it is(for want of a better term)  normal behaviour. PotentialProstitutes.com is much more contrived, novel, and a direct attack on sexworkers; its focus is solely on female sexworkers, unlike revenge porn sites which are designed for both genders.

All these sites are legal, because although you can sue the people who post your information, you can’t sue the site’s owners. This is the same law that says Facebook isn’t responsible for the content that you or I might post to it.

So, though a teenage boy (Matthew Woods) spent Christmas (and will spend New Year) in jail for joking about child abduction on Facebook, and Reddit’s Violentacrez got fired for creating the Jailbait subreddit (public domain photos of underage clothed girls)  and being one of the moderators of the Creepshots subreddit (photos of women taken in public), we are not going to see any consequences for the people behind PotentialProstitutes.com.

The Virgin Mary: A Christian case for respecting teenage mothers

At Christmas, Catholics especially pay homage to an unmarried pregnant teenager. We applaud as our children act out the Nativity and even display little clay Nativity scenes. Historians believe that Mary was as young as 13 or 14 years old when she became pregnant while engaged to Joseph. The foetus concieved was not even Joseph’s child, but a being conceived during sexual intercourse with the Holy Spirit. Whether most people believe this is true or not is irrelevant – we still behave, to a certain extent,  as if we believe it was true.

So, demonising “teen mums” seems quite ironic at this time of year – especially since this is a time of year when the family is glorified. Shouldn’t ‘the family’ include ALL families? Shouldn’t celebrating the birth of an unmarried mother’s illegitimate child be taken as the ultimate statement of respect for single or unmarried parents?

It seems ironic that those who claim to be religious and pay the most attention to Mary’s pregnancy often seem to be those who most stigmatise modrn-day young parents – especially female young parents. This is even more obvious across the pond, where people such as Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum and various GOP members achieved unwanted notoriety for slut shaming, victim-blaming and anti-contraception comments all rooted in their disgust for single mothers (and possibly all female nonvirgins).

Radical feminism and pornography

Why is it that radical feminists assume all pornography is made by men, for men ? Because that is the assumption on which their assertion that porn is degrading, sexist, and damaging to women rests. Even sex-positive/liberal feminists often find themselves arguing that this isn’t necessarily the case, or that porn can be co-opted for feminist causes (feminist porn) or tamed so it is not degrading (woman-friendly porn).  However, the assumption is still that so-called “mainstream porn” –(whatever that is) is patriarchal and damaging. From Carol Smart to Andrea Dworkin, to Kat Banyard and Jessica Valenti, the conflict between the two main feminist factions seems to agree on this point.

This confuses me. Okay, I’ll admit it, I usually don’t consume porn. I have a very vivid imagination and so many kinks that finding all of them represented in a single porn segment would be difficult. So, you could very well argue that what do I know? However, when I have viewed pornography – whether video, literary, or art – I did not find that it was created by and for men. Although pornography does seem to feature women more, that doesn’t just benefit men, but bisexual and lesbian women. Also, women aren’t represented a whole lot more. There is still plenty out there for the straight woman to enjoy. And neither are women degraded any more than men are. As for sites and blogs where amateurs create literary or art porn, there are as many female pornographers as male (AnimeOTK.com, for instance).

Perhaps the current assumption that pornography degrades women is based on ‘vanilla’ pornography (which I have never viewed and never will), but more alternative pornography (BDSM, vampire porn, etc) may be less degrading.  I feel that ‘vanilla’ should not be confused with ‘mainstream’ – especially now that, thanks to the pathetic antifeminist sex-shaming of 50 Shades being interpreted as somehow ‘freeing’, everyone and anyone is rushing to explore BDSM. Furthermore, what the corporations produce is not the only source of pornography. Most pornography nowadays is amateur porn and it may be less degrading than the stuff churned out by corporations.

Andrea Dworkin believedthat BDSM porn was more degrading than vanilla porn, without offering a reason as to why. Such obvious discrimination only shames and stigmatises the BDSM community – both male and female. It only hurts the women who are kinky, especially kinky feminists.

And, at the end of the day, even the corporations are existing in an industry based on the values of consent. All sex workers in the industry are consenting adults, and if they’re not, that’s dealt with by police – which is quite easy in the current trafficking hysteria which has blown the very rare occurrence of trafficking in the UK and USA into a moral panic. So even if the porn is ‘degrading’, the employees are willing to work. Perhaps more focus should be on sex workers’ labour, health and human rights, as well as equal pay (female sex workers in porn earn up to 10 times as much as male sex workers).

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