Monthly Archives: October 2013

Rochdale sex abuse & Girl A’s book: why we shouldn’t call abuse ‘child prostitution’

“Child prostitution”. It’s a term that should never be used. It insults both sex workers and victims of child abuse. Why? Because it equates consenting adult sex workers with child victims of abuse, rape and trafficking. It suggests that consenting sex workers don’t have agency and that child abuse victims are somehow complicit in their rapes.

Girl A, the main witness in the Rochdale sex abuse ring case, describes how social workers assumed she and her friends made “lifestyle choices” to work as “prostitutes” in her book Girl A: My Story. I’m certainly not saying that all underage sex workers can’t consent- some sex workers such as author and columnist Tracy Quan do start sex work while underage and studies have shown that underage sex workers do have agency. Underage sex workers who are independent (don’t have a pimp) often have to do the soliciting and advertising themselves, which means they can’t usually be groomed by their clients. Contrast this with teachers and neighbours grooming teens who know and trust them. And of course the age of consent varies around the world- and on top of that, some states have one age of consent for free sex and another age for paid sex. Likewise I’m not saying that just because someone is over the magical age, they are automatically consenting. Girl A was 15- a few months shy of 16, the British age of consent. But if the ephebophile rapist gang hadn’t been stopped, she could well have carried on being abused past the age of 16. That’s the trouble with the age of consent: it’s absolutely necessary to protect young people but it’s arbitrary and one size certainly doesn’t fit all.

Her story is sick. It is distressing. It is vile. For those reasons it is difficult for me to read. But what strikes me isn’t so much the cunning and cruelty of the rapists, but the whorephobic, neglectful and racist attitudes of social workers, police and the girls’ own families and community.

Social workers told Girl A/”Hannah”‘s parents in her presence that she was a “prostitute”. Not even “sex worker” (apparently their sensitivity training didn’t stretch to thirty-year-old terms that even the dreaded mainstream media manages to use). They kept trying to force her to out herself to her parents as a sex worker until she finally did. The social workers had not even told Hannah that they were going to visit her family and out her. They also failed to deal with Hannah’s parents’ whorephobia before they left, because after they’d gone Hannah’s father said to her “Not only are you a prostitute, you’re a prostitute to fucking Pakis!” Brilliant- whorephobia, racism and victim blaming all in 12 words! Hannah was 15. She was underage. That in itself should mean that her experience should be thought of as being likely to be abuse unless Hannah’s lived experience differs and she claims to have agency like other consenting underage sex workers.

Hannah’s younger sister started calling her a “Paki shagger” and telling others in the community. The fact that Hannah’s parents weren’t that upset over her pregnancy scare but were very angry and ashamed when she did become pregnant seems to back up Clark E. Vincent’s observation in 1950 that society tolerates girls having sex but only ostracises the girl when she becomes pregnant. Seems like the times they are not a-changing. The fact that shortly after outing her, the social workers asked her what she would do if the baby was born half Asian is very startling: what precisely is wrong with half Asian babies? Would they have asked her what she’d do if the baby was born full white? I doubt it. This is all clearly stigma directed at lone white mothers of mixed race children, as discussed by Dr Vicki Harman here.

A student had reported suspicious behaviour by the abuser to police. Witnesses reported they saw a young teen girl carried naked out of a hotel. But the authorities did nothing. Social workers assumed that the girls were making “lifestyle choices” to sleep only with Asian men or to start careers in sex work. Yes, I agree that teens should be free to make lifestyle choices that don’t harm them and certainly who you sleep with is a very personal and important lifestyle choice. But given the overall negligence revealed in Hannah’s book, this seems like an excuse.

These girls were seen as trouble. Some of them allegedly weren’t that bright, they were often seen drinking underage in the streets and had their alcohol confisticated by the police (which is legal for police to do to underage drinkers in Britain, I’m sad to say). One or two of them were very successful at getting boys into bed and were proud of their achievements in this field. This was all known to police and social services. The girls were also working class. It is possible that because of their class, likely future class and their non-gender role conforming sex lives, the authorities did not value these children. When children of middle class parents – or maybe even children of working class parents whose grades might push them into the middle class in future- get drunk in the street or sleep around, that’s just youthful high spirits. It’s not seen as a problem. But when a working class child does it it means they’re trouble. The idea that the authorities had given up on them is reiterated throughout the book.

There is no such thing as a child prostitute. For the teens that do consent to sex work, I would just call them sex workers or ‘underage sex workers’ if the need to describe their age arises. Hannah was a sexual abuse victim. She was never a sex worker because she did not consent, just as any rape victim never “had sex”, they were raped. Conflating abuse victims with sex workers is a favourite trick of the vastly wealthy anti-sex work organisations. They deliberately do this to further their own lucrative agenda to criminalise sex work (or sometimes to criminalise clients). These schemes cause sex workers to be murdered, raped and destroy ties between police and sex worker organisations. Dr Laura Agustin refers to anti sex work organisations as the ‘rescue industry’. So that’s another reason why the term “child prostitute” should not be used.

Just as it is not always clear to courts whether an adult had sex or was raped, it may not always be clear to authorities whether underage people are sex workers or abuse victims; we all know kids can be groomed into believing they’re consenting or conversely that adults may frame underage sex as exploitative even when it’s not. Obviously, younger teens or those who are controlled or pimped are (usually but not always) unlikely to be fully consenting even if they appear to initiate it. Given different individuals’ rates of development, varying cultures, provision of adequate sex education and so on, it can sometimes be impossible to tell who’s consenting and who isn’t. But this uncertainty doesn’t stop us from not insulting these kids further by using the term ‘child prostitution’ to minimise their abuse or deny their agency and lived experiences.

7 Reasons Why Radical Feminist Exclusion Of Trans Women Is A Logic Fail

Feminism. It means standing in support of all women, right? Fighting for the equality of all women. Recognising intersectionality of oppression and the different issues facing women in different situations? Well…no. At least not according to TERFS (trans excluding radical feminists).

I like to think that I’m not your typical liberal, that I’m not the type who’ll effectively censor others and her own thinking by being closed off to anything that sounds conservative or exclusionary or non progressive. And my commitment to free speech means that everyone has the right to communicate with me and educate me (yes, that’s why I don’t use the block button on Twitter). So when @pantypopo casually told a trans woman that she is a “man” and doesn’t get to be in our conversation (a fairly uncontroversial exchange on waxing), I didn’t get angry. Instead we discussed the issue in an intriguing and civil way. And when @pantypopo tweeted a link at me and @CCriadoPerez (Caroline Criado-Perez), I read it. Because I believe I should read these things. Otherwise how do I know I really believe TERFs are wrong if I haven’t heard both sides of the argument? I read the link. I read other posts on the blog. I read @pantypopo’s blog. I read the blog of the infamous Cathy Brennan, and I read other blogs. And no, I’m not going to call them transphobes- because I don’t need to. (Though they are). Ad hominem arguments aren’t needed because I can show that TERF ideology is a huge logic fail.

The main issues TERFs have with the trans* community 

1. Being trans is a sexual fetish which starts with crossdressing for sexual arousal

2. Trans people fight for rights so they can prey sexually on women in women’s toilets and women-only changing rooms e.g. by “videoing them peeing”

3. Trans people are taking over the feminist and gay rights movement/had no movement of their own and are hogging funding

4. Trans women are dangerous because they are really men, so the issue is that men are infiltrating feminist spaces and spying or destroying the feminist agenda from within

5. Trans women being able to use women’s shelters etc results in cis women being vulnerable

6. Trans women aren’t women and never will be (socialisation and physical sexual characteristics)

7. Trans people reinforce patriarchal gender norms

Let’s unpick that, shall we?

1. Well. Decades ago, the rest of the world cottoned on to the fact that there are vastly different reasons for people born with male-assigned bodies to dress as women. They do it (or have it done to them) for kink or part of BDSM role play (crossdressing, sissification); they do it to perform (drag queens, acting, etc) they do it because they’re genderqueer or trans or because they feel comfortable in women’s clothing even if they don’t identify as queer. Some cultures have 3 or more genders and this may involve male-borns living as women e.g. pre-colonial India where they held governmental positions. There may be more reasons.

Saying that crossdressing as a kink is the same as being trans* (a word that itself covers a spectrum of presentations and body types) is ignorant. Maybe a small number of men “rationalise their kink” by “convincing themselves they were really meant to be women” but that’s not true for the vast majority. The whole theory reads like a vanilla cis person’s confusion over queerness and kink. It also fails to account for cis women whose kink is to be dominant over men and “force” them to dress as women or little girls during role play. It fails to explain the existence of trans men. It raises issues over intersex people who choose to become women after being socialised as boys. It fails to explain why some female-assigned people dress as men.

2. So. TERFs think men are content to lose male privelege, be ostracised, risk being fired, murdered and raped, spend thousands getting surgery and hormones etc and have SRS surgery just so they can “film [us] peeing” or chat us up in the changing rooms? If a guy wants to see a woman in her underwear he doesn’t have to cut his penis off to do it. He doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars in debt, unemployed and ostracised. He could, like, open a laptop. He’d see much more than a woman changing on the internet. He could purchase services from sex workers- camming, full service, pro-dommes, whatever he wants. That’s way cheaper and quicker than surgery. How many men would even have the patience to sit through years of hormones, electrolysis and surgery, then spend more years as a trans activist fighting for the right to use female changing rooms, never knowing if this right will be won in his lifetime? That’d be like me drawing up a 10-year life plan and bankrupting myself so I can see a cute guy in his boxers in a male changing room in 2023. As for chopping bits of my precious, strong, beautiful body off or sewing things up- NO. Just no. Male privelege is the main advantage men have over women and the thing feminism exists to fight against. It’s unlikely men would give it up just to see (bra-covered) boob.

3. The posts I’ve read about trans projects recieving too much funding were biased- they compared the amount given to one feminist project against the amount allotted to all trans projects funded by the organisation. As for trans people having no movement of their own and simply riding on the gay rights movements’ achievements, I’m not sure this is actually true. In previous decades people who were seen as queer or gay might identify as trans if they were around now. I’ve heard of gays and lesbians of previous decades who chose opposite gender nicknames and presented as the opposite sex. Even if trans people did ride the coattails of the gay movement, so what? You could make the same (unfounded) allegation against intersex or genderqueer or androgynous or asexual or nongendered people. So what if any of these groups did? What precisely is the problem if gays were the first to mobilise and gain (some) acceptance?

4. Same problems as the Chopping Off My Cock So I See Women’s Shoes Under The Stall Door In Ten Years theory. (Okay, so lots of trans people don’t get SRS surgery – or any surgery. But they still live as women and get the same misogyny, violence and sexism if they’re read as women. Many do use hormones which drastically change the body , including the genitals.) Who is most likely to spend thousands and years changing his body and losing male privelege just to infiltrate feminist activist groups? Misogynists, right? But misogynists are the sort of men who look down on women and don’t think women (and therefore feminism) can achieve anything much. They wouldn’t see feminists as a threat. Misogynists are also rather sad individuals who aren’t very proactive or able to craft such elaborate and time-consuming plans; they mostly hang out online, blogging against “sluts”, posting misogynistic comments on articles or venting about their exes on forums. We’ve all seen the pathetic things they’re capable of.

5. There’s no reason why cis women would be vulnerable if trans women used women’s shelters or were put next to women in hospitals (aren’t hospital wards mixed gender anyway?). Trans women might be stronger, but differences in strength, height and health exist within the cis female community. There are cis female athletes and cis female bodybuilders. Even the average cis woman would be stronger than a cis woman with a severe health condition or disability. As for sexual predatoring, it would make more sense to ban all lesbians, bisexuals and pansexuals (whether cis, trans or intersex) from using women-only spaces in case they start sexually harassing or raping everyone.

6. Yes, socialisation starts at birth (often with the pink clothes purchased before the birth) and yes it is an ongoing life long process. As values change, gender roles change and so women are often re-socialised as the expectations for women are tweaked. And yes, trans women haven’t experienced this socialisation. But. They experience it as soon as they present as women. They get all the misogyny and sexism, and if they’re spotted for being trans, they get worse oppression than cis women. Look at any statiistics you like and you’ll find that trans people are more at risk of murder, rape, employment discrimination, mental health issues and homelessness than cis people. And come on- do you really think that if employers are bigoted enough to discriminate against cis women, they’ll be rushing to employ or promote trans people? Do you really think that the communities who oppress lesbians are going to welcome trans women with open arms? It’s worse because trans women get discriminated on two or three grounds – being women, being trans and (if they have a female partner) being lesbian. And yes on the surface it looks like trans women ‘choose’ the oppression that cis women are forced into. That they “know what they’re getting into”. But do they? Do all trans women know exactly what oppression they will face before they succeed in being read as women? How can they know what sexism is like just from observation, any more than I can know what transphobia is like just from observation? And the bottom line is that whether trans women freely chose oppression or not, they are being oppressed now. They face all the oppression faced by cis women, plus the added and more dangerous oppression for being transgender. One post I read seemed to focus on rape and inply that trans women will not be raped. But if they are read as women there is no reason why they cannot be attacked. Even assuming that heterosexual rapists leave women alone after discovering they’re not cis (we don’t know if they do), what is the advantage? The attacker would already have hurt, stripped, maybe molested you before he discovered you weren’t cis. You’ve already been seriously sexually assaulted and maybe physically assaulted. This idea seems to imply that only PIV rape or ‘full’ [?] rape counts as rape, which is a ridiculous idea. People of all genders have killed themselves over sexual assaults that ‘fall short’ of rape. The idea also has misogynistic undertones about equating women with their genitals and the patriarchal importance placed on physical virginity. Given that not all rapists are heterosexual, the idea that trans people can’t be raped is nonsensical. Rapists can be queer, too.

The radical feminist idea that trans women aren’t women because of their bodies is biological reductionist (equating male with male genitals). It’s also hypocritical to then claim that even after SRS surgery they still aren’t women because women cannot be equated with their genitals.

7.  Radical feminists want to abolish gender, so obviously to them trans people seem to be reinforcing patriarchal gender norms by declaring that gender is real, and they are born a certain gender (but in the wrong body- though not all trans people subscribe to the ‘born in the wrong body’ narrative). Actually transgenderism can be seen (and has been seen by some cultures) as creating a third gender. Transgender individuals divorce gender from physical sex, which though it may reinforce gender, it at least shatters the patriachal value of gender which was to repress the female sex. Gender isn’t that valuable to the patriarchy if it is separate to biological sex because people who were male-assigned at birth get oppressed while those previously female-assigned enjoy male privelege. The tie between gender, sex and reproduction (and therefore important aspects of the gender roles) also get messed with. Besides, even if trans women (and therefore trans men- stop just blaming the women, feminists!) reinforce gender roles, plenty of cis women do too. Women who shave (guilty), wear gender-exclusive clothes like skirts and dresses (guilty), are housewives, work in traditional female careers like caring, are interested in style (guilty) and cosmetics, even arguably women who have no interest in feminist issues. Are radical feminists going to kick all of them out of feminism too? According to some radical feminists, PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex is unfeminist. I’m actually not guilty of that very often, but that’s because I’m kinky (which is even more unfeminist in the eyes of some radical feminists). And of course there are the sex worker excluding feminists, but that’s another subject for another blog post.

So there we are: 7 reasons why the radical feminist criticism and exclusion of transgender and transsexual women is failed logic. I have tried to keep this post as non biased as possible and have included links to some TERF blogs and @Pantypopo’s Twitter because even if we disagree, she deserves credit for indirectly making me write this. I apologise if I’ve accidentally said anything ignorant or offensive about trans people – you can tweet me at @Slutocrat on Twitter and I will change the text. -Slutocrat

The Job Centre, illegal sanctions and state control of the body

Our government is throwing away hundreds of millions on work providers like Ingeus and A4e. The Herald claims that each provider costs us between 10 million and 50 million per year- and there are over 40 of them. It’s a tad pointless when all these expensive schemes don’t actually help people get jobs. It just lowers their self esteem and perhaps indirectly makes it harder for jobseekers to sell themselves at interviews when they feel humiliated and oppressed or guilty for being unemployed.

Even if Ingeus and A4E could help people into work, what difference does it make to the economy- there are only so many jobs. Choosing some unemployed (those attending the Job Centre) to build up and get jobs doesn’t reduce the unemployment rate; it just means that these chosen few will successfully compete with other unemployed who aren’t yet claiming JSA. The number of unemployed remains the same. And the non-benefit claiming unemployed who lose out to the benefits claiming unemployed will eventually have to claim benefits if they can’t compete for jobs. This isn’t any more beneficial than giving employment to brunettes over blondes or gays over straights. So what is the DWP’s and Iain Duncan Smith’s real goal?

We all know the Atos horror stories (here’s one in video form about how Atos declared a woman with mental disabilities fit for work) and the tales of sanction-induced poverty and homelessness. Could the DWP’s agenda simply be control? The DWP is based on control: what types of jobs you apply for, how many you apply for, where you’ll look for them. Control of the body and physical location is integral to the DWP’s operations (workfare, group sessions, attending Job Centre or work program provider interviews and advisor appointments). The system of ‘agreed actions’ means that even if something isn’t mandatory it becomes mandatory once you’ve agreed to it and you can’t change your mind even one second later.  If you don’t do it you get sanctioned.

Being five minutes late to sign on at the Job Centre will mean you get sanctioned for 4 weeks. I found this out a while ago when I decided to test out my new platform wedges. I arrived at the Job Centre and as usual I had to wait for nearly 10 minutes to be seen. “Joel” checked my job search and seemed surprised that I was applying for jobs every day. He said he was pleased that I was looking for work. The Job Centre only requires that you contact 2 employers per week and I would always exceed that every day. Then Joel said “You’re five minutes late.”

I was very surprised as I actually thought I’d get there early as I’d got up and hour and a half earlier than I needed to (my sign on time was early in the morning) and also left the house earlier than usual because it hadn’t taken me as long to try out eye shadow blending as I’d thought it would. But I didn’t say any of this because there is no point telling the Job Centre anything. I just said “Okay”.

Joel is a nice friendly guy. I’m not criticising him. I’m just reporting on DWP policy because it is ridiculous. Joel gave me a letter to take away because I had been late.

I asked him “What is the purpose of this letter?” Joel replied that it’s a warning. I asked “Do you keep records?” He said they do keep records but only for 2 weeks. “If you’re late twice in a row you’ll be sanctioned but if you’re on time next time then we destroy the record,” he said. I asked him for the policy reference but he didn’t know so I looked it up. And you know what I found? Being late can’t actually be sanctioned. Jobcentre “customers” can only be sanctioned for failure or refusal to attend. (The first time means a 4 week sanction and refusing or failing to attend again means a 13 week sanction.)

jobcentrelatenessnotsanctioned

Only refusal and failure to attend are sanctionable. Not being late to sign on.

This means the Job Centre is sanctioning people illegally. No wonder Joel couldn’t point me towards the policy reference – there isn’t one.

But that’s just one example of the Job Centre’s increased control over the movements of its “customers”. Foucalt wrote about state control of the body and it seems to apply to the Job Centre which is now so regimental that being 5 minutes late is now punishable by a 4 week illegal sanction. While some of the DWP’s contractors will allow adviser interview times to be set at convenient times, the Job Centre demands that claimants attend at whatever time the Job Centre wishes.

The Job Centre can change your sign on time with no warning and without telling you and they will refuse to change it back even though you usually babysit at those times (it’s happened to me). An investigator travelled 95 miles to meet me at the Job Centre to ask me questions about the babysitting, my relationship status and bank accounts. He told me I should have informed the Job Centre I had babysat even though I’m not paid a penny for doing it and only babysat occasionally. I had a to sign a declaration that my circumstances hadn’t changed. The investigator was understanding and said he knew I wasn’t deliberately hiding anything from the Job Centre, but the Job Centre has to know about babysitting otherwise it’s like the government is funding childcare for the kid’s mum, especially if she can only work if I provide childcare.

With restart interviews, sessions. job search interviews, adviser interviews and god knows what else for those on JSA, ESA and Income Support, it’s clear that control of people’s movements and schedules is a key tool in the DWP’s agenda of humiliation and control.

When you’re forced to run to the Job Centre out of fear of being late or hurry through treacherous ice as snow blows into your face, all so you can get money to buy food…it doesn’t exactly help your self esteem or your confidence at interviews or your motivation to get back into work. This is control and punishment, pure and simple.

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