Tag Archives: feminism

Why Women Shouldn’t Take Precautions Against Rape

 

First published on The Fifth Column on 24/11/15.

If you’re a female in the UK- and if you identified as or were labelled as female when you were growing up- you’ll have been told something like this:

“Don’t go out at night, it’s dangerous.”

“Don’t go for a walk alone, you never know who is around.”

“Try to fit in your exercise earlier or you’re putting yourself at risk.”

Regardless of whether your parents and family friends explicitly mentioned sexual assault or not, chances are you received far more warnings about the risks of going out alone, staying out late, drinking and contact with the opposite sex than your male siblings, cousins and friends. It might not always be obvious, but the subtext is that all of these things, including flirting or wearing ‘provocative’ clothing, could potentially lead to sexual assault. Women are indoctrinated from childhood to fit their lives around a constant threat of male violence. Women are taught to accept that we can’t do what we want, go where we like, step outside our home on a whim. We have to plan our journeys so that we’re never alone for a second on a night out; or if we are, we have to strategise an alternative brighter, busier route. Even in daylight women are told to hike in ‘safe’ places. Freedom is not for us. Nor is the right to feel safe or enjoy the environment.

Parents and educators seem to spend far more time telling daughters not to get raped than telling sons not to rape. This is actually amazingly stupid, as the only person who can 100% prevent rape is the rapist. As a society we focus on the woman. If schools and families spent as much energy on boys, we might actually have less rape; some rapists honestly don’t understand that what they are doing is rape because nobody has ever effectively discussed consent with them. The MOD appears to have embraced this view with its first-ever military rape prevention campaign of posters aimed at perpetrators.

Men are also at risk of sexual assault and even more at risk of murder than women. But they don’t go through life scurrying from safe place to bright patch to busy spot. They can own the world. I’m not saying that men never worry about their safety; my male friends actually do. But they don’t let it overwhelm their lives and dictate their movements. And when a man is sexually assaulted or even murdered, he usually isn’t victim blamed. Nobody claims that a male murder victim was “asking for it” by wearing “aggressive clothing” or “violent tattoos”, or that he shouldn’t have been out alone at night because it’s “just asking for trouble.” Nobody pens articles on college-age men “taking risks” and how alcohol leads to men becoming victims. People don’t say “well, if he didn’t want to fight he shouldn’t have answered back.”

tellmeiasked4it

Image source: juvenilejusticeblog.web.unc.edu

That’s the thing, right there. Rape is impossible to prevent. You could live in fear for decades and then get assaulted by a friend, colleague, classmate or partner. Even a teacher, neighbour or family friend. Or you could get assaulted by a stranger no matter how carefully you plan; sexual attacks do occur when victims are in groups, in daylight, when youths are accompanied by parents, and even when there are many witnesses. And if you are sexually assaulted, nobody will appreciate the missed opportunities, the anxieties and time wasted over all the years you spent avoiding rape. You can be victim-blamed or even disbelieved by police, press, friends and family. You’ll be criticised for letting your classmate into your flat, for drinking, for “leading him on”, for what you were wearing, for not taking a cab, for staying out after your friend went home with a headache, for not screaming for help, for letting him walk you home. For being a female sexual assault victim.

So why bother? The question is: is it all worth it? Are all the years of self-repression and fear that you have to go through as the price of being female, while your brothers are free, worth avoiding a rape (assuming you even manage to succeed in avoiding it?) As long as you aren’t abducted and kept as a sex slave, sexual assaults are usually over fairly quickly. Avoiding it doesn’t seem like a fair exchange for decades of restraint. Of course sexual assaults can leave lasting adverse psychological effects- but not for everyone. And constant fear of violence is also bad for your mental health. Quite apart from the stress itself, it reinforces the idea that you are vulnerable and a second-class citizen; men can go where they fancy without thinking about it but you can’t.

I’m not criticising women, men, agender or intersex people who choose to take precautions or use rape-drug detecting nail polish or wear anti-rape underwear. These products have quite rightly been criticised for their potential to increase victim blaming, but if they make you feel safer, by all means buy them. I too take alternative routes if it’s dark and I’m alone. I’m also more aware of who else is around me at these times, especially if they’re male.

My point is that as a gender we’ve been brainwashed into accepting that male violence will always and forever impinge on our freedom in a way that as a nation we would never allow terrorism to. After news of ISIS’ plans to carry out terror attacks in the UK we were told to attend the threatened events and carry on as normal. By contrast police tend to warn women to stay away from an area where a rape has occurred and encourage them not to go out alone or late. Whether you agree with bombing the ‘Islamic State’ or not, today’s news has proved once again that politicians are not worried about provoking terrorists, but women are frequently given the message that they can avoid rape by not provoking a rapist. In fact the SlutWalks originated from just such a comment by a police officer.

Why should we be limited because of what men do? Surely they are the ones who should be punished with restricted movement. We may not be able to stop ourselves from taking the safe road home right away. But with the realisation that we’ve been taught to live in fear and organise our lives around men’s violence, we can slowly, surely, start to free ourselves.

Belle Knox, Libertarianism and the politics of freedom

First published 20/8/14 on Cliterati.

 

Photo credit: New York Post

Photo credit: New York Post

 

What pops into your mind when you think of Libertarianism? (Or Classical Liberalism, if you’re from the UK). It’s about liberty- as its name suggests. Freedom from government and moral regulation, hence its socially liberal and fiscally conservative tendencies. It’s been used to justify everything from consensual incest to legalising drugs to the Snowden leaks.

So it might seem a tad surprising that Pamela J Stubbart, a Libertarian writer and member of the Libertarian media organisation Young Voices left the organisation because they accepted‘Belle Knox’, the Duke University student, sex worker and writer.

As you’ll already know, Knox was bullied and slut shamed for her job by her classmates, the media and online trolls after a fellow student and porn consumer outed her as an adult performer.  She spoke out to her university’s paper and XOJane under another pseudonym. Her story was unexpectedly picked up by the media and she was outed by- who else?- our very own Daily Mail, pride of the British press, because deliberately exposing a then-18 year old to increased bullying and cyberbullying, as well as potential future employment discrimination, is what today’s journalism is all about.

Hailed as one of the “finest minds in Libertarian thinking”, Pamela J Stubbart spends most of her time blogging about how to tell if your cat has OCD and what people think about your Facebook photo. Stubbart describes herself as a feminist and an atheist- not exactly the kind of ideological background you’d expect from someone who won’t touch a sex worker with the proverbial ten-foot barge pole – even when said ‘pole’ is a signal pulsing along an Atlantic cable. “I’ve been told my cultural politics are delightfully screwball,” her Twitter profile boasts. Interestingly, Stubbart is an Education Officer for the Institute for Humane Studies, whose mission is “to support the achievement of a freer society by discovering and facilitating the development of talented, productive students…who share an interest in liberty”. Obviously, in Stubbart’s view this only extends to students whose career (or perhaps sexual?) choices match up with her personal tastes. Otherwise surely she should be the first to assist Belle Knox in her development, instead of publicly (as opposed to quietly) leaving Young Voices in protest over Knox’s acceptance.

Some Libertarians disagreed with Stubbart’s choice because liberty necessarily includes sexual liberty. Others felt that the Libertarian movement should be inclusive of everyone. Some agreed with Stubbart that Libertarianism doesn’t mean supporting sex workers or being pro-porn.

So, what does this tell us about Libertarianism? Is it true that supporting the legalisation of sex work (actually, sex workers campaign for decriminalisation) is “all that’s required of a libertarian,” as Stubbart tweeted? Or does being a libertarian mean more than just supporting legal change- does it mean supporting sex workers’ rights more generally, including their right to join groups, be visible, and participate in community life?

Cathy Reisenwitz is a libertarian, writer and public speaker, as well as a Young Voices editor. For her, Libertarianism and sex work aren’t mutually exclusive. “I think shaming or ostracizing sex workers comes from the same place as central planning. It’s the idea that you know what’s best for other people,” she says. “The best part about libertarianism is its humility. It’s perhaps chief insight is this: Allowing people to pursue their own self-interest makes everyone richer. The same is true whether you’re talking about money, or bodies, or bodies and money. Being libertarian means supporting the right of sex workers to work without police abuse or imprisonment, of course. But I think it also means questioning the validity of making their lives more difficult through stigma and ostracization.” 

“A very basic idea from the libertarian ideal is that people have the right to make their own decisions, and specifically that people have personal autonomy and freedom,” says  Kaelie Laochra, a sex worker activist and blogger who tweets about respecting sex workers. “So being pissed off that a sex worker is libertarian makes almost no sense in my mind.  And being angry that someone who is a sex worker is [in] a libertarian organization makes no sense.  In fact, it makes sense to me that a lot of sex workers are in fact libertarian and that the party should be one of the most supportive of sex workers because of its stress on autonomy and pride in being self employed, self sufficient and everything else I find to be very much an aspect of being a sex worker… I think, for people who actually do follow a libertarian ideal, it is pretty much within those beliefs to be a sex worker”.

International Union of Sex Workers activist and editor of the Harlots Parlour blog Douglas Fox is a libertarian and a sex worker. He’s living proof that you can be both, and for him it makes complete sense. “While respecting individual morality, those who sell sex as a job, deserve, within the libertarian community, respect and support for having made that choice, and should not be judged on prejudice, but on their worth as individuals,” he says. “Libertarianism was born from the enlightenment, from a declaration recognising the right of man not to be subordinate to the tyranny of the state, or to dogmas that judged a man’s worth on the subjective morality of prejudice and superstition. Sex workers remain the last group of workers judged not on their worth to society but on prejudices about human sexual behaviour that hypocritically control, especially, women’s sexual choices and right to consent. In a libertarian society prejudice should hold no control over a person’s right to consent to sex, or a person be judged by their choice to sell sex. An individual’s worth should be determined by rights that value the individual, not by prejudices about their labour.”

An individual’s worth. It seems that “Should being libertarian mean being pro-porn?” is the wrong question. You don’t have to be “pro porn” or “pro sex work” to refrain from ostracising someone because they work in porn.

 

Of whorephobes, slut shamers, trolls and Libertarian voices

Stubbart might think she’s taking a stand by leaving Young Voices. But her actions aren’t screwball at all (delightfully or otherwise). Instead, all Stubbart is doing is adding her Libertarian voice to the thousands of other online bullies who are calling for Belle Knox’s advocacy to be ignored and her voice to be silenced.

Think about it. Refusing to associate with someone or isolating them is recognised by UK schools as a common form of bullying which their anti-bullying policy makes unacceptable. Boycotting Israel is a moral judgement. So are many state sanctions, or refusing to play sports with apartheid South Africa back in the day. This is an attack on Belle Knox, not Young Voices, whether Stubbart admits it or not.

Whorephobia is (unsurprisingly) hard for us non-sex workers to grasp. We were raised to hate and despise sex workers. And just in case you think I’m any better, I’m not- I used to hate ‘sluts’, too, or rather the idea of them, more than most. But if we think of other marginalised groups, we can begin to grasp how sickening whorephobia is. Imagine Stubbart living in an era when it would have been socially acceptable to do so, saying “I’m leaving this organisation because I don’t want to be associated with a lesbian, and I’m worried what homophobic employers will think of me if I’m associated with someone who is attracted to members of the same sex.” Now imagine Stubbart being alive even further back and saying “I don’t want to be associated with a black woman because racist employers will discriminate me too for not being racist”.

But wait, you might be thinking, aren’t you jumping the gun here? Pamela Stubbart didn’t mean to join the bullies and slut-shamers and whorephobes! She’s just worried about ultra-conservative employers; you’re a Brit and have no idea what the job market’s like across the pond!

To that I present Exhibit A: In another blog post she writes “I definitely am not willing to claim that [slut shaming] is unequivocally bad in general. No, no, no. We do, and should want to, live in social groups where the informal enforcement of norms (as through shaming) is the primary mode of moral discipline”. It continues with “I take a really high number [of sexual experiences] as prima facie evidence that someone may have impulse control issues and/or self-esteem issues…slut shaming per se — i.e., attempting to make someone feel bad for truly excessive sexual activity — is something of a different case. It is partially morally legitimate…slut shaming is on the moral up and up in my book.”

In the interests of balanced reporting, I’ll point out that Pamela Stubbart does say “I implore you to exercise caution: as far as I can tell, slut shaming typically occurs in cases when the alleged slut is harming no one but herself (if even that). Exercise moral caution. Is this person’s sexual behavior harming anyone other than herself? If not — and you’re not a close friend or family member — then back the fuck off.”

If only she’d taken her own advice. Because ostracising someone for doing sex work is a form of slut shaming.

This isn’t an agenda of liberty. It’s allowing the oppressors to oppress. It’s taking advantage of one’s own privelege to collude with oppressors to the ultimate detriment of one’s own freedom.

What Stubbart is saying is:

It’s not OK to accept a sex worker into an organisation.

It’s not OK to be “associated”, however tenuously, with a sex worker.

And if employers discriminate against sex workers and those associated with them, that’s OK- the problem is the existence and visibility of the sex worker.

 

And why? Because if paid sex is as empowering as giving it way for free, that’ll endanger the Libertarian Revolution? Oh no. Nothing like that, no. What Stubbart- as a self-described “hookup culture survivor”, a phrase that I find offensive considering it apes the language of child abuse and rape trauma- seeks to prevent is the collapse of the sex market, or something:

“[W]hen sexual norms are too permissive, it creates mating market collective action problems” she declares. Though apparently the Pill and watching porn are A-OK, possibly because Stubbart makes use of them, but doesn’t do sex work. Stubbart also casts doubt on whether Knox consented to perform, and believes that Knox’s choice is a moral issue (albeit one she doesn’t know about enough to judge…which means she would judge it if she ever knows enough). She goes on to say “Keeping your experiments in sexual growth small and private helps to limit their potential to damage both yourself and our normative socio-sexual frameworks. I want to live in a community where people understand and respect that we are all sexual creatures, enjoy their sexuality in pro-social or at least benign ways, and limit it otherwise.” Which is surprisingly anti-freedom and moralistic for a self-confessed Libertarian atheist!

 

Hypocrisy, Or, What Doth Unacceptable Sluttiness Make?

Another concern is that Stubbart doesn’t play by her own rules. She  describes herself as “poly curious”, saying she’s read The Ethical Slut (a book on polyamory which I also read as a student).

” [W]ith a tagline like “Fall in love. Stay in love.” I may not be your target audience,” she teased another Twitter user. It seems kind of hypocritical to say ‘It’s OK for me to be poly and a Young Voices advocate, but a sex worker? NOOOO!! I QUIT!’.

It’s also very telling that Pamela J Stubbart publicly admits to using porn. So it’s okay to be the consumer but not to be the performer? Belle Knox would be out of work tomorrow if consumers like Pamela weren’t creating the demand. Oddly enough, in 2013 she tweeted “The fact that academia doesn’t want to talk about porn seriously is evidence that it really needs to talk about porn seriously.”

For all her criticism of Belle Knox not keeping sex private, Pamela Stubbart publically reminisces about her friend being the victim of a “sex toy scam” and the time she herself “added a question about period sex to OkCupid in 2011 but much to my chagrin it was never widely answered”. Other tweets include “I hope there are sex workers on LinkedIn, with all the relevant skills endorsements” and “I’m too busy having recreational sex to read all 7 pages”. That’s not exactly keeping sex private.

 

A sex worker’s right to exist in non- sex work spaces

“Libertarian sex workers, by unapologetically affirming their labour choices, challenge hypocrisy that limits women’s sexual choices and freedoms,” says Douglas Fox.

“Libertarian sex workers, especially women sex workers, affirm a woman’s ownership of their own bodies, they challenge the state’s control of women’s vaginas.”

So maybe it’s not that surprising that libertarians who eagerly challenge state regulation but who have internalised the patriarchal double standard might still baulk at the idea of sharing an organisation with a sex worker. And whether you agree or disagree with Stubbart and Knox’s choices, one thing is undebatable: whether they’re campaigning for decriminalisation of sex work, writing about their experiences, raising their children, or just existing, sex workers are stigmatised, discriminated against and ostracised. Just for doing their jobs.

Surely the pursuit of a liberty agenda should mean fighting employee discrimination? Surely it means supporting marginalised and oppressed groups as they shout to be heard, not silencing them and punishing them for becoming publically visible?

Knox’s visibility is not even a massive victory for sex workers- Belle Knox is cis, Western, middle class and highly educated. Her father is a doctor and she attended a private school. All of this means she can- to some extent- take on her critics as one of their own, and be more acceptable to the kyriarchy than a migrant, poor, uneducated, trans, disabled, substance-dependent, (fully) non-white sex worker (Knox is mixed race), or a sex worker with a history of abuse. But even a socially acceptable, possibly unrepresentative sex worker is too much for Stubbart to allow her fellow women who happen to work in the adult industry. No, they must all be stopped, every sex worker activist, no matter how unthreatening to the status quo. Even saying sex work is empowering- a simple personal statement which doesn’t call for legal change- is a rebellion that must be put down. Stubbart wants sex work to be legal and regulated. So, sex workers can exist invisibly, marginalised in the shadows as long as they keep quiet. But they can’t advocate for the legalisation of their own industry. Or even join an organisation if Stubbart joined first.

“The value of a person is not their labour but how they conduct themselves as citizens, as human beings,” Douglas Fox reminds us. “The greatest challenge for the sex worker is how to reclaim and affirm their identity. To have their work choice recognised but not define who they are.”

Kaelie Laochra says “I’m always a bit baffled when people are angry about sex workers being involved in real world organizations, or for that matter having real opinions on anything. It may go against the image people have in their heads, ready to discount anything we say, but sex workers have the right to not only have input, but be a part of things outside of sex work.”

Belle Knox wasn’t highlighting the fact that she’s a sex worker when she joined Young Voices. She was doing Libertarianism, not sex work advocacy. She thought she would be allowed to exist, to be treated equally. That trusting assumption was her mistake- a mistake so many sex workers make every day because they underestimate the cruelty of us freebies. If you’re a sex worker, freebies will always define you by your work. That needs to change.

The Prochoice Litmus Test

 

Photo credit: Facebook/Josie Cunningham

Photo credit: Facebook/Josie Cunningham

 

First published on Cliterati on 30/4/14 as ‘Josie Cunningham: The litmus test of what it means to be prochoice’

 

Unless you don’t pay any attention to internet culture, you’ll have heard of Josie Cunningham. The model, escort and mum of two sparked a Fifties-style outbreak of outraged pearl-clutchery when she told the Sunday Mirror she was having an abortion. Big news, huh? Woman Gets Abortion. But what people- yes, even pro-choicers- were against was the fact that she was getting an abortion to further her career (by getting a chance to appear on Big Brother). Yes, now you can apparently call yourself “pro-choice” even if you’re against abortions if you don’t agree with the reason for abortion. Gone are the days when “pro-choice” meant supporting abortions if the woman, trans man or non-binary person wants one. Nope, now it just means you’re anti-choice without being 100% anti-choice; many anti-choicers aren’t 100% anti-choice-most make an exception for the life of the mother or rape.

 

As you’ll have noticed, the Mirror article is littered with anti-choice rhetoric like “unborn child”, and it’s a very scathing piece which is ignorant of UK abortion law. But of course media hate isn’t surprising. Josie Cunningham was always going to be a target. Even not counting the fact that she’s most famous for her controversial boob job, the toxic combination of her career, age and gender present an irrestible media bullseye: Cinderella, you shall be turned into our bimbo! This is because Cunningham transgresses several patriarchal rules. Firstly, she’s a sex worker, and most of our media is whorephobic. By glamour modelling she trangresses patriarchal norms of the chaste maternal woman. Then she’s a young mother- making her a member of two stigmatised groups. Then, by going public, she’s being confident and assertive- something women aren’t traditionally meant to be. Her statement to the Mirror that she wants to be famous for herself, not famous for having a footballer’s baby, is a further break with the passive wife and mother (or WAG) role. The potential fathers of the foetus are high achievers. Therefore her traditional role is as their support.

 

And then there’s the middle class anxieties over a surgeon buying sexual services and possibly impregnating a “lower class” woman- a hooker, no less. Cue the monocle-dropping! Cunningham’s situation shoves in our faces the fact that respectable, highly educated people buy sex and have children with the people we marginalise and despise. And let’s not forget the anxiety that the determination and career-oriented scheming of a young woman stirs in the minds of older people, who look at her and see a togetherness they didn’t possess at that age. As our life spans and retirement ages go up, the young are increasingly seen as tech-savvy competitors instead of the proteges or successors they might’ve been a few decades ago. It doesn’t take a recruitment consultant to work out that a woman who can trick the NHS into giving her a boob job, fulfil her modelling dreams and achieve more fame than most of us by age 23 is probably someone you want to watch out for.

 

The odd thing is, it’s the reason for her choice that angers those so-called “pro-choicers”. It would’ve been fine if Cunningham had aborted because she didn’t want another kid. It would’ve been fine if she’d been guided by traditional norms into aborting simply because she wasn’t sure who the father of the foetus is (it’s either a footballer friend or a surgeon who was an escort agency client). Apparently, fame, earning a lot of money to make a better life for her children, and further lucrative deals aren’t a good enough reason to have an abortion. That’s kind of interesting as it raises the question: what is a good enough reason?Not many women stand to lose as much from having a baby as Josie Cunningham does. Apparently, these days women should only abdicate their baby-squirting maternal role for the ‘right’ reasons-being a nice middle class girl thing, like lawyer or doctor– and anything too capitalist is not a ‘right’ reason. Respectability politics, innit. As Georgia Lewis points out in this excellent blog, if you’re okay with a lawyer having an abortion because of her career, you have to be okay with Josie Cunningham’s decision. But “because I want to” should always be reason enough.

 

 

The whole outrage on this story is riddled with slut-shaming snobbery and ignorance of NHS abortions.If you’re prochoice, you won’t object to a woman who has an unplanned pregnancy having an abortion,” says Georgia Lewis. Josie Cunningham’s story raises all sorts of questions about employment rights, motherhood, capitalism, celebrity, women’s rights and specifically how pregnant women are treated by employers. Why isn’t Cunningham allowed on TV while pregnant? That’s the big question. But these debates have been ignored. Instead, a sexist attack on Cunningham (with classist and whorephobic elements) is all that’s happening. She’s all of our hates rolled into one: the scrounger, the young mum, the sex worker, the vapid, stupid celebrity, the slut. We hate our bimbos- but even more, we love to hate them.

 

The abuse in comments and on Josie Cunnigham’s Facebook page by anti-choicers is no surprise. But it’s very, very worrying that the prochoicers have joined in (sometimes with arguments as ludicrous as ‘some people can’t have kids, so she should’ – never mind the fact she’s had two, plus five miscarriages.) It’s worrying because Nadine Dorries MP and Jeremy Hunt have both tried to limit abortion. And this kind of anti-choice-in-pro-choice-clothing thing can only be a good thing for anti-choicers and anti-choice politicians. This could all have very real consequences for pregnant women, trans men, intersex and non-binary people seeking abortions.

 

[I]f a woman is in a desperate position enough to beg for an abortion than her mental health is already at risk,” says Nicole Walsh, mental health activist and founder of Succession, a nonprofit organisation that helps students living with mental health issues achieve their ambitions. If pro-life groups make further restrictions to abortions then those with mental health problems or risks to their mental health will be at a huge [risk]. As they will be under the judgement of such groups. Like their abortions their mental health will come under the moral questioning of unqualified non-professionals who will choose for them whether or not they deserve the abortion and then shame them when they have problems parenting….Women with un intended pregnancy are four times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression twelve months after birth…The problem here is that it is nearby impossible to hear from women who will admit that they went through with unwanted pregnancies and are or have been struggling.”

 

The academic literature certainly seems to prove Walsh right, as in this article by the Transnational Family Research Institute.

But what about the trauma caused by abortions that the anti-choicers keep warning us about? Many pro life groups advertise that abortion can cause post-traumatic stress disorder – or post abortion stress syndrome. This has absolutely no medical grounding,” says Walsh. “Whilst abortion is very difficult for many- the sense of relief many feel is very real.
Unfortunately many of the stories of PASS come from women who’s only option was a medical late term abortion and do not come from those with unwanted pregnancies. PASS has little to no real scientific backing and is still used by pro life groups to shame and scare women who want abortions.”

 

A 2010 study completely debunked the theory of post abortion stress syndrome and this 2009 academic paper claims the syndrome is fabricated by anti-choice (pro life) groups. But even if it existed, preventing possible trauma by causing the real trauma of forced carrying and birth would not be a justification for denying abortions, especially when harmful substances like alcohol, cigarettes and junk food are permitted. Somehow people never seem to get that upset about the Pill even though it can sometimes cause abortion.

 

Whether you’re pro-choice or anti-choice, and whether you personally approve or disapprove of her choice, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Josie Cunningham is the litmus test for all of us who like to think of ourselves as pro-choice.

 

 

Objectification: The Cause Of Slut Shaming

objectification

First published on www.cliterati.co.uk on 8/2/14.

“Objectification.” It’s a word we hear all too often. The charge of “objectification” is levelled at films, the news media, lyrics, art, and of course porn. Sometimes we intersectional or sex positive feminists might feel like it’s a catch-all term which silences those who have sex industry careers- especially since it is used to silence sex workers and take away our freedom to consume pornography. No wonder some women feel the word is overused or that objectification doesn’t exist. But the irony is that for all the rage against the sex machine, radical feminists are less vocal about the way objectification impacts on women’s basic freedoms.

objectification1

I’m talking about the freedom to be a single mother. A teenage mother. A sex worker. The freedom to have poly relationships. To be single and “older” without beng pitied or called a spinster. To openly and unashamedly consume porn. And, dependent on region or area, the freedom to be a nonvirgin.

Think about it: why are “sluts”, sex workers or even nonvirgins persecuted? Because women are seen as objects valuable only for our bodies. Valued for how “new” we are. The more partners we’ve had, the more “second-hand” and therefore worthless we become. In the USA, abstinence “education” lessons include teachers using a strip of sticky tape or a chewed up piece of gum to represent a girl getting dirty and unlovable by having sex. The teacher sticks the tape to a boy’s arm and then demonstrates how the tape won’t stick to a second or third boy’s skin. The girl is dirty- and that’s why kids girls should stay new pure. And who hasn’t heard of honour killings as a result of a girl being found not to be a virgin? Egyptian women buy fake hymens from China even if they are inexperienced, just to make sure they bleed on their wedding night. The government has criticised this enabling of immorality, but the Chinese aren’t that much better off; nonvirgins are stigmatised there too. Whether it’s Muslims in Egypt, Christians in America or atheists in China, the idea is the same: women are valued only as pieces of fresh meat.

Andrea Dworkin described how pornography reduces women to their genitals through objectification. But objectification has the power to do this without the vehicle of pornography. Why else is a piece of membrane valued more than character, brains, even beauty? Valued so much that women are murdered over their lack of it? Slut shaming and whorephobia are simply less intense versions of the ideology behind honour killing, and they also equate the whole woman with her genitals: how often she has sex, in what circumstances, with whom, her attitude towards it.

As for lone and teen mothers, they’re often stigmatised as “sluts”, which shows that the stigmas against lone and teen mothers are at least related to slut shaming even if they’re not just an extension of, or form of, slut shaming. If a woman is an object, she should be with a man, and this idea of a free, autonomous woman might be what makes some people uncomfortable. The same goes for “old maids” and “spinsters” who’ve been “left on the shelf”- bachelors are cool and desirable but the older single woman is seen as desperate for a hubby and kids. I don’t think I really have to explain how misogynists- and a lot of society- sees poly and openly kinky women: If you’re an object, you don’t get to have sexual agency or take control of your sexuality (being poly or kinky). And you certainly don’t get to objectify men by consuming pornography or using men for pleasure (casual sex or how some people see being poly).

That’s why women are assumed not to be pornography consumers- and sometimes stigmatised if they are. We are objects, things that exist to have stuff done to us. We’re not supposed to have sexual agency, to seek out pornography and want to do things, to be subjects or autonomous agents. And of course objectification, which leads to slut shaming, brands us sluts for watching porn.

We’re not real people, so if we’re queer it’s hot, it’s a male fantasy, because our sexuality isn’t “real”. We can be desirable as sex objects in revealing outfits, but also simultaneously despised because we’re “sluts” for daring to bare an inch of skin. We’re supposed to be available but if we are, we’re worth less- hence the whorephobia and slut shaming.

And that’s where whorephobia, slut shaming, and stigma against teen and lone mothers stems from. If women weren’t objectified, we couldn’t be equated with our genitals and thereby evaluated on the basis of our sexual activity. Slut shaming and whorephobia could not exist, and the stigma of lone and teen mothers would exist in a different form, if at all. The contribution of objectification to slut shaming/whorephobia, limited family choice freedoms, and limited sexual freedoms is not recognised enough by mainstream feminism. There is a disproportionate focus on pornography and the sex industry while the more immediate and daily-life effects of objectification are not recognised as a form of objectification.

Why We Should All Shut Up About So-Called “Teen Pregnancy”

First published on the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association blog on 27/12/13 as “Teen Pregnancy: Stop The Stigma”.

Teen mothers. They’re sluts. Benefits scroungers. They’re not good mothers. They’re all working class. And they’ll never, ever amount to anything. “Society expects the worst outcomes for pregnant teens & young parents, so it gets the worst – and young people suffer,” says Lucy V Hay, script editor, author and former teenage mother. “But by the same token, if we expect the BEST we empower pregnant teens and young parents and help them to help themselves.”

We’re all complicit in perpetuating this classist, misogynistic, slut shaming and (in the USA) racist stigma. Our politicians ‘combat teen pregnancy’ and openly try to destroy this family form- an annihilation which would be called genocide if it was perpetrated against any other minority group. Imagine what the public’s reaction would be if politicians were combatting post-teen pregnancy and reducing the numbers of nuclear families or even the numbers of same-sex families. Would we still keep our silence?

There are two components of the stigma: age-related discrimination (perhaps understandably we want our kids to have great social and sex lives before settling down. We worry that kids will affect this. Hint: nationalised childcare would fix this and allow low-income lone parents to work full time and allow low income couples to have both parents working.) The gender related component is like the sexting moral panics- slut shaming and horror over the bad things that can taint our pure virgin daughters. Pure misogyny disguised as concern.

The patriarchy glorifies motherhood- but not teen (or single) motherhood. The Candies Foundation’s campaign encourages stigmatisation of young parents and tries to enforce abstinence but not abortion. And feminists, you’re not exempt. Yes, patriarchy causes the gender-related component. But- you know when you advocate for sex ed/PSHE, contraception and abortion? Well, it’d be great if you didn’t stigmatise teen pregnancy to further your agenda. Not every teen pregnancy is unplanned and they’re not all lone parents or ignorant of contraception. The hashtag #FeminismIsForTeenMomsToo is really important reading for anyone who identifies as a feminist.

But are the tabloids and the government right? Well, no- because it’s never moral or right to discriminate against anybody, especially adolescents and children, who are the most vulnerable people in society. And no, the anti- young pregnancy arguments aren’t factually correct either. Ann Phoenix’s 1991 qualitative study of young unmarried mothers found that waiting a few more years to start a family would not have improved the mothers’ material well-being in any significant way. Contemporary studies show that teenagers are managing their sex lives responsibly and using contraception at much higher rates than in the past. Solinger cites recent findings that teenage pregnancy declined 17% in the 1990s and in the US it is at its lowest rate since 1973.  U.S. teen pregnancy rates decreased 38% between 1990 and 2004 (Ventura, Abma, Mosher, & Henshaw, 2008), and teen birth rates declined by 34% between 1991 and 2005.  In 2005, the US teenage pregnancy rate reached its lowest point in 30 years. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001a), teenage pregnancy rates steadily declined from 1990 to 1997. The declines occurred across racial-ethnic groups. Teenage birth rates declined from 1993 to 2000, and in 2000 the rate for young teens reached the lowest point since 1976 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001b).  Mcintosh claims that 16-19 year olds constitute just 3 percent of lone mothers in the UK. Teenage pregnancy has fallen during the last few decades; data from the General Household Surveys shows that in 1980 67% of nonmarital births were to women aged under 25 but this had declined to 50% by 1995. The decade with the highest teen pregnancy was the 1950s and in 1957 the average bride in America was a teenager. Kiernan, Land and Lewis report that data from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NSSAL) 1991 shows that 18% of women born in the 1930s reported having sex at age 18 or younger. In the 1950s teenage pregnancy was far more common than it is now, but was not seen as a social problem if the parents married before the baby was born. Even teenage marriage was rife and even accepted. So we can see that teenage pregnancy was more prevalent in previous generations; it is a traditional way of life that is in decline and teenage pregnancy today is a remnant of that tradition. And let’s not forget that teen pregnancy was the norm throughout history all the way back to the Stone Age.

And despite the teen pregancy discourse being confused with the lone mother discourse, most teen mothers aren’t single. Coley & Chase-Lansdale’s (1998) review of the literature suggests that 50% of all teenage fathers in America live with their children for some time. UK birth registration statistics for 1995 show that a majority of teenage births (67%) are jointly registered to both the father and the mother and that 59% of these jointly registered births were registered to the same address (Brook 2002). This means that most teenage parents are in committed relationships, especially taking into account the fact that under 16s are not allowed by law to live by themselves and so are very unlikely to register births to the same address.

Media and governmental discrimination has had very serious consequences in the USA, where the PRWORA prohibits states from spending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds on minor, unmarried, custodial parents who do not live in an adult supervised setting, thereby forcing teenage parents to live with their own parents which may lead to family tensions, overcrowding and lower quality of life for all concerned. The PRWORA legislation states that ‘‘the negative consequences of an out-of-wedlock birth on the mother, the child, the family, and society are well documented,’’ and that ‘‘prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and reduction in out-of-wedlock birth are very important Government interests’’ (see H.R.3734, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996). It also allows states to deny additional benefits to mothers of any age who have a second child while they’re receiving benefits, to reinforce the disapproval of nonmarital births. (No, really.) Luckily we’ve avoided such harmful discrimination in the UK, but the proposed Marriage Tax Allowance does use money to privelege married parents over nonmarried ones in the same way as PRWORA and just like PRWORA it is transparent, overt social engineering and will increase stigma of cohabiting, lone and teen parents.

As for the Teen Pregnancy Ruins Your Life myth- it’s nonsensical, at least in the UK. If you’re under 16 it is the law that you have to go to school so even if a young parent wants to stay home with their child, they can’t. No university will ban you from matriculation because you are a mother or father. Student loans companies take whether students have dependents into account when calculating the loans and grants they’re entitled to. Universities have Childcare funds for student parents and university creches. It’s the norm for mature students to be parents. If older students are often parents why are younger students assumed to be unable to cope? Many students work while studying. We take it for granted that young actors manage to star in movies while continuing their University education, but act like it’s impossible to fulfil the age-old, natural role of parent while studying. We evolved to be parents and have done it for millennia; acting (and studying) are not things we evolved to do. Telling teens that their futures will be limited if they start families creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

An issue that doesn’t get mentioned is what if a boy or girl actually plans to try for a baby? Respecting sovereign choice doesn’t just stop at not forcing an abortion on a teen. It also means respecting and valuing the decisions of teens and preteens to plan to start families. If a teen understands the descision, what gives us the right to stop them? 12 year olds can by law consent to medical treatment without parental knowledge and even if the parents are against it, including abortion and contraception, as long as they understand the decision. This is why doctors don’t have to notify parents that their kids have had abortions. A 12 year old having a baby he or she has wanted and planned for is a good thing, and certainly better than a thirtysomething who doen’t want children or is a bad parent. The media have created the myth of schoolgirls getting pregnant to get council flats and benefits. The media made young parenthood into an issue, and politicians talk about the issue mainly in terms of these parents’ relative youth, as if it’s somehow, for some bizarre reason, actually wrong for a younger citizen to want children but perfectly fine for an older citizen to want children. Age discrimination much?

What are we saying when we stigmatise young families? That we want all young people who get pregnant to have abortions? That teens have no right to try for babies? Are we saying that starting a family early means you won’t earn as much money (which doesn’t have to be true unless the mother believes the myth that she can’t go to uni, as we just saw)? So basically we’re saying that material goods are of the utmost value in human life and that money matters more than having children?

Teen pregnancy is an illogical concept. It is completely arbitrary, relying as it does on the “teen” suffix; hence it only works in English. The phrase also excludes preteen pregnancy and lumps together the very different experiences of 13 year old and 19 year old mothers. Yet, 20 year olds are magically okay because “twenty” isn’t called “tenteen”. In most regions of the world especially states with a lower average age of first birth the term is meaningless; the Scandinavian countries don’t stigmatise young parenthood and in Estonia teen pregnancy was encouraged in the Noughties because the birth rate was low. The label “teen pregnancy”does not fit with reality because young twentrysomethings who have kids and preteens who have kids are also stigmatised, so the label should actually be ‘preteenteenandearlytwenties pregnancy’. The label is focused only on the female parent which is sexist. It might actually be more helpful to distinguish pregnancies on the basis of consent to the pregnancy (whether choice to continue or terminate was available to the mother and whether the mother became pregnant through rape). Or we could distinguish pregnancies based on intention of adoption, keeping or abortion, or any other random distinction. Age is such a silly thing to discriminate on, especially since mature mothers are also criticised. I’d vote for dropping age and instead having discrimination based on the sexual position the child was concieved in, because it’d make political discourse on the family much more interesting.

But how could we stigmatise teens having families if we didn’t stigmatise teen sex? We need to ask ourselves: “Have we, as parents, as role models, as older siblings, now made it unacceptable for our adolescents to have a great sex life?” Because, tragically, I think we have. It used to be acceptable. In fact, people used to get married as teens. Even Pope Francis – going one step further than teen dads – told a same-age girl he wanted to marry her at the age of 12. In keeping with the Catholic teen sex theme, the Virgin Mary was an unwed teen mother. Evidence that teenage sex is beneficial to adolescent development has been documented (Levine 2002; Perito 2008) and evidence that it is not harmful is overwhelming; a few recent publications include: Gross, 2009; Omar, Greydanus, Tsitsika, Patel, & Merrick, 2010; Rosenthal, 2006; Rosenthal, 2006; Steinberg, 2005; Monahan and Lee, 2008; Meier 2007.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to stop hurting young people, adolescents and their babies and children. We can stop any time we want.

Slut Shaming: When Teens Adopt Traditional Values

This article was first published on Cliterati.co.uk on 11/12/13.

 

Slut shamed to death. Not just Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Potts but other victims all over the world who we’ll never hear about. Most of the women we do hear about are middle class, cis, white and very young. They usually have caring, confident parents who can publicise their stories, hire lawyers and contact media. But girls whose parents can’t speak English as a first language, who are seen as promiscuous or troubled, whose parents and community don’t value them, whose culture might condone shaming them even more than ours does- who speaks for them when they are raped, bullied, and failed by the authorities? Many girls and women are bullied but don’t reveal what the ‘reason’ for the bullying was. Most don’t kill themselves and so they’ll never make the headlines. Perhaps the saddest thing is that while feminism and even mainstream culture view rape as the worst thing that can happen to women, these girls didn’t kill themselves because they were raped, molested or exploited. They killed themselves because of the bullying and slut shaming. For Rehtaeh- and many others- the slut shaming was worse than the gang rape. Rape isn’t always the worst thing or the fate that is worse than death.

 

 

One of the rapists who attacked Rehtaeh Parsons contacted her mother to tell her he is not a rapist and to ask her to help him as he was being bullied for committing rape. He claimed that he cried when he knew she had killed herself. Either he’s a compulsive liar or he genuinely believes that what he did wasn’t rape. In Scots law a genuine belief that the victim has consented can be used as a defence in rape cases (because mens rea, or intention, is needed for anyone to be convicted of any criminal offence) so if Rehtaeh Parsons’ attackers were tried in Scotland they might be acquitted. As a feminist it’s probably sacrilege for me to say this, but I think it’s sad if people who genuinely believe their victim is consenting go to jail (not that it often happens). I’m not saying they shouldn’t be jailed. While some of these people might genuinely misunderstand their victim, some might not know that what they’re doing is rape but nevertheless have the intention to disrespect or take advantage of their victims. That’s why we need to teach consent in sex and relationships education. Teaching consent benefits young people of all and no genders. Increasing the rape conviction rate is very important but preventing assaults and harassment from occurring in the first place would be even more beneficial. And we need to teach young children about respecting others. A message of respect could help stop bullying, sexual assaults and the publicising of sexts.

 

But it seems like the message that preteens and teens are learning is to disrespect girls and women. To share their sexts, label them liars when they report rape, bully them for having their sexts shared and shame them for doing anything remotely sexual- even if they were coerced into doing so by an adult. Cyberbullying and sharing images are often given a false veneer of ‘newness’ in the media but cameras have been around for decades and really all that these kids are doing is reproducing the classic slut shaming and victim blaming. The fact that they’re doing it via text and Facebook instead of face to face or via village gossip isn’t actually that relevant. Far from being an ultra modern hypersexed generation, they’re conservative and sexist in the extreme. Back when I was at school, 12 year olds getting pregnant weren’t slut shamed and a 14 year old girl secretly filmed by her boyfriend while they were having sex (the film was put online) wasn’t bullied for it- though she was slut shamed for changing boyfriends (!) Teens might actually be getting more misogynistic and sexually conservative.

 

The UnSlut Project aims to stop slut shaming in schools, communities and the media. The Project is currently in the process of creating a documentary to reveal the extent of slut shaming and explore the steps that can be taken to address this issue. UnSlut Project has been featured in The Observer and Slate and was voted the number one non fiction work on Wattpad, the world’s largest story sharing community. “Slut shaming doesn’t just harm the girls who are directly targeted,” warns founder Emily Lindin. “Living in a society where slut shaming is a constant threat harms all girls. Girls are sent very conflicting messages about sexuality and how they ought to dress and act – they should be sexy, but in a very specific way that they see reinforced in the media. And if they are somehow perceived as too sexy, or as embracing their own sexuality, they are ‘out of control’ and must be shamed.” Ms Lindin knows only too well how destructive slut shaming and sexual bullying can be. Part of the inspiration to create UnSlut Project comes from the slut shaming she suffered as a teenager. Lindin has published her teenage diaries on a blog and UnSlut Project offers teens and preteens a safe space to discuss their experiences of slut shaming. “It’s a terrifying challenge to navigate these expectations,” she says. “[A]nd it often leads to a misunderstanding of self-worth, low self-esteem, and long-term sexuality issues.”

 

In a nutshell, it’s dangerous, misogynistic and pointless. And most tragic of all, women slut shame other women at least as much as men. The child pornography of Amanda Todd was widely shared after she killed herself – not by disrespectful boys or even predatory older men, but by girls. They were trying to tell the world what a slut she was even after she was dead. They’re not yet 16 and they’ve already internalised a hatred of ‘sluts’ and a rabid victim blaming of 11 year olds coerced into sexting by paedophiles. They’re much more slut-hating than most adults. But maybe it’s not that surprising that yoiung teens slut shame to the grave and beyond. Kids learn values from adults. What chance have they got when adult women slut shame each other and the concept of ‘slut’ and the sexual double standard are popularised by pop culture and the media? Parents teach their kids that bullying is unacceptable but at the same time they condone or even encourage slut shaming. Even progressive, liberal or feminist parents often fail to teach their children to question the word ‘slut’ and the sexual double standard.

 

That’s a shame, because the concept of “slut” is based on historical patriarchal values which women didn’t get to decide. The double standard is self-defeating as it requires men to be experienced and women to be much less experienced, which means “sluts” are essential in society to give experience to men. So the double standard itself relies on “sluts” for its existence. The definition of a “slut” changes by the decade and varies between generations, countries and social groups. Anyone can be called a slut- even children, virgins or rape victims, as happened to Amanda Todd, Audrie Potts and Rehtaeh Parsons. Slut shaming relies on an artificially black and white way of understanding sexual behaviour and evaluating women, as we can see from the fact that the Facebook groups which supported the rapists designated Rehtaeh Parsons a “slut”. (Is this the hip new 2013 revamp of the virgin/whore dichotomy- the rape victim/slut dichotomy?) Slut shaming also relies on a set of ideas which designate more sex as bad and less sex as good, as well as the idea that there are only two genders and the opposite is bad or good for each gender. Sexual behaviour is also conflated with ethics or morality. We could just as easily designate more sex as good for women and bad for men. We could just as easily conflate sex with logistics or with cookery as conflate it with ethics.

 

Slut shaming and victim blaming are part of a wider problem of school bullying and misogyny. These attitudes are taught to teenagers by the media, by society and pop culture. Porn filters aren’t going to fix these problems (the scarcity of porn might if anything make sexts more ‘valuable’ and more likely to be shared). Children need to be taught to respect other people from a young age and there shouldn’t be a mystery or dirtiness about sex. In Sweden very young children know how babies are made and don’t get all giggly and pervy about it; they accept it as natural. Maybe if our kids were educated the same way, they wouldn’t see a photo of a naked peer as something worthy of sharing; nudity and sex wouldn’t be a big deal to them. As a 6 year old I was read a book called ‘Where Do Babies Come From?’ (complete with illustrations). The result? Sex Ed lessons as a teen were boring and I was confused at everyone else’s embarrassment and how ignorant they were. Teaching about consent and respect are better solutions than censoring pornography and if teens respect each other, there will be far fewer Rehtaehs, Audries and Amandas.

Reply to Glosswitch’s porn debate blog

Sekhmet has blessed me with a chance to defend my honour. That was one of the first things I tweeted at 1am today just after I read this blog, which accuses me of several things without evidence, attacks queer women and claims that any woman who is against No More Page 3, porn filters or Lose the Lad Mags is an attention seeking “misogynist” who thinks she’s “shagged her way” out of privelege so she can do activism by having sex. Sekhmet, it is at these points that I love you (anxieties over cultural appropriation and goddess-worshipping-feminine-feel-the-energy feminism aside).

In usual Glosswitch style it is done with links but no names, so I’m not entirely sure where she’s slagging me off and where she’s slagging off another blogger. Well played, as this makes it difficult to craft a reply. She appears to be lumping us all together into a privelege-denying, sex-bragging misogynist group, so I’m going to assume that everything she says bar discussions of biphobia is directed at me as well as at others.

Here’s some choice quotes: “who deem themselves to have shagged their way out of the quagmire of prissy feminist privilege and on to far greater heights of sexual awareness. And there they stay, looking down on the rest of us privileged fools, making sage observations such as [quotes Stavvers] and [quotes me].” Then she says we think feminists who support No More Page Three only do so because they “just hasn’t had enough fucks”. I have never said that. This is a deliberate misunderstanding of my blog.

Apparently I am a part of “the self-appointed sex positive elite” and I say that NMP3 supporters are “suffering from a type of sexual dysfunction that requires remedy. What’s your problem – are you frigid or what? The stereotype of the grim-faced, repressed feminist, who simply needs a good seeing-to to sort out her issues”. Glosswitch says ” [whorephobia] does not lie with mythical feminists who are “a bit funny” about sex”. Er…I never said that. I never claimed feminists created whorephobia or the problem lies with them. What I said was these campaigns inadvertently back up patriarchal attitudes.

“The working-class NMP3 campaigner cannot be a radical but, by contrast, the sexually adventurous middle-class woman is, not by virtue of doing but simply by positioning her sexual experience as type of currency. The more sex you have, it is assumed, the more of a voice you have earned” and “The more unusual you can make your sexual habits appear through fanciful description, the more authoritative you become (regardless of how mundane said habits actually are).” (Ten points for use of the word “currency”- it makes the thing you’re talking about seem dangerously capitalist.) This is childish and hateful. It’s not reasonable debate. Glosswitch is painting us as high school braggers, reducing my arguments to mere posing. She couldn’t have made herself look more vile and unreasonable. It just doesn’t stop: “This kind of approach is the would-be radical offshoot of Katy Perry singing about kissing a girl and liking it, or Robbie Williams boasting about swinging both ways…it’s being used to sell something else: records, calendars, misogyny, status, or a substitute activism that still doesn’t require you getting out of bed.” I’m not going to dignify that with a response; we’re not in high school any more.

As for “Those who question this are somehow defined as “white feminists” by the equally white (but dare I say less feminist) avant garde. It is, in short, not just a cop-out, but a repressive, disingenuous one at that”, I don’t have single white gene. I did my first ever blog post on race issues last week in which I mentioned my dual heritage and the racist abuse I’d grown up with. Use of “avant-garde”: twenty points as it appeals to an 18-30 year old audience.

Well, Glosswitch. You apparently don’t find my feminism so repulsive as you’re still following me on Twitter and are still allowing me to follow you at the moment of writing. A tweet that you’d linked to me and called me a misogynist would’ve been courteous, considering we follow and occasionally retweet each other.

Basics: You do not get to define biphobia and polyphobia. Even I don’t try to define biphobia, despite not fitting neatly into the hetero camp. Only women who identify as bisexual or queer can define it. The same with being poly. I am poly in the sense that I have never aimed for monogamy and have dated poly people with the expectation of forming poly households. But as I’ve never been in a poly relationship I don’t get to define polyphobia. If you have no sex work experience, you don’t get to say “I’m not whorephobic BUT..” either. Imagine if straights defined homophobia or whites defined racism. “It’s not racist! Separate but equal, yeah?” Heard that before?

One logic fail that stands out from all the rest is your very repetitive assertion that sex working and sex positive feminists want to enforce a norm of sexual adventurousness. Um. You know how sex working women spend years building their business and money to advertise it? How would they earn money if we were all sex workers? That’s like saying I want all women to be content writers! If you think my stance on No More Page 3 and porn filters can be boiled down to bragging about my sex life, why would I want all women to be adventurous? Then I’d have nothing to brag about, would I? I’ve never bragged about my sex life on this blog or Twitter. In fact I’ve mentioned at least once on this blog and once in an article on Fearless Press that I haven’t had many experiences.

Also, newsflash: Sex working feminists should not be confused with sex positive feminists. Not all sex workers are sex positive- some reject sex positivity for co-opting sex workers’ arguments and demanding women’s sexual availability. I do identify as a sex positive feminist but not everyone who shares my views does, and I’m not sure of the others you criticise identify as sex positive.

You repeatedly set up me and a couple of other small-time unpaid bloggers as a powerful group of political bullies who are silencing anti sex work and anti porn feminists. Try opening a history book or glancing at the BBC news. Right wing politicians are never going to back up UnSlut Project like they have supported banning porn since the 70s. David Cameron is never going to stand up for sex workers’ rights in the same way he wants to enforce porn filters. American evangelicals are never going to give the English Collective of Prostitutes millions of dollars like they do to anti sex work orgs. No government will ever fund an escort agency like the Irish Government funded 14 million to the Ruhama Agency. The Twitter anti slut shaming account @StopSlutShamers will never be picked up by the media in the same way as porn issues. How the Everyday Whorephobia blog and Twitter account will remain unknown while hyped-up sensationalistic trafficking “documentaries” pull in millions of viewers and even more dollars. The public will never be aware of the dangers of the Nordic Model in the same way they’re familiar with the “dangers” of porn. Bored yet? Because I could go on about the power and global reach of the rescue industry and what sort of feminism gets you media careers and how Julie Burchill can safely say stuff about sex workers that’d get her jailed if she said it about queers. I could go on about how much media attention the bad sex science calling-out site www.badsexmediabingo.com will get compared to hysteria over porn.  I could go on about how the porn debate spills over into sexting and shaming young mothers, how Jodie Marsh’s hypocrisy was televised unironically, how anti porn rhetoric dehumanises sex workers.

“[W]omen who’ve been pushed back by thinly veiled accusations of prudery, frigidity and sexual failure due to their feminist position need a word for the attitudes they’re facing.” Really? A word for your sadfeelz? Society doesn’t stigmatise you. The government isn’t trying to eradicate you. The media doesn’t encourage discrimination of you. Politicians don’t see you as a threat. The law isn’t enabling your rape, incarceration and murder. Feminists are not using their media platforms to blame you for your rape. You weren’t hounded out of your community like Daisy Coleman. You weren’t driven to suicide like Amanda Todd. The police didn’t turn a blind eye to your violent partner and leave you to be murdered like they did to @JasminePetite. You haven’t been fired unfairly like Laura Lee or outed in the media like Douglas Fox and @minxylydia or outed on social media like @pastachips. Your children have not been stolen from you because of your job. You do not live in fear of being outed like so many sex workers do. You aren’t targeted by serial killers because the police don’t care and killers know it’s easier for them to get away with it. You aren’t ‘rescued’ into a prison where the guards rape you for years, or jailed for working like what happens in some countries. You won’t be honour killed for not bleeding on your wedding night. You aren’t shunned by your family or forced to live a double life. Not like sex workers (and to an extent, women labelled ‘sluts’).

That’s why we need words like whorephobia and slut shaming. You don’t need them, Glosswitch. Everyone gets criticised over their style, choice of video games, hobbies, accent, whatever. We don’t need words to describe people who’re teased for being hipsters or Beliebers and we don’t need a word to describe how you, the group backed up by government, feel you’re being teased by a handful of random unknown bloggers with no platform. I could whine about my feelz on discovering that you, a feminist I admired and linked to on this blog, has verbally attacked me without provocation. But I won’t whinge and I won’t coin a term for it. Feminists disagree every day without coining neologisms. In fact, I’ve been hurt and even betrayed by feminists I really liked and thought were friends. Even now I still think about it and why they did it (though I also thank them, as it taught me the very valuable lesson of not to trust anybody ever and also meant that your stunt didn’t surprise me that much or hurt me at all). What was done to me was worse than what was done to you (actually, nothing was done to you- those blog posts were written for the public, not aimed at you). But I didn’t start coining names for it and I don’t avoid retweeting them or mentioning them if it’s about a political issue. There is a difference between the personal and the political. It’s time to grow up.

This isn’t helping women. It’s reducing a debate to a sexualised form of verbal assault and mocking the idea of women having sex (which has shades of slut shaming). I’ve never denied my privelege and the idea of feminists using sex to deny privelege is ludicrous. Sadly, this will only drive a wedge between feminists who disagree over No More Page 3 and Lose the Lad Mags. I respect and am friendly with some NMP3 supporters. We agree to disagree – I even RT blogs I disagree with so my followers can read both sides of the debate and make up their own minds. I see that one of these people I’m friendly with has approved of your blog post and written one of her own. I still like her. But if this shit-stirring continues, it will put unnecessary strain on my relationships with No More Page 3 supporters. I’d understand your actions if you and me were personal enemies, but we barely know each other and when we did interact, we have always got along. You seem to be starting drama for the sake of it and forcing feminists to pick sides.

Open debate is very important, so feel free to come back to discuss these issues once you have adopted a mature, less fanciful and less personal style of debate.

Oh, and painting like three or so bloggers as a bullying elite without any evidence whatsoever in those links you provided? Fifty points. Which makes a total of 70 out of 100, so not bad.

Hail Sekhmet.

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