the rack and the screw

I heart my bush

Posted in blogwars, feminism, sex work by bellareve on April 14, 2009

This is a post on pubic grooming. So I want to preface it by saying that I don’t care how other adult women manage their genital hair. I don’t think women shave/wax to “look like little girls” and I don’t think shaving/waxing has anything to do with one’s status as a Real Feminist. I do believe that male (and female) preference for the bare aesthetic is heavily influenced by trends in pornography. But ultimately it’s your call if you want to pluck it all out, braid daisies into it, or shave it into the shape of a swastika. 

Basically, this post is about my bush, not yours. (overshare warning)

And boy do I have one! When I was stripping, I got rid of it, and came to miss the damn thing. These days I trim around the edges to create a sharp, neat triangle on top, shave what would stick out of a bikini, and leave the rest as is. 

This may not seem earth-shattering or revolutionary, but I have found that literally everyone I know is shocked by it. The people demand answers. My answer is that I like the way it looks more – my eye is drawn happily to the dark triangle. And sex feels good for me either way. 

Having a bush isn’t inherently “empowering,” but I do feel empowered by keeping my body the way I like it, regardless of what a sexual partner may prefer, expect, or demand. If someone isn’t into my bush, they can feel free not to fuck me. (I’ll be ok, I promise)

I perform many other gendered beauty rituals. I am a lipstick bisexual, after all. I dye the hair on my head, I wear dresses, heels, and rouge. I’m not particularly low maintenance, and have been described as “prissy” and “dainty.” Perhaps this is why people are surprised when they find out I’ve got a thick, curly bush with a mind of its own. 

So far she hasn’t deterred any potential partners. My last two girlfriends were pleased with the fuzzy texture. Some men have found it titillating and transgressive, as it is now so rare for girls of my generation. But even if I get the odd complaint in the future, my bush is nonnegotiable and here to stay. She’s in it for the long haul.

Top three NSFW reasons I love my bush:

1. It makes me feel like my pussy is wearing a fancy lace corselette. 

2. I like touching it against other beautiful bushes.

3. When I talk about it, people laugh.

Types of dancers, types of customers

Posted in sex work by bellareve on February 24, 2009

Although a variety of women can be found dancing at a club, and a variety of (mostly) men can be found watching/paying, I have noticed some general categories that have shown up over and over again, in my experience, in terms of the WHY. Obviously some categories overlap.

Dancers:

1. Single mothers who do sex work as a second or third job to make ends meet. Many women I have met alternated between night shifts as nurse practitioners and day shifts as dancers, or vice versa. 

2. Students and/or artists who dance in order to pay tuition/rent. (The girl stripping her way thru college is no myth. I was her.)

3. Immigrant women who don’t have the documentation required to get another type of job, and also had a difficult time getting hired elsewhere because they struggled with English. 

Customers:

1. Men who are severely shy & socially awkward.

2. Men (often married) who share their, IMO, silly and innocuous fetishes, like feet & femdom & armpit licking.

3. College guys who can be boisterous and don’t generally pay well, but were my favorite because many are cute and seem just excited and appreciative to be around naked girls. 

4. Oh dear. The smug, entitled assholes who visit strip clubs solely because they get off on treating women like shit. Body snarking on all the dancers, blatantly racist comments for the WOC, mocking/insulting you for being a sex worker, grabbing, trying to “scare” and intimidate you, stalking & following, calling you a bitch if you don’t do “extras,” trying to not pay or actually stealing your money. Unfortunately, these were the VAST majority of customers I came in contact with, which is ultimately why I stopped stripping. 

See, categories 1-3 never bothered me. As someone who likes to look at naked women, I can hardly blame anybody else for liking to look at naked women, and going somewhere for that purpose. But the category 4s pay money specifically to express hatred for women. I was lucky in the sense that I was never raped on the job, although I was effectively held hostage once.

Agency

Posted in blogwars, feminism, mental health/madness, sex work, something queer by bellareve on February 19, 2009

Here’s another topic that I feel gets drastically simplified in the ol’ sex debates. 

In one corner, we have some rad fems (like Twisty) who insist that, in a patriarchy, women have no agency. Zip, zero, nada. We might as well be inanimate objects batted about by our Overlords.

The other corner says women do have agency, and get mad over and over again when this is denied. They don’t really buy the whole patriarchy concept at all, and treat it like an wacky, irrational conspiracy theory wielded by mean-spirited womyn on the internet.

Once again, I’m not comfortable with either position.

I am comfortable with saying this: many of the world’s women don’t have agency, because they are impoverished, enslaved, institutionalized, and/or incarcerated. Agency can also be limited by things like financial duress, lack of educational/health resources, and being of a marginalized race or sexual orientation. Also, I cannot speak for other survivors, but I felt my agency was nonexistent when I was in an abusive relationship. And I do not speak for others with disabilities, but I feel that my mood disorder significantly limits my agency. 

On the other hand, there are women with the luck, privilege, and resources to have agency. And if a woman tells me she’s free, my instinct is to believe & trust her. Also, I would need to see some type of solid evidence that patriarchy erases all agency for every single person born female before I could get on board with that. It’s not something I can just take as a given if you say it enough.

Victimhood

Posted in blogwars, feminism, sex work, sexual violence by bellareve on February 15, 2009

I love this: 

http://thecurvature.com/2008/12/13/why-is-victim-a-dirty-word/

from Cara. My thoughts, listed numerically since for some reason that way makes my brain feel nicer:

1. Any person who has experienced trauma (meant broadly here, I include sexual violence, emotional abuse, involuntary institutionalization, injury/illness, etc) is entitled to define the experience and its effects as they see fit. 

2. Personally, I am both a survivor and a victim. A survivor because I am not dead. A victim because I am still hurting, every day, six years later, due to someone else’s actions. Someone else’s fault.

3. I reject the much repeated idea that women in general, but (second wave) feminists in particular, as well as other minority groups, “victimize ourselves,” “dwell on victimhood,” “perpetuate a myth of victimization,” etc. Individually, it is difficult not to do dwell if one has PTSD. Politically, it is unfair to demand that an oppressed group STFU about it. Which is how I interpret the charge of stopbeingavictim; it slyly suggests that we’re only imagining mistreatment, or that we’re being big whiny oversensitive crybabies about it. When this pertains to something like rape it is particularly sinister and dismissive.

perspectives on female sex work

Posted in blogwars, feminism, sex work, sexual violence by bellareve on February 7, 2009

After a brief stint in sex work, and reading tons of both academic theory/studies & the writing of actual sex workers, I have something to say to the rad fems and the pro-porn/sex positive crowd:

You’re both wrong.

Ok, not exactly. To me, you both have good points and not so good points. I have had a super hard time navigating blogs on this topic because the debate is highly polarized and generally the commenters on particular blogs are just repeating each other and themselves in increasingly more fervent tones. So, intimidated and frustrated, I never comment.

I’d love to finally explain how I feel on the issues I find most problematic. First, to address the views of (some) radical feminists/anti-porn folks:

1. “Sex workers are: lazy, naive, stupid, trashy, bimbos, manipulative, lacking in self respect/dignity/self esteem, greedy,” etc. (I have read things like “a truly smart, resourceful woman would get a legitimate job like the rest of us have to.”) Now, to be fair, these stereotypes are HUGELY popular in mainstream discourse and media, where they no doubt originated. However, if you are a feminist it is ABSOLUTELY your job to defend sex workers and fight AGAINST these characterizations rather than perpetuate and endorse them. (Just as a feminist would defend a career woman or a rape survivor or a single mother, etc.) Otherwise you might as well be an MRA.

2. “Sex work must be gross and disgusting eew all those old guys touching you.” Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Some of the guys I danced for were awful and traumatizing and others….turned me on. Yep. Some were cute, and I liked dancing for them. I cried a few times, I had fun a few times. Just like with other jobs. It really depends. This is kind of another way of implying that sex workers are tainted & diseased. 

3. “Sex work makes all women look bad.” I think that sex workers are marginalized and stigmatized  in a unique way, and to an extent that doesn’t have much at all to do with “other” or “all” women. Remember, there are Virgins and Whores, women on Pedestals and those in Gutters. I would argue that sex workers are generally treated  faaaaar worse than women who don’t do sex work, and rank faaaaar lower on the social hierarchy. Also, sometimes what another woman does to survive or to support her kids has, um, nothing to do with you. 

… and now addressing the other side, the perspectives of (some) pro-porn/sex positive folks:

1. “Sex work is not a monolith.” I agree! However, any decent observer of human behavior knows that there are PATTERNS and TRENDS which can often tell us a whole lot about a society/institution/culture, etc. Ignoring such patterns seems sloppy and unsophisticated. The DOESN’T mean we should speak in universals or refuse to acknowledge individual differences. But it is entirely reasonable to note general trends in populations. 

2. “There are a few asshole rapist men  out there, who should be prosecuted. But most are decent and harmless. Feminists constantly vilify innocent men and the male gender.” It seems that many debaters on this side of the fence don’t fully accept the idea of a rape culture and instead see rapists and sex abusers as rare outliers. One in six women are victims of sexual assault. One in four girls is sexually abused before she turns 18. Are the same like, 30 dudes (or 300 or 3000 or 30000…) assaulting 16% of the entire world’s women and 25% of its female children/teens? Probably not. Sexual violence is an epidemic, and a great deal of men are guilty. (This is personally a big deal in my life…me, my mother, and my partner are all survivors). 

Also. Add to actual rapists all the men who: dismiss, ignore, make light of, condone, encourage, defend, and/or help facilitate rape. Guilty too, they are. Then? The male gender is Not Looking Too Rosy. Sorry. (Of course, some women do the above things too, also seriously problematic)  

3. “Payment and a signed contract is proof that a sex worker consented.” Essentially, many people believe that unless a woman was underage, trafficked, or had a gun to her head, the sex work was done out of free will. There is little attention to financial/economic coercion. If a woman has no other means of feeding her children, paying for medical care, having shelter, or otherwise surviving, then it is NOT a true choice. To be clear, I think it IS possible for women to have agency and make decisions, but some women act under a highly constrained set of circumstances. Their “choices” are anywhere from severely limited to non-existent. And this absolutely occurs in other industries (agriculture, domestic work, etc) where it is no less fucked up.

more specifically

Posted in mental health/madness, sex work, sexual violence by bellareve on February 6, 2009

Since this blog is anonymous and will remain so, I feel somewhat free to disclose the delicate. Here’s my story in brief:

I spent a few months as a stripper when I was 18 and again at 21. The first club was outrageously filthy and the second one was more fancy & “upscale.” My feelings & experiences in both situations were highly complicated. 

Possibly unrelated: at 18 I was a survivor of repeated date rape. I was NOT abused as a child in any way. My childhood = stable.

Also perhaps unrelated: I date and screw both genders but I only fall in love with women. Madly in love.

And finally: Post rape due to PTSD, I entered the mental health system and have taken use of it ever since. I find it deeply coercive, misogynistic and homophobic, but in the words of Hedwig, “it’s what I have to work with.” 

oh, and I also have a Women’s Studies degree.

As can be expected, there are several issues here. And this blog is to untangle assumptions.  I feel super silly & presumptuous posting rules for something I suspect few will participate in, but I’m a sensitive girl, so:

1. If you think my history of sex work disqualifies me from being a feminist, Bye.

2. If you hold pejorative notions of gays, women, or the mentally struggling, go elsewhere.

3. No attempting to diagnose me. Been there, done that.

intro post: about my creds & approach

Posted in feminism, mental health/madness, sex work by bellareve on February 6, 2009

Hey kids,

So after a couple years making my way around the silly little internet, I have decided to unleash my opinions on you, world. Or at least the five people who may read this.

I read a loooot o blogs, and I’ve discovered that I tend to disagree with many people on issues near and dear to my pretty red heart. 

I’ve also started a lot of blogs and neglected/cancelled them due to being busy surviving life. This one shall be different, I sure hope.

Here you will find a unique take on things like mental illness, sexual violence and pleasure, women in the media, queer issues, and sex work. From someone who is young but has Been There. My perspective is strong, but when there are two “camps” or sides of a debate, I usually have problems with both & take a third angle. 

There will be copious Sylvia Plath references. You’ve been warned.