the rack and the screw

Whither Choice?

Posted in blogwars, feminism by bellareve on February 19, 2009

I think one of the major fissures in the sex-blog-wars has to do with how choice relates to feminism.

There is one group of people who define feminism as predominantly about gender equality, and the ability of a woman to make her own choices. The freedom to choose, without criticism or judgement, is the ultimate priority. 

Another group, more associated with the radical branch, defines feminism as female liberation from male dominance and oppression. This camp sees the patriarchal power dynamic as the key problem, and a restructuring/uprooting of it as the prime solution. 

So we are working with two different, and, in my opinion, two legitimate, valid definitions of feminism. When each side calls the other one “anti-feminist,” they really mean, not MY kind of feminism. Which is fine, but should be made clear. Both versions can coexist, and can potentially contribute positive things for women. We just need to realize that any approach is not The Best Most Right feminism, but one of many types.

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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.