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17 August
it's just sex.
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I'm late to the game of musing over Jessica Cutler aka "The Washintonienne" (on the embarassing guilty pleasure that is Wonkette, at least). Because, honestly, who cares? [For those of you in my bubble of not caring to the point of not being aware of it, she netted a few moments of blog infamy and is oddly becoming a cultural icon because she blogged for a few weeks about sleeping with Washingtonians who had more money and governmental power than her. Feministe, also of the "so, who cares?" opinion, blogged it yesterday.]

Many people have read volumes of cultural symbolism into the whole thing in really absurd ways, but I have to say the Post article from last week is fabulous. It's like a chick-lit book with commentary from all your favorite pundits. Can you imagine a copy of Bridget Jones's Diary with footnotes?

Ironically, the girl-gets-famous-by-blogging thing is now such a cliche that it in fact does appear in chick lit not infrequently now. The blogger is always an object of disdain for our heroines. So it should come as no surprise, I suppose, that various commentary on the Post article includes people calling her a slut, a whore, every trite stand-in for the belief that a woman who uses sexual power is a Very Bad Thing.

Another reason we still need feminists, I guess.

But back to the Post article, which was entertaining enough to move me to comment. It has Naomi Wolf commenting on the internet's responsibility for the dissolution of sexual mores (which is a shame, as her salient points about the porn culture just sound frumpy when the word "mores" enters the picture). And commentators in some bar or something talking about Cutler's misguided use of sex to gain power. What?

While I have issues with the predominance of sex as currency, this isn't about women and power in my mind (maybe it was in Cutler's, but only she knows that). It's just sex, people. And I don't think the degradation of social morality to the point where things can be just sex is a problem. If anything, it's one of the few positive contributions of porn culture in conjunction with second wave feminism - women are no longer the keepers of sexual morality. And guess what? Left to their own devices, young women can think of a sex as just an urge, a way to have some fun - not a treasure to be guarded and carefully dispersed in exchange for power borrowed from some guy. Not even something circumscribed by partnership, even?

If people behave in ways that seem immoral or in poor taste, maybe it's the taste and morals that are behind the curve.

It's something to think about.

 

09 August
wearing your choice
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There was a big discussion about this shirt (it just says "I had an abortion" in blue letters on a brown shirt if you don't care to follow the link) on the LJ feminist community maybe two weeks ago.

This week, Alison brings the same question to the WHB crew. I have to love these folks for not saying some of the things the LJ feminists said (many were of the "EGADS! That's shameful! Hide your abortion, you slut!" persuasion, sadly). Read the WHB comments - those who wouldn't wear the shirt cite safety and privacy concerns, which I think are completely valid. Having an abortion shouldn't be any more shameful than having your tubes tied or a kidney removed, in my opinion, but it also shouldn't have to be any more public.

Do you see anyone wearing a "I had a hysterectomy" t-shirt? No. But then, no one's afraid that vicious pro-lifers will start hurling words like "slut" and "whore" at them as the pro-life contingent did at the March if they admit to having such a procedure done. It's not politicized the way abortion is, yet it's still something people might not want to publicize about themselves.

While I respect that many women would choose not to wear this shirt in any context, I think there are times when making the fact that so many of the women's lives around you are made possible by their ability to legally choose abortion. I think these shirts are useful in letting other women know they're not alone, that abortion is normal and shame-free. As with any political message worn on your person, you need to be aware of how it could be received and be ready to have that conversation (I have a t-shirt that just says "eat", for instance, that sometimes gets me into conversations where I have to explain the whole history and position of size acceptance); when the subject is as contentious as abortion - and the opponents are as given to radicalism and evangelism - you need to know that you can handle the debate that will come your way.

That said, I don't believe I should choose my clothing based on fear (this is way too close to the idea that women who aren't "modest" invite sexual assualt - WRONG). And the idea that wearing one's abortion on one's sleeve should subject a woman to attack by anti-abortion folk just makes me want to go out and buy the shirt [Or make one that applies more directly - maybe "I would have an abortion."]. Political discourse should be more polite than that. Political discourse shouldn't be fucking dangerous.

I'd be curious to hear if women who've worn these shirts have been subjected to attacks outside of an expected confrontation (i.e. to a feminist meeting or the mall vs. during clinic defense or at a protest). I wonder if we're reacting to real encounters in our fear of confrontation, or if we're underestimating our opponents.

Ultimately, I hope the shirt is a positive step towards more open discussion of abortion, and helps people to see that abortion is not solely the province of women who are "bad" by some standard (though all of those standards are, in my mind, ridiculous). I hope it's useful.

 

25 June
what marriage is.
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I was given Jon Rauch's Gay Marriage: Why it's good for gays, good for straights, and good for America by a pal who apparently wanted to make my head fold in upon itself.

We'll leave aside Jon's apparent distaste for all the things I think fondly of where gay culture is concerned, because there are many different queer cultures, and that's a nice thing. We'll leave aside his Log Cabin Republicanness, because the very fact of gay republicans is a testament to how far we've come - that gayness can be a personal identity and not a political one.

We'll just accept Jon for himself, and attack his ideas. Or rather, his ideas as I see them.

See, Jon has a very interesting concept about what marriage is for. His theory is two part. First, marriage is a social structure designed to make young people become "adult" - where "adult" is settled into a normal pattern of working and raising kids and building a little nuclear family. Second, marriage is a guarantee of caretaking for the aged and infirm. To expand Jon's definition, a family is a two-person structure, one that is fixed except for the addition or subtraction (in later life) of children should there be kids involved (kids are, I think rightly, not part of his definition). Only by having that family are people, especially men, officially part of normal, adult society. And only that family will commit to caring for you should you become broken in some way.

I have two problems with that.

No, I have three problems.

First, Jon's concept of adulthood. While he talks about monogamy as his key point about "settling down", there's a strong undercurrent of "be like me" in his notion of adult. Things I think Jon thinks are not adult include: not focusing on providing for a family, being non-monogamous, partying, participation in the wrong political organizations, living with someone, not having a "career", being single, wearing a neon pink muscle tee, voting Green, and having too much fun. Admittedly, I'm reading into things here, but Jon seems to buy into a relatively boring idea of what it means to be a grown up. Well, lots of people do that, and he is a Republican. I can hardly fault him for it.

Second, his assumptions about how family works. A marriage, given the failure rate of marriages these days, hardly looks like a guarantee for your future family. To go into marriage today starry-eyed and certain of growing old together is sweetly optimistic. To look with those starry eyes at marriage as a social institution is just silly.

But - siblings, close friends, roomates, parents, and the network of "urban family" that so many people have today are just as permanent as a spouse might be. The members of my urban family - my best friends, my partner's best friends, our parents, various other relationships - can be counted on to be there for either of us. And if we split up, my half of the family will always be there. They're part of the picture, no matter what. And if anything happens to them, we know we're responsible for helping out. This isn't a modern invention, either - whether family is biologically or legally related or not, extended family is the network people count on. A spouse or partner broadens that family but doesn't eliminate their responsibility for you.

There is a conceit that parents "give up" a child, particularly a daughter, to a new family, but that idea doesn't foot with the reality of urban family life. The things that have changed is biology - we used to have close proximity to our biological extended families, and now we choose family based on proximity (emotional and physical) - and legality - now the subunits of that family may be single, pairs, married folk and unmarried.

Wait, there are four. Four issues!

The third is his general bias against unmarried families ("marriage lite" he calls them) coupled with his insistence on reserving officially sanctioned unions for gay and straight couples. Polyamory he excludes on the grounds that, essentially, they're a very tiny minority of freaks. Why are they scary enough to exclude from marriage rights, if they're so tiny a minority? I felt pretty defensive of the polyamorous folk I know in reading his ready dismissal of the lifestyles they choose and the families they're painstakingly created. He returns to the old argument against polygamy as generally about some men taking up too many of the women, thereby creating a bunch of angry young men - and, oh yeah, polygamy too often occurs in weird religious orders where women are subjugated. The economic danger of men without potential for marriage seems much scarier to Jon (it certainly gets more space in the book) than the possibility that women might get beaten up, but then, I was pretty annoyed before I got to this part of the book. It's quite possible he's not the misogynist I found him to be.

It is entirely possible that the poly families I've encountered are by far the rarity, and that there's a larger group of cultists who would use the legalization of multi-partner marriage to accumulate harems, but I'd like to think that think that people are more sane than that. I think it's highly unlikely that, given as much as feminism and other equality movements have achieved, we're going to see a dramatic swing towards harem-accumulation as a status symbol for anyone other than Trump and Hefner. There's a whole other discussion about polyamory vs. our traditional view of polygamy in this, but suffice to say that I don't think we need to avoid legalizing one thing just because it's sometimes associated with something else that's bad and - by the way - also illegal.

"Marriage lite" he dismisses because... well, just because it's not marriage. It's not. It's also nicely divorced from all the weight that marriage carries - that weight including not only whatever personal meaning you attach to marriage itself, but the traditions of a wife "belonging" to a husband, of obedience, of relatively narrow gender roles that have relatively recently begun to change. As a feminist, marriage's history makes me uncomfortable entering into it. I don't think you can completely disengage marriage from the history of women's oppression, which is precisely why my longstanding cohabitation has remained just that.

To someone denied marriage, it doubtless looks like a more compelling social contract. But in many ways, marriage has been a burden to women for centuries. Other options aren't necessarily "marriage lite" so much as they're simply not marriage.

Which brings me to what bothers me most about Jon's theories - the way he reduces marriage itself.

The reasons people get married and their expectations of marriage are personal, and as numerous as married couples themselves. A thoughtful marriage is a unique contract between people for the way they plan to live their lives. For many people, there's a very specific religious reason. For others, it's about parenting. For others, it's about love (twue wove). Establishing marriage as the "gold standard" of normal adult family, as Jon would have it, reduces it to just a thing you're supposed to do after you grow up.

I know some people think that way today, but I find that really sad. I certainly don't want to be married, if that's what it means.

I think that modern marriage, apart from its history, is about formalizing your family creation, whatever that means to you (and whatever additionally you may think marriage is). I do think that it should be open to any family who wants to do that. And honestly, I'd rather see civil marriage (or civil contracts, unions, whatever) separated entirely from "marriage", with its various religious meanings and history of gender inequity, than see Jon's vision of marriage be a reality.

 

27 April
i can't read anymore.
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Puzzled by the mix of attack-dog tactics (people with - I hope - fake fetuses in jars shoving them towards us, people calling us "wicked" and congratulating murderers of abortion doctors) and stoic silence (the "I'm sorry" crew, the "women deserve better" crew), I tried reading some of the accounts from pro-lifers who were at the March.

I can't.

I occasionally read the posts on After Abortion. I think we, as the pro-choice majority, need to recognize that individual women's stories aren't all about not being sorry. Some women are sorry, either when they do it or after. We alienate them when we act as if abortion is a simple issue for everyone. Most of those women don't, typically, argue that abortion and other reproductive choice resources shouldn't be legal, safe and available on demand. They just want to have their pain recognized. When we don't do that, they just feel anti-us. That makes them anti-choice, polarizes them when they didn't need to be polarized.

Is a man made to feel guilty for his vasectomy? Is he pushed to celebrate it? If he feels sad, is the only place he can turn to a pro-life community that calls him a reformed baby-killer? FUCK FUCKING NO. And yet hasn't he removed potential children from the world? This is an issue for all women, that we need to be able to recognize abortion as both a safe, legal outpatient surgery and a complex issue.

As supporters of choice, supporters of the rights of all women, I feel we need to stand by these women who regret abortions, need to respect that this is their feeling. Not because abortions are bad or wrong or need to be outlawed, but because their individual experience was bad. And if the pro-choice community can't see that, we drive more people to the pro-life camp. A camp whose followers bullhorned at me, called me names, called me a whore and shouted biblical verses at me (I guess they thought I was also a subscriber to their bible, which was perhaps a mistake). That camp shouldn't be the only welcoming audience for a woman who regrets or hesitates choosing to abort.

I personally don't give a rat's ass what choice any individual woman may make where abortion and birth control are concerned. I just want all these choices to be available. And I don't understand how someone, particularly a woman, could see otherwise (for instance, believing both sex education and abortion are wrong - how the heck does that work?).

So I read the March-related posts on After Abortion and on Diotima and the LJ abortion debate community.

Or, I started to read them.

And then I saw this pattern of generally moderate pro-life folk making comments about how we aren't really feminists, how all pro-choice folk at the March were mean (dude, did they actually encounter all of the million of us? I'm imfuckingpressed). It left me shaking with rage.

And I wonder if we can really have a civilized debate about this.

For now, I think, I'm just not reading any more of the pro-life side of the March coverage. I'll wait until they've cooled down a bit. I'll wait until the memories of some of the things that came out of those anti-us bullhorns are a bit softer.

But, like the women who regret their abortions, I feel polarized by this debate. I feel like I can't even speak or listen to someone who is strongly pro-life anymore.

And I'm thankful that we're the majority. Because if it has to be a contest instead of a compromise, I'd like to win.

To make us all feel better, here's one link about finding common ground between "choice" and "life": Naomi Wolf and Frederica Mathewes-Green in Sojourner, via a pro-life source

 

20 April
porn tastes like chicken
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I feel inclined to both agree and disagree with Naomi Wolf's 'Porn Myth' article.

I've said before that I don't think pornography is exploitative or inherently demeaning to women, but that doesn't mean it does no damage. Feministe called out the bits I really agree with. Namely, yes, I do think the sexification of products and the productification of sex (both of which are forms of pornography) desensitizes us in certain ways. And, undoubtedly, both of these things contribute to the impossible beauty ideal women - much more than men - feel constantly reminded of their failure to meet.

Wolf goes a bit over the top, though. Her article tells us we have a whole generation of messed up kids who can't relate to each other sexually, but she relies on college kids as her evidence of this. And she doesn't consider the generational shift that created what college kids are today (delayed adolescents, mostly). The fact that a college student is essentially a kid today, while s/he may not have been in the 60s or 70s, accounts for some of the fixation on a fairly shallow idea of sexuality in her subject - their developmental stage can be blamed, if not entirely, at least in conjunction with our porn culture, for a college kid thinking of partners in terms of parts instead of a whole.

Yes, of course, the rise of porn helped to make that thinking possible, but I don't think it sucked all the mystery and magic out of sex. Demystifying sex, for that matter, isn't such a bad thing.

And hey, sexy images can be as much of a turn-on as actual sex, after all; it's different ways to the same satisfaction - it all tastes like chicken. There's no rule codifying the real thing as sacred. Talking about how sad it is that younger folk are skipping the pre-sex tension as if they're necessarily missing out also sounds suspisciously like "back in the old days" talk. Annoying.

That said, I have seen women in my cohort, self included, not only feeling the body image pressure (porn didn't create that, but it reinforces it at every turn) but also feeling that there's some sexual secret they don't know, or something they don't do that reduces their sexual credentials. While the prevalence of sexual images helped open us up to talk about sex, it also created so many opportunities for pornographic comparison that it's hard not to feel lacking - both in body and in action - sexually. Porn makes it seem like everyone else is doing something you're not - including, for example, consuming more porn.

It's hard to differentiate the fantasy of images from the reality of one's own life - or rather, hard not to compare the two and come up short. I think that's the real damage inflicted by pornography - it helps to establish these standards of being, this fiction of normal, that many (if not most) people feel they're outside of.

 

12 April
march with my posse!
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I'm going to the March (in less than 2 weeks now, woo hoo!). But, partly because I'm a slacker and partly because I Hate Buses, I'm not going with the local coalition. I'm staying with my DC peeps and we're going to be among the hordes of random cute disorganized marchers who don't have matching t-shirts.

I think, also, the night before me and my DC peeps are available to hook up with other exciting peeps for compelling pre-marching funs.

So, who wants to march in our itty posse? Or join us for funs?

 

16 March
another dangerous precedent
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Body & Soul digs into the Utah woman's story and finds a bit more there than the AP told us.

It's disturbing how much the press has made this story iconic - turning her into someone who chooses a sort of last-minute abortion rather than deal with a c-section scar. Yet clearly this actual story, like most actual stories is much more complex. It's a lot easier to have an impassioned debate over whether a pregnant woman who opts out of a c-section is a murderer when you reduce her motives to whimsical vanity. When you look at the details of this case, this life, it sucks so royally it's hard to see any need for debate.

My initial response when I first heard the reductive news reports was still - vanity or not, one of the key aspects of a free society is the ability to refuse someone else who tries to impose their will on your body. A doctor's advice is only that, advice. And I think pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. Everyone I know who has kids talks about feeling alien, worried, and just generally fragile. Given the variance in advice from doctors, how terrifying is it that one could be prosecuted for not following Dr. X's advice? It's not hard to imagine this precedent being stretched to apply to women who choose midwives over standard hospital births, for instance. That scares me.

When the right celebrates these sorts of things as victories and pursues issues like the UVVA, it serves to polarize people and oversimplify the abortion debate.

The right tends to assert that a fetus is a person, and the pro-choice camp tends to argue along with them on the when a person is a person and when a person is a bit of tissue question. I do not always have a problem with seeing an unborn child as a person. I have a problem with seeing that child as more of a person than its mother, which is what we get into here, with UVVA, and with the laws against late-term abortion.

Someone cited an excellent hypothetical example in the comments on B&S:

A young man's in a terrible accident which destroys both his kidneys and makes dialysis impossible. His only chance of survival is a kidney transplant, and the only available donor is his father. The doctors contact the father who refuses to cooperate becuase the timing of the surgery conflicts with his golf game, so the son dies. Unsympathetic though he may be, there's no way this man could be charged with murder.

If the Rowland case is taken as a precedent, though, that insensitive father could well be charged with murder, too. Even if he refused the surgery because, say, he himself was mentally ill. Rowland's motive doesn't matter here. What matters is that we're setting a dangerous precedent of holding one person accountable for another's life in a way that trumps the person's own life.

And that should scare you.

 

25 February
who's going to the march?
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I've been remiss in getting to the local meetups around the March for Choice/Women's Lives/whatever, but I think locals from Virginia are mostly taking big tourish buses up to DC for the March on 4/25.

I'm curious what other bloggers are doing, though. Are you joining up with a local delegation? Going it alone? With some friends?

I have a small group of local friends all planning to go, and maybe to stay over on Saturday, get a big hotel room or something. I'd like to meet up with others, but I'm not really about the tour bus. [Bad experiences. Smells.]

 

18 February
kick his ass, that's what.
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Morgaine writes the kickassyist subject lines for her WHB topics; i.e. What's a sister to do about Big Brother? (about the Bush administration's erosion of reproductive freedom, that is).

I think the NARAL, Planned Parenthood and NOW generally have news and action lists that you can join, and then use to stay informed and take slacker action (i.e. send emails and faxes that you don't even have to WRITE). Slacker action networks are a big deal.

Getting more choice-friendly politicians into minor offices would also help. The president, however visible, is hardly the only person making decisions that impact choice, health care, privacy rights, etc. It's equally important that your legislators, state and federal, be protective of abortion and other rights. So, if you have time or money, you damn well ought to be looking out for these local/state elections every year. I'm entertaining the idea of getting involved, or at least giving to, campaigns for liberal folk in other states - ultimately, even if Virginia sucks ass, my right to choose will be protected if other senators & representatives vote in my favor. If you're interested in doing the same, check out Emily's List and get busy. People on the "other team" are historically very, very good at supporting right-leaning candidates across the board.

And every conversation you have about choice or related subjects with a semi-sympathetic person is an opportunity to shift that person's perspective a bit. My dad and I, for instance, regularly tease each other about his willingness to vote Republican despite his general disagreement with both Bushes. I'm holding out for the day when this eventually shifts him towards my side. It'll happen.

What about when the candidates are there, though - when they aren't running? I don't think we've even scratched the surface of the civil disobedience possibilities around this issue. Certainly, women exploiting their health insurance to give friends the morning after pill is a start. But there is a lot more we could do. We could be more present at clinics, countering the anti-choice folk who sometimes congregate there. We could leaflet around anti-abortion "pregnancy crisis centers". We could stage imaginative protests of company health insurance that doesn't cover contraception by bringing dolls to the doctor or the office. There are so many possibilities.

And honestly, I know I haven't done enough here. I could do a lot more.

 

11 February
all feminists are horrid sex-hating prudes
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Earlier this week, Kerri posed a question or rather a series of questions as we're wont to do on WHB about sex.

So. The intersection of feminism and sex.

Yes, there is a legitimate reason why feminists might be accused of being anti-sex. It may not be the only reason, though. The legitimate reason: there have and continue to be sectors of feminism that oppose any sort of power dynamic in sex, particularly penetration. For most of us, sex is about power on some level or other. It's not necessarily a bad thing. So, yeah, sectors of feminists that toss out words like "phallocentric" every other sentence and try to extricate sex from power sure seem against sex as it is today for most people.

But the other reason is that feminists, as a general rule, oppose aspects of the dominant paradigm of sexy. The beauty myth, for one. And that poses a threat to "sexy" as we accept it culturally. I think that and feminists who oppose pornography, sex work, etc. create this image for non-feminists of a monolithic feminist thought police. It's an absurd notion, but like all absurd notions has some connection to realityland.

I am personally, not particularly against porn. I'm not saying everyone needs to partake of things pornographic or other products of the sex industry, but I do think that we distract ourselves from better approaches to sex and sexuality when we fix on questions of decency and exploitation. Kerri, whom I adore for this, is always telling people to go out and make their own when they don't like something. I think prevailing cultural notions of sex are like this. When we avoid them (i.e. by squeamishness about them), we enforce what's already there, when we could be reshaping them.

So, the primary issue I have with sex as an industry is not about possession or objectification of people as sexual beings/objects. Because I think we like to reduce people to objects, we like to trade and label and commodify them. And ironically, I think the same motive that drives the beauty myth and the ability to sell sex and other things by means of sex also drives prejudice in general and our identity politics - thus, I am a Queer Person, I am an Anti-Porn Feminist, I am a Dog Catcher, or you are, or they are and we aren't - ultimately, we like that which can be simplified and traded upon. It's hard to say whether this is a result of our somewhat problematic culture or is simply built into our culture because that's how humans like things.

I do not think banning or not buying porn/erotica is going to change this. Nor do I think that selling sex is any more or less harmful than say, the current furor over fat and the subsequent alienation of more or less everybody from their bodies.

So, my problem with porn isn't objectification, but the object which is sold. Quite a bit of porn peddles the same narrow idea of beautiful that the average women's magazine sells. I am angry and frustrated that the range of readily available sex product is so narrow. I am also angry that so much sex product is designed for and by men, and that so much of what is marketed for women is so damned apologetic about itself. I'm not a vibrator, I'm a bunny, it says in all its pink gelatinous glory, It's okay to have an orgasm, as long as you're discreet about it. These cute little discreet designs are aesthetically pleasing, perhaps, but like all design they say something about what normal is - and what they say about normal is that women are supposed to be discreet and cute and girlish about desire.

That is not alright with me. Maybe the idea is that it will make more women comfortable with sexual desire, though, and I guess that's okay. Maybe getting a pink bunny vibe is just the first step for people who will shortly be demanding porn for the people. Maybe it's part of women's evolution into a people who will not be seen as passive sexual toys to be penetrated.

There are, if you step into a porn shop or look closely at what's available on Cinemax post-prime time, many examples of women being creatures of [sexual, at least] initiative in various types of porn. And certainly women who participate in various aspects of the sex industry have various feelings of power and strength as a result of their work or consumption of others' work. Not all of these empowering things take place in the utopia of independent feminist porn (cause, like everything independent and feminist, it occupies this itty little niche in the culture/industry), and it does seem like the porn has changed a bit over time, incorporating - and sometimes twisting - notions of women that the larger culture has gradually accepted as a result of feminism. Like the sexually aggressive woman thing - it's no longer only the purvey of fetish porn, but of any porn. Of course, it's still a stereotype (like, hot stupid poolboy, for instance), which makes it that much more relatable and saleable.

Back to the sex industry - beauty myth connection, though. There is almost no remotely mainstream porn that does not trade upon the tiny range of size and type that is considered sexy in our culture. I think anyone who is familiar with, say Suicide Girls or That Strange Girl can confirm that independent porn draws heavily on that limited range. Is it progress for a tattooed, pink haired skinny woman with large breasts to be considered sexy? Not so much. The internet is, as the song goes, for porn, though - and I'm glad that there are so many diverse sites out there imparting knowledge and catering to all the weird shit that gets people hot. The very presence of something in the culture normalizes it over time, so maybe sex will get more and more normal.

That said, a lot of discussion of pornography centers on the problem of who is allowed to be sexy, but never on who is allowed to not be sexy. One of the things Kim pointed out somewhere in the discussion is this judgement of women in terms of their willingness to have sex, their perceived value in terms of sexiness being a huge part of their value, period. I do not think porn is more than accidentally related to this - that is, porn doesn't cause or enforce this standard, but is influenced by it - but I do think that conversations around feminism and sex need to recognize that being private about sex, or even asexual, might be perfectly valid choices.

It doesn't matter, for instance, if you have a healthy relationship or not, if your aversion to saleable sex is the result of prudishness on your part or past history or whatever - if you don't want to be exposed to porn, you shouldn't have to be. I don't want to be exposed to diet ads or diet conversations, and I suspect it's much the same feeling to be unexpectedly assaulted with a Slim Fast commercial as a naked breast. It shouldn't be assumed that because I'm dating a guy, at some party or watching television, that I will be okay with these things.

Those of us feminists who consume and enjoy sex products ought not assume that a "good" feminist must also do so. Nor should those who disagree with us assume they have the right to impose their distaste for these things on the rest of us. There is not one feminism, and there is no one "true" feminist take on sex - other than that we should be free to make choices.

In defense of the "pro-sex feminist" as concept and self-assumed title - for every anti-porn feminist who accepts that sex products are a valid choice for others to make, there is another (or at least .5 of another) who calls herself a feminist but believes that every sexual image is inherently oppressive of women and who will declaim this opinion shrilly at every possible opportunity, with the goal of removing all sexual overtones from our culture. And yes, I do mean calls herself, not is. While it's a mistake to generalize about others, there certainly are anti-feminist undertones (i.e. that women are always victimized by porn because we can't defend ourselves against or actively choose it) to some "feminist" anti-porn rhetoric. If you are an anti-porn feminist and I call this other "feminist" an alarmist prude, it is not the anti-porn stance as a whole that I am attacking, but alarmist prudishness masquerading as feminism. The intention of "pro-sex" feminists is to establish a distance between them/ourselves and those who claim feminism without claiming all women's right to sexual choice (in all its variety); while it may be counterproductive to seek that distance over confederacy with other feminists, there is a logic and a history behind that distance.

 

03 February
are we fighting the same fight?
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I got into a discussion on a complete stranger's LJ post about bisexuality today that was pretty typical of the tension between the gay and bi communities in general. Her contention is, among other things I agree with to varying degrees, bisexual people are better off than gays (particularly legal-rights-wise).

I don't run into that many gay people who believe that bisexuals have it better. I suspect that most gay people (at least those of my cohort and older) have been closeted at some point in their lives, and this gives them the insight that living in the closet feels tremendously, tremendously oppressive. Everyone who is not straight experiences others' implicit assumption of your straightness, for instance. And having been closeted, I think it's pretty easy to see that being able to be legally out and open about your relationships with people of one gender but not another person who you might feel the same about doesn't mean you're fighting a completely different battle than someone who feels they can only be attracted to their same gender.

The fact that I have a male partner now does mean that our relationship is not legislated against, but it does not decrease my experience of being legislated against as a person, as I know that if circumstances change, my relationships could be faced with an entirely different legal status. I would expect that most bi folk don't think of their sexual preference and attraction to people as something they could easily compartmentalize in such a way as to ensure they were always on the right side of marriage law.

I don't contend that bisexual people have it worse than gay folk - but the notion that we aren't fighting the same battles for rights seems absurd.

 

22 January
roe v. wade anniversary
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Today's the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I'm pretty sure everyone reading this is already aware of that fact, but if you're not and you'd like to do some about it, check out some of the resources Kerri posted on the LJ progressive community:

NARAL
I'm Not Sorry
March for Choice
Bloggers for Choice
Feminist Majority
Planned Parenthood

 

18 December
my gripe about the march for choice name change
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The March for Choice folk put out a press release that they're changing the name to March for Women's Lives.

I don't like it. And I'm curious what the real reasons are behind the change.

I liked that the original name set it up as about choice rights. To me, a March for Choice title carries more weight - it becomes all about defending something already established as a logical, legal right. I think any citizen should consider that a responsibility.

Choice is an emotional issue for a lot of things, but I've always felt that the pro-choice camp was on the side of justice, that our job was to see past the emotional conflicts that might erupt around any one woman's decision about her own pregnancy, and to ensure that all women had the right to make those decisions. And, while "choice" is for many people a euphemism for support of abortion rights, it also carries the implication of all the varied ways a woman should be able to make choices about pregnancy - including birth control, abortion, and many other healthcare questions. That appeals to me.

There are probably a number of different reasons for the change in name - as the press release says:

The name change reflects the urgency of the issue and the huge diversity of the groups co-sponsoring the march.

" The March for Women's Lives" addresses the assaults on women's rights and lives, both nationally and globally, that restrict women's access to reproductive health services and limit women's ability to have a child or to end a pregnancy.

So, the former implies that some of the newer supporting groups took issue with "choice", perhaps because they don't want to be seen as about choice. Maybe those of us planning to attend the March haven't been sending NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc. enough money this year, and they ended up toning down the message of choice in order to get more support. In which case, shame on us.

The latter rather implies that the March organizers have decided to market the whole thing in the emotional style that characterizes conservative anti-abortion tactics. It sets women's lives against what anti-abortion folk think of as babies lives. Which, I guess, does put us on more even footing in a way - but it also takes the question of choice out of law and logic and into emotion; it was wrong of anti-abortion rhetoric to go there, and it's wrong for us to follow.

I realize that the March name change is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it touches on a hot button for me: I think we're entirely too apologetic in our defense of abortion rights, probably because we're afraid of being seen as cavalier about the complexity of the choice issue. It is, however, a simple issue - women have the legal and moral right to control their own bodies.

 

05 December
virginia choice victory
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It's pretty sad that I end up hearing about state abortion news from NARAL and such (rather than the local news media, for instance), but at least the latest news was good.

The week before Thanksgiving, the Virginia "partial birth infanticide" provision was ruled unconstitutional in federal court. While there's little doubt the state will appeal, it's good to know that someone, even if it's someone outside the state, will step in to defend a woman's right to choose against the raving anti-choice folk who keep getting elected to the state legislature uncontested. We need pro-choice people to run for office, clearly.

I am extremely thankful for the existence of the Richmond Medical Center for Women, which is one of only 40-some providers of abortion in the state, one of a handful that perform medical abortions (the pill, that is), and the clinic that initiated the case against the "infanticide" ban.

 

01 December
world aids day
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You probably don't need a reminder. Still, here it is.

 

26 November
email from dan the anti-abortion guy
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I received an email this morning from Dan. I don't know who Dan is, but he took the trouble to scan my site and send me his attempt to convert me to an anti-abortionist.

What is he thinking? Clearly Dan didn't read but so much of my site - that, or he is in fact an automated script that combs sites looking for the word "abortion". We'll presume he's actually a person.

So, he sent me the text of this anti-abortion argument from this ministry group, and being me, I couldn't just delete it.

Hi there,
I took a look at your site. Thought you might want to know the truth. :-)

You can read this all at http://www.epm.org/abortarg.html

I pray you will open your eyes, and your heart...

Listen, Dan - my eyes and heart are already open, metaphorically speaking. And nothing angers me as much as someone who treats a matter of opinion, of personal belief, as truth.

As for those arguments? An insult to the intelligence of any pro-abortion person who encounters them. Perhaps people respond to these anti-abortion arguments with stunned silence because they're so confounded by the circles they talk? And what the hell is being "pro-choice about rape"? Huh?

My reply:

I assume you didn't read much of my site. I'm not pro-choice about abortion while anti-abortion myself. Far from it. I do believe, very strongly, that a woman has a right to end the "life" of a fetus as long as it can't survive outside her body. Period.

It may be a difficult choice for some women to end a potential life, and I respect that it's hard for them. It's a difficult choice for some people to have hysterectomies and vasectomies - again, because of the potential that's sacrificed. But all of these choices amount to legal medical procedures that not only need to remain legal but readily available to people who choose to have them for whatever reason.

I also feel a need to refute the generalizations about hesitant pro-choice folk. People who support the legal right to abortion but don't think they could decide to abort a child themselves aren't necessarily thinking "Gosh, well I believe it's killing a person who has a right to live, but I guess it's legal, so...." - For the most part, those people are troubled on the subject of whether potential life is something they feel needs to be protected or not, whether abortion amounts to killing at a certain point, when if ever a fetus is a child, etc. They're the ones who struggle with the question of when life is life, and when it's just potential. You and I, on the other hand, clearly already have our minds made up about life vs. potential. They're the ones you and I have to convince, and I think you're selling them short.

In short, I read your arguments, and - while I appreciate your efforts - there is nothing that could make me agree with you. Your arguments are not "the truth" as you call them, but simply what you believe.

If you'd like to contact Dan, I'm sure he'd be happy to hear from you.

 

19 November
gay marriage, hooray?
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If you don't know about the Massachusetts ruling that banning gay marriage is unconstitutional, I'd assume you were living in dark, dark hole. You should read the clip Ampersand posted.

But then. It's not getting the sort of instant, overwhelming press I would have expected. Is it a secret? Do, as Eris wonders 3/4 of people think gay marriage is bad? Is this really the blow for freedom we were waiting for, or just another blip (albeit a positive one), one more paint speck in this huge huge Seurat painting?

I feel hesitant. Actually, there's a really good description of how I feel over at Subversive Harmony. I mean, look at all the states with explicit definitions of marriage as man-woman (Virginia being one of them): Wisconsin being the latest. So, some states block the anti-gay laws, then others pass them. It ends up about even.

Or there's New Hampshire's implication that gay sex can't be adulterous, particularly ironic given that state's past tendency towards reasonableness on this issue.

I tend to side with Ampersand when looking at court-driven change. It works sometimes, sometimes it doesn't. Legislative bodies are a much clearer barometer of social change than courts, though both have been known to trump each other on this stuff. I just don't know.

I do know that some of my middle american family and friends think (or thought, rather) that gay marriage is a non-issue because gay people are so promiscuous that they wouldn't want marriage. They don't hate gayness; they just don't have any experience of relating to queer folk. There are people who last heard about gay culture in the eighties and haven't needed to think about gayness since then; maybe they're the 3/4 who oppose gay marriage. Maybe it's just about lack of information?

But then, the talk on the disturbing but sometimes funny conservative talk radio sure sounds like people are afraid of gay marriage. Afraid that extending the same privileges to people regardless of gender amounts to devaluing a sacred institution of the union of opposites, where opposition is defined by the possession of certain genitals. Sacredness. It's an argument just this side of "Jesus hates gay people, but he loves me".

I have a hard time grasping that argument. I have a hard time not just dismissing it as evidence of the stupidity of religion, and I don't even believe religion is stupid.

In any case, this week is a landmark for gay rights in Massachusetts. But I don't think it's anywhere near over.

 

13 November
your weekly abortion update
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You've all probably heard by now about the cases that enabled a handful of doctors to continue the "partial birth abortion" procedures, and have been watching Bush's conservative judicial appointments. But if you haven't, you should read up.

Meanwhile, Cinnamon has created a "purse for choice". It's lovely, beneficial to the cause, and shocking. And true - even if not true in the way most people will think (alluding to the ever-creepy Back Alley Abortion). The majority of women who died of illegal abortions were not ones who sought the "back alley" abortionist, but ones who attempted their own abortions through various (sometimes horrid) means; the coat hanger was apparently one of many approaches.

Ick. It scares me to think how fragile abortion rights are. Everyone is so damned apologetic about this medical procedure.

And Tennessee is doing a nice job of maintaining its reputation for conservative hickdom with its new "choose life" license plate. Yes, we're all backward hicks here in the South. Sigh. For a change, my state's better (ironically, Virginia had a similar debate awhile ago, which resulted in both the possible pro-choice and pro-life plates being nixed)

Also, when I came across this dismissive article on Feminists for Life, I had to go check them out. They're pretty much the affront to my intelligence that they were advertised to be.

I don't think this has to be true. I don't think pro-lifers are inherently gooey and stupid. I don't agree with pro-life people in general, but I also don't consider it to be impossible to be a pro-life feminist. I'm just not sure what that viewpoint would mean, exactly. In any case, the only way this site could have convinced me, even at my most choice-ambivalent, that I wanted to join this group of people and sent them money, is if I had an instantaneous frontal lobotomy.

And I'd been hoping for an explanation of this perplexing point of view, feminists who think abortion is forced and anti-choice.

[A side note. Why is it that so many pro-life sites take this breezy, women's magazine approach to writing and design? The very site design denies the seriousness of the issue at hand, denies the seriousness of the visitor. Am I the only one who finds that offensive? Admittedly, the March for Choice site isn't a lot better - though it's still better than the FFL one. I am not pastels (er, and I'm in the middle of redesigning the WHB site).]

There's also a March for Choice meetup next week. As Kerri pointed out, meetup's the new trend in liberalism. Also, whether you're meeting up with real live people to plan your marching activities or not, if you're a blogger thinking about marching, check out Roni's Bloggers for Choice site.

 

06 November
your weekly abortion update
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I started to collect a series of useful links to update you, gentle reader, on the current state of the partial birth abortion ban and what it means to you.

But you know, sometimes other people have already done a good job of saying what you mean and you don't have much to add to it.

Thus.

Some level-headed information and a nice ass-fire-lighting rant from Roni. Please read. Thanks.

Who's meeting me at the March for Choice next April?

 

23 October
i'm angry. and depressed.
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Things are making me angry today.

Some of the response to Tish's average-sized privilege list is very frustrating. Notably the conversation at Ampersand. It reminds me of something that happened on the DTMWSIB list awhile back. One of the members was upset that Queen Latifah's new Wal-Mart plus size undies line was donating a portion of proceeds to a fund to help black kids pay for college (I think; I don't recall what it was exactly). The rationale being - if you make something for fat people, the proceeds should go to a charitable organization that supports fat people. I disagree completely; if you have money to spend, you always have the option of not buying something if your money will go places you don't want it. And if you sell something, it's pretty much up to you what you do with the proceeds.

[Well, in theory. If your budget or town is such that Wal-Mart is really your only shopping option, and Queen Latifah's undies are the only ones that will fit you, then I guess your choice is to support her charity or go without panties - but it's still a choice.]

Anyhow - it's amazing how quickly this group of fat folk (who are well acquainted with the ways in which discrimination can happen) became rather divided over the question of whether black people were really discriminated against or not, since sometimes individual black people get advantages over individual white people. It is a privilege to be ignorant of the way you are privileged. It is a privilege to be able to think of yourself as an individual and not as part of the groups, to carry the weight of the normative prejudices against that group. And yet even people who recognize prejudice against themselves on one front can't see how that happens to someone else. This is so often the reaction of fairly liberal people to the assertion that fat people face prejudice and that's wrong. How can this be?

Everyone gets defensive when confronted with the idea that they might be receiving some privilege. I can understand that; being confronted by privilege makes it feel like you haven't earned what you have. But a reasonable person doesn't react to it by saying "see, look at those really fat people - they ARE unhealthy and they could be better" or "see, black men really do commit more crimes, and they could just stop living like that"; a reasonable person doesn't try to blow smoke around the real issue by bringing up some special case where, okay, maybe the things said about a particular group might be true.

And then the "partial birth" abortion ban gets passed. I don't even know what to say; I'm just so depressed by this.

It frustrates me, too, that groups like NARAL choose to talk about the procedure (which, let's face it, sounds more painful and generally icky than most abortions) in terms of rights, like it's an abstract. It reinforces this image of wild abortionists with no connection to reality and a need to hid our nasty procedures when you can't find a good explanation of what a D&E or D&X abortion even is on Planned Parenthood's website; only the NRLC will tell you in any detail, and they'll load their description with such bile you'll start wondering if you can dilate and evacuate their damned website.

See. It doesn't matter if the D&X reminds you of a baby being born. What matters is that that "baby" doesn't have a life unless the woman continues to bear it. And it is unconstitutional, has been found unconstitutional again and again, to deny a woman the right to a medical procedure that could protect her life (medically or otherwise).

We need to be angry about this.

Little George W. has now virtually guaranteed my vote, and the votes of all my formerly slacker non-voting friends (who mobilized so charmingly for Nader four years ago), for ANY democrat who makes it through the primaries. Screw the Greens! My vote is for anyone who could take Bush out of office! I hope we can count on the Court, but I want a president who reflects the true liberalism of America that Michael Moore keeps telling me about.

[Edited to add after the fact to point out Ampersand's explanation of the abortion issue over several posts. Because you can't expect me to cite a lot of research or facts, but you can trust Ampersand to do so.]

 

02 October
in-between
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I have a pretty wide range of friends with a pretty wide range of experience, but when I was talking to someone awhile ago about gay folk "coming out" as bisexual only to follow with truly coming out as themselves a bit later, I started thinking about why it's so difficult for many gay people to come to terms with the idea of bisexuality as a preference unto itself.

Because. It's as if every gay person has to "do" bisexuality for a couple of months. Seriously, no gay friend or acquaintance who has come out in the time I've known them has gone from "gee, of course I'm straight like everyone" to "hell, no, I won't be sleeping with that" in a snap. Every one of them has started with thinking they might be bisexual - that is, making the first [public] acknowledgement they're attracted to people of the same sex by broadening their self-identification with heterosexuality with a little of something else.

I'd be okay with this if part of the definition of sexual preference allowed for fluidity over time - if the gay folk in question would discuss their sexual history as being, or at least thinking they were, hetero- and then bisexual during those times. But a form of revisionism nearly always creeps into the process of coming into a gay sociopolitical identity, a process of which sexual preference and behavior are only parts. As a result, it seems de rigeur for someone who identifies gay to denounce all past sexual experiences as not really part of the new gay sociopolitical identity. To become someone who was always gay, never actually heterosexual or bisexual despite the very real experiences and behaviors involved.

This bothers me. Particularly because it seems to me to equate to cooptation and ultimately denunciation of bisexuality. It seems dishonest to declare and reject bisexuality in this way, this way that makes my mode of being seem like a step on someone else's path. And, yes, from my standpoint as someone to whom a variety of people have come out first as bisexual and later as gay, it's like you lied to me. For awhile we played on the same team, then you quit - and like a grade school best friend betrayal scene, you deny ever having been like me.

So, I have a certain personal peevishness to add to this topic, I admit.

But the identity issue is a big one here, a big source of tension in the queer community and probably one of many reasons I don't really hang in that community like I did once (the huge number of straight people I now associate with is no doubt also a factor). The temporary adoption of a bisexual identity would be alright, but the seemingly global way in which this happens - and worse, the tendency to dismiss periods of bisexual identification as experimental or transitional - seems to say that the truth of the gay relationship to bisexuality is in transition, fence-sitting, dismissal.

Of course, that is said outright by many gay people, and only an undercurrent for others. But it's almost more frustrating coming subtly - when you hear from the people who were once in the same place that they can't imagine where you're coming from.

A sociopolitically bisexual identity doesn't just jump out at you as a ready-made choice. There aren't (aside from promiscuity, which is true of some bi-identified folk) even semi-true stereotypes of bi-ness that you can wear ironically, like softball and uhauls, or show tunes and shoes. Bi-ness is still defined mostly as an in-between state, which can't help but frustrate those who find themselves perennially in-between.

 

07 April
sexiness
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My Happy Fat posted an assignment a few days ago.

BREAK OUT YOUR CAMERAS GIRLS. If you don't want your boyfriend or girlfriend to take them, take them yourself. Delete them right after if you want, but take them. Try different angles and lighting. Get creative and GET NAKED.

Brilliant. I do really highly recommend it.

And then Tish was talking today about that horrid show that combines the "Am I Hot Or Not" website with American Idol. As if one sort of body is built for sex. Ha. The rest of us, apparently, didn't read the label.

Why do we have the cultural notion of sexiness? Aside from the obvious biological basis, why bother? Clearly sexiness as it stands today is divorced from selection for health. So, what's with this?

The cynical (and I suspect correct) answer is that it's market-driven. The body can't serve as a sales vehicle and is a less effective generator of demand if all bodies have equal value. Enter media-promoted hotness, designed both to sell things that make you hotter and things unrelated to hotness by association with hot people. [This whole discussion becomes more amusing when "hotness" is the topic, doesn't it?]

And yet, empirically, I know that no two people have exactly like views on what constitutes sexy in other people. Why do we tolerate a cookie-cutter hotness sales pitch, then?

I don't know. But people are fighting it. You can fight it yourself. Just list, say, five things you think are sexy that are outside of the official hotness mode. Here are some of mine:
1. Jiggling when you dance.
2. Long grey or white hair, the kind that says hey, I'm old - so what?
3. People who just woke up.
4. Dressing to suit only yourself.
5. Smiling wickedly at idiots.

 

13 January
the sex industry
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This week on We Have Brains, we finally sit down and talk about that oft-discussed feminist topic: the Sex Industry.

[It's so much fun to capitalize, isn't it? Makes it seem like That Horrible Industry That Might Devour Us Whole.]

I unloaded some of my random thoughts on pornography/erotica a few weeks ago. So as not to bore those of you playing the home game, I'd suggest you read them: here (if you're interested). Suffice to say - I see no reason why women shouldn't actively participate in porn. Creating and consuming, both. So, why aren't I doing more of either? Quite honestly, I'm one repressed chica. I hardly even talk big when it comes to things sexual. But I am working on it.

I'll also add to my previous comments, that I believe the only difference between "porn", "erotica" and "erotic art" is taste. Many people may disagree. Here, on this blog, they're all wrong, and I'm right. If it titillates you, call it whatever you want. It's all the same to me. Well, that's not entirely true - I've seen some sexy art that actually challenges the psyche enough to meet my definition of art - but it's rare as hell.

So. Given that. Pornographers are entertainers. In my book, that's equivalent to being Disney, or the guys who make Grand Theft Auto. Entertainment is a vehicle for release - of whatever in you needs releasing. Entertainment is okay. Television is okay! Porn is okay! All of these things can, at times, cross lines for different people, can turn offensive. Different people have different lines. Ergo, no one line can be drawn culturally (much as I'd like to draw my own and line people up on either side of it).

What I'm trying to say is - porn is no more dangerous to the psyche than any other form of entertainment. Any form of fun can turn dirty, but that does not justify keeping people away from it via legislation or cultural stigma.

Okay. Porn topic over. For now.

Let's talk about sex workers. I have yet to meet even one sex worker who feels degraded and exploited by her work. Whether they be phone sex operators, prostitutes, or strippers, every woman I've met who represents some aspect of the sex industry has chosen her career and largely enjoys it. Now, admittedly the sex workers I've met have all been American, and that makes a big difference.

But I will not sit by and allow other people to declare these women's voices null because they don't fit some sort of stereotype of the victimized woman forced into a life of degrading sex. We cannot ignore the viewpoints of the people who are actually doing the work we theorize about while we theorize about their work. [Dr. Seuss would be so pleased with that sentence.] That's just plain patronizing - and more importantly, it leaves out one of the most valuable perspectives on the discussion - it's like talking about the "Woman Problem" in 1910 without talking to a woman.

So, what have I heard from these sex workers? This. Sex is fucking empowering! Why do you think fat folk are so keen to prove their sexiness? Because they know that being sexual is a source of power and satisfaction. Sex can be deeply spiritual - and I don't just mean the high you get from sex with someone you rilly rilly luv - sex is one of the most basic human desires, and sex work in all its forms can tap into a certain primal male/female identity for some people. And hey, if you add the often very nice money you make while doing it - well, that's a pretty good case for sex work.

That's not to say that there are no sex workers who feel they've been exploited. Simply that it's not fair to assume they all are when that isn't their experience of their own situation. That robs people of self-determination. That is, in my book, anti-feminist. Just as it would be for me to assume that the handful of strippers I know represent all strippers ever.

When we talk about The Sex Industry without talking to the people who are the industry, we continue to marginalize that work. We fail to understand its appeal. We guess. And we gloss over critical issues like the need for healthcare and other benefits for sex workers. In short, we make ourselves stupid and narrow-minded.

 

17 December
vaginas and their monologues
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I did not like The Vagina Monologues. But, for the sake of We Have Brains, I'll talk about it a little.

but wait! there's more


 

porn
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I'm tired of hearing women say Ick when faced with anything pornographic. That automatically triggered response - Ew! I accidentally saw porn! - both confounds and perturbs me.

What I find particularly confounding is that this attitude isn't limited to women one might expect to have some hesitance about the sex industry - the stereotypically moralistic christian or second wave feminist. I've seen it in teenagers, in hip, funky third-wavers who talk openly about sex.

And I wonder why.

but wait! there's more


 

22 September
tangents about sex
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Here's something that irks me: holding up "The Greeks" (meaning classical Greeks, nothing to do with sororities or fraternities) as a culture tolerant of a wide range of sexualities.


It irks me because, well, it just doesn't appear to be true. I mean, yes, classical Greece accepted men having sex with me - but only to an extent. Classical sexuality was understood more in terms of power than love, and people with power [men of age, the only Greeks really referred to as "citizens"] could penetrate the less powerful objects of their choice. Who a citizen could associate with was not so much a question of gender, though marriage between people of the same sex was hardly even considered. Marriage was a social and procreative necessity; the notion of marriage as a commitment born of love simply didn't exist.


And yes, there were those who spoke of love between equals (for instance Plato, though he only advocated love between equal men), but that would have been a radical philosophy.


It annoys me when we bend history to fit what we wish it had been. I'm sure I have some distorted ideas about how things went down at various points in the past. I haven't researched everything in detail, and it frustrates me to have to do so in order to be sure I get an unbiased perspective. Shouldn't I have gotten that in history class?


[Yes, I can just imagine a frank discussion of classical perspectives on sexuality along with the seventh grade social studies examination of gods, goddesses and architecture. It would go over so well.]


Anyhow, I read someone somewhere talking about how the Greeks were just totally cool with homosexuality, and of course I had to open my big mouth and sound educated.


It also made me think of something Rev said recently, about the words we use to insult people. We say fuck you and we're screwed and bite me (well, maybe no one says "bite me" anymore).


And these are all essentially words that talk about sex classical-style. That is, sex where one person has the power and does the action, and the other is a passive vessel. Taken in a contemporary context, these words really do imply abuse and rape. We use them so often that they've practically lost any meaning. But it's still pretty creepy.


I mean, I won't even let people say vagina around me, because its meaning offends me [not what it means now, what it used to mean - "sheath"], but I say fuck a lot. Enough that I wish I hadn't thought about this - what will I fill my potty mouth with now?


I don't know whether these words incite us to violence (I'm certain they don't directly, but indirect effect is much harder to pin down), and I don't know what the taboos around these words say about our attitudes towards sex and violence (maybe nothing), but I do think it's worth considering your word choice.

 

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