Radfems, Harassment, Survival Sex

Links to share this week; most are pretty long, but totally worth it:

What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.

Response: Op-ed: An Open Letter to The New Yorker

Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This.

You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

On Surviving Sex Work

Infidelity and The Powerful Juxtaposition

What is Empowerment?

One of my biggest life lessons from the past year or two has been learning how to hold multiple, coexisting truths that seem to contradict one another.

Recently, I was listening to and reading conversations by other dancers about empowerment in the strip industry. A few argued that the industry itself is disempowering and controlling, and so how could strippers themselves feel empowered by their work?

I would agree that the industry and system itself does not provide strippers a foundation from which to feel empowered. It’s set up to benefit employees, most of whom are male. It does cater, largely, to male eyes. It was created within patriarchal and sexist cultures, times, and places.

AND. I personally have felt empowered as an individual working within that oppressive system. I have felt in control over my body and actions, been able to feel a true ownership over my body and time, and for the first time, felt like I could truly support myself financially. My brief stint working at a gym two years ago gave me none of that. That job was disempowering.

That being said, I know that not every sex worker or stripper feels empowered by their job, and I know that I haven’t felt “empowered” by stripping every time I go dance. If customers aren’t there or aren’t tipping, when I have to tip staff out, when customers are rude or disrespectful- that chips away at my feeling of agency and personal power. And yet: I, personally, have a choice as to whether or not I engage in this oppressive system. And, I know that not every worker has this same choice. My education, other employment, whiteness, and class make my choice a true choice.

Excellent points were also made regarding the fact that sex workers have an incredible amount of pressure from media, friends, and family to say that they feel empowered by their work, in order to justify their participation in such a taboo job and industry, even if it’s not true that they feel that way. Workers of other jobs are rarely forced to justify their work as empowering.

I have also been mulling over the issue of race in sex work conversations that I read and am part of. I am disconcerted by the fact that so far in my support group (which doubled its attendance this month! wahoo!) we are all white, activist-y types, engaging in sex work that has quite a bit of autonomy attached to it. I am disconcerted by the fact that there are very few women of color voices in the stripper forum I am part of. I am aware I am missing a perspective that has been historically much more marginalized, oppressed, and disempowered than where I have come from. I am a stripper, but I am white. This piece is worth reading.

Workers’ Rights & Evangelism

Portland hosts an extension of the Las Vegas Cupcake Girls, and The Oregonian published an article this past week on their outreach and service efforts. In response, a dancer from the area created a petition online to show the Cupcake Girls that they don’t speak for Portland sex workers. Sign it, if you are so inclined. I did.

A woman at my meeting for the sex worker outreach coalition this past week made an excellent point: if they want to offer services, great. That’s awesome, and I’m sure they’re helping someone. But if you and your organization cannot take a stand supporting the rights of the people you purport to be serving, than you are not helping the movement.

The organization seems to take a stance similar to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” simply by not supporting workers’ rights. And that’s troubling. The organization’s funding is from evangelical, anti-trafficking organizations that don’t recognize that many workers have chosen their work and find it empowering and don’t need spiritual guidance or help leaving the industry.

This article was published in the Willamette Week in response to the article in the Oregonian, and I think it is an articulate response.

And, unrelated to the Cupcake Girls and local worker response, this article written by a john is very interesting. I am more for decriminalization than legalization, but it’s a great piece nonetheless.

Stripping is Way Better than Walmart

This is another great recapitulation from another sex worker about why sex work was preferable to her than working at Walmart.

Which reminds me: I am participating in a local dancer’s photography and interviewing project. She is interviewing dancers about their experiences with stripping and then having her friend take photos of each person in the many spaces of their lives (home, play, work, etc). We met up this past week and she asked me all about it: where have I worked, how long, my stage name, my pre-work routine, how the work as impacted me, the best and worst things that have happened to me while dancing, if I have experienced discrimination as a result of stripping, if I think of stripping as anti-feminist or uber-feminist, and more. It was fun and refreshing to talk with another Portland dancer, and great to hear about her experiences as well. I’m not yet exactly sure what kind of photos I will be comfortable taking, but excited to be a part of the project.

Other Portland-y things in the stripper scene going on: there are folks interested (again) in making a documentary on Portland strippers. It’d be cool if it happens! Also, an acquaintance of mine is suing her club for back wages. I am so excited for her, although she is going to need so much support through this.

And: Today is the one year anniversary of the Sex Worker Film Series in Portland! If you have time and interest, the event and film starts at 7pm at the Clinton Street Theater!

And… tonight is my first Saturday night at my new club! Wish me luck- I plan on having lots and lots of fun 😉

Nonmonogamy research, gender, self care, and HIV

Links to share:

This is a pretty fascinating summary of research done on the perception of different types of nonmonogamy; spoiler alert, poly folks were perceived to be more moral while swingers were perceived to be more adventurous.

A pretty awesome piece written on the lessons to be gained from dating someone in an open relationship

A fun compilation of vagina facts

Ginny on using language to be more gender-inclusive

The Gottman blog on self care, autonomy, closeness, and relationship interdependence

Interesting ideas on why childfree couples seem to cheat less than their counterparts with children

I love this infographic from The Lancet on HIV and sex workers:

Lancet-sex-work-infographic_930px (1)

Labor

The new club I am working at is proving to be well worth my time. While the shifts are an hour longer, my ability to work nights has been lucrative. There are a lot of bar regulars, but there have also been many customers willing to dole out the money. For some reason, it’s like I realize again and again once I get to the club that it’s work, and being able to take advantage of that flow of cash has been extremely helpful the past six months.

My focus on stripping as labor also has become clear when I am talking to customers who want to date outside of the club- which I have had happen much more often at this new place. Trying to gently decline while still maintaining their interest in spending money is really tricky. Customers who come in and try to pick up strippers is not unusual- strip clubs are places of fantasy and hope. But I’m still dumbfounded when it happens. Why do you think I’m here? So I can meet dates? Ha, no. The unwillingness of customers, or maybe just the naivete (although I doubt it), to see strippers as workers just boggles my mind. But again, that is part of building and maintaining fantasy: customers know that they must pay money in order to enjoy strippers’ performances, company, and more intimate/private interactions, but many also seem in denial that there is a flow of money and exchange facilitated by money and want to believe that if the money exchange stops the sexual exchange would continue.

In other sex work-y news, my first support group went well! We had a nice mix of workers (three people, who have danced, escorted, and done web-based and phone-based work) and our brainstorming for topics was fun. Safety planning, financial planning, legal rights, self care, activism, and networking/building community all came up. I’m excited to see how this group forms up.

Recent news that I wanted to share, too:

Nicolas Kristof’s Sweatshop Boner

I love love love Tits and Sass. Their Week in Links post are great and totally packed with other sex worker related news. Check it out!

Femme, Breakups, and Trans* Prisoners

Some media for you, that particularly intrigued me this past week:

Photo Series Explores The Sad Beauty Of Breakups

What Does “Femme” Look Like?

If “Real Men” Posed in Underwear Ads

Penned In: Letters Reveal the Lives of Transgender Women in Prison

Dan Savage on gender politics: ‘We all get to stand up and scream and yell’

#YesAllWomen

~My good thoughts and prayers are with the Isla Vista community~

I thought it would be worth collecting my favorite media responses (so far) to the Elliot Rodger incident, and posting them here. I have many thoughts and feelings about the shooting, and many others have already responded articulately and comprehensively. Many of my own thoughts have been encapsulated by others, and while I have been distressed over the shooting, I feel heartened reading all of the strong, emphatic responses by other feminists. I am distressed and saddened, knowing this will likely not be the last incident of its kind, and yet strengthened knowing that so many people I know, men and women, share a vision of gender equality and non-violence.

Laci Green on Upworthy

Jessica Valenti on #YesAllWomen

Your Princess is in Another Castle

When Women Refuse Tumblr

Dude, It’s You

Yes, All Men

Why It’s So Hard for Men to See Misogyny

I posted the Laci Green video on my Facebook wall, and I was not prepared for an acquaintance from high school to side with Elliot’s misogynistic beliefs and attitudes. I have been feeling embarrassed to have such grossness on my Facebook wall, so I keep countering his comments with my own- I can’t let him have the last word on my wall, can I? I have been thankful to my friends who have also been stepping in, bolstering the side of equality. A good friend of mine, too, sent me a message that she had received from a friend of hers who was going through the exact same thing. It was inspirational, and reminded me that I didn’t need to be an “expert” in order to argue with this guy and I didn’t need to apologize to anyone for his behavior and beliefs.

My #YesAllWomen contributions (not that I am on Twitter, but if I was, these would be mine):

Vigilant when I walk by large vans

Cautious when I open my front door at night

Thought about how fast I could run if I need to escape an attacker

Worried that I haven’t taken self-defense and that if I am attacked I will be criticized for not fighting harder

Worried that if I am attacked someone will out me as a stripper and I will no longer look like a “good victim”

Thought about getting an actual guard dog so when we are walking around our neighborhood I would have another form of protection

Do you have any favorite articles on the subject that I don’t have listed? Please share! Reading other people’s thoughts, opinions, and analyses of what happened is helping me process 🙂

Kyriarchy

I feel a little late to the feminist table: why hadn’t I come across the word “kyriarchy” before? I don’t know, but now I have. This post does a good job of explaining the difference between kyriarchy and patriarchy. It may seem simply like semantics, but I think the difference in definitions is important to understand.

Kyriarchy is about examining all systems of oppression and privilege, and not just the system of patriarchy and the power that men hold over women. I love this piece from post I linked to:

“Kyriarchy is more descriptive of the approach I try to take to feminism. The word considers all parts of the oppressive structure we live in evenly – no one oppression is worse or better or more important than another. We are all subject to kyriarchy, and we all benefit from kyriarchy; we all share the burden and the blame in different measures and proportions.”

And, she goes on to quote a scholar, who mentions:

“When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy.  When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy.  When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy.  It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid.  At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.”

Does that make sense? We all embody varying degrees of privileged and marginalized identities, and how we experience privilege and oppression changes depending on context. I’ve understood this phenomenon to be true, but I just never knew there was a word to describe it.

I love this concept because it helps, for me, to explain why I can experience oppression and privilege in the system of a strip club, and why I can experience both oppression and privilege walking into an academic setting or my work setting. It helps explain why a strip club customer embodies both oppression privilege. It helps me breathe a sigh of relief because our world is not so neat and tidy as being able to say “sex workers are oppressed people” or “white people are privileged people.” (Yes, I do think that most of the time in most contexts white people hold far more power than people of color- and I’ve never personally experienced a time in my life where I have felt noticeably less powerful than a person of color. But, I do think there are situations and contexts in which the power dynamic shifts).

For example, this post ventures down this path and I appreciate the writer’s analysis of kyriarchy. My beef with her post, though, is her extension into what kyriarchy means for sex workers. She immediately starts talking about workers in trafficking or abusive relationships with pimps, and discounts the experiences of workers who choose their line of work. So, I would agree with her that it is kyriarchical of her to analyze sex workers’ experiences as she does (“But, and maybe this is kyriarchal of me, when people claim that sex workers derive power from their work, it gives me pause.”)

I appreciate this article on The Guardian, and this particular passage:

“Perhaps most importantly, kyriarchy exposes a sin within the women’s movement itself: that of feminist-perpetuated oppression. (I can already hear feminists hissing at me as I type. But don’t worry – I’ll hiss at myself in the mirror later for perpetuating the stereotype of internecine cat-fighting.) When feminist commentators and charities working to “liberate” sex workers relate their tales for them, rather than letting them speak first-hand, that’s kyriarchy. It’s also kyriarchy when minority male feminists are forced to veto voting rights in equality action groups because they are male.

Kyriarchy has the potential to settle the age-old argument about “privileged” feminism once and for all. Perhaps that’s why it’s so frightening to those that balk at the term, and will dismiss this as yet another example of woman-eating-woman. It may feel counterintuitive, but recognising your own privilege doesn’t make the struggle for gender equality any less credible: it makes it more so, by allowing feminists to see that advantages – such as being born to a semi-prosperous family or being well-educated – don’t necessarily protect against, say, rape.”

Reading all of this makes me feel so much better since I have been stewing for the past month or so about the anti-Belle Knox coverage (you can’t be an empowered feminist and a porn star: the Belle Knox brand of feminism is so totally not feminism). It all seems like a bunch of bullshit (and probably because I identify with Belle Knox and think she is rad)- you certainly can be a feminist, recognize the power and privilege you engender as a young and hot woman, profit off that power, and also recognize the oppression that brought you, as a woman, to porn in the first place- and, say that you wouldn’t want to continue in porn forever. I really don’t understand why complicated motivations and identities are so scary to people. This kind of experience doesn’t hurt the feminist movement: it enriches and enlivens it,  allows us to delve into the complexities of our lives, and speak up for minority experiences.

What do you think?

kyriarchy

What Does it Mean to Be Monogamous?

I was reading my friend’s recent blog post (Question: Can being monogamish help you be monogamous?) and it inspired this post. Thanks Lo! 🙂

I think it is worth taking some power away from language at times, and in the case of “monogamy” and “monogamous,” it’s time to share the power. Why does the word hold so much weight and meaning and emotion? That’s obviously a long conversation that gets into religion, patriarchy, purity, virginity, etc. But why does it still have to hold that kind of weight?

We were talking with some friends recently about whether choosing to have a nonmonogamous or polyamorous relationship is actually devolving from monogamy- whether somehow we might be giving up an evolved aspiration to be monogamous. My response to that train of thought is generally: humans are rarely “monogamous,” and over the course of time that humans have been around, I don’t think our species has ever been largely monogamous. And yet the word remains and gets thrown around with so much importance.

In order to take away some of its power, I think it would be helpful to talk about monogamy in different ways. Here are some different definitions that I have read, heard of, thought of. Some of these overlap/mean the same thing:

-Monogamous: one sexual partner for life

-Socially monogamous: a couple presents as sexually/romantically/emotionally monogamous to their larger community but in practice has other partners, rules, boundaries, etc.

-Emotionally monogamous: a couple retains certain boundaries around their emotional and romantic connection, but leaves the door open for other sexual partners/encounters

-Sexually monogamous: a couple retains sexual exclusivity, although they may have leeway for developing deep emotional relationships with other people

-Serial monogamy: one sexual/romantic partner at a time

-Monogamish: a couple behaves monogamously most of the time, with exceptions given for certain behaviors/events (a once-a-year threesome, traveling out of town one night stand, etc.)

The interesting thing to me about the term “monogamish” (coined by Dan Savage) is that it offers the privileges of monogamy to couples and helps couples retain couple privilege while also allowing them to explore the expansiveness of nonmonogamy, albeit with many limitations. I don’t know how I feel about that privilege piece, from a macro perspective. It gives me a similar feeling as those who are bisexual and choose not to come out because, since they are partnered to someone of the opposite gender, don’t have to. To essentially practice nonmonogamy and yet retain the privileges of a monogamously presenting couple is troubling- when will we all realize how many of us don’t fit into the mainstream ideal of a lifelong Disney relationship? And when will nonmonogamy become more mainstream? Perhaps “monogamish” relationships are part of how nonmonogamy will enter the mainstream, though- maybe it’s just what the nonmonogamous community needs to become more respected and recognized. What do you think?

In terms of the question that my friend received on her blog- what do you think? Can practicing “a little” nonmonogamy help you stay monogamous? Is that even possible? Can you really consider yourself monogamous if you aren’t really practicing monogamy? I think this is where the term “social monogamy” is helpful, although I don’t really know 🙂