Category Archives: anti-porn

On OSHA

Chewed Up

If you have ever thought that the phrase “War on Porn” was hyperbole or bellyaching by adult industry professionals, now is the time to shut the fuck up and listen.

As soon as the Adult Industry Medical Clinic received a cease and desist order in 2010, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before a full closure occurred. I experienced a bit of a panic because the world of non-profits and social welfare is infinitely more ugly and brutal than most people know. There is this impression that people who take on these roles do so from the goodness of their own hearts and a commitment to social justice. I thought that when I entered the field and boy did I get a wake-up call about that. After taking one look at the budget for AHF and the budget for AIM I felt certain that AHF would prevail. AIM wasn’t prepared for an enemy that came from within what is ostensibly a mutual goal. AHF didn’t go international by selling girl scout cookies. They got that big because they possess a cut throat business sense and an eye for real estate.

AIM is dead, the wiki that shall not be named is still on the web and harassing performers, and OSHA has decided that despite the fact that most adult performers pay state and federal taxes as independent contractors that we are actually employees (read: victims) of studios and need outside protection. It’s a shit time to get into the business and it’s been migraine after migraine for awhile now.

What adult industry performers need is a guild or a union and not an outside agency that claims to know what’s best for us. Sadly, I could not afford to fly down to Los Angeles and back for the OSHA proceedings but the results have been grim.

Make no mistake, porn has been singled out for its content thanks to the never-ending stream of bullshit from critics who either withhold studies and facts and relay emotional pleas about how disgusting the mere existence of pornography is on moral grounds. When it comes to HIV, the porn industry has fewer infections per year than a random grouping of non-performers. Given the sheer frequency and high risk nature of some of these acts it is evident that the industry is doing something right.

There are jobs infinitely more dangerous than porn that have fewer regulations and protections for workers and those people are dying. Oral sex is a relatively low risk activity and yet according to OSHA it is so risky that our “employers” must mandate barriers unless it falls into a specific window of time between tests and yet employees of liquor stores are not required to wear bullet proof vests despite the fact that they come into contact with firearms a lot.

Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin forged the rallying cry that pornography is not a 1st Amendment issue in a Jedi Mind Trick that has had lasting effects. This article from 1993 is virtually indistinguishable from a contemporary article about pornography. MacKinnon has a fascinating quote in this article, “This is not a 1st Amendment issue. It makes me feel dumb to have to keep saying it. Pornography is not speech, it’s an aid to masturbation.”

Pornography is speech and it’s an aid to masturbation. Notice the suffix -graphy? That’s the Greek influence on our language and it is derived from the word γράφειν which means to write or record. Pornography is a 1st Amendment issue and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the 1st Amendment is not a loophole. It is the very first part of our Bill of Rights as Americans.

Although censorship is still alive and well in the United States, it hasn’t ever been effective to argue that pornography is not speech. The war on porn has been forged creatively through 2257 laws that do more to put performers at risk (and keep an updated log of where we can be found at all times), zoning codes that limit where pornography can be purchased or viewed even behind closed doors and with age verification systems, and the illegalization of facials not as obscene but as a “health risk.”  The OSHA regulations for porn are the “Sit/Lie” of the entertainment industry because they have both been composed with selective enforcement against specific populations in mind.

I’ve gotten a lot of messages from allies, supporters, and fans about what they can do to help out with the issue of the porn wiki or the OSHA regulations. One of the best things you can do is speak up when people make claims that porn performers are helpless victims and remind them that we are not. When you read an anti-porn opinion essay in your local news, speak up about the lack of factual evidence. Work towards promoting the idea of adult consent and sexual negotiation; reminding people about the power of consent reinforces the notion that performers are people making their own sexual choices. Even though it might not seem like a lot when casually thrown into a conversation, just telling people that consent matters is very powerful. Read blogs written by porn performers and spread the word that the people actually inside the industry are opposed to these regulations because they put us at risk. Tweet or blog about what OSHA is proposing and if you get a chance contact Deborah Gold at Cal/OSHA (DGold@dir.ca.gov) or Ged Kenslea, the Director of Communications at AHF (gedk@aidshealth.org) about your thoughts and ideas. Polite and respectful emails are absolutely encouraged.

10 Comments

Filed under activism, anti-porn

Lady Porn Day: Must Reads “The Porning of America”

When I first looked at the cover for The Porning Of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What it Means, and Where Do We Go from Here by Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott I was a little worried that it was going to be yet another poorly thought out and sex negative manifesto. I was deceived by the strawberry on the cover. “The Porning of America” is a sex positive text infinitely more focused on creating a historical context for pornography in America. It destroys the rose colored nostalgic glances to the so-called good old days before porn. It is fantastic read for anyone who is sex positive, pro porn, and anti-sexual shame but still sometimes feels conflicted by some aspects of the porn debate. It is an accessible text that encourages people to ask more questions and consider other possibilities.

“Porning” is a book about American porn and it is very assertive about creating a full context for the emergence of pornography in America. A large portion of this text is dedicated to exploring the historical precedent and taking time to note that although Los Angeles produces the bulk of pornography in the United States now, the US as a whole has only recently become the major porn exporter. Americans were not producing porn until after establishing themselves as a major global power in war in the early part of the 20th century. Where most anti-porn texts look wistfully at the “good girl” nature of the Pin Up girl, “Porning” is critical of her creation pointing out that erotic images of wartime women emerged from PSA’s for women to join the labor force and also notes that most of the “Rosies” of WWII were women of color with prior labor experience. When soldiers began painting bombshell babes on their war equipment it was a new twist on heterosexuality as a motivation to keep fighting the war which is also problematic. Within the same analysis “Porning” also points out how the “Rosies” in their 30s during WWII did return to working inside the home it didn’t last. It was the “Rosies” who re-entered the workplace in their 50s prompting new waves of feminist discourse.

The text takes the time to examine masculinity which is largely ignored in the anti-porn debate. Pornography is discussed alongside the fact that many young men went to war and were left to process their experiences within a framework for masculinity that does not allow for tears. Comic book images of sexualized damsels in distress are analyzed not just as depictions of women in bondage struggling against literally monstrous threats to their well being and happiness but also as depictions of men as heroes off in the distance as small and pathetic against the scourge. Comic book culture initially produced for children began taking on adult themes. Nudity and sexuality was a hallmark of a comic that was also likely going to include the politics of minority oppression, the nature of human evil, and other cultural anxieties. The chilling effects of political discourse in comics are noted as taking place after the Comic Book Code was introduced to censor sex and gore.

One of the greatest strengths of “Porning” is its ability to assertively redefine “porn culture” to discuss porn as a part of a historic, cultural, and sociological component of the American human experience rather than an external force set to destroy us. For those who are active sex positive critics in the great porn debate, read this book in good faith. The authors are using some terms predominantly in the domain of the sex negative camp. It took awhile for my knee to stop jerking when I would suddenly encounter some of the terms or language that have come to represent logical shortcomings, broad generalizations, and very bad data in my mind. These authors are using these terms very differently. After awhile I realized that my rhetoric often revolves around not using anti-porn terminology rather than actually engaging with it and opening up what those labels actually include. “Porn culture” is not something that should automatically read as a horror movie script where porno is the guy behind the mask with a machete killing teenagers. The words, “porn culture” should mean the culture of porn; its history, its process, innovators, popular trends, relationship to other cultural events and happenings, technology, growth, and development. Why the hell have I been letting people get away with using the words that best contain the conversation I want to have about porn?

Rather than relying on an emotional panic at the existence of sex on film being circulated widely on the internet and WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?, “Porning” takes the time to ask that if childhood is eroding  it might not be because of sexually suggestive undergarments being marketed but because of news media. Sarracino and Scott examine the fact that all Americans are exposed to more information and news than ever before in human history. The news doesn’t really fit our model of childhood. Is it “Bratz Dolls” that are “destroying” childhood or is it the fact that most children have seen moving images of the grizzly reality of the adult world in full color? It goes on to remind readers that childhood as we know it is a cultural construct. Most children historically and globally today have not been afforded the privilege of an existence free from the harshness outside of the nursery. Class could afford that kind of sanctuary for a relatively short period of time but information news media is now immediate and increasingly global. It was so refreshing to see writing that doesn’t immediately panic at the fact that someone is selling thongs for 10 year old girls but considers the fact that it occurred in a context that includes more than just porn.

What is frustrating about so many discussions about porn is how utterly devoid of context they really are. Articles placing the blame of relationship breakdowns and cultural changes in expectations about sex and pornography fail to recognize that as a whole the way we relate to everything is changing all at once around us. Culture is no longer a slow moving glacier and we have such a limited understanding of what that fully means. Technology has changed every kind of relationship we have from ourselves to the most mundane of human interactions. Technology is also changing our relationship to information and to the past. The 1960s feel as if they occurred ages ago and yet 50 years isn’t even the full lifetime of your average American human. 50 years represents a greater abundance of technological advancements than any other 50 years of human history. It is helpful for me to step back for a moment to remind myself of what my context is exactly and I often do this by analyzing what it is not.

Access to pornography isn’t the only factor that could potentially effect relationships. The fact that I use my telephone as a telephone as little as possible is also changing the way that I relate to other people. I download software into my pocket computer that allows me to eliminate as many human interactions as I possibly can. I become visibly aggravated when I am denied access to information that I am seeking. I curse at JSTOR and Lexis Nexus when it cannot provide the minutiae that I am seeking. Americans are increasingly discontented with not knowing everything. Modern suburban parents cannot comprehend the notion of just letting their children run around unsupervised on the streets without any way to immediately connect with them. Previously unknown private habits of my friends are now broadcasted on the internet for me to watch and respond to with my own. Privacy is being redefined. All of these things contribute to relationship and sexual expectation changes. The book spends an incredible amount of time including details of porn culture that demonstrate that pornography is neither a frog in a boiling pot argument nor was it something that dropped onto modern Americans from a spaceship. There is no end point to culture, there is not goal. There is only a story of people reacting to changes in their environment.

Technology as a whole is something that has developed in a continuum of events. A lot of anti-porn rhetoric creates this image of porn as being something that started with Playboy and then somehow turned into graphic sexual acts on Sesame Street. It’s not a reasonable frame work for discussing the development of porn culture. It fails to remember that human behavior is not static. It develops alongside technological innovations that impacted every aspect of our lives and that our lives include sexuality.

Food cultivation technology changed human relationships. (And sex.)

Railroads, cars, and airplanes changed human relationships. (And sex.)

Photography changed human relationships. (And sex.)

War changes human relationships. (And sex.)

Simply panicking at the first site of change doesn’t actually introduce anything new to the conversation because humans are immediately reacting to and integrating new aspects of their environments in their lives. This is exemplified by discussing an indelible mark on the emergence of porn culture: nuclear war. Sex entered mainstream discourse formally after we split the atom and opened up an entirely new world of science. The 1950s are depicted paradoxically; white teenagers in blue jeans at the malt shops who also participated in nuclear attack response drills in high school. We started talking about sex a whole lot more in America when people were grappling with the very real potential of annihilating thousands if not millions of lives in a flash. How do you talk about Playboy without talking about The Cold War? Yes, people did have a growing secret stash of obscene materials. People also had secret stashes of supplies and shelter networks in the event of nuclear war. 8 year olds could look you in the eye and recite what they should do at the initial onset of a nuclear attack. Looking back you can see how that might start to put jerking off to dirty pictures in the bathroom a little more into perspective. “The Porning of America” is a study of pornography as a historical artifact to better understand all of mainstream culture. When Hays compiled his list of obscene things that should never be permitted on film he also created the pornography industry. At the conclusion of my reading, I had the sudden thought that conversations about pornography cannot be discussed in Freudian terms. Freud analyzed the hidden sexuality in day to day life but when we talk about fucking we’re very rarely actually talking about sex alone.

In grade school, literature was taught to me with multiple choice tests. The requisite question, “If you could re-title this story, which title would you choose?”  always annoyed me. There was always a correct option in the form of a declarative statement of the thesis, an option representing the antithesis, a superficial reading of the story, and a humorous non-related option. The wording of the question always annoyed me because if you’re asking me what I personally would re-title the story then I can’t very well answer in multiple choice form, can I? Despite the test maker’s horrible semantics it was the best way they could think of to evaluate someone’s understanding of a story by phrasing the question in such a way that it entices the answer from another portion of the human brain. I understood the purpose even as I hated the process. My conclusion in the form of an homage to the sex education I was given in grade school, if I were to re-title “The Porning of America” I would call it “Porn Doesn’t Exist in a Goddamn Vacuum.” If you’re looking for a good go-to primer on the historical context for porn in America, go pick up a copy of  The Porning Of America.

4 Comments

Filed under anti-porn, art, community, culture, erotica, events, feminisms, lady porn day, opinion, politics, porn, sexuality

Anti-Porn Flowchart For Easy Essay Writing

How to upgrade your speaker fee in one simple lesson! (Click to enlarge)

9 Comments

Filed under anti-porn, sexuality, slut shaming

In Defense of the Pop Shot: Dedicated to Margaret Brooks

Porn sequences that include penises  invariably end with “the money shot.” It doesn’t matter whether the cock in question is in a queer or heterosexual scene, the visual image of ejaculation comes (ha) with the package (ha ha).

For a lot of people, this is degrading or disgusting but not everyone agrees with that assessment. The “money shot” can be used to humiliate or degrade someone but so can a pair of chopsticks and some rubber bands and some people really enjoy that aspect. Other people really enjoy being able to interact with their partner’s orgasm in such a visceral way and don’t experience humiliation or degradation at all in the process. A larger bulk of pornographers will probably tell you that the “money shot” is quintessential because porn is about the production of sexual images. Images of external ejaculation create a tangible manifestation of pleasure. As a sexual and perverted person, I really like to collect as much evidence of my partner’s presence and enjoyment of our encounter. I do like the “money shot” whether it is coming from a penis or a pussy. I want to see my partner’s pleasure in as many ways as I can. I relish their orgasmic fluids the way that I relish the way their eyes close and flutter or the way that I can pull them close and literally feel their moans resonate in my own chest.

My personal enjoyment of external ejaculation aside, I’m happy to see it in porn for another reason. When someone pulls out to ejaculate on their partner, they reduce their partner’s risk for a sexually transmitted infection.

But wait a minute! I’m also a huge proponent of condom use and even perfect condom use doesn’t eliminate all of the risks involved in a sexual encounter. How can I go on the record and call the money shot a form of harm/risk reduction when it doesn’t work nearly as well as a barrier? By making this claim, am I putting more people at risk?

After 6 years of testing, counseling, and informing people of their HIV status I strongly support any action that someone takes to reduce their risk. Harm reduction works on a giant spectrum and there is no such thing as black and white when it comes to human behavior. It took me years in the field to realize that I wasn’t helping anyone by making consistent condom use my objective during my client’s counseling session. It was my job to help my client identify any tool that they had in their possession to reduce their own personal risk for HIV but for a long time I wasn’t doing that. Whenever a client told me that they didn’t use condoms during sex, I would try to negotiate or work something out to make condom use easier for them. I would give them a giant bag of condoms for free. We would role play a partner negotiation. I would offer up exciting or sexy ways to include a barrier during sex. I gave people free condom carrying cases. I tried to help clients form a plan for those nights when they knew they would go out and get drunk or high and then fuck. I tried a million of things too numerous to list here.

It didn’t matter how creative, innovative, or persuasive I was during a counseling session if the client ultimately decided not to use a barrier during sex. When push came to shove, I hadn’t done anything to immediately reduce their risk for HIV. I was doing harm reduction wrong. I was trying to push my own agenda to get people to wear condoms rather than actually listening to my client when they told me, “I don’t use condoms.”

There are far more reasons why we don’t wear barriers during sex than there are reasons why we do. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got 99 problems and sexual fluids actually account for very few of them. We all have a lot of good reasons not to wear condoms and we sure as hell don’t gain anything from punishing people when they don’t. If anything we increase our risk because we’ve taken actions that increase the total number of infections that we might be exposed to at some point. We might not use condoms because maybe we get tested frequently, maybe our partner is just really cute tonight, maybe we’re drunk, maybe we ran out of condoms, maybe our hands were too slippery to open the damn wrapper, maybe we’re trading sex for food or a safe place to crash for the night, maybe having condoms on our person is grounds for our arrest, maybe our partners will hurt us if we request a condom, maybe we don’t like the way they feel at all, maybe barebacking is so taboo it becomes erotic for us. Whenever I heard someone who was actually brave enough to tell me, their HIV test counselor, that they didn’t use condoms it was always my immediate objective to start initiating a brainstorming session on how to begin integrating condoms into their sex life. It wasn’t until I had a client who stopped me mid-sentence and said, “spare me the lecture, I’ve heard it a million times. You’re nice and all, but I don’t like them and I’m not going to wear them. I just want to get my HIV test.”

It is always the right of the client to terminate a counseling session and I will always respect that. At the same time, I do have the obligation to try.

From an epidemiological stand point, it is imperative that we take whatever steps are necessary to reduce the number of new infections. As it stands we have a ton of amazing options for safer sex many of which are designed around sexual activities that are already very low (and sometimes even theoretical) risk for HIV and other STI’s. What we lack are options for people who do not, for whatever reason, use barriers during sex. Acts, not identities or demographics, are the actual sources of infection. Those who engage in high risk sex acts who do not use barriers are at the highest risk for HIV and other STI’s.

It was then that I realized that it was my job as a risk reduction specialist to provide options for people to take their risk–whatever it is–and reduce it. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours in harm reduction training over 6 years but harm reduction as a philosophy can be summed up in just three words: any positive change. Anything that you can do to reduce your harm, no matter how small, is a positive step. We don’t make major behavioral change in leaps in bounds, we do it in steps. Giant sweeping change tends to overwhelm us (how are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions?) because we’re creatures of habit. We make changes gradually and sometimes we slip up but that’s part of the process. Black and white thinking clouds things and makes change seem impossible. After experiencing failure, many if not most of us feel inclined to just give up. We were doing so well on that diet but we ate a few too many cookies. Might as well eat the rest, right? We obviously can’t handle being on a diet so why even bother? Rather than putting all of the emphasis on the negative, it can be helpful to think of positive things that you are doing already and build on them. Humans (and pretty much most other mammals) respond better to positive reinforcement. When we accomplish a goal, we feel good about ourselves and the next step feels like it is in reach. When there is a massive stretch of space between where we are and where we want to be it’s easy to feel like you’re never going to arrive.

From that point on, when a client told me that they didn’t use condoms I asked follow up questions to ascertain what they were doing already to reduce their risk even if the only thing I could obviously identify was the fact that they were sitting in my office getting an HIV test. Just coming in to get tested regularly is a positive behavior change and one that is important to reinforce. Then I would ask them more questions about what their life situation was like. In many ways it felt like being in mission control headquarters during Apollo 13. The situation: there are astronauts that want to fuck but they’re trapped in space and there are no condoms. They aren’t there, there is nothing they can do to acquire them, and they don’t have access to anything that can act as a barrier for sexual fluids. What do you do?

Lady Sonia from My Best Friend Porn

Latex barriers are effective because they block the exchange of fluids. Anything that you can do to reduce your contact with sexual fluids reduces you risk. Ye Olde Pullout method is frequently the butt of jokes as one of the least effective forms of protection against anything but it’s vital to understand that that as flawed as pulling out might be it is far, far, far more effective than an unused condom. In the sex positive community, we have embraced barriers and they’re fantastic! I’m a huge fan of them myself. I don’t think we should stop or slow down on teaching people how to access condoms and barriers and use them effectively. Giving people a wider range of options does not necessitate taking options away. You just add them into the giant love buffet of resources and help people identify which resource is best for them and their circumstances. Harm reduction is about helping guide an individual’s cost-benefit analysis and we all have a unique set of needs, circumstances, and desires.

We can’t hold abstinence up as a golden standard of behavior and dismiss all other options because they aren’t as effective. We can’t hold perfect condom use up as a golden standard and dismiss all options because they aren’t as effective, either. A condom is only as good as you use it. There needs to be more education and resources for people who aren’t using condoms because there’s a global epidemic going on and we need to reduce the total number of global HIV infections any which way we can. If everyone who was having bareback sex right now decided to pull out and come all over their partner’s ass, back, chest, hair, feet, hands, wall paper, pillow, alarm clock or wherever else they can think of it will reduce the total number of infections that occur. This is because it reduces the risk of serum transmission through mucous membranes. The skin on our body is tough and solid and it creates a barrier against HIV and the millions of other germs we come into contact with everyday of our lives that never get the opportunity to actually infect us.

To reiterate: I’m not advocating abandoning any barrier awareness campaigns or reducing the amount of time we spend on them. If anything, we need more. One thing that you will find consistent in my ideology is that I am always in favor of more options rather than less. At the same time, we cannot espouse a barrier-only model of sex education for the same reasons we cannot espouse an abstinence-only model of sex education either. We cannot skip over questions about options for safer sex outside of barrier use during our presentations and workshops. We cannot dismiss the scientific evidence that demonstrates that external ejaculation does objectively reduce the transmission risk for HIV and some other STI’s just because it was a teenager who asked the question. It is never acceptable to mislead people about science in order to scare them into adopting certain practices. It is the job of sex educators to provide facts and you can’t omit some because you would rather be safe than sorry. Everyone is entitled to accurate information. We know that when we inflate the failure rate of condoms, people are less likely to use them. When we inflate the failure rate for external ejaculation, individuals who are not using condoms are less likely to make use of it as a way to protect themselves. Furthermore, every time we dodge or avoid talking about the reasons that external ejaculation reduces the risk for HIV and some STI’s we are actively obscuring our audience’s understanding of what these bacteria and viruses are and how they work.

We all need to check our agendas from time to time. I’m not going to lie, the times when I’ve done HIV prevention workshops for youth I’ve felt really awkward and uncomfortable when someone asks me questions about pulling out not because I’m afraid of arming teens with accurate information but because people with moral agendas about sex viciously attack people who answer questions honestly, objectively, and without a personal bias. You can see it in Margaret Brook’s attack against comprehensive sex education in universities. She relies on this fallacy that self-identified sex positive, pro-porn, and even porn-neutral people are coming up with all of the dangerous sexy (or is it sexy dangerous?) ideas in the world and forcing them upon otherwise chaste people. For virtually every single one of her arguments, sex must always be completely unnatural and alien to humanity. This is not the case.

You can also see this same sex fearing mindset in the recent “undercover” videos of Planned Parenthood which are based in some truly contrived self-righteous outrage about the fact that teens under the of 18 do have legal access to reproductive healthcare. These videos “caught” Planned Parenthood explaining the legal services that they provide and their role as mandatory reporters which they did follow up on by reporting the suspected sex trafficking to the FBI. One employee was fired as a result of these videos because their words and actions did not match the goals and mission of Planned Parenthood. In order to be shocked by these videos you would have to be shocked by the fact that teens have sex and ergo have sexual healthcare needs.

These attacks are nothing but smears. They’re not based in medicine, they’re not based on real statistics, they’re not based in any kind of objective information whatsoever.

Margaret Brooks equates any type of sex positive sex education to be pornographic in nature and then equates pornography to an evil monolithic demon from which all of our dark and degrading desires emerge. I am not even speaking in hyperbole here, Margaret Brooks has the terror of a five year old in the middle of the night afraid that there’s a monster under the bed. Margaret Brooks has not only fought to censor sex educators, she has also fought to censor satirical musicians. [Note: Necro the Sexorcist is a rapper known for his outrageous and over the top depictions of drugs, sex, and violence as a satire of his experiences. Although his music is far from being what we might call “family appropriate” the sheer number of times that he winks and nudges his audience is pretty apparent.] Ultimately, Margaret Brooks has difficulty realizing that the problems that invade our sexualities are the same problems that invade every other sphere of our life. Our entire culture is based on a structure of unearned privilege. To acknowledge that would mean acknowledging the ways that we’ve benefited at the expense of others. Battles for social justice do sometimes take place on sexual war fields. They are the same battles happening in education, the justice system, healthcare, and our economy. It’s really uncomfortable to realize that your privilege may differently fluid from another’s.

When Margaret Brooks, Gail Dines, or Donna M. Hughes attack sexuality they are no different than a kitten attacking reflections in the mirror. Even in the rare occasion when the kitten does manage to topple the mirror, still looming behind them is the source, unscathed.

2 Comments

Filed under anti-porn, community, culture

The Great CraigsList Debacle

John Palfrey, a Harvard University law professor and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said the move from Craigslist was still a victory because it moved the ads off a highly visible location.

“Will people be able to find these ads online? The answer is almost certainly,” he said. “Will they be able to find these on legitimate sites? I think the answer is probably not.”

Taken from here.

On Saturday, Craigslist took down its public listings for adult/erotic services and gigs under incredible pressure from governmental agencies and their representatives. However, everyone seems to know that sex work is still going to happen on CL as well as a myriad of other places on the internet. No one has missed this fact. That’s because the problem isn’t sex work in and of itself. The problem is talking about it on, as John Palfrey would say, a “legitimate site.”

“Legitimate” is a tricky word. It’s a really widespread cultural belief that sex is not “legitimate.” It doesn’t matter how talented, skilled, or brilliant you are, once you start working in the field of sex your “legitimacy” goes out the window. This seems to go along with the popular trope that “sex sells.” Sex is viewed as the cheap trump card you can rely on to carry you when talent, merit, and skill have failed you when this is simply not true. Sex work is legitimate work. It does take talent, merit, and skill to succeed.

I’m sure many other people were uncomfortable with the notion that you could buy sex alongside other goods and services. Many people are OK with sex so long as it is confined to a ghetto where it won’t bother “legitimate” people, but the minute that it tries to enter the mainstream people freak out. The thing is, the mainstream (despite its many problems) also offers a great deal of safety for providers and consumers. Meanwhile, just as predicted, the sex work just moved into other sections on CL. Instead of being in its own category (the way that medical jobs are separate from non profit jobs are separate from customer service jobs) now adult work is being blended into “talent” or “therapeutic services” as well as finding their home in the free sex  casual encounters category.

Everyone who tried to shut it down knew that it wouldn’t. What they shut down is the ability to call it by name on one website out of many.

3 Comments

Filed under anti-porn, culture, events, opinion

The Price of Pleasure Documentary


Me being led on a leash by Sabrina Fox at Wired Pussy

I finally sat myself down to watch The Price of Pleasure a documentary that is being hailed as either an “apolitical lifting of the porn veil” or the “Reefer Madness” of our time. The documentary has traveled around college campuses and women’s centers for everyone to be shocked and appalled at how porn is perverting our consciousness. I had been avoiding it myself. I saw the trailer, I watched the clips, and I knew it was going to give me a migraine.

I have a huge hard-on for documentaries. The anthropology student in me simply will not die. I remember having to lie down with a wet rag over my face after I viewed When the Levees Broke about the Hurricane Katrina disaster. When I finally watched TPoP I did so with an open notebook. I took about 8 pages of notes and not once did I deviate into my own commentary about how fucking ridiculous the whole project was.
I knew I was in for trouble when the first five minutes of the film depicted a young man talking about his use of porn in high school and how it “made him believe” that all women wanted to fuck him but he was intimidated by the notion of a ‘real woman’ saying those forward things to him. Or something like that, he was a little inconsistent and hardly an ideal interview subject.

Erotic art is the oldest form of art. There have been two reports commissioned by conservative presidents on the effects of porn. The Commission on Obscenity and Pornography was done under Nixon and LBJ as Deep Throat filled theaters with fancy and middle class viewers and it found no ill impact of watching sex on film. The Meese Report under Regan came to the same conclusion. It still seems to unnerve people though.

There are, undoubtedly, issues in and about porn. When tits and lips are blown out of proportion, so are stereotypes and identity. One thing I always keep in mind is the hand-in-hand relationship sex has always had to comedy. Looking back at Greek plays, sex jokes were crucial to plot development (or does that go the other way around?). Giant phalluses were waved around as a flag that it was now okay to begin to deal with the things that make us uncomfortable. We air dirty laundry in sex. We let loose the animal we keep tamed as otherwise respectable people in our day to day lives handling…well…all of the drama. There are also issues of sexism, queerness, and everything else. It is a playground of fantasy and many fantasies are taboo.

Maybe that is why there is a healthy side to porn consumption. Most people who enjoy porn don’t find their entire lives revolving around it. Some will. Although I am highly skeptical of sex and porn addiction, I’m sure there are some who do have a compulsion around it. Just because your partner doesn’t like the fact that you beat off to porn doesn’t mean that porn is a problem, per se. The only problem is god awful cheap porn. Boy, that stuff can ruin an otherwise good night.

The documentary was full of interviews with the usual anti-porn folk who were given amazing editing, lighting, and time. Pro-porn people or performers only seemed to be talking about pricing or things clearly taken out of context. I always love it when the editing team puts someone’s words up against a visual background contradicting everything that they are saying. For a team of people making the claim that moving images are infinitely more powerful than words to our human brains, the action of actually using this technique was not lost on me at all.

My favorite part of the documentary was the Kink.Com bashing segment. I recognized clips, directors, and fellow models on the screen as it churned to “bad” music to let the audience in on the fact that this was the worst of the worst- the dreaded torture porn. There was no comment on the fact that Kink.Com has a fantastic record among models, it fails to mention their work in restoring a historic building, and the models who have worked for them often are cut out of the discussion. The documentary that had every sign and symptom of bias really showed its colors here.

If you’re looking for something good to watch, I do recommend Penn and Teller’s Bullshit episode on porn (Season 6, Episode 1 “The War On Porn”). It’s a lot funnier, for one, and you’ll some of the same people there. Penn says aloud the same things that ran through my mind except they were far wittier. I’m not going to cry about that, I’m the only writer here at MMM. I can also say that The Price of Pleasure gave me a migraine. Bullshit gives me a stomach ache from laughing so much. Maybe have a double feature and save the best for last.

7 Comments

Filed under Anti-bdsm, anti-porn, pictures, sexuality

The Craigslist Killer

The media and the public are calling for the head of Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, because he refuses to remove the “erotic services” portion of his website despite the allegations that Phillip Markoff  used the website to locate victims for robbery and eventually murder. I’m surprised that everyone is being so conservative about this. Quite frankly, I want to know what type of car he drove and we need to get the manufacturer into court beside him. This is the vehicle that may have transported a killer so clearly they are culpable in the death of a young woman. They should have known that someone would utilize that technology for murder. While we’re at it, let’s just go ahead and blame Kink.Com as well because they produced the violent pornography that obviously inspired the murder.

I mourn the death of Julissa Brisman, 26 years old at the time of her murder, and I want to see the person responsible behind bars. That person is not Craig Newmark. The Erotic Services portion of his website was just as responsible for her death as the hotel where she was staying and that car that the killer drove. If Phillip Markoff is indeed the killer (and after looking at the mounting evidence I do believe he is) he is a man who took actions of his own volition and I’m absolutely nauseated by the fact that people want to point the finger at a website. 
I’m frustrated because it seems to stem from the fact that people don’t want to believe a young, attractive, intelligent man could do such a thing because he was fucked up in the head. On some level I understand the fear. Looking at photos of him at his white coat ceremony (a celebration of medical students entering the field) you don’t see something evil, you see someone you would have allowed to treat you at your most vulnerable state. I hate to break it to you, but murderers don’t always have a black horse and bad guy hats. This is a truly frightening thing to hold in your head because it means we can’t always identify the person that can cause such harm. We want to try to find the thing that made him tick and we want it to be something we already find repugnant. We want to blame angry music, violent video games, gambling, pornography, or advertisements for erotic services because they already stick out in our mind as wrong. It requires no paradigm shift to blame the usual suspects and it allows us to maintain a safe world view where everything is black, white, and safe.
I am grateful that Phillip Markoff is behind bars because my amateur studies of psychology and profiling give me the nagging feeling that he would have killed again. Unfortunately, sex workers take on more than their fair share of violence because not only are the entirely devalued by their killers they are also deemed worthless by many law enforcement agencies. The death of a hooker is no big story; it is, unfortunately, expected. A young man with his means and shell could have gone on killing for a long time. I’m also frightened by the prospect that we’re going to hear about more violence at his hands. 
Did Phillip Markoff develop a serious problem with gambling and found himself driven to rob sex workers? A lot of people in this country have gambling problems, the vast majority don’t violently kidnap sex workers to stay at the table. I’m getting a little sick of seeing that theory in the news as well. To grab someone, bind them, bash in their head, and then shoot them at point blank range three times means you have bigger problems than a maxed out credit card. A lot of people gamble and a troubling number of people right now are having some very stressful times with money. There is no reason that murdering someone should be an inevitable conclusion. 
Sex workers do take on a lot of violence in their field, more than their fair share. We have a culture that devalues sex and the lives of those who are professionals in the field so much that their lives have lost their meaning. If we want to stop these kind of killings we aren’t going to do it by taking down a website. We can do it creating a culture of change where we value sexuality in all of its forms and let go of this outdated notion that our desire is inherently evil. We live in an age with fiber optics and penicillin, we don’t have to maintain archaic notions about the human body. On top of that we have to confront the fact that sometimes the bad guy is the person we least want them to be. If porn, gambling, and erotic services were the source of murder then half of the country would be 6 feet under ground. 

3 Comments

Filed under anti-porn, feminisms, sex news, sexuality