A Response to Greta Christina

Greta Christina of the freethoughtblogs has graciously invited sex workers to tell their stories in her latest post Sex Workers – An Invitation to Tell Your Stories.

As regular readers of this blog know, my fellow blogger in the Freethought Blogs, Taslima Nasreen, wrote a post a few weeks ago positing that all prostitution is always patriarchal oppression, always sexual exploitation, always sexual violence, that women are always forced into it, that it is never a vocation choice, that it is always human rights abuse, that all of it harms women.. I wrote a post in response, saying that I understood that there were often terrible abuses in the sex industry and that many prostitutes are forced into the work, and that of course I fervently opposed this — but also saying that there are many sex workers who freely choose the work, and like it, and do not find it abusive or exploitative.

Nasreen and I had a private email conversation about this. I’m not at liberty to disclose her side of that conversation. But I will tell you that I asked her, repeatedly, to put up a post on her blog asking sex workers what their actual experience was working in the sex industry — so she could hear for herself the tremendous variety of experiences that prostitutes and other sex workers have, and so she could take those experiences into account when she considers the questions of how abuses in the industry should be handled.

As of this writing, she has yet to do this.

So I’m going to do it myself.

And I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are. So many who not only oppose sex work of all kinds and in all cases (antis) seem to have come to the conclusion that all sex workers were/are brutally abused and exploited and if a sex worker dares to state that this was not their experience they dismiss them as suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome. What drives me insane about this is that they can’t see how this is dehumanizing and oppressive in and of itself. They perpetuate a stigma that the words of sex workers cannot be trusted but refuse to see that this is no different from the police officer that dismisses a sex worker when she reports that she has been raped. Well, this is my little contribution to the conversation. I hope what I say will help free up some thought concerning sex work.

Q: Why did you get into the sex industry?

I got into the sex industry out of curiosity and as an act of rebellion. I was raised by very controlling, Catholic  parents with a strong constant message of “SEX BAD!” I had very little relationship with them outside of the constant expectations they had that I never seemed able to live up to…oh yea, and “SEX BAD!” I think this lead to a need to be seen but in a very specific way; as a sexual being, a powerful, and powerfully sexual, unashamed sexual being. One of my best friends at the time seemed to have this really cool secret that seemed to give her an air of confidence and the independence that came with having and managing her own money.  When I asked her what it was she told me she had been stripping and invited me to go with her. I did. I danced off and on for the next ten years.

Q: Did you freely choose this work? Were you in any way forced or coerced into it? Were you pressured into it by economic or other pressure?

I chose it freely. I was not forced. I was not coerced and the only pressure I felt was the pressure brewing inside of my developing body. I wanted sex and sexual contact but at the same time I feared it~again “SEX BAD!”

Q: Why did you go into the particular line(s) of sex work that you did?

Stripping gave me a way to explore my sexual self in a way I had total control of. I also knew I could only go so far sexually in stripping (lap dancing). For me it was almost like a kid who wants to swim but is afraid of the water so they cling to the side and go around and around the pool. I did that too btw 😛

Q: What, if anything, did/do you like about the work?

I loved so many things about stripping. I almost can’t even begin to tell you. I loved feeling beautiful dancing in front of my mostly very nice customers and seeing how memorized they were with me. I loved that I could do this and fully expect not to be touched by them. This wasn’t only because I felt safe but there was also a bit of a dominatrix in me that enjoyed this teasing game. I loved that I could pick up and go to almost any city I wanted to explore on a whim and get a job dancing in a club making good money at the drop of a hat. I loved the control over my scheduled I had. I loved the money. I loved to dance on stage and perform. I loved how raw and funny the girls could be. I loved the lights, the music, the clothes etc….hated the shoes though. If I could have I would have danced the whole time barefooted.

Q: What, if anything, did/do you not like about the work?

Of course there was the occasional jerk or a dancer that had too much to drink and wanted to fight but it is what it is. There were some managers that let managing a strip bar go to their heads. I usually kept mine down though and tried not to cause problems. The thing I absolutely hated and still do is the Scarlet Letter of sex worker shame some of us never seem to shake. Turns out I wasn’t the only one raised with the message “SEX BAD!”

Q: On the whole, did/do you like the work, dislike it, or feel neutral about it?

I mostly liked it. I had a go round with addiction about 2 years after I started dancing but I got sober and danced for some years after that. 4/23/12 was my 17 year sobriety birthday. WOOT!

Q: What are your feelings about your customers?

My feelings about my customers are the same as my feelings about people in general because at the end of the day that’s all they are really; people. Some people are great. Some people are jerks. Most people don’t leave a lasting impression. They share space with you and fade away. At the end of the night all that remains of their presence is the twenty in your pocket…hmmm, time for IHOP! (strippers tend to be great tippers in those after hours grubbing places.)

Q: Have your feelings about the work changed with time? If you no longer work in the sex industry, did your feelings about the work change after you left it?

I still work in  a strip bar in a supervisory capacity. My views on sex work have changed a bit but this is mostly due to finding and getting involved in the sex workers rights movement.

Q: If you still work in the sex industry, do you feel free to leave it? If you no longer work in the sex industry, did you feel free to leave it? If not, what restraints did/do you have?

I feel absolutely free to leave. The only problem is that ol’ stigma again. People tend not to take you seriously when you put former stripper as an occupation on a job application ijs.

Q: Is there anything else you want people to know about your experience of sex work?

YES! Sex work was mostly good, a small dose of bad and a bunch of ok in between; but I have NEVER been treated so consistently badly by a group of people like I have been by antis. Gail Dines goes on and on about how men who seek the services of sex workers treat them like “cumdumpsters.” The only people who have ever called me a “cumdumpster” have been anti-porn feminists.

They even made a sock account impersonating me on youtube called cumdumpsterdiv (My youtube screen name is Divinity33372). I have been persistently harassed, slut shamed, trolled and even had an anti drop some of my docs on youtube. I document all this in this blog post and here where I document their racism (I am Mexican American). Anyone who claims to care about you and your oppression that exacts this kind of abuse on you is full of shit and THAT is what I want people to know.

Thank you Greta for doing your part to humanize us in this conversation where we are painted as either “untrustworthy whores” or “helpless victims.” Yes, there are victims out there it’s true and there are only so many resources to go around. Finding a victim of exploitation can be like finding a needle in a haystack. All the conflations of consent and non-consent serves to do is put more hay on top of the stack making the needle harder to find.

I WANT THAT NEEDLE TO BE FOUND!

…and Greta, I know you do too.

Taslima Nasreen, are you a skeptic or not?

Taslima Nasree continues her crusade to turn the freethoughtblogs into an anti-porn propaganda rag with her latest installment on the sex industry “Let’s Eroticize Equality.” This piece is complete with all the usual assertions about pornography and it’s alleged “effects” on society with none of the empty calories that come from PROOF! 

She misleadingly opens her piece with the line,

I am against  pornography because it  has  many  harmful effects,  encouragement of  sex trafficking, desensitization, pedophilia, dehumanization, sexual exploitation, sexual dysfunction,  inability to maintain healthy sexual relationships.

I say misleading because you would think after a statement like this she would proceed to prove her assertions with solid evidence. The freethoughtblogs is supposed to be a blogging site for freethinkers and SKEPTICS…isn’t it? Maybe Ms. Nasree is simply confused. Allow me to point out the definition of the word “skeptic” for her:

Skeptic

1.a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
2.a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
3.a person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.
She continues,
Pornography is exclusively for men’s pleasure. Women  are used as sex objects. I know some women will  say, ‘we love to be sex objects’. Millions of misogynists are out there to  support the idea of the objectification of women.  I do not have to support this.

I am living proof of the flaw in her claim that, “Pornography is exclusively for men’s pleasure.” I am a woman and I enjoy some porn.

Notice how she poisons the well against any woman in porn who may disagree with her in statement, “I know some women will  say, ‘we love to be sex objects’.” REALLY Tas? (I would say Ms. Nasreen but with her blatant disrespect of the women in the sex industry she is making it clear that she neither gives respect to nor expects respect from the sex workers she claims she wants to help.) My guess is that women in the sex industry would have a number of issues with your assertions but to you all it comes down to is that they “love to be sex objects” right?  No sex worker could possibly be SKEPTICAL of your claims. NOOOOOOO….! Skepticism is for smart people ISN’T , right TAZ?

Millions of misogynists are out there to  support the idea of the objectification of women.” Oh, I get it.  ANY woman who disagrees with your assertion that porn is exclusively for men simply HATES women. As if this isn’t the most tired and over used tactic employed by “antis” such as you. You make and unsupported blanket statement and anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a “misogynist.” People like you use this bullshit tactic so much that the word “misogynist” seems to lose it’s meaning as if that is helpful to women.

And how does she wrap this up into a nice neat bow? “I do not have to support this.” You hear that out there in skeptic land? Taz is better then you and she does not HAVE TO support her claims. Who do any of you think you are to actually expect her to support what she is claiming. You just shut up and nod your head when Mz. Taz tell u what to think, k.

She continues to go on to argue some false dichotomy between pornography and erotica as if there is no grey area in between. All in all, it’s simply her saying “this is what I don’t find offensive and acceptable and if you don’t agree with me you like being an object or you just hate women blah blah blah…”

She also throws around statements like, “Gloria Steinem says…” as if just because St. Steinem says it it must be true. And, “researchers say” without linking to the research. She does link to some opinion pieces complete with the anecdotal evidence that may fool a non-skeptic but by this point she’s just not even trying.

I don’t know if she’s trying to be cute at the end of her piece where she links to…well Anthony’s comment said it best so I’ll let is speak for it’s self:

Of course she fails to even mention the porn sites that cater to the more romantic (yet equally explicit 🙂 ) like  New Sensations Romance or The Porn for Women.  She closes it out with “Leave it. Let’s listen to  a song “ where she links to some kumbaya song undoubtedly to make appeals to the emotions of the masses complete.

So here we go again. Some anti takes a perfectly sound site and turns it into a well poisoning, sex worker rights advocate silencing, smear forum insulting and silencing the very women they claim they want to help. Ah the privilegey goodness. Eat it up now Taz because you’re on a site with the likes of Gretta Christina, Natalie Reed, Richard Carrier and others who take their skepticism seriously. I hope your place on the site is questioned and reevaluated.

Oh but IS prostitution “sex slavery”?

Lately on the Freethoughtblogs there has been in engaging back and forth between Taslima Nasreen and some of the other blogger.  Nasreen made the typical blanket statement assertions and conflations between sex trafficking and prostitution in her post Sex Slavery must be abolished.

Some examples:

Lie2. Prostitution is sexual freedom. /Prostitution is sex.

Truth2. Prostitution is sexual exploitation./ Prostitution is not sex, it is sexual violence.

Lie5. Women choose to enter prostitution.

Truth5. Prostitution is not an acceptable job for women. They are forced to enter prostitution. Prostitution is an abusive institution and women stay poor in prostitution.  It  is not a vocation choice, it is human rights abuse.

Lie9. Legalization of prostitution is an entirely separate issue from human trafficking.

Truth9. Prostitution is the destination point for trafficking etc…

Thankfully, Gretta Christina responded to this propaganda piece with a substantive counter post called Prostitution Is Not Sex Slavery. I wish I could say, “and that was that” but IS prostitution “sex slavery”? Let’s look at the U.S. CODE to find out.

Trafficking in persons definitions:

(8) Severe forms of trafficking in persons

The term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” means-

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

(9) Sex trafficking
The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.
As you can see, the form of trafficking in persons that involves force, fraud, coercion or anything involving a minor is officially defined as “SEVERE sex trafficking”. “Sex trafficking” as defined by the OFFICIAL definitions in the U.S. CODE does not involved any force, fraud or coercion AT ALL!

This OFFICIAL definition for “sex trafficking” may seem like a small issue to some. Many may say “oh, but we know what it actually means.” I can not stress this enough to those of you out there wanting to be knowledgeable about this issue.

This official conflation between forced and not forced IS the issue!

This IS their victory! It’s one thing for such conflations to happen in the media and in propaganda but it is quite another for them to become law. This seems to validate the conflations and blanket statements prohibitionists like Nasreen make in many people’s eyes. Unfortunately, many Americans tend not to decide what is right by what is true but rather by what the law says. I explain how this official conflations came to be in the video below.

Sources for this vid:

Wellstone Bill

Congressional Record

Copy of letter from some feminists to Senator Wellstone asking him to disregard the consent of women.

TESTIMONY BY STEVEN R. GALSTER, GLOBAL SURVIVAL NETWORK, BEFORE THE HOUSECOMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SEPTEMBER 16, 1999, CONCERNING THE U.S. COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

Tom Delay & the Northern Marianas

THIS! This is what must ultimately be undone and it is reaffirmed every time the TVPA is readopted every year.  And the voices of sex workers were clearly ignored and replaced by those of politicians on the religious right. It was an alliance of convenience between anti-sex worker feminists and the RR that got sex workers thrown under the bus in many ways but one sticks out like a sore thumb. The TVPA does not provide any abortion services for these so called “rescued trafficking victims.”  Surely some of these women and girls are pregnant when they are “rescued” right? What happens to them? What happens to their fetuses, to their children? I can’t say for sure but I do know this; many of the NGOs going to third world countries to “rescue” sex trafficking victims and sex workers alike (whether the sex worker likes it or not) are faith based organizations. There is more then a small amount of pressure on these women and girls to convert to Christianity as proven by the video below. I think it’s more then a little obscene that Linda Smith saw fit to go to India and put these girls to work in a leather factory being that cows are sacred to many Hindus.

This video was put together from clips from this 4 part series. The first in the series can be found here.

I know;

~NGOs bent on converting “rescued” sex trafficking victims and consensual sex workers alike from not only the sins of others but their own as well.

~Feminists in bed with the religious rights in an alliance of convenience that undermines the reproductive rights of said rescued victims.

~The hyper-focusing on the sexual aspect of human trafficking in order to distract from the systematic undermining of the rights of labor in this country and in others.

It’s a lot to take in but I will leave you with this quote from Nasreen’s follow up piece. It’s the quote she opened her piece with:

‘We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.’

—VICTOR HUGO, Les Misérables

Well if that isn’t a denial of the existence of Labor trafficking right there I don’t know what is.  I confronted her about it in a comment I left to her but it was never approved. I documented my comment and you can see it for yourself in the video below:

My comment:

NOTE: I noticed that you removed a perfectly reasonable and respectful comment from someone that did not totally agree with you so let me say now that I am screencaping my comment and putting it on my youtube channel.

NOTE 2: Anyone reading these posts should be aware of the actual definitions of trafficking in persons as stated in the U.S. CODE

(8) Severe forms of trafficking in persons
The term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” means—
(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

(9) Sex trafficking
The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

(Notice the official conflation between force and freedom. This is something feminists who oppose prostitution in all cases forced or not are responsible for along with the religious right they teamed up with when this legislation was being written.)
Sources:
U.S. CODE http://bit.ly/A5flBG
See the low bar of this video
http://bit.ly/HAlLNn

Oh boy have I got a TON to say about this post. Where do I start?

1. Your first quote: “‘We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.’—VICTOR HUGO, Les Misérables”

~way to completely deny the existence of LABOR trafficking. This is one of the biggest problems sex worker’s rights advocates have with the “all prostitution is ‘sex trafficking'” crowd. The over emphasis on the sexual aspect of trafficking to the detriment of those whose labor is being exploited.~

2. “I was wondering how many people who claim that women choose to be prostitutes encourage their beloved daughters to be prostitutes. Even prostitutes do not want their daughters become prostitutes.”

~What a mother would do… = appeal to emotion.~

3. “They are desperate to send their daughters to schools, so that daughters can get an education and a decent job.”

~This is a blanket assumption that all sex workers are uneducated. Plus “decent” = subjective.

4. “I just want to know whether women and girls would choose this ”job”. Please read the ad.”

~And your “ad” is some made up BS by an anti-sex work propaganda rag?!?!? For REALZ?! OMG, how can anyone take this mess seriously?

I would like to thank Gretta Christina, Natalie Reed and Crommunist at Freethoughtblogs for holding people accountable for what is being said about sex work on the site. I hope someone reads this and makes the things I have said here part of the conversation. Honestly, just seeing the lies confronted by those with voices much stronger then mine is such a relief. Please keep up the great work!