Monday, December 17, 2007

Media from last week


http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22920391-1242,00.html

Sex workers rally against law reforms

December 13, 2007 08:11pm

Article from: AAP


PROSTITUTES turned out in central Sydney today to mark the 5th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and also to oppose New South Wales law reforms.

Spokeswoman Janelle Fawkes said the new sex workers laws, which came into force across NSW in July, would have the effect of pushing the ages-old industry further underground.

"On the basis of a single complaint, local councils in NSW are able to seek extreme closure orders, including withholding utilities such as power and water," Ms Fawkes, chief executive of the Scarlet Alliance, said today.

"The unintended consequences include increased uncertainty in the industry, which makes compliance with its laws even more unlikely."

Ms Fawkes said Victoria was considering adopting similar laws, which hand more power to councils to regulate the industry and close down unauthorised brothels.


The laws also widen the scope for people to lodge complaints.


Ms Fawkes said the reforms signalled a collusion between government and larger brothels, while sex workers felt their rights to a safe workplace and to occupational health and safety had been stripped away.

"The NSW closure laws are simply opening more pathways for corruption, and are a revived form of sanctioned violence against sex workers," she said.

The laws also widen the scope for people to lodge complaints.

Ms Fawkes said the reforms signalled a collusion between government and larger brothels, while sex workers felt their rights to a safe workplace and to occupational health and safety had been stripped away.

"The NSW closure laws are simply opening more pathways for corruption, and are a revived form of sanctioned violence against sex workers," she said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some Quotes from a Pagan E-list I'm on

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant
character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust,
unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, blood-thirsty, ethnic
cleanser; a mysogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal,
filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously
malovent bully.

~Richard Dawkins

~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can
make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and
telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he
can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity
because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a
magical tree. Makes perfect sense.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~

Those who behave just to get into Heaven have no values

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

There is no ‘sex neutral’

I’m not usually a fan of the simplistic us/ them, ‘you're either with us or against us’ divides. However, while having an online chat with someone, who brought up one of my online profiles, which identifies that I wish to meet queers with sex positive values, and asked if being sex neutral is enough…I really don’t think so, actually

In a society that is so overwhelmingly sex negative, to be sex neutral is, in a sense, to support the status quo. Further into the chat, I realised that this person felt as if sex positivity implied that all sex was a good thing, all the time, was unable to distinguish between rape and consensual sex, so to be 'sex neutral' meant to have a balanced view. Quite simply, I define sex positivity as a rejection of the dominant view of sex as shameful, or harmful, and seeing any and all consensual sexual practices as not needing justification or apology. This doesn't mean that other social justice concerns (racism, sexism, ablism, peace and anti-violence work etc) are put aside in the pursuit of sex, or think all sex is amazing and fabulous all the time, but to know that sex negativity is the opposite of life affirming, that it damages the way we feel about our bodies and our ability to experience pleasure, and inhibites our ability to have joyful, negotiated, respectful sex.

Of course sex isn't always an amazing experience.... at times I have had sex that way so awful, I'd rather chew my limbs off and poke my eyes out than repeat the experience. Mostly those times have featured - in my early years of being sexual, shame and awkwardness and an inability to communicate or have any real language to communicate desires and boundaries, a lack of goodwill and respect between sexual partners - at the tail end of nasty relationshiups - of the last few tense shags before the break up, this will sometimes be the case, or sex with someone that is physically attractive or generally charming and fun, whom I am yet to discover is in fact morally incompatible. Mostly, aside from issues of incompatibility, sex can be improved via good communication, respect and good self esteem. Sex negativity eats away at the possiblity of this.

When working for a South Australian organisation, I was involved with the committee to organise the first Sexual Health Awareness Week. The theme was 'pleasure, safety, respect'. I loved that pleasure and respect were considered essential parts of sexual health. For common-sense, sex positive sexuality info, check out http://sexuality.about.com/

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today (20th November) is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day was established as a memorial for trans people who have been killed in hate crimes. Today I am also thinking of the wonderful trans and genderqueer folk who have been in my life at different times, and how they have added to my thinking about gender.

I look forward to the day when there is room for all of us, and our diversity is cause for mass celebration, not violence.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Please Support NSW Sex Workers

Dear All,

The NSW Government passed new laws this year relating to local councils agressively closing brothels that dont have an approved Development Application, which the councils often reject on moral grounds rather than following appropriate guidelines.
http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/nm/australia/nsw/
http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/laws/nsw/

The Adult Busines Association of NSW, representing the large, cashed up brothels, is dobbing in their competition who haven't been able to afford the court costs of overturning councils rejections.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/rogue-brothel-has-water-and-power-cut-off/2007/11/03/1193619200169.html

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/first-brothel-closed-down/2007/10/27/1192941400185.html

Please support the NSW sex workers and sign the petition/open letter to the Premier of NSW.

http://www.petitiononline.com/SWR1/

Friday, November 02, 2007

More on slut bashing/baiting


I was doing some more thinking about slut bashing and came across these pieces online. They speak about the focus on the sexual habits of women who have been raped - worth checking out, as they demonstrate some of the worst aspects of the hatred of sexual women in our culture, I am particularly interested by the idea of shifting the idea of sex from commodity to performance, and the possibly that this will shift expectations that consent is an active thing, rather than simply a lack of 'no'.

http://feministblogs.org/2005/03/?paged=51

http://ourhiddenplace.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html

Slut bashing (the latest in an irregular series of posts about the whore stigma)


I have written in this space before about the whore stigma, which I see as bigger and broader than specifically about discrimination against sex workers, although the criminalization, stereotyping and institutionalized prejudice against sex workers is definitely the most obvious aspect of the whore stigma.

Examples of prejudice against sex workers continue to jump out and slap me all the time: I was speaking to someone I know who has recently started doing sex work, only to find that one of their partner's partner was suddenly very worried about sexually transmitted infections….. this is someone who never raised any questions about safer sex practices up until this moment – the whore stigma is so ferocious that this person might have been taking on entire football teams and their cheer squads up until this point, specializing in barebacking, felching and unprotected blood sports, prior to working in the sex industry, but as we all know STIs are primarily transmitted by the handling of money or credit cards….

What I call slut bashing or slut baiting is the more common form of the whore stigma, the everyday persecutions of (usually women) who put out, who sleep around, who don't dress like ladies, who I have noticed are also usually seen as dumb, as you can't be smart and sexual in our culture (see bois don't make passes at grrls who wear glasses). I think the slut (or overtly sexual = dumb construct is also responsible for the idea that sex workers must not be able to do other forms of work, if we had any brains or skills, we couldn’t possibly choose sex work, that must be a decision made of desperation and reduced choices.) And, after all, masculinity and stupidity couldn't possibly go together.... (Take a bow Beavis and Butthead, Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, et al).

While slut bashing/ baiting is a commonly practiced form of the whore stigma, which means that women are divided into the virgin or whore categories, and set upon each other, for the benefit of neither group, and thus I believe that it is in all of our best interest to challenge the whore stigma, I think the experiences of sex workers are quite, quite unique. While living in a culture that ruthlessly polices the binary gender system has harmed me and other cisgendered folk, my experiences of gender oppression in no way mirror those of genderqueer people. While it is my responsibility, and in my best interest, to challenge gender binaries (as it is for all people) I don't feel that I am in anyway in a position to speak about the experiences of genderqueers, and as I consider myself an ally to trans and other genderqueer folk, I think it is important that people from those communities have the room to speak about their own lives, and I try to avoid taking up those platforms, lest I further marginalise people who are often spoken about rather than consulted.

In the same way, I feel like it is important for sex workers to speak about sex workers experience - we are so often silenced, spoken about or for, and used as a symbol or metaphor for people who are working out their own stuff around sex, that, well, until things are very, very different, non-whores, even 'promiscuous' or 'unchaste' women who speak about sex work just feel like they are appropriating the experiences of my community, and using us as symbols to work through their own stuff. As the whore stigma has silenced whores – sometimes in extremely overt ways – in some areas of the world, including where I first started sex working, to do any activism as an out sex worker attracts the attention of the vice squad. However our liberation will only come when our voices are heard on our issues, so when non-whores speak out about sex worker issues, that is often taking up the platform at the expense of the sex workers voice... And frankly, non-whores might have felt like they have been badly hurt by the whore stigma, but, love, I have a criminal record from working in Adelaide brothels, I have KP (known prostitute) on my record which has the capacity to affect travel to the US and Japan, so when you have sprinted out of brothels in 6 inch heels to avoid a vice squad bust, or hidden a sex work client in a cupboard during a raid as he has a panic attack, because he is terrified his wife will find out, then come along and we will compare whore stigmas.... If I sound bitter and ungrateful, consider that being an ally to marginalised communities is a challenging balance in which there is the need to speak out for social justice, however, we also need to be guided by the needs, priorities and opinions of the community in question, otherwise we reinforce hierarchies by telling the marginalised what is best for them, and speaking for them, and standing in the way of the empowerment and capacity building of that community.

But back to slut bashing:

Sadly, but predictably, alternative queer chick culture, that is culture that seems, at least on the surface to be cunt positive, sex positive, kink friendly, poly friendly, supportive of genderqueer and gender diverse, informed by feminist thought, still isn't immune from slut bashing – in some ways women who present in less alternative ways, longer, non-spiky hair, who might wear their dresses, skirts, Supre tees, heels and stockings with less knowing, less irony (at least to the casual observer), less body mods, etc are sometimes spoken about particularly savagely, as if they are both slutty and dumb, more helpless, trying to catch husbands or husbutches to do the hard work so these fluffy, nonthreatening girlies can not worry their pretty little heads about anything…..

In some ways it's easier for this stuff to be perpetuated in alterna queer culture - which has room for diverse gender expressions, with room for feminine performance from queer women. In more mainstream lesbian culture with androgyny being the norm, how, in a room full of jeans and flat shoes and short hair, will you single someone out to label them a slut? And, after all, people end up in those subcommunities, sometimes because of their politics or values, but often because of their aesthetic attractions, musical preferences, sexual kinks, etc, so to assume that anyone has done their 'homework' in analysing their value system and ways of being in the world to see whether or not they have some residual sexism floating around is possibly a bit optimistic.

Let's look at there this stuff comes from: it is misogyny. Simply the hatred of women, female bodied folk, femininity, etc. Let's face it, (trans or cis)boys and butches still have a lot of room to fuck as they please (as long as they aren't bottoming, ankle grabbing or appearing like fags) to be as sleazy and slutty as they like, without pejorative language used. When, oh when do we get beyond this same old same old? The boys/bois high five each other while the grrrls tear each other apart. If you get left, it's not the fault of the commitmentphobic butch, or your own needy and clingy reverting to type, the result of swallowing all that *girl medicine during childhood. No. It's the str8 girl like Barbie who the butch-that-got-away dates next. It's all her fault. All that long hair takes so much brain power to grow, she can't possibly have read feminism 101, and damn it, she uses her siren's call of looking like a str8 grrl from a distance and looking all uncomplicated and pwetty to lure boys to their doom....

The alterna queer communities are often home to many whores, (as they are often at least on the surface, sex positive, whore friendly places). **Female sex workers have often traditionally presented a hyper feminine gender performance, for work related reasons, with street based sex workers occasionally using hyper femininity as a mechanism of advertising for clients, and many sex workers portraying such an unnatural, drag queeny femininity (as so much of sex work is playing with fantasy, and utilising the most obvious symbols and signals to get a cock hard, and get the client off in a discrete time period. So long hair, heels, lingerie, frocks, and sometimes a minimum of non-traditional body modifications are tools of our work. Thus, despising trad-femme signifiers is a particularly rough judgement when applied to whores, who may often utilise femininity to make a living (as diesel mechanics, storepeople and footballers often utilise aspects of trad masculinity to make a living). Whores are sometimes attracted to sex work exactly because of the excesses and delights of gender games and performance involved. As I grew up watching Marilyn Monroe playing honeyed mantraps to wealthy men in movie after movie, matching her status as sex object with his as success object, the idea of performing the role of the irresistibly femme object of desire who is worth every cent is an absolute hoot. Playing with gender, fantasy, power and pleasure has made sex work compelling for me for many many years; but that doesn’t mean I have lost any cognitive powers along the journey, or that I lack analysis of gender and power issues. Whereas those observers who will see my heels, cleavage and long hair and assume that this makes me dumb, easy or uncomplex should probably review their thinking about these issues and dig a little deeper.

Why do we buy into this self-hating crap? Why do we use the language that restricts the appearance, sexual behaviour and choices of women, femmes, feminine people, queers? Why do we as feminists not understand that while we need to promote femininity as one choice among many, rather than some default position, hating and slandering femininity is similar to hating and demonising women, that disrespecting femininity is truly the first step on the road to reinforcing that everything traditionally associated with women’s culture and traditional ways of being in the world is unworthy of being taken seriously or valued - you end up being Shelia Jeffreys. I understand that the early second wave of the feminist movement did powerful work in untangling notions of ‘natural’ femininity and that women’s destiny was tied up in our biology – most of us can get pregnant, give birth, lactate; therefore we must do the primary parenting and stay put at home and leave the public world to men – but questioning the ‘naturalness’ of this position and asking who benefits from the binary gender system and how we all lose out is very different than devaluing of women's roles, and many aspects of the second wave feminist movements - such as the Wages for Housework campaigns, were all about acknowledging the value of this work and role.

I shudder when I think about how easy it is to fall back into this way of being in the world. It's so high school, where the chicks fight over the popular boy, and destroy each other’s reputation for the casual power rush. I don’t think we have stopped oppressing each other as women, queers, gendered beings, feminine folk, femmes and humans until we stop demonising femininity, the sexually active/ aggressive and the sluts. And we don’t get to decide how smart, how politically aware or how valid someone is based on the length of that person’s hair, how excessive their frou frou is, or the shortness of their skirt.

*Girl medicine – a term used by Helen Eisenbach in Lesbianism Made Easy, I have since appropriated it and am running with it, because it is such a great term. Girl medicine is that stuff fed to those socialized as female in our culture, the 'some day my prince will come' bullshit that encourages us to put more passion and attention into our romantic relationships than anything else in our lives, to be reliant, to not be focused on achievement - but people pleasing, and to only value ourselves by our popularity.

** I would like to point out that I know of female sex workers who present in andro or butch ways, sometimes within a work context as well as the rest of their lives, and some will put on a wig and heels at work, and have a fantastic time being drag queens for a living. Some boy whores do butch, some do femme, and some do andro. Some whores don’t identify as boys, grrrls, butches, femmes or andros. Most sex workers I have met have interesting things to say about gender, however, sex workers don't need to be particularly politically savvy or oracles on gender or anything else in order for their sex work or gender presentation to be totally valid. I just wanted to be clear that sex workers don’t fit in boxes any more comfortably than anyone else.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Backwards and in High Heels...


(A reference to the {falsely attributed to Ginger Rodgers herself} quote, that she did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels.) How gorgeous is this seriously meringue frock, though? And I do love that quote - it's always resonated with me, as I've long been a fan of the idea that the trappings of femininity don't have to mean incapable.

And oooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Orangutans!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/05/2051504.htm

(thanks to Mr Bear for the linky)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

WA media - thanks to Ashkara Sands

Alan Carpenter is the Premier of Western Australia and an ex-journalist. Rob Johnson is the shadow Police Minister. This is a snippet from an article on the inside cover of yesterday's paper.
__________________________________________

Mr A.J. CARPENTER: Has the member ever been to a brothel?
Mr R.F. Johnson: No. Have you?
Mr A.J. CARPENTER: Yes.
Mr R.F. Johnson: Have you?
Mr A.J. CARPENTER: Yes.
Mr R.F. Johnson: You dirty thing!
Mr A.J. CARPENTER: Yes, I have.
Mr R.F. Johnson: Good gracious me!
Mr A.J. CARPENTER: Yes, I have. I spent about 20 years as a journalist, and I have met lots of prostitutes. I can tell the house that many of them - not all, because the world is not like that - are far better people than the member for Hillarys, and they express a better world view than does the member for Hillarys. They express more understanding of the human condition than the member will ever have.
___________________________________________

It always amazes me that people are surprised to find that sex workers are generally nice people... after all we do make people feel good for a living....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Surely the easiest test for pre-pubescent queerness

“I was the only kid in the audience who didn’t understand why Dorothy would ever want to go back to that black and white farm and those smelly animals, when she could live with winged monkeys and magic shoes and gay lions.”


John Waters from This Filthy World
(playing at the Dendy through Queer Screen) lookie here: http://www.queerscreen.com.au/j/index.php?option=com_jcalpro&Itemid=265&extmode=view&extid=2

Weasel words – because truth is the first casualty of war

On par with ‘friendly fire’ and ‘collateral damage’


'Guantanamo is not a prison. The official term is "detention facility". Although the two most recently built complexes, Camps Five and Six, were modelled on prisons in Indiana and Michigan, it is not acceptable to use the word "prison" at Gitmo. Guantanamo has no prisoners, only "enemies". As in "unlawful enemy combatants" or "detained enemy combatants". "Today, it is not about guilt or innocence. It's about unlawful enemy combatants,"
Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the commanding officer of Guantanamo...'Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Centre on Law and Security, New York University School of Law, and editor of The Torture Debate in America. From an article in The Age

According to official records, Army specialist Alyssa Peterson,died on 15 September 2003, from a 'non-hostile weapons discharge'. 'But newly uncovered military documents reveal Peterson actually shot herself with her service rifle. The documents also show her suicide came just two weeks after she refused to take part in further interrogations of Iraqi prisoners and had asked to be reassigned.'From
Democracy Now

'an act of asymmetrical warfare' How Rear Admiral Harry Harris, Guantanamo Bay camp commander, described the suicides of three prisoners. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 2006.

'In 2003 there were 350 "self-harm" incidents, including 120 "hanging gestures".' Lieutenant Colonel Leon Sumpter, army spokesman Lt Col Sumpter speaking to the press about attempted suicides at Guantanamo detention center. BBC News

The shamelessness and cowardess of this language makes me want to scream with murderous rage.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

ASK THE WHORE - ANSWERS PART 1 or Sex Work 101

Okay, so I finally got around to answering some of those questions I asked for about sex work, ages ago on this blog. This is half of the answers to the questions, which seemed to group together as being related to sexuality and identity stuff and I'll post soon talking about feminism and about safety issues. I've added some other commonly asked questions, as they also seemed related to issues of queerness and identity.


Please be aware that the thoughts and comments expressed in this post, and in Her Royal Whoreness in general are my own, and may not always be representative of all whores, the sex worker rights movement, or any sex worker organisation or group I have worked for or been involved with.

For a broader taste of the sex worker rights movement beliefs and values, check out some of my links.

'Maybe not what you were asking for but why "Whoretic"? '

The name whoretic - which has been my online name for about a decade, is a play on the word 'heretic'. I was raised Catholic, and a lot of the sex negativity with which I was raised made it essential for me to do sex positive activism as a way of reclaiming sex and joy for myself. The hatred and distrust of pleasure, bodies and sexuality that is at the heart of so much patriarchal religion feels so abusive, to me, that affirming sex and bodies, and taking them seriously feels so necessary.
The fact that I am a whore, and an out proud, unrepentant whore has always felt like the ultimate heresy.
Update: My housemate (and substitute husband) says: The word heretic originates in Greek, as many Latin words did, and derives from a word meaning "to choose" (hairetikos, from the verb hairesthai).... which just makes it even more appropriate for me - an out proud whore by choice.

Why do you sex work?

For me, sex work is a form of sex positivity in action. Queer theory and the older Gay and Lesbian liberation movements allows us to critique a view of sex as only acceptable when occurring within very narrow frameworks – sex for love, within committed relationships, in order to make babies.
Sex work is one of the ways I demonstrate valuing sex for its therapeutic effects, its recreational effects, its beneficial effects on self esteem and self worth. I affirm the seeking of touch, orgasm and responding to skin hunger. As an out proud queer/dyke/whore, I can accept my clients’ varied desires without judgement, with support and playfulness. Sex work has taught me that even straight men need sexual liberation!
Sex work is one of the only ‘traditional women’s work’ jobs that is paid well. Parenting, nursing, teaching and other care work have not been compensated in a way that reflects their social value. The skills that make a good sex worker include esoteric ones such as comfort with intimacy, ability to confidently read body language, and a communication style that reflects both compassion and assertiveness. It is unusual and kind of fantastic to have these hard-to-define skills prove to actually be marketable.

'So can you actually be a dyke and suck cok 4 cash? Seriously though, does your lack of attraction for males make your sex work harder?'

It’s probably going to take a few more centuries for a sufficient number of women to unlearn female socialisation that automatically couples sex with love, or sex with relationships. Until then, the overwhelming majority of sex work clients will be male. Most of my female clients that I have seen have accessed sex work services as part of a couple with their male partners.
In some ways, it’s easier to work with male clients. It’s certainly easier to get to the point, and get them off in a half hour or hour session. It’s also easier for me to maintain a professional perspective – not feeling the need to constantly check in on how they’re doing. Also easier to maintain professional boundaries – I find a lot of women clients struggle with not being able to kiss during a sex work session, for example. I would like to see more women accessing sex work services; as that would represent a fundamental shift in the way women value their own desire and pleasure. Because of our cultural baggage that means that women are less likely to access sex workers, I enjoy being a part of other projects, such as workshops, that aim to give Queer women in particular access to different language, or different ways of thinking about sex and pleasure.
I think different dykes have different ways of describing their sexuality, and different feelings about it. For me, I identify as a queer dyke, rather than a lesbian, which for me at least has more room for diversity and fluidity. While I’m not currently attracted to str8 cisgendered men, they do not repulse me. Sex with str8 men feels pretty neutral for me. So sex work doesn’t have much to do with my sexuality; I think my queer sensibility is an asset to my work, but other than that there is quite a bit of compartmentalisation. I think most sex workers wouldn’t be attracted to every single client; however it doesn’t stop them from being able to provide services – so it’s not that hard for dyke whores.

Do you get more negative reactions from other dykes or other whores?

It depends on the dyke or the whore. The most common response from both dykes and whores is ‘how do you cope with servicing men if you’re a lesbian?’ It’s easier to explain this one to other workers, however, I find most women will get it that sex can be work, and that women have sex for a whole range of reasons, other than attraction. I often find myself doing endless community education – sex work 101 with queers; queer 101 with sex workers.
I find the most negative response from other sex workers usually happens in brothel environments, where some other sex workers will wait for me to leave the room before they change clothes. As if I’m going to launch myself across the room and ravish/ravage them. I try to let it be known that str8 women don’t really interest me - that some quality of queerness must be present, but that’s about it.
From fellow dykes, I think that combination of titillated yet repulsed is the most offensive and confusing response – where you are seen as unworthy of respect, but kinda sexy all the same. It saddens me as I immediately think of that chant from Reclaim the Night marches: “Yes means yes, No means no, whatever we wear, wherever we go”, and the related idea that sexual behaviour or lack of it shouldn’t make women more or less valued. I think a lot of women who subscribe to feminist values consider that as a truth in theory, but their behaviour towards other women may be different.

What impact does sex work have on your intimate relationships?


Well, being a very out sex worker – means that when I’m romantically interested in someone, that someone has to have a lot of conversations about sex work in the early stages. This gives them the opportunity to check all of those misconceptions about sex work. It also gives me a chance to see whether they have deeply ingrained sex worker phobia.


I don’t expect anyone to be initially 100% supportive of sex work, or be very politically aware about the oppression of sex workers. I hope exposure to my experience and through me of the sex worker rights movement will make a difference. If someone is much attached to anti-sex work values, then they don’t tend to stay in my life very long, either as a friend or partner. Bigotry is a really unattractive quality.
I don’t think sex work has any greater impact on my partnerships than any other work. I can say that doing night shifts – in any industry – is draining and bad for relationships, as is working in bad work environments, in any industry.
The sex worker rights movement has been a huge part of my political work for many years now. In fact I have described the sex worker rights movement as my primary partner and most committed relationship before... only half jokingly. So at times my burning focus on the movement has probably left partners feeling neglected, as when I was living in Adelaide and law reform was on the cards, lots of meetings, sitting in the strangers gallery watching Parliament in session, producing lobbying materials, doing media and debating anti-sex work Christians makes for a stressed and overloaded whoretic, without much time to nurture intimate bonds.

I have participated in many movements to varying degrees over time – peace and non-violence, environmental movements, feminism, queer visibility and rights, as well as broad left stuff. However, my sex work has been the one thing that has given me a criminal record; this has the potential to impact on my travel between countries and my ability to work in several fields of employment. So the degree of oppression and its impact on my life has meant that sex worker rights have been my biggest political passion. Also, there is a very simplistic, core part of me that just hates being told what I can and can't do with my own body that motivates me towards being involved with sex worker rights issues. Although concepts of identity are fraught for me, my biggest and most stable identity is always whore activist.

I find myself using some of the tools of LGBTIQ liberation in my sex worker rights work; outness and visibility, community development and identity politics. Not all sex worker activists use these tools. Often the impacts of sex worker phobia are so big that even activists chose a path of least disclosure to avoid stigma. The impact of my visibility on my own life - even though consciously chosen, has been huge. It has been really isolating, sometimes other sex workers won’t want to spend time around me, in case it is assumed that they are sex workers by association. Ultimately, I have avoided the closet in all my various identities, because I’m proud of who I am and my choices. The intersections of all those parts of me bring me richness and unique insights. I wouldn’t have my life any less complex, because that would signal a loss of meaning.
If you want to ask me a question about sex work, do it here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi(ce soir)?

The song Lady Marmalade was first recorded by Labelle in 1974, and it was inspired by New Orleans sex workers. The French Quarter is the city's red-light district. The song tells the story of a woman known only as "Lady Marmalade", who seduces a man she met on the street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Although the man has moved on from the experience, his memories of their tryst remain vivid when he tries to sleep. The song's chorus, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?", means "Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?" in French,


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

High Heel Race in St. Petersburg

http://www.gadling.com/2007/07/30/high-heel-race-in-st-petersburg/



Hah! This is nothing.... when I started working in brothels in South Australia, they were regularly raided by the vice squad, so I had a lot of practice running in heels, scaling fences in heels, etc. I consider myself to be a high heel athlete!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What will get me out of bed on a cold Tuesday morning


Sex workers demand industry regulation

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/14/2004403.htm

Posted Tue Aug 14, 2007 11:01am AEST

A small group of sex workers have staged a protest outside a conference in Sydney, calling for the implementation of Department of Planning guidelines on the regulation of the sex industry.
The group says a panel of health, planning and local government officials developed the guidelines in consultation with the sex industry.

The Sex Worker Rights Action Coalition says the Land and Environment Court has made it clear that brothel developments can not be blocked on moral grounds.

An independent sex worker, Saul Isbister, says the guidelines would help councils to regulate the industry, without compromising the safety of sex workers.

"The guidelines recommend that councils permit all types and scales of sex-industry premises in their natural locations," he said.

"That means home-based sex workers in residential areas, and commercial premises in commercial areas - a very logical position to take."


And the paper bags worn on the heads - at several local sex worker protests lately, represents that local councils have become the new paper bagmen, with opportunities for bribes and corruption, rather than the police, as used to be the case prior to decriminalisation in New South Wales... Also the anonomity offered by the paper bags allows sex workers to demonstrate in favour of their rights, without having to deal with the impact of coming out on their lives...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reminder to treat yourself well

I don’t know if it’s a winter thing, and thus Seasonal Affective Disorder related, or specific stresses in people’s lives that by pure coincidence have happened all at the same time, or if crappy mental health is contagious (I suspect a combination of the above) but many people I know have been struggling with mental health issues, and either sinking below the surface or valiantly treading water.


I thought I’d take some time to remind everyone about some good mental health practice tools. Good mental and physical health goes together, so if things are falling off the top of your overloaded bundle, focus on the basics. Drink water and camomile tea, get plenty of sleep, eat some fruit and vegetables, breathe deeply, get some exercise. Treating yourself well is good for your self esteem, and it provides you with a basic foundation for managing stress. Basic self care is also one of the least mortifying mental health initiatives I have ever undergone.

Breathing slowly and deeply remembering to fully exhale is good for stress-related asthma and panic attacks. When you are experiencing racing thoughts, slow down and talk to yourself – is the most catastrophic and dire answer the most likely? Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is handy for the racing-panic-attack-thought-patterns and also the helpless-hopeless-depressive-thoughts, and when you learn how to do it well, it is incredibly empowering to be able to pull yourself out of the blue funk or the anxiety horrors. For clinical depression, the two most statistically useful things to do are to get exercise and to increase social contact. Grab a friend for a brisk walk. Borrow a dog and walk him/ her regularly - walking a dog is a great way to become instantly popular.

Some books that may be useful: You Can Beat Depression: A Guide to Prevention & Recovery by Dr John Preston, and for those of you going through yucky break ups, its Sex And The City style chick focused and assumes heterosexuality, however, take from it what you can: It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt. Oh, and I keep hearing good things about MoodGym.

Oh, and if you need to, get on meds (anti-depressants, or others), if you are still high and mighty about using anti-depressants, consider that myself and many others I know wouldn’t be here to preach to you if it weren’t for our meds….. and if you are using anti-depressant medication (or are just struggling with depression in general) please cut down on the amount of alcohol or other depressants you are using to give yourself the best possible chance of recovery.

Getting queers, whores and other outsiders to love ourselves, do self care, treat each other well and build community are all important political acts. Imagine that we all had more energy to fight for equality and a more just world? Imagine if we, instead of self destructing had more time for critiquing the dominant paradigm? The work of previous generations of activists have meant powerful changes for the social standing of queers – the fact that young queers now can regularly come out to their families without rejection would have been almost unimaginable, not so long ago. I look forward to a time when baby (newly out) queers have the opportunity to slot into a queer community that is thriving, to look forward to a range and choice of social spaces that aren’t solely focused around alcohol and late nights, where diversity is genuinely celebrated. Where queerness is so valued that self care practices are common. Sex workers aren’t even in a place yet where very many of us at all feel as if we could come out, and the whore stigma is still huge and crippling.

Oh, and everyone needs to go and get a copy of Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. Because Kate is completely fucking fabulous, that’s why. What, you need another reason? Well here:


I’ve written this book to help you stay alive because I think the world needs more kind people in it, no matter who or what they are, or do. We’re healthier because of our outsiders and outlaws and freaks and queers and sinners. I fall neatly into all of those categories, so it’s no big deal to me if you do, or don’t. I’ve had a lot of reasons to kill myself, and a lot of time to do it in, and I stayed alive by doing things that many consider to be immoral or illegal. I’m glad I did it, because I’ve really enjoyed writing this book. This may be a scary time for you, and if that’s so, I hope I can help you find your courage again. If we meet some day, let me know what worked. —from Hello, Cruel World by Kate Bornstein

Monday, August 06, 2007

My Winter: by whoretic



Well the off-line world has been so damn exhausting and absorbing that I haven’t been here much at all over the last couple of months. I promise two major updates over the next two weeks – one for International Whores Day activities, and one for the yucky sex work law changes in NSW that have gone down.

In the meantime here is a general update of winter highlights, in easily digestible dot points:


  • I have moved out of the frat house, and into the ghetto. My new house is funny looking, with yellow paint everywhere, and faux wood panelled walls. Not even real wood panelling. I keep hoping for afro’ed individuals to appear at the front door to clean zee pool, but alas… so far, no cigar.

  • I have a new part time job. My first grown up non-sex work, non-sex worker organisation job. Still in the HIV sector, I still get to be out about all aspects of me. It is still a kick arse organisation that I feel proud to be associated with, but just really different.

  • I have a great housemate. I kidnapped her from the frat house. We work really well as housemates. She loves my cats. She has cute hair. She plays with me in the toy section of Kmart after we do grocery shopping at the Metro. Yah!

  • I am the proud owner of a Ponyville Sweet Shoppe (my Little Pony). All of Ponyville looks so amazing though, that I am considering buying all of the pieces and setting up our study as Ponyville. Must remember to be practical and also fit computer desk, crafting stuff, bookshelves and extra clothing racks, and form Ponyville around these necessary items.

  • Winter is a great time to be a furry. Hooray for new animal hats. Hooray for pets from friends. Hooray for wearing smeary eyeliner and a fluffy hat with ears. My favourite way of looking just now, it even works when I am very tired.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MEDIA - sexperts webshow

A nice piece of internet media about sex work (including Sydney based sex worker identities) on the sexperts show.

http://media.fairfax.com.au/?rid=29740

Check it out!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Stupid, Stupid Laws (part 1)

Most of the laws related to sex work that I have worked under in different jurisdictions around Australia operate in exactly the ways that anyone could least want to them to work. For example, in South Australia, where I spent most of my career to date, most activities to do with sex work are illegal, and up until the last decade or so, heavily policed. These days, the vice squad focus their policing efforts on street based sex work, mostly tolerating brothels and private in house workers. One charge related to sex work is ‘procuring’ where you employ someone as a sex worker who hasn’t sex worked, at least in SA before.

How this is policed is some police officer will pose as someone looking for a job at a brothel or escort agency, gain an interview with a business owner or manager, ask questions about the work, and get the interviewer to acknowledge that sexual services are an expected part of the job, and then they will arrest the person. I’ve never met a sex worker who was duped or deceived about the nature of the work they were entering, while it probably happens, it isn’t a common feature of the sex industry, and sex workers I have met go for their first hooking job well aware of the broad aspects of the work, if not the fine details. However, because owners and managers fear being charged for procuring, it can be really difficult to actually get clear and specific information about the work when you first start – and obviously, with sex work, as much as any work, knowledge is power. Tips and tricks of the trade, industry norms and easy ideas of how a basic sex work booking runs would be invaluable when first starting sex work.

Criminalisation gets in the way of sex workers gaining information, skills and being best able to make informed choices.


*Sigh*

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I can't attend - but if anyone else can make it...

Iemma and Sartor are reversing the decriminalisation of the sex industry in NSW by introducing harsh and discriminatory laws that will oversee eviction of private workers from their homes, power and electricity cut off from non-Council approved brothels, and the Land and Environment Court hearing applications aiming to render entire sections of neighbourhoods 'sex industry free.'

The Bill was introduced to parliament late on Wednesday night and was rushed through the Legislative Assembly on Friday. This is the only opportunity to stop this retrograde step in the Upper House.

Saunas, performance venues, burlesque, any venue that allows nudity could be subject to the new laws.

Please join us and show your support
on the steps of Parliament House, Macquarie Street,
Tuesday 26th June, 2007
12.30pm – dress in red

Legislation that will have significant negative outcomes for sex workers, men who have sex with men, strip clubs, night clubs and pubs that have performance including nudity, and other sexually active members of the community is being rushed through Parliament under the disguise of an "Illegal Brothel Bill." There has been no consultation on the new laws.
The new laws are called the Brothel Bill, however this disguises the fact that it is individuals, and individual sex workers, NOT commercial brothels, that will bear the brunt of this legislation.

The definition of brothel in NSW is anywhere that prostitution takes place. Therefore the homes of individual sex workers, home occupation businesses, strip clubs that cater to sexual contact, and massage parlours premises are all incorrectly determined to be brothels.
For sex workers this means a return to the pre-decriminalisation days when pay-offs were essential. Back then sex industry regulators were the police. The new regulators are councils. If these laws go through, Councils will have the power to make sex workers homeless, without any requirement to listen to sex workers concerns or provide alternative housing…. This is an explicit removal of natural justice.

Right now ICAC (Independent Commission Against on Corruption) is considering allegations of council corruption, including pay offs by sex industry, and a report into council corruption in relation to the sex industry is likely to come out this year. Yet the Government is rushing through laws that significantly increase Council powers, dramatically lessen the need for proof, allow action based on only one complaint, and introduce changes that mean anywhere sex work takes place, even as a one off can be effected.

The proposed law includes – - Removal of natural justice - Reversal of the onus of proof. - Council will have the power to have amenities like phone and power turned off and a fining regime implemented. - A Court may determine a place was a brothel without any direct evidence and may accept circumstantial evidence. - A new definition of "sex related uses" in the "Environmental Planning and Assessment Act" includes all premises where nudity and money are involved: clubs, performance venues, and art spaces will be effected.

- Instead of councils needed to receive "sufficient complaints about the brothel" prior to taking action, Councils can now take closure action after only one complaint.

- An owner of a apartment building where a private sex worker is working can be subject to these new laws. A defense for the owner is to evict the sex worker. The Local Council is exempt from the EPA Act S121G. If an EPA "order" is likely to make a person homeless, usually there must be appropriate support to find the person another home. In the case of "Brothel Closure Orders" the person will receive no support.

- As the definition of brothel still includes one person working as a sex worker in their own home the increased Council power including acting on only 1 complaint and without the need to prove prostitution takes place.

Links:
The Legislation: http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/library/nswgov_2007 Steve Whan hansard from Wednesday night, tabling the bill

Friday, June 08, 2007

10 Reasons Why Non-Sex Workers Should Not Write Papers About Sex Work by Ashkara Sands

1. The only people truly qualified to speak to the experiences of sex workers, are sex workers themselves.

2. Basing a theory on myths and stereotypes and then 'proving' that theory using other myths and stereotypes is not a study - it's a creative writing exercise.

3. Sex workers are living, breathing human beings with hearts and every time you describe them as something other than living, breathing human beings, their hearts break.

4. By far the most 'degrading' aspect of sex work is the associated stigma, discrimination and vilification - a direct result of the disempowering misinformation propagated by the media and the anti-sex work lobby.

5. It is exceedingly arrogant to assume not only that you understand the intricacies of an industry you don't even work in, but that you have the right to speak for those who do.

6. Contrary to popular belief, sex workers are perfectly capable of putting pen to paper and telling their own stories.

7. By denying sex workers the right to have their voices heard in the political arena, and attempting to limit their sexual and financial independence, anti-sex work feminists make a mockery of the fundamental principles of feminism.

8. You don't see sex workers writing papers on the work practices of marine biologists or the psychological wellbeing of accountants.

9. The portrayal of sex workers as degraded victims is, in itself, a form of degrading victimisation.

10. You risk looking like a fool who wrote a paper on a topic you quite obviously knew nothing about

This is a response to Janice Raymond's '10 reasons not to legalise/decriminalise prostitution'. Janince Raymond is a particularly vicious anti-sex work, anti-trans radical feminist.

Visit Ashkara Sands at her website A Whores Haven (see the links on the right)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reminder: media workshop for sex workers

Is this Saturday. For more information, see http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/
RSVP by calling 9326 9455.

All sex workers are invited to free training this Saturday.
26th May, 2007 - 10am - 2pm
Love the Media and it'll Love You - Tips for Sex Workers and the Press
Make no mistake sex workers are very popular with the media. But is there a way for sex workers to take advantage of this, and not just be left feeling used and exposed? It's a challenging task but we'll look at specific cases sex workers have been able to benefit from media events. We'll look at how to pitch media releases,and how to prepare for yourself an interview. So bring your ideas along and tell us what you want. We aim to please at the highest levels. This workshop is for sex workers only
Presenters: Eurydice Aroney lectures in Radio Journalism at the University of Technology. She's worked at the ABC for many years and is an active supporter of sex worker rights. Kerrie Jean Ross has been a print, radio and TV journalist for 30 years (god damit!). She's also a true believer when it comes to workers rights and unionsism. Kerrie jean has also taught journalism at a tertiary level.
Venue: Ground floor of the Albion Street Centre, Cnr Albion and Crown Streets, Surry Hills, Underneath the Scarlet Alliance Office.
RSVP on 9326 9455 or on the day if you have trouble finding the workshop space call 0411985135
As part of the range of activities surrounding International Whores Day

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sexual Repression and Whorish Histories

The Victorian era was a peak time for sex work...there were so many sex workers in London under the reign of Queen Victoria - apparently more than ever before or since. There are three key reasons for this:


1. The first being economic - with the Industrial Revolution, record numbers of people left rural areas (where they had traditionally lived as peasants, working the land of the local land owner) and moved to cities for work - such a dramatic change to an economic system, from a largely agricultural to largely urban economy will cause havoc - urban crowding, slums, unemployment and dramatic poverty. Add to this that women's wages at that time in most conventional forms of 'women's work' (i.e. working as a seamstress or in a laundry) was not enough to survive on in most cases... and there you have it: the perfect conditions for an explosion of sex work are created



2. The second was notions of female purity... sex made you damaged goods, and often even working class women had presure put upon them to be chaste (who were up until this time considered fundamentally immoral, however the recent woman-led moral crusades - who also focused on 'white slavery' and alcohol temperance).. so for women who had popped their cherry, the most conventional means of economic support (wedlock) was not always an option, so 'on the game' it was. Another aspect of this was the hideous amounts of homophobia, which meant that for men looking for same sex action, male sex workers were the safest option (except maybe, in the case of the Oscar Wilde sodomy case, when rent boys gave evidence against him).



3. And then there is the second chastity related reason... the popular wisdom of the time made quite clear that women didn't like sex, that male sex drive victimised women into putting out, even when they don't want to (hello Sheila Jeffreys, Andrea Dworkin, et al). There were books available at the time that suggested that a decent husband wouldn't expect sex more than about every 6 months from his lady wife, and advised on things to do to quell the urge to ask more often.... Middle and upper class men sometimes began affairs with the household servants, or other working class women, sometimes setting them up as mistresses in separate establishments - if those men didn't adequately provide for their mistresses... well you get the picture. Either way, affluent guys either went to see sex workers straight away, or 'ruined' someone who then became a sex worker later.



I'm not being bitter about men here (or in anyway suggesting sex workers are victims - making lemonade out of the lemons of sexism and classism is to me the act of the capable and empowered), just pointing out that class and gender discrimination, tough economic times and sexual repression create the conditions for an increase in the numbers of sex workers.



(For more on Victorian Era sex work - may I recommend my favourite all-time sex work book? Whores In History by Nikki Roberts. Also Victorian 'porn' such as Fanny Hill and My Secret Life for 'local colour')



Conversely, the sex industry has been a harder place to be since the late 60s. The introduction of the contraceptive pill was certainly catastrophic for business. Such a reliable, non intrusive, self-directed contraceptive method meant women, for the first time, where able to have penetrative, penis-in-vagina sex all the time without running the huge risk of pregnancy. When wives and girlfriends - or even women not romantically entwined are putting out for free in such large numbers, there is less of an overwhelming need for sex workers.



A later impact was the AIDS pandemic... which I believe has been affecting the amount of people paying for sex for over 20 years now, as well as increasing stigmatisation against sex workers - we aren't just mercenary bitches and loose immoral sluts anymore, we are also vectors of disease. This despite the fact that there has never been a reported HIV transmission in a sex work context in Australia to date, that in many high incidence regions for HIV, sex workers demonstrate higher levels of sexual health than the general population, and that most HIV positive women in the world contracted HIV from their husbands (often their only sexual partner).




Other local impacts have been the removal of fringe benefits, and the introduction of poker machines and the impact of the GST on small businesses).



---------------------------------------------------------------------------




I do hope y'all will forgive what I hope wasn't too much of a tedious journey back through the mists of time. My personal life-long obsession with digging around in history, mythology, literature and the cultural mores of specific periods of time is lead by my desire to know: how we got to this place, how did we start worshipping a god who seems obsessed with our sex lives and punishing us, how 10,000 years of patriarchal oppression happened, how queers and whores and women and people of colour got to be on the bottom of the heap. So, all of that history was background to what I'm actually thinking about..



My life's work (sorry if that sounds too arrogant) has been about doing what I can to dismantle sex negativity, or erotophobia. As sex negativity is the basis of homophobia and sex worker phobia, it makes sense that this will be really important stuff for me. Sex between people of 'opposite' sexes within the context of ongoing relationships, has at least the potential for procreation to justify it. The scary aspect of aiming to dismantle a system of erotophobia is - it's probably bad for business.



Barriers put in place to people fucking as they please (such as fear of conception, homophobia and the social consequences for women of extra-marital sex [see the whore stigma]) motivates more (mainly) men to access the services of professionals. So, while a key motivation for me in my sex work has been to affirm the importance of pleasure, and crusade for sex positivity - am I simply putting myself out of business, or at least making it harder for the next generation of whores?



I've spoken about this with Decriminalise Debby, who raised Patrick Califia's article Whoring In Utopia - which argues that in a utopian future world - with no racism, classism, sexism, homophobia or sex negativity would still need whores - just possibly different whores, for different ways of whoring. That people might be far more likely to give their partners a session with a sex worker for a gift, with this being less stigmatised (I also imagine in utopia there is greater support for relationship structures outside of monogamy), that clients may not be almost exclusively str8 men, and that sexual skill might be seen as so valuable, that being properly 'initiated' and trained up to be a good sexual partner by a sex worker at the beginning of your sexual life would be seen as vital if you wanted to ever get a date, from that point onwards.



All I can say is I hope so... sex work has allowed me to be choosey about what other kinds of work I do, so that I don't have to work for evil multinationals who cut down rain forests or exploit 'third world' labour, or simply do mindnumbly dull work. I love that sex work allows me to constantly make not just a living, but also very good karma for myself by providing relaxation, pleasure and orgasms for others. I'd hate for this option to not be there for others.

My real primary identity just might be....

Stubborn.




stub·born (stŭb'ərn) adj., -er, -est.
Unreasonably, often perversely unyielding; bullheaded.
Firmly resolved or determined; resolute.

Characterized by perseverance; persistent.
Difficult to treat or deal with; resistant to treatment or effort: stubborn soil; stubborn stains.
[Middle English stuborn.]




I was rereading Hanne Blanks' 'Tits of Clay: Genderphilia and Changing the World, One Lipstick at a time' the keynote speach for the Femme 2006 conference, and again struck powerfully by the inherent stubborness in femme performance. Of course... in a culture that denigrates the feminine, considers women to be second class citizens and considers frippery and frou frou to be the ultimate in vain, insignificant, superficial stupidity (whereas beer and football are the vitally important aspects of life) femme is going to get a lot of opposition and not much support. Even femmes ourselves aren't immune from internalising these ideas and acting out self-oppression in a variety of ways...


When I am on the receiving end of anti-femme stuff: watch me wear higher and higher heels, watch me pout and hair flick, watch my dresses get lower and lower cut.... to a point where I may as well run around topless in a pony costume on stilts.... And watch me do this with my head held high, an articulate critique on enforced gender systems and knowing that a world that is safer for me will be a world safer for so many more than me.


In much the same way, I get stubborn when other aspects of my identity that are dear to me are denigrated. If people are reacting negatively about sex work, I get outer and outer about it. Talking more about the 'ins and outs' (if you'll pardon the pun) than just the industrial rights issues and other sex worker rights stuff. People who are weird about sex work (and let's face it... that would be most people, on some level) are forced to either have whoring normalised for them via the absorbtion method, or get so freaked out that they go away. Either way, I create safe space around myself.



All the same it gets really, really fucking tedious to have to be wearing my community educators hat all the time... I don't always want to do sex work 101 (or demystifying femme plus queer theory stuff) for two hours everytime I meet someone new at a dinner party. I'm not always going to correct a taxi driver when they assume I'm straight, or tell them the truth about what I do for a living when they pick me up from my house. For a long time I was considering producing a pamphlet covering frequently asked questions - maybe I'll just hand out my blog URL...

I wonder sometimes if I expect too much - that people will see beyond the outness, and know that even though I shout loudly about these issues (and I might feel the need to stop shouting quite so loudly about the same time as the world becomes less whorephobic, sexist and genderphobic) there are many aspects about me that are more subtle, less loud but still there - I am not a stereotype, or a cardboard cut out. I can't walk in flats, but I'm physically stronger and more athletic than most people I know, and I have never played dumb in my life...... I guess only those that pay attention are going to see all of my flavours, or know that just because I care passionately about femme visiblity and sex worker rights, I, like all people, am a million and one things that aren't easy to define, sum up, reduce or package.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Update on random things

Scabaret

Zoo and I did the roving performance thing again with Milk’n’Cookies at Scabaret, the opening performance night of the Sheila Autonomista festival (“independent, non-corporate, non-profit, women's art, cultural, political, activist festival held in Sydney”).

When we arrived, we were greeted by the ever wonderful Wife who was excitingly competent and looked sternly over a clipboard. After getting detention from the English teacher at Queer Prom, I seem to be developing a clipboard-and-glasses fetish.

The Milk’n’Cookies piece, I was thinking initially, was the first piece of performance I have done which is not political in anyway…. However, after doing it a second time, and with more of an anarcho feminist queer grrrl crowd than Velvet (where we’d previously Milk'n'Cookied) would attract, I’ve changed my mind.


Now I realise how interesting it is in terms of people’s reactions to ‘invading’ personal space, even when I am in fact inviting them to eat cookies from my cleavage. Lots of fodder for thinking about what is appropriate or inappropriate in public spaces, and I’m now thinking about a performance art piece I read about that was performed in a shopping mall (was it by Holly Hughes?) where the performer walked around with a cardboard box over her torso, with a curtain at the front – she invited people to put their hands under the curtain and feel her breasts – they could feel, but not look, and the whole time she is making polite everyday conversation with them, in an open air shopping mall, without breaking obscenity laws in any way. I love this idea of presenting people with the opportunity to play with their ideas of what is sexy, what is polite, what is a personal boundary, what is a necessary social limit, and what is merely customary……

Also, using references from traditionally str8 porn/raunch culture – by Zoo saturating me in milk (I was moaning and groaning and flicking my hair around, ala girl doing a bikini carwash, under this milk bath) has got to be disorientating in this kind of queer feminist space…



Writing

I actually started this blog in part, to encourage regular writing practice, and there are times when it looms before me, when I have no creative urges or burning passion about any one issue, so I “cheat” and post notices of sex worker rights events or media about sex worker issues….

Writing has been a nightmare for me lately, with an utter lack of creativity and scary computer screens or very empty note book pages…. I have to do two articles for my non-sex work, and have another submission to do for an external source. I had a weekend spent in long painful labour for another writing project…. On the Monday, I finally ended up sitting through over 10 hours of writers block, including all the doubt and fear and feelings of not having any skill whatsoever that happens at times like this. However, I forced myself to sit and let the words come at their own sweet time… Finally when I had exactly the right number of words, I emailed it off, without even a final read through. Ruthless but necessary.

Now the other pieces seem like more of a possibility… sometimes only sitting through the fear will bear fruit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"The world lost a powerful bigot today." from What Jerry Falwell Taught Me by Joan Garry

< - "Memorial" on Castro Street, San Francisco (http://farm1.static.flickr.com/226/500375173_8e67c51e7e.jpg?v=0).


Well, Jerry Falwell has died, he who loudly opposed racial integration of the Southern States of the US, he who was critical of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, he who famously promoted the notion that AIDS is God’s punishment, and “outer’ of Tinky Winky, the hand bag carrying Teletubby in the National Liberty Journal in February 1999.

"He is purple - the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol,"

He said later that the show's depictions of homosexuality were intentional. "As a Christian I feel that role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children."



Some of internet commentary on this event has been interesting - the rejoicing over his death by some queers, or the mourning by fundamentalist bloggers (and there is a disturbing large number of them), and other people criticising the "burn in hell, bigot" sentiments expressed by the queers. I didn't hear those voices raised in criticism of Iraqis dancing in the street at the death of Saddam Hussein, or anyone who might rejoice at the passing of Hitler.... while Falwell didn't go out and kill queers, he created an environment that demonises queerness, that can justify a bashers actions. I am sick and tired of queers never being allowed to be strident and angry when others are publically indulging in hate speech. And I'm sick and tired of those who have never grown up knowing in your very core that there is something terribly, terribly different about you and that this is a very, very bad thing, and that you are going to hell for it, regardless of how much of a wonderful, kind person you try to be, feeling like they are in any position to be judgemental of queer bitterness at organised mainstream religion and the nuclear family - two of the key institutions that work so hard to convince us of how sick and wrong we are, from such a young age.


To celebrate his passing, here are some of my favourite Falwell quotes:


"Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them."
"Textbooks are Soviet propaganda."


"The whole (global warming) thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."


"(9/11 is the result of) throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."




Two great pieces that say more that I can at the moment about what is so damn wrong with Falwell: from the the Religious Freedom Coalition of the Southeast and What Jerry Falwell taught me

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Anti-Femme

So I’ve been dealing with some anti-femme attitudes and behaviour lately. I’m not really blogging to address those attitudes – I’ve mostly dealt with those things with the people concerned, or don’t have enough respect for the people concerned to let their attitudes affect me. I am blogging about it, as I am so weirded out that queers – as opposed to loony anti-sex, anti-everything ‘feminists’ would walk around with unexamined issues about femme…and I wanted to reflect on what it is that I mean when I refer to myself and my actions as femme, as well as create some space for myfemmeself to reenergise and reempower. All of these words are my thoughts, my opinions and refer only to my identity and are not meant to speak for other femmes – we are all too damn good at speaking in our own voices. I would love to hear feedback from other passionate articulate femmes I know that read this. So - I'll begin random snippets of ranting...


Actually, anti-femme bigotry isn’t any more fun for me to be on the receiving end of than sex workerphobia, sexism, racism or homophobia (and I believe anti-femme stuff is linked to both sexism, homophobia and sexworkerphobia).

F is for femme, and fierce, and ferocious and fuck you, you fucking bigot. I am not light weight anything. I am not weak, and I may be fluffy, but I am also as sharp and dangerous as my stiletto heels, baby. Femme is not necessarily easy, passive, bottom, pretty or brainless. Oh, and by the way, passivity and bottom themselves can be powerful valid spaces to occupy.

Femmes continue to fight sexism and homophobia and invisibility and be seen as non-feminist and non-queer and still won’t stop reapplying lipstick in our own totally gorgeous stubborn ways. Stubborn, defiant and glamourous? What’s not to love and respect?

Many things seen as being femme ain’t necessarily so…femme is NOT the same as feminine – femininity is a bunch of qualities that are traditionally seen as inherently female, or imposed on those seen as female, and punished if demonstrated by those seen as male. Femme is not default, it is chosen. Femme is not normative, it is transgressive.
However, I’m sure most people on the planet have unaddressed residue from the gendered behaviour that was imposed on them by their culture. Unexamined behaviours, such as avoiding assertiveness, by going in round about ways to get what we want, rather than explicitly asking for it –should be seen as evidence of a history in which women haven’t been encouraged to have needs or desires let alone pursue them openly. Traditionally, women used whatever tools where available to them, including manipulation, sexual attractiveness and misdirection. If we are still using those tools, then the pervasive nature of institutionalised sexism, rather than women should be blamed.
If femmes slip into unexamined, undesirable behaviours, that doesn’t mean that behaviour is inherently femme. If you are unclear of what femme is, maybe you need to do some reading, rather than just apply this term in arbitrary ways.

I find it strange and creepy that people who binge drink, smoke, probably don’t exhibit great self–care practices and may do more traditionally edgy permanent body modification will be okay about telling me how crippled my feet will be when I’m older if I continue to wear heels all the time….

Femme identity isn’t only about frocks, heels, makeup or other accessories – there are actually significant texts out there about it. The accessories are important to us as signposts, as metaphors, as armour, as come-fuck-me plumage for the mating dance, and as fun, but strip us naked, scrape off our makeup, and make us walk barefoot *shudder* and we’ll still be femmes
. Angry femmes, but femmes.

And I'll finish off with the femme allyship statement from the Femme 2006 conference:





Femme Ally Statement
Our femme allies stand beside us in support of our endeavours to be known, seen, respected and acknowledged; You know that we have always been a force in our community, you know that as femmes we have made our own journeys, fought our own battles, and always had your backs. You want to remind us of our value in the community when we grow weary because some see us merely as ornaments or trophies. You are not afraid of our femininity or our feminism or our need to be visible in our own right. You resonate with our power and know that it compliments and supports your own. <more>