Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sex Worker Activists…

Challenge the notion that there is something more harmful or dangerous about consensual sex than the risk of pulling a muscle

Question why street-based sex workers are more of a nuisance for local residents than that busker doing off-key Led Zeppelin covers

Wonder why people working for multi-national corporations that bulldoze old growth forests or exploit third world labour think we should get a real job

Ask why people who pay us for sex are exploiting us more than those who expect it for free

Think that if being rescued and rehabilitated involves working long hours, earning a pittance, doing uninspiring menial labour – we’ll stay in the gutter, thank you.

Friday, February 16, 2007


"Seeing oneself through the eyes of others is what modernity has asked of religion. The other in this case is a competing plurality of others, including different religious faiths, scientific knowledge, and political institutions. Fundamentalism is the rejection of this cluster of challenges, which Habermas describes as 'the repression of striking cognitive dissonances' and the return to 'the exclusivity of premodern belief attitudes.' A belief attitude indicates the way in which we believe rather than what we believe in. Fundamentalism has less to do with any specific text or religious dogma and more to do with the modality of belief." Quoting Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p.72.
I really like this quote - as it feels just as applicable to Howardism, economic rationalism and anti-sex feminism as it does to doctrinal religion.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Slit Magazine Launch - the T Show

Everyone probably knows all about this event, but I’m posting about it anyway, as there is a sexy picture of Sex on the flyer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Carrie: First they want you to come there two times a week, then three times a week, and eventually you're starting every sentence with 'my therapist says... '
Miranda: My therapist says that's a very common fear.
Sex In The City

It seems like a dodgy mental health time for many people I know. So I was thinking about how hard it is to find a decent therapist/ psychologist/ psychiatrist / counsellor. Particulalry if you are queer, or kinky, or a whore, or have some combination of these qualities. A lot of sex workers and a lot of BDSMers have identified having therapists see their sex work/ kink as either a symptom of poor mental health (you don't like yourself very much, hense this destructive behaviour) or creating the conditions for the poor mental health (you do these destructive behaviours, and screw yourself up in the process). Of course, having your choices and identity seen as pathology is incredibly patronising, and doesn't bode well for the therapy relationship. Ideally, a therapist should treat you with 'unconditional positive regard' or absolute respect for who and what you are - from that point, and continued respectful behaviour, such as not giving advice, or trying to get you to stop doing anything in particular - means that you can get the most out of the therapy (ei.e. greater self awareness and hopefully emerging from that a greater capacity for control over your own life and better self regard).

The really hard thing for most of us, even if we are used to and good at educating outsiders about our lives and communities, is to do sex work 101, kink 101 or queer 101 when we are in distress and just want to get our support needs met.

Bigotted therapists need to challenge their own judgements - and either proactively educate themselves about diversity, or acknowledge that their prejudices stand in the way of them being effective, and change careers. I wouldn't suggest sex work though, you need to be pretty comfortable with diversity. Maybe stocking supermarket shelves at midnight - not much in the way of people skills required.

Other things can get in the way of therapy feeling useful, can include fear of psychodynamic therapy - that whole lying on the couch, reliving every single painful episode in your life to date approach - which is sedom used these days, with CBT and other more in-the-moment approaches far more common. Also, fear of the often truly scary experience of dealing with your own issues - and the really hard work involved in changing unhelpful patterns, of having to examine your own stuff. I can also identify with a fear of lose of control, of letting a stranger into your internal landscape.

However, I've found taking charge of the therapy process - really taking a good hard look at my own issues within that context - and leading it, with much honesty, rigour and being able to articulate what changes I want for myself has been ultimately empowering. It has been helpful that I am really analytical to begin with, and like a dog with a bone when there is something I don't quite understand. And there is still enough middle class attachment to notions of dignity, which means I'd prefer to tackle all the demons of my psyche within the therapy space than metaphorically be bleeding all over the shop in other areas of my life. I have an absolute fear that I'm the only person in my life that isn't aware that I'm acting out my mental health issues all the time in public.

When first seeing a therapist, I've found it useful to articulate what I want to happen - that my decisions about sex work are off limits, and about what I wanted to get out of the process. I've found doing my homework in between sessions - going after extra information on particular issues, and examining my value system in relation to things that have emerged in sessions - increases my sense of control over the process, and generally makes me feel empowered. Also, most therapists would tell you that your independence is an important part of the process.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Femme Fest

The multitude of glorious femme presences in Sydney is very exciting. I attended the opening of Domestic Love @ Kudos Gallery, Paddington on Tuesday. Gorgeous art by glorious femmes, some serious frockage worn by attendees and they served pink iced cupcakes and musk sticks *sigh!*
If you haven’t seen this exhibition yet, I highly recommend it – femmy/ domestic/ housewifery themed art, all curated by the amazingly beautiful and talented Lady Penelope.

Another femme happening I've been a part of (as participant, rather than voyeur) was Zoo and my roving Milk 'n' Cookies roving performance at Velvet. A quick rundown: Us wearing sturdy foundation garments and aprons roving through crowd. Zoo wearing fake bosoms, one full of soy, one full of cow milk. I am carting picnic basket full of cookies. Crowd members asked if they would like milk & cookies. Cookie inserted in cleavage - Zoo squirts with milk of choice, people consume from cleavage. Lots of fun with femme/ mummy feeding/ nurturing paradym. I ended up with crumby, milky, salivery cleavage and bra. Messy, grrrly, silly fun had by all.

I loved the fact that the most enthusiastic feedees where dykes around the 50+ mark. Much burying of heads in breasts and noisy joyful sounds. Yummy. (Oh, and I can now die happy, having fed a former Playschool presenter from my cleavage, and while most managed to get the whole cookie in one mouthful, it took her at least three bites - I love my life sometimes). Despite pre-performance prop dramas (and some considering of calling in a good-with-hir-hands butch), this was one the most hasslefree piece I've ever been involved with. No lines to learn. No 'fluffing' required. Quite liberating to know that sometimes all you need in a great concept - thanks and spanks to Madam Phantasm - cute costumes, well behaved breasts, up-for-it performers and a receptive crowd. This was also the only non-whore related performance I've done for about 10 years, and first time ever with Zoo - except for some strange nights at Sly, that could arguably be called performance....For Zoo's write up of the frivolity, and more pics, see here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Pretty Ugly

I've been thinking lately about the high price of femme. I've always had a hard time defining exactly what it is that I'm talking about - what I'm meaning when I speak of femme. What is this word code for? When asked by an andro dyke I used to work in a parlour with, I described it as 'restraint as art form'. This still kinda works for me as a description of my own femme expression. I know that as a woman, I don't have to take up smaller space, use a more limited range of movement, but there is something very satisfying and sexy about occupying that limited range - and about achieving all you need to in that space, without having to throw tantrums. I don't feel particularly inadequate or fearful about presenting my unmadeup face to the world, but I feel most powerful and dominant in big lashes and cocksucker red lipstick.

On some level, the women in my family were always the strong ones - although more or less staying within traditional gender roles, they managed to go about their business, doing most of the work of creating homes, raising children and using their social skills to smooth over bumps and to create group cohesion. Compared to this, the men in the family went to work, sat in armchairs, were trained to piss sitting down so as not to make a mess, occasionally attempted to assert their masculinity and dominance to the amusement of all present, and then retreated within. (Please note, at no time will you hear me idealise my upbringing as an example of a healthy dynamic).

It's unsuprising then, that I never got the idea that women were the weaker sex, or that I needed a man to be big and brave and protect me. Also unsurprising that I've never associated femininity with passivity, only ever with power and sucess. However, I was raised believing that some of the really amazing things about woman is their ability to achieve despite restricted circumstances. All of this sounds very politically dodgy, as if I'm suggesting that women don't need equal rights, that second class citizenship is some kind of badge of honour - that actually isn't what I'm suggesting, just that I was raised with the consciousness that women did the significant work in society, so of course we are amazing and strong.

Which brings me to all of the ways I've done femme body modification - as a way of revelling in my body's femme strength and power - I've shortened my achilles tendon by constant wearing of heels since about the age of 15, it is now extremely uncomfortable to wear flats (or sensible shoes). My feet are also usually calloused and blistered as I often break in new shoes by going out on 2 hour walks in them, or wearing them out for a night of dancing. I can relate to ballerinas who produce such images of grace and beauty until you take off the pointe shoes. Wearing corsetry and the kind of bras that create the best cleavage will often mean I have callouses around my breasts or under my arms from the harsh rub of boning or underwire. My hair is so big and heavy as to sometimes give me headaches. Body hair removal has left me scarred from ingrown hairs, and makeup does horrible things to my poor skin..... What ends up being important for me in my gender performance is not flawlessness or perfection, but the warm inner glow of my arches being stretched in 6 inch heels, that feeling of tightness, of regulated movement from stern foundation garment and pencil skirts. Femme for me has always been a fetishistic expression of constraint and restriction - fierce rather than pretty. And as with most forms of fetish, it can certainly look ugly and/or incomprehensible to those that don't get it.

I get that femininity as defined by this culture ain't natural for anyone - as imposed on everyone with an F on their birth certificate, and denied to all those with an M it's a hideous form of social control. Femininity as a chosen tool and sex toy for femmes is so very much fun (at least as long as I can still walk in heels...)

*Please note - this post is all about my own ownership and expression of what femme means for me - I would never suggest that someone is not femme, or is less femme if they don't do the make up, heels, big hair or tight skirts. I think femme has the capacity for enormous fun and power, I want it to be available to anyone and everyone who wants to play - regardless of how they play it.