“Anti-prostitution” texts invisibilize sex workers, “pro sex worker” texts invisibilize clients. Or so it seems to me.

(This post is intentionally free of moral judgements on sexual matters. Different discussion, different day. Also this post has a lot of “I think” and “I feel” because it is written into a personal blog. I know my feelings don’t matter in the issue. I still can write them in a little blog of my own).

I’ve recently been reading up on debates on prostitution/sex work. I tried to read a fair amount of reasoning on both sides. I do not have a fixed position of my own – don’t feel entitled to one as this is very much “not my war” as I have never ever used the services of a sex worker/prostitute (and don’t plan to). I have not even chatted to one at any length (I would want to do that – chat, I mean). My general individualist liberal leanings, and my general aversion to anything Janice Raymond says, tend to the sex worker side of the debate, but I see problems on it too; I’m trying to stay objective and get educated. And I feel that texts on both sides have large, well defined blind spots.

With “anti-prostitution” the blind spot is obvious – those sex workers who actually do choose the profession, and some of whom blog for the other side. They are generally dismissed as frauds, or else somehow blamed for legitimizing the slavery of others by advertising their own choice. This is discussed in loads of places already, but for me personally, it is the largest weakness of the anti-prostitution side. Dismissing a set of those disagreeing with you as frauds and liars is just not on. (I don’t do that about Communists!).

The blind spot on the “pro sex worker” side is far from that obvious. And no, it is not those enslaved, commonly described as “trafficked” (though it seems “enslaved” would be a better word, as some women are actually forced in their own countries, while some others do travel, but of their own free and informed choice – I guess the sides are avoiding it because for some people slavery is a turn on, rather improper in this case…) . Anyway, pro sex worker texts do cover those enslaved/trafficked/forced, generally stating that it will be easier for such people to get help if they are not seen as criminals or as abetting criminals.

The invisible group are, strangely enough, the clients. They are mentioned sometimes, but as a force of nature or something. Not as human beings making choices. At least in the texts I have read!

Consider this fine guide on how to be an ally to sex workers: http://web.archive.org/web/20131220013744/http://www.chezstella.org/docs/StellaInfoSheetAllies2013.pdf?PHPSESSID=0003e023984a5a4cba2b00ec80c48a4e . It mentions dating one, being a friend, a family member, and has ideas what a responsible person would do in such situations. Somehow it never mentions being in a “professional relationship”.

Perhaps the author thinks that an ally should never be a user? It would be quite a valid view, but that statement is not included either. Besides it would not fit the general “pro sex work” narrative. It says that the non-forced sex worker is in it either to survive economically or out of career interest. So following from their logic, a responsible client either helps the woman survive (like, not being scrimpy) or, for a career lady, is working with her to expand the horizons of both sides.

But this is just my speculation. They don’t seem to write about clients and FOR clients at all. The anti side does, here is a post from presumably Rachel Moran intended to explain to the “good punters” the gross abuse they are guilty of: http://theprostitutionexperience.com/?p=193

Yet what shall the pro side say in this regard? Ehere is the “how to be a good client to a sex worker” post? Even on the very basics – how to make sure someone is not forced – I did not notice anything. And if I ever wanted to become a client, that would be the first thing I would want to know. I mean, if I were to choose to pay for sex, I would accept being pleased because the person needs to pay her bills; but if there is a gun to her head, I’d much rather spend the time in the police station prodding them to action.

So prospective “sex worker allies”, for whom there is a wealth of very interesting blogs, and the actual clients seem to be two very different crowds. And, honestly, I feel uneasy about it. The sex work narrative starts to break down at the client point (in my own little personal view, of course).

In that narrative, sex workers are service providers. But consider other providers. In software developer and network admin communities one can learn a lot about how to be a good user, to ask the right questions etc. A patient can learn a lot from doctor communities. A passenger, from railway worker ones (including the fact that trying to ride outside trains hurts real people a lot).

Yet with sex workers, community and professional interaction seem to exist in different worlds – why is that? Or am I reading the wrong places?

P.S. Of course, no sex worker or pro sex worker blogger owes me or any other random reader anything. This post is about my personal reaction and my personal observations..


The main real danger of TERF: political alliance with Right

As I follow “trans vs radfem” debates , it appears they often degenerate into competitions of ideological minutae about things like privilege. Honestly a time waste in my view.
What I am interested in is what affects real people, not abstract analysis of social structures.

And in that regard, the real danger from TERF activism to trans people does not seem to me to lie in “misgendering”, nor even in hate speech. While female violence against trans people does exist, like birdofparadox.wordpress.comc/2010/04/10/spain-two-cis-women-imprison-torture-and-murder-a-man-in-his-own-home/ or http://www.towleroad.com/2011/04/transgender.html, it is highly dubious the perps read TERF hate speech ( I suspect TERF would defend the latter as some bizarre form of self defence though),

Nor do TERF have any significant political influence on their own. But note “on their own”.

In 1980 Janice Raymond wrote a malicious, apparently intentionally anti-scientific, and quite possibly libelous piece, “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery, for the US Government“. Trans activists claim http://transgriot.blogspot.ie/2010/09/why-trans-community-hates-dr-janice-g.html “This paper effectively eliminated federal and state aid for indigent and imprisoned transsexuals. It has forced incarcerated trans people to file federal court cases to get back trans related medical treatment they lost as a result of Raymond’s transphobic pen.”

No, it did not. Janice Raymond was not a policitian or bureaucrat. She was a random alleged expert. Her paper was simply used to defend a decision made for political reasons by, ultimately. the Reagan administration. To give “feminist cred” to what was essentially a reactionary move.

Symbolically she became a condom with which people suffering from transsexualism were screwed over. But just the condom, not the dick. And as any used condom she was thrown away. You don’t see the “Nordic model” on prostitution introduced in the USA for all her calls – this proves the lady has no real power.

The same action continues to this day, as a set of highly suspicious right-wing clubs organize a collection of signatures against California’s AB1266, a rather harmless law on detail of school policy – and TERF cheer them on.

Sometimes they don’t hide their admiration for their right-wing big brothers. Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist turned Vatican hack who defended paedophilic priests, is universally cited by TERF as being against treatment of transsexuals (he is nearly the only known person with some form of real medical experience who they can dig up with this position – their beau Dr. Blanchard is in fact quite a supporter).

Earlier I could also point to Sheila Jeffreys’ admiration for the conservative Lords who tried to defeat the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004, but sadly the blog “hagocrat”, which hosted her articles, went offline. I suspect it was a copyright claim, and I don’t want to risk a copyright claim (there is a disproportionate amount of lawyers among TERF). I’ll try to fish for my saved copy and put fair use quotes in a separate post later.

But this admiration will only ever be one-sided. Right wing will gladly take the feminist cred, the claim to “defend women” – and then throw TERF away like a used condom after another victory. There will be, from their side, no rattling of restrictive gender roles, just more restrictions against those pesky trans.

And more wars, of course. But that one seems common to all major US political groups.


Blog killer

I was named a blog killer by a certain GallusMag, the anonymous person besides a blog that apparently exists to be a focus of hatemongery and to elicit and amplify negative response from various trans people and allies. (I suspect but can not prove that some of the negative response is also fabricated, with extensive use of sock puppets).

While the label is unfortunately undeserved it’s still nice to have!

Perhaps I should take this as a clue I should find the time to write more on other matters. I want similar labels from Islamists, US imperialist warmongers, Catholic irredentists, atheist irredentists, hardlne Marxists… oh, and copyright fundamentalists too!

Label in question: http://sexnotgender.com/2013/10/11/no-animal-research-on-this-website-humans-only/#comment-2799

(The linked blog is not the one described above. I will not link to hate speech).

The elephant in he US Budgetary room

The US economy is broke because of overwhelming military spending.

This went on since 2003. “Coinciding” with the aggression in Iraq, the interest rates were driven into essentially negative figures to mask the economic consequences of the war. These low interest rates fueled the boom that led to the 2007-8 bust.

Now they are fighting over a “debt ceiling” in Congress, with BOT sides ready to plunge the country deeper into debt, but the “conservatives” want Obamacare defunded as part of the bargain. Without debating the merits of Obamacare – this wil not resolvclve the issue as the debt will STILL increase. Conservative pundits saying it is a way to fix things miss their own aims.

Defund the military and do not raise the ceiling is my answer. And I really want to find some US politicians who would say that. Not seen in the media…


Notes on heterosexuality

NoAnodyne in Elizabeth Hungerford’s blog challenged me to deconstruct the definition of heterosexuality. This was in response to a debate on defining lesbians vs. trans, when I showed the definitions could be made equally subjective or objective. I responded to the challenge but as of now the comments are not approved, possibly because they are too long. Copying them here – don’t want the work to go to waste. (Note, “you” refers to Elizabeth as I got confused and thought the challenge, which I did find interesting, came from her).

  1. I’m generally not interested in defining lesbians, I was reverting your (actually NoAnodyne’s) practice of defining trans, and also referring to the attacks on Jan Clausen because she failed to meet someone’s definition. As far as I personally care, any woman who says she is a lesbian, can well be, and if others want to reject her from their particular circle of lesbians, they well can.

    But when a *political* movement (generally “GL”, rather than “lesbian”) wants legislation, this affects the whole society – just like the trans movement. I was showing that the level of social engineering and “legislating fiction” requested by the mainstream GL movement is in no way smaller than that requested by the mainstream trans movement.

    As for deconstructing “heterosexual”, that one is not so hard and indeed might amuse you. That word has a few definitions, often resulting in the same person being AND not being heterosexual for different observers. As I’m doing this in your blog I’ll keep the word “gender” out of it.

    On a social level “heterosexual”, or (perhaps a better fit to this definition) “straight”, is a bucket group applying to anyone who, for whatever reason, is known to be in sexual relations only with those perceived to be of the opposite sex to the person, and also to anyone who is not known to be in any sexual relationship at all, but has not expressed a preference for same-sex relationships. Yes, a default option applied from the outside, much like the one you don’t like, “cis”. Only, while “cis” is mainly applied by trans people or their allies, “straight” (and sometimes “heterosexual”) is applied by the majority.

    On an individual level “heterosexual” is a preference for relationships with people who the person perceives to be of the opposite sex to themselves. Sounds simple – but the exact meaning of “preference” here is a matter of fierce debate.

    Some claim that individual heterosexuality only applies when the preference is deeply felt, while if a person prefers such relationships for reasons of conviction (or convenience) yet has a feeling for same-sex relationships, the person is really bisexual or even in some cases homosexual. Other people dispute the claim. This is the dreaded “ex gay” debate, where both sides routinely resort to all sorts of smears.

    Even apart from that debate, there are loads of cases when external “straight” and individual “heterosexual” do not align. Some examples:

    – Men routinely raped in prisons are described in some prison-related subcultures (and sometimes in wider society, but not sure how that works in the USA) as homosexual, while their own preference is often heterosexual.

    – Some people have feelings for both sexes and sometimes identify as bisexual but, being in a long term relationship with someone perceived to be of the opposite sex, are seen socially as straight. For women this even encompasses the case when she had a relationship with another woman before; men are not as easily “forgiven for their past”, especially when there was no loud “conversion” involved.

    – And then, of course, there are trans people and there are people in relationships with trans people. There definitions can go all sort of crazy because there is what sex a person perceives oneself to be, what sex a person perceives their partner to be, and what sex various parts of society perceive each of them to be.

    To summarize – “heterosexual” is really not that meaningful. The only objective part is who any person is with currently, but even there you can have a BIG can of worms sometimes, even when no rape or violence is involved.

    I really think sexual attraction is a fluid complicated thing (there was a reason I repeatedly mentioned Jan Clausen). Labels, including “heterosexual”, were made up for convenience or in early research (Kinsey, who was great for his day but relied on “snapshots” at a fixed time, for all I know he did not do long term follow up). These labels fail to stand at detailed scrutiny. “Heterosexual”/”straight” is probably the most fickle of them all, because of the tendency to stick it on someone as a default.

    To make it a simple slogan, “stop sticking labels on people”. Applies to all orientation labels and to all sides.

    Bringing it right back to the main subject of discussion, this complicated mess of definitions is why I would prefer to subsume sexual orientation (and gender identity) discrimination law into “behaviour stereotypically associated with sex” (which is how California defines gender expression). I *hate* the idea that someone would have to stand in court and prove their “sexual orientation”. But even if the court simply takes people at their word (which won’t happen as employers have lawyers), there can be cases where one is discriminated for being perceived as gay, but actually identifies as heterosexual.

    For example, take a man discriminated for being in a relationship with a trans woman, whom he perceives as a woman. He can not say under oath “I am gay”, nor is he trans himself, which might prevent him from claiming discrimination for either sexual orientation or gender identity. Only a sex stereotyping / gender expression law is sure to protect him.

    Leave sexual choice (among adults) to themselves, keep labels out of it, keep employers and other people who a person does not let into their private sphere WAY out of it (and build a legal wall keeping them out, too). That’s my “libertarian ethic” applied.

    Yes, the approach does not lend itself to class analysis, except if you construct a class of all people whose behaviour is not approved by a majority because of sex stereotypes. Call that class “queer”. The problem is that “queer” is probably a majority itself as most people disconnect from sex stereotypes somewhere. So we still get no useful classes.

  2. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    After posting, I did think of a “biologized” definition of heterosexuality, which would be exclusive or predominant attraction to the opposite biological sex irrespective of personal perception. I think such a definition is meaningless because personal perception is a part of the way sexual attraction works. One is attracted after perceiving a person to be of some sex, not before. But I have constructed an experiment to determine orientation of this definition and I would love to be a subject.

    Take photos of faces of a number of people in two makeup sets. One heavy “male”, the other heavy “female”. Have a theatrical professional do the makeup. Have some of the subjects a different ethnicity from the subject’s surroundings, so the hints the subject has learned in life also does not work. (For example, for experiments in Europe or the USA, have the photo sets done in Japan – they have great gender makeup artists there working in Kabuki and Takarazuka, and their faces are not very gendered for European eyes too).

    Present the photo sets to the subject (each subject has two separate runs, with one set and the other). Ask the subject to evaluate the relative sexual attractiveness of people within each set (not comparing between the sets but giving a 1-10 grade to everyone in a set). Ideally use objective measures to evaluate attraction too.

    This experiment would rule out gender presentation and measure sexual attraction to sex only. My hypothesis is an “everyone is bisexual” result.

  3. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    …you got me started on heterosexuality. Knowing more about it just means I can deconstruct more. And the thought trail got me to a clear statement.

    (1) Sexual orientation used as an identity is harmful
    (2) Heterosexuality is the most harmful of them all

    The harm of any sexual-orientation-as-identity is that it is tacked on then the person is expected to conform. A boy has a crush on another boy, is welcomed into the gay community, then can be shamed as “not true” for liking a girl. (There is a lot of “biphobia” in lesbian circles too, I have that from bi female friends).

    The specific harm of heterosexuality-as-identity is in how far some people go to preserve it. Cases like the murder of Gwen Araujo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Gwen_Araujo are described by trans authors based on who the victim is (transphobic) and by radfem authors based on who the perpetrators are (male violence). None of these narratives touch upon the likely motive. The perpetrators were sexually attracted to Gwen, perceiving her as a woman, and had oral sexual intercourse with her because of this attraction. Then they found out she was physically male. What was threatened was not their sexual integrity (she did not attempt to use her penis on them), it was their identity as “heterosexual”. And they decided to kill her to “erase” the “violation” of their identity, the fact that they were attracted to a person whom they now, retroactively, perceived as a man.

    And I can, indeed, be described as “heterosexual”. Still I consider heterosexual identity especially harmful. No contradiction, just “libertarian ethics”. I identify with what I choose, not with what I feel. I identify as married to a certain woman, not as heterosexual. You are not cis? Fine, I am not het.

On where I work

In case anyone needs to know, I work for IBM in Ireland.

ALL OPINIONS, STATEMENTS, AND ANY OTHER SPEECH IN ANY OF MY PERSONAL INTERNET ACCOUNTS, OR SIGNED BY ME, OR POSTED ANONYMOUSLY BY ME, OR ORIGINATING FROM ME IN ANY WAY, DO NOT REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF IBM, ANY OF ITS DEPARTMENTS, MANAGERS, OR PARTNERS. Even if I happen to discuss IBM products, actions, or history, this is a personal position ONLY. An exception is any material published through official IBM channels or on an IBM Web site.

Keeping my place of work a secret is impossible, I was “outed” at least once.

Please. Pretty please. If anyone wants to mention where I work, link here instead. I don’t want to have to carry a disclaimer to every single post I ever make.

On why the “gender critical” arguments are to be rebutted not rejected

This was originally written as a comment here: http://feministsfightingtransphobia.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/not-up-for-debate-and-putting-solidarity-in-action ; editing as a post because I think the point is important. Disclaimer: I do not identify as a feminist (though, being an individualist liberal, subscribe to many of the same political/social beliefs as liberal feminists do). i use the word “feminist” extensively because the context is about a feminist document, and because “gender critical” authors are trying to claim they represent feminism; really the issue is wider than one movement.

Real issues affecting the lives of most trans people are not decided by any form of feminists, TERF or otherwise. Only a minority of trans people are interested in feminist activism, but all are affected by government policy on issues like identification and access to treatment. This policy is decided by politicians and the electorate, not by feminists. The “gender critical” side appears to be working on a two pronged strategy: presenting an outwardly convincing theoretical rebuttal to trans rights that looks pro-woman rather than fundamentalist and ideally appeals to a broad part of the female electorate, and at the same time presenting trans people and their allies as bullies, aggressors, etc.

They do not stand a chance of getting anywhere close to enough support on their own to mater in anything practical. But there is a very real risk of conservative politicians using their theories – as well as their presentation of trans people as unstable etc – as a part of a political attack on trans people. This could, for the fundies, be a way of rebounding after losing their battle on same-sex marriage. And this could be extremely dangerous – especially here in Western Europe where transition is, currently. usually covered by state-funded medicine.

For that battle, a powerful feminist theoretical response to their outwardly rational theories might be a strong weapon. I do get your point of a boycott as a way to disallow them to appropriate feminism as a whole for a political battle. But, whether or not you engage them as persons, it appears to be quite important to have ready responses to their repeatedly proffered points. Ideally to publish some sort of “101″ that lists these points one by one with a coherent response to each. (I did some little attempts in my blog but, I guess, they don’t amount to much – though perhaps my exposure of some alleged doctors they quote might prove useful).

Such a list could also serve a therapeutic purpose for trans people feeling bad about “hurting women” after reading some “gender critical” texts. I think that some of the signatories to that statement could do a great job of this one.

Another part is their (“gender critical” radfem) repeated claims of “rape/violence threats” from “trans activists”. These should be investigated. I recently have a feeling they might be the work of transphobic sock puppets, and exposing such could be quite good for any upcoming political battles.