Well, it looks like anti-choice activists have finally decided to stop fucking around and get serious about stopping abortion. In order to stop the alleged murder of thousands of “babies” in their mothers’ wombs, a site calling itself Until Abortion Ends: A Hero Initiative is encouraging people to send in videos and stories about making sacrifices to end the baby holocaust wrought upon the country by the godless feminists.”Tell us what you are willing to sacrifice for the unborn,” the site’s submission form says. “With your sacrifice you will inspire others to do the same.”
Ed Brayton calls this quote by Bryan Fischer, the notoriously vicious Director of Issue Analysis at the American Family Association, “The Dumbest Thing Ever Said.” I don’t know if I quite go for that: it’s got some pretty stiff competition. The Reagan Administration alone provides piles and piles of political bullshit, and that only takes us up to 1988. Then you have to sift through another eight years of the George H.W. Bush years (starring Dan Quayle!), the crazed, drooling anti-Clinton paranoia of the eight years after that, and then finally the Shrub years, which may have triggered some tonic-clonic seizures as a result of all the facepalming I did in that time. Yes, the last thirty years of political culture have been heavy on the stupid, not to mention the sheer horrific. Fischer’s essay, in which he argues that Muslims—and by extension all non-Christian—have no First Amendment rights really falls more properly into that second category. The really horrifying thing is how used to hearing this sort of thing I’ve become.
Arizona teabaggers now think that the next step towards shipping us all off into a gulag is public trash collection:
A decision by the Fountain Hills Town Council to hire a single trash hauler and begin a curbside recycling program has been met with angry protests from residents who accuse town leaders of overstepping their bounds and taking a leap toward socialism. [Read more…]
This is something to be optimistic about. Ms. Magazine has long been ambivalent at best about the rights of sex workers. Far more commonly, they’ve fallen in the camp which casts all sex workers as equally victimized, as “trafficked” or “prostituted women.” When something as unreservedly pro-sex work as this piece shows up in such a standby of mainstream feminism as Ms., it says something profound. I was heartbroken to see $pread‘s demise recently, but this kind of acceptance can be said to be its legacy: [Read more…]
It’s Election Day 2008 and I’m sitting in the Berkeley hills, looking across the Bay at San Francisco. My stomach is filled with butterflies edging, occasionally trying to edge itself into outright nausea at the thought of what’s at stake today. It’s not just the decision of Obama vs. McCain. That’s deadly important, but here in California, there’s a lot of very important stuff happening too. On the state level, they’re fighting the battle over Proposition 8, which would undo the State Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage legal, and Proposition 4, your standard parental-notification for abortion law. The airwaves have been filled with ads for and against, and the result of either is just impossible to forecast right now. And then, right across the Bay that’s outside my window, there’s Prop. K, a city ordinance that would decriminalize prostitution within the City and County of San Francisco.
Of course K has everyone in a fury, for and against, and we’re seeing the same old hysteria surface. A vote for Prop K, according to its opponents, is a vote for slavery. The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, has been particularly vocal about this equation.
The idea that prostitution is innately connected to enslavement and trafficking has a long and shameful history. It’s not something that Melissa Farley merely pulled out of her ass, no matter where the rest of her research may come from. Reason Magazine has a really interesting review of Sin in the Second City, a history of prostitution in Chicago by Karen Abbot, which sheds some light on how the myth of “white slavery” has developed over the past century, and how it’s been used by both activists and the law to control the discussion of sex work as work:
The attempt to portray prostitutes as professionals never made much headway against the tendency to view them as victims. At the beginning of Sin in the Second City, Abbott describes an event in 1887 that forever changed the American public’s perception of sex workers. Authorities raided a Michigan lumber camp, finding nine women working as prostitutes. Eight accepted their prison sentences, but the ninth woman protested that she was tortured and forced into sex slavery. The lumberyard proprietors claimed the women were well aware of what they were hired to do;”the job description,” Abbott notes, “made no mention of cutting trees.” But the public was so moved by the woman’s story that she was pardoned and released from jail.
It was 20 years before another case of “white slavery” was reported in a Midwestern newspaper. But in the meantime, rumors of girls who were “trafficked” into sex slavery began to circulate. In 1899 the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union missionary Charlton Edholm reported, “There is a slave trade in this country, and it is not black folks at this time, but little white girls — thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, and seventeen years of age — and they are snatched out of our arms, and from our Sabbath schools and from our Communion tables.” Perhaps they found themselves in a “false employment snare,” in which a young rural girl answered a city want ad and found herself locked in a brothel, her clothes held for ransom. Or maybe a gentleman from the big city, after plying her with drinks or drugs, deflowered her and sold her to a pimp.
Around the same time, anti-prostitution evangelical groups revised their platforms. Victorian society previously had reviled prostitutes as lost women who reduced men to animals. The rhetorical shift conveniently removed the prostitute’s responsibility for her actions.
The review is well worth a read, especially today. Looking forward on Election Day is great, but it’s even more ideal if you can be like the Roman god Janus, looking forward and back at the same time.
As is true of a lot of people in the sex-positive community, I’ve been thinking a lot about Deborah Jean Palfrey’s death this past week. I didn’t know her personally, and never met her in person, so I can’t speak of her death in terms of personal tragedy or grief. But grief and anger are what I’m feeling, because Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s fate could have been written onto the lives of so many women and men. And the anger comes from the fact that it has, and it will be.
The real tragedy of her death, from where I’m standing, is not anything extraordinary about her story, but how common and familiar it is, to the point of being clichÃ©. If the story of Deborah Jean Palfrey had been laid out in a novel or play or screenplay, I would be angry at having my time wasted by a writer who was unable or unwilling to rise above cheap hackery that was old and worn out in the days of the Victorian penny dreadfuls. But Palfrey was a real person, and it makes me sick and angry to think how often the lives of people who should live peaceful, untroubled lives are forced into old patterns.
I highly recommend that you check out the interview with Carol Queen that we’ve just put up at Sex in the Public Square. Carol is one of the most fascinating, intellectually alive people I’ve ever known, and although this interview was done in 2005, it’s an excellent look at her ideas and her history and if you haven’t read her already, it gives you a sense of her voice. Props to Sabrina Chapadjiev, who conducted the interview and published it originally in her ‘zine Cliterati. Below is a short excerpt from the interview to whet your appetite:
I think I have a crush on Miss Victoria X. It’s true that I don’t patronize pro-dommes, partly because of a budget that, in a particularly profitable month, might allow me to purchase the privilege of a scornfully lifted eyebrow from one as she passes me in midtown Manhattan on the way to beat the hell out of some corporate lackey at the Plaza. However, were I in the market, I think that Miss Victoria X would be on my list.
I found Miss Victoria via another tip from Sarah Jenny. Miss Victoria’s heart, it seems, has been melted by the plight of the poor employees at Bear Stearns, and she’s providing a special offer to employees, ex-employees, and soon-to-be-exes: if you buy a session with Miss Victoria, she’ll give a discount equal to the price of one share of Bear Stearns stock. When she first made her offer, BS stock was at two dollars, which wouldn’t buy you a lattÃ© at Starbucks; the discount has risen with the price of the stock, and now stands at $10.85. Miss Victoria, in her utter benevolence, has already come up with several potential scenarios for her clients:
-domestic service training (useful in preparing for future job as a janitor at Goldman Sachs)
-spanking combined with verbal chastising (“Caused!” -whack- “Sub-prime!” -whack- “Crisis!” -whack- “Very!” -whack- “Very!” -whack- “Naughty!” -whack whack whack-)
-78 cane strokes (number chosen to represent the difference between Bear Stearns’ $80 per share book value and the actual current share price of $2)
-interrogation roleplay (I am Coughlin Stoia and you are Bear Stearns. Helpful in preparing for upcoming deposition)
-master/slave roleplay (I am JP Morgan and you are Bear Stearns. Now I own you)
Potential clients will be asked to arrive with $300 cash. The discount will be given in ten one-dollar bills, three quarters, one nickel, and four pennies. The client will receive them one at a time, and will thank Miss Victoria for her generosity after each.
This is great marketing, yes, but it’s also great satire. After looking over Miss Victoria’s blog as a whole, it got an immediate spot on my blogroll and on my daily feed. She has a really wry, sharp sense of humor about sex work and it never takes the snark into the smug self-satisfaction that characterizes a lot of blogs.