You Can Add Fear Of Female Sexual Autonomy & Sex Workers To That List

I have two new girlie crushes: Alli Coates & Signe Pierce. I became smitten upon viewing this, American Reflexxx, a short film documenting a social experiment that took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Alli Coates filmed performance artist Signe Pierce as she strutted down a busy oceanside street in stripper garb and a reflective mask. The pair agreed not to communicate until the experiment was completed, but never anticipated the horror that would unfold in under an hour.

The result is a heart wrenching technicolor spectacle that raises questions about gender stereotypes, mob mentality, and violence in America.

You can add fear of female sexual autonomy and sex workers to that list.

See also: Inside the Hot Pink Barbie Bungalow of Artists, “Cyberfeminists” and Real-Life Couple Signe Pierce and Alli Coates.

Why Violence Against Sex Workers Is A Very Real & Feminist Issue

For those of you who have not yet read the long account of the terrible situation Jill Brenneman & Amanda Brooks find themselves in, get a cup of coffee and go do so.

lifetime_moviesTheir several year long ordeal reads like a Lifetime movie. It has all the sensational elements that are de rigueur in those films: betrayal, stalking, abuse, rape, bad medical diagnoses, a failed justice system, and, yes, female heroics. Unlike the made for TV movies, Amanda & Jill have not emerged victorious. While there may yet be time and help for Amanda, Jill’s sentence is sadly set. Jill is living as a murder victim on borrowed time.

The story begins with a wealthy client of Amanda’s who just happens to own his own airplane. This client, dubbed “Pig”, is a poor pilot. His bad landing results in physical injuries to both Amanda and Jill. His privilege and clout as a wealthy white man leads to poor medical help, resulting in even worse physical care. Amanda is left with permanent brain damage. This client then becomes clingy and possessive, attempting to hold Amanda hostage, proposing a trade of her services for his payment of her unpaid medical bills ~ bills he ought to be paying anyway. Pig’s fantasies of just who owes who what include his “right” to Amanda. He rapes her. More than once. Despite having a serious diagnosis and no medical insurance to assist with treatment, Amanda breaks all contact with the client. His desperate response is to seek out Jill for information on Amanda. The client sends goons ~ not just to intimidate Jill, but to physically beat and rape her. Jill does not provide the information they seek. The physical abuse Jill endures leads to injuries which do not simply threaten her life, but will end it. It isn’t a matter of “if”, but just “when” she will die. While Jill refuses to be called a hero, she withstands the continued brutal terrorism and never divulges where Amanda is. (We wouldn’t fault a trained soldier in a time of war for breaking down and confessing something; but Jill withstands her torture and confesses nothing.) Through it all, the two women seek legal recourse, including restraining orders and law suits for medical damages. None of these legal options produce anything other than more pain. The goons continue, yes; but there’s emotional abuse and betrayal as well. Amanda’s family accuses her of being “greedy” in her legal action against the client; friends, including other sex workers, cooperate with the client & his goons, providing information about their location & activities. Alone & isolated, Amanda and Jill go into serious hiding, cutting themselves off from virtually every human they knew. But because money is needed to survive (and hopefully get her much-needed surgery), Amanda, who is the only one to care for Jill, must continue to work as escort ~ despite her physical & emotional pain and further risk to her life.

While there was considerable coverage of the attack on porn star Christy Mack, Amanda & Jill’s horrific story remains largely uncovered by anyone in the media. Aside from an interview at Tits & Sass, a few tweets, etc., there’s little awareness. Sure, a porn star has more “celebrity status” than virtually every other type of sex worker, but I still believe there’s the old porn star ~ sex worker divide at work here.

international day to end violence against sex workers hashtagFrankly, the whole thing reeks of sexism. It’s more than a story to focus on today, December 17th, International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers (#IDEVASW on Twitter); it’s a matter of feminism and violence against women.

For some, the story is too sensational to be believed, too far from their realities to be comprehended. Hell, it’s a hard story for anyone to digest. But it’s all too real and relatable.

If you replace the airplane incident with a car accident, if you replace the role of client with a non-paying date, you have the story of potentially any woman. From the sexist dismissal in terms of both medical treatment and legal recourse, to the slut-shamming & victim-blaming of acquaintance rape , stalking & abuse, everywhere there’s the stink of male privilege. Wealthy, white, male privilege even turned things more fantastic, allowing the domestic-violence-esque client to hire goons rather than count on his friends to do his dirty work. The inability to get proper care, protection, and even to be believed is something that any woman who has experienced domestic violence, rape, or otherwise sought justice in our very male legal system knows. This, sadly, could be the story of any woman.

The fact that they’re sex workers, with even less legal standing and protections, is just the ugly, bitter, frosting on top of this painful cluster-fuck of a cake.

don-t-keep-calm-and-stop-violence-against-womenJill & Amanda have been discredited, disbelieved, bullied, and further victimized, both by “the system” and peers alike. Yes, peers too. As a survivor, I’ve worked with a number of survivor of rape and violence and know all-too-well how folks want to believe they themselves are safe from such things. For example, women will lock their doors & widows at night, even though they know the fact is that those they lock in are more dangerous than those they lock out. In attempts to cement this reality that they are safe, they will focus on how they have insulated themselves from danger ~ and how the victims must not have. Likewise, sex workers want to believe in all the precautions they take in their work makes them immune from the dangers ~ and when stories like Jill & Amanda’s surface, some will want to see where Jill & Amanda “went wrong” or “deserved it”. To those who think this way, congrats, you’ve further solidified your faux visions of personal safety ~ even as you’ve further joined the number of asshats who would further victimize and stigmatize victims.

For those of you who want to make a real impact, there are things you can do. Yes, you can actively participate in conversations and movements to affect changes that protect the rights of women and sex workers; but you can also help Amanda & Jill directly.

donate11) You can safely & anonymously donate money to help cover their living expenses and medical costs. All you need to do is copy this email address, abrooks2014 AT hush.com, and then click to visit GiftRocket where you will paste the email address into the form. You can send a note along if you wish.

2) Spread the word about Jill & Amanda’s story ~ including information about how to help them. Make some noise! This most certainly includes any media or legal contacts you may have.

Say It With Me Now: “BDSM Is Not Violence”

whores_ink_christy_mack_rough_oralThe gruesome attack on adult film star and model Christy Mack certainly has exposed the horrible, ugly faces of misogyny, victim blaming, slut shaming, and the like. Right in the open, in the harsh light of of social media and the Internet, where nothing can really ever be redacted, people are exposing hate & ignorance.

This, of course, extends to the utter myth-information about BDSM. Go ahead; read that. When you return, I will, again, direct you to facts here, here, & here.

Image Credits: Christy Mack in Whores Ink.

Fracking, Stripping, Speaking: The Sexual Politics of Sex Work

See on Scoop.itSex Work

The implication is that with the insufficient “supply” of women, tempting men with a hint of sexuality is too dangerous. This is almost a textbook example of victim-blaming, in which victims of sexual assault or aggression are construed to have been asking for it based on non-verbal cues, such as clothing, demeanor or profession. This sort of rhetoric flares up in large-scale rape cases. While covering the alleged rape of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, known in the media as the Maryville case, an expert witness on Fox Newssaid, “What did she expect to happen at 1am in the morning after sneaking out?” The example in the New York Times article is a variation on the same concept; the woman is cautioned that she should adjust her behavior because this will either tempt or invite sexual aggression from men. It is not the man’s responsibility to not rape women; it is the woman’s responsibility to not ‘ask for it’.

 

It may seem redundant to point out the commodification of female flesh in the industry of sex work. However, the issue at hand is specifically the rationalization that it is a simple function of the influx of men that creates conditions fertile for exploitation and predation. Critically absent from this discourse is a question as to why the men in Williston engage in this behavior. Ara Wilson, an associate professor of women’s studies at Duke University, points out that the definition of capitalist markets as “benign vehicles” that merely channel “wants, needs, and desires” overlooks the fact that “desires can be fostered and created.” Anybody can see how a sense of necessity did not precede the existence of consumer goods like smart phones, jewelry, or the millions of toys produced each year. However, with sex work, it’s taken as a given that desire precedes the market, and Wilson notes that a discussion of the creation of desire for sex work “remain[s] surprisingly unexamined”.

Gracie Passette‘s insight:

Overall an excellent essay; however, it does not make distinctions between sex & rape. Sex work is about delivering a consensual service; rape is not about sex ~ it is about violence.

 

See also: http://www.cultofgracie.com/2012/02/28/oil-isnt-the-only-slick-smarmy-thing-in-williston-nd/

See on www.brownpoliticalreview.org

BDSM, Porn, & Rape

The one good thing about today is that I don’t need to defend BDSM in general; Jessica Wakeman and Clarisse Thorn, among others, have taken care of that. But I still have some work to do…

Today’s issue in BDSM is in regards to Michelle Solomon’s post on porn and sexual violence. In her post, Solomon fairly presents studies on the subject and makes some excellent points too. Among the, the following distinction about rape:

[R]ape is a physically and obviously violent act. Yes, in some cases, rape is exactly that. But according to the South African Victims of Crimes Survey 2012 [pdf] three out of four sexual offences – including rape – are committed by someone known the victim. One in two rapes happens in someone’s home. Therefore, the large majority of rapes are not committed in some overt act of violence. If someone is coerced into doing certain sexual acts, even without the explicit threat of violence, it is still rape. Coerced sex =/= consent. The key point here is consent. No consent = rape. (See the Sexual Offences Act, here [pdf].)

However, that very distinction seems to be missing when discussing “sexual violence in media”. This error is made most of all when it comes to a study published in The Journal of Sex Research (May, 2000), a study which “measures the sexually violent content in magazine, video, and Usenet (Internet newsgroup) pornography. Specifically, the level of violence, the amount of consensual and nonconsensual violence, and the gender of both victim and victimizer are compared.” In the discussion of this study, Solomon offers the following chart along with some analysis:

sexual violence media graphYou can see that the researchers found that sexual violence generally in online porn and was really high – over 42% of the media sampled has some form of sexual violence. Both magazine and video porn had around 25% of scenes with any kind of sexual violence. That’s one in four scenes. The magazine and video porn had various kinds of sexual violence, and doesn’t seem to focus very much on any single one. Online porn was another story though – 25% involved some kind of bondage or confinement, 16% involved a weapon, and 9% had torture and mutilation. I’d say that’s a pretty strong link between porn and sexual violence.

To be fair, Solomon is discussing someone else’s study; which means the language, definitions, etc., are the work of the authors and not Solomon’s. But still, neither the authors of the paper nor Solomon seem to pay much heed to the impossibility of the statement regarding “consensual and nonconsensual violence” ~ particularly, the concept of “consensual violence”.

Violence by definition is unwanted and nonconsensual. Which is why there is the whole safe, sane, and consensual part of BDSM ~ most often identified by the concept and practice of a safe word. I repeat, violence and violent acts violate safety. And, like Wakeman says, “Who doesn’t “believe” in safety? Safety is not like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. It’s not something you have to suspend disbelief to achieve. Safety exists or it doesn’t exist.”

As I’ve noted before, negative assumptions about BDSM contradict reality. Yes, there are problems in BDSM; there are problems everywhere. But BDSM practices, rape fantasies, and the like ~ in our minds, in porn or in our lives ~ are not actual rape; nor must one lead to the other.

On a related note, see also: Porn Use Impacts Sexual Behavior Less Than You Might Think, Says Study.