Prohibition. It has a long and noble history of totally working exactly as intended. So it’s not at all telling when a group says “we need to ban X to save the people who are doing X!”
Case in point: New Zealand First’s latest bandwagon-jump, onto the eternal tribulations of South Auckland street corners.
“So far the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective has received about $8.6 million from the Ministry of Health to help tackle these issues. But there is another way that would prove to be effective.
“Our Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Amendment Bill would ban all street prostitution and confine sex work to brothels.
Or the men of South Auckland could stop picking up sex workers on street corners, like they’ve been doing since long before prostitution was decriminalized in New Zealand.
But clearly Lole-Taylor is on to a serious issue here. After all:
Of major concern is the growing prevalence of girls as young as 13 offering themselves for sale on the streets of South Auckland.
Um, hang on.
13-year-olds can’t consent to sex, much less to sex work. But Lole-Taylor isn’t saying “we’re concerned about child-abusing pimps trafficking young girls”, she’s saying it’s concerning that so many young girls are slappers.
By using the phrase “offering themselves”, Lole-Taylor clearly implies that they are consenting, and that their behaviour is the cause for concern. She further goes on to refer to them as making “a choice”. We don’t let 13-year-olds sign binding employment contracts to deliver pizza, Mrs Lole-Taylor. Why is it suddenly okay to act like underage sex workers are entirely to blame?
Not to mention the fact that apparently Mrs Lole-Taylor knows of many 13-year-olds being forced into sex work and thinks the correct response is “holding a forum”, not “calling the police“.
It’s a tired old story. Drum up social panic. Hold a town hall meeting. Listen to the Good Men Of The City decry the Plague of [anti-sex work slurs] Upon Our Streets and advocate for Law Which Recognises The Community’s Needs.
Pay no attention when they sneak out at 2am to cruise Hunters Corner and rape 13-year-olds.
Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer thinks Something Must Be Done about small owner-operated brothels in residential areas.
It’s the same old, same old. Because apparently residential brothels only exist because the operators are disgusting jezebels seeking to taint Innocent Family Suburbs with their degeneracy. It’s not because, um, men and even women from said Innocent Family Suburbs might, you know, occasionally employ the services of sex workers. No no no, it’s all gross people from [insert probably lower-class surburb of your choice here] who like to cross town to get their ends away, again because they want to ruin Cameron Brewer’s quiet, paradisaical cul-de-sac.
And it is of course appalling that brothels might be operated close to schools, because it’s not like sex workers are human beings who might have school-age kids and find it convenient to work in their own neighbourhoods with flexible hours to allow them to pick the kids up at 3 (wait, that would mean that the disgusting jezebels live in Good Family Suburbs, and we all know they live in [insert probably lower-class suburb of your choice here] in gang pads/state housing/meth labs).
And it’s not like sex workers go to community centres, or church – and hang on, it’s not like churches are a 100%-a-okay institution, because let me tell you given a choice between a small owner-operated business running itself quietly behind a quaint villa door or a branch of Destiny’s Church? I will take the hookers any fucking day.
Anyway, Cameron Brewer is concerned about serious problems, yo. Like, um, traffic (betcha some residents of Sandringham would take the “traffic” of one, two, say five small brothels over the drunken mobs of Eden fucking Park) and, um, lighting (which is just fine if you’re in a super-wealthy subdivision running obnoxious Christmas installations) and OH WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN.
Because obviously the only people who would ever use the services of sex workers must be child molesters, too. I mean, that’s why there’s not really that many brothels around, because they only cater to freaks, WAIT NO, um, there’s too many brothels because, um, disgusting jezebels are happy to run at a loss if it Damages The Foundations Of Society. And freaks have lots of money. Which means they’re kinda successful, but only, um, because they’re running brothels too! And probably selling drugs. Drug-dealing pimps are propping up the sex industry. Yeah. That makes sense.
If there’s one thing I cannot fucking stand in the discussions around sex work in this country (any country, really) it’s that fucking paradox: No Real Man Would Go To A Brothel, yet somehow They Are Everywhere And Destroying Our Families. With their low levels of patronage. Which you see every day.
Councillor Brewer, maybe you’re the one Good Decent Man who villifies sex work and can actually say he’s never paid for sex. That would be refreshing. You’d still have your head up your ass. There’s a reason it’s nicknamed the world’s oldest profession.
Welcome to the 40th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival. I am your stunning hostess, Queen of Thorns, “QoT” to my friends and “single-handed destroyer of progressive NZ politics” to my trolls.
I’m entirely enamoured of the fact that 40 in Roman numerals is XL, so I’m putting our plus-size Antipodean bloggers up first:
New study shows correlation between fatness and selling one’s soul to Satan
Definatalie writes about re-learning her love of cycling. sleepydumpling at Fat Heffalump talks about Why I Don’t Diet and Fixing the Relationship with Food. Bri at Fat Lot of Good sees that fat-shaming is now getting aimed at four-year-olds to the extent some are developing a fear of food.
sleepydumpling is on a crusade, people. A crusade for all super-fatties, deathfats, people who just cannot find clothes in their size for love nor money. Warning: utter fuckwittery in the comments. Remember, fatshion is activism. And no, fat acceptance will not in fact kill you.
There’s been discussion lately about the role of the fatosphere on people’s perceptions and lives. Dr Samantha Thomas has done a for-real ivory-tower-shaking academic paper on how the fatosphere proactively challenges fat stigma, and sleepydumpling covers the same topic in Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Shame. Sonya at Lipmag was one of the interviewees for Dr Thomas’ paper.
The body plays a huge (BOOM BOOM!) role in a lot of feminist discussion, and things always get good and heated around one fact in particular: pregnancy and how you are probably Doing It Rong right this minute.
You read a book while pregnant? You’re gonna DIE!!!
Feminethicist posts a quick note about double standards around scars – especially stretch marks. Aussie MP Andrew Laming fights the good fight for homebirths. Bluebec confronts the notion that any particular way of having babies is “unnatural”.
Pregnancy isn’t always wanted or continued, of course, and that’s why apparently I have to keep explaining that the “right to life” movement are a bunch of wanks with the intellectual honesty of a guppy.
And of course once Junior makes it out into the world it’s all downhill for progressive parents, who simply cannot win. Ever.
Buy this Mozart CD or your baby will sprout wings!
Blue milk continues to post on her presentation on feminist parenting. Part 4 covers “what is feminist parenting?” and Part 5 looks at the difficulties with being a feminist parent. She also talks about the idea that some parents are too sexy to breastfeed – and provides a challenge with a follow-up post on glamorous images of breastfeeding. Another post discusses pro-feminist fathers.
Breastfeeding also shows up as a really nifty shorthand for “crazy woman” in the Game of Thrones series, as discussed at Hoyden About Town.
Bee of a Certain Age talks about learning to love after having her children.
Our kids just aren’t getting a break: Lessons to be Learned covers the Toddlers and Tiaras phenomenon and blue milk looks at high fashion’s role in sexualising girls. Feminethicist has been having some fun challenging the heteronormativity when people play joke-matchmaker with babies.
Unsurprisingly, I did not take kindly to Family First’s insinuations that some families are just “obviously” worse than others.
For further reading, Mindy at Hoyden About Town has reviewed The 21st Century Motherhood Movement.
Where does a lot of this crap come from? Our wonderful media, of course.
This just in: reading mainstream media could be the reason you’re really angry all the time
Feminethicist is just thrilled by a camera app that makes your romantic partner look tolerable again. I have a slight issue with bra companies’ media releases being treated as scientific fact, with a sprinkling of obesity panic on top.
LudditeJourno, posting at The Hand Mirror, covers Michael bloody Lhaws’ preference for referring to poor brown people as “feral” and coleytangerina at The Lady Garden gets freaked out by news of a “cougar attack” … then a tad depressed.
Emma at Lip asks where the strong women are in literature. Kate Barker discusses anti-feminist imagery. Cara at Life is a feminist issue talks about our media ban on reporting suicide, and whether that’s really looking all that effective.
MJ at Kiwiana (inked) tells Stuff where they can shove their scare quotes when reporting on domestic violence.
Time for something a bit more positive:
Retrospective: awesome women being awesome
Penguin Unearthed talks about Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir as part of her Travelling Feminist posts – here’s another on Norway. The Hoydens share the news that Sensei Keiko Fukuda has become the only woman ever granted the 10th degree black belt in judo. Double Antandre talks about Nancy Wake.
Another big issue of the past month has been identity, especially given Google’s being douchebags about what’s considered a “real” name (all the more aggravating because it’s based on needing “real” demographics to sell to shitbox marketers).
I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine
Chally talks about the kinds of history that go into building identity. blue milk passes on information on the My Name is Me project created in response to Google+ being douches. Giovanni talks about Google+, identity and cyberpunk.
Where does a lot of identity come from? Our “race”, social construct that it is, and religion, and culture, and all other kinds of pretty touchy issues.
Nothing witty to put here
Mindmadeup asks if Australia is a racist nation. Chally confronts racism at the bus stop. stargazer discusses how the “default is male” concept extends to commentary about Muslims. stargazer also posted about the start of Ramadan.
Queen Emily at Questioning Transphobia asks “When am I trans?” and when trans people are “real”.
Love and Marriage
In happier news, Rachel is getting hitched! Of course, planning a wedding doesn’t get any easier when you’re a feminist so she’s provided a handy Guide to Feminist Wedding Planning. News With Nipples covers some tragi-comic anti-marriage-equality protests. Hayley at Equal Love Equal Rights posts on marriage equality.
Mr Wainscotting is pleased to announce the launch of Legalise Love, a group looking to get some actual marriage equality happening in NZ. Idiot/Savant has been taking an interest in our MPs’ views on the subject: here he is on Hone Harawira and David Parker (and it’s not good news).
As Chally notes, though, we shouldn’t devalue single women.
Then there’s some perennial issues for feminist bloggers:
stargazer helped produce a session on poverty at the Human Rights Commission’s diversity forum and also blogged her speech from the forum on needing an action plan on human rights. Maia at The Hand Mirror dissects a “game” where privileged people get to pretend to be poor for a while and probably learn some Important Moral Lesson.
Deborah Russell discusses welfare in the Dominion Post.
Rape culture / violence
The Naked Philologist deals in two parts with the subject of teaching problematic material – Can you teach Chrétien without talking about rape? and You might be able to teach Chrétien without talking about rape, but I shan’t.
Deborah talks about the gender pay gap and another Deborah’s predictable privileged attitude towards it. Idiot/Savant covers the Greens’ and CTU’s calling of National’s bluff: if people can just ask labour inspectors to check there’s pay parity in their workplace, maybe we should just start doing that all the time.
And finally, a little collection of random items to fill out your reading.
We can’t stop here, this is bat country!
Blue milk on potentially-problematic vulva-themed art. Geek Feminism on social media protest action. Bluebec on trusting people to make their own decisions. Maia at The Hand Mirror on the cost of being a woman in public. Chally’s thoughts on being “born this way”. A guest post on Geek Feminism about encouraging women’s participation in geekiness. Blogger at the Cast Iron Balcony on how to help the Sylvia Creek anti-logging protesters. Bluebec on polyamory and doing it right. Feminaust posts on listening to sex workers.
That’s all she wrote
Thanks to our lovely submitters, especially Chally and Rebecca who made my job a heck of a lot easier!
The 41st edition of the DUFC will be hosted at A Touch of The Crazy. As we still seem to be having issues with blogcarnival, send your submissions directly to stef_thomp [at] hotmail [dot] com. We’re four years in and going strong but we need your help to keep it awesome!
The list of DUFC contributors is woefully out of date, but feel free to peruse it in the meantime while I get some well-earned coffee.
Paul at The Fundy Post has a 50/50 post up on a teacher barred from teaching for life because she posed for Penthouse. The good 50 is where Paul dissects the pretty dubious nature of the complaint (i.e. that it was made by the President of the Teachers’ Council, vs a member of the public or other member of the profession, among other things) and the bad 50 is where he agrees with Michael fucking Lhaws:
And where, as Michael Laws asks, are the feminists, the liberals? Looking the other way, it seems. This feminist liberal cannot help but think that if Ms Whitwell had done something pervy – some BDSM erotica or whatever – then there would have been hordes of other liberals complaining about vanilla privilege, the latest opportunity for overprivileged people to claim they are oppressed. But because she posed in an old-fashioned way in an old-fashioned dirty mag, the liberals won’t touch her. If she had done erotica (the name for middle-class porn), she would have been defended as someone who was celebrating her sexuality; but appearing in a magazine like Penthouse is simply participating in the kyriarchy, allowing oneself to be objectified into male stereotypes of female heterosexuality.
Um, fuck you, Paul. Maybe we’re “looking the other way” because we don’t read Michael fucking Lhaws’ columns, since they’re 99% guaranteed to piss us off royally and there’s far higher-quality wank in the world to get our delicate feminist knickers in a twist over. There could also be this tiny thing about Feminism not being an actual hivemind and not actually anointing Official Spokesbitches, hence why Chris fucking Trotter ends up valiantly fending off attackers with his glorious moustache on our behalfs (and we aren’t even grateful, bitches that we are).
But since you’ve brought up the topic: no. I don’t draw a magical fucking line between porn and erotica (cf. terrorist and freedom fighter) and no I don’t fucking write off a woman because she chooses to engage in a form of sex work while being employed in a profession which people like to ascribe all kinds of pure/noble/selfless values to.
Which is not to say I assume she was “celebrating her sexuality” either because I don’t think a woman (or other adult) has to be a sex-positive goddess of clitoral worship and soul-affirming breast massage in order to “justifiably” engage in sex work. She could, and this might shock you, have just wanted to make some extra money and counter-exploited patriarchy’s commodification of her body to do so, and may ascribe no more emotional/spiritual weight to it than selling off some old shoes on Trademe.*
Sure, Paul, maybe there wasn’t much pickup of this story on the feminist blogs. But you could probably point that out without slapping a big ol’ cliched “hates mainstream porn but loves kinky erotica, the double-standard-having flip-floppers” label on them. And I’m not even touching the whole “you just want to be oppressed so you invent new forms of privilege just to feel like martyrs!” thing.
TLDR? When you find yourself saying “Michael Laws has a point, feminists are stupid” you’re probably just a douche in need of some fresh air.
*This is obvs a really, really complex topic which I’m not fully exploring here for the sake of getting to bed at a semi-reasonable hour.
Caroline Ferguson has a guest post on the continuing and fascinating porn debate happening at The Hand Mirror. And boy oh boy do I have two big throbbing issues with it.
Following this battle, I was extremely dismayed to find this pro-porn post on THM…. I thought post-“Female Chauvinist Pigs”, sex-positive ‘liberating’ ‘stripping-is-empowering type feminism had been pretty clearly debunked – pornography has not ‘benefited’ women, and is no triumph of feminism (as Hugh Hefner argues). How is it that this argument is still continuing among feminists? It leaves us open to being viewed as an incoherent, vitriolic movement, undeserving of respect.
First issue – “has been pretty clearly debunked”. Either Caroline Ferguson is completely ignorant of the number of feminists and non-feminist-identified women* who are anything but done with the porn/prostitution/BDSM debate, or she knows they exist, but doesn’t give a fuck about their opinions and doesn’t rate their voices. Talk about a quick-and-easy silencing tool – if you think stripping can be a liberating experience, well, aren’t you a little moron? That’s been debunked, precious, now go play with your toys until the growed-up feminists finish talking.
ETA: Second issue: And as noted by Psycho Milt in the first comment at THM, you know what’s really fucking offensive? Acting like the real problem here is that, oh noes, feminists might be seen to disagree with each other,** which gives us a Bad Image – and that the fucking solution is, “so the other side needs to shut up already because they’re making us look bad”.
Then the thing that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise after that intro:
When we look at the issue of pornography, why not accept the distinction made by Dworkin and MacKinnon between porn and erotica.
Um … because it’s a tad one-sided?
I mean, as we approach a referendum hugely decried for using the circular-logical phrase, “a smack as part of good parental correction“, it shouldn’t need explaining that it’s frankly bullshit to insist your opponents (when you acknowledge they exist) only operate within parameters entirely designed to prove your point.***
“the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and words, that also includes women presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities; or women presented as sexual objects who enjoy humiliation or pain; or women presented as sexual objects experiencing sexual pleasure in rape, incest or other sexual assault; or women are presented as sexual objects tied up, cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or women presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility, or display; or women’s body parts — including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks — exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or women presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or women presented in scenarios of degradation, humiliation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual.” (Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 176.)
What about women presented as people who get off on pain? What about women presented as people who are tied up? Or women’s body parts presented as part of a woman who is a sexual person?
There’s a whole other argument to be had about BDSM, but my point is this: if I walked up to Caroline Ferguson and said,
Hey, what’s wrong with taking the distinction:
“the graphic, sexually explicit depiction of women perceived through a female gaze enjoying themselves sexually in a liberated and enthusiastically-consenting manner possibly including sex toys which leave both hands free to give a double thumbs-up to the camera”
I would not be playing fair. And neither is she. Personally, I’m not sure about thedifference, semantic or otherwise, between “porn” and “erotica” – probably because I’ve most often seen it used in situations like this, where “porn” gets defined as Sexy Stuff What Is Bad For Women, and “erotica” is Sexy Stuff What Is Good. Now when those are your starting assumptions, who can blame you for assume the argument’s already over and done?
*And while we’re on the point, it might pay for people to consider why these women refuse to associate themselves with the word “feminism”, and it ain’t because they’re patriarchy-pleasing Slaves to the Man.
**And nothing screams “I need a privilege check” like saying “We need to have a coherent, unified voice which will just probably happen to be middle-class and white.”
***And no, this argument doesn’t work for creation scientists, because they claim to be able to work within a scientific framework anyway.
Something that will probably never cease to amaze me is the ability of people to simultaneously see something as the biggest, worst, most horrible threat facing society and something that is only indulged in by a freakish, deviant minority who Aren’t Like Us.
It was perfectly illustrated in this story about an unfortunate elderly couple who have been targeted by self-righteous anti-sex-work vigilantes who apparently can’t even be bothered making sure they’re writing down the right rego plate number as they Make The World A Better Place:
An upset Otahuhu resident is to lay a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner after her elderly parents were mistakenly sent a “pink letter” by the Hunters Corner anti-prostitution patrol.
“Street prostitution only survives because of people like you,” the letter [from Papatoetoe Reclaim Our Streets] says.
Ah, yes, people like you. People who use prostitutes and must, therefore, be … what? Shady? Horrible? Too ugly to get laid by normal women? Unsuccessful (but simultaneously flush with enough cash to afford professional sex workers)?
Whoever they are, we (and the good folks at PROS) can be sure of one thing: they’re not people like us.
They’re not successful businessmen blowing their end-of-year bonus on living it up with some friends.
They’re not young guys out on a mate’s 21st and showing him a good time.
They’re not single guys who actually quite like what they perceive as the honesty of the sex industry compared to the peer-pressure-rife societal farce of working out how many drinks you need to buy that chick at the bar before she’s obliged to put out.
Nonono. The idea that average guys – your own father or brothers or partner or friends or coworkers might actually have paid for sex at some point in their lives can not be countenanced. They’re good guys. They’re normal. It’s only some bizarre, asocial minority – people like you – who patronize sex workers.
Sex workers who are, at the same time, so insanely prevalent that they’re threatening the entire moral fibre of the shining beacon of enlightened civilization that is Papatoetoe.
Not that their prevalence can be explained by a lot of men paying for their services or anything, because we all know it’s just people like you who do that.
Disclaimer, ’cause I know I’m going to need it: human trafficking is wrong. Child prostitution is wrong. Enforced prostitution is wrong. Patriarchal bullshit about sex and gender contributes to many of the ickier dynamics of sex work and is also wrong.
Because I would have been so right.
The case: immigration officials went on a raid on a brothel accompanied by a reality-TV film crew. One patron of said brothel leapt to his death out a window, presumably out of fear of being identified.
Anna at THM saw this from the angles of 1) potentially safety concerns if sex workers don’t consider brothels safe, and 2) the fuckwittery of Tuariki Delamere acting like the real problem is that suspected trafficking victims might have, oh no, broken immigration law.
Karl du Fresne (whose blog’s title, “Curmudgeon”, should prepare us for some Aren’t I A Practical Old Bastard, Those Yoof Don’t Understand The Realities of Life bollocks from the get-go) thinks this is terrible, too. You see, it’s a matter of privacy, and how … certain people’s privacy is threatened when reality TV cameras go into brothels.
Go on, guess who Karl’s worried about.
At least, that’s how I read it when a person reacts with utter, utter bafflement to the fact that I might just think that not every sex worker in the world is a Terrified Victim In Need Of Salvation.*
Still, I would like to thank the commenter over at an ageing Hoyden About Town post for directing me, like the Uninformed Acolyte I am, to the Genderberg FAQ. I needed a good laugh.
Still, time for a bit of self-reflection and acknowledgement of the things I’ve learned:
- Prostitution is the only looked-down-upon, crap, potentially dangerous job in which people from lower classes with fewer opportunities are overrepresented. I shall inform cleaning staff, asbestos removers, and (just to cover the illegal aspect for the non-NZers) drug mules immediately.
- If any unprivileged person can be coerced into doing a thing to the detriment of their integrity, health, or life, it must be a bad thing and we should be proud to oppose it, which is why we’re also going to make “studying towards any profession your parents force you into through financial/emotional blackmail” and “snorting wasabi on a dare while pissed” illegal.
- Being naked will always make people feel nervous, and presumably, all prostitutes get totally naked during transactions while their clients put on three extra layers just to emphasise the power dynamic in play.**
- Prostitutes are too dumb to know what they’re doing … so, just like women are too think to understand abortion = Satanic baby murder?
- Prostitutes are too stupid to know that sex = babies, so logically will be forced to “submit” to multiple abortions. Real women get to choose.
And always remember kids, feminism is about giving women freedom – but only to do what you find acceptable!
On a serious note … all the bullshit about “oh, but we’re talking about real harm”? You know what “real harm” is? Prostitutes who fear going to the police after being raped, or when they are being coerced by pimps, because of the odds that the cops will just arrest them for soliciting. Prostitutes not having the clout to demand brothels institute safe-sex policies. Children being prostituted while the cops are busy chasing consenting adults – oh, and before we jump on that word “consenting”, real harm is telling women that they simply cannot think what they think or feel what they feel because it’s wrong. Real harm is expecting humans to live up to the standards we’d expect from Radfem Utopia when we don’t, and cutting them loose, calling them the enemy because they’re making choices we disagree with or expressing opinions we don’t like.
*And please, dear God, let’s not turn that statement into, “Queen of Thorns thinks NO sex worker is unwilling, trafficked or abused!” because that’s not what I said, and you know it. On the other hand, the kinds of people who make those arguments don’t seem much bothered with logic.
… nor has there been a marked rise in calves born with two heads or other such examples of fantastic Apocalyptic imagery.
Yes, it’s been five whole years now since the enactment of my favourite piece of legislation from our government, the Prostitution Reform Act.* First, a little retrospective: the amazing Georgina Beyer‘s fantastic, inspiring speech during the Parliamentary debate:
It provides people like me at that time with some form of redress for the brutalisation that might happen when a client pulls a knife. The horror of that situation is that it could be a life and death one—one does not know—but it would have been nice to know that instead of having to deal out justice afterwards to that person myself, I might have been able to approach the authorities—the police in this case—and say: “I was raped, and, yes, I’m a prostitute, and, no, it was not right that I should have been raped, because I said no, and it was not paid attention to.”