Agree to Disagree? Lets Not. Sex Worker’s Rights Are Not Negotiable

Content note: violence against sex workers, description of events around the murder of Petite Jasmine.
“I find it very strange that anyone would feel they couldn’t enjoy a comedy show unless they agree with 100% of the political views of the person performing”
 Ah, Katie Smurthwaite. The non-story that briefly blew up in early February; the comedienne cruelly no-platformed by Goldsmiths University of London, her free-speech hooter firmly squashed shut by the over powerful reach of over-zealous student protest following some ill-advised sex worker exclusionary tweets. Except, of course, that is not what happened. Rather than the rather glamorous experience of being banned from campus for being sexily controversial, Smurthwaite’s show was cancelled largely due to poor ticket sales, the feminist society of Goldsmiths having already decided they couldn’t be bothered to protest her even if she did show up.

The distortion around the reception of this ‘story’ is perfectly calculated to ring liberal alarm bells and wrinkle the foreheads of the Guardian-reading set that Goldsmiths is fairly firmly aligned with. A woman having her voice silenced? A feminist being censored simply because her opinion differed? Unthinkable. Unconscionable. Untrue.

It has spawned dozens of think pieces and outrage on twitter, and one specific rhetorical call for feminist solidarity; Are we not all feminists here? Can we not respect that a woman can have a different opinion that we don’t agree on and still be allowed to speak?

I try to assume that these come from a place of ignorance and not a place of hating sex workers. But it is the height of civilian arrogance and disregard for the lives and safety of sex workers to take the position that SWERFs (sex worker exclusionary/exterminatory radical feminists) have opinions that we ‘need to accept’ that we ‘don’t agree’ on.

End Demand, the so called ‘Nordic Model’ of laws criminalising the purchase of sexual services that it is currently fashionably feminist to push for, is the same End Demand model that Smurthwaite explicitly supports and is the same End Demand model that has been demonstrated to harm sex workers. (1) (2). People relegating the safety of sex workers to an intellectual debate on the level of ‘lets agree to disagree about vagina cupcakes’ is a disingenuous ploy that undermines the seriousness and urgent need for sex workers’ rights action and the demand for feminist solidarity with sex workers. It’s a silencing tactic that casts sex workers as needing to sit down and shut up ‘for the greater good’.

Can’t we all just sit down and agree that we hate the patriarchy!? I mean, some of us also hate sex workers, but that’s like, just their opinion, man.

On the 11th of July, 2013 Petite Jasmine was murdered by her abusive ex-partner. Jasmine was a Swedish sex worker, mother and board member of sex workers’ rights group Rose Alliance. End Demand killed Petite Jasmine. When a relative informed social services that Jasmine was a sex worker she lost custody of her children; her refusal to ‘admit’ her work was ‘a form of self harm’ meant that in the state’s eyes she was less fit to be a parent than her abusive, violent, aggressive ex.  After two years fighting to regain custody, in which time her ex threatened and stalked her, it was at a meeting with her son for the first time in a year that Jasmine’s ex stabbed the social worker and killed her.

They took her children away, gave her abuser and her stalker custody, forcing her into contact with him, giving him power over her life, and then he killed her. All of this happened because she was a sex worker and because of the End Demand model currently implemented in Sweden. (3).

The feminist position that sex workers either need saving from the industry or are complicit in the oppression of other women is a position that is paternalistic and patronising at best and outright aggressive to sex working women at worst, fighting to undermine sex workers’ own advocacy (which exists all over the world (4)) and being complicit in state and capitalist violence against sex workers.

This position is part of a multi-billion pound global rescue industry that stretches from Project ROSE in Arizona (that imprisons sex workers to ‘save’ them (5)), to Canada’s c36 (which will specifically harm indigenous communities already at high risk for violence (6)) to the forcing of sex workers into modern-day slavery within sweatshops in the garment industry (7), to this, women who don’t have any stake in the sex industry talking for and over those who do and supporting legislation and programmes that put sex workers in danger.

This position is calling women who have experienced rape and abuse within the sex industry but who fight for decriminalisation the ‘pimp lobby’ and blaming them for their own rapes. It’s collapsing the complex, multifaceted, contradictory and difficult realities of workers in the sex industry to ‘privileged and unrepresentative’ or ‘abused and silent’ instead of putting sex workers at the forefront of their own advocacy.

This position is forcing women and members of vulnerable groups into confrontations with a police and a state that repeatedly enacts violence against them, from police brutality that the most vulnerable; black, latina, trans, face in and outside of sex work (7) to facing years in prison and a place on the sex offenders register for taking precautions to keep themselves safe (8).

The rescue industry is powerful, it is well funded, it is sprawling NGOs and book deals and ‘feminist’ coloumn inches in the Guardian. It’s hundreds of thousands of ignorant civilian followers on Twitter and spots on Mock the Week and lefty, liberal feel-good lets-save-the-sex-workers feelings shared by earnest young women in Feminist Societies.

The least anyone can do to combat it is to no-platform a boring comedian making tired observations around ‘free speech’ that tacitly backs up her material ability to harm sex workers. What platform are people offering sex workers? They can take away their children, their homes, their freedom, deport them, remove our ability to feed and clothe themselves, and put them in the way of people who want them dead.

Civillians have abilities and freedoms that many sex workers cannot even dream of, and they have power to support or to attack them. There is no middle ground.

As the wonderful Leigh Alanna has said;

You cannot be ‘neither pro nor anti’ sex worker. There is no actual neutral ground here, because it’s not a theoretical, hypothetical “issue” that you get to weigh in on. There is only with us or against us.

Either, you believe that sex workers are humans who deserve safety, and the right to make decisions about their body and their labor, just like everyone else, or you do not think those things are true.

Sex work is a thing that exists, completely independent of anyone’s opinions about that fact — the only debate is whether or not we want to continue to sanction and encourage violence against the people who do it. (9)

Allowing those who would do harm to sex workers; ‘for their own good’ or otherwise, entry into feminist spaces under the argument of free-speech and feminist cohesion is not a benign position. Tacit approval is still approval, and when you give it to those whose voices already carry far and who already have latitude to speak elsewhere the only effect is to allow them to continue to speak over and yes, silence, the most vulnerable of people.

It is not censorship. It is quality control.

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The end goal is not recovery

If you conceptualise mental health and recovery as things that are inexorably linked- assuming, straight off the bat, that recovery is a universally achievable goal for people with mental health issues, you have a problem. The problem is this: recovery for some people is never going to happen. Some people are never going to not suffer the symptoms of mental illness. And that’s ok.

That is ok because the end goal isn’t recovery, it’s living a life that is satisfying, or challenging, or safe. The goal is fulfillment, in whatever way that means to you.

A measure of how fulfilled your life is is not how well you fit into a specific mould of NOT ILL. It’s how well you feel you are doing at the things that matter to you, and how you work towards doing these things. Each person’s life, each person’s needs, desires, wants, fleeting fancies, are different. What fulfills me one day (doing homework, talking to friends, doing my nails) may not be so great the next day, when I have a different focus (for example, seeing my friends is always great, but if I’ve been wanting to see my family or need to do some work then even though it’s fun, I should probably see my friends another day.)

The final goal is also not happiness. Happiness isn’t a goal, it cannot be a goal, because it is an emotion. It will always go away, and come back, and generally be very flighty and unreliable. The goal is to be in a place where unhappiness isn’t devastating. Where unhappiness is surmountable, dealable.

The final goal is not health. Health as a goal is unachievable; it is a state that you work towards, not a final checkpoint. Everybody’s health is different, and everybody has different ways of relating to and dealing with their own health.

Getting to a place where you can manage your own mental health is hard, yes. It requires work, it requires commitment, it requires facing up to things it would be far easier to ignore.

But understanding your own mental health is the first step. It is the difference between not leaving your room even though you want to do things outside but can’t, and not leaving your room because you’re doing things inside today that are totally awesome.

Recovery is not the end goal, because mentally ill people are not a monolith. What toyou may be stagnation, stalling, stuntedness, may and will be for others the most fulfilling, enriched way they can exist, working towards developing the best them that they can imagine.

And that is not a problem.

[on tumblr]

On Self Care

Self care was a revolutionary concept for me.

It threw my world sideways to realise that not only was it good to spend time looking after myself, but necessary. That giving myself space to do things for myself was ok; was important even.

I first found out about self care on tumblr, and it truly changed the way I approached my life and my mental illness.

It also missed out a few things, a few vital things.

Self care is hard. It is hard work. Some days, you aren’t going to be able to practice self care completely, because self care is about doing things to improve your quality of life. It’s about doing the things you need to do, not just the things you want to.

Some days (most days) I want to stay in bed. Some days that’s ok. Some days letting myself do what I want is directly detrimental to my quality of life, directly detrimental to my health and my mood.

Self care is taking the bin out. It’s painting my nails. It’s taking a shower. It’s taking photos of myself and being vain as fuck. It’s making myself not stay in the same clothes for days on end. It’s not giving myself a hard time for doing ‘time wasting’ activities that make me feel happy. It’s being very aware of what and how I’m eating. It’s (attempting) to let people know how I’m feeling. It’s working on the boring but necessary things. It’s (attempting) to ask for the things I need from other people. It’s setting boundaries. It’s going to sleep earlier than three am.

It’s acknowledging that a lot of the above will not always get done, and that’s ok. So long as it does get done eventually and as often as possible.

Self care is knowing yourself and being honest with yourself. It’s about looking at the kind of life you want to have and person you want to be and working toward that, within whatever restrictions you have to navigate. It is not homogenous; many of the things I’ve listed above would be seriously detrimental to the quality of life of some people.

There are many things, also, that self care is not.

Self care is not doing whatever you want with no regard for the consequences.

It is not doing what I want, when I want, with no regard for other people. It is not letting abusive patterns develop in my relationships because I need/want things from people. It is not demanding attention, or time, or anything from others with no regards for their own space and boundaries.

Self care is important. But you need to be honest. You need to communicate, with others and yourself.

The over-simplification of self care can lead to abusive patterns. Enforcing your boundaries doesn’t just mean no-one crossing them; you have to let them know what those boundaries are first. Getting angry at people for not reading your mind and thus hurting you is not self care, it is an abusive behaviour. Using manipulation to get people to pay attention to you is an abusive action. Ask for attention, don’t force it out of people. Self care is knowing what you need from other people and communicating that, not attacking those who can’t provide what you didn’t ask for.

You’re not looking after yourself when you do this, you’re being an asshole.

[on tumblr]

Just remembered I had this page

I’m going to be cross-posting, updating a few things, so, sorry for filling your inboxes or cluttering your reader. I might even write something new. (Will wonders ever cease? Probably.)

Have a picture of me looking hilarious:

CM Capture 9You’re welcome.

On Fatness

People who hate fat people will never look at evidence complicating the relationship between fatness and health and understand that nobody is arguing that ‘fat is unequivocally, unquestionably healthy’.

Nobody is saying that.

What it means to say ‘fat can be healthy’ is that you have no way of knowing if a person is healthy or not based solely on their fatness; that ‘health’ will always be more complex and affected by more factors than weight alone; that a person’s health is not connected to their worth; that assumptions around weight and health directly lead to a situation that is unquestionably unhealthy for fat people; that fat can be healthy, there is just not a 1:1 correlation between fatness and unhealthiness; that hating yourself and your body isunequivocally unhealthy; that other people’s health is unknowable, even when they’re fat

They won’t understand this because they do not care about fat people’s health, they care about our weight, and ensuring that we know we are supposed to hate ourselves for it.

50 shades of So Not Over This

Powerful and personal piece on Fifty Shades of Grey.

bandagedheartliberal

TW: Abusive relationships, emotional/psychological abuse

When I was 13 I met twatface. Things happened. Eventually I took him to court, along with other victims and he was given a 6 year sentence for 4 counts of sexual assault, one count against each of us. All years ago. I’m over it.

And then 50 Shades of Grey came out and it was pretty depressing.

And then the film was made, due to be released on Valentines day, and I am furious. And so I started organising against it, planning to leaflet outside cinemas to outline the differences between Christian’s behaviour and an actually healthy relationship, to try to stop people being quite so enamoured with his abuse.

The internet was pretty sparse with resources we could just print and give out, so I’m making this leaflet myself, which means reading a lot into the details of how Christian is abusive, how Ana…

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December 17th: Remembering Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17th, International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, is a day to remember the varied and myriad ways in which violence is enacted against sex workers, to commemorate and mourn those we lose each year.

I drove six hours and two hundred miles from where I live to attend the December 17th vigil in Brighton hosted by Brighton Feminist Collective.

I missed it. We arrived just as it ended and people left for home.

This is the speech I had planned to share at the vigil, which BFC kindly invited me to share after the fact.

LINKS:

Amber’s fundraiser

More information on Amber’s situation

Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP)

CUSP’s statement on Amber’s situation

Spread the word!

Fundraising and awareness posts for Amber on tumblr (please share):

Here

Here

TRANSCRIPT below the cut

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