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Tea and Strumpets

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Silly Little Girls

“Because our society, New Zealand society, Western society in general, has been hijacked by a conspiracy of Silly Little Girls. They’re everywhere; in the schools, in the media, in the public service, in the judiciary, even in Cabinet.

Everywhere we turn, the foundations of masculinity, the pillars of male-ness which have underpinned the construction and development of our very civilisation, are being undermined, by Silly Little Girls. And we are putting up with it.”

Richard Prosser, bless him, wrote a book.

And because the only sensible way to deal with statements like the above* is to mock, we’re proposing a pigtail day. (thanks to a suggestion from a FOTLG.) Like boobquake, but with pigtails. Lollipops, tartan skirts and knee socks optional.

More details to follow, but who is in?

* there is plenty much more offensive stuff, and we will deal with that too, at a later date.

Protecting prostitutes in Ancient Rome

A fascinating snippet in a post at Skeptic Lawyer.

the Romans arrested men who made use of streetwalkers (they called their Johns ‘Marcus’, which I find hilarious), but this was not because prostitution was illegal, far from it — the Romans represent the epitome of the ‘legalise, regulate and tax’ model — but because they had strong views about what should and should not happen in public places. People who wanted to engage in prostitution or avail themselves of a prostitute had to do so inside a building, preferably under management. For some reason, only women were permitted to own and manage brothels — even gay brothels — and the rationale offered by the jurists was an explicit public safety one (women treated the prostitutes of either sex better, even when the latter were slaves). This legal quirk later passed into various iterations of the Code Napoléon.

Source

Guest Post: Dear Rosemary

Many people linked us this week, to this delightful piece of commentary from Rosemary McLeod about sex work.

My own response was, oh, shut up. Oh, and Don’t Read The Comments. But I thought someone with more knowledge and experience than me might have a somewhat more eloquent response. So I asked the wonderful Dorothy Dentata if she would consider guest posting for us. She’s amazing, and here it is.

—–

Hi Rosemary! I got told yesterday that you have some words in your recent article dedicated to little ol’ me, so I thought I’d sit down and type you this reply.

Now, as articles are prone to do, Michelle Cooke in her recent article on sex work conditions combined aspects of two seperate stories into the information about me. You mention in your diatribe against us dirty-footed dupes that you wondered how my mother reacted. Let me tell you!

When I told my mother I was a sex worker, she told me she thought I was about to tell her something bad. She then hugged me and told me how she loved me, how she trusted me to make my own decisions about my employment, that I owed her nothing in terms of divulging this and that she felt honoured beyond belief that I would be vulnerable and share such information with her.

When I told my dad the same information, weeks before my 21st, his response was to tell me he loved me and that he had never paid for sex but didn’t see an ethical problem with anyone doing so now that it was decriminalised. He also said he was happy I was working somewhere safe and supportive, and then he hugged me. That sort of emotional openness from my father about how he personally saw paying for sexual services was really meaningful to me. I thought it was amazing that my dad would even discuss the possibility of being a punter with me.

Of course, you probably don’t think so. You probably think that my parents are ignorant of the fact that “nothing could be quite as soul-destroying as performing fellatio for a living” and you probably include my dad in your stereotype of men as weird, lazy, and driven by their dick.

Well. Let’s talk about my side of the story, huh?

I started sex work at 19 years of age. I have worked in several different brothels and agencies, both here and in Melbourne. I have worked privately. I have had experiences with clients I didn’t enjoy, I have had mostly experiences with respectful and generally considerate clients. I have made some of the greatest friendships in my life with both punters and other working girls. I’ve had a year off. I’ve had a mixture of clients, both in terms of background, age, and genders. Whilst the majority of clients have been male, white, and wealthy, there has also been more diversity in my experiences than I think you could fathom.

The clients who come to see me, including the men, sometimes ask me questions about my opinions, they listen to my stories, they often share with me their innermost vulnerabilities (whether they mean to or not). Sometimes these vulnerabilities are unsettling or confusing or unattractive to me. Sometimes those thoughts are sweet and endearing and make me feel great about my job for weeks at a time.

Sometimes the clients who come to see me truly don’t care that much about knowing what’s going on in my brain. And you know what? That’s okay! Because with boundaries negotiated and a safe premises, I am totally happy to fuck and be fucked for a booking without any pretense of conversation or deeper connection. Sometimes, Rosemary, people just want sex without fuss. Sometimes people want sex that is good, easy, and completely without a relationship. That’s pretty normal.

Yes, as you snidely added ‘brains are a selling point’. Journalists aren’t often in the habit of interviewing inarticulate workers to quote about a specific industry. Brains are a selling point in more ways, though, for example my ad. The fact that ads highlighting a workers intelligence, personality, and strengths work much better than ads simply highlighting physical assets might disprove your little theory that clients don’t care about what’s going on behind my eyes.

So that’s how I see my job. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I’m frustrated or aggravated or anxious about it, and sometimes it’s just a job. As a colleague of mine said in response to your article “I fully stand behind my right to hate my job and do it anyway” and I feel that cuts to the point I actually want to make today.

Sex work is WORK. Your title, declaring “prostitution not just selling your body” is misleading in itself. For me, you see, prostitution ISN’T selling my body. The same learned colleague of mine states “when you pay someone to give you physiotherapy for an hour, you do not buy the physiotherapist. When you pay someone to cut your hair for an hour, you do not buy the person who cuts you hair”. The same rings true here. When you decide to come to Funhouse and fuck me senseless (or brush my hair or wrestle me or eat my pussy) you do not buy me. You negotiate such services and I either agree or decline, based on my own boundaries and personal preferences. At any stage, any stage of the booking, I have the right to declare a certain activity is not on offer anymore. It may mean a partial refund, but more usually it means we just do something else. You know, like I talk to my sexual partners who aren’t paying me.

Moreover, capitalism is an economic system that requires people to work in order to make money. Many people have jobs that require using their bodies in ways they wouldn’t normally, extra labour or occassional unpleasant aspects or things that sometimes just suck. People are generally required to work due to economic need. The same is generally true of sex workers (who, by the way, are not just ‘women’). As through all of society, you see negative aspects of sex work. As with doctors and lawyers, there are sex workers who are addicted to drugs. As with nannies and couriers and plumbers, there are sex workers with mental health problems. As with pilots and retail assistants and journalists, there are sex workers who are exposed to sexual abuse. As with politicians and teachers and CEOs there are sex workers who are unhappy in their job.

I was even going to put in a touching and endearing ramble about how clean my feet were, to disprove the evident assumptions that sex workers are dirty and degraded, but I decided not to. You know why? Because people from all walks of life sometimes have dirty feet and split toenails. I don’t need to try and convince you how ‘nice’ and ‘safe’ parts of the sex industry are, because that is true for me but it’s not true for everyone. Being poor, or sad, or drug-addicted, does not make anyone nor their life deserving of vitriolic attacks by ill-informed journalists. Having dirty feet is not a reason to write off somebody’s entire lived experience, Rosemary, coz here’s the thing about lived experience: you cannot know what it’s like until you’ve lived it. You are not allowed to tell hookers what we should be doing with our lives without actually knowing our lives.

When sex workers are finally able to stop having to defend our industry and our work from bigoted hooker-haters like you, maybe we’ll be able to start directing our energies towards discussions on how the industry can be improved. When it’s no longer a matter of ‘positive’ vs ‘negative’ accounts of the sex industry, and we can realise every experience is more nuanced and more conflicting and that what should be happening is work towards improving working conditions for ALL sex workers.

I realise this has been an INCREDIBLY long ramble and I hope I haven’t bored you. I also hope I haven’t antagonised you so much that my invitation to you to come and have coffee (off the record) with me and some sex worker friends and learn a little about our lives will be ignored.

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Underage Sex Isn’t Necessarily Bad.

Let’s not get too hung up on the exact figures of underage sex. The important thing is that anyone having sex at any age should be making an informed choice, emotionally able to deal with it, protected from pregnancy and STIs, enthusiastically consenting, with no power-imbalances or exploitation, and also having a pleasurable experience.

Microsoft is publicly supporting a bill to legalise gay marriage in Washington. Why? Because discrimination is bad for business:

As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families. Employers in the technology sector face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent. Despite progress made in recent years with domestic partnership rights, same-sex couples in Washington still hold a different status from their neighbors.

Most of the Lady Gardeners have given up on the Herald. Step up (and how!) Good Gravey.

The Radical Housewife lives in Minnesota. I’ve (Deb) been reading her blog for a few months now, ever since she left a comment on my blog, and I followed it back to her place. She doesn’t post often, but it’s always good. Here’s a post she has written on domestic violence (nb. could be triggering): Why doesn’t she leave? Only she knows.. I particularly like this point she makes.

If you aren’t sure about how to react to a person’s story about domestic violence, don’t judge. Listen. Answers will reveal themselves, one story at a time.

Annanonymous wonders how she ended up on the mailing list for the John Paul II centre for life.

In lieu of pretty shoes this week….OUCH.

Mars, Venus, stupid research, seeing what we want to see

For your Tuesday morning reading pleasure, two headdeskers, and a rational response.

The dead tree version of the Dom Post has an article about how men are naturally aggressive , and this has helped man [sic] to progress through history. You can read the on-line version at the Telegraph, where the subbing is marginally less tendentious: Male sex drive to blame for world’s conflicts.

It goes nicely with a piece from Psychology Today: Gender differences in personality are larger than previously thought.

There’s a response to the latter piece of “research” at Scientific American: Get over it: men and women are from the same planet.

FebFast 2012 for Fabulous Feminists and Friends

Cross posted

I’m going to do FebFast 2012, and I’m hoping that some of the fabulous feminists and friends that I know would like to do it too, and join the team I have set up for us.

The idea of FebFast is simple. You give up drinking alcohol for an entire month, and you pay for the privilege of doing so – $25 for people in employment, and $15 for concession card holders and students. That sounds like a dud deal, except that the money raised goes to four organisations, all of whom are working with young people who may be vulnerable to alcohol abuse. The four organisations are: Rainbow Youth, Evolve, CareNZ, and the ADHD Association. You can read more about them here: FebFast: Meet the Recipients.

So… are you prepared to give up alcohol for the month of February? It’s a short month, ‘though a day longer this year thanks to the leap year. Even if you don’t wish to give up alcohol for a month, you might care to make a donation in support of the team, and of course, in support of the four organisations working to help young people who have problems with alcohol.

If you have an event you were planning to go to in February, and have an alcoholic drink or two, you can still do FebFast. You can buy a Get Out of Jail Free card Time Out Certificate for $25 for an emergency, $35 for a big event, or $45 if you’re looking to purchase absolution.

Please think about joining the fast, or sponsoring someone who is doing it, or making a donation. And if you’re doing any one of those things, how about doing it as part of the Fabulous Feminists and Friends FebFast team? You can join the team as part of the registration process, or if you want to make a donation, you can do it by clicking on the “Donate” button on the team page.

I’m really, really, hoping that I’m not going to be a team of one…

If you want to find out some more about FebFast, there’s an article in the New Zealand Herald today: Kiwis challenged to February booze ban.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Women writers, or, how well would J. K. Rowling have done if she had been Joan Rowling writing about Hermione? A woman’s place: sexism in literature

A guide to an abnormal smear.

In Malawi, women wearing trousers or short skirts are assaulted for ‘disrespecting men’.

Ms Naughty looks at Men in Corsets. And who can blame her?

She also writes about the reason behind the ridiculous photoshopping of female genitalia in lad mags: censorship. This isn’t about presenting the vulva as neat and tidy and ‘how it should be’, it’s about avoiding a rating for “excessive genital detail“.

Chivalry:

It’s treating a woman politely
As long as she isn’t a fright:
It’s guarding the girls who act rightly,
If you can be judge of what’s right;
It’s being—not just, but so pleasant;
It’s tipping while wages are low;
It’s making a beautiful present,
And failing to pay what you owe.

Brilliant

An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City.

QFT: ” Without the women’s movement, I wouldn’t have had the courage or the confidence to even draw on that expertise and go public with my ideas.”

Nancy Clarke, the White House ‘flower czar,’ has died at 66. What a rad lady.

If you spend any time on the internet, and understand what the phrase head-desk means, you may require one of these. I’ll have one in pink, please.

Pop on over to Skepticlawyer and take at look at The Midwich Cats.

Annaonymous of The End is Naenae on the palpable radness of red shoes. I (Deb) have red shoe envy.

Tallulah already has a wardrobe full of red shoes (and just this month, someone pointed out to her that sluts wear red shoes. She said ‘what of it?’) but if you have too much money, and a hankering, Charlotte Olympia has you covered.

Intergenerational tarts

Cross posted

My mother made the fruit mince, I made the shortcrust pastry, and Ms Thirteen and I cut out the rounds and pressed them gently into mini-muffin pans and filled them with the mince and cut out the stars and put them on top and baked them.

Tarts

(Description: six small Christmas mince tarts, with star toppings, dusted with icing sugar)

They were delicious.

As my daughters have gotten older, I have had so much joy passing on the knowledge that came to me from my mother. I anticipated many of the joys of parenting, but not this particular one, the deep sense of connection with my mother, and through her, my grandmother. I think that my mother loves seeing my daughters learning and growing, and especially, learning at second remove from her.

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Interesting things we found around the internet this week.

The English Obscene Publications Act looks under threat after a jury failed to convict a man for selling gay pornography.

Peacock said customers “asked me for specific titles or niches, and knew exactly what they were getting”. The jury decided that the audience could not be “depraved and corrupted” by material it had actively sought out…

“Normal jurors did not consider representations of consensual adult sexuality would deprave and corrupt the viewer.”

(This doesn’t, of course, damage the police’s ability to bring charges under Britain’s Extreme Pornography legislation, which is basically written to precisely target BDSM porn.)

Over in the US, there’s a lot of attention focussing on getting rid of obscenity. (That link is SFW.) Apparently porn not only leads to violence against women, but also destruction of the sanctity of marriage. Here’s some things people could do if they actually wanted to protect marriage, and not just be holier-than-thou bigots.

Meanwhile, OH MY GOD, the Girl Scouts, they be scary! Look at them, letting a girl into their organisation!

On a similar note, want to use a public toilet in Tennessee? Did you bring your birth certificate?

“It’s lying, cheating, money, and sex. Might make a nice story.”

An interesting insight into the fashion industry.

It would take a hundred years of Fashion’s Night Out to convince most people that the industry is not a collection of snobs whispering to each other about how fat and ugly everybody else is. Nicolette Mason, a friend of mine and writer for Marie Claire and Vogue Italia, reassures me in an email that “to address the market of lower and middle income individuals – who so often are left out of the fashion equation – and address that they have needs and a desire to be fashionable is not just smart, but progressive (maybe even radical).

At Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory looks at the “sexual counter-revolution” through the lens of the current GOP candidate debates.

Does Abstinence-Only Sex Education Encourage Bullying in Schools? I’m (Emma) unconvinced, but it’s an interesting argument.

Same-sex marriage is, as we know, legal in Canada. Right? Right?

The end is Naenae on The Men Who Hate Women.

As someone who is emphatically a “Miss”, this sort of thing fucks me (Tallulah) off no end. Seriously. Instead of banning it, how about we just get into the habit of asking women what they want to be called? Or get rid of honorifics altogether? (For the record, I have no problem with Ms. And I understand the point of it. It should not matter whether a woman is married or single. The reason I choose to be called Miss is that I don’t believe it _does_ matter that I am single, and therefore, I don’t care if anyone knows it.)

Margaret Cho on hitting back against the haters, and how everybody is deserving of love.

I want to defend the children that we still are inside, the fragile sensitive souls who no matter how much we tried were still told we were not good enough. I want to make the world safe and better and happy for us. We deserve beauty, love, respect, admiration, kindness and compassion. If we don’t get it, there will be hell to pay. I am no saint, but I am here for you and me. I am here for us, and I am doing the best I can.

“…The quest to become the first female president leads to a level of personal scrutiny that bordered on sexist.” Bordered? BORDERED?

On digging around for someone’s legal name, c/f the name they would like to be known by: ‘They’ is me.

And for anyone who persists in calling women “the weaker sex”…well, could you stand en pointe on someone’s head?

Come again?

I am a big believer in reform. I think given the right impetus, opportunity, and support, people can change. They can get better, improve, and come to regret things they’ve done. Naive and idealistic, maybe, but sometimes I am, darlings. I also think you can really dislike a person, but agree with something they say.

Which is why I was willing to give Hugo Schwyzer the benefit of the doubt when he wrote this piece. Because this is all very true.

It’s a key anti-feminist strategy, even if that isn’t the actual intent of the men doing it — it forces women to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger.   It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away….

This doesn’t mean that a “good man” is always in the wrong when he’s arguing with a woman.  It does mean that when men and women argue about gender justice, women are more likely to have insights that men have missed.  Here’s the basic axiom: power conceals itself from those who possess it. And the corollary is that privilege is revealed more clearly to those who don’t have it.  When a man and a woman are arguing about feminism – and the women involved happen to be feminists and the man happens to be an affluent white dude – the chances that he’s the one from whom the truth is more obscured is very high indeed.   That’s as true for me as it is for Tom Matlack.

So, when the furor at Feministe (one of my favourite feminist places) happened, I was a little nonplussed. Here was this guy, who seemed to get it. Sure, problematic relationships with his students – but who hasn’t done things they regret? We grow up, we move on. Oh. He tried to kill himself and his girlfriend? Huh. Well…he was an addict, we all do things…and…. I am increasingly on thin ice here. I can’t justify that, especially in the terms he describes it – he was trying to take care of her, she was broken, only he was strong enough to do what needed to be done. And you know what? Part of reform is admitting what you’ve done, and paying the consequences. He freely admits he hasn’t done that.

Oh. And then Clarisse shut down the comments? Well, while calling someone a sociopath – if you’re not a psychiatrist, and don’t actually know him – is dangerous, but yeah, that seems extreme.

But Feministe apologised, and all was well. Sort of. However, enter Jezebel, who will do whatever they can to increase pageviews, even if it’s posting a column basically suggesting we women are too wrapped up in the idea of consent.  At Jezebel, Mr Schwyzer has suggested this:

For a young man raised with the sense that his body – and especially his penis – is “disgusting”, a woman’s willingness to accept a facial is an intensely powerful source of affirmation. In my conversations with Glickman and Andelloux, I shared this anecdote. Both agreed that rather than seeing the facial as rooted in the impulse to denigrate, it might indeed be better to view it as longing for approval. Andelloux pointed out that in her experience, many women (often with good reason) have a difficult time believing that degradation isn’t at the root of straight men’s fascination with facials. In any case, humiliation and affirmation aren’t incompatible reactions to the same act; a feeling of indignity when your partner ejaculates on your face isn’t contingent on his intending to demean you.

And, yeah, OK, this is where I draw the line. Flavia has said it all better than me, but Hugo? remember back up there when you said that men should sometimes shut up and listen? It’s time for you to Shut Up. We’re not going to give you cookies for being an ally, not especially when you argue bullshit like this.

I should preface the rest of this paragraph with the disclaimer that some women don’t mind, or even enjoy, facials. For me, it’s entirely contextual on the person I am with, and the situation I am in. But the way they are usually (insert standard disclaimer here) portrayed in porn is inherently degrading. But don’t worry about that! According to the estimable Mr Schwyzer, that doesn’t matter! We women should suffer through a humiliating act because it might make a dude feel better about his cock? Look, I’m all for consenting adults being allowed to do whatever they want, but that? Is bullshit. And in fact, consent is barely mentioned in the piece. It’s much more about we women should “let” men do it, to save their precious egos. There’s lip service paid to the idea that “No one should be obligated to endure humiliation for the sake of someone else’s longing for validation.” Except that the entire rest of the piece makes that statement a lie.

And of course, “At the same time (as perhaps with anal sex), many people struggle to believe that receiving a facial is something a woman could enjoy.” This is something anyone involved with BDSM is familiar with – you can’t consent to being submissive, that’s unfeminist, and also, you like being hurt? What? Weird. To which, you know, shut up, I can’t be bothered with that conversation today.

But, seriously, feminist sites need to stop giving this guy airtime. He’s not a feminist. He wants to believe he is, maybe, as redemption, or just cos it’s a really good way to get chicks. Let him write what he writes at his own place, and people who care can have that conversation there. I’m not someone who believes men can’t be feminists – the kyriarchy hurts everyone, and men should  be a part of the conversation. But when a man consistently fails to take responsibility for his actions and his words, and actively promotes disrespecting women – then, yeah, nah, it’s time to STFU.

[Update: Garland Grey also has a great piece, with my favourite sentence this week: “But still, the memory of his sexism is reason enough for you to reevaluate your flimsy personal objections to this sex act, because if there is anything I know about Feminism, it’s that not nearly enough people are getting jizzed on and this is a crisis.”]