Saturday, January 25, 2014

Unsolicited, Indeed: A Letter From Professor Patti Adler


Wow, did I get a weird email today. 

First, quick backstory: Professor Patti Adler is a professor of sociology at University of Colorado Boulder. Last year, a class she teaches about prostitution came under fire. There were conflicting reports about her being fired or leaving voluntarily, but it seemed she had left. Then, she came back. (Or maybe she never really left, it’s unclear to me.)

Adler, who called the class "the highlight of the semester in my signature course," described what goes on during the prostitution lecture: Professor Adler has some of her teaching assistants (who are undergraduates) dress up as various kinds of prostitutes -- she named as categories "slave whores, crack whores, bar whores, streetwalkers, brothel workers and escort services." They work with Adler on scripts in which they describe their lives as these types of prostitutes.

During the lecture, Adler talks with them (meaning: the teaching assistants, in character) about such issues as their backgrounds, "how they got into the business," how much they charge, the services they perform, and the risks they face of violence, arrest and AIDS. The class is a mix of lecture and discussion, just like most classes, she said.

So basically she has student dress up in sexy outfits and stand up in front of the class and recite stories she teaches them about sex work. Presumably the students can also ask questions, which the students-pretending-to-be-sexworkers will answer, based on the information Professor Adler has taught them.

My impression, based on reading the stories about it, was that this was really not cool. Professor Adler’s list of sex worker social groups sounds extremely dated at best, and hardly academic at all. Her repetition of the word whore is offensive. And having student dress up in costumes and talk about what types of sex their character has is clearly a titillating feature that has no place in a classroom. 

But the real point is: there are real sex workers who could speak about their lives, but are not permitted to. I myself have visited college classes and talked about being a sex worker. Having a guest come and speak to a class on this subject is very much a thing that can be done – if the professor wishes it. Professor Adler apparently does not want actual sex workers to speak in her class, she only wishes to have her students say what she tells them to say. 

I guarantee you that a lot of sex workers have had to sit in that class and watch all that. I myself have sat in college classroom and seethed as professors lectured the most arrant nonsense about my life. I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I had to watch a bunch of not-sex-workers dress up and play-act little skits about being me, and see that be represented as a college-level of education about sex work. I was glad she wasn’t going to teach it any more.

So that’s backstory. Today, out of nowhere, I got this email. And wow, do I have a lot of thoughts about this. I’m framing them, but in the meantime, feel free to reply to me on Twitter. 



Mistress Matisse,
Leonard says you might be open to giving me some help with my skit this semester. I’ve only gotten a 1-semester reprieve, and then I have to go, but I’d like to be more sensitive than I might have been and make sure I don’t insult or misrepresent anybody. I can’t have people come to my class because the class is really not about prostitution, it’s about deviant subcultures, and I use the example of prostitution to illustrate a stratification hierarchy. Many college students have only one image when they think about prostitutes and that’s probably a streetwalker, but I used a dozen people to come down and be interviewed by me starting with the slave role, the crack-addicted role, the streetwalker (male/female/pimp), women who frequent bars to pick up customers, brothels, and escort services. With that many people I can only give about 3 minutes to each and I ask most people the same basic things:
What’s your family background, your educational background, how did you get into what you’re doing now, what do you do and how much do you charge, what’s your risk of violence/arrest/disease, and what are your future prospects.
Might you be willing to give me some feedback on a particular stratum or two? Can you tell me what your area of expertise is?
Respectfully yours,
Patti Adler

From: Leonard Fahrni [mailto:ldfahrni@aol.com]
Sent: Friday, January 24, 2014 9:04 PM
To: adler@spot.colorado.edu
Subject: some unsolicited advice
Hello Dr. Adler
I am a CU alum and I teach Math and Science classes at Metro State in Denver. I followed with some interest your brief notoriety and I am glad to see that you have been reinstated. I wrote a letter of support to president Benson and I'm sure my effort did very little to tip the scales in your favor. I was just so outraged at what looked like an attempt to censor your academic freedom that I had to vent. In full disclosure, Bronson Hilliard and I played on the same team in the CU trivia bowl in the 90s and I got him to help me direct my letter.
My unsolicited advice comes from my reading of an unusual group of authors on Twitter. I'm sure @mistressmatisse and @Maggie_McNeill don't represent the opinions of the entire sex worker community, but they both criticized you based on the assumption that people who are actual sex-workers need to have a voice in any discussion of them. I think that point has some validity. I also think either of them would be glad to share their experiences and knowledge with you. I am almost certain that a letter from you would totally floor them, so it might be worth a look just for that. Maggie mentions you in her blog here http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/ and can be contacted at maggiemcneill@earthlink.net; You can take a look at my contentious discussion with Mistress Matisse on Twitter on last December 16
here's an excerpt, where I claimed you were fired for the content of your class (Bronson and Phil DiStephano both said you weren't "fired" and I guess you weren't after all) I suggested that it would have been cool if she had been a guest in your class and she agreed with me there.
mistressmatisse ‏@mistressmatisse Dec 16 @LeonardFahrni I've been to lot of college classes where I talked about being a sex worker, and no one got fired. Because everyone involved was respectful.
Leonard Fahrni ‏@LeonardFahrni Dec 16 @mistressmatisse This one did, no matter what the administration claims. Too bad, she should invite you to speak.
mistressmatisse ‏@mistressmatisse Dec 16 @LeonardFahrni I would have. But there are lots of cool, smart sex workers in Denver. Some of them may have been students in those classes.
She can apparently be contacted at Mistressmatisse@gmail.com
Thanks for taking the time to look at this mess. I admire the fact that you are able to generate such long term interest for your class. I mostly teach service classes like Business Calculus or classes for Education majors. In the latter, I am always doing anything to get them to show a little independent thought. I tell them to question authority and it is always a disappointment that more of them don't see the irony in that statement coming from a person in my position.
Have a great semester
Leonard Fahrni
CU class of 77, 79, 88, 97, 05 and 10 (so far)



Wednesday, May 01, 2013

 Some comments about sex trafficking, and links for education

I’m a sex worker, I like being a sex worker, and I am an activist for the rights of sex workers. As part of that, I would like to see a world where no one is forced to do sex work. That does happen sometimes, and it's bad. But forced sex work is not the huge and scary problem some people would like you think it is. It is not okay that it happens at all, but it simply does not happen NEARLY as often as anti-sex workers say it does.

To begin with, understand this fact: When lawmakers and anti-sex work activists say “sex trafficking” they mean ANY exchange of sex for money, even if it is between two adults and completely voluntary. Let me say that again, because I think it bears repeating. To an anti-trafficking activist, an adult person, fully in possession of her rational faculties and completely independent of anyone else’s influence, who chooses to exchange a sexual act for money = a sex trafficking victim.

I think this is deeply insulting to people who really are victimized. I think one should only use the work trafficked to mean a person who is truly being forced or coerced, or controlled by another person in a way that's harmful or exploitative. I also think it's unjust to invalidate the agency of an adult person. You own your body, and if you, as a consenting adult, choose to have sex with another consenting adult, the state should not have the right to say, "No, we don't approve of your reason for having sex, so we are declaring your act to be a crime and arresting you both." It does not matter if you decided to have sex because someone bought you dinner, or because they offered you a diamond ring, or if they offered you a hundred dollars.

Further, no one should declare that you are a "victim" of anything without your consent. It is for the person who has had the experience to identify whether she/he was a victim of something or not. It’s wrong to impose a label on someone they did not choose for themselves. 

Since about 2008, the rhetoric about any act of sex for money has changed, and it is now all defined as "trafficking". That's happened for a variety of reasons, most of them to with the allocation of grant money and the erosion of civil liberties. So the War On Sex Workers* is much like the War On Drugs. There is a system of restrictive ideas about what kind of behavior is socially acceptable, which have been woven into government policy and law, and there are a lot of people whose jobs and money and sense of power are all dependent on keeping that system in place. If there is no social panic about shadowy international crime rings and millions of women and children being abused in sensational ways, those people will lose power.

Plus, whenever sex is involved, some people have emotional responses which are based in their own experience rather that of the putative victim. There are religious organizations and moral crusaders involved in anti-trafficking who are not shy about their wish to impose a certain type of morality and social control, especially on women.

In addition, keep in mind that to many people, arresting and imprisoning US sex workers is not only a moral issue but part of a multimillion-dollar industry. Whenever there is money moving around, in the form of government grants and private donations to anti-sex work NGOs, and lucrative contracts and tax benefits to the private-prison industry, motivations can drift pretty far from the strictly altruistic. Laws against prostitution are selectively enforced, generally based on race and class, and overwhelmingly by gender. So the people at the bottom of the social-power pyramid are those most likely to be hurt by the laws against it.

That's why when you read scary headlines about “X Bazillion People Are Being Sex Trafficked", it does not necessarily mean the person is underage, or has been taken from one place to another, or is an undocumented immigrant, or is being forced or coerced into doing sex work against his/her wishes. It also doesn't mean that anyone can actually see/find those supposed victims, since they are often pure invention, as we will see. 

People can be abused in systems of sex work - just as they can be abused in non-sex work forms of labor, and in all other social systems. But criminalization and stigmatization of all sex work is not the right answer. People are abused in the social institution of marriage, too. But we do not outlaw marriage and arrest anyone who says, "I do." People are raped, but we do not respond to that fact by outlawing all consensual sex. On a moral level, we do not want anyone to be harmed. But when it comes to allocating public resources to combat that, the current system does not work. It is not useful to treat a very wide spectrum of people around the world as if they were all the same one-dimensional “victim”, and neither is it wise to try to condense this multifaceted issue into a few bits of bumper-sticker wisdom.

My goal here is to create sharper understanding of how the situation is not as black-and-white as people are often told, and that some of the systems that are ostensibly used to "help" people are not what those people themselves want, and may actually cause even more harm.  It's crucial to have a true understanding of the reality of the situation, so we can devise systems that offer anyone being victimized real assistance while also treating them with dignity and being respectful of their agency and their wishes. To that end, this is the reading that I recommend to get a fuller understanding of the challenges of helping those who need help, without criminalizing, stigmatizing and generally imposing a very binary victim/criminal worldview onto a large and diverse set of people.


Start here: Journalist Melissa Gira Grant’s article “The War On Sex Workers”*. Grant has written a lot on this topic, but this is a good snapshot of the problem. "Although nearly all prostitution-related law in the United States is made at the state or municipal level, redefining prostitution as trafficking provides a rationale for federal action against the sex trade... It is about an unholy marriage of feminism with the conservatism and police power that many feminists claim to stand against." http://reason.com/archives/2013/01/21/the-war-on-sex-workers

A perfect example of how false statistics about prostitution are uncritically accepted and repeated by (paid) celebrity spokespeople to drive public policy: Village Voice Takes on Ashton Kutcher, 2011 http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-06-29/news/real-men-get-their-facts-straight-sex-trafficking-ashton-kutcher-demi-moore/full/

(My remarks about that: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/control-tower/Content?oid=9028548 )

The story of a landmark study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice that "demolished virtually every stereotype surrounding the underage sex trade". For example: the majority of underage people doing sex work are actually young men of color. http://www.houstonpress.com/2011-11-03/news/lost-boys/full/ The FBI reports that $80 million is spent annually for law enforcement and social services to rescue approximately 200 child prostitutes per year. That's a $400,000-per-rescued-child average. Also, only 10% of underage sex workers report having pimps.

That lie about “the average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old” has also been debunked.
Here: http://www.politifact.com/oregon/statements/2013/mar/02/diane-mckeel/Is-average-age-entry-sex-trafficking-between-12-an/
And here: Claims made by charity often indicates a potentially damaging approach to addressing human needs.
And here: http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/the-law-of-averages/
And here: Unpacking the myth: “the average age of entry into prostitution is 13″

The fact that the alleged hundreds of thousands of sex trafficking victims simply cannot be found has been noted. "President Bush has blanketed the nation with 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million -- all to find and help the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of forced prostitution or labor in the United States. But the government couldn't find them." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/22/AR2007092201401.html Washington Post, 2007.

In spite of federal funding and a special task force, police in Honolulu cannot find even one trafficking victim in a year of looking. (But they still want more money.) An excellent series of article about sex work in Hawaii. http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2012/03/15/15152-cops-prostitutes-and-pimps-arrests-turn-up-no-trafficking-victims

Anti-trafficking org throws parties and collects donations, but where did that money go? “Missouri Attorney General takes action against Stop Child Trafficking Now. The nonprofit spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund private “special operatives” teams to gather undercover intelligence about child sex trafficking. SCTNow claimed to work closely with law enforcement. However, when pressed for more details, SCTNow could not point to a single case in the country where information lead to an arrest or prosecution.” http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/missouri-attorney-general-takes-action-against-national-nonprofit-after-41-action-news-investigation#ixzz2REMDbXr5

How trafficking stats get made: those arrested for prostitution are promised leniency if they say "I was trafficked".

Chattanooga police recently found exactly one trafficking victim, although a study in 2011 claimed the area had "more than a hundred". Quotes from an editorial: "Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said the sex trafficking incident...was "the only one I know of." And also, "The study is, apparently, based on erroneous surveys and severely lacking in verifiable facts... Unfortunately, local organizations appear unprepared to help what few sex trafficking cases there may be in the Chattanooga area." http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/jan/26/sex-trafficking-study-apparently-free-press/

The tone of news stories about prostitution arrests will sometimes read as slightly more sympathetic than in the past: "She has been caught in a sting. Her day is ruined, but the police hope her life can be saved." But the people are still arrested. This is how anti-trafficking groups work: they want to rescue people - by arresting them.  http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/04/prostitution-led-by-growth-of-area-gambling-police-say-88017.html

Here’s an example of how lies about sex trafficking issues are used to control and punish adult sexual behavior, criminalize citizens who have harmed no one, and extract money for the state: Nevada Sex Trafficking Bill AB67. "There is a lot of federal money available for anti-trafficking efforts in a time of austerity and sequestration when many budgets are being slashed." http://www.projectredumbrella.org/no-on-assembly-bill-67-ab113/http://www.projectredumbrella.org/no-on-assembly-bill-67-ab113/

A study of arrests in Denver reveals that prostitution busts affect women more than men: adult males made up 39 percent of arrests, while adult females made up 61 percent,and women are more likely to get jail time: 70 percent of women, as opposed to just 36 percent of men. http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2012/05/prostitution_denver_study_women_johns.php

Arresting prostitutes takes resources away from truly needy. The Illinois Department of Corrections reported 127 prostitution admissions in 2012, at a cost of two million dollars: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130321/chicago/prostitution-charged-as-felony-should-be-dropped-say-preckwinkle-gainer#ixzz2RB5ahC1U

The Superbowl Myth:Whenever there is a major sports event like The Superbowl or The Olympics, there is always a rumor that huge flocks of trafficked sex workers will “brought in” for it. That has consistently been shown to be untrue. http://glaconservatives.co.uk/blog/andrew-boff-asks-mayor-why-500k-was-wasted-on-an-alleged-increase-in-trafficking-which-never-took-place-during-olympics/
And here. http://www.snopes.com/sports/football/escort.asp
And here. http://www.laweekly.com/2012-02-02/news/super-bowl-prostitution-hoax/
And here. http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/new-orleans-braces-for-unlikely-surge-in-sex-workers
The Global Alliance Against Trafficking of Women (GAATW) released a 75-page paper disproving the myth that major sporting events attract large numbers of sex workers, let alone human traffickers. “There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.” (PDF) http://www.gaatw.org/publications/WhatstheCostofaRumour.11.15.2011.pdf
  

Sex Work Views Globally:
UK, The Guardian, 2008: Britain's "Poppy Project" which received 5.8million pounds in funding, was widely denounced by 27 key figures in sex work research from prestigious universities across the UK and overseas. They stated that the report was conducted with neither ethical approval nor acknowledgement of evidence and co-authored by a journalist known for producing anti-prostitution findings. “You can't just churn out political propaganda and say it's research. You end up with very dangerous policy.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/oct/03/research.women

UK, The Guardian, 2009: Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution. "The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country." http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/government-trafficking-enquiry-failshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/government-trafficking-enquiry-fails

UK, The Guardian, 2009: "The sex trafficking story is a model of misinformation... the UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act uses the word to describe the movement of all sex workers, including willing professionals who are simply traveling in search of a better income....The cacophony of voices has created the illusion of confirmation."
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/trafficking-numbers-women-exaggerated

UK, The Guardian: Female reported goes undercover in a brothel to get quotes from women who would be labeled as ‘trafficked’. A brothel worker said, “I regret not working in the sex trade as soon as I got here.” (I’m uneasy about the reporter’s methods, but the quotes remain.) http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/apr/15/brothel-regret-not-working-sex-trade

The United Nations says: "The anti-trafficking law has the brutal effect of punishing trafficked persons, notably persons engaged in sex work. The model of 'raid, rescue and rehabilitation' results in extreme forms of violence against sex workers and their families, violating their basic human rights." http://www.hivlawcommission.org/index.php/news/news/150-separating-consent-from-exploitation?utm_source=Global+Commission+on+HIV+and+the+Law+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4b8dd7a609-Newsletter2_13_2013&utm_medium=email

International AIDS advocates, who are currently required to SWEAR AN OATH against prostitution if they want government grants, say that the oath, and criminalization overall, hampers their efforts to stop the spread of disease. http://newsatjama.jama.com/2013/02/13/jama-forum-the-anti-prostitution-loyalty-oath/
(The anti-prostitution oath is currently before the Supreme Court, and journalist Melissa Gira Grant is covering this story for The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/blogs/melissa-gira-grant )

US policies that conflate trafficking and prostitution in Thailand: http://www.thenation.com/article/crusade-against-sex-trafficking?page=0,1 “I remember talking to US officials who were confused that there could be voluntary prostitution," he says. "They thought, 'Why would we need to differentiate? It's all forced and largely the same as trafficking. If we come across it, we should shut it down.' If you think that sex work is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, then I guess you can say you are rescuing people to take them out of it." The Nation, Noy Thrupkaew September 16, 2009
 
New Study On Sex Work And The Law In Latin America: “Sex trafficking is criminalized, but often mistakenly blurred with sex work. Confusing sex workers, who have chosen to engage in this area of work, with trafficked persons who have suffered some form of coercion, silences the legitimate voices of sex workers and actually blocks discussions on how to end human trafficking…. As sex work becomes more secretive, so the vulnerability of the human rights of sex workers increases.” http://www.aidsalliance.org/NewsDetails.aspx?Id=291530

Sex work in Australia: (Note: prostitution is legal in Australia, although regulations vary from state to state.) Researchers tell federal parliament that illegal brothel raids a waste of time: "Instead of an evidence-based approach addressing real vulnerabilities, Australia's approach continues to try to detect the mythical trafficking victim and trafficker that is a media-driven stereotype." http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/2013/04/23/13/16/brothel-raids-a-waste-of-time-sex-workers

More From Down Under: Decriminalizing sex work does not increase problems. In Australia and New Zealand, laws regarding sex work have been undergoing reform aimed at decriminalization since the early 1990s. A 2012 report to Australian Ministry Of Health finds decriminalizing sex work has NOT increased trafficking, or voluntary sex work, or STIs. The whole thing is fascinating, but there’s a summary of the findings on page 6 and its recommendations on page 7. (PDF)

Another global point of view: Anthropologist and author Dr Laura Agustín is an expert on sex work and migration. She spent years collecting a lot of data from many different countries and wrote an excellent book about it, "Sex At The Margins." On her blog, you can look through her lists of her articles by subject and date.  http://www.lauraagustin.com/

One of the more visible save-the-victims advocates is NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof, but turns out his methods and motives aren't as saintly as one might think. Here's a roundup of some criticism of his campaigns and why he exemplifies "bad advocacy." http://postwhoreamerica.com/nicholas-kristof-half-the-sky-all-the-credit/

In the UK, prostitution per se is legal, although still stigmatized, and like Canada, they have a lot of satellite-laws that hamper safe working systems. (Two women cannot work together because that's "keeping a bawdy house", etc.) But a new concept, "The Merseyside Model" is gaining some ground: treat crimes against sex workers as hate crimes. I was skeptical - and I still am, to some degree - but the approach seems to have some good points in terms of making sex workers safer. http://titsandsass.com/the-merseyside-model-part-i-can-sex-worker-activists-partner-with-the-police-and-a-conservative-london-politician/

UK Dr. Brooke Magnati has a lot of good things to say on the subject: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/9907625/Demonising-sex-workers-makes-their-lives-more-dangerous.html She also tells a story of women being incarcerated in Ireland for (among other things) being promiscuous/sex workers, well into the 1970’s. This is just one example of why many sex workers are extremely leery of “help” from government/charity orgs.  http://sexonomics-uk.blogspot.com/2013/01/when-help-is-anything-but.html

This is a good round-up site for current academic research papers and articles about sex work, and its conflation with trafficking: http://sexworkresearch.wordpress.com/

Prolific blogger/activist Maggie McNeil has vast amounts of links and commentary on her blog, "The Honest Courtesan"

Video: Here's a good video, with citations, explaining exactly how the US uses a gag order, The Anti-Prostitution Oath, to impose a fundamentalist morality on public health efforts and constrain harm reduction strategies around the world.  http://vimeo.com/43262622

Video: The Thai sex workers rights group, Empower Foundation, has made a ten minute video called "Last Raid In Siam" that shows how they feel about organizations that raid and "rescue" them. (Youtube, has sound, worksafe) "Last Raid In Siam" is funny, but the real-life story often isn't. Two women died while recently trying to escape from an anti-prostitution center where they were being held against their will.

I have a list of people, stories and data like this goes back years, and it get longer every day. If there's an aspect of the situation you still have questions about, or you’d like to discuss this more with me, I’m happy to do that.
***

Addendum: a quick overview of different views of how sex work should be treated - prohibition, decriminalization, legalization, etc. I am an advocate for decriminalization. 

Also a list of countries where sex work is legal, and where it is not, and where it's somewhere in between. Notice that the US is one of the few Western, industrialized countries where prostitutes are still arrested.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bad Marketing (Of) Campaign



So, I'm not really officially blogging again. (Unless I decide that I am.) But something came to my inbox today that left me half-laughing and half-offended. It’s so outrageous that I had to share it, and 140 characters simply won’t do. 

(Complete and unedited text of an advertising email I got from one of the sugardaddy/sugarbaby sites.) 


Hello Beautiful,
As an attractive, independent woman, you get all the breaks: skipping lines at clubs, free drinks, higher employment rate, and now you are avoiding the "Fiscal Cliff".  Luckily for you, you're not ugly; because unfortunately, by order of natural selection, ugly women lose... and only the beautiful survive.
Your government wants to push you off a "cliff", so don't get caught without your "parachute". Starting January 3, 2013, women like you will lose at least two thousand dollars to higher taxes. And unless they find a Sugar Daddy who can be their "parachute", they will fall off the "cliff" with the rest of the women. 
So, do you know a beautiful woman, like yourself, that you want to save from the Fiscal Cliff? Share this email with her to guarantee that both of you have your "parachutes".


Let’s examine this bit by bit, shall we? In the first line, we get some passive-aggressive whining about the benefits of being considered an attractive person. Which do exist, although I must point out that attractive men also tend to have higher employment rates. (I would imagine that they could get free drinks with no lines, too – if they went to gay bars. You have to consider your audience.) Plus, I thought everyone was currently avoiding the fiscal cliff, not just attractive independent women.

Second line: people who have not really read Darwin should not try to reference his theories. 

Third line: now we’re getting down to it. The writer is correct to put quotation marks around “cliff”, because it’s actually not a cliff. I suppose he’s right to put them around “parachute” as well, since in the event that one did, literally, fall off a cliff, your standard-issue parachute would not help the situation. 

Fourth line: Since all attractive women apparently fall into the same tax bracket. And retroactive middle-class tax breaks that are overwhelmingly likely to be passed don’t apply to us, it seems.

Fifth line: And the GOP wonders why women thought a war had been declared on them? Who wrote this, Todd Akin and Richard Murdock?

Sixth line: You know, if I did think I was about to “fall” off a “cliff” and I needed a “parachute” to save me from the fate of “the rest of the women”, I’m not sure I’d be inviting other beautiful women hang onto my legs. Kind of goes against that natural selection thing, you see. I really hate it when terrible ad copy is so philosophically inconsistent.

So this is terrible writing, and a completely lame and somewhat offensive premise, but I must reluctantly give it points for sheer marketing nerve.  You have to appreciate it when a website takes a markedly republican-ish point of view about the current financial situation and spins that into what is, basically, the suggestion that women should be sex workers and encourage their friends to be, too. 

I’m somewhat disappointed to see that they didn’t try to work any of the social-conservatism angles into this pitch, though. They could have done something about how undocumented foreign women are going to take all the American men? Or how now that gays can marry, all the men (or should I call them “parachutes”?) are going to marry EACH OTHER! And leave us women to go over the cliff. An opportunity missed, there.

Ironically, I got this more or less right after reading an unbelievably condescending bit of tripe by Glenn Reynolds saying, essentially, that the unmarried women who didn’t vote for Romney were “low information voters”, and that the GOP should court us by buying some women’s magazines and putting Republican-friendly “feel-good stories” among the “the usual stuff on sex, diet and shopping”.

I’m unmarried, Glenn. I read fashion magazines – and that is what you are talking about: fashion magazines. Not all women read them, and not only women read them, either. Let me tell you what else I read, every day: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the CNN site.* It will shock you to know that I’m not a big HuffPo fan.  In addition, at least once a week, I go look at The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal. I sometimes even check out (god help me) The National Review, because I’m one of those crazy people who thinks one shouldn’t live in an echo chamber.  I find that works out well for me.

In short, I am anything but low-information. And I still did not vote for Romney. So take your patronizing drivel about my woefully-uninformed female brain and go fall off a cliff with it. Your ideas about how the GOP should to appeal to women are less intelligent and much more offensive than this email.


*Also frequent reads: The LA Times, The Stranger/Slog, The Seattle Times (although not that much) Talking Points Memo, and The Economist. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hi. So, yeah - I'm not blogging so much these days. Who knows, this blog may live again some time, but not right now.

If you're new here, check out the archives for seven years of articles about sex, BDSM, sex work, polyamory, and various other topics both sacred and profane. The last few years have tags, or employ an advanced Google search to find keywords. If it has to do with sex, I've probably written about it.

I twitter here.

My articles appear in the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, and the complete archives of those articles are available here.

There are links to the right for my professional website, the Flickr feed, and various other bits of goodness about me. You can email me: MistressMatisse at gmail.com

If you've been a regular reader of mine - thank you! Your support has always meant a lot to me, and it continues to do so.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The latest column in The Stranger, about the way one should measure one's success as a top.

And an answer to a question about collars and the subtleties of BDSM relationships.

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Under My Protection and Collars of Consideration

I saw some questions about this on a kink community board I’m on, so I’m using them as a blog-prompt for myself.

Q: When someone says, “So-and-so is under my protection”, what does that mean?

That phrase may or may not mean that two people involved are playing together. The general translation of that sentiment, in my mind, is: “I’m fond of this person, and either because of his/her newness to kink, or just general emotional issues, I perceive her/him as being vulnerable to predatory personalities. So go ahead and chat them up, it’s all good, but just be aware: you fuck with them, you’re fucking with me. And you don’t want to fuck with me.”

Your mileage may vary, of course. But that’s more or less what it means when I say it.


Q: What is a Collar of Consideration?

A tiresome bit of pretentiousness? Collars of Consideration, indeed. What am I, a kinky seminary or something?

Oh, all right, I don’t really mean that. I mean: I don’t do that sort of thing myself. I don’t generally use collars very much at all. (Although they are pretty to look at, and sometimes useful, too.) Some other people place a lot of meaning in them, and that’s fine. And whatever you want to call them is also fine with me - as long as you don’t pretend that there is some sort of universally agreed-upon BDSM system of ranking the person wearing them according to the title of the collar, or its color, or its material, or anything like that, because there is not.

I suppose you could say a “Collar of Consideration” might be the kink version of a Promise Ring – the people involved are engaged to be engaged, if you will, in a committed D/s relationship. That would be my take on that.

As always in BDSM, when in doubt, politely say to the person you're talking to, "I don't want to be rude, but I'm not sure I understand the etiquette here - can you tell me what that means, exactly?" That'll pretty much cover you no matter what.

(Originally published April 2010)