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Mar
28

Sam Berg: Words in the World of Gender Identity

By Sam Berg  //  Articles, Sam Berg  //  3 Comments

Presentation for the panel “Deconstructing Gender Identity Under Male Supremacy” at New York City’s Left Forum 2016

    transcript

(intro cut from video)

I’m a linguist by education and I’ve been politically organizing radical feminists against prostitution for 14 years. This segment will combine those skills and examine how the new vocabulary of transgenderism functions to erase women and silence women’s speech.

(video begins)

Although I had been friends with and worked with transgendered people for many years in Portland — which is where I live, Portland, Oregon — it was through the issue of prostitution that I first came to question the possible harms of transgender politics.

Georgina Beyer lived as a white male in New Zealand before transition at the age of 27. Georgina had prostituted as a gay male before winning a seat in New Zealand’s parliament and pushing for the legalization of prostitution. When the law passed in 2003 legalizing prostitution, no female sex workers were serving in New Zealand’s parliament.

This fact led me to learn that many so-called “sex worker rights” organizations around the world have transwomen in prominent leadership positions, and I’ve had to put a lot of thought into why such a small demographic among prostitutes are given such a disproportionate media platform. With everything I know about how hierarchy in gender operates in prostitution, I could no longer ignore the increase in transgender activists being heard over women’s voices on laws that almost wholly concern women’s lives.

I’ve put on many conferences and events fighting prostitution, and I’ve long dealt with verbally abusive backlash from the sex industry, but I didn’t get my first credible threats of violence until 2012 when I directed a radical feminist conference in Portland. That’s when transgender activists started harassing conference venues I’d rented to make them rescind the rentals they had agreed to, and they started putting out public calls to assault the women I had invited to attend my conferences. They put up the list of the hotels they were staying at and said, “Go get them, go follow them, hit them in the head with bricks.”

I could speak about those terrorizing threats for many hours, but I only have fifteen minutes so I’m going to segue here into when I first started getting called SWERF and TERF.

SWERF and TERF definitions

As an anti-prostitution activist, my articles and my work revolve around the sex industry, so my status as a SWERF (sex work exclusionary radical feminist) was affirmed but my TERF status was only implied because I don’t write about transgender issues, I mainly care about prostitution.

Many radical feminists are themselves formerly prostituted women, but as with all of the words I’ll be going over today, the point is not accurate description, the point is verbal abuse.

A slow walk through any porn store should demonstrate how endlessly creative men can be coming up with ways to speak their contempt for women. There has been no coinage of slurs for the men who purchase sex, they’re still just known as johns. The johns who cause the rapes, assaults, and murders of prostitutes still get called johns. It’s almost as if the alleged crime of feminist exclusion is somehow the worst abuse prostitutes face. I promise you it is not.

Here are some examples of TERF in action. I could pluck thousands of these but I tried to pluck a couple just to give you a sense of what’s going on here…and then there’s this person…

Similarly, as there’s no new word for johns to talk about their violence, there is no word to talk about the men who disproportionately harm transgender people. SWERF and TERF were not created to shed light on the real problems that trans individuals face, which are significant. These words are used to bully women, to blacklist women, and to shut down women’s right to political assembly.

cis-

Another linguistic device that transactivists use is the prefix cis-. Popular transgender advocate Janet Mock wrote a book titled Redefining Realness that defines cis- as a term “for people who are not trans and more likely to identify with the gender that correlates with the sex they were assigned at birth”.

Fun little fact about Janet Mock’s book is the original title was Fish Food before it was Redefining Realness. “Fish” is a transgender term for a transwoman who is so convincingly passing as a female you can practically smell the fish on her. Just in case there are some sweetly naive persons in the room, men have long said that women’s vaginas smell like fish. I’m going to just assume most of you have heard this.

Back to cis-; cis- is supposed to be more neutral than TERF but still functions as a cudgel against women.

Cis-woman confers a power to women that women do not have. While it is true that trans-people suffer enormous discrimination, it doesn’t logically follow that makes being a cis-woman a privilege. In our misogynistic world, being a woman brings forth discrimination and disrespect at nearly every social intersection. Being seen as a women does not provide advantages, resources, or power by its being.

Also, not everyone who is not transgender is cis-gender. The most obvious example of that is lesbians. Lesbians are most definitely not acting in ways expected of women when they romantically love other women. Many other examples are easy to find.

There is nothing the prefix cis- accomplishes that the term “not trans” can’t accomplish without relegating literally billions of women into a subcategory. We’re already placed in subhuman categories, we don’t need to be subbed any more.

gender identity

The UK Select Committee recently reported this definition of gender identity, “Gender Identity is the gender with which a person associates themselves.” Your gender identity is your gender identity. That’s a terrible definition. You don’t need a degree in linguistics to know that is a horrible and useless definition.

Without some objective foundation for gender identity, gender identity seems to mainly refer to sex-role stereotypes. I have yet to see a definition of gender identity that doesn’t rely on either biological facts or sex-role stereotypes.

But if we’re not supposed to use biology, we need to know the new criteria for how we define men and women anymore. What is that criteria? The purpose of this particular segment on language is to get at how I’d love to be able to critique definitions of gender identity that make sense to me, but they keep shifting and refer to themselves so I can’t even find a foundation from which to start.

genderfluid and genderqueer

Genderfluid and genderqueer are terms used by people who identify themselves as being off the binary, they identify as not male and not female. They are non-binary.

Except, if gender is a spectrum, and not a binary, then everyone is non-binary. Nobody is a pure cartoonish stereotype of the pink box of femininity on one side and the blue box of masculinity on the other side. Penises and vaginas do not determine innate personality traits.

Genderfluid and genderqueer people assume themselves to be outside the pink and blue boxes, but we all live outside the pink and blue boxes. Nobody wants to be put in a box. I’m boxless too, don’t box me either. So are you. Gender boxes are a bad fit for human beings and feminists have known this for a very long time and railed against them for a very long time.

We need to break the power that gendered stereotypes have in shaping human experiences and stop insisting that men and women must identify with the pink and blue caricatures of human beings.

cis-sexism and transmisogyny

So on to cis-sexism, which is never going to roll off my tongue easily, and transmisogyny. Transmisogyny is committed by cis-sexists. One key rule of patriarchy is to excuse and obscure male supremacy and the mechanisms that maintain it, bonus points if you can blame it on a woman.

Accusations of transmisogyny are mostly leveled at women – mostly feminist women — much more than they are ever used to describe the men who commit the real violence that happens to transpeople. It’s as if it takes the transgender blood that men are spilling and smears women’s hands with it, but we are not causing this violence.

Feminine gender conformity, now being called cis-womanhood, does not protect women from being oppressed. For women, gender is most commonly a burdensome, threatening experience.

I wish I could count how many times men have told me about prostitution, “Gosh, I wish I could get paid just for having sex, that sounds awesome, Best Job Ever!” as if men bribing poverty-stricken women into sex they do not want is a privilege that you get for being a woman. Lucky us, huh?

It’s no accident that the stereotype of a prostitute is of a hyperfeminized woman wearing too much makeup, showing too much skin, wearing those stripper heels, as they’re called. The highest of the high heels that high heels can get are stripper heels. Prostitutes are the most feminized women of women, and they are the most raped women, and the most murdered women of all womankind.

Cis-sexism prevents women from addressing issues like prostitution which disproportionately and sometimes uniquely affect females. We can no longer say that misogyny experienced by females is a problem — that’s exclusionary. We have entered a politics that acknowledges transmisogyny as a problem and misogyny as a privilege women have over transgendered people.

As Sarah Ditum said, “I am trying to live as a woman in a patriarchal world, and frankly that sucks enough on its own without being told the female body my culture punishes me for is a privilege in itself.”

Here are some examples of how accusations of transmisogyny are literally making the sexism that happens to women impossible to speak:

uterus-bearer’s rights

Raise your hand if you’re a uterus-bearer!

The Amherst student newspaper published an article on abortion rights and they filed it under their new category, “uterus-bearer’s rights”.

I have a theory as to why it’s unethical to say that women have vaginas but progressive to say that women have uteruses. That theory is based on the fact that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of slang terms for women’s breasts and vaginas — I’m sure we can all think of many words for that — but have you considered there is no slang term for the uterus? There is no slang term for an ovary. There is no slang term for a cervix. Women are judged by what men see, and they don’t see our uterus and our ovaries and our cervix, so who cares?

Men have not really shown much interest in the inner lives or the inner bodies of women, and I think this is coming out in these words.

This cartoon promotes awareness of abortion and they thought it was a good idea to replace woman with the term “adult uterus’d people”.

Laws restricting abortion are of course directed at women because we are women. It’s about society trying to control women’s bodies because only women can produce new human beings. We can’t disconnect the abortion debate from the oppression of women since the entire debate about abortion only exists because it’s based on the resource production that only women can do.

birthing parent and chestfeeding

The Midwives Alliance of North America in their 2014 Core Competencies Manual replaced the words woman and mother with “pregnant individual” and “birthing parent”.

(audience member adds, “In Spanish, you would translate “parent” as “father”.)

Just two weeks ago, transactivists were taking to social media to complain about how Mother’s Day is transphobic.

No longer do women breastfeed, now we chestfeed. Chestfeeding is being recommended because breasts are transphobic now. Mind you, men have breasts too. When men get breast cancer, they call it breast cancer, they don’t call it chest cancer to spare their hurt little man feelings. The biological term chest encompasses so much more than the mammary glands formerly known as breasts.

front hole

And now for the front hole formerly known as vagina.

Mount Holyoke College, a women’s liberal arts college, canceled a performance of Eve Ensler’s iconic play The Vagina Monologues, and here’s the quote on why they cancelled, “It provided an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.”

Writing in the New York Times about the play’s cancellation, Elinor Burkett notes that transactivists are pushing “front hole” and “internal genitalia” as alternatives to the word vagina.

Look for the new play, The Front Hole Monologues, coming to you soon.

These irrational demands are sabotaging feminist fundraisers and they’re cancelling performances of feminist plays. This is not fringe stuff, it may have started there but it’s in The New York Times, and New York Magazine and The Nation and The Guardian. This is our world now: front holes, chestfeeding, adult uterus’d person.

Capitalism offers an infinite choice between irrelevant choices, but little choice on the most important, life-affecting choices. You can get underarm deodorant in a stick, a spray, a roll on, a cream, a gel, a powder, and a freaking rock, but your choices for president are Democrat and Republican.

Capitalism loves focusing on you the buyer, you the individual, you’re so special, instead of communities of class, race, and sex because it loves fragmenting people into ever more marketable demographics. Removing the word “woman” from the English language, and presumably all languages if transactivist goals are to be reached, makes feminism impossible by denying that women are a definable class. Women will remain the sexually exploited and will remain oppressed, but now we can’t talk about it without being accused of oppressing others.

Capitalism loves eternally shifting language games that splinter people into ever more groups, and the 50+ genders of Facebook shows that it’s impossible to keep up with the lightening-fast pace of these new terms. But a wall covered in mud is still a wall no matter how much mud you throw at it, and a woman with dirt stuffed into her mouth so she can’t speak anymore is still a woman. Thank you.

Dec
22

Melania Trump, America’s first sex worker First Lady

published at Feminist Current December 17, 2016

pic1453940380727-cached-600x400

In late November I was in the Portland State University’s Women’s Resource Center listening to a teacher explain that sex work is feminist work. Where an evidenced explanation for the Nordic Model’s supposed failure should have been, she asked the students to postulate a reason for its failure. One young woman guessed, “Because sex is used transactionally all the time, so police can’t know if transactions are professional or not.” The teacher agreed and moved on to how not all prostitutes were raped as children.

In that woman’s mind and to the teacher’s agreement, sex is perceived mainly as a means to acquire things. All women are prostitutes, but some go on to make careers of it and the transition is so seamless that onlookers can’t tell the difference between fucking for stuff as an amateur and fucking for stuff as a pro.

I bring up this recent anecdote because the assembled sex-positive liberals in that class were adamantly anti-Trump and aghast at his election without reflecting on how Trump is the most pro-sex work president the USA has ever had.

The knee-jerk position of the American Left is to oppose anyone who goes through public life with an R in front of their name. However, liberal men are much more supportive of women as public sexual property than conservative men who prefer their women privately owned. Prostitution is a limitless public harem thanks to the internet, and a harem is just a woman-zoo where men fuck the animals.

So why are liberals who advocate for expanding the public harem of hookers deciding, against all his prior actions up to and including marrying a sex worker, that Trump is anti-sex worker?

Jenni Kutner wrote for Mic about porn actress Jessica Drake, one of the dozens of women who have accused Trump of sexual abuse. She concluded:

“Trump has done more than imply how he feels about people in the sex industry. He’s demonstrated that he doesn’t view them as people at all.”

According to Drake, he treated her the same as he has numerous other women, “He grabbed each of us tightly, in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission.” That’s an ordinary day for the world’s most notorious pussy-grabber. Donald Trump treats women the same way he treats sex workers because he agrees with the Portland State teacher and student that all women prostitute for gain, some are simply more organized about it than others.

Drake said Trump called her later asking her to return and offering $10,000 plus the use of his private jet to get back home the next day.

I haven’t seen any of the people who want to legitimize prostitution as a profession acknowledge Trump’s extreme generosity here. It’s very rare for a sex worker to make $10,000 in one night. A sum of that amount should be a cause for sex-positive celebration and an example of a man honoring the work of sex they proclaim it is. The added offer of a private jet ride home afterwards surely makes him a gentleman john if ever there was one.

Robert Brannon of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism collected details of Trump’s financial dealings that support prostitution in his article, “Donald Trump and the Sex Industry.” Among his findings are such pro-sex worker facts as Trump’s Taj Mahal casino being the first casino in Atlantic City to have an in-house strip club, and Trump’s numerous collaborations with Playboy:

“Donald Trump, himself, has appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine, and has proudly performed as an ‘actor’ in three different Playboy-produced ‘softcore’ pornography videos in 1999, 2001, and 2004 (Moye, 2016). He was always fully clothed, but in other scenes in these films, many women were naked. In the most recent film, young women are shown naked in sexual positions, dancing naked, rubbing honey on their breasts, taking a bath, and suggestively touching themselves and each other while naked (Moye, 2016).”

And still the mainstream liberal media keeps trying to paint Donald Trump as anti-sex work.

Rolling Stone ran a story on sex workers donating tips to Planned Parenthood in protest of Trump that included this rationale, “Whether their clients are Republicans or Democrats, they all spend the same money.“

AlterNet ran a story wondering if a Trump presidency will be bad for the porn industry.

What more could this avid client of erotic service providers possibly do to show he’s 100 per cent on the side of pimps, pornographers, and the sex workers they exploit? Would marrying a sex worker, having her bear his son, and making her America’s first sex worker First Lady suffice?

Apparently not.

Even the most apologetic of commentators can’t bring themselves to claim Melania Trump as one of their own and congratulate her on her new position as First Lady. Self styled “dominatrix and sex worker” Margaret Corvid poses the oddly noncommittal question, “Who Cares If Melania Trump Was Maybe A Sex Worker?” as if it doesn’t matter that an alleged former sex worker will be America’s First Lady for the next four years.

Corvid avoids treating Melania Trump as an agent of her own destiny and turns the topic towards herself and the abuse liberal men continue to dish out to prostituted women, “When liberals aim at Melania for alleged sex work, they hit me with their bullets of shame.”

It would be a step forward for Corvid to stop being wishy-washy about Ms. Trump’s rumoured sex work past and embrace it. Perhaps then she could begin to show concern for the woman whose naked image is being used by liberals as a cudgel to hit conservatives with instead of twisting it into an attack by proxy on herself.

Jill Filipovic, a former AlterNet editor and Guardian columnist who typifies the politics of third wave feminism, once wrote about begrudgingly allowing abusive men the legal right to purchase sex:

“I do think men who get off not just on sex but on exploitation are irredeemable shitholes, though. And yeah, they should have a legal right to access porn and to pay for sex (with people who are above the age of consent). But I still think they’re shitholes…”

By her own stated ethics, Filipovic should accept that not-convicted not-rapist Donald Trump offered a very agent-full sex worker a respectful sum of $10,000 for one night’s work. Drake considered the offer then refused, all in all the ideal hypothetical sex work scenario conjured by advocates for legal prostitution.

I disagree that the best people can do about paid-for sexual assault is make an informal complaint, heave a sigh, and walk away feeling superior to “shitholes.” But those are my radical ethics, not the espoused tenets of sex-positive feminism.

By capitalist feminist standards, Donald Trump is a sexual freedom hero. He offers vast sums of money to sex workers, pioneered strip clubs in Atlantic City casinos, appeared on Playboy’s cover plus performed cameos for Playboy products, and his third wife is said to be a former sex worker whom he made the mother of his child before making her First Lady.

Today, on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, I will raise a glass to toast America’s first sex worker First Lady, Melania Trump. I will drink for all the sexee liberals who got exactly the punter-in-chief they deserve. Donald Trump is well and truly the president of third wave feminism.

 

Jul
22

Brock Turner and porn users share a culture of sexual entitlement

published at Feminist Current  June 13, 2016

 

Rape culture is porn culture in 2016 — the two are indistinguishable. Since Hustler famously turned Cheryl Araujo’s 1983 gang rape, on a pool table in Massachusetts as other men watched, into porn, rape culture and porn culture have been merged, quite literally, by pornographers. We could place bets on how many days it will be until porn users are offered pornography themed on the Stanford rape case.

Consequently, it’s not unfathomable that the average porn user and Stanford rapist Brock Turner share similarities in how they have learned to pursue sexual gratification.

People who masturbate with porn largely think they’re better people than the Stanford rapist, but are they? Let’s examine the possibilities of anti-rape porn users sexually consuming the products of prostitution with integrity.

Both the Stanford rapist and men who use porn believe some women are there for the sexual taking, no questions asked. Like Turner, porn users stumble across drugged up, barely conscious-to-unconscious women and assume consent. Testimony from the porn industry confirms intoxication is ubiquitous during production, and even Hollywood actresses like Jennifer Lawrence often admit to using alcohol or pharmaceuticals to get through simulated sex scenes.

Neither Turner nor porn consumers could possibly get sober consent from the bodies they masturbated themselves with, but that hasn’t stopped them.

Porn users and Turner are similarly confident no one will know precisely how they’re getting off, and if details are made public they’re embarrassed by the loss of privacy and shamed by people’s judgments. Liberal feminists who defend pornography as freedom of speech often divulge intimate details of their sex lives and pubic hair grooming while adamantly refusing to name the porn they personally consume. Husbands notoriously keep their porn secret from their sex partners, and divorces commonly result after wives find out what their husbands have been doing when they thought no one would see.

Brock’s victim wrote that, while in the hospital, she “had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs.” Do porn users truly understand what she meant by including that detail? Perhaps some readers thought it “whorephobic” of her to imply there’s something inherently violating about having your genitals photographed.

News reports have revealed Turner took at least one photo of the victim’s breasts after the assault that he shared with friends via text, illustrating again the seamless fusion of rape culture and porn culture. Porn consumers have no way of knowing if the images they’ve seen were captured during rape.

The victim’s letter said no one wants to have sex behind a dumpster, not even with their boyfriend, but why should porn users believe that? There’s plenty of porn showing women fucked behind dumpsters, bent over dumpsters, inside dumpsters. The term “cum dumpster” is so common in porn that Turner himself has almost surely encountered it in his pornographic viewings, along with “jizz guzzler,” “cum bucket,” and “cocksocket.” Porn users don’t ask themselves if they would accept having sex in the gross places the women they stumble across on the internet are presented as accepting.

Turner said he didn’t know the name of the woman on the ground beneath him. How many porn users do you think know Jenna Jameson’s real last name is Massoli? Most porn users couldn’t even tell you the fake name of the last porn actress they masturbated themselves to while watching her be prostituted. The voyeuristic consumption of anonymous women’s sex is considered completely normal.

Pine needles up the vagina is downright wholesome compared to the things men have shoved inside women to make porn (multiple penises, animal penises, feces, etc), but the same common-sense-conscience porn users admonish Turner for not employing doesn’t get applied to porn.

Like Turner’s victim, women in porn will retain no memories of specific porn users getting themselves off with their bodies. Many prostituted women who have had their rapes filmed said it affects their lives to know their suffering is remembered and continually masturbated to by men who have seen their naked bodies and what was inflicted upon them in the name of “sex.”

The victim’s statement includes a reference to popular porn series Girls Gone Wild: “To listen to your attorney attempt to paint a picture of me, the face of girls gone wild [sic], as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me.”

Through all my years of anti-prostitution activism, the idea that prostituted women are wild girls who willingly put themselves into what everyone knows is a dangerous situation remains the most common excuse porn users make. Turner and porn users both insist their belief that, “She wanted it” makes the “it” she got the “it” she should have expected to get and, therefore, her fault.

Everyone wants to believe they would be like the Swedish bicyclists in this story, but porn users haven’t shown a willingness to intervene in what they’ve seen so far. Before those Swedes stopped and acted, there were likely a few people who walked along the path, saw what was happening, and found excuses not to intervene. Those of us who choose to interfere with pornographic sexual exploitation no longer watch porn.

If there are any porn users reading this, here’s an experiment for your next pornsturbation session: Ask yourself the question you expected Brock Turner to ask: “How can I know for sure if this woman has genuinely consented to this sexual activity?” If you don’t know more about the women in front of you than the Stanford rapist knew about the woman in front of him, consider how porn culture might be influencing your ostensible anti-rape culture ethics.

 

Sep
7

Dead Rentboys tell no tales

published at Feminist Current September 1, 2015

Philip Michael Peck picture
Philip Michael Peck, 1990

 

Philip Michael Peck was a gay boy and my best friend in high school. We met over Whoopie Goldberg in the back of the science room. We hadn’t ever spoken before and he had his usual gaggle of girls around him when one girl said Whoopie was ugly. Phil indignantly exhorted, “Whoopie Goldberg is beautiful!” and the girls scoffed for the half-moment it took me to lift my head and confirm, “Whoopie Goldberg is beautiful.” His eyes met mine and we fell in love.

Phil started prostituting at 14 when older men solicited him in New York City mall bathrooms. From there he went on to do gay pornography and live sex shows. He would send me pictures of him performing drag shows under the name Marissa (my middle name) and tell me how he got free drinks if he performed. I did not get pictures from the two times he drank so much vodka he coughed blood and spent weeks in the hospital.

Phil told me about stealing a bag of cocaine from a john and ended the story with, “Honey, this city better be big enough for the both of us because I can’t see him again.” He ran a small gay escort agency until he got arrested in a hotel overlooking Madison Square Garden.

Phil and his partner of six years, Darren, lived for years as male prostitutes in New York City. They were “rentboys” in the current euphemistic parlance. Once when I visited, Darren kept awkwardly standing around because he had gotten painful shots in the ass to cure the syphilis one of his regular johns had given him.

Phil and Darren both tested HIV positive. Darren got sick and died after a lightning fast three weeks in the hospital. AIDS can be a protracted illness, but the speed at which it took Darren shook me.

Phil kept turning tricks after learning he was HIV positive. No worried lecture from me could change his need for money, and none of my conscience-buckling at the thought of him spreading AIDS could change his reckless behavior so I supported him with the unconditional love of lifelong friends.

Philip died at the age of 32 because of men’s belief in their right to economically coerced sex on their own abusive, risky, deadly terms.

I used to brag to people with sex positive pride that I had sex worker friends who were living the good life. Doing this boosted my own sexy street cred and I consciously chose not to relay the ugly truths they told me about getting raped and getting various sexually transmitted diseases.

I don’t blame myself for the pains he went through living by prostitution and dying by AIDS, but I can’t help wondering if things might have been different if I didn’t encourage his and Darren’s prostituting all those years.

I think of Phil when I read about how legalizing prostitution is supposed to make prostituted people safer from rape and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and syphilis. I think of how Phil worked in the legal porn industry that has had multiple decades to demonstrate how safe legalized prostitution can be, and I think of how very weak the case for legalized prostitution becomes when positioned next to the massive failures of corporate pornographers to protect the pornstitutes in their employment.

I consider the idea that legal prostitution would reduce sexually transmitted diseases not just anti-common sense and anti-science, but also demonstrably not the agenda of the already legalized pimps, called pornographers. Pornographers have fought hard against protecting sex workers from the obvious risks of industrialized sex-product production, but free market libertarians like Graeme Reid, Eric Sasson, and Tara Burns have convinced themselves this predictable result of capitalism will be different once prostitution without cameras is made legal.

I am glad Matthew Ebert is still alive to tell his tale, and I’m glad the anonymous man writing in the Guardian is still alive to tell his tale, but they can’t bring Phil and Darren back to life so that they can tell their tales too.

I last saw Phil in a coffee shop near Madison Square Garden. He had stopped prostituting, beat his addictions to hardcore drugs, and was struggling to overcome alcoholism as he volunteered with the Gay Men’s Health Clinic. He spoke about a former john who hired him to clean his massive Westchester house, but every time the man made a sexual advance Phil refused. “It’s not worth it anymore, not for all the money he has,” he told me that last time I would see him. He told me how proud he was of the anti-prostitution work I do.

I could spend every day of my life speaking for my dead best friend and it would not put back on this Earth what was taken away by johns who put their power-playing pleasure above other people’s lives. I will spend every day of my life fighting against the sexual commodification of human beings that took the life of my best friend.

Samantha Berg is a radical feminist journalist, activist, and event organizer. Her articles have been published in progressive media for over a decade, and in recent years she has organized anti-prostitution political events in the United States and Canada. Samantha’s blog is JohnStompers.com and her website, Genderberg.com, is dedicated to Phil.

Nov
24

From Norway to New Zealand, pro-prostitution research is its own worst enemy

published at Feminist Current November 24, 2014

Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that if you’re going to lie you should make it a whopper,

For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Permit me to show you a lie so grand its telling should cause alarm, but it doesn’t because the deception is in service of solidifying men’s ownership of women from the inside out and absolutely.

I triple check facts before stating them. Some is preparation for audience feedback and some is doubt about how well I know what I know, perhaps because I’m a woman in a culture that disregards women. Operating on the niggling thought that my political opponents might make a valid argument against my preferred prostitution solution of criminalizing johns, I have dived into every policy paper on prostitution I have gotten whiff of for thirteen years.

You may have encountered the results of my labors before when I wrote about Norwegian research that unintentionally affirmed the success of criminalizing johns.

The Prostitution Reform Act of 2003 (PRA) decriminalized prostitution in New Zealand. At the same time, the Prostitution Law Review Committee was established to report within 3 to 5 years on the number of New Zealand’s newly dubbed “sex workers.” Here is that 2008 report.

The summary concludes decriminalization did not increase street prostitution. The contents of Section 8 prove street prostitution went up and more than doubled between 2006 to 2007 in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.

The official press release was based on these comments from the summary (bolds mine),

The numbers of street-based sex workers have remained stable since the enactment of the PRA, with comparable numbers on the streets to estimates done prior to decriminalization. The Committee endorses the findings of the CSOM (Christchurch School of Medicine) that the enactment of the PRA has had little impact on the numbers of people working in the sex industry.

Buried in Section 8 is evidence about increases in street prostitution since the law passed,

Research undertaken by the CSOM in February and March 2006 found 253 street-based sex workers in New Zealand…In Auckland 106 street workers…in Wellington 47 street workers…and in Christchurch 100 were recorded.

Between June and October 2007, CSOM carried out another estimation of street-based sex workers…In Christchurch 121 street-based workers were counted and in Wellington 44 street-based sex workers were counted. In Auckland, 230 street workers were known to be working.

Wellington 47, then 44
Christchurch 100, then 121
Auckland 106, then 230
New Zealand

Section 8 also documented,

Auckland outreach workers also reported an ‘influx of sex workers on the streets in the six to eight months prior to June 2007.’

Streetreach is a non-governmental organisation that provides support for street-based sex workers in Auckland and Manukau cities. Streetreach believes there has been an overall increase in the number of street-based sex workers in the Auckland region since decriminalization.

In Christchurch, some residents in and around the street prostitution area report an increase in the number of sex workers since the passage of the PRA (St Lukes Body Corporate, 2007).

Clearly, many people who live next to and work directly with street populations have reported increased street prostitution in New Zealand.

That Executive Summary once more to refresh your memory,

The numbers of street-based sex workers have remained stable since the enactment of the PRA, with comparable numbers on the streets to estimates done prior to decriminalization…the Committee endorses the findings of the CSOM that the enactment of the PRA has had little impact on the numbers of people working in the sex industry.

What a whopper.

Some fabrications announce themselves, and some rely on subtle sleights of hand. The summary continues:

A comparison between the number of sex workers in Christchurch in 1999 and 2006 shows that the total has stayed approximately the same over that period.

Why stop at 2006 when the research went through 2007? Christchurch had 100 street prostitutes in 2006 and 121 street prostitutes in 2007.

The 2006 is no slip, it is New Zealand’s Ministry of Justice deliberately hiding 2007’s statistics about significant growth in the most violent form of prostitution— street prostitution.

Reading book-length documents full of terrible testimonies makes me grind my jaw while my eyes absorb the pages. Sometimes I pause to cry. However, if you boil your blood long enough and with the right ingredients, it condenses to become more solid than liquid. After all the time I have spent pouring the collected knowledge about prostitution from multiple countries into myself and simmering, I am as solid as a bead of ancient amber that prostitution abolition is the future of humanity.

 

Prostitution FAQ

In 2005, I endeavored to write the best prostitution FAQ on the web and it still is.

prostitution faq

Radio Interview

“Interview with Samantha Berg: A Primer on Radical Feminism” with Ernesto Aguilar for Pacifica Radio, originally aired on Houston, Texas channel 90.1 FM KPFT, June 25, 2014

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