published at Feminist Current December 17, 2016
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?
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.
I needed to write on what went down at the Radfem Rise Up! conference in Toronto because I’m the one who gathered the organizing group in February 2013. People tell me official group statements are the proper protocol, however reading a solid recap of events by an attendee convinced me it might be best to speak for myself and encourage others to do the same. I trust my co-organizers are dedicated radical feminists and I respect their opinions while wanting to tell my own story.
RadFem Rise Up! was put together by two Americans and three Canadians. Presenters were slated to speak on reproductive rights, the tragedy of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Bedford prostitution case, and human rights history. Trans issues were not on the schedule once we decided radical activist history and strategies would be our theme.
The first sign of trouble was an imposter website claiming we advocate homicidal violence against prostitutes and transpersons. Everybody agrees such mimicry is wacko in an unseemly way. It’s also familiar to me from my anti-pornstitution activism. All I want to do is stomp out johns. I created the Genderberg forum community to achieve that end, and along my path to ending the patriarchal demand for unlimited access to women I got publicly labeled a terrorist by an infiltrator to my forum:
Many of the ‘feminists’ in the anti-pornography and anti-sex worker movement are driven by hatred, anger and jealousy. I watched their non-stop attacks against other women and their constant blaming and shaming and it made me sick!
Over time I got fearful. You can’t really understand the hatred that is embodied in many of the posts on Genderberg. I was worried about what they would do to the targets of their hatred and anger. Many members of that forum simply do not see other women as human at all.
When I could not take the fear any more I broke my silence and sent out some letters letting people know what was happening in Genderberg. While many will claim that Genderberg is a “safe space” my belief is that there should be no safe space for those who work to destroy women. There should be no dark corner where ANYONE can get together and plot against or foster hatred of women. Misogyny deserves no shield to hide behind.
There’s a familiar, unhinged loopyness to such fears of feminists talking with each other privately. It’s a sinister obsession I also encountered when hosting Radfem Reboot in 2012. Violent threats hit the Facebook page furiously, then they hit our inboxes and the window of a Wells Fargo bank.
These were the same transactivists seeking to “destroy” Radfem Reboot in 2012. Shortly before Reboot they posted the hotels where women were staying with a plan to stalk and follow them to the venue. Add the fact that Lierre Keith, who had once been assaulted while speaking, was getting singled out for attack and I decided to call the police. Radfem Reboot concluded without another pugnacious peep.
Back in Toronto, our next concern was that Maggies, a Toronto group lobbying for the sex industry, had hastily convened a counter-event to our little shindig. Like the mock website, we considered it tacky but harmless and went about our business. Maggies is backed by the financial resources of the sex industry. Most transpersons go about their lives without harassing feminists, but the ones that appear to live for harassing us are all pro-pornstitution and that synergistic alliance is noteworthy.
Someone from Maggies lied to get on our registration list and execute a coordinated bombardment of Beaver Hall. Similar scare tactics were used when UK transactivists teamed with men’s rights misogynists to make various London venue staffs fear for their safety if they hosted feminists.
The conference coordinator who lives at and booked Beaver Hall for us, Trish, reported that her board said they were afraid of the threats to people and property and had to reconsider whether to let her use the space. The hundreds of admittedly “aggressive” emails received in a few short hours couldn’t all have been read by Beaver Hall, but the sheer volume was intimidating and they reneged.
When I heard the administrators at Beaver Hall were too freaked to stand up for women I was not surprised. The administrator’s changing stories about the threats and refusal to share the emails with either Radfem Rise Up! organizers or police was disappointing but not surprising. Learning that a patsy frauded her way into the conference to spy on us and reveal our location so they could continue to harass us was a surprise. For an organization which prides itself on freedom of speech and criticizing abusive state powers, Maggies sex work lobby held their counter-event but wouldn’t accord us the same right to assemble. Then they used authoritarian tactics against a small group of politically marginalized women.
Given the history of violent threats, it was terrifying to see the call out to mob us where we slept. A few months ago I had a racist loudmouth kicked off a bus and he ran towards me with his fist cocked to strike. I thought, “He wouldn’t dare while everyone’s watching” then I thought it prudent to remind him I would call the cops if he touched me. I tried to rationalize that sex industry and transactivists wouldn’t go so far as to throw rocks through windows or accost me while I took out the recycling, but every day angry men forget they will go to jail for indulging their violent impulses and women die.
Frightened women waiting for the police to arrive is a scene that will haunt me. I invited them to Toronto. We told them we would rent a house and provide two meals a day for three days. We screened registrants the best we could and kept the venue private, but when someone is determined to spend weeks working on how to violate your boundaries they will eventually accomplish their penetration.
Some couldn’t sleep as we waited for the police. Others were so scared they considered going to a hotel. Ultimately everyone stayed, and everyone who slept elsewhere Friday came back Saturday plus a few more. When the officer saw the evidence he took us seriously just as the police in Portland did. These are serious threats being made.
It was an immense relief to get back to conference business Saturday morning. Once Rachel Ivey started what wound up being a two and a half hour workshop on abortion and reproductive rights we mostly forgot about the attention-seeking bullies outside. My talk was interrupted twice as women stationed at the windows reported suspicious passersby, but I got back on track and finished. We were still cautious, but we had moved from fear to righteous anger at the deceptions and intimidations. We are radical feminists, we have been silenced too many times before, we do not accept the forced silencing of women.
There was a baby boy at the conference and I’m especially glad he was because it gave the mothers in the room ample opportunities to compare notes. I’m rarely around young children so each casual conversation about pregnancy, lactating, child development and more was a window to a new world for me. These are exactly the kinds of conversations woman-only spaces foster.
We prevailed in working on the woman-centered projects we came to accomplish despite the malignant disruptions. Investigations into the threats made against Beaver Hall continue. Radical feminists will continue to meet publicly and privately. The more violence-inclined misogynists reveal themselves, the sooner we can move past this age of selfishness and waste. All I want is to stomp out men’s sense of entitlement to control women.
Y’know, there hasn’t been a radical feminist conference in the US South for a long time.
published at Occupy Patriarchy Nov 6, 2011
I arrived at Jamison Park on a rainy Sunday afternoon with concern that interviewable women might be hiding from the weather in their tents, but there were some milling about.
The first woman I spoke with was part of a man and woman team organizing an open mic poetry session. She didn’t know much but expressed disappointment that it was mostly men doing the speaking while men and women were sharing duties on practical matters like food preparation and providing information.
As if to prove the point, then I came across the info desk being staffed by a woman and we talked. Her perspective is that the inter-gender problems she’s seen have involved people bringing their personal problems to camp. “What used to be kept behind walls comes through tents,” she told me before suggesting I inquire at the med tent.
To get to the med tent I had to cross the street, and on the corner waiting with me for the light to change were two policewomen. I asked if they knew anything about the known sexual assault or other gendered violence, and one of them rather unhelpfully told me to go to the city website for information about “assaults against women and MEN.” The other policewoman repeated the suggestion that I ask at the med tent and pointed it out to me, and just in case I missed it the first time around First Cop reminded me that I can get information there about “crimes against women and MEN.”
At the med tent a man with a long and bushy white beard told me the camp is much calmer now than three weeks ago. Portland’s mild weather and abundance of social services has garnered it a larger than average homeless population, and some of the more mentally ill and alcoholic homeless men were being disruptive. Local soup kitchen Sisters of the Road will not serve noticeably drunk patrons so they were going to Occupy Portland’s kitchen and causing a ruckus. He explained that there are still a fair number of homeless people at the camp but the scary, violent ones had since been ejected.
Someone had donated mace and loud horns that the medical tent handed out to women who said they felt unsafe.
Santa Cause also said there was an incident about a week ago with a pregnant homeless woman getting beaten up by the baby’s father. The abuser was seen kicking the woman in the stomach and her face was scratched up. She is still at the camp but he hasn’t been seen for a week, and word had gotten out that he was a known perpetrator and would be ejected if seen again.
There is a tent designated with a sign as the “Sexual Assault Response Team” but when I inquired about it he didn’t have much information. All he knew was that the one woman whose effort it seemed to be was barely there. On a small dry erase board was the woman’s name and a request for sexual assault volunteers, but there has been no response to my email four days later. I get the sense that a few people are trying to form an organized response but they haven’t had much support.
Next I headed for the Food Not Bombs tent to drop off the sack of apples I’d brought and to speak with the two women running that show. The talkative one said she stumbled across a meeting of women some days ago and thought they might have been having regular meetings, but didn’t know more than that. By day’s end I couldn’t find any postings or announcements about such a group, and I really, really looked. She also expressed disappointment that while other radical media outlets in Portland had an Occupy presence, local women’s bookstore In Other Words was MIA along with the city’s Radical Women socialist group.
My final noteworthy interviews were with two young women hanging out behind the makeshift kitchen. One of them had been there that early day when the rape was reported, and her impression was that the community response was surprisingly quick. “Dealing with that was prioritized at a chaotic time when a lot of construction was going on,” was her take on it. She had just been in Oakland and said that both there and in Portland far more men are taking the public megaphone than women.
Our interview was interrupted by a young woman who had been cleaning the kitchen for the past ten minutes. She came over and calmly said with an air of exhaustion, “There’s a lot of vegetables over there that need to be turned into something.” The less talkative of the pair reacted with a completely unnecessary and haughty, “I don’t react well to being ordered. It’s oppressive, and personally I just don’t respond well to that. If you want to ask me to do something I’ll consider it, but don’t order me around.”
The weary worker asked in a conciliatory tone, “Did you feel that I was ordering you?”
“Yes I did.”
“Well I’m just saying there’s vegetables over there. I mean, I don’t care because I cleaned and now I’m done but anyway…”
Ah, the familiar smell of horizontal hostility. Awkwardness aside, to their credit the two of them de-comforted from their chairs and we said our goodbyes as they headed to the kitchen.
Samantha Berg is National Coordinator for the feminist organization Stop
Porn Culture and founder of http://www.Genderberg.com, an anti-prostitution
activist community since 2005. Her newest website is www.Johnstompers.com
- Melania Trump, America’s first sex worker First Lady December 22, 2016
- Brock Turner and porn users share a culture of sexual entitlement July 22, 2016
- Dead Rentboys tell no tales September 7, 2015
- From Norway to New Zealand, pro-prostitution research is its own worst enemy November 24, 2014
- I want 140 characters which will end rape June 12, 2014
- “The City of Roses shall no longer tolerate feminism!” May 30, 2014
- Ghosts of Prostitution Debates Past October 31, 2013
- Sam Berg’s Statement on Radfem Rise Up! 2013 July 11, 2013
- Rain & Thunder Activist Spotlight: Samantha Berg, United States June 12, 2013
- Norwegian prostitution research solid like iceberg February 8, 2013
- New research shows violence decreases under Nordic model: Why the radio silence? January 22, 2013
- Who votes against decriminalizing prostituted children? November 9, 2012
- Radfem Reboot Wrap-up August 20, 2012
- Christine Stark’s “Nickels”, a tale of association January 17, 2012
- The Internet Swear Jar December 15, 2011
- Feminism and Occupy Portland November 6, 2011
- Three days of radical feminist SCUM October 25, 2011
- On the Feminists-in-Underwear Walks October 9, 2011
- Scotland: Don’t be like US May 5, 2010
- New coalition challenges the status quo of “Pornland, OR” February 14, 2010
- Extra, extra! Newspaper reporter interviews radical feminist! January 2, 2010
- Radical Feminism on the Web: The Carnival of Radical Feminists November 9, 2009
- Samantha Berg: HerStories interview October 28, 2008
- Paradigm shifts and paying for sex May 2, 2008
- The quest to be human: An interview with “Getting Off” author Robert Jensen November 22, 2007
- Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture September 14, 2007
- The New Antipornography Slide Show September 14, 2007
- Pornography, Prostitution & Sex Trafficking: How Do You Tell the Difference? September 14, 2007
- Hey, progressives! Cathouse got your tongue? July 9, 2006
- Portland at crossroads of human trafficking April 6, 2006
- “It’s up to you”: Prostitution, Censorship and Sweden January 4, 2006
- Female Chauvinist Liz: Third wave feminism through the songs of Liz Phair October 31, 2005
- The Harms of Gay Male Pornography: A Sexual Equality Perspective August 14, 2005
- Memorial for civil rights leader Andrea Dworkin July 1, 2005
- Giving the marginalized the tools to speak their voices April 10, 2005
- Sex trafficking strikes closer to home than thought November 13, 2004
- Media critics blind towards Playboy’s soft porn June 1, 2004
- All naked women are created equal January 3, 2004