Browsing articles tagged with " pornstitution"
Jan
17

Christine Stark’s “Nickels”, a tale of association

published at Radfem Hub Feb 3, 2012

 

Christine Stark has been a role model of mine since 2004. That was the year she co-edited Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography, which immediately soared up my book chart and remains a Berg top five today.

Not For Sale contains my favorite essay on prostitution, but Stark’s direct confrontation with so-called ‘sex radicals’ in the essay “Girls to Boyz: Sex radical women promoting prostitution and pornography” has the most forthright chutzpah of the collection. My admiration for her anti-pornstitution work led me to take special note of her various creative works released through radical feminist and artistic media.

Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation is Stark’s debut novel and it’s a doozy. The freestyle narrative announces itself on the first page through two fairy tales as understood by a small child. Stark plays with linguistic forms to translate the thoughts in a child’s mind, and it’s a testament to her skill that the unconventional style comes off much more genuine than parlor tricky. The punctuation and odd sentence breaks lend a breathless air and the cadence is tricky to catch at first, but much like watching a Scottish film, the initial confusion of familiar words in an unfamiliar dialect soon resolves and you’re hooked into the storyteller’s groove.

The story follows Little Miss So and So from age four through twenty-six. Her stream of consciousness survival of incestuous rape makes the early pages rough reading, so don’t pack Nickels for the beach. Not that there isn’t an inherent entertainment in stories of terrified and tortured children — as the stratospheric popularity of Stephen King proves — it’s just that Nickels is a different kind of horror story.

My fear to face was being forced to remember the powerlessness of childhood. Great literature makes readers see the world through another person’s eyes in a way that connects to their soul. What I saw through Little Miss So and So’s eyes was my world as a child, my own fractured soul trying to make sense of the cowardly cruelty of child abusers. Little Miss So and So was five-years-old when the school nurses saw the bruises and filed a failed lawsuit to remove her from her abusive family. I was six when the same events happened to me. There’s even a scene involving a bite-size apple pie and tears of gratitude for a family member showing kindness that rather eerily echoes an apple pie anecdote from my past. I write a lot, often about violence against women, yet I don’t write about my childhood for reasons I’m still unpacking.

History kept interfering with my reading, a feeling exacerbated by starting the book right before the traditionally family-infected Thanksgiving holiday. I had to keep putting the book down the same way I frequently pause while reading Andrea Dworkin, because the gut-felt truths come fast and tap on spots so sensitive that pushing past the discomfort without consideration feels like a wasted opportunity.

The years in Nickels tick by in five year chunks of time, and in the process my intimate connection to Little Miss So and So faded enough that reading felt less like picking at scabs. Stark’s heroine becomes her own entity and less of the allegory the abstract name evokes. By the time she grows into a young woman I no longer recognized myself in her new pursuits but I liked her just the same. We could be friends, Little Miss So and So and me, though I don’t share her fervor for sports and I’m not a lesbian.

The last two lines of Chris’s biography in Not For Sale are,

“She is a member of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and completing her MFA in Writing from Minnesota State University. Christine is a survivor of incest and a racist prostitution and pornography ring.”

Knowing some pieces of Stark’s past inadvertently made reading a puzzle in which I tried to sort the facts of her life from the fictions of the story. It’s a pointless game and a little unfair to writers who necessarily draw upon what they know to create stories of unreal people. Stark took a formless, nameless girl called Little Miss So and So and fused the tragedy of her lived facts into a useful fiction. Women who can do this, who can write the indescribable violations of girls in authentic words that resonate with survivors, are treasures to feminism and womenkind.

There are more books inside Ms. Christine Stark, more people’s stories to tell. I look forward to meeting them and the pieces of myself I’ll see in them.

Dec
15

The Internet Swear Jar

By Sam Berg  //  Articles  //  2 Comments

published at Feminist Law Professors Dec 15, 2011

 

A few days ago I wrote a comment at the Reclusive Leftist blog about misogynistic verbal abuse being unacceptable whether the target is a blogger or a prostitute and whether they are paid or not. Since then I’ve been fleshing out what it means to be paid for sexual abuse in the context of the internet.

Men call prostituted women a creative litany of slurs that women bloggers are only now learning. Radical feminists have long known the hate speech of pornography is itself sexual abuse that perpetuates further abuse against prostituted women and all women, and for our accurate assessment we have had that hate hurled at us faster and more aggressively.

Many women bloggers have shared complaints through the #mencallmethings Twitter hashtag, but few solutions have been offered by liberal feminists more worried about being perceived as pro-censorship than in stopping men’s verbal harassments.

In the name of harm reduction, I propose the Internet Swear Jar.

Sex workers are paid to be called misogynistic names and people consider it a fair transaction. Most high-profile feminist bloggers – ones who ask for donations to support their feminism – agree with that status quo situation. By the usual rationales for accepting prostitution and pornography, why shouldn’t men be allowed to pay any woman willing to take money in exchange for having some control over the verbal abuse she must endure?

Bloggers could post a menu of prices, and of course they would have the final choice on whether or not to accept twenty dollars to be publicly called a cocksucking cunt, but if your political ethic encompasses Yes Means Yes and Sex Work Is Work beliefs then men should be able to ask you ‘yes or no’ sex work questions. People who reject prostitution as employment wouldn’t participate, but there’s no reason for pro-sexwork bloggers to reject hearing out sincere “sass for cash” offers they would expect other women to accept. The sex work declared so rife with diversity that “not a monolith!” has become its mantra can’t be considered 100% monolithically terrible when the question becomes one of pro-sex work women considering freelance job offers.

Men are going to threaten and call women bloggers horrifically violent names anyway. Like the common belief in prostitution’s inevitability, it can’t be stopped. However, the extra harm reduction money can make blogging a little easier for women who have to deal with verbal sexism.

Grievances taken through the legal system commonly result in financial compensation. A system of direct payment would be a less time-consuming and economical way of achieving an already established form of justice.

Maybe disabled men with no other emotional outlet than anonymously spitting invective at women bloggers need that catharthic emoting to be healthy, and the conscientious women who consent to provide that service should be financially compensated.

By now I hope you’ve figured out I’m speaking hypothetically. There is no logical and humane answer to the question, “When is it all right to call a woman a flea-bitten whore who deserves to be raped?” that kicks off the start of payment negotiations.

But pro-sex work bloggers are not being philosophically cheeky about women arranging their own sexualized abuse in exchange for money. They really support the status quo of prostitution that permits payment for sexist humiliation. A key difference is that bloggers aren’t physically assaulted after getting called dehumanizing names, whereas no one in the world is more raped than prostituted women.

With credit to Stephen Roberts for amending his famous quote about atheism, “I contend that we are both abolitionists. I just believe in fewer sex workers than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all sex work jobs for yourself, you will understand why I dismiss all sex work jobs for women.”

 

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 Abolitionist Feminism” with Ernesto Aguilar for Pacifica Radio, originally aired on Houston, Texas channel 90.1 FM KPFT, June 25, 2014

Articles