Monthly Archives: May, 2011

The person dealing drugs has a finite amount of product to sell … but a girl is reusable

From the NY Times article, In Oakland, Redefining Sex Trade Workers as Abuse Victims, found via Feminist Law Professors.

Once viewed as criminals and dispatched to juvenile centers, where treatment was rare, sexually exploited youths are increasingly seen as victims of child abuse, with a new focus on early intervention and counseling. There is growing recognition that doctors can be first responders, intervening before long years of exploitation and abuse can take an even greater toll.

[…]

An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American-born children are sold for sex each year. The escalating numbers have prompted national initiatives by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, and new or pending legislation in more than a dozen states, most recently Georgia, which enacted a toughened human trafficking law this month.

The important thing to notice yet again is that these children are not being abused in shadowy child prostitution rings, they are being pimped out through the same avenues used to pimp adult women, and the johns who abuse them are the same johns who pay to rape adult women.

The abusers may be pimps, even brothers, who recruit or kidnap girls from the streets and market them online through sites, where they are featured in pulsating ads for massage parlors, escort services, strip clubs, even acupuncturists.

[…]

They fall prey to abusers who are highly motivated: the Polaris Project, a national advocacy organization, estimates that a stable of four girls earns over $600,000 a year in tax-free income for the pimp. Drug dealers here are increasingly switching to prostitution, inspired by the bottom line and fewer risks.

“The person dealing drugs has a finite amount of product to sell,” said Jason Skrdlant, an officer with the Oakland Police Department’s vice and child exploitation unit. “But a girl is reusable.”

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Eff Off Heff!

“Eff Off Hef!”: Feminists protest against new London Playboy Club

Feminist campaigners are to stage protests at the opening of a new Playboy Club in London ’s Mayfair on 26th May (1) and 4th June (2). Convened by OBJECT (3) and UK Feminista (4), picketers will greet Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who is flying over from Los Angeles for the launch, with calls to, “Eff Off, Hef!”

The new club comes 30 years after its predecessor establishment, which was also based in Mayfair , closed after a police raid for suspected gambling irregularities (5). Playboy clubs are just one of a myriad of products licensed by Playboy Enterprises, an international pornography corporation whose outputs include a mix of pornographic films, websites, TV programming and children’s stationary.

Kat Banyard, Director of UK Feminista, said:

“When it comes to today’s pornography industry, all roads lead back to Playboy. It was Hugh Hefner who laid the political and cultural groundwork for the brutal, violently misogynistic pornography that now floods society. But sadly for Hefner, you can’t trademark sexism, and Playboy’s retro brand of ‘gentleman’s porn’ can no longer compete with the extreme degradation of modern internet pornography. Hence we see this endless diversification into nightclubs, video games, clothing and even children’s stationary.

“But whatever product Playboy stamps its logo on, the basic brand concept is the same: woman reduced to sex object for man’s sexual satisfaction – and Playboy’s financial gain. Naturally Playboy Club London embodies this brand, offering champagne and sexism. So Eff off, Hef. And take your club with you.”

 Anna van Heeswijk, Campaigns Manager of OBJECT, said:

“Far from a symbol of sophistication and class, the opening of a new Playboy club in London signifies a worrying step backwards in the quest for equality between the sexes. It entrenches the legitimacy of a porn empire which makes its fortune out of degrading women as fluffy animals who exist as sexual playthings for wealthy men. It opens the floodgates ever wider to the pornification of our popular culture. And it serves to embed further a porn emblem which insidiously grooms girls into accepting and embracing sex object culture by marketing its brand to children through playboy pencil cases and bed covers.”

“It is time to cut through the crap of the Playboy PR machine. Sexualising and objectifying women as bunny rabbits is not sexy and it is not empowering. It is sexist, and everyone knows it. This is why hundreds of women and men across the country are signing up to the OBJECT and UK Feminista campaign to object to the opening of the new Playboy club. Our message is clear –  ‘Eff off Hef and stop degrading women!’”

For further details and interview requests please contact Anna van Heeswijk at anna@object.org.uk or Kat Banyard at kat@ukfeminista.org.uk

Notes to editors

(1)   26th May is the Playboy Club’s press night. Campaigners will be present outside from 8.30pm. Playboy Club is situated on 14 Old Park Lane, Mayfair, London. W1K 1ND

(2)   4th June is the official opening night of Playboy Club. The protest Facebook event is here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=607760925#!/event.php?eid=110848702337390

(3)   OBJECT is a human rights organisation which campaigns against the sexual objectification of women: www.object.org.uk

(4)   UK Feminista is a national network of activists campaigning for equality between women and men: www.ukfeminista.org.uk

(5)   http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/leisure/article4322711.ece

QotD: from PostSecret

From PostSecret (original here). At least the PostSecret people had the sense to label it ‘get out’

QotD: Commodification

First heard on the Adam Curtis documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, found in type, along with more info on the author Carmen Hermosillo “(aka humdog, aka Montserrat Tovar, aka Montserrat Snakeankle, aka Sparrowhawk Perhaps)” here.

i have seen many people spill their guts on-line, and i did so myself until, at last, i began to see that i had commodified myself. commodification means that you turn something into a product which has a money-value. in the nineteenth century, commodities were made in factories, which karl marx called “the means of production.” capitalists were people who owned the means of production, and the commodities were made by workers who were mostly exploited. i created my interior thoughts as a means of production for the corporation that owned the board i was posting to, and that commodity was being sold to other commodity/consumer entities as entertainment. that means that i sold my soul like a tennis shoe and i derived no profit from the sale of my soul.

“The stain of ‘slut’ sticks on some bodies more than others”

EDIT 08.06.11: I’ve decided to change the title of this post from “SlutWalk and race, class, privilege” to “The stain of ‘slut’ sticks on some bodies more than others”, because I think that snippet alone sums the whole thing up perfectly.

It is difficult to sum up the whole SlutWalk phenomenon. It seems like there are a lot of good intentions and enthusiasm, but that the original aim of challenging the idea that women are raped for dressing like ‘sluts’, since women get raped regardless of what we wear, so consequently we’re all ‘sluts’ so none of us are, has been lost in a lot of anti-feminist, ‘I choose my choice’ empowerfulment, and we’re having the name, and the concept, of ‘slut’ ‘reclaimed’ and forced on us in the name of liberation. It gets a lot of mainstream media attention because the mainstream media likes showing pictures of women dressed like ‘sluts’, but how much of the real message gets through, and how much of an effect it has in the long term remains to be seen.

I’ve recently come across a couple of articles that offer a critique of SlutWalk while taking into account issues of race, class and privilege.

From selftravels2010, Thoughts on race, class and Toronto’s Slutwalk:

Of course, the best interpretation of Slutwalk is that it is intended to contest all kinds of bodily policing and sexual violence. I think in some ways it succeeds. But this is why it’s important to think about the effect of the branding of Slutwalk. It seems to me that part of the appeal of the event comes through a sense of fun and excitement, a fun and excitement that is produced through the idea of transgression. Claiming the word ‘slut’ seems fun and exciting because it’s ‘naughty’. Two things stand out to me about the fun, sexy, naughtiness of ‘slut’. The first is that, as I’ve tried to argue above, for women who are already assumed to be ‘sluts’, whose bodies are naturalized as violable, there is little fun in claiming the term. My second point is that the sexy badness of it all relies on the very boundary between respectability and degeneracy that my understanding of feminism seeks to uproot. It keeps in place the line between ‘good’ women and ‘bad’ women, a line that I have argued is raced and classed. Some middle class white women can play with this boundary because they may have the ability to re-enter white middle class respectability as soon as they change their clothes. This is not true for most women. The stain of ‘slut’ sticks on some bodies more than others.

I found the above post via the comments thread on SlutWalk: A Stroll Through White Supremacy (found via Feminist Law Professors):

There is no indication that SlutWalk will even strip the word “slut” from its hateful meaning. The n-word, for example, is still used to dehumanize black folks, regardless of how many black folks use it among themselves. Just moments before BART officer James Mehserle shot Oscar Grant to death in Oakland in 2009, video footage captured officers calling Grant a “bitch ass [n*****].” It didn’t matter how many people claimed the n-word as theirs – it still marked the last hateful words Grant heard before a white officer violently killed him. Words are powerful – the connection between speech and thought is a strong one, and cannot be marched away to automatically give words new meaning. If I can’t trust SlutWalk’s white leadership to even reach out to women of color, how am I to trust that “reclaiming” the word will somehow benefit women? The answer is, I can’t. In fact, “reclaiming” is defined as taking something back that was yours to begin with, and the word “slut” was never ours to begin with, so it would be impossible to reclaim it.

According to SlutWalk’s website, the event is slated to be reproduced in Argentina sometime this year. It’s the country I was born and raised in, among Spanish, Guaraní and Portuguese speakers – and I can assure you that the word “slut” is not used by anyone there. This is not what we need. I do not want white English-speaking Global North women telling Spanish-speaking Global South women to “reclaim” a word that is foreign to our own vocabulary. To do so would be hegemonic, and would illustrate the ways in which Global North “feminists” have become a tool of cultural imperialism. I will be going back home in about a month, and want to do so without feeling the power of white women bearing down on me from 6,000 miles away. We’ve got our own issues to deal with in South America; we do not need to become poster children to try to make you feel better about yours.

Whether white supremacist hegemony was SlutWalk’s intent or not is beyond my concern – because it has certainly been so in effect. This event will not stop the criminalization of black women in New Orleans, nor will it stop one woman from being potentially deported after she calls the police subsequent to being raped. SlutWalk completely ignores the way institutional violence is leveled against women of color. The event highlights its origins from a privileged position of relative power, replete with an entitlement of assumed safety that women of color would never even dream of. We do not come from communities in which it feels at all harmless to call ourselves “sluts.” Aside from that, our skin color, not our style of dress, often signifies slut-hood to the white gaze.

If you had any doubts that we live in a rape culture…

Read this article about an Argentinean journalist who, after an international Hollaback campaign, was sacked for writing an article that included the fantasy of him meeting a feminist activist (a real, named, woman), having a drink with her, then “telling her that I would love to break her argument with my cock”.

The writer’s defence of himself includes saying it was an “ironic, sensual” description of “a scene of violent seduction, as all seductions are”.

In the original version of the article, which he put up on his blog, the wording is “ass” instead of “argument”. It’s difficult to decide which is more misogynistic, the threat of rape, or the insistence that all a woman needs is to ‘experience’ a man’s cock to suddenly see the error of her silly, feminist ways.

It’s funny, radical feminists are constantly being accused of ‘man-hating’ and of saying that all men are rapists, but here’s a man himself saying that all ‘seduction’ is violent, that violence is necessary for seduction.

Andrea Dworkin, who has been accused of saying that all sex is rape, responds in the introduction to her book Intercourse:

[I]f one’s sexual experience has always and without exception been based on dominance–not only overt acts but also metaphysical and ontological assumptions–how can one read this book? The end of male dominance would mean–in the understanding of such a man–the end of sex. If one has eroticized a differential in power that allows for force as a natural and inevitable part of intercourse, how could one understand that this book does not say that all men are rapists or that all intercourse is rape? Equality in the realm of sex is an antisexual idea if sex requires domination in order to register as sensation.

QotD: another on Slutwalk

A very good post up here, also with an intelligent comments thread after.

I followed the progress of Slutwalk Toronto and, in particular, the threads and posts on their Facebook page, as it seemed to be the place where the most of the conversations were happening. I looked and looked for some mention of feminism, some alignment and acknowledgment that this was, indeed, a feminist issue and a feminist fight – a fight that has been being faught by women for decades. Instead what I found, over and over again was, not only a refusal to align with feminism, but often, an outright aversion to it. I saw numerous attacks on radical feminism and radical feminists and I witnessed the reinforcement of negative and untrue stereotypes about feminism (you know the ones: man-hating, misandrist, no-fun, sex-negative, etc). While I do believe the organizers had good intentions, desiring that Slutwalk be inclusive to all, it began to look a lot like the ‘funfeminist’ – NO NO WE’RE THE CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE FEMINISTS. THE FUN ONES. WE’RE OK. WE LIKE PENISES AND PORN AND LOOKING SEXY kind of feminism that, in the end doesn’t successfully challenge much of anything, and simply repackages sexist imagery in ‘empowering’ wrapping paper.

Stop US Porn Franchise ‘Girls Gone Wild’ From Coming To The UK

‘Girls Gone Wild’ is a US porn franchise, founded by convicted criminal Joe Francis, which targets young women in night clubs to strip and have sex on camera in exchange for cheap merchandise.

Mantra Films, the producer of ‘Girls Gone Wild’ has been sued in the USA for filming minors in scenes of a sexual nature, and the founder Joe Francis has served time in prison for child abuse and prostitution.

Alarmingly, ‘Girls Gone Wild’ is planning its first UK tour in May which will be broadcast on Sky television.

OBJECT has a template letter available.

QotD: SlutWalk is not sexual liberation

Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy on ‘SlutWalks’:

The organisers claim that celebrating the word “slut”, and promoting sluttishness in general, will help women achieve full autonomy over their sexuality. But the focus on “reclaiming” the word slut fails to address the real issue. The term slut is so deeply rooted in the patriarchal “madonna/whore” view of women’s sexuality that it is beyond redemption. The word is so saturated with the ideology that female sexual energy deserves punishment that trying to change its meaning is a waste of precious feminist resources.

Advocates would be better off exposing the myriad ways in which the law and the culture enable myths about all types of women – sexually active or “chaste” alike. These myths facilitate sexual violence by undermining women’s credibility when they report sex crimes. Whether we blame victims by calling them “sluts” (who thus asked to be raped), or by calling them “frigid” (who thus secretly want to be overpowered), the problem is that we’re blaming them for their own victimisation no matter what they do. Encouraging women to be even more “sluttish” will not change this ugly reality.

As teachers who travel around the country speaking about sexual violence, pornography and feminism, we hear stories from women students who feel intense pressure to be sexually available “on demand”. These students have grown up in a culture in which hypersexualized images of young women are commonplace and where hardcore porn is the major form of sex education for young men. They have been told over and over that in order to be valued in such a culture, they must look and act like sluts, while not being labeled slut because the label has dire consequences including being blamed for rape, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-mutilation.

Women need to find ways to create their own authentic sexuality, outside of male-defined terms like slut. The recent TubeCrush phenomenon, where young women take pictures of men they find attractive on the London tube and post them to a website, illustrates how easily women copy dominant societal norms of sexual objectification rather than exploring something new and creative. And it’s telling that while these pictures are themselves innocent and largely free of sexual innuendo, one can only imagine the sexually aggressive language that would accompany a site dedicated to secret photos of women.

See also IBtP’s Toronto activists take back the slut:

In an attempt to disenvenom the word ’slut’, SlutWalkers can slut it up for their SlutWalk, wearing, as Toronto Sun columnist Heather Mallick says, “whatever it is that people wear as they go about their lives not asking to be raped,” but once the march is over, ‘Hey, I’m a slut!’ is unlikely to have the desired consciousness-raising effect. The sex class will still exist.

This notion of re-appropriating ’slut’ suggests that women, possibly in some happier time, had previously a-ppropriated it for our own benefit. But in no wise was there ever a culture in which women’s solidarity compelled us to define ourselves by the number of men we’ve pronged and how closely we conformed to pornographic dress codes when we did it. When you’re standing up against your own oppression as a member of the sex class, it is problematic and of questionable revolutionary efficacy to stamp yourself and your comrades-in-arms with the mark of the oppressor.

In other words, calling yourself a slut, in the middle of a flippin’ patriarchy, can only have the effect, as Germaine Greer [in The Whole Woman] noted, of reinforcing men’s sense of their own superiority.

Trafficking Still Not a Myth

From: Katya’s story: trafficked to the UK, sent home to torture

When they assessed her case, British immigration officials knew that Katya, a vulnerable 18-year-old from Moldova, had been trafficked and forced into prostitution, but ruled that she would face no real danger if she was sent back.

Days after her removal from the UK, her traffickers tracked her down to the Moldovan village where she had grown up. She was gang-raped, strung up by a rope from a tree, and forced to dig her own grave. One of her front teeth was pulled out with a pair of pliers. Shortly afterwards she was re-trafficked, first to Israel and later back to the UK.

The Home Office decision last week to pay her substantial damages has raised serious questions about the way Britain treats trafficked women. The unprecedented case also opens the possibility that other individuals who have been removed from this country and subsequently found themselves exposed to danger in their home country, could attempt to sue the Home Office for damages. The Moldovan woman was first kidnapped by traffickers when she was 14, repeatedly sold on to pimps and other traffickers, and forced to work as a prostitute for seven years in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Israel and the UK.

Every time there’s a new account of trafficking, the sex industry advocates and apologists will insist that this is some kind of one-off, some rare and unique event. But an instance of trafficking cannot happen in isolation, in a vacuum; trafficking is an institution, there are networks in place to facilitate it: a network of traffickers and pimps across Europe and the Middle East; in the UK a network of legal, semi-legal and illegal venues (strip clubs, saunas, massage parlours, brothels, private flats) for women to be trafficked into; a network of newspapers, websites and phone booths for those women to be advertised in; and a network of johns to pay to rape them who will over and over again not see anything wrong.

And to the moron who left a comment on the previous post on trafficking, claiming that trafficking couldn’t be real because it would be just too expensive to keep a woman captive, because, y’know, the traffickers would have to feed her and buy her clothes I suggest you learn how a calculator works (you are obviously too stupid to do even basic sums in your head). In the grottiest brothel charging £40/hour and taking half, the trafficker/pimp can earn £240 a night from one woman being forced to ‘work’ 12 hours; over a seven day ‘working’ week that’s £1680, and they won’t be paying any tax on that. One can afford quite a few takeaways from that, plus a couple of ‘outfits’ from the discount rack in Ann Summers, or wherever the hell it is trafficker/pimps buy ‘erotic lingerie’ from.

He also claimed that since the penalties for being caught were so high, it was just too risky, so no one would do it! News flash: they weren’t getting caught! Katya’s trafficker/pimp managed to convince the authorities that he was her boy friend, and he was allowed to visit her in detention! Also, since when has high risk stopped desperate people? Drug mules will swallow condoms full of cocaine, which could kill them if they split open, but there are still plenty of poor desperate people around the world prepared to take that risk. Traffickers are career criminals, going to prison is no big deal to them, just an occupational hazard.