Category Archives: Comments/essays/analysis

Corporate Shitfest

Following on from this post from May, here’s a quick look at some of the other British LGBT Awards, with MI5 both winning one award and sponsoring another, and Tel Aviv winning an award too, making it the biggest corporate shitfest I have had the misfortune to observe in a long time!

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QotD: “Why do women sign up to a left that demands contorted avowals of submission like this?”

Dear God why do women sign up to a left that demands contorted avowals of submission like this: “transwomen are no threat to women, also when a transwoman punched you and you went to the police, you were the violent one”

Sarah Ditum on twitter

Here’s a link to an archived version of the article in question (no need to increase their hit count), I wrote a while back: “How long before lefty/liberal men just start calling battered women and raped children ‘snitches’ or ‘narcs’?” I was thinking of ‘battered women’ in the sense of domestic/intimate partner violence, but they are getting close:

We will never accept snitching to the police after an event, when the personal risk is over, to be a valid form of resistance.

This blog is ten years old today!

Small victories with the BBC

Back in March I made two complaints to the BBC over the way commercial sexual exploitation was reported on the BBC’s news website; in April, the BBC replied to my concerns, and altered the web pages.

I am absolutely certain that, in relation to the BBC’s reporting of Fiona Broadfoot’s victory in the High Court, I am far from the only person to have complained to the BBC, so cannot claim this as my own, sole, work.

The BBC originally used the headline “Former sex worker ‘vindicated’ after High Court win”, it now reads “Sex abuse victim ‘vindicated’ after High Court win”

This is my original complaint:

The use of the term ‘sex work’ in a piece relating to the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Fiona Broadfoot was 15 when she was first commercially sexually exploited, 15 is below the age of consent so this was statutory rape, rape is not ‘work’. Broadfoot has said clearly on twitter that she was never a ‘sex worker’. ‘Sex work’ is a partisan term and should be used with caution, and should never be used to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

To which I received this reply:

Thanks for contacting us regarding use of the phrase “former sex worker” in the headline to the following BBC News article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43261021

The use of this phrase in the headline reflects the fact that the “three women, who say they were groomed into prostitution as teenagers, have won a High Court battle” and “successfully argued that the disclosure of convictions for working in the sex trade many years ago was disproportionate and a breach of their Article 8 Human Rights – the right to a private life.”

Thanks again for your feedback. Complaints are sent to senior management and news teams every morning via our overnight reports.

So I complained again:

I contacted the BBC two weeks ago to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in an article about the commercial sexual exploitation of a fifteen-year-old girl, the reply I received was an insultingly lazy, circular, cut-and-paste (effectively: we used the term ‘sex work’ because it was an article about ‘sex work’). ‘Sex work’ is a partisan term, the debate over whether the sex industry is a form of exploitation, or freely chosen work is far from over. The term ‘sex work’ itself is begging the question (‘sex work is work’, ‘this bad thing is bad’). Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when money is exchanged, coerced sex gets called ‘work’. Fifteen is below the statutory age of consent, therefore any sexual activity below the age of consent is rape. Fiona Broadfoot has contacted the BBC via twitter to say that she was never a ‘sex worker’, and that she objects to the use of the term in the article about her. I would like someone at the BBC to explain to me why it was considered appropriate to call a commercially raped child a ‘sex worker’

And received this reply:

Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that three women have won a High Court battle which means they will not have to tell future employers about their soliciting (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43261021) and we’re sorry that you were dissatisfied with the initial response from our central complaints team.

Having reviewed your complaint I think you raise a fair point.

While we wouldn’t refer to statutory rape in the absence of actual charges or convictions for that offence in connection with the story, we have since amended the headline to now refer to how:

Sex abuse victim ‘vindicated’ after High Court win

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and we’re sorry once again that you’ve had to write to us twice to make this point.

I also complained about the reporting of trafficking into the sex industry in Spain. This is the complaint I sent:

I am writing to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in an article about sex trafficking, sex slavery, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (‘Spanish police break up Nigerian sex trafficking gang’ published online 23 March 2018).

‘Sex work’ is a partisan term, it is not a neutral descriptor; under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when the rapist hands money over to a third party controlling the rape victim, some people try to call this ‘work’. The term ‘sex work’ takes a sexual abuse and sexual exploitation issue, and reduces it to a mere labour issue.

The article in question clearly says that one of the victims of sex trafficking was an under-age girl, which means she was incapable of consenting to sex, and it is therefore entirely inappropriate to describe her rape as ‘work’.

Language matters, the meaning of words matters, the BBC is supposed to be impartial and trust-worthy; by using a contested term like ‘sex work’ in this context (the Europol report uses the terms ‘prostitution’ and ‘sexual exploitation’ only), the BBC is failing to be either of these things.

I received this reply:

Thank you for getting in touch with your comments on a recent article headed, ‘Spanish police break up Nigerian sex trafficking gang.’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43514125)

On review we agree that use of the term ‘sex work’ may be ambiguous in relation to the 39 women and girls trafficked into forced sex by a notorious Nigerian gang.

We have updated the article to clarify that while they were paid for sex, they were not employed in ‘sex work’ in the traditional sense of a person legitimately employed in the sex industry.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention and we hope this addresses your concerns.

The line in the article “Gang members forced the women into sex work in order to pay off a 30,000 euro ($37,000; £26,000) debt.” Has been changed to “Gang members forced the women into paid sex in order to pay off a 30,000 euro ($37,000; £26,000) debt.”

It’s not ideal, since ‘paid sex’ doesn’t really communicate fully the reality of being held captive and raped so someone else can receive money, but it’s better than ‘sex work’. I also don’t agree that the sex industry is ever ‘legitimate’ even when it’s legal, but that is a political stance, and I can only ask the BBC to be impartial!

The moral of this story is, it’s always worth complaining to the BBC, they are a publicly funded body, and they are therefore answerable to the British public.

Me, on tumblr recently, talking about ‘amateur’ porn

(link)

#MeToo and Anti-porn Feminism

The title of this article in yesterday’s Guardian is ‘The strange alliance between #MeToo and the anti-porn movement’, but the article isn’t as bad, from a radical feminist point of view, as that title immediately suggests.

There is actually nothing ‘strange’ about feminists being anti-porn, back at the beginning of the second wave of feminism in the 70s, anti-porn was the norm; this was followed by a so-called ‘sex positive’ pro-sex industry back-lash in the 80’s, which started the process of de-radicalising feminism that proceeded through the ‘ladettism’ of the 90’s and the selfish individualism/identity politics of the 00’s to the sorry mess we are in now, where mainstream feminism is in thrall to trans-identified males who get ‘triggered’ by neon pink cat-ears and talk of abortion rights, but absolutely have no problem with vulvas/vaginas when they appear in porn.

Single-issue, cross-party alliances are (or were) the norm in mainstream politics, I have already covered the ‘you’re in league with religious fundamentalists!’ gotcha! here, but it’s worth pointing out again, that to genuinely be ‘in league’ with religious fundamentalists, radical feminist would have to be doing something for them in return, like opposing abortion rights, and that simply is not happening.

No other political movement is held up to the same level of scrutiny/purity as radical feminism is by its opponents; Christians are the back-bone of the anti-poverty and nuclear disarmament movements, but nobody accuses those movements of being ‘in league with religious fundamentalists’.

Sex industry advocates and trans activists will work with right-wing governments and religious organisations when it suits their purposes – the demand for ‘purity’ is a demand for no mainstream political action at all.

Radical feminism is a political movement for all women (whether they identify as radical feminists or not), and being an effective political movement (rather than an esoteric, on-line ghetto) means using all the resources available to us, which includes single-issue political alliances with people who, on other issues, we would be opponents to.

The #MeToo movement means many things to many people, but for anti-porn activists it’s the ultimate vindication.

The moment has been a long time coming for religious conservatives at war with what they see as America’s culture of sexual objectification. Many see social media-fueled outpouring as a much-needed referendum on a culture that reduces a woman’s worth to her sex appeal.

Fighting porn in the age of ubiquitous internet isn’t easy, but nevertheless the mood was upbeat this week as hundreds of activists gathered near Washington to share stories, talk strategy, and canvass lawmakers on their agenda at a conference organized by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), which recently notched up a major PR victory in getting Walmart to ban Cosmopolitan magazine from checkout counters.

“This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture,” said Dawn Hawkins, the group’s executive director.

The anti-pornography movement has always been an unusual coalition of religious conservatives and radical feminists, dating back to Andrea Dworkin, the feminist icon who wrote Pornography: Men Possessing Women.

But in the Trump era, defined by pussy hats and pussy-grabbing, the Dworkin-meet-Mike-Pence alliance is a whole new level of weird. It’s also supercharged. With both feminism and the Christian right in the ascendent thanks to the divisive Trump White House, the anti-porn movement has gotten a new jolt of energy.

The alliance has finessed a politically tricky situation by drawing on the values of both sides and using the language of #MeToo and modern feminism to cast the widest possible net.

Of course, Americans have always been much better at denouncing porn than abstaining from watching it.

Porn viewership is likely at an all-time high, though reliable statistics are hard to come by. In 2017 Pornhub alone averaged 81 million visitors per day, and viewership is notably growing among women, some of whom are giving porn a second look through a sex-positive lens.

‘Sex positive’ is a meaningless term, another thought-terminating cliché designed to shut down debate and critical thinking. That women want to be porn consumers like men is seen as ‘progress’ only shows how meaningless a concept ‘equality’ is – once women are just as porn-sick and abusive as men are we will have achieved ‘equality’ with men, we will have our own slice of the rotten pie, but nobody will have been liberated from the status quo

But at what might be described as CPAC for the anti-porn movement this week, there was no such thing as healthy engagement with pornography.

As activists saw it, porn and sexual assault were but different points on a single continuum of sexual violence. The key difference was that there was an entrenched financial interest behind pornography – and to a lesser extent prostitution.

“The difference between prostitution and battery, incest and rape is that there’s nothing like the money in pornography and prostitution,” said Melissa Farley, a clinical psychologist and the founder of the San Francisco-based Prostitution Research and Education, who spoke on a panel at the conference.

Porn has been cast as empowering by some feminists. But Farley and other like-minded activists say that misses the “choicelessness” of the vast majority of women who work in the industry, many of whom are forced into it by economic necessity or other circumstance.

What’s worse, they say, is that assuming sex workers have a choice in their profession implies they signed up for the abuse and other mistreatments to which they are often exposed.

“Slaves have been blamed for their own enslavement, children have been blamed for provoking their own sexual abuse,” said Farley, “and women in prostitution have been blamed.”

Liberal advocates of the #MeToo movement have said the spotlight on sexual abuses must be expanded to include all victims, especially those on the fringes of society, beyond famous actresses in Hollywood.

Farley argues that, by logical extension, #MeToo must include prostitutes and porn actresses. “Our worst nightmares are their daily experiences,” she wrote in a recent piece, “given that the nature of their work constantly puts them at risk for harassment, unwanted sexual advances and rape.”

Valiant Richey, a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office in Washington’s King County, which includes Seattle, contrasted the vulnerable nature of people who go into the sex trade – typically poor, minority women with a history of addiction, neglect and abuse – with the relatively privileged makeup of sex buyers, who are often white, male, and financially comfortable.

It’s a “system of inequality perpetuated by race, economics and gender,” Richey said. “We should be talking about demand [for sex] as a system of oppression on its own.”

Such language might seem surprising coming from a group of social conservatives. But it was everywhere at this conference, which sought to capitalize on the current groundswell of growing gender consciousness.

Iceland, which is consistently ranked as among the best places in the world to be a woman, considered a countrywide ban on pornography in 2013. And in the United Kingdom, an age-requirement for all pornographic websites will be introduced this year.

But calling for a crackdown on the “public health crisis of pornography” puts the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, founded as Morality in Media in the 1960s by a group of clergymen, somewhat on the fringes in the US.

Early concerns that pornography would lead to rising levels of rape, first raised by anti-porn advocates a generation ago, have proven unfounded. Overall rape and assault numbers have fallen precipitously in recent years, even as pornography viewership has ballooned.

If you actually follow through on the link in that last paragraph, you will find that rape rates have fallen at the same rate as all other violent crime in the same period, and that the author of the article attributes this to a drop in lead pollution from car exhausts.

If rape rates fell at the same rate as other violent crimes over the same period, that fall then cannot be attributed to an increase in porn consumption.

This also means that we can’t, from that source, assign any rise in sexual violence to increased porn consumption.

Patriarchy pre-dates internet pornography, patriarchy is not a monolith, it varies and adapts across time and across cultures, pornography is just the latest iteration of male supremacy.

Back when rape within marriage was legal, wives would not report that they had been raped; ‘real rape’, a stranger jumping out of the bushes, is not the most common form of rape. Coercive sex has become normalised under porn-culture, but most victims (and some perpetrators) won’t even call it rape. Young women now see coercive sex as an inevitability, and such ‘bad sex’ is unlikely to ever be recorded as a rape statistic, either reported to the police or recorded in a crime survey.

But the Council’s arguments are not completely outside the American mainstream. Writing recently in The New York Times, the popular conservative columnist Ross Douthat said of porn that “the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition”.

Such confidence was behind the Council’s seemingly radical – and surprisingly successful – campaign to get Wal-Mart to remove Cosmopolitan, which they argue demeans women with cheap sex tips and the like, from its checkout aisles.

Following that victory, the NCOSE’s vice-president of advocacy and outreach, Haley Halverson, told the Guardian the group would be reaching out to Target and Walgreens with similar requests. They also have designs for online ads.

And conference attendees buzzed over the recent passage of a bill in Congress that will crack down on ads for sex posted on websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com. Sex industry advocates say the bill could expose legal sex workers to undue legal jeopardy.

It’s a strange thing to be headed to the desk of Donald Trump for a signature, as the president faces down a high-profile lawsuit from Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who says she was paid to keep quiet about their affair.

Indeed Trump – and the numerous accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him – was the elephant in the room at conference devoted to stamping out sexual exploitation.

But Matt Aujero, who came to the conference from the University of Maryland where he works for the Catholic Student Center, said he found the lack of Trump talk refreshing. “I like how it’s not overly politicized,” he said.

The silence was also likely strategic. As the NCOSE put it shortly after Trump’s election in 2016: “We understand how the Trump victory has caused many to have unsettling feelings about the new administration, but we, of course, must look for every opportunity to advance our cause of ending exploitation … Many within Trump’s transition team are social conservatives for whom issues of sexual exploitation are already of great concern.”

But Gail Dines, an academic and founder of the anti-pornography group Culture Reframed, saw the newly-energized movement as a fitting response to Trump’s “pussy grabbing” boasts.

“Trump got women pissed, really pissed,” she said.

QotD: “Don’t you just love it when a man explains to you what it means to be a woman?”

You might have thought that the #MeToo campaign, in which women have been speaking out about the universality of sexual assault and rape, would make people more sympathetic to concerns about female safety. You would be wrong: nothing makes you look more liberal these days than shouting at women who express anxiety based on their experiences.

But then, as with experts, apparently we’ve all had enough of lived experience now. When a 19-year-old trans woman was elected a Labour woman’s officer last year, a Labour councillor explained that “lived experience as a woman” was not a pre-requisite to be a woman’s officer. Biology, too, has been deemed terribly passe. “Inclusive feminism,” Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood wrote when considering why self-identifying trans women should be allowed into women’s refuges, understands that “gender is a complex and deeply personal thing, and is about so much more than outdated ideas of biology.” On the day of this year’s Women’s March, trans model Munroe Bergdorf tweeted that to “center reproductive systems” at the demonstrations was “reductive and exclusionary”.

I’m trying to think of anything more patriarchal than telling women to stop fussing about vaginas at a Women’s March. A biopic about the Old Testament God starring Mike Pence? Because none of this is about making feminism inclusive; it’s about policing the way women talk about their lives. No one – male, female, trans or not – has the right to do this. Inclusivity means campaigning for the greater good of the group, not catering to each individual’s differences – can someone please tell Bergdorf that Irish women are still fighting to repeal the 8th? Female biology has been used by men to oppress women for millennia, and to tell women not to talk about it now is another form of oppression.

Intriguingly, some of the most passionate arguments I’ve had about this have not been with trans people, but with liberal men. I surely speak for all of us ladies when I say I love nothing more than when a man explains to me, at some length, what a woman now is. I only have 40 years’ experience but, as we all know, experience is old hat now. There is something, shall we say, revealing about the way these “woke bros” take such glee in calling women (older ones, especially) who talk about their rights and bodies “terfs” – trans-exclusionary radical feminists – and insist they shut up or risk ostracism.

Women have had to fight so hard for a place at the table, for the right to define themselves, for spaces where they feel safe. Any man who sneers at them now for worrying about the shifting paradigms, offering only meaningless platitudes or accusations of bigotry, is showing his male privilege.

There is understandable concern about being on the wrong side of history. But I’ll tell you what has never put anyone on the right side of history: shouting women down. Gender is a feeling and biology is a physical fact, and the reason women-only spaces exist is not to protect some special inner feminine essence, but because there are significant physical differences between male-born bodies and female-born ones, and the latter have long been at a disadvantage.

This is something women and trans women will have to work out between themselves, because this is a woman’s rights issue. Any man, who has no idea what it’s like to be oppressed as a woman or self-identified trans woman, and who comes riding in on a white horse and tries to shut down the debate with inflammatory language, is not helping. There is no simple solution to accommodating both the rights of self-identified trans women and other women. In some cases, they’ll share spaces, in some they won’t, and sometimes a third option will have to be found.

Contrary to what some men think, the feelings of self-identified trans women are not the only ones that matter. There are a couple of four-letter words for those who insist otherwise. But “woke” ain’t one of them.

Hadley Freeman, full article here

I do like Hadley Freeman’s writing, and I do find it amusing that the most radical feminist Guaridan journalist started off as a fashion reporter (Julie Bindel is an independent journalist, and hasn’t written for the Guardian on trans issues since 2015).

The Guardian does not report on trans/gender issues fairly or honestly (there have been so many propaganda-type articles recently that I’m saving them all up in the hope of writing about them sometime soon-ish), and I can’t help but think this article has been ‘allowed’ so that it can be pointed to as proof that the Guardian is ‘fair and balanced’ on this subject (all news is click-bait now anyway).

There are pro-trans pieces in the Guardian every week; Sheila Jeffreys had an article published back in 2012 (a response to an article by Roz Kaveney calling radical feminism a cult).

The Guardian is, for lack of a better alternative, still my ‘daily’ paper, but, while there are individual Guardian journalists I trust, I do not trust the Guardian ‘brand’ as a whole, and I sure as hell won’t be giving them any money.

QotD: “Spanish police break up Nigerian sex trafficking gang”

Spanish police have rescued 39 women and girls smuggled in from Nigeria and trafficked into sex work by a notorious Nigerian gang.

Europol says the victims were kept in “squalid conditions in caves” and intimidated with voodoo threats.

Gang members forced the women into sex work in order to pay off a 30,000 euro ($37,000; £26,000) debt.

Eighty-nine people, including a famous but as yet unnamed Nigerian DJ, have been arrested.

The DJ is said to have helped move victims to Spain and organise sexual exploitation across the country.

He was caught flying back into Spain after recording a music video.

Investigations began when an underage victim filed a complaint with the police, saying she had been pressured into trafficking by voodoo threats made in Nigeria.

Along with other victims, the girl was transferred from Nigeria to Spain via Libya and Italy.

The operation, which was carried out with police from the UK and Nigeria, is one of the biggest trafficking busts in Europe, says Europol.

From the BBC

The BBC has used the term ‘sex work’ again when referring to trafficked women and commercially sexually exploited girls. My previous complaint received an insultingly lazy reply (essentially: we used the term ‘sex work’ because the article was about ‘sex work’), so I made a follow-up complaint.

The BBC is publically funded, I am a UK tax payer and I pay the TV licence which helps fund the BBC, they are obliged to read and reply to all complaints so it is worth complaining, repeatedly.

Here is the email I sent, please feel free to copy or adapt:

I am writing to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in an article about sex trafficking, sex slavery, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (‘Spanish police break up Nigerian sex trafficking gang’ published online 23 March 2018).

‘Sex work’ is a partisan term, it is not a neutral descriptor; under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when the rapist hands money over to a third party controlling the rape victim, some people try to call this ‘work’. The term ‘sex work’ takes a sexual abuse and sexual exploitation issue, and reduces it to a mere labour issue.

The article in question clearly says that one of the victims of sex trafficking was an under-age girl, which means she was incapable of consenting to sex, and it is therefore entirely inappropriate to describe her rape as ‘work’.

Language matters, the meaning of words matters, the BBC is supposed to be impartial and trust-worthy; by using a contested term like ‘sex work’ in this context (the Europol report uses the terms ‘prostitution’ and ‘sexual exploitation’ only), the BBC is failing to be either of these things.

The web page to complain to the BBC is here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

The Europol report is here:

https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/trafficked-voodoo-threats-one-of-largest-operations-in-europe-rescues-39-nigerian-women

How long before lefty/liberal men just start calling battered women and raped children ‘snitches’ or ‘narcs’?

LGBT+ Lib Dems on twitter

Lib Dem policy is explicitly supportive of trans people’s right to self define. We also support decriminalisation of sex work. Our feminist principles align with our liberalism. We are not a party that has a lot of time for carceral feminism. Hope that clarifies.

This is actually really scary, ‘carceral feminism’ is the newest though-terminating cliché, being thrown around like it actually means something.

Like ‘TERF’, ‘SWERF’, ‘whorephobe’, etc, it is being used to stifle debate and shut down critical thinking. That it is coming from a political party is appalling.

How long before lefty/liberal men just start calling battered women and raped children ‘snitches’ or ‘narcs’?

‘Teen porn’ is popular because virtual/pseudo child porn is marketed as ‘teen porn’

Gail Dines has reported that, in 2002, the ‘Free Speech Coalition’, a lobby group for the LA based porn industry, won the case of Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition by arguing that “the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act – which prohibited any image that “is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct” – limited the pornography industry’s free speech, the FSC succeeded in narrowing the law to cover only images of actual minors. The path was cleared for the porn industry to use legal-age performers but make them look much younger. Following the Ashcroft decision, Internet porn sites featuring young (and very young-looking females) exploded, and the industry realized that it had hit upon a very lucrative market segment.”

There is no ambiguity here, that is pornography that is meant to be consumed as child porn; the performer may be over 18, but she is dressed up like a child, and she is child-sized compared to the man.

Image found on tumblr, where I commented: So this is virtual child porn, being sold as ‘teen’ porn. And ‘teen’ is consistently one of the most popular porn search terms. And people use the fact that ‘teen’ is one of the most popular search terms, as ‘proof’ that porn is harmless.