I Can Never Tell

This guest post is by Thomas MacAulay Millar, feminist, kinkster, litigator and essayist. He blogs regularly at The Yes Means Yes Blog and is a frequent contributor to Feministe.

I don’t buy porn from any of the big companies that make BDSM porn. It’s not that I have a problem with consenting adults making depictions of sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of arousing viewers. In concept, I’m a fan of some writers who also make porn, and I’m friends with a few people who make or have made porn. And when it’s my friends, I’ll watch as much of it as I can get, because I have some certainty about what kind of experience they had.

But when the producer is some big company far away and I don’t know any of the people involved, how would I know if the bottom’s limits were negotiated and respected? If the bottom had a good experience? I recently posted about the Bagley abuse case in Missouri, where a woman was kidnapped for years and raped and abused, in a relationship that had all the underlying dynamics of a near-terminal domestic battering case. She ended up on the cover of a mainstream porn magazine with a BDSM theme. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that that’s a fluke. How common are those flukes? I have no way of knowing.

It has become common in BDSM-themed porn to give post-scene interviews of the bottom, or of the top and bottom together, and the bottoms always seem to say they had a great time and would do it again. They never had a tough time. They never felt the experience was mixed. They never say that and even if they are glad they did it, they probably won’t do it again. They never felt stressed and at sea. I’m not even talking about having been forced beyond their boundaries; that’s rape. I’m talking about normal emotional processing that sometimes goes with a hard scene. I’ve been in the “that was tough, and I’m glad I did it but I may not want to do it again” place with certain activities. And a month later I’ve been in the “I remember how hard that was, but I want to do it again” place. What we do pushes our physical and emotional boundaries, and that’s part of the point. But the interviews I’ve seen are just about all sunshine.

Clarisse Thorn interviewed Tim Woodman, who works in that industry niche. Here’s what he says about the interviews:

I know too many models who have been paid “hush money” to keep quiet about their injuries at the larger fetish porn companies. I know too many who have had their paychecks withheld until they do a positive interview. They are forced to lie on camera, telling how they enjoyed it and would do it again, when in fact the opposite was true. I know too many girls who have worked for these larger companies, and when they refused or even objected to activities that were beyond their limits, they were told that they were a “problem girl” and that they would not get much work with an attitude like that.

This kind of business practice is reprehensible. In the BDSM community, if you play like that, word quickly gets around that you are an asshole and are not to be trusted. But in the adult movie business, you can threaten and cajole women by withholding their pay. You can intimidate them by warning that nobody will hire them if they have self-respect, and are unwilling to bend or break their personal limits. That is rape. That is illegal.

[Emphasis in original.]

I’d love to cosign what he says about the BDSM community, but I’ve written before that it doesn’t always work that way. People make excuses for their friends and avoid washing their dirty laundry in public, and the effect is that too often people — and in my experience, too often women — who have been sexually assaulted in scenes are silenced.

There’s an illusion that the producers create that the models in these movies are all … well, that they’re all Calico Lane (and I’m using her illustratively because she’s public about doing some heavy bottoming in her personal life, and because she puts her own experiences out there with an eloquence that is not easily matched.) But there just are not enough models who are all the things porn audiences want — young and thin and conventionally attractive; and who are BDSMers in their personal lives; and who are willing to appear in BDSM-themed porn. So the industry attracts porn models who are not kinksters to do kinky things on film. Says Woodman:

Admittedly, this would be easier if fetish companies only hired models who are actually into BDSM. Lifestyle fetish models know the lingo. If her wrist is numb, she says so right away. If what you’re doing is too painful or beyond some other limit, she knows to stop the scene and have it dealt with. Mainstream models don’t necessarily know this. When a mainstream model is pushed too far, she’ll usually say “How much longer are we doing this?” to which a bad director will respond “Five minutes.” Twenty minutes later she’s scarred for life. Save the intense shit for the professionals — for the lifestyle girls who love to be tied up and tortured on-screen.

On the other hand, I make a lot of my career hiring mainstream porn stars to appear in rape and torture videos.

I don’t think it’s all about the experiences of non-kinky models doing kinky work, either. I read translations of a Hungarian report about a police raid on a BDSM-themed porn company in Hungary that did extreme whipping and caning scenes; the person translating the report said that the model negotiated a safeword but the producers ignored it and kept whipping her. (I’m talking about Elite Pain, and all I can find are discussion forum references. If anyone has better sources, let me know.) And even the serious kinksters who do BDSM on film because they really want to sometimes come away with a bad taste in their mouths.

So let’s just say that I really want to watch kinky people like me do kinky things like I do, on film, but I don’t want my dollars to go to abusers. I wish all the consumers for BDSM-themed porn had this view, and it sickens me to think that many don’t.* But I do. So how do I know?

Woodman says:

TW: Okay, so as a good customer, you want to be responsible. You want to vote with your dollar and only support companies who treat their models well. How does a consumer like you know a good company from a bad one? The same way you would with any other industry — whether it is plumbers or car salesmen, the same principles still apply:
1) It often seems the more money a company spends on PR, the worse the company actually is. When an insurance agency spends millions on advertising, don’t you worry that they are not actually paying out their customers’ claims? When an attorney plasters his billboard all over town, does it make you think he’s a little too desperate? This can be said for BDSM porn producers as well.
2) The larger the company, the greater the chance it is owned and run by assholes who do not treat their employees well. If you have a day job, you already know this. The small guy who is struggling like mad to keep his doors open and put a quality product on the streets is far more likely to treat his employees and customers really well. He can’t afford a negative experience. He can’t just pay hush-up money, or threaten “You’ll never work in this town again!”
3) In the BDSM lifestyle world, we depend on our reputations. Thanks to blogs and Twitter and other social networking media, if something goes wrong in Los Angeles, they know about it five minutes later in New York. You want to know you’re spending money on legitimate, honorable companies? Do the research. Don’t trust their own advertising. Ask around, just like you would with a potential new play partner in the real world. You can ask absolutely any model I’ve ever worked with and she’ll say only good things about me. Can the bigger companies say the same? They can pay to keep most of the “problem girls” quiet, but the truth always gets out.

Which all makes some sense, except for two things. I know people, and I have at least some ability to do that kind of homework. But … not everybody is me. Not everybody who wants to watch BDSM porn knows a bunch of kinksters who know people who do BDSM-themed porn and can get those answers. It’s not like the bad model experiences pop up in the Google searches. The second thing is that “smaller is better” is a very self-interested thing for a small producer to say, especially in the same interview where he complains that the horde of free samples from Kink.com — he doesn’t call them out by name, but he might as well — are crushing him out of business. I can’t be uncritical about the self-interest.

So…

So…

So…

I can never tell.

____________
* Maybe they don’t care, or maybe they prefer to believe what is comfortable. I’m remembering something Amanda Marcotte wrote on a FB thread: “Some folks really can’t handle the possibility that some women in porn might not be fully consenting. Once you allow that possibility, then you have to allow the possibility that you have watched and gained pleasure from an act of rape. So there’s a lot of denial when something like this happens.”


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87 Responses to I Can Never Tell

  1. thefallgirl says:

    Thank you for this post. While I have trouble with the general conflation of pornography (particularly kinky porn) with sexual violence and exploitation, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that it happens. I don’t tend to consume mainstream porn in general, both because of this factor and because it generally doesn’t interest me, but on the rare occasions when I’ll look at amateur stuff I wonder whether everyone is truly happy with what’s going on, how safe people are being, and whether the end-of-scene interviews are real. I think that being conscious of the possibility of exploitation when we consume porn, or anything else, is important.

  2. 4min33sec says:

    It sounds to me as if you’d really like to say that because not only you but others can’t tell whether any particular video etc from a mainstream BDSM site does or does not constitute rape, therefore none of us should watch video etc from these sites. Regardless of whether I agree or not, I fail to understand why you can’t come right out and say that, if you do in fact believe it.

  3. This was a fantastic post. My partner and I have talked about this issue quite a bit and we’ve never really been able to come up with such a straight-forward analysis of our lack of comfort and ability to respond to this emotion in regards to porn. It has given me a lot of food for thought. Thank you!

  4. BeccaTheCyborg says:

    This is a really amazing post.

  5. Ostien says:

    Great post, these kinds of issues do need to be talked about more openly like this.

    But perhaps a “solution”/suggestion would be to form of an independent community organization with a website that can gather the kind of information sought in one place, information that might be otherwise hard or impossible to find for many people. Also it could have the effect of creating an open stage for people to express complaints in the first place they may not otherwise have a place to do so. The only way that will work though is if that organization’s website becomes recognized as a trusted transparent authority. This would clearly take a lot of time and effort and probably have to face strong resistance from precisely those large companies who are fine with the status quo of silence.

    Perhaps not a perfect solution (or as far as something like this will ever have a “solution”). But if it takes off and is managed well, particularly by people in the porn and kink community, then it could be successful in helping people get their voice heard and problems addressed. Just kind of thinking out loud here, as this needs to be addressed in some way.

  6. Ostien says:

    Also I’m not saying that the onus is on the OP to do this (I’d be interested, if I could, in helping with something like), just putting it out there for people to possibly discuss. I know I can be unclear sometimes.

  7. RD says:

    Ostien: Great post, these kinds of issues do need to be talked about more openly like this. But perhaps a “solution”/suggestion would be to form of an independent community organization with a website that can gather the kind of information sought in one place, information that might be otherwise hard or impossible to find for many people. Also it could have the effect of creating an open stage for people to express complaints in the first place they may not otherwise have a place to do so. The only way that will work though is if that organization’s website becomes recognized as a trusted transparent authority. This would clearly take a lot of time and effort and probably have to face strong resistance from precisely those large companies who are fine with the status quo of silence.Perhaps not a perfect solution (or as far as something like this will ever have a “solution”). But if it takes off and is managed well, particularly by people in the porn and kink community, then it could be successful in helping people get their voice heard and problems addressed. Just kind of thinking out loud here, as this needs to be addressed in some way.  (Quote this comment?)

    Or better regulation of the porn industry and prosecuting people who commit crimes.

    Good article.

  8. RD says:

    I agree the “smaller producer” stuff is self-serving bullcrap.

  9. Marlene says:

    @Ostein, I like your idea, but then there are questions of how determinations of ethics are made and by whom. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but it is a difficult thing to support without backing, which inevitably has potential to interfere with judgements.

    The folks who declare whether or not coffee is “fair trade” follow some pretty questionable practices.

    I would be happy to be more certain about the ethics of the porn I watch, but a rating authority might not make me any more certain.

  10. Kyra says:

    This is definitely an important thing to consider. I remember reading/hearing, a couple of times, in a couple of different history and women’s studies classes, about the woman who starred in Deep Throat—(trigger warning)—one featured a transcript of her testimony in either a criminal case against either someone she worked for or a government hearing on pornography, presented in a chapter detailing the pro-porn/anti-porn debate in feminism. The other was a history teacher telling us that the DVD release of Deep Throat had Photoshopped out bruises from where she was beaten to make her do the movie.

    I used to frequent a particular BDSM-porn video website, never buying but just looking at the free screencaps and reading the depictions of what happens in the movies, and the last screencap was always of the women hugging each other and smiling at the camera. This had its intended affect of reassuring me, although it also had the affect of reassuring me on what BDSM was—the trust and support running underneath whatever the game is. But sometime later, I started coming across disturbing things in the description, like scenarios that break the fourth wall in terms of the consent that’s supposed to be underneath everything—saying things like “X woman wants to be a dom, but we’re making her sub a few times before we’ll let her” and “Y woman is a dom, so let’s trick her and restrain her and give her a taste of her own medicine.” And then? The same shot at the end, everybody all smiles.

    I don’t go there anymore.

  11. Deus says:

    I think Ostien is on to something. I’d be interested in participating in the organization of such an entity.

  12. bellareve says:

    Thank-you, you have articulated something really important to me.

    My fundamental problem with porn, mainstream and kinky alike, is that I have NO WAY OF KNOWING if the models are consenting free from intimidation (or financial duress) and being treated fairly and respectfully. I watched amateur for a bit, but realized that the women may not know they are being filmed or if it is being distributed. I used to like kink.com but am now wary due to various rumors. Now I only feel 100% ethical and non-icky when I to stick to consuming written erotica and animations/drawings. I can’t justify my sexual pleasure if it comes at the expense of a sex worker who is being exploited. (Especially because I have been on the other end of this re: consenting to be filmed in private only to learn the tapes were being sold online, and being taken advantage of in other ways while I was working in the fetish/sex industry).

  13. Hot Tramp says:

    4min33sec: It sounds to me as if you’d really like to say that because not only you but others can’t tell whether any particular video etc from a mainstream BDSM site does or does not constitute rape, therefore none of us should watch video etc from these sites. Regardless of whether I agree or not, I fail to understand why you can’t come right out and say that, if you do in fact believe it.  

    Probably because he’s a bottom.

    ;)

  14. Maggie says:

    An independent advisory body actually sounds like a great idea, with the caveats that a) it would have to be staffed by people who are knowledgeable about the kinky porn scene but not financially involved in it, and who have dayjobs that aren’t threatened by their involvement in the presumably nonprofit project – a big ask – and b) you’d have to be on the lookout for all the same issues that plague the “organic” food producer label and people trying to regulate that.

  15. damigiana says:

    Do you think similar issues could apply to text only porn? Drawn, e.g. Anime porn?

  16. anna says:

    *This* is why I don’t support porn, even “mainstream” porn, because there aren’t enough safeguards to stop things like what happened to Linda Lovelace and Traci Lords. And even if there were, I don’t think you can say a person is truly consenting to sex when they are only doing so because they desparately need the money. Are there some women who would truly willingly be in porn, even BDSM, not out of coercion or desperate poverty, but because they want to? Yes, I’m not denying that. But until you can prove to me that those are the performers in your porn, I’m not supporting it.

  17. M C says:

    There’s a couple problems with the “interviews are fake” argument. The first is that I’ve seen these videos and the acting in them are usually quite bad but the interviews at the end in general seem authentic. It’s kind of hard to imagine they can turn on the talent that easily. Secondly there are often really obvious scenes where you can tell they’re faking being hit with a whip or whatever. Finally I don’t think that a large company can risk actual criminal charges just to get a better video. It’s much safer to stay within the lines.

  18. PrettyAmiable says:

    anna: And even if there were, I don’t think you can say a person is truly consenting to sex when they are only doing so because they desparately need the money

    I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that poor people can’t consent to sex if there’s a financial incentive?

  19. Andrea says:

    PrettyAmiable, seems to me anna was pretty clear since she said “when they are only doing so because they desperately need the money”. Obviously poor people can consent to sex with a financial incentive, but sometimes the financial incentive can override boundaries when you factor in desperation. Are you just trying to be obtuse about this?

    And anna @ 16, that is exactly why I’m so uncomfortable with porn in general. Because I can never be 100% sure.

  20. RD says:

    PrettyAmiable: I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that poor people can’t consent to sex if there’s a financial incentive?  (Quote this comment?)

    Seriously. Not your decision Anna.

  21. anna says:

    I’m saying if somebody really doesn’t want to have sex with somebody else, but they feel they have to, I don’t think that’s consent; like if they really don’t want to do the porn and feel violated by it but that’s the only way they can find to make their rent etc.

    If there’s financial incentive but they don’t mind doing it, then fine.

  22. anna says:

    I’m saying if somebody is truly desperate for money and consents to do porn because they need the money to eat, pay rent etc while (and this is the crucial point here) hating it and feeling horribly violated by it, then I don’t want to be a part of that, even if they did sign the contract and agree to do it.

    If they do it because they need money but they don’t mind it, then fine by me.

  23. anna says:

    oops sorry for the extra post; thought my other post got eaten.

  24. oldlady says:

    I think Anna is saying that consenting to sex only because one is being paid makes the consent problematic.

  25. PM says:

    How come every time I read one of these discussions no one EVER brings up gay-for-pay pornography?

  26. Sonia says:

    I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that poor people can’t consent to sex if there’s a financial incentive?

    Didn’t you know poor people can’t be expected to make judgements without the approval of middle class people on what they might enjoy or not? When a well-off middle class young woman decides to work as a stripper she’s exploring the world and herself and maybe will come out with a cool book out of it. A poor woman doing that is exploited and needs to be rescued.

  27. PM says:

    Sorry if that was a little harsh – I wasn’t picking on Feministe in particular. It’s just a trend I’ve noticed throughout many sites that debate pornography.

  28. RD says:

    Anna, you might want to consider that your alternative is to leave her unable to eat or pay rent.

    I think the idea that its only okay to do sex work if you don’t really need to and otherwise any ethical person would boycott you is disgusting and makes me very, very angry.

    Now regulating companies and holding people accountable who commit violent crimes in making porn, I am all for that.

    Maybe talking a little about my own experience will illustrate this a little better for you. Once when I was precariously housed (staying with someone abusive), I went to interview with a guy who ran an adult business. He told me that he didn’t think this was the business for me. That he hoped that if his sister or daughter came to someone like him out of desperation, that they would turn them away. That I was very beautiful but he just couldn’t help me. A few days later, I was homeless and had no place to go. I took a “job”- one that was advertized as “no sex” because the man running this operation told me if I came to work for him I could have a place to stay the night. He raped me, and the “no sex” part of his business was a lie. I ran away. I spent my 21st or 22nd birthday in the ER, though I didn’t tell them anything about rape. I stayed in a hostel for a little while. Do you really think I was better off? You know, maybe I was, when I called the other guy and told him about it he blamed me. But I think my larger point still stands.

  29. RD says:

    The person I had been living with was a twice-my-age female romantic partner.

  30. RD says:

    And I want to say something else, related to the original post. I am not remotely surprised that a kidnapping, rape, and torture victim wound up on the cover of Ernest Greene’s magazine. I don’t know the guy personally thankfully, but check out what he says here, especially in response to a woman alleging rape by Max Hardcore: http://theger.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/once-again-more-experts-on-porn/

    He is skeezy, and creepy, and by the way THIRD TIER PRIDE!

    I’ve done full service for 80 bucks. No I was not independent, but it was a different guy than the one I talk about above. I’ve done small time non-industry porn and never made more than $400 for a scene- and that was a threesome with two guys (but protected!). I AM NOT ASHAMED. I am proud. By any definition I was a “small time” sex worker and I don’t give a fuck. It doesn’t mean I should be taken any less seriously, and by the way, I am no “small-time” activist, and I am nobody’s and no movement’s patsy. Judge me however you like cuz I am damn secure in my pride. Oh yeah, I’m a “mess” too. I guess I have no credibility since I’ve been in mental hospitals and attempted suicide. Fuck that.

  31. RD says:

    Btw I think the “gay for pay” comment makes a good point. There are tons of straight hustlers and gay-for-pay porn actors out there. Is their consent to stuff they are not into problematic?

  32. Andrea says:

    RD, I read anna’s post as saying that if the only reason a person is participating in porn is because they’re desperate for money and feel that they don’t have options, and maybe can’t express their boundaries clearly because of their desperation, then it’s exploitative. If they need the money AND they want to do it, then it’s fine, no matter what their economic status. I agree with this.

  33. anna says:

    “Anna, you might want to consider that your alternative is to leave her unable to eat or pay rent. ”

    So it’s fine to patronize sweatshops because otherwise the people who work there will be out of work? No, I think we should have a decent social safety net so that people don’t have to do jobs they feel horribly exploited by in order to survive.

    Now if a poor person doesn’t feel exploited by doing porn, I can understand that. Fine. But I’m saying some do, and yet they feel they have to do it because they need the money, and that’s an ethical problem for me enjoying that porn.

  34. anna says:

    “Didn’t you know poor people can’t be expected to make judgements without the approval of middle class people on what they might enjoy or not? When a well-off middle class young woman decides to work as a stripper she’s exploring the world and herself and maybe will come out with a cool book out of it. A poor woman doing that is exploited and needs to be rescued. ”

    Yeah, that’s totally NOT what I said. I said IF a poor person does porn because they desperately need the money while feeling horribly violated by it, I don’t want to be a part of that. I know some poor people might enjoy being in porn, but some hate it and feel pressured into it because they are desperate for money, and how can you be sure how the actors really feel when you rent a tape?

  35. bellareve says:

    To the people bringing up gay-for-pay…isn’t that a strawfeminist? Who here has endorsed any type of sex work by any gender that is not fully consensual?

    Also, it doesn’t seem like anna is interested in taking away a person’s option to do sex work, or to make any decisions for anyone else, only that she is uncomfortable consuming porn that has been produced out of financial duress. I agree.

    I personally have no desire to legislate away any person’s right to engage in sex for money (as a former sex worker myself). I am, however, highly critical of a system in which a person *has* to provide sexual services to others in order to survive. And I have met a lot of women for whom this is precisely the case.

  36. bellareve says:

    RD, thank-you for bringing my attention to the Ernest Greene issue. That is truly despicable.

  37. Ostien says:

    @RD: I think (or hope) that a transparent independent project would lead to better regulations and prosecutions. As it stands now there is no support for either better regulations or a space many feel they can make accusations and be heard. An organization might be a good way to push for those ends. Like I acknowledge, it is not the perfect solution but it is something that seems worth trying.

    @Marlene: A very good point asking the question “who’s ethics?” The fair trade coffee example is a good one because fair trade has become a marketing symbol and thus practices for determining truly fair trade become questionable indeed.

    Yes, I’d also be wary of a “rating system” like this porn gets 4 out of 5 ethical riding crops… That sort of simplification makes it easier to create “commodified ethics” like the coffee example as well as obscures what problems you actually wanted to address.

    As for who determines the ethics I’d like to see it managed by people in the BDSM and kink community as well as the participants in the porn themselves. Which yes, will not eliminate conflicts of interest and bad reporting by any means. It may sound like a too oft used buzzword but transparency in such an organization would be critical. Clearly there are limits on how transparent any organization can be. But for example, the people doing the reviews/investigations should be forced in order to participate in reveling all their ties or something like that. I’m not entirely sure.

    Like I say this was just a suggestion I had, and it is quite light on the specifics I know. However, I’d love to see (and perhaps help) this idea be built up into something actually viable. More suggestions and criticisms would be great and perhaps if there is enough interest here we can move this conversation elsewhere. to further develop ideas.

  38. William says:

    Didn’t you know poor people can’t be expected to make judgements without the approval of middle class people on what they might enjoy or not?

    And that, really, is whats at the core of my discomfort with both sides of the porn question. On the one hand there is no doubt in my mind that porn commonly crosses the line from problematic into outright rape. On the other hand, the alternative is to strip all agency from performers on in the name of their own good. Either way, it seems, the people involved end up having their power and control over their own bodies taken away.

    I had a client once who was a sex worker who said something along the lines of “I got into this because its something I could do, its something I was good at, sometimes I liked it, and it beat working at McDonalds. I have good days at work, I have bad days at work, but at least I’m not a coal miner.” All too often discussion about porn forget about the real needs and concerns of the people performing in it. Which is hardly surprising, I guess, given that discussions about porn tend to devolve into concern trolling.

    Want to help out sex workers? Stop telling them what to do, stop subjecting them to judgment, stop assuming they’re desperate and know no better, stop imagining that you understand their needs better than them, stop acting like this is your next great crusade. It isn’t about you, it never was, and it never will be unless you actually go into the business. Ask sex workers what they need. Talk to them. Create a world in which they are able to have a voice, in which they aren’t constantly exposed to judgment, in which every word out of your mouth isn’t a failed attempt to conceal the contempt you have for what they do.

  39. ginmar says:

    Yeah, William, is there something wrong with pointing out reality? That desperation and duress are not consent? No, wait, all of a sudden, for pornsters, it’s not the simple act of pointing out that this is a reality. I mean, it’s not like we live in a sexist society or anything.

    And as for Greene–anybody who says, “Nobody has reported anything” in scoffing at the notion that Their Buddy Nigel could be a rapist—especially when he’s a misogynist like Max Hardcore—-is not my friend.

  40. RD says:

    bellareve: To the people bringing up gay-for-pay…isn’t that a strawfeminist? Who here has endorsed any type of sex work by any gender that is not fully consensual? Also, it doesn’t seem like anna is interested in taking away a person’s option to do sex work, or to make any decisions for anyone else, only that she is uncomfortable consuming porn that has been produced out of financial duress. I agree. I personally have no desire to legislate away any person’s right to engage in sex for money (as a former sex worker myself). I am, however, highly critical of a system in which a person *has* to provide sexual services to others in order to survive. And I have met a lot of women for whom this is precisely the case.  (Quote this comment?)

    Andrea: RD, I read anna’s post as saying that if the only reason a person is participating in porn is because they’re desperate for money and feel that they don’t have options, and maybe can’t express their boundaries clearly because of their desperation, then it’s exploitative. If they need the money AND they want to do it, then it’s fine, no matter what their economic status. I agree with this.  (Quote this comment?)

    Hah, wow dude. Did you read my comment?

    anna: “Anna, you might want to consider that your alternative is to leave her unable to eat or pay rent. ”So it’s fine to patronize sweatshops because otherwise the people who work there will be out of work? No, I think we should have a decent social safety net so that people don’t have to do jobs they feel horribly exploited by in order to survive.  (Quote this comment?)

    Yes. You want to boycott sweatshops, follow the workers’ lead. Don’t put people out of a job without their input or consent because of your utopian vision. Nothing about me without me.

    You want a social safety net? Me too. Why don’t you work on getting some social safety net legislation, and in the meantime let people do what they have to do to survive.

    bellareve: To the people bringing up gay-for-pay…isn’t that a strawfeminist? Who here has endorsed any type of sex work by any gender that is not fully consensual?

    Well, I suppose I have, depending on your definition of “not fully consensual.” I have no problem with straight hustlers and gay-for-pay porn actors doing what they do, as long as there is no coercion beyond financial needs.

    Also, it doesn’t seem like anna is interested in taking away a person’s option to do sex work, or to make any decisions for anyone else, only that she is uncomfortable consuming porn that has been produced out of financial duress. I agree. I personally have no desire to legislate away any person’s right to engage in sex for money (as a former sex worker myself). I am, however, highly critical of a system in which a person *has* to provide sexual services to others in order to survive. And I have met a lot of women for whom this is precisely the case.  (Quote this comment?)

    Right. I’ve “met many women” who that’s been the case for…including myself, only a couple years ago. I don’t like that system either, but putting people out of a job and forcing them into more dangerous situations is not the way to fix it.

  41. RD says:

    William: And that, really, is whats at the core of my discomfort with both sides of the porn question. On the one hand there is no doubt in my mind that porn commonly crosses the line from problematic into outright rape. On the other hand, the alternative is to strip all agency from performers on in the name of their own good. Either way, it seems, the people involved end up having their power and control over their own bodies taken away.I had a client once who was a sex worker who said something along the lines of “I got into this because its something I could do, its something I was good at, sometimes I liked it, and it beat working at McDonalds. I have good days at work, I have bad days at work, but at least I’m not a coal miner.” All too often discussion about porn forget about the real needs and concerns of the people performing in it. Which is hardly surprising, I guess, given that discussions about porn tend to devolve into concern trolling.Want to help out sex workers? Stop telling them what to do, stop subjecting them to judgment, stop assuming they’re desperate and know no better, stop imagining that you understand their needs better than them, stop acting like this is your next great crusade. It isn’t about you, it never was, and it never will be unless you actually go into the business. Ask sex workers what they need. Talk to them. Create a world in which they are able to have a voice, in which they aren’t constantly exposed to judgment, in which every word out of your mouth isn’t a failed attempt to conceal the contempt you have for what they do.  (Quote this comment?)

    FUCK YES. Thank you.

  42. UnFit says:

    Wise words, William.

    And the alliterations are entirely incidental.

  43. PM says:

    “To the people bringing up gay-for-pay…isn’t that a strawfeminist? Who here has endorsed any type of sex work by any gender that is not fully consensual? ”

    No one has. My point is that I’ve read literally hundreds of blog posts + replies about pornography and gay-for-pay never gets mentioned (though gay pronography sometimes does). When a common type of pornography never gets mentioned in these debates, I can only presume that the people debating it don’t see it as an issue. Or perhaps they don’t know about gay-for-pay which, to me, says they probably don’t know enough about porn to be debating about porn in the first place.

  44. Andrea says:

    RD, yes I read your post, thanks. But unless I can be sure a company does not coerce its employees, I personally could not enjoy their product because it would always be at the back of my mind. I’m not judging anyone, but is silencing a discussion about how some franchises are exploitative really the answer? I mean, are you suggesting the porn industry can’t be fixed in and of itself so we might as well not even try to hold it accountable? I’m not talking about holding women who participate in porn accountable, I’m talking about the industry. If the industry could be trusted not to take advantage of people, it would be a completely different situation regardless of the woman’s financial status. That’s what I mean, and it’s how I was reading anna’s comments as well. It’s fine if you disagree.

  45. Andrea says:

    RD said: “I don’t like that system either, but putting people out of a job and forcing them into more dangerous situations is not the way to fix it.”

    That’s why I think most people are talking about how to change the industry, not how to put women out of a job. But consuming porn is a pretty personal experience, and I can understand how not knowing how consensual the performance actually is would make it hard for some people to digest. And you know what? I’m sick of women telling other women that if they aren’t into porn they’re not sex-positive and they’re judging sex workers etc. Sometimes people just don’t like porn because of how fraught it has historically been. And I don’t think I personally have to fucking apologize for that. It makes me personally uncomfortable, so you can save your judgments too.

  46. Andrea says:

    Shit, in retrospect that last comment was FAR too aggressive on my part, and I’m sorry, RD. I’m uncomfortable with porn for a whole host of reasons (mostly stemming from sexual abuse as a child) that come up at unfortunate times. Please disregard.

  47. PrettyAmiable says:

    Andrea: RD, I read anna’s post as saying that if the only reason a person is participating in porn is because they’re desperate for money and feel that they don’t have options, and maybe can’t express their boundaries clearly because of their desperation, then it’s exploitative

    ..But now you’re adding arguments that are critical. If they can’t express their boundaries and those boundaries are violated, then no, of course it is not consensual. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that because someone is poor and desperate for money, zie is unable to communicate. Striking that, everything RD said x 20.

    Also, listening to the voices of people who have lived through this situation doesn’t make me obtuse, FYI.

  48. William says:

    Yeah, William, is there something wrong with pointing out reality? That desperation and duress are not consent? No, wait, all of a sudden, for pornsters, it’s not the simple act of pointing out that this is a reality. I mean, it’s not like we live in a sexist society or anything.

    Thats the nature of work in general. No one wants to die an early death from working in a coal mine. My father sure as hell didn’t want the scars and broken body that came with a career as a laborer. That coffee you buy from Starbucks? I’m willing to bet that the workers didn’t want to be there. Work for pay always involves difficult issues of consent. Sex work is more complicated because, culturally, we consider sex more sacred than heavy lifting, but people gotta make a living.

    Given that we live in a fucked up world, we’re really left with three choices. We can do nothing. We can agitate for sex workers rights, become responsible consumers of porn if we choose to buy, and generally do our best to behave like humans, assume that the people doing sex work are reasonable and rational individuals capable of exercising their own agency, and give sex workers the support they tell us they need. Or we can assume that we know better than the (generally marginalized and silenced) people who do sex work, agitate for an end to their professions, and force them further underground where they are more likely to be victimized and less likely to have an ability to seek redress. None are perfect options but when you’re dealing with real people sometimes what you would like has to take a back seat to what they actually need.

  49. RD says:

    Ginmar- re: Greene, I agree, but I think it is even worse when he tries to use her for-pay exit interview as proof she is lying now, even though she reportedly looks like she wants to get the fuck away from him in that interview. A lot of the problems with Greene’s view on that are right here in Thomas’ post.

    He also makes a habit of calling people disgruntled with the porn industry liars and trashing their characters however he possibly can, says that anyone with less than 6 months experience in industry, Greene-approved porn has nothing of value to say about their experiences (gosh I wonder who that kind of standard selects for – mostly people pretty happy about how things are going or people whose alternatives are much worse – the traumatized, cut-and-run-if-there’s-anyway-they-can crowd are NEVER going to show up there, cuz damnit they just don’t have enough experience to comment), and he seems to judge people’s value on whether they are a “sex professional.”. No matter what he himself thinks he is about as far removed from the concept of sex workers rights as it is possible to get.

  50. RD says:

    Andrea, thank you for your apology. I would like to respond to some of what you said but I will keep in mind that you were being more aggressive than you would like. I appreciate that you do not like porn and I have no problem with that. I do not care whether people are “sex positive” or not either, and I find it odd that you brought it up since I never used that term. Also, respectfully, I don’t see how participating in a discussion is silencing discussion.

    I do not care if people do not consume porn or certain porn for their own personal reasons. I only care if the reason people are boycotting/taking action is due to the workers, but action is taken without consulting those specific workers on what they actually need in the situation. As I have said here many, many times, I am very much in favor of holding the porn industry accountable and have brought up some ways I would like to do so. I have no idea what caused you to think otherwise.

  51. bellareve says:

    “Don’t put people out of a job without their input or consent because of your utopian vision.”

    “…in the meantime let people do what they have to do to survive”

    “…I don’t like that system either, but putting people out of a job and forcing them into more dangerous situations is not the way to fix it.

    I feel like I am missing something. Who here has said they are in favor of taking away a person’s option or right to have sex for money? Certainly not me.

  52. ginmar says:

    William, you’re a fuckin’ moron, for trying to act like sex work is just like pouring a coffee at Starbucks. That’s not a good faith argument and it’s so stupid that it deserves nothing but mockery. Christ, you’d think the trolls would get a new act by now. That one was old ten fuckin’ years ago.

    Your dad was not a woman, you dipshit. Nothing you describe is like sex work and coerced sex in a rape culture. Get a fucking clue already.

    Thats the nature of work in general. No one wants to die an early death from working in a coal mine. My father sure as hell didn’t want the scars and broken body that came with a career as a laborer. That coffee you buy from Starbucks? I’m willing to bet that the workers didn’t want to be there. Work for pay always involves difficult issues of consent. Sex work is more complicated because, culturally, we consider sex more sacred than heavy lifting, but people gotta make a living.

    People? Try women. We’re talking about WOMEN, goddamit. Christ, I’m so sick of men trying to erase women from the discussions about them. Women fucking for money is not like coal mining, not like being a barrista, not like working in a factory. Just by trying to hide that fact, you’re invalidating your own argument.

    • Jill says:

      Ginmar, tone it down please. William isn’t a troll, and he is arguing in good faith, and your comment is abusive. You can make your point without those kinds of attacks.

  53. RD says:

    bellareve – you don’t have to be talking about passing (more) laws against sex work to be talking about things that, in effect, put people out of work. Like boycotts that don’t take into account what the workers specifically involved want or need in the situation. Now, changing regulations, holding the porn industry accountable, holding people who commit violent crimes accountable, and boycotts that DO consult with the affected workers? I am very, very much in favor of those things.

    Ginmar – not all sex workers are women. I personally know a number who are not. I think I may have (and shouldn’t have) generalized to “women” in the past too, but statements like “your father wasn’t a woman so he can’t understaaand what it’s like to suck and fuck for money” and such are way over the top and wrong. There are certain advantages that male sex workers have over female sex workers, yes (though, in general as a group they get paid less). There are certain privileges that cis sex workers have over trans sex workers, especially trans women. The threat and experiences of violence and coerced sex, I believe, is worse for female sex workers than male and is worst for sex workers who are trans women…but it is something all groups of sex workers experience. And there are also a lot of things we have in common…like we all “suck and fuck for money,” as you allude to (well, except strippers who only strip and such who are technically sex workers too when people use the term the way it was intended).

  54. UnFit says:

    Calling your opponent a dipshit is always a valuable contribution to the discussion.

    I wouldn’t want to be a guy in the (vanilla, hardcore) porn industry. Massive performance pressure, being expected to routinely take viagra, being paid less…

    And I’m with William in that this is a capitalism problem. Or one with the monetarist economy, anyway.
    I’m definitely not of the persuasion that sexism is just a side issue from capitalism, but sex work is. Sex work would look dramatically different in a different economic system, and in fact it might not take place at all.

    My ex and I produced quite a bit of homemade porn just for the hell of it (Thomas, care for links? :p), which is probably the only kind of serious fair trade porn you can get.
    But isn’t the same true for the music industry, for professional sports, or for Hollywood? People are being paid large sums of money to endnger their health, or to give up their private life almost entirely. A lot of people won’t buy music from major labels becuase of their exploitative practices. I currently read an article about young boys being trained in soccer camps in Africa, South America and lately Asia and being downright trafficked to Europe, where their agents will make massive profits at their expense.

    Strangely, none of those issues get anyone worked up enough to curse and text-yell at anyone who tries to take a differentiated approach to the matter.

  55. PrettyAmiable says:

    Also, trans women are also disproportionately likely to be unemployed or underemployed, thus this topic is particularly relevant for trans women.

  56. RD says:

    Um, I guess I don’t know THAT much about Hollywood or the music industry but I would think it would be pretty different.

  57. ginmar says:

    So nice to see upper middle class feminsts come down on the civility side with guys who are trotting out tollisms, Jill. Never gets old! You know, if some feminists actually stomped on these guys with their Starbucks analogies, then maybe women like me who are living closer to the edge you’re so insulated from wouldn’t find it to so tiresome to have to confront this stuff over and over again. Why, gee, another argument that tries to compare non-sex work to just plain work? That ignores sexism and rape culture? How spiffy! I haven’t heard that before, but Ms. College Education there wants to have a civil feminist blog where the same old crap gets politely considered when it should get trashed from the get go.

    And whoever whined about me calling a dipshit a dipshit: I bet you like that argument where some dude compares prositution to either hamburger or selling hamburger, too.

    The point is, you guys tolerate this crap, and we never get anywhere because it’s the same old crap from ten years ago. “Sex work sucks but so does other work.” Yeah, haven’t heard that before. Fuck this shit.

    • Jill says:

      So nice to see upper middle class feminsts come down on the civility side with guys who are trotting out tollisms, Jill. Never gets old! You know, if some feminists actually stomped on these guys with their Starbucks analogies, then maybe women like me who are living closer to the edge you’re so insulated from wouldn’t find it to so tiresome to have to confront this stuff over and over again. Why, gee, another argument that tries to compare non-sex work to just plain work? That ignores sexism and rape culture? How spiffy! I haven’t heard that before, but Ms. College Education there wants to have a civil feminist blog where the same old crap gets politely considered when it should get trashed from the get go.

      I am totally happy to be un-civil if that’s what you want, and this is my space and I don’t really need to deal with jackass commenters who leave dipshit comments attacking regulars who are actually arguing in good faith (and who don’t make a habit of being total fucking dickwads to the people who own and operate this blog). So fuck off. You’re a bully and I’m really fucking sick of it.

      Un-civil enough, coming from Ms. College Education?

  58. Bagelsan says:

    Who here has said they are in favor of taking away a person’s option or right to have sex for money? Certainly not me. bellareve

    I’m confused as well. All I saw was anna talking about why ze doesn’t watch (certain) porn, not making some sort of call to start a porn boycott. Avoiding porn you don’t enjoy seems like the very most basic of consumer freedoms, yes? It’s not necessarily a political action. My failure to watch blowjobs online doesn’t mean I’m trying to destroy all the blowjob jobs. :p

  59. William says:

    William, you’re a fuckin’ moron, for trying to act like sex work is just like pouring a coffee at Starbucks.

    Not quite what I said though, is it? Sex work isn’t exactly (or even nearly) like slinging coffee at a Starbucks, but all labor comes down to coercion. People have to eat, they have to put a roof over their heads. Sex work has a lot of things that make it different and more problematic, but one of the things about it that isn’t special is the lack of consent involved in doing something you don’t want to do in exchange for money because you’re hungry. Its especially odious (not to mention damaging and traumatic in some cases) given our cultural load around sex, but it isn’t special.

    Also, if you want to call me a prick you’re welcome to, but drop the ablist bullshit. You might disagree with me, you might not have any respect for my argument, but invoking a word like “moron” as a shorthand for argument puts you in a pretty special world of asshole.

    Oh, and “troll” doesn’t mean “anyone who disagrees with me.”

    Anyway…

    Your dad was not a woman, you dipshit.

    Yeah, I suppose having to accept permanent physical and emotional damage and be infected with Hepatitis C in order to feed your kids doesn’t have any parallels with coerced sex for porn.

    People? Try women. We’re talking about WOMEN, goddamit. Christ, I’m so sick of men trying to erase women from the discussions about them.

    But its not just women who work in porn. Several posters have already brought up “gay-for-pay,” the BDSM described in this post is hardly a woman-only genre, and theres a whole world of transfolks out there who are disproportionately affected by, and unable to seek redress from, the kinds of abuses we’re talking about.

    Anyway, Ginmar, this isn’t the first time you’ve had this kind of response with me. I’m not sure my continuing to engage does either of us any good, it certainly doesn’t advance the discussion, and it seems likely to drag an interesting thread off topic and into an unnecessary flame war.

  60. Lauren says:

    Peace, Ginmar.

  61. RD says:

    anna: *This* is why I don’t support porn, even “mainstream” porn, because there aren’t enough safeguards to stop things like what happened to Linda Lovelace and Traci Lords. And even if there were, I don’t think you can say a person is truly consenting to sex when they are only doing so because they desparately need the money. Are there some women who would truly willingly be in porn, even BDSM, not out of coercion or desperate poverty, but because they want to? Yes, I’m not denying that. But until you can prove to me that those are the performers in your porn, I’m not supporting it.  (Quote this comment?)

    Bagelsan, Anna said this, to start.

  62. Miss S says:

    I think we should have a decent social safety net so that people don’t have to do jobs they feel horribly exploited by in order to survive.
    Agreed. While the women who want to be involved in sex work should have that right, women who don’t deserve help and support as well. If a woman is involved in the porn industry and feels violated and exploited but doesn’t feel as though she has any other options, I don’t want to support that.

    in the meantime let people do what they have to do to survive.
    Pointing out that sex work isn’t always consensual isn’t about not letting people do what they have to do. At least, not for me. Too many middle class/upper class people really don’t seem to have the ability to comprehend what it’s like to not have money. For a lot of girls my age, not having money means buying the cheaper dress, or having to ask parents for money. I think it’s really hard for people who have always known financial security to understand having to do something you don’t want to, just to buy food. The women who don’t have a safety net, a family, a college degree, whatever… they (often) get forgotten in the mainstream discussion of porn way too often. We see a few blond, rich, privileged white girls who enjoy it and suddenly people assume it’s like that for everyone.

    It’s not fair to dismiss the needs or problems of the women who are truly exploited to further the right’s of sex workers. I’m not advocating for sex workers losing their jobs. I’m saying there needs to be alternatives for women who don’t want to be there, like access to higher education, access to health care, food… a safety net. A way out for the ones who want a way out.

  63. RD says:

    William: and theres a whole world of transfolks out there who are disproportionately affected by, and unable to seek redress from, the kinds of abuses we’re talking about.A class=comment_quote_link title=”Click here or select text to quote comment” onmousedown=”quote(‘331859′, document.getElementById(‘name331859′).innerHTML, ‘comment’,’div-comment-331859′, false);try { addComment.moveForm(‘div-comment-331859′, ‘331859’, ‘respond’, ‘18485’); } catch(e) {}; return false;” href=”javascript:void(null)”>(Quote this comment?)

    Just to be clear, and I’m not saying that you were saying otherwise William, but many trans people are women and many are men. Not all of course but many.

  64. Miss S says:

    I want to hear from women in sex work who don’t want to be there and what would help them get out. The ones who are exploited or coerced. I’m well aware that women can willingly be involved in sex work, and I don’t think anyone here thinks they should lose that right. What about the others?

    I’ll admit that I don’t watch BDSM, but when I do occasionally watch porn, I want to watch women who do want to be there. As of now, I’m not aware of any way to determine that.

    Also, if I may focus on women for a moment: Women without an education have little oppotunity for gainful employment. Women of color without an education have it even worse. As a currently unemployed, now educated, woman of color who grew up in not so great places, I know women who have been coerced into sex work they didn’t want to be involved in. As PrettyAmiable pointed out, that’s not consensual. Those are the women who, in my opinion, don’t get a voice in mainstream conversations.

    I remember reading that there are 3 types of involvement.
    1. Women who choose to be there because they enjoy it
    2. Women who are victims of sex trafficking-sex slavery
    3. Women who are there because of economic reasons, but would rather not be there.

    I’m pretty sure anon is referring to the third type, and is not claiming that those in the first group should lose their jobs. Quite the opposite- I would rather the women in the industry be the one who actually want to be there.

  65. RD says:

    MissS I am not a blond, rich, privileged white girl.

    And I started in sex work after I got kicked out of the house. I’m really annoyed and offended that you are attributing these things to me. The cheaper dress? Come on, I didn’t even have a home.

  66. RD says:

    You might also check out the amazing work done for example by Jessica Yee. She is not uncritical of the sex workers rights movement as a whole (and neither am I) but really, check out her amazing work and that amazing interview. Some other sex workers rights activists (note: not necessarily all sex workers so be careful of referring to them that way unilaterally) you might not be familiar with are Sharmus Outlaw, Jill Brenneman (white but definitely didn’t have a “privileged” experience in sex work), Kirby, Andrea Ritchie, Che Gossett, Bhavana Nancherla, Kelli Dorsey, and so many more…and that is just in the United States (and Canada)!!!

    The Sex Workers Rights movement is a worldwide movement. It is very strong in Asia, especially India (SANGRAM, VAMP) and SE Asia (EMPOWER Thailand, MTV No Exit -Cambodia, etc.), Africa (African Sex Worker Alliance) especially South Africa (SWEAT) and Uganda, Macedonia (HOPS, STAR) and the rest of Eastern Europe (SWAN), Brazil (Davida), Vancouver (FIRST), Europe (ICRSE), Australia (Scarlet Alliance), and many, many more.

  67. RD says:

    TRIGGER WARNING: Here is a video made by sex workers rights activists in Cambodia about the effects US-backed “anti-trafficking” legislation in that country which outlawed prostitution for the first time: http://www.blip.tv/file/4138226 and a video by MTV No Exit in Cambodia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsFBRFQYwJg

    And here are sex worker rights activists in India protesting an exploitative UK video made about them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16OGyssJTvo

    India: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_calcutta-high-court-to-decide-on-crucial-plea-by-sex-workers_1419479 and http://blog.aids2010.org/post/2010/07/22/Seshu-The-Reality-of-a-e2809cRights-based-Approache2809d-SANGRAM.aspx

    Really awesome, amazing video by FIRST: http://firstcoalition.blip.tv/file/4134296/

    Brothel Raids in Kuala Lumpur: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs5pBVDFjrE

    Sex Workers Demand Recognition in Uganda: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDPARPAxkq0

    China and Myanmar: http://asiacatalyst.org/blog/2010/08/sex-workers-breaking-new-ground-in-china-and-myanmar.html and http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/08/01/china-sex-workers-demand-legalization-organizer-detained/

    East Africa: http://www.soros.org/initiatives/health/focus/sharp/news/east-africa-sex-workers-20100706

    and so so so much more.

  68. Miss S says:

    RD: I wasn’t referring to you specifically, as I have read your previous comments on sex work here. I appreciate the links and will check them out. I have learned a lot about sex work activism from the links you have posted.

    To clarify what I meant- some people who are privileged don’t understand the reality of not being privileged. The women who think that being broke means buying a cheaper dress often can’t comprehend broke meaning trading sex for money for food. It’s just too far from their reality. I know people like this. I have a friend from a fairly privileged background who thinks that financial hardship is not being able to trade in one flat screen for a newer model. I really don’t think she would be able to understand literally not having money for food, or deodorant, or shoes. (I also wasn’t referring only to this blog, but in mainstream feminist circles in general).

    I also agree with William that all labor is coerced in some form, unless you’re a capitalist in the true sense of the word. Everyone else has to trade their labor for money. For me it’s a matter of watching porn produced by women who aren’t explicitly coerced or forced out of survival and actually want to be a part of it. If the woman in a video is hates every second of it and is only in it because she needed the money to buy formula, I would rather not see that video.

  69. RD says:

    Miss S! Holy fucking crap. Stop pretending you are talking to a caricature of a person and talk to the actual people in this conversation.

    You want to talk to someone who has been coerced into sex work she didn’t want to do? Someone who has been a sex worker but doesn’t want to be a sex worker. HI NICE TO MEET YOU IM RIGHT HERE. I have also known quite a lot of people who wanted out. You know what helps? An end to criminalization is the biggest one, as prostitution convictions affect every job application from there on out, as well as housing, custody, immigration status, and so forth. Less stigma is another big one. A different attitude, so it won’t torpedo job applications so bad, so cops won’t arrest you for walking to the store just because you have an arrest record or are trans. And social programs, which, Miss S, I do economic justice organizing too, do you really think I am not in favor of things like housing, more available education, mental health and harm reduction based drug treatment? Again, stop talking to a caricature.

  70. RD says:

    Also Miss S, one of my major points in this discussion is that group 3 should not lose their jobs either, not without a better alternative. And went into quite a lot of personal detail about why I think that is the case.

  71. RD says:

    Ok, sorry, I see I jumped the gun.

    I agree that we should see more discussion of these things in feminism. This is a big reason I talk about this stuff, as well as trying to reach out to feminist organizations offline. You know what I would really like to see? Mainstream feminist organizations that are hostile to sex workers rights but willing to take credit for certain of our successes while erasing is from the picture to the point they won’t even print the right names of our organizations take on these discussions in a fair way. I’m talking to you, NOW and Ms.

  72. RD says:

    By the way I would expect (but do not have direct knowledge) that Poly Patao Productions would have good business practices, as well as that film Audacia Ray made, The Bi Apple.

    To add on what I was saying. NOW et al are really incredibly anti-sexworker I know from experience that reaching out to them at all is going to be very very fruitless. It is frustrating that they won’t acknowledge the kindest of advances- nor will local chapters- , even from a self identified survivor. But they will continue to publish about-us-without-us bullshit.

  73. RD says:

    Well, so the mainstream feminist movement will not acknowledge us. Neither will the mainstream gay rights or HIV rights movements. But none can really match the feminist movement for the bullshit they spew and really harmful policies they back.

    I wonder about the UAE and elsewhere in that region, if there is any sex worker organizing there.

  74. Natalia says:

    I wonder about the UAE and elsewhere in that region, if there is any sex worker organizing there. RD

    Not in the UAE. The government is taking human trafficking more seriously nowadays and trying to avoid these whole situations of a few years ago, where trafficking victims would get thrown in jail, but as for sex worker organizing? None that I’ve seen. I think current legislation effectively prevents it.

  75. UnFit says:

    RD, you mentioned stigma.
    I think that’s another key to good working conditions in the sex industry.

    In the one direction, it’s important to have alternatives for people who are in sex work but don’t want to be there.
    But on the other hand, provided that some people want to do sex work and others want to make use of those services (from table dance to porn to whoring), one great way to take those financial pressures off would be to enable more people to do it on the side, or temporarily.

    I’m in the lucky position/I’ve arranged my life in such a way that the chance of my, um, indiscretions costing me my day job or the support of my family etc. are tiny.

    But as long as that’s a major concern to almost everyone who considers doing any kind of sex work, as long as there is this threat of having to return to the straight world, most people who end up in sex work will be those who have no other options anyway.

  76. RD says:

    Natalia- yeah I was wondering cuz I have heard about sex worker organizing just about everywhere but the middle east, and the UAE particularly partly because of the reputation for trafficking but mostly because I thought it is a pretty wealthy place and might expect there to be sex work opportunity and maybe consensual migration for sex work too?

    But I guess legislation there effectively prevents activism?

  77. I think this thread has drifted a little bit from the original post, but I wanted to share a really smart comment from Orlando C. that was posted to my second interview with Tim:

    While Woodman is unwilling to name names, the particulars of his criticism strongly suggest that he is talking about Kink.com, and indeed it would seem like he _wants_ us to make this inference. I share Woodman’s general uneasiness with any large-scale industry: I tend to assume that most businesses put profits before the best interests of their workers or society as a whole.

    I’m hardly comfortable with his critique, though. In the first place, it reminds me far too much of something I have seen in researching BDSM. Many of the scholarly references to BDSM-related fatalities boil down to pro-dommes saying “I know these other pro-dommes who killed someone, but I can’t name names, because of legal issues.” This would certainly appear (as Woodman admits his own claims are) to be a self-interested way of aggrandizing themselves at the expense of both their rivals, _and_ the reputation of BDSM as a whole. Or in Woodman’s case, the reputation of porn as a whole.

    Clearly, anti-pornography pundits are not going to split hairs about “big porn” and “small porn.” And why should they? There is no compelling reason to think that small-scale porn producers are less dangerous to their workers than large ones. Tim Woodman may be a saint in leather chaps, for all I know, but it is reasonable to question whether garage porn in general is really all that worker-friendly compared to big-box porn. I would assume that at the end of the day, Kink.com is probably out to make a high profit margin, and they probably don’t mind stepping on a few toes in the process. On the other hand, I very much doubt that a business with scores of employees exists _mainly_ to gratify one person’s sociopathic sexual urges, damn the profit margin. But I am quite sure that that is true of a number of indy porn ventures.

    I think the suggestion that producing freely-distributed content is “dumping” is fairly disgusting in any arena. By that logic, musicians should never play public concerts; art should never appear in public galleries; blogs such as this one should have an admission fee, lest they compete unfairly with other blogs.

    I also think that the suggestion that people “ask around” to find responsible porn is banal. It is equivalent to the localvores’ contention that everyone should just make friends with their neighborhood farmer. That’s nice, but in reality most of live in Los Angeles. I mean, I happen to live on a family farm in farm country and half the people I know are farmers, and I _still_ don’t know where most of my food comes from.

    It would be very lovely to create a rating system for the workplace ethics of porn producers, much as Consumer Reports (and others) have done for other industries. But that project needs to be taken up by a third party, not a porn producer who is already talking up how awesome he’ll be when he’s finally made it as big as all the “big porn” he is currently badmouthing in a legally insulated way.

  78. RD says:

    That was a good comment. This is definitely true: On the other hand, I very much doubt that a business with scores of employees exists _mainly_ to gratify one person’s sociopathic sexual urges, damn the profit margin. But I am quite sure that that is true of a number of indy porn ventures.

  79. William says:

    Just to be clear, and I’m not saying that you were saying otherwise William, but many trans people are women and many are men. Not all of course but many. RD

    Oh, absolutely. I’d mentioned trans* people specifically because of Ginmar’s comment about this being about women, specifically. Given the feminist movement’s history with the trans* movement I felt it was necessary to challenge that comment not only with “men are in porn too” but by actively pointing out an especially vulnerable (and often erased) population. Looking bad it does come off as kind of othering, though. Sorry about that.

  80. Miss S says:

    RD: I know you understand, and I’m not sure why it seems like we disagree. I’m not advocating for taking away rights for sex workers. I support any measures that make sex work safer. To clarify, I think measures need to be taken for all women in sex work. I do want to distinguish the women who are there from sheer economic desperation and hate it from the ones who enjoy their work.

    Mainstream feminist organizations that are hostile to sex workers rights but willing to take credit for certain of our successes

    I remember reading something from you about this. In my opinion, this stems directly from stigma. Despite having the label ‘feminist’ or ‘progressive,’ quite a few online sites are fairly hostile. Some of the comments I saw online (not here) after the CL change were incredibly…horrible. I make it a point to distinguish different types of motivations (trafficked, economic desperation, enjoy the work) because if not, people assume that sex work is only one of those things- either everyone in sex work has been trafficked from a developing nation or everyone in sex work is happy, fulfilled, and financially stable. There needs to be room for different discussions and there needs to be room for sex workers with different motivations to share their experience.

    I think we agree on much more than we disagree on.

  81. Natalia says:

    But I guess legislation there effectively prevents activism? RD

    In a nutshell, yes. The UAE has a thriving sex industry, from what I gathered while living there, but it’s all very much illegal and sex workers cannot organize. Cue your regular horrors and abuses associated with driving sex-work underground.

  82. RD says:

    William- I understand, I mentioned trans women and cis privilege in sex work for the same reason. But I just thought your comment could be read as calling trans as separate from man or woman, when the word for that is actually non-binary. But I see that’s not what you meant.

    Miss S- I’m sorry, I should have been more clear before. I was trying to apologize to YOU for me jumping the gun, because I didn’t see one of your comments before I kept commenting. I agree with you, I think we have more in common here than not.

  83. Miss S says:

    RD- No worries. Thanks again for the links.

  84. Lila says:

    If I were able to tell which is which, I would definitely prefer to buy the ones where the actor hates it and is traumatized but has to do it because they might die without that money. Because then I could enjoy the warm feeling of knowing I had helped someone survive while enjoying the sight of their torment.

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