Grey Areas took the week off last week, but we’re back! Back with more advice!
I am a trans woman in a very conservative area. The only support system I really have is the local LGb(t?) support group that meets every so often. And, well, it’s certainly a better way to spend my Sundays than the evangelical church I used to go to! But still, I get frustrated when cis people try to cissplain to me basic things about gender and transness that I already know, or ignore repeated requests to call me a “trans woman” rather than a “male-to-female transsexual”, or tell me that they “understand” what it must be like for me because this one time in school somebody called them a member of the opposite sex and that made them cry, or whatever. And, uhh, this kind of happens a lot, at this place! And it’s frustrating me. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me, and I don’t want to disrupt the positive things this group does, but, uhh, I would kind of like to be respected and listened to a little more. How can I request this without causing a huge dramasplosion and/or getting kicked out of the group?
You may not be able to. Really and truly, it may be out of your hands. Some queer people have ideas in their heads about you that you have no control over, and their own sense of cis supremacy will cause conflict when you attempt to assert yourself. Some people are so damn focused on their own oppression that they cannot see the ways that they oppress others. But the fact of the matter is, they are probably all pretty touchy about the words people use to describe them, so not listening to you when you articulate your wishes is unacceptable. Discuss this with them. Discuss the things that are making you uncomfortable, or aren’t allowing you to enjoy this queer space. That place is just as much yours as it is theirs, and if anyone leaves, it should be them.
I recently poked around on various pro-porn and pro-sex worker blogs and websites and heard some interesting arguments from people in the industry about the protection of these workers’ rights. At this point I fully understand the argument behind legalizing prostitution (that women/men are especially vulnerable in that particular industry and need to be able to call on legal protection without fear of arrest), but I’m having trouble understanding the idea that work in pornography or prostitution should be respected as a valuable service to the people. The way I see it, pornography has hurt a lot of its users, even on just a psychological level, in terms of creating a false image of how sex is/should be. Furthermore, a lot of (but not all) pornography depicts violence against women for the purpose of turning people on, which really gives me the heeby-jeebies. What’s your take on the arguments these women make for the legitimacy of their work? Even after spending an hour or two cruising their writings, I’m unclear on their reasoning, and while I’m willing to do the best I can to keep my eyes open to any possibilities that keep women safe and liberated, I’m not sure if I can make the leap to a pro- stance on the pornography debate.
My answer to this question is going to be informed by the fact that I’ve seen very little straight pornography, but I think you have a good case against pornography. The industry tends to produce a high volume of pornography that is degrading to women, reinforces racial stereotypes, or fetishizes pedophilia or humiliation. This is why, for instance, you have a woman in her 20’s wearing pigtails and a schoolgirl outfit or a dude humping another dude’s face until said dude is crying. It makes these videos because there is a market for them, because people tend to bring all of the weird, fucked up things they aren’t supposed to like to their porn consumption habits, and that makes porn inherently problematic.
But when you start drawing lines in the sand about what is acceptable to be turned on by, you start erasing people. You start slut-shaming them, and pretending like their personal fantasies are the only thing keeping the Patriarchy going. And it is easy to do. It is easy to concern troll someone about their turn-ons and try to make them feel ashamed of them. It isn’t easy to be open and honest about what turns you on.
On to prostitution. Prostitution should be legal because making it illegal prevents sex workers from seeking legal protection. Prostitution isn’t illegal to protect women, it is illegal to control them. Telling a person they can’t rent out their body for money is another way to have control over them, because the Patriarchy has a vested interest in controlling female sexuality. As it stands, prostitution is highly problematic because we live in a society where men aren’t expected to respect women’s bodies, and making it illegal forces it into the darkest, least safe parts of any city.
Prostitution is not something we have the power to eradicate, without all of us giving up large amounts of personal freedom. Nothing is gained by digging in our heels and being intractable about that fact. Once we accept that prostitution will occur and we cannot stop it from happening, our task should be to advocate for the rights of sex workers.
What do you think, Beatdown? Keep in mind that because this is a topic of great contention that the comment section will be heavily moderated. Speak your mind, but be respectful to each other.
If you would like to have your question answered, drop a message in my ask box.