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Grey Areas: Sad, Mopey Post Election Edition

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.


  1. Moneypenny wrote:

    As a current sex worker I have to say I found this discussion hilarious and sad. I am always saddened by discussions about sex work by civvies though, because the people trying to stick up for us are always having to deal with jerks. And the jerks always sound like bad clients.

    AND the discussions rarely involve us.

    I would love to see a “Sexist Beatdown” style discussion on sex work with an actual sex worker (or two ZOMG!).

    TBD is still amazing though.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 6:43 am | Permalink
  2. Kiri wrote:

    I would love to see a “Sexist Beatdown” style discussion on sex work with an actual sex worker (or two ZOMG!).

    Yes please!

    Err, not that I’m trying to be a backseat blogger. Just saying, this is an epic idea.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  3. Geek wrote:

    I’m still going to judge people that are turned on by 5 year olds, snuff videos, and crush videos. I can not possibly see some things as okay, ever.
    I agree with Abbey – just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s okay. Some things we shouldn’t make people feel that they’re normal about.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  4. Kiri wrote:

    @Geek: Did you see anyone in this thread arguing in favor of child porn and murder porn? Because I sure didn’t.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  5. CJP wrote:

    “I would love to see a “Sexist Beatdown” style discussion on sex work with an actual sex worker (or two ZOMG!).”

    Yes. Brilliant idea!

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  6. Moneypenny wrote:

    YAY! It should be done! Two people have agreed, that’s almost like a unanimous decision on the interwebz.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 12:02 am | Permalink
  7. S.A. Small wrote:

    Um…third. Also: people who are ardently anti-prostitution seem to be neglecting the fact that not all prostitution is men purchasing sex from women. Not to say that I’ve worked out the implications of the simple existence of other kinds of prostitution would have in a discussion of ending patriarchy, but I’m pretty sure it’s important.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  8. Dawn. wrote:

    “I would love to see a “Sexist Beatdown” style discussion on sex work with an actual sex worker (or two ZOMG!).”

    Fuck yes. This should happen. Pretty please, with nutella on top?

    Garland and Sady: thank you for being exceptional bloggers and active moderators. I loved your answers to both of these questions, Garland.

    Whoever referenced Jiz Lee: I. effing. love. Jiz. Lee. 🙂

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:16 am | Permalink
  9. Geek wrote:

    @Kiri –
    “But when you start drawing lines in the sand about what is acceptable to be turned on by, you start erasing people.”

    I meant only to disagree with this statement. There is a line.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  10. Rachael wrote:

    I’m so disgusted by the conflation of rape and murder with consensual sex work. And indeed, it should not need to be said: it should be abundantly clear that we are talking about consensual sex work in this post. Nobody is talking about legalising non-consensual sex work because that’s not a job, that’s a hostage situation. And if you think all sex work is non-consensual then you have some more reading to do, seriously. SO given that nobody on Tigerbeatdown wants to de-criminalise non-consensual sex slavery, the next time anyone feels like they want to compare acceptance of sex work to acceptance of rape and murder, please focus on the ACTUAL discussion which is about consensual sex work and what legal status it should have.

    I know I’m coming in late here but I couldn’t let it go without saying this. 🙂

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Moneypenny wrote:

    Rachael, it makes perfect sense that you would feel like you needed to say that. Every time someone mentions sex work and decriminalization/destigmatization someone feels COMPELLED to mention that people are being forced. into. sexual. slavery. somewhere. More often than not it derails what could have been a reasonable conversation between adults.

    People should have to apply to use the

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 1:05 am | Permalink
  12. Betina wrote:

    #35 Sex with children is a crime. They might ‘consent,’ in the way some children might, but it’s still traumatic.

    By your logic, evidently we should criminalise all sex.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  13. McDuff wrote:

    Rule #1: Everybody fucks
    Rule #2: Everybody fucks weird.
    Rule #3: No exceptions.

    There, now we’ve established that EVERYONE is, in fact, a filthy pervert, squished full of weird psycho-sexual stuff and icky desires to do things involving their own or others biological functions, we can get on with the job of not calling anyone a cess pit of immorality or whatever.

    Here’s a question for those who argue that it’s not just a one way street between sexuality and porn and that porn influences people who watch it:

    So what?

    If a sheltered, christian, midwestern woman browsing the internet suddenly discovered the fine joys of lesbianism and ran off to San Francisco to find other like-minded people, I’m sure the majority feminist position wouldn’t be to condemn her. So why should it be so if she ran off to SF to get tied up and spanked? Or if she ran off because she wanted to tie up and spank people? Or if her husband wanted to get his testicles trodden on by someone in stilettos, or whatever?

    Yes, people get influenced by porn. Yes, and also, sometimes people’s sexuality can be a response to internalising pre-existing gender inequalities, or to childhood abuse, or to other deep personal problems. But why does this mean we can discount their desires as somehow wrong and bad and in need of correction? As long as now, in the present time, they’re able to find someone to be their daddy or their bitch or their husband or whatever other perversion they’re into, and are able to do so consensually and with respect and communication on both sides, why is it any of our business?

    Why is it our job to try and protect people from their own sex lives?

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink