#JusticeForChristyMack and the Death of MMA’s Machine Age

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 1.01.01 PMConfront the toxic hypermasculinity of combat sports that enables intimate partner abuse without reproach or reprimand with this one WEIRD trick. Well, it’s more of a flurry of UNUSUAL sleight-of-hand flourishes that build up to a WEIRD payoff. But rest assured: the MMA community HATES her. And you, and me. War Machine’s supporters wear their contempt for us where the since-incised sleeves of their Tapout shirts should be.

Oh say say, where is my sense of fair play? Surely his brother (or someone desperately charading as such) isn’t a neutral data point. He’s an individual, not an indicator. PeopleJustDoBadThingsIt’sNotSomeCulturalAffect.

War Machine is a man of many a moniker–porn star, men’s rights activist, abuser, aspiring rapist–but one thing he is not is a bad apple. The whole tree is fucked.

In February of this year, Thiago Silva put a gun in his wife’s mouth, intent to kill her over the quintessential “quelle surprise”: a suspected affair. And for sure: accountants and librarians are likewise liable to assault their intimate partners too. I’ll give you that. I’ll even let you have a side of bleu cheese though we would normally charge you for it. But if your accountant once traveled to China to make a Bulgarian wrestler submit to a triangle choke, you might be Cobra Commander. In which case, Dennis Quaid is still out there–get back to work.

Thiago Silva and War Machine are trained to kill. They haven’t gotten that part, yet, but they have a physique and acquaintance with combat physiology on par with the military. Or rather, the military is on par with MMA; living legends of the sport like Royce Gracie, Randy Couture, and Ken Shamrock are frequently sought as special instructors at military training facilities. Blessed be we! In the hands of our capable military and their reputation as paragons of not-taking-out-the-horrors-of-war-out-on-intimate-partners, these skills can come to be cultivated in an environment of respect and discipline. The sort of respect and discipline that it took for UFC hopeful Will Chope to beat his wife at knife-point so badly that he was then dismissed from the very discreet and discerning business of killing foreigners for oil.

All this power. All this knowledge. Employed to terrorize women, to reinforce a textbook patriarchal notion of “a woman’s place”.

War Machine’s supporters flail Christy Mack’s face around on twitter to prop up and posit her as the poster girl for what happens when you cross the Alpha Male. This is a mug shot of misogyny-in-action; a woman survives an attack from a man who could have killed her–who could have killed about anyone reading this (despite my six consecutive “Mom’s Favorite Judo Star” awards)–and they jeer at her injuries, coin callous colloquial innuendo about getting “CM’d” and raise the funds to free her attacker.

And the notion of any differential in intrinsic moral value between a bloodsportsman and a sex worker is so fucking rich it’s got its own robot maid.

My disgust must not be digressed. This has to stop.

To UFC’s credit, they did release Chope, the day of his fight with Diego Brandao, after this knowledge had come to light the day before. To their–what is the opposite of credit? Whatever that is–a bad conduct charge comes up on the most basic background check. There is no way that UFC didn’t know of this incident before it went public.

But a bad attitude makes a good alibi. A time bomb temper, difficulty diffusing personal conflicts, an at-any-cost preservation of perceived masculinity; it’s hard to, say, tell run-of-the-mill from run-for-your-life- until the hands around your throat and you’re browsing the novelty twitter accounts from your infirmary bed.

And oh, how Dana White and Bellator prune and preen that tree. Silva, War Machine, and Chope were all very publicly released from the retinue of their respective promoters when their actions had come into the public consciousness. But they are not bad apples. And you can kick them away, you can throw them, you can dump them in a compost pin far and away where their descendant decay will never touch the soil–and no I’m not done with this apple metaphor–but the tree remains.

That tree has roots in the harshest, darkest dirt of western masculinity. Those roots reach out to six year old cagefighters walking it off in Arizona and viral video street fights. Abuse of power comes as no surprise and neither does Bellator reaching out to sign internet sensation Kimbo Slice after having released that other internet sensation War Machine. And like the Crimson of Ken Nordine’s “Colors”, those roots want more and more and more and more.

The roots are riling beneath our feet, now. Commentators, amateur tapout models and fighters alike queuing at the soapbox to go one on one with a trans woman they don’t think should be fighting.

The tree casts a bleak blight of a shadow in which shelters homophobes, and white supremacists. And praise the Lorde, lest all these MMA moonlighters fighting for gay rights, black empowerment, and trans visibility monopolize the product.

MMA is legally classified as an ultra-hazardous sport, but to whom? Intimate partners, referees, random people in Sweden. War Machine seems not worse for wear after 21 professional fights. The same cannot be said for Christy Mack, or the wife of Josh Grispi, who earlier this year had the family pitbull set on her.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 1.01.21 PMThe love and patience War Machine had not deemed fit for Christy Mack in that–vomit bag at the ready– “moment of passion” was indeed bestowed upon the sport he committed his life to. He trained. He joined a team. He started a nobody and worked his way up. I can’t, I won’t dismiss and disregard the sincere devotion and care he has for his art.

And neither will I disregard the countless trainers, teammates, promoters, officials, and others involved in his curation of that art. He is not a bad apple. He had been watched, witnessed, studied. He slept in a dormitory with other dudes, inked and ripped like himself, who had the opportunity to check each other, to keep that kinetic emotion in the cage where it belonged and not let it out.

Every day War Machine, like Thiago Silva, like Josh Grispi, was surrounded by people who told him he was good when he was mean, that they liked him when he was mean, that it made them want to be mean–can’t someone just be “that guy” and say “but hey man, if you still find yourself angry and wanting to hurt or be hurt outside of the ring maybe you should seek therapy”.

Dana White and Bellator make a big show of throwing away their bad apples but never do they look back at that tree and think “maybe it’s something we’re putting in the soil.”

“Maybe we should be better at tending it.”

Has the apple tree metaphor lost you at this point? Y/Y

I’m talking about maybe a little accountability here from MMA organizations that maybe this culture of compulsory alpha male entitlement, while good for ratings sometimes, might actually suspend the sustainability of the sport in the long run and make it inaccessible for people who encounter nonconsensual violence on a more regular basis–you know, like women.

Say what you will about the military, like, for example “it’s a parasitic drain on western culture that serves only to train local government how to wage war on its own citizens”, but when someone told someone that Sgt. SingleCake caused the limp of an eight year old girl, he found himself in a room with baby blue ducky wallpaper, playing a game of word association. Child Abuse. Incarceration. Foster Care. Family Therapy Instead Maybe?

#JusticeForChristyMack is not publicly firing a guy who won’t be able to work anyway because he’ll probably be in fucking prison–OKAY ALSO WAIT WHAT WHY DID HE HAVE A BLOG IN PRISON, I WASN’T EVEN ALLOWED A FUCKING VIEWFINDER.

War Machine and Thiago Silva tried to kill what they (in their own abusive way) “loved”.

And I think it’s perhaps our prerogative to give back in kind.

I’m not hyped up on hyperbole. This is a thing the MMA community actually fears.

If more attention is brought to the rise of intimate partner abuse in combat sports, then it will inhibit the marketability of MMA.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 1.06.45 PMWait shit the MMA community ADMITS there’s a domestic violence problem in the sport oh god why did I spend all this time looking up stuff to prove to you GOD DAMN IT.

That’s a nice out of control and poorly regulated sport you have there. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.

Like the co-opting of your social media presence and promotion to bring light to your lack of accountability and anti-abuse resources. I’m sure Stephen Colbert would appreciate a day off from having to check his twitter mentions.

Or organized boycotts of MMA events, with an explicit focus on publicizing the gruesome acts of your featured performers, until a public stance is made on abuse and actionable intent to provide support to people like Christy Mack, Thaysa Thiago, and Kaitlyn Grispi.

Or hey! Why don’t we all just write Bellator and tell them how we feel about their non commitment to preventing abuse and what they could be doing to maybe stop enabling such shitty behavior of their talent.

Like provide better mental health resources.

Like maybe employ more people who are not bros with tribal tats who won’t echo chamber abusive alpha male shit like joking on television that you’ll murder your girlfriend.

Or investigating whether or not any of War Machine’s trainers, teammates, or colleagues had a notion of his abusive nature and could/should have said something.

If you don’t respond to any of the emails I’ve been writing you, you can just make these resources available on your site or during broadcasts:

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Domestic Abuse Helpline For Men And Women

Women Helping Battered Women

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

And yes: I said the l word. I love MMA. I like the muscles and the hitting and sometimes there’s a double KO and it’s so cash, man. But no love is so transformative that I will afford even one woman to endure the abuse that stems from unchecked alpha male entitlement. Especially when that abuse is (reasonably) preventable by not looking the other way like a bunch of “I got mine” assholes and providing reasonable, sustainable mental health resources for your fighters and, in acknowledging the existence of said abuse, enable women like Christy Mack to get the support she needs from you and the rest of the community.

If MMA is to thrive, it must come out of the Machine Age.


Abusive White Male Tears: Crowdfunding Betrays Weird Morals

Massive trigger warnings about domestic violence (described and photographed), rape, rape apologism, entitlement culture, police

Updates below in bold!

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I’ve written before on crowdfunding’s betrayal of sex workers, and how ridiculous their rules are that they ban sex workers entirely, whether they’re crowdfunding adult work or medical expenses.

There’s been a lot of press about MMA fighter War Machine’s near-fatal abuse of his ex girlfriend Christy Mack earlier this week. While some of the commentary has been the expected sex worker bashing, “but we don’t KNOW he did it!” type apologist bullshit, there’s also been some very thoughtful articles. The cops apparently hung up on 911 calls the night of the attack, and called her injuries non life threatening at first, which doesn’t surprise me but underlines how little the cops care about domestic violence or sex workers. Still, I’m glad to see that Christy Mack is being supported by a good number of people, who have compassion for what it’s like to live in an abusive relationship, are horrified by the way he spoke about her, and don’t think that her being a porn performer should be reason for her to be assaulted.

I certainly understand how horrifying intimate partner violence can be, and how hard it is to leave. This is fucking personal.

There’s another piece coming on Consent Culture about domestic violence and MMA, but I want to address something that became starkly clear when it came to the aftermath of Jon Koppenhaver’s arrest. And that’s the messed up ethics of crowdfunding.

As I’ve discussed before, sex workers have regularly had their attempts to crowdfund medical care, travel, and other things shut down because they’re sex workers, or have ever been sex workers. The purposefully vague language of the terms of service for many of these companies means they can determine what’s “too adult” seemingly on a whim. I’m glad to see Christy Mack hasn’t had her medical fundraiser challenged due to her profession, as Eden Alexander did, and I hope that crowdfunding has made a decision to stop penalizing sex workers for their jobs.

What sickens me, however, is that a fundraiser for War Machine, a.k.a. Jon Koppenhaver, is remaining up despite multiple challenges. Two other fundraisers that purported to be raising money for War Machine’s defense were shut down, with GiveForward offering an *apology* and advice:

Of course, War Machine’s supporters took this as complicity with their goal of raising money for a serial abuser, who had “joked” about murdering Christy Mack before.

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And it is, which is why I will not be using GiveForward/WePay in the future, and encourage you to make the same choice.

When they took the fundraiser for his legal defense down (it’s now back stating money raised is for “mental health funding”), Giveforward emailed me as well, by the way, and their tune with me was very different:


Obviously, I find the disparity in the emails to be pretty concerning and to not give me a lot of faith that they are, in fact, seeking to “empower compassion”.

GiveForward is now requesting more detailed information from the people running War Machine’s fundraisers.

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While I’m glad they’re finding ways to slow down the crowdfunding of violence against women, particularly sex workers, a group they have shut down in the past, I would find it more of a statement of compassion if they didn’t let people fundraise on War Machine’s behalf at all.

Also, again let me remind you, female sex workers have been shut down on GiveForward because they were deemed untrustworthy handling cash meant to go towards medical bills, yet War Machine, who is also a porn performer in addition to being a violent criminal, apparently doesn’t warrant similar mistrust. As WePay, GiveForward’s payment processor, was the one who complained about Eden Alexander’s fundraiser as being against policy, perhaps we should ask them why they feel funding an abuser of women is in their policies.  A great example is below:

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Just to remind you of Christy Mack’s injuries, here is her statement, the police report, and the images she tweeted:

Both have said they had broken up in May at various times, though as is often the case with abusive relationships, codependency also seems to have been keeping them together after. His excuse for beating her, one that people men like Chuck Zito of “Sons of Anarchy” fame seems to agree with, is that she was cheating on him- not that it’s an excuse, but it doesn’t even seem to be true.

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Here’s some statistics around “crimes of passion”, and how often the people who abuse women are their partners. (Also please please please, if you need support around these issues, check out our resource list).

The man who did this, who *is under arrest for doing it after being labeled a fugitive*, who has practically admitted to doing it (I mean, “she’s my property and always will be“?!?), *is crowdfunding* and this is totally ok with GiveForward. I mean FFS they could shut it down simply because he’s been a porn performer in the past, if they wanted a way to get out of it and still be consistent… but I guess that’s only an issue if you’re a women.

But hey, you know, if supporting *near* murderers isn’t your thing and you’d rather support a proper murderer, never fear! You can support Darren Wilson, the cop who murdered a black teen in cold blood and kicked off a week’s worth of (frankly justified) riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Residents are under curfew, and feel like they’re under house arrest (because they are). Tear gas is being used frequently and without restraintThe National Guard has been sent, which is going to make things even worse.

Well, the cop who felt murdering a black kid was a-ok has a fundraiser at $17,000+ on GoFundMe, and this isn’t even the fundraising effort started by the KKK! I guess GoFundMe isn’t worried about picking sides in legal situations the way GiveForward is.


It doesn’t surprise me at all that many of the people donating to Wilson’s fund are also cops. In case you questioned whether or not all cops are bastards, the fact this fundraiser is so heavily populated by them and that cops haven’t been condemning this behaviour should tell you all you need to know.

To underline: Darren Wilson murdered a black teenage boy, who was unarmed and facing away from him, and he’s on *paid leave*, and ALSO now getting $17,000 and counting.

GoFundMe is enabling *paying* this murderous cop for killing a black kid. This is the state of racism in the US right now.

Don’t ever, ever fucking tell me we’re post race and you don’t see colour.

I like to think that crowdfunding can be revolutionary. But it’s important to remember that these tools can also be wielded by the oppressor. Such is often the way in capitalism.

Next time you need to raise some money, may I suggest Tilt instead?


Guest Post: On the costs of talking about consent

o-DUCT-TAPE-MOUTH-facebookThis guest post is from one of our contributors, who wanted to repost their writing here. I’m really glad to be getting more guest posts on here, so that we can begin to paint a fuller picture of what consent culture might mean, and where we’re at currently, from various standpoints.

Cross-posted from: http://queerfeministkilljoy.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/on-the-costs-of-talking-about-consent/

Content Note: rape, child sexual abuse,  self harm

It’s been a trying time of late to be someone for whom consent is really important. The Washington Post published a column within which were posted the words, “when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” More of the usual victim blaming asshole-ry has blown up on Fetlife, and I  recently received a phone call from a dear friend wanting to process newly recovered memories of sexual abuse. The conservative columnist (whose name I’m not using purposefully, as he doesn’t deserve any more air time) who penned the piece for the Washington Post probably has no idea how common rape and sexual violence is because he isn’t a target for that sort of assault. In his experience, as a white cisgender hetero man, rape and sexual violence are somewhat rare. He applied his broken validity prism, threw in some heartless conservatism, added some dubious statistics and stirred et voila! Rape apologist tripe!

So now we have another example of victim-blaming narrative. I’ve seen this particular approach elsewhere of late– apparently we’re all doing this for the positive attention, you guys. You know, all the attention? How like… positive it is? Yeah. We’re completely hooked on it. Yup. That’s the argument, and homie ain’t the only one making it. Let me just let that sink in for a minute. Survivors who refuse to be silenced by their own internalized shame and self-blame, by the obvious hostility, the gaslighting, denial, and threats from all of those who wish to silence survivors– are in fact making it all up. Yup, because of all the positive attention.

I wonder though, what does all this positive attention look like? Maybe its like the time I asked politely that folks refrain from using the term rape to mean anything other than rape. To which a crowd of barely literate mansplainers linked me to the dictionary definition and sounded off about how words evolve and change and mean different things. Wow, thanks guys! I’m so glad you were there for me about that because frankly, my graduate program in Comparative Literature left something to be desired in terms of, “how words work,” and complex stuff like that. –So instances like this- in which someone who is/was/has been/will continue to be continually targeted for sexual violence asks someone who veeeery likely isn’t/hasn’t been/won’t be to have the tiniest smidgen of sensitivity to that issue and gets so much pushback you’d think she’d asked for blood or plasma… These are perhaps not the instances of, “positive attention,” to which the columnist is referring? Maybe there is some other place and time where all the positive attention comes into play? Because in situations such as the one mentioned above I’ve personally been, at best- laughed at, verbally bullied and shouted down for daring to challenge the status quo or assert my right as a survivor to be comfortable in a space, and at worst called names, the target of threats (typically threats of sexual violence, because that’s not at all triggering for a survivor) and the recipient of gendered insults.

Regardless of how this narrative about all this positive attention actually flies in the face of survivor’s stories and statistics, (many survivors report being disbelieved, shamed, blamed, and/or ostracized when seeking support) this is the argument in a nutshell. We’ve got something to gain- attention, fame, noteworthiness, sympathy– some damn thing. That’s the latest version of bitches be trippin meets lying liars— we aren’t all some woman scorned after all, it seems. And we aren’t all slutty sluts with buyer’s remorse who changed our minds and decided to cry rape. Nope. We’re attention seekers who desperately desire the adoration of fawning acolytes. We’re seeking positive attention- all the real and desirable effects that come of claiming survivor status. We’re drama queens, and narcissists and liars. Anyone else notice the similarity of this particular bit of victim blaming to all the others? Notice how they’re all coded femme? Ain’t life grand?

So let’s back this bus up a smidgen, shall we? Survivor privilege, what might it look like?

Well, at least in part, for me, it looks like being one of a few people that those whom I love who are also survivors can come to when they need to process shit so dark you wouldn’t watch it were it in a movie. Like what happened on Monday first thing in the morning, when a woman I love and consider family called to discuss the depths of horror she lived through as a helpless child. She needed to talk so I listened, because I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence and rape. It was only natural she’d talk to me about this– besides her therapist, who would be willing to go down that particular rabbit hole? Ah, but there’s the rub—because I’m a survivor, I can empathize, perhaps a bit too well. Unfortunately, I’m so traumatized that hearing firsthand accounts from those I love is triggering and integrating new information is a painful process. I have to rearrange things to make a space in my brain where I can put some more wordless horror. I have to process what I now know while walking the world acting perfectly normal while making space for this dark sludge alongside all the other nightmare inducing things already stored in my full to bursting little brain.

So, what else is there? What else do I stand to gain? I’m an outspoken feminist for whom it took twenty years years to properly name a drunken-teenage-passed-out-drunk-woke-up-to-someone’s-peen-in-my-vagina-moment (surely we’ve all had those? amirite?) what it actually is- rape. I never told my friends about it; even though he was their friend too and we were all passed out on another friend’s living room floor. It didn’t even occur to me to say anything.  Instead I just glared at him when I saw him after that, and I didn’t explain to anyone, not even to myself, until fairly recently- that this was a tipping point for me as a teenager. Soon after that I started to cut myself. Instead of speaking about violation, I bled and had nightmares and my mom told me that I was, “sick in the head.”  Ain’t that cute? That’s how girls are supposed to deal with things you guys! Internalize it! But quietly! Don’t cause anyone else a moment of inconvenience, though. That’s survivor privilege. Taking twenty years to sort out the precise moment I started cutting my wrists, arms and inner thighs and being able to trace it to directly to a single moment after a lifetime of truly dramatic history. It was  a –one thing too many- sort of thing, which happened just as I was starting to come to grips with all the horrors I’d been through. Survivor privilege is having some more stuff loaded on to your back when your legs are already broken. Survivor privilege is when people who are carrying very little yell at you to get up and move and stop being so self involved.

Survivor privilege is being dismissed whenever I talk about that night when I woke up all drunk and woozy and confused to discover that sex was being had, apparently, with me. Survivor privilege is having anything I say that has to do with the systemic and systematic sexual violence which primarily targets women and other fem(me) folks dismissed out of hand due to my gender identity, mistakenly attributed to either my politics or my hatred of men. Whatever I say is dismissed because I already have an opinion about rape (hate it) and rape culture (hate) and the violent misogyny (grr hate) and male supremacy (triple hate) that excuses and denies all of the aforementioned hateful stuff.

I’m completely biased, get it? As a woman, as a femme, and as a survivor I cannot discuss bodily autonomy– especially that of women and/or fem(me)s without having a vested interest, a stake in the topic. Therefore my opinion is always already irrelevant because I have one. Unlike other people whose opinions are valid regardless of their history or lack thereof– mine is suspect, because its personal. Survivor privilege is having my passion for changing the situation that we call rape culture—the situation where sexual violence is permitted and permissible and alluded to continually and used like a bludgeon to force feminine people into line in service of male supremacy and compulsory heterosexuality– all of this is attributed back to completely subjective feelings and therefore irrelevant. I’m not objective you guys. Unlike all those hetero guys with a vested interest in telling us all about their friend who was falsely accused, or so they say, because some bitch cried rape—and they all seem to have a friend like that, have you noticed? Funny, I don’t have any of those friend but most of my friends have been raped. A girl I started dating recently said something like, “well you know, when you just go with it? Because it’ll go easier?” and what she meant was: you know, those times when you have to choose between mild coercion and brutal rape? Because women and fem(me) folks make that choice frequently enough that its not unusual.  We have that experience, well I guess about as often as dudes friends get falsely accused, I’d guess. Unlike the rape apologists, those bastions of all things objective and reasonable and traditionally coded masculine and good and glorious and great, I already have an opinion, one that is totes subjective and stuff. Yeah I can see why you’d dismiss my opinion in advance, seeing as how I got one, or whatever.

Waitaminute though, I’ve forgotten already what it is I’m supposed to have gained from having all these conversations where I’m triggered and gas-lighted repeatedly, where insensitive clods say the most foul, misogynistic, backwards, sexist, victim blaming,  rape apologist shit they can think up– all to convince me to stop talking about consent. I wake up crying from nightmares during consent wars, I cry more easily and often during the day. My depression gets worse, and I get rageface- which we all know leads to wrinkles. No bueno. No fucking bueno, compadres.

You know what else it costs to write about and talk about consent? I’m going to be super real with y’all. It has cost me the vast majority of my relationships with men. Not all at once, but eventually, over time, one by one. It was one sexist joke too many, it was one boundary-crossing-creep-defender over the line. It was the constant microaggressions or the combination of being privileged and defensive about it and unable or unwilling to do any better.  Most grew weary of arguing about feminist issues, or about the fact that I wouldn’t let them just win those arguments, even though they usually had no idea what they were talking about. They couldn’t deal with the fact that I won’t allow anyone to say disparaging shit to and about me and mine. Or they won’t or can’t do better after I explain how to do better many many times and finally I have to peace out on them for my own safety. I have at present a tiny handful of guy friends. One I get into arguments with nearly every time we talk. I fear that relationship may go the way of most of my past relationships with subtly sexist men- away, that is to say. Which is really too fucking bad. Because the truth is, I don’t hate men- I hate male privilege. I really like men, shit, I love them actually, some of them. I miss having men friends, but not enough to let the mild misogyny slide. I have got to take care of me and mine. That’s where we clash, because I refuse to just smooth things over, to just let things go. They’re accustomed to deference and I’ve taught myself to drop that habit as best I can.

So, for me, the cost of talking about consent is pretty freaking high. Why do I keep doing it then? Well, Audre Lorde said, “your silence will not protect you” –I’ve been guarding the boundaries of my person from folks who felt they had the right to lay their hands on me for as long as I’ve had consciousness as a human being.

I was born with a target on my back, or was it between my legs? The point is that I’ve had to fight a war without end. The combatants are my right to bodily autonomy and the right of folks who feel entitled to my person regardless of my granting or not granting consent. That includes grown men who tried to fondle me when I was just a kid and it includes the little boys who did the same. It includes the teachers who excused such shenanigans and it includes the politicians who currently wish to legislate what I may or may not be allowed to do with my own person.

I’ve had to fight for the right to not be touched by men my entire life and the struggle hasn’t ended yet. Because I have a primary partner who is also a woman, I continue to be treated as, “fair game”– and frankly that’s how it feels. Like some of us are hunters while others are prey. I’m a relatively small person, and people seem to find it hilarious to pick me up. I find it utterly terrifying. I dislike being touched by people I don’t know but have a very difficult time making folks hear that over the noise of their preconceived notions about what/whom my body is for– which is to say– I am for them, apparently. That’s why I’m curvy despite being so short, that’s why I have such a big butt- its for the visual and tactile pleasure of men. I’ve gotten good at stating boundaries loudly and staying away from people who set off alarm bells, but this has only mitigated some of the harm. The constant warding off of potential incursions remains. Not talking about this isn’t going to change that, and it isn’t going to educate the people who are privileged but are also decent humans. Silence won’t make the world safer for people like myself.  Talking about and modeling the changes we need our culture to undergo will start shifting both the behavior and the thinking that underpins it.

So I keep going. I don’t shut up. I defend my borders assiduously. The last time a stranger decided to put their hands on me was about two weeks ago now at the bus stop. He asked how I was doing and I replied that my back hurt, so he tried to rub my shoulders and I asked him to stop. He did, and then he commented on my big old butt. And I’m sure if you were to ask him, he’d say he’d done nothing wrong- crossed no boundaries, not violated anyone’s consent. Why, after all, should he inquire as to whether he can or cannot put his hands on me? That’s like asking a sofa before you sit down. I’m sure he wouldn’t have put it that way, he’d have said its no big deal and I’m taking it too seriously. Gaslighting aside, the reality is that he is granted bodily autonomy in a way that I am not. That’s why he violated my space with such ease, it literally didn’t even occur to him that I’m not there for him to touch, to push my boundaries, to hunt.

Convincing other adults that I am an autonomous human being and not an object for their visual or tactile pleasure and that they have no right to demand my time or attention is an ongoing struggle. Convincing other adult humans to not put their hands on me without asking first is an ongoing struggle. So what do I get out of it? I get better at stating my boundaries, better at tracking those who are grooming potential targets. I get derided, made fun of, called names- almost always gendered insults, what a surprise. I get yelled at and threatened with violence. I get to have bad dreams and sick sad feelings that take days and days to go away. But I keep doing it anyway. Because only having these conversations about consent will change the way that we as a people understand consent and autonomy. Only by modeling a different way of doing consent where we use our words and ask each other first can we create a world in which each and every one of us regardless of gender or size or status or race or age or ability is an autonomous being who can grant or refuse consent.

Modern Love Is Automatic (2013)

From Top To Bottom: Confronting Myths About Consent & Respecting Dom/mes

So Jetta Rae/Doublecakes is going to be joining us as a staff writer and editor, so this is not, strictly speaking, a guest post, but rather a post I’m adding because I have yet to make another login. :) I particularly like this piece because it speaks to the dynamic between D types and s types, how often it becomes about what the D type can provide in a Mad Libs type of way, rather than a connecting of interests and desires. I’ve spent time as both, and felt like I was being objectified whether I was the Domme or the submissive- like I was just there to impersonate someone’s fantasy, rather than speak to my own. Consent requires being able to make space for each other, I think. 

There but for the grace of this Old Navy’s clearance swimwear section go I.

Sometimes I’m still a child, drumming on my gut, reckoning the ripples through the hot frost of the bathroom mirror. Waiting for my mother to come, to beat down on the door. She hates this. More than being called “mumsy”. More than action figures that “sweat”. Nothing makes her billy goat gruffer than me playing with my own fat.

Maitresse (1975)
Maitresse (1975)

Was it plain shame, or does a mother know–the gulps and groans and gags of passerby and fellow fitting room tenants? Was she trying to prepare me for adulthood, a life in exile on a world without pity, where the suffering of fat people, specifically fat women, is so ubiquitous and commonplace that it’s become written into our social contract. Doctors, airlines, the Forever 21 on Bay Street–it seems no stratus of our waking life remains that has not capitulated to the fear of a Size 20.

I ask not for whom this chorale of cringe emanating through the fitting rooms tolls for. I mean really: it just wouldn’t feel right without this affronted backdrop. Baby’s first bikini, la vie en lime green, with ruffles. It’s not quite the hue of green that I was hoping for–but it’s not the top that I’m admiring in the mirror.

The ochre has given way to a muddy yellow, laid over blemished black. Two on my left breast, one beneath the collarbone, and a bitemark at the back of the neck. The bikini gets a score of four out of four; she’ll be able to see her work, and in doing so, see me.

My wings have been singed. I once played that apex prey–the lifestyle Domme. A two star motel matriarch, I have captivated a cavalcade of “it’s complicated”s, from Peoria to Menlo Park. I would chain your heart to my boot heel and feed you the key for breakfast!

I’m missing so much tupperware.

Maybe there’s some in my dresser. No–just orphaned butt plugs and t-shirts two sizes too small. A song as old as rhyme.

But your husband can just microwave something for himself, right? No, that bus doesn’t run 24 hours. You’ll need to get an Uber.

Modern Love Is Automatic (2013)
Modern Love Is Automatic (2013)

“It’s not so cut and dry, Mom,” you say. “There’s a lot of moving parts, you know. She’s trying to get a job as a head librarian. She’s still living with her parents. She’s sponsoring her husband to live here and you know, the government just doesn’t get polyamory, you know? They all love me. I have an abundance! I have so much I can’t ever tell anyone about it. Like the lottery!

Well what do you know, Mom? You date men.

They cry “there’s never enough tops!” and I do my little turn on the catwalk.

Please hurt me, mistress. Please punish me. I’ve been bad, Mistress. I need it, Mistress. I need you to wear this, Mistress. I need to you come over tonight if you can, Mistress. And I need it to be not so expensive, Mistress. Please, Mistress: I’ve been very bad!

A swayed gaze at the wayback: I’m needlessly tip-toeing into my house. It’s instinct. It’s awkward. I left a suicide note on the fridge a couple days ago. Bad form.

There’s a strange girl in the living room. Or rather, a girl who I do not recognize. Everybody’s strange, now. So nobody is. I’m from a heyday where a hot pocket dipped in ketchup meant something. Now everyone throws birthday parties for house bugs and quotes song lyrics to authority figures.

“I loved your zine! I’ve been looking for a Mommy for like, forever! I showed it to my mom, and she loved it too! Especially that part where you talk about ‘washing out someone’s mouth with cock’”–

And now she’s in my bed. And naked. And my roommate is drinking in the living room, probably upset with me that I sneakily swept their hopeful hookup away with my charming tale of just getting out of the hospital and feeling frail and like I should be alone.

That dress, man. That red polka dot dress. I got apprehended on the Golden Gate Bridge, I got held for two days in a psychiatric hospital–not so much as a sweat stain. I come home and some drunk earlytwentysomething gets beer drool all over it trying to kiss me.

When I was younger than this girl, my ex would call me girl’s names during sex to prove how much happier I’d be if I transitioned. I joked that I’d wear earplugs in bed from then on. And sometimes I wish I’d followed up on it–those first few months or years would be hard but after a decade of practice I’d be almost superhuman at understanding people through earplugs and no wayward sub could coax arousal from me by drunkenly whispering the name for such a core element of myself.

She likes spankings, but not too hard. She likes the word “client” over “John” because it’s more compassionate. It’s amazing how much you can know about a person without, like, being able to identify them and what they did to you.

“Thank you for last night and especially this morning. Once my divorce with my husband is over–”

No, this isn’t the next day. It’s three months ahead. I only have so many dresses. And there I am, waiting to get into the club to get dressed for wrestling. I’m nervous–I’m wrestling a woman I just started dating. And here comes hashtag clients not johns. She’s introducing me to her Daddy. Oh,  how have I been? Did I know she’s thought of me since that day?

Would you rather not, with this, right now? Well, I’ve got the whole series of “Crying By Myself On The BART Station Because I Got 65 ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ Texts But Not One Offered To Make Plans With Me”.

It wasn’t well received by critics, as it were, but still very popular and long-running.

You know: this is not what I had in mind when we moved to change the party line to “The Submissive Has The Real Power”. I’m not saying I wish we hadn’t changed it. All the other ones we had before this were fucking awful. I just wish we had thought to make room for an acknowledgment that the D could use some TLC and R-E-S-P-E-C-T when it comes to their boundaries and consent.

They cry “but only butches are ever tops though, right? femmes can’t top” and I do my little turn on the catwalk.

Despite myself, I get it. We’ve been laid low all our lives, told that we are lacking. That we need to give, give, give to make up for this deficiency of normalcy within ourselves.

And it feels good to give. Flat facts here. It feels good to serve.

Until you’ve tasted your partner’s armpit sweat, get out of my face with this “a relationship is built on trust” shit. We’re survivors, hustlers roughly rehabilitated mental patients. Who the fuck trusts us?

I live in a world where a shared netflix account is not a kindness, but an act of necessary mutual support. Some days you just need to write an IOU to the battle royal outside and watch Black Books in it entirety, for sanity’s sake.

Recreation of Madonna’s outfit from one of her music videos at a fashion gallery of Gautier & Beth Ditto
Recreation of Madonna’s outfit from one of her music videos at a fashion gallery of Gautier & Beth Ditto

The bubbling cacophony of contentment and feeling sated that pricks the back of my throat when she slaps my face–it’s probably not trust. It’s smallness and safeness. It’s knowing we both got what we wanted without half-truths and coercion. It’s everything and it feels good.

It feels good to give; we should be doing more to make it good to receive, too.

The receipt of unprovoked tweets asking to lick my feet or trying to wake me up through fervent phone notifications so I’ll flirt with you does not feel particularly gratifying. It feels being loaded with so much unwanted information that I can’t boot. It feels like I’m being overwritten in real time. Especially when you subject your Dom/me to the self-same stigma you decry in squaresie vanilla cishets.

You cannot achieve liberation by burning the closet and then showing your partner out through the back door. Those of you who have backdoors.

Let me lay it down here: if you live alone and you see your partner out through the fire escape you should probably be put on a list somewhere.

The person who puts you on that list needn’t be me. I’ve retired, purged the full-time persona. I’m not a Mommy. I’m not a Domme. I’ve fought hard to hold onto this. My gender. My fatness. My still being alive. I’m awkward and I’m scared and I once threw candy on myself when I met Shaq and I need that to be viable, visible. Heavy weighs the crown; I will not give oblivion the right of way.

I’m just a sick fuck looking for a clean break. A fattie in a dressing room preening her bruises. A combat queen. Okay: maybe a little full of myself, still, but I sure as hell didn’t learn that from you texting me about how long it’s been since you’ve come at 2 in the morning while I’ve got strep throat.

I say “our empowerment of the sexually realized submissive cannot come at the cost of the de-personing of dominant people and the current narratives we are afforded on how consent is negotiated between people confines us to a rigid binary of active vs passive agents and you know sometimes you should fucking check in with a dominant person before you describe splaying your ass to them on twitter”, and you do your little turn on the catwalk.

On the catwalk, yeah. On the catwal–okay: so Shaq used to play for my hometown hoop squad, the Phoenix Suns. He would do this thing on twitter where he would tweet where he was and if you came up and talked to him then he’d give you tickets for the game. But tickets to a Phoenix Suns game are just an ephemeral fetter, man! It’s temporal. But recreating a scene from the cinematic sidewinder “Kazaam” is forever. Just like the duration of your ban from Chandler Fashion Square. It’s something you can count on.

You are beautiful, and deserving of the desire of others. Not despite, but in spite of society’s blaring brainwash. You don’t need to convince me or any other Dom/me that you’re worth our attention/s.

R100 (2013)
R100 (2013)

Try instead to convince us that you realize aggressively oversharing with us in public space in the face of our attempts to assert boundaries isn’t that far off from a man on the street who won’t take “no” for an answer because, and here comes the money shot: IT TOTALLY ISN’T. It doesn’t matter how big a butt plug you can take in or how long you can massage a foot with your tongue before it gets tired; why bother being a good little slut if you can’t be a decent fucking person? There’s nothing radical and transgressive about your kink if you don’t treat your Dom/me any better than an RNC attendee treats a craigslist hookup.

You know what you can do for your queer sexual revolution? Take your Dom/me out for ice cream and shut up about how heavy of a paddle you can take–if only for a fucking minute. Maybe see if they’d like to hold your hand while you get to where you’re going.

To neglect someone who provides you with things you need, things that make you a more whole/complete person–it’s the wrong kind of masochism.

Not that my “flex my fat in the mirror” masochism is the only right kind of masochism, but it comes from a good place. She sees me–the way I want to see myself, the way my mother may have seen me–she sees it and digs her finger into it until I moan in front of a room of half-naked burlesque dancers and it feels like I’m the epicenter of an electrical storm where the wind is made of screams and the rain is my own sweat and it feels so nice and right.

It’s inciting and exciting, to commit myself to the command of another, a denouement to a decade-long power trip. It’s also really scary–I mean shit: the closest thing to a role model about respectful submission are the assholes that made me reconsider kink altogether. Thanks for all the textbook examples of how not to a consent-dismissing taint stain, I guess!

I’ll do my best to do right by her. I can’t say that I won’t fuck up, but I will endeavor, without end, to –impress or disappoint–to see her through it all.


Shaming Clients Is Not Going To Make Sex Work Safe

When I first heard about john schools, I thought they were places run by sex workers where prospective or current clients could learn how to be respectful and mindful. I thought they sounded like a great idea, in fact. How naive I was!

The belief that criminalizing clients will lead to an end in the sex industry is a prominant one across the globe. Many rescue industry evangelists claim that when clients are made illegal, sex workers will be saved from their jobs and encouraged into other lines of work (they often fail to mention the difference in work hours and pay). So much energy and time is spent on these constructs of “rehabiliting” both clients and workers, diverting attention from the sex workers actual demands and pleas for rights, not rescue.

What’s the big problem with this precedent of rehabilitation? Let’s start with what “john school” is. It’s a place where people who have been arrested for purchasing the services of a sex worker can go, often used as a diversion program to avoid jail time. Once at “john school”, these people are taught about the criminal justice system’s view of its role in the adult industry, along with the possible risks of sex work, such as violence, sexually transmitted disease, and impacts on families or communities. Many programs also cover trafficking, particularly as the media has pushed the issue to the forefront.

All of these topics are important aspects to discuss, especially from the perspective of intersectional oppression. But this curriculum, presented in an 8 hour block, isn’t exactly unbiased. Often taught by women with a strong abolitionist stance, these educators often equate all sex work to forced sex work, a generalization which is actively harmful both to those who entered the industry by relative choice and those who did not. The sex workers themselves do not have a voice within these discussions, a glaring error that leads to the spread of misinformation and silencing of the marginalized.

So, ok, there’s the fundamental issue with this john school thing- the assumptions around who sex work clients are, why they see sex workers, and how they behave. But there’s other issues too. Entrapment is obviously an important one- often times entrapment is a legal way to catch clients, which means that even if someone is purchasing sex work for the first time, they’ll get slapped with a fine the same as a regular. I understand that the idea is to prevent people becoming clients… but, when you make something illegal, the only people who will do it are people who don’t give a shit about the law- not really a “safe” option. Not only that, but, as an article from the Sex Workers of Vancouver points out:

Allowing police forces the power to carry out the full procedure of justice, which is currently reserved for the courts, would set a dangerous precedent. Currently, when someone (usually a police officer) cuts a deal with the police in order to avoid criminal prosecution, it is considered to be an instance of corruption.

I also liked this point:

Speakers at john “school” are typically women with a negative or ambivalent attitude towards johns. This necessarily creates an adversarial atmosphere and discourages johns from voicing their true opinions, or disagreeing with what they’re being told. Johns are made to feel that prostitution is a “women’s issue” and as such their “teacher” is always right, regardless of whether or not she has anything in common with the sex workers the johns see. Sex workers and their clients would benefit more from john “schools” run by sex workers, who could teach johns how to be more courteous, to tip well, and other ways to improve their chances of getting good service.

Throughout the john school process, SWAV points out, clients are treated like they’re women-hating assholes:

John “schools” fail to recognize the diversity of sex workers and clients alike. Sex workers are categorically portrayed as victims of exploitation, while clients are categorically treated as psychopathic manipulators out to satisfy their sexual addictions. While both of these stereotypes may be true of specific individuals, they deny the reality that often sex workers and clients are simply engaging in a mutually agreeable act between consenting adults.

Not surprising, as the media often also paints clients as being unattractive, demanding, and misogynistic. Many of these depictions are ableist and ageist, depending on the “no one else will have sex with him” cliche. Because of these kinds of messages, when I come out as having a history of sex work I get mostly questions about the people I saw professionally and my safety with them. But are clients always messed up men?

To judge by the response currently favoured for criminalizing sex work, the criminal justice system seems to think so. John schools are one example in an ever-growing list of creative ways law enforcement has been seeking to penalize those who purchase sex work, rather than the sex worker themselves. There’s a growing belief that if the purchase is made illegal, the industry will starve. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth, as some countries are discovering who have enacted the Nordic Model.

One particularly telling and tragic case is, of course, the story of Petite Jasmine, a Swedish-based activist and sex worker. The Nordic Model, initially called the Swedish Model, did not help her in any way- in fact, she lost custody of her children to her abusive husband because she “romantised prostitution”. The government told her that she didn’t realize that her work was “self harm”, something that gets taught in the aforementioned john schools. Well, Petite’s husband later murdered her. Sounds like this model isn’t so great for reducing the stigma around sex workers, huh?

When Pye Jakobson was interviewed for Tits and Sass by Caty Simon regarding the state of sex work under the Nordic Model and the murder of Petite Jasmine, she said this:

Street workers have lost valuable assessment time they need before getting into a client’s car. Also, their clients have more control and can say, ” Don’t drive to that spot, I know a better one the police don’t know about.” Police target indoor workers too, trying to catch their clients. That means the focus is now on making clients feel safe enough to see us, rather than us focusing on our own safety. In addition, the pimping laws force us to work alone. It’s also illegal to rent out premises to us. Many work from home, and if the landlord finds out, he is forced to evict you. So they want to save us, but they punish us until we are willing to be saved. And if we say we want to be “saved,” all they offer is therapy.

Pye adds, “The social service state is a state that runs on “saving” sex workers… I’m SURE the added stigma and prejudice fabricated by the Swedish Model played a major role in this whole story. He killed her, but the bloody state gave him the power to think he could.”

Yet this hasn’t stopped countries like France from claiming this model is “the right side” of the war against prostitution and its abolition. The goal, says the Womens Rights Minister, is to suppress sex work altogether. Germany, a country that decriminalized sex work and allowed workers to have legal status, making them eligible for health insurance and pensions, is feeling the push to move towards the Nordic Model instead.

I cannot speak for all sex workers, of course, being white, born middle class and cisgender. But what I can say is that while my work was sometimes fulfilling and sometimes survival, my clients were not horrible people. They did not treat me like meat.

The way that anti-sex work feminists, politicians, and men who “want what’s best” for me treat me is more patriarchal, problematic, and meat-like than the way my clients ever treated me. Because my clients LISTENED. My clients gave me agency. They respected my choices, and my humanity. They were male and female, able bodied and not, straight, bi, and questioning, kinky and vanilla.

I think we need to call out this criminalization of clients for what it is- the government standing in the way of women even independently and safely working the one job where they consistently earn more than men. And while people talk endlessly about ending demand, they are silent on what sex workers can do after they leave the business- a transition that is incredibly difficult thanks to stigma that still punishes the workers. If society wants to talk about treating women like crap? I’d suggest based on the data that we send the anti-sex work activists to school, instead. Sex workers could teach them a lot… starting with history.

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Consent, Critique & Feminist Porn: Madison Young’s Hard Lesson

290 x 290 web bannerSo yesterday a video was unearthed that rippled through the feminist porn community. It featured self-described feminist pornographer Madison Young and performer Billie Sweet post-filming for the Feminist Porn Award nominated “Heartland: a Woman’s POV”. this particular clip showed the two discussing SOPP at Antioch College, in particular making fun of explicit consent policies.

What was particularly startling, however, was the way in which they decided to joke about it, and what Madison revealed. She talks about having sex with a drunk girl then acts it out, using language like “shut up” and “I gave it to the bitch”, while also mentioning how hurt she was that the girl spoke out about it.  This was pretty surprising coming from someone who regularly is booked to speak about feminism and consent.

Now, I want to say that I know, especially when young, people say and do fucked up things. No one is perfect on consent. That said, joking about a situation where a woman felt violated enough to report rape seems pretty messed up- saying things like “so I gave it to the bitch” when talking about sex while drunk perpetuates rape culture, and is especially insensitive when in the context of college campuses. 

I’ve tried to focus on the main points spoken, here in the below Storify (which this writing is expanded from). I do encourage people to look further into this call out by researching it on Twitter. 

Madison’s formal response is here, but comes after some defensiveness. I understand- being called out is hard!- but I think that the critique is necessary and while I hope Madison understands what was not ok here, I’m not entirely convinced by her response that she does, unfortunately.

Even the President has spoken out about rape on campus, so Madison’s tweet about how no one takes Antioch College’s SOPP seriously seems particularly tone deaf. A professor who taught at Antioch said elsewhere how the policy was taken seriously by people on campus, and that it was actually a really good idea- a student echoed that sentiment, so Madison’s dismissal isn’t across the board. It was, no surprise, the media who reduced it to a joke, with Saturday Night Live making a date rape skit out of the policy. When Antioch College shut down, some people blamed the policy and the feminists who were instrumental in making it happen.

Yet here we are, watching as universities consider positive consent policies instead of depending on negative consent policies, insisting on a yes rather than waiting for a no. Ivy League schools, interestingly enough, seem to struggle the most to take on these policies. Harvard has the highest sexual assault stats. One third of women who experienced rape did so when college aged, between 18-24.

Maybe Antioch was ahead of its time, and if the media had taken it seriously instead of taunting it, we might have a better grasp on this issue in colleges now. 

While I can appreciate that context and tone can be removed from a video and therefore hard to assess for the viewer, I also find the difference between how it’s discussed in the video- “shut up”, “I don’t care what people say”, and “the drunk bitch woke up the next day and felt differently”- vs in the written response, which suggests they were both drunk, defensively states that it was mutual masturbation (like that cannot be a form of consent violation), and that they were both concerned about how other people would perceive the violation of the SOPP, is concerning. In the video, Madison expresses that her “feelings were hurt” when it was brought up at a meeting, while in the written response, she says that she and this unnamed girl sought out advice from their hall advisor. Having that hall advisor be the one to characterize the situation as “she felt differently when sober” is also concerning. 

In short? If it was meant as a joke, it’s not a funny one. And it’s one that perpetuates a culture in which people don’t report sexual assault, especially if they were intoxicated, because they don’t want to deal with the consequences of their experience being a laughing matter on social media.

Additionally I think it’s very important to recognize that being an expert in a field does not mean you are incapable of massively fucking up in your understanding of what that field embraces (or ignores)- see Hugh Schwyzer, RuPaul Charles, and Gail Dines for just a little taste of how you can be an “authority” on something and still say ignorant things. 

What I would like to see happen is that this be a jumping off place to discuss consent and intoxication, how clear negotiation can be sexy, and how to respond when called out. I understand the desire to be defensive, but that isn’t going to fix the problem. Like a muscle, we need to allow ourselves to relax and work the knots out, rather than tense up to “protect” ourselves in ways that ultimately harm us. Perhaps we’ll see Madison do a film that prioritizes different types of consent, and models how people can negotiate during play in ways that feel natural, so that nonverbal guesswork isn’t our only model for what’s “hot”.

On the plus side, it sounds like the Feminist Porn Awards are looking into increased accountability, and they’re going to be creating a community forum to discuss future concerns:

There will always be situations and interactions we will never be privy to surrounding directors and performers and productions. We see now that this has not been made that clear to our community, and also that it may not be possible to separate filmmakers from their work. In the future if we have knowledge about a filmmaker or actor or person involved in a production who is displaying problematic behaviour we will attempt to address a matter privately before taking it to a public forum.

I’m really excited about this move as I think it’s a step towards creating some framework around defining what feminist porn is and isn’t. It’s a move towards a focus on transformative justice rather than a focus on punishment or just ignoring the problem.  And it also is a step towards taking these situations seriously on a level other businesses are held to- for example, when American Apparel’s creative director says fatphobic things, she is taken to task. When Pasta Barilla’s CEO said homophobic things, he was critiqued heavily. Why wouldn’t we hold the same standards for porn producers/directors?

Guest Post: Changing The Game: Pinball, Sex Work, & Proletariat Panic

pinballgirlSo Jetta Rae, also known as Doublecakes, is an incredible writer as well as acting as my  guide into the worlds of pinball and lube wrestling. In one of those very San Francisco moments, I was telling a lover about Jetta’s work around pinball (and our subsequent flirtations). I told him what I had learned, about the illegality of pinball and the regulations around it. As I described it, he nodded and said “oh, I see, a lot like sex work then”. And thus was this article born. Jetta wrote it beautifully and I feel like it’s a fun and educational read about decriminalization and money. Always money. I mean, her wrestling name is Big Business.

Hope you like! Check out her further writing here

Hark, hucksters and love slaves! Take to heart this harrowed harbingering:

I convene, ever still reeling, from my dying, dime store dimension of the internet, where I am but a modest pinball journalist.

I come to your comely corner of the digital cosmos to dilate upon the dire. It seems the plight of our pursuits are interconnected, their fates plied by the immeasurable impetus of a common oppressor. It finds form and shape in many names. Capitalism. Criminalization. The Prison Industrial Complex. It’s imperative we don’t run out the clock splitting hairs on the proper protocol on identifying our oppressor. Is “oppressor” too endowed a nomenclature for the legislators and hired municipal muscle that regulate the prevalence of a game you can play on your computer? Who’s to say, really?

Well. I’m to say. And I say “no”, for at the union of these concentric struggles is a vast and concerted effort to regulate the pursuit of autonomous pleasure and reduce a woman’s body to a commodity of equal standing with a machine that has a naked woman’s body painted onto it.

In June 2014, the City of Oakland decriminalized pinball. Verily, that benign pastime you see so imitated in Windows 98 or in your favorite video game franchises has an impressive rate of illegality across the US. Before flippers became the core focus of gameplay (they were introduced in 1946 with Humpty Dumpty), pinball was believed by the conventional wisdom of yore to be a game of chance, which squarely sequestered it into the Nice Things We Are Not Allowed To Have category. The Federal and State laws regarding gambling and liquor have an ire for “games of chance” that is rivaled only by their complete and utter fucking confusion as to what constitutes a “game of chance”.

fa_953_pinballban3_970 (1)Before the advent of flippers, multiball, and other in-game incentives, the real draw of pinball was in its potential for profit. A pinball machine in the old town watering hole was a catalyst for unaccountable earnings: in addition to the inevitable wagers between wayward patrons, some bars and arcades would pay out their “rainy day fund” to whoever’d rein in a high score. American lawmakers, still in mourning from having to put down their last hobby horse, alcohol prohibition, took sledgehammers to pinball machines and waged a war on gambling. In 1941 the military received enough scrap metal from destroyed pinball machines to make four 2,000-pound bombs to drop on the Japanese.

Prohibition is always about profit; a capitalist government cannot afford its citizens financial autonomy. Every avenue of income must be surveyed and QA’d to ensure it poses no threat or means of disrupting the top-down. If I can make an extra buck here and there beating you at Ballyhoo on the sly, I probably won’t enlist to die in a trench on foreign soil or wade past the starving strikers of a picket line. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? This is stuff they  make poor people do.

Prohibition cleans up nicely, and it does, in its glowering gown of moral panic and crocodile tear compassion, befit a tiara for a belle, but once we get to the “questions” section of the pageant you’ll see it doesn’t understand or care for the poor.

Well I wouldn’t know anything about how a standard forty hour work week at a wage grossly disparate from the cost of living overcommits and burns out the proletariat, ensuring their non-participation in socio-political process and the pursuit of solace in entertainment and consumption of recreational substances, ; I’m just so busy trying to save these poor wretches from themselves. I wanna be a veterinarian when I grow up!

Pinball was illegal in New York City until 1976, after Roger Sharpe entreated them to the wisdom of lanky school kids picked last at dodgeball: a fucking thing that requires hand eye coordination is not a “game of chance”. Though his demonstration did trickle forth a trend of take-backsies on pinball prohibition, the game is still illegal and/or heavily regulated in American cities, including Alameda, where the museum is. To comply, for some inconcrete definition of the word, the PPM had to remove the coin slots in their older machines (most solid state machines have a “free play” mode in their programming) and register as a non-profit. Our patrons pay a flat fee ($15 for adults, $7.50 for children) for unlimited games. Remember that: it’s gonna be important in a second. I mean, it’s important now, too, but I have some more points to make before I forget and then I’m in the shower muttering to myself all morning and my roommate is late to work.

How does pinball find so notable of a niche in a city where it’s still illegal? I’m glad I asked; great question!

LaGuardia1This is one of those “letter of the law” shits: Alameda is known to not enforce the ban on pinball to the degree of other cities in the East Bay. Oakland PD has been supplying Alameda with confiscated machines. As gifts! Oh god: did I just spoil the police state apparatus for you? I’m so sorry. No, contraband of value is never just kept locked up in storage. ESPECIALLY NOT WHEN THAT CONTRABAND’S VALUE IS INFLATED BY ITS CRIMINALIZATION.

Okay, back to Door Number 1: pinball law and how this is relevant to you.

As the law/s stand/s, you cannot pay a pinball machine to play it. Instead, you can play the machine “for free” and pay a 3rd party for access to the machine, and that 3rd party may observe you playing the machine.

And where’ve you heard that before?

No no, you got this one.

It’s on the tip of your tongue–

YEAH. YEAH. YEAH. That’s what that is.

Some of you are sharp: you saw where this was going when I mentioned the police employing the variances of jurisdictional enforcement to contain illegal activity within predictable parameters.

I’m a former sex worker who has paid for sex. And probably will again. Because it’s fucking great. It’s not even about the sex, really: I get gratification out of supporting people in my community. And I’m a great John: if I can host, I make tea, and sometimes I even pack ‘em a lunch to have later. The last person who I paid to top me? I made them soup. From scratch. Are you listening to me? What we do is safe, sustainable, and consensual. Also, illegal.

Conversely, I could: call a hotline, book a date through an escort agency, or visit either of the unmentionable dungeons/brothels hidden within the East Bay. I could buy a ticket to an SF play party. You know the place. I could even approach a woman at that self-same party and offer her money to cane me and call me a fag until I cry. I know this because I’ve seen those transactions transpire in full view of dungeon staff. We are only allowed milk after someone, literally anyone who is not the consumer or purveyor, has taken the cream off the top of my bottle.

“But DoubleCakes (if that is your real name),” I hear you proclaim, “those places don’t offer ‘sex’. They’re very explicit about it. At that one place you mention, they’ll kick you out if you even ask about ‘sex’.”

To which I reply in rebuttal: as if. Tell that shit to Oaksterdam. Ask them if following the letter of the law gave them a hall pass. Or, if youŕe looking for something less explicit of my specific agenda: ask the pinball arcade in Beacon, NY, which was shut down in 2010 because they realized hey, the law’s still on the books, why not. It’s not like some blogger in 2014 is going to point out that New York State was where it was proven that pinball is not a game of chance or even an effective vehicle for gambling anymore. Not when you have fantasy sports or the lottery, you know, that government-sanctioned gambling that’s been speculated to be just as addictive and completely hopeless for the average–

I apologize. I’m letting the plot get away from me.

And thus the Jessica Valenti-scented sect of feminism has churned out and bequeathed us a new Child-Like Empress to lead and legitimize sex work to the mainstream. Sex Worker Political Identity 2.0 has a host of Whorearchy-supported features: white, early 20s, college educated or comes from an educated home, well versed in all waves, eager to identify themselves as a sex worker to friends and acquaintances, and hates sex.

screenshotIt’s a shame that MyRedBook has been shut down. There would have been an ample sample size of ads full to bursting of lusty loquaciousness of services rendered laid atop a very firm and very emphatic disclaimer of “I do not have sex. Do not ask me for sex.” I mean, I wouldn’t have posted or linked to any; the struggle is real and I understand that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have given their understanding of the law and solidarity within it.



Adherence to the law that has a flawed and specific scope of what “sex” entails is neither morally or politically advantageous. To lay it down like a layman: it doesn’t mean anything and it won’t protect you.

In 2012 I was asked to join the staff of Folsom Street Fair to set up and run the “women and trans” space. At our initial planning meetings, we were informed that no sex would be allowed on the premises of the Fair, per San Francisco law.

Now guess which of these constitute “having sex at Folsom”:

*Pleasuring yourself in front of a crowd.

*Beating someone with a flogger until they orgasm.

*Pissing in a stranger’s mouth*

*Tying someone up and–

NONE. NONE OF THESE. You’re two months away from pissing in someone’s mouth in public without reproach from the law. This is the future. Veni Vidi Vici.

You can also pay to have someone do those things with/to you at [Redacted] or [Not Redacted, per se; Don’t remember the name]. Truly lewd they may be, those things escape the legal definition of “sex”.

And yet: the modicum of cover this nebulous nuance afforded MyRedBook didn’t save it from The Man. And they won’t save you and they won’t save me. And trimming your resume with reassurances that you’re not that sort of girl serves only to muscle more marginalized sex workers out of the venue of visibility. You literally make sex work less safe for everyone else, (including clients) by plying the privilege towards erasing “sex” and those who have it from the manual of acceptable discussion in sex work negotiations.

And those other sex workers you are disenfranchising with La Vida Hugo Schwyzer: you’re going to need them when a cop tries to take you in because it’s 1am and your garter’s showing under your skirt, or a client’s gotten a little possessive and knows where you like to get a taco. And if you end up needing medical attention or get held overnight, it won’t be the Game Night Gang who visit you and bring a charger for your phone and tell you that it wasn’t your fault and there’s no shame in the work you do. Especially not the guy who lost because you wouldn’t let him have “horcrux” on the triple letter square.

The profit motive mobilizes forever. The goal of shutting down MyRedBook is not to curb the carnal market: it is to yield the crop and let the soil rest. Another site; another seizure.

Prohibition is not about justice or morality or any of that. It’s about getting the fattest harvest.

The Federal government stands to make $5.4 million dollars from MyRedBook’s seizure. Don’t allow the notion that your local DA will not try to seize everything you own when your number gets pulled to occupy your mind for one single second. It’s written in the law: you have no more standing or autonomy than a bunch of Rolling Stones-branded wires and lights.

The pinball community is being modified in realtime. There are women’s leagues in Oakland and Portland; within and between the two is a thriving, active community of people of color. The face of the game is shifting away from a prior paradigm of older white men with lots of money. I mean, those guys still more or less run the community, because pinball is a very intricate and expensive hobby on the other side of the machine, but I believe in time they can be the outlier. That is, of course, unless, you know, a bunch of women and people of color try to start hosting their own pinball spaces or parties in a city where it’s still “on the books illegal” (or requires the momentum-busting bureaucracy of getting approval from the entertainment commission) and suddenly there’s cops in someone’s garage and hey why are you taking my machines those are mine I bought those that’s personal property there’s still coins in there why is it illegal to have friends playing my machines and asking for something back in return I mean electricity isn’t free–

Thus: a practical pact is proposed.

The enemies of prohibition, in all its forms, must unite; pinball perverts and pervert perverts.

A woman’s body is worth more than all the pinball machines in Hi-Life; the heart and soul within it deserve dignity and autonomy and pursuit of, if not happiness, than survival, to suffice. But, as divided, we are complicit in the commodification of women’s bodies and ultimately our pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment on our own terms. Those of us with access to pinball spaces must make room for visible, tenable solidarity with sex workers. And those of you/us with access to sex worker space need to hammer down whoreiarchy and fight  tangible sexphobia within the community. As long as any of us believes we are better than or worth more than another, we are fated to fail in presenting a unified front.

You may surmise that this isn’t your fight, and it probably isn’t. The presence or absence of a safe space for sex workers to negotiate and provide community has little bearing on my ability to re-skin Lasercue and make it into an adaptation of HUGPUNX. But: it’s the same boot kicking down both our doors. And if that boot thinks you’ll be at my house or I’ll be at your house, then he might think twice. Or he’ll bring friends. And we’ll bring friends. That’s not stupid or spurious: that is spitting image of solidarity in the face of struggle.

Divided we drain; together, we cannot be tilted.

They’re–they’re pinball terms. Just look ‘em up.

Consent Culture Briefs

-Art history – 500 years of women ignoring men. Good for a bit of a laugh!

-Angelina Jolie, who just starred in Maleficent (which has its own rape metaphor), opened the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. A worthy goal, for sure, and I appreciate that she makes a point to say that rape is about power, not sex. I find the idea of training peacekeepers interesting, though, as peacekeepers and soldiers are often the perpetrators of rape in conflicted areas. I think it’s going to be difficult to change things as long as rape isn’t really prosecuted even in times of peace. 

-High profile sex trafficking cases are having a PR nightmare. With Somaly Mam being exposed as a fraud and Chong Kim’s story unraveling, the “not for sale” crew are scrabbling to show themselves as helping women rather than lining their own pockets.  Never mind that trafficking actually exists and is horrific enough without making shit up. Why would you base a project on lying about your experience? I suppose if it’s about ego rather than actually helping people, and god knows trafficking isn’t the only charity that’s had these issues. I hope there will be some writing on how these trafficking narratives are used, even with consent, in exploitative fashions, further harming those the projects are meant to help.

-An anonymous post on Black Girl Dangerous underlines issues of abuse, activism, and where personal accountability intersects with “the cause”.

Reflecting back on that night, I now understand this heinous act within the kaleidoscope of his insecurity, anxiety and fear that I would eventually leave him.  I realize that our early conversations were exclusively concerned with systemic forms of patriarchy.  He was never interested in how his personal actions were misogynistic.

As I’ve had similar experiences, and know several “feminist activists” who are also serial abusers, this is an important topic and one I think that will need to be addressed at more length.

-A report was posted last week on street harassment numbers in America. Surprising no one, it’s a massive fucking problem. 65% of women and 25% of men said they had experienced street harassment, though as usual the numbers may be greater due to how we’re taught to tune it out and what we define as “harassment”. Also not surprising,  men were overwhelmingly the harassers, whether the victim was a woman or a man (I don’t know if they identified trans or genderqueer people in this). Additionally people of color and LGBT people were a lot more likely to say they’d been harassed than white or straight people were. I think the fact that PHYSICAL harassment is so widespread is also notable, as we’re so often told catcalling isn’t a big deal because it’s just words.

-“Professionalism” is taken to task by genderqueer person Jacob Tobia, and I think it speaks to an interesting way in which we establish and enforce whiteness, cissexism, and masculinity as norms without really thinking about it.  This is where coercion begins to rear its ugly head.

Professionalism is a funny term, because it masquerades as neutral despite being loaded with immense oppression. As a concept, professionalism is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, imperialist and so much more — and yet people act like professionalism is non-political. Bosses across the country constantly tell their employees to ‘act professionally’ without a second thought. Wear a garment that represents your non-Western culture to work? Your boss may tell you it’s unprofessional. Wear your hair in braids or dreadlocks instead of straightened? That’s probably unprofessional too. Wear shoes that are slightly scuffed because you can’t yet afford new ones? People may not think you’re being professional either.


For years, professionalism has been my enemy, because it requires that my gender identity is constantly and unrepentantly erased. In the workplace, the gender binary can be absolute, unfaltering and infallible. If you dare to step out of line, you risk being mistreated by coworkers, losing promotions or even losing your job. And if you are discriminated against for being transgender or genderqueer, you may not even have access to legal recourse, because in many states it is still perfectly legal to discriminate against gender non-conforming employees.

-PS: we have a twitter account and will be using it more! @consentculture

Guest Post: The T Word

I have read a lot on this topic, and my partner Phil wanted to write a piece of his own after one of our discussions. For additional context, I would also recommend reading Kate Bornstein’s piece, “Who You Calling a Tranny?“, first published in 2009, and this rebuttal by Quinnae Moongazer from 2010, “An Open Letter to Kate Bornstein“. It is certainly a complex topic, and a debate that has been going on for a while. I welcome anyone wanting to write on terminology and consent, or language and consent, to drop me a line! 

So I’ve been seeing a lot of back-and-forth discussion about the use of the word “tranny” lately, and debates as to whether or not it is problematic, and I really wanted to analyze that a bit.

I’ll give a disclaimer before I begin – I am a cisgender white male and as a result have a lot of privilege that certainly influences my thinking. Sure, I’m pretty pansexual, or at the very least bisexual, but I can’t claim to have gone through the hardships that a lot of my fellow LGBT community members of all stripes have. That said, let’s take a look at this issue.
I can’t claim to have never used the word “tranny” before, mostly before I knew people who were members of the trans community and began to understand the negativity that often surrounds that word and really makes it the slur that many feel it is. I, like many people, never meant any harm in it, I just thought it was an acceptable label, as it was the main word I’d heard used to refer to any trans-identified people.
I know for a fact that there are absolutely transgender people who have no problem with, and perhaps even prefer the label “tranny” but in my limited observation, they seem to be dramatically in the minority.
The loudest voices I see in the modern day advocating for the use of the word “tranny” seem to be those within the drag community, who have used it as a personal label for years. This, to me, is at least mildly problematic. These voices seem to be championed by RuPaul as of late, and I think RuPaul is a great example of WHY this is so problematic in this circumstance.

I have really really mixed feelings about telling a group of people “Hey, that word you use as a proud personal identifier is inappropriate because it offends me!” At the same time, if your reaction to being told that a label you use is offensive is to effectively reply with “Well I’ve been using it for decades, so fuck off” that is also problematic.

Ru themself specifically pointed out:

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 12.18.00 PM

And I think that’s worth taking a look at. Correct me if I’m wrong (please!) but it seems to me that the drag community has used the word “tranny” for it’s shock/humor value. That may have been acceptable in the past, but in the modern day it’s basically alluding to there being something shocking and/or humorous about BEING trans, which is, I think, why so many people are finding it so damn offensive.

This really is the most important point I want to make here, so let me repeat that – to all outward appearances, as Ru put it the “intention behind the word” by the drag community seems to be rooted in the shock and humor value it adds to their acts, which implies there is something shocking and/or humorous about being trans, and that is pretty clearly an offensive stance to take.

I am trying very hard to understand and accept this on both sides. Like I said, if the drag community wants so hard to use this label, I’m not sure if it’s right to tell them that it’s not acceptable. On the other side, if the TRANS community is saying the use of that word is offensive at all, I don’t think it’s right to tell them that they’re wrong to think that way.
Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 12.16.35 PM
This may be Ru’s intention, but this is also where I see them failing. I think the biggest problem with this whole thing is awareness. If Ru, and the drag communities reaction to this whole thing was more along the lines of “I understand your position, but it is a word we are strongly attached to. How can we make this right so we can continue using the word as we have been, but make it less offensive to you?” then things might be a bit different.
Telling a marginalized group though, that “this is how it’s been for decades, so deal with it” just does not seem to be a position that is coming “from a place of love.”

Guest Post: Is Consent Sexy?

sexyI’m glad to bring to you some guest posts now that I’m organized to do so! Today’s is from Emilie, who blogs at Any Girl Friday. She contacted me wanting to write about the phrase “consent is sexy” and as that’s one that’s being used a lot in advertising consent culture (in theory) I was excited to see what she’d say! I want Consent Culture to host a myriad of ideas and thoughts on the topic of consent, so expect to see more guest posts (and please use the form to let us know if you want to write something yourself!)

You know what pisses me off? More than the head imploding misogyny that is rampant in advertising on magazine stands across the globe; more than the lyrics in songs that encourage men to think of women as little more than holes to be claimed, mouths to be filled, bodies to be possessed; more than the idea that women get up and dressed every morning with no other aim than impressing men and being found fuckable;  it’s this idea that the only way to ‘sell’ consent, is to sex it up.  That the only way to get people on board with the idea of consent is to intrinsically link it to the idea of sexiness, of getting laid, of being found ‘sexy.’

We shouldn’t have to be teaching kids that consent is sexy. Consent isn’t sexy, it shouldn’t be sexy – it’s mandatory. It’s integral. Hell, it’s the law. By saying ‘sexy’ we are almost implying that it’s preferable but not necessarily necessary. I mean, I find beards and tall guys ‘sexy’ but wouldn’t say no to Dave Franco; him of miniature proportions and fuzz free face, thus highlighting the fact that my understanding of what is ‘sexy’ is dependent on the situation, malleable, subjective, open to change given the arrival of a fit short guy with a fetish for Gillette. Consent is none of those things – It should never be accompanied by the suggestion that it is anything other than ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL. By linking it to a term that is so open to interpretation leaves it subject to confusing questions. Am I not sexy if I don’t give consent? Am I only saying yes so that he thinks I’m sexy? Is saying no merely just  ‘unsexy’ then? An inconvenience rather than a ‘back the fuck off and stop touching me?’

Consent as a word brings about so many clinical, sanitary connotations; you have to sign a consent form in hospital before you have surgery. You sign a consent form to get your new sofa delivered. Consent is what we have to get before carrying out sociological research. Applying that to sex is about as sexy as stopping mid way to play ‘would you rather’ and asking if they’d rather die by spider bite or snake venom. It brings about a mental image of whipping out a clipboard and Biro and asking them to sign on the dotted line; ‘I hereby consent to you fucking me in the living room’ etc. I get that to some, it might be the term that gives them the creeps about this campaign; Initially I thought that maybe it was the semantics that got me so twisted about it as well  but then I thought nope; consent can be as simple as asking ‘is this ok?’ ‘Should I carry on?’  It’s not the terminology that’s riled me up, it’s the contribution to rape culture, the trivialising of something so paramount that makes me want to scream. It’s once more putting the onus on ‘us’ to ‘give’ consent, rather than on ‘them’ to be decent human beings and not take what they feel entitled to without merit.

consentTo be honest,  instead of dancing around the issue, we should be saying ‘don’t put your dick in things that don’t want it in there.’ ‘Don’t rape.’ ‘Don’t touch anyone that doesn’t want you touching them.’ These are the conversations we should be having with our children. Respect each other, respect personal space, don’t shove your tongue down strangers’ throats or feel entitled to grab someone’s arse as they walk past. How on earth have we reached a state where we need to dress up consent in sexual language in an attempt to get the point across? How fucked are we all if the people in positions of power have invested time and money into tackling rape culture and all they could come up with is ‘consent is sexy?’

Anything less than fully informed consent is assault. Let’s not dress it up or trivialise it. If you haven’t got consent, you are assaulting someone. It really is that simple. But, but…. I hear you cry. Short skirts. Drunk girls. She kissed me first. Blah, blah. These are things I hear a lot, mainly from men who argue that rape isn’t always black and white and that sometimes a ‘woman deserves it.’ My response is always the same; rape is black and white, and no, she never ever does. No one deserves to be raped. A troll on twitter saying I deserved to be raped brutally  for daring to voice the opinion that rape culture exists, is evidence enough that we live in a society where sexual assault and victim blaming is rife. There are so many issues at play here; patriarchal institutions that protect men rather than tackle injustice and put support in place for victims; objectification and sexualisation of women in the media and porn leading to the notion that all women are fair game and up for it; entitlement and privilege and this idea that a man is somehow entitled to a woman by default of being male; binary, narrow notions of sexuality and sexual identities leading to skewed expectations of sex and interest etc. ‘Consent is sexy’ really does play into rape culture. It is focusing on the WRONG part of what consent should actually mean. Giving consent means you are trusting someone with your body, your pleasure, trusting someone to respect your boundaries,  to meet your fantasies and limits. Consent is intrinsically linked to other concepts such as respect and consideration for others. It shouldn’t be reduced down to such basic terms as ‘sexy.’

This campaign is a start. A tiny, baby step in the right direction, start. We need to start challenging the idea that rape is somehow preventable by just sticking to well lit streets and carrying a whistle; by emphasising the role of consent before access to muffzilla is granted, we are taking a stand against passivity and against simply teaching the biological aspects of intercourse. We still need more though; we need to be tougher when teaching about rape – if you haven’t been given access to my vagina, stay away. If you have, be fucking grateful and treat it with respect. Consent isn’t sexy – it’s necessary, it’s vital and necessary. It isn’t just preferable or something that’s desired but not necessarily a requisite.