The Guardian: The sex workers giving disabled people a chance to live out their dreams

Reblogged from trashprincesss April 14, 2013


A forthcoming Channel 4 documentary, Can Have Sex Will Have Sex, features the sex lives of four disabled people, one of whom loses his virginity to an escort who has been hired by his mother.

The programme has been labelled “controversial”, but many mothers call the sex and disability helpline, which I run, worried that their disabled son is physically unable to masturbate and desperately needs an outlet. Hiring a sex worker is one option.

They can find responsible sex workers on the TLC-Trust website which was created in 2000 by myself and a disabled man, James Palmer, who was sad about being a virgin in his mid 40s. The hundred or so sex workers who have profiles on the site say they each see about eight disabled clients a month. One told me she recently saw a 38-year-old whose father had called after both parents had sought her out. It was their son’s birthday and he was a virgin. The father brought him down. She bought a birthday cake and a present.

Another of her clients was a virgin too, and wasn’t going to live much longer. His mother contacted her. Now she sees him once every six weeks. It’s been a year. The mother drives the sex worker back to the train station, and says her son is much happier all round since having her visit.

The sex worker says she is used to being introduced to clients with disabilities through a parent, usually a mother rather than a father, and has never been asked to work with someone’s daughter.

If a disabled person loses their virginity with a sex worker in a way that teaches them about their body and how to please a partner, it can set them up to become a confident, knowledgeable and sexually skilled individual who can proceed to finding a partner. However, if they have a progressive condition, their life can feel too full of disappointment and loss to try to find a partner and they may prefer to stay seeing sex workers, with whom a good outcome is guaranteed.

As for disabled women, many tell me they would love to pay somebody who knows what they are doing, who helps them learn what their bodies are capable of enjoying, but most never try. They may be nervous that the man they are paying is not entirely professional and they may not think enough of themselves to treat themselves to the luxury of pleasure. That, I hope is changing. Most of the women I know who have paid have gone to female sex workers, and none of them have involved their mother in the process of making contact.

Sex workers have very special qualities. They are skilled at giving pleasure in whatever way is required. Sometimes carers need to prepare disabled person in advance: undressing, washing and grooming. They may need to be on hand in case of difficulties, such as the onset ofautonomic dysreflexia. They may need to help position the disabled person, and teach the sex worker certain essentials. The best scenario is if the disabled person has seen a “sexual advocate” beforehand, someone with whom they can work out exactly what they want, what they need, and how they want the experience to be, as some disabled people (like non-disabled people) cannot think beyond “I want sex”, and have expectations that can never be met, so will end up disappointed.

When I took a sex worker down to a residential place for severely disabled people for the staff to experience what a sex worker is like, they asked her what she would do if a client bashed her over the head with his uncontrollable arm, or threw up over her and she replied: “I would duck the arm and I would clear up the vomit, that’s part of what I do: clearing up excrement”.

Publicity around the film The Sessions, which explores a man with an iron lung losing his virginity to a “sexual surrogate” has raised awareness and acceptance of disabled people paying for sex. I hope this might extend to an acceptance of disabled people as sexual partners, and sex workers being wonderful people.

I really love the idea of sex workers giving disabled people the chance to be touched in a non-medical way, perhaps for the first time in their lives, to be held in a warm pair of arms and have their sexual dreams respected and lived out.

(Source: marginalutilite)


"

I don’t want to be a feminist anymore. Like a five-year-old, I want to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, stomp my feet on the floor and scream “No! No, you cannot make me, I won’t, leave me alone!” I am, simply put, too tired. So very, very tired.

I am tired of fighting with my friends. I am tired of arguing that someone groping and slapping my butt isn’t “what I have to expect”, just because I’m at a bar, and the one attacking my butt has a drink in the other hand. I am tired of hearing “boys will be boys” and “when you’re dressed like that …” and “that’s just what guys do”. I am tired of trying to drown those sentiments in loud, repetitive no’s, screamed over and over again, till my throat is sore and my voice weak – just to hear them repeated, as soon as exhaustion threatens to silence me.

I am tired of being afraid. I am tired of seeing someone writing something offensive, sexist, racist, ageist, ableist, somewhere online. I am tired of seeing those writings getting likes and lol’s, and SO TRUE’s. I am tired of being consumed by confusion and anger, typing, typing, typing and typing a seemingly endless response, including research, links and statistics, and then hesitate clicking “submit”. I am tired of knowing that I hesitate because I am afraid of the flood of responses that will come. I am tired of knowing that I will be bombarded with lighten up’s, stop whining’s and get a sense of humor’s for so long, that I will start to wonder if I am indeed wound up too tight, a nagger and humorless. I am tired of the fact that I’m afraid of being called a cunt, even though I don’t find genitalia insulting or demeaning.

"

Reblogged from wonderwomanv2 February 18, 2012 by clownyprincess

I don’t want to be a feminist anymore.

(via notafraidofruins)

This is a really frustrating feeling.  It really, really is, and the problem is even worse for the trans* and POC community (who are liable to suffer much more than just name-calling), and the whole thing just gets so ridiculous and infuriating sometimes. 

(via wonderwomanv2)

Yannow what super-duper sucks? Being tired of being a feminist in the fucking queer community and having anti-racism, anti-ableism and anti-cissexism treated as a joke, or worse - as is the trend in Sydney at the moment - as “thought-policing”.

I mean, I expect this shit from the straight community, though I hate it. But you queers should know better. :/


Sydney Queer Community

February 2, 2012 by clownyprincess

Cos I know some of you happen past this blog now and then:

People of Colour and trans women refusing to accept minimisation, offensive stereotypes, exclusion, discrimination, unsafe environments and general all-round disrespect is not the same thing as Nazi-fucking-Germany.

And drawing those comparisons - or laughing at them - trivialises not only their very real struggles, but the atrocities of racist, homophobic & ableist torture and murder visited on six million people that was the Holocaust. 

Get some perspective, some compassion and some fucking maturity. 

Your behaviour is disgusting.


Over-Analysis Theatre: Hellboy II

December 31, 2011 by clownyprincess

I wrote this post several years ago for my livejournal when I was less-educated on political stuff - so I acknowledge it possibly has a few not fully-formed or sufficiently comprehensive parts, or is clumsy - and also hadn’t read the Hellboy comics. This little dissection is totally about the Hellboy MOVIEVERSE and NOT the comics, which I can pretty much find no fault with (whhhhyyyy did it take me so long to start reading them?!?!). I also disagree with myself on a few points here with regards to the movie’s intentions and structure. I love the movie, though I think it’s massively flawed, but at the time I wrote this I hadn’t seen any deconstruction of it beyond its merits as a piece of cinema… and I still haven’t, really, and I thought there was heaps of interesting stuff IN the movie worthy of deconstruction. 

So, here it is… my rambly, messy, confused thoughts of 2008 on HELLBOY II.


I’ve been meaning to write this up for ages and just kept putting it off because it requires some thought and care and you all know I avoid that sort of dangerous thing at all costs.

I remember being very disappointed when I saw HBII. But I’ve watched it a few times now since I got it on DVD and I think it did a much better job than I originally gave it credit for. Still not the job it could’ve and should’ve done, but better than I initially realised.

I’m no expert in these matters, not by a looooooooooooooooooong shot.

I’m a sex worker but I have tended to be particularly privileged as a sex worker. I’m a woman but I’m white. I’m queer but I tend to pass as straight. And even my understanding and experience of oppression and stigma because I belong to these marginalised and discriminated against groups, does not mean I understand the experience of oppression and stigma of groups of people to whom I don’t belong. So these are my rambly, inexperienced thoughts and I welcome debate on the matter from those who know better than I.

One thing that struck me about del Toro talking about the film was how excited he was about depicting an inter-species relationship, about exploring the Other, outsiders and freaks, their disenfranchisement from the world - the world named “Ours” (meaning humanity).

The most obvious allegory is that of Race, particularly when you consider Colonialism and its enduring effects. I remember coming out of the film and feeling disappointed it had not been more aggressive and radical in its explorations of the issues, that it instead opted for a very, uh, white-washed and superficial treatment. But then, hearing del Toro talk about it and it seemed that he hadn’t made the connection himself and most people were talking about it as an environmental film – which is applicable as well. In fact, I think the film has messages about colonialism, speciesism, ableism and environmentalism as well as racism.

But, whether intentionally or not, quite a lot of other little elements slipped through.

Let me try and make sense of my thoughts. First, the good stuff:

* Nuada. The “evil” prince. I remember being angry initially that he was depicted as the bad guy when I felt his frustration and anger was very justified - his people had lost their land, been uprooted, disempowered and diminished, forced into hiding by humanity and into a position of passive acceptance.

Actually, although it was very subtle, they didn’t treat him as the bad guy. Obviously he was perceived as the bad guy by the characters in the film, but I don’t think we were really meant to see him the same way. He was broken-hearted and furiously angry and I thought the actor did a wonderful job of expressing the intense pain in that anger. Initially I was irritated his people had not taken a stand alongside him, but as time passed I realised this was probably more accurate - oppressed people often resent and exile those who cause trouble by speaking out, particularly if they have to fear very real repercussions from their oppressors. Often times life has already been such a complicated, exhausting, stressful trick of negotiating spaces and surviving in a world that will punish you for going against the status quo, marginalised people very understandably can be reluctant to draw more attention to themselves. You often see this within the sex industry - there’s a not-insignificant number of sex workers who want sex worker activists to just Go Away because they fear being outed, and miserably, have a good reason to.

He says at the end “we die, and the world will be poorer for it” - this line makes me think of the immeasurable number of languages of various nations within colonised countries that are being eradicated and lost, to say nothing of their entire history and culture. They were not simply dying out. They were being ERADICATED. Pushed from their land - the forests - forced into hiding, becoming less in numbers, becoming forgotten - being humbled and crushed to the point where the majority, including their leader, were resigned to it. They didn’t just lose - they lost EVERYTHING. An aggressive and even directed process, again similar to the situation suffered by the original inhabitants of invaded countries and nations.

When he says “kill me - you must - for I will not stop. I cannot”, I find that line very powerful and sad and says so much about his desperation. (2011 note: a friend pointed out in comments to the original eljay post: “It’s a popular sentiment we tend to ascribe to folk heroes… the willingness to die before they’ll stop fighting for their cause. In actual fact, not always so helpful :)” – which is a very salient point, particularly when it comes to the issue of colonised peoples) He says something else to Hellboy as well: “If you cannot command, you must obey” that I thought also had a strong and important message within it and also really hits Hellboy hard as he realises what is being said about his own situation. After all, Hellboy is tolerated by humanity because he works for us.

I was originally irritated by the Princess Nuala sacrificing herself to stop Nuada, and I don’t think I’m not unirritated by that yet because that she was a fairly misogynistic character in that she existed to be rescued and fallen in love with and then sacrificed. On the other hand, the lack of a true resolution underscored the fact the entire war was bitter and incapable of being truly resolved because the damage done was too great and the people who had done the damage - humanity - too unwilling to accept responsibility for it. And, as is the case in these situations, the oppressed end up suffering the most and losing the most, including their lives, in their battle for justice. It was depressingly realistic. Nuada was the most compelling character from the film and it’s a pity (yet also depressingly typical) his sister was not given the same due. (2011 note: look, it might make for an emotionally powerful storyline, but the whole ‘oppressed people must die tragically for the point to be made’ angle is really fucked and I don’t know what I was thinking really by excusing it)

Moving on from Nuada, there was other stuff I thought was good but I don’t know how intentional it was:

- Hellboy, Abe and Krauss, despite representing the Others, have absolute no intimate and personal knowledge of the paranormal world they come from. They have to access - and force - information from a member of that world (the female troll under the Brooklyn Bridge) - a symptom of their having been separated from their people and integrated into humanity.

Likewise, they were constantly being forced to turn traitor against their own kind in order to be accepted by the dominating people - humanity. To such an extent that inhabitants of the paranormal world are often approached by them (particularly Hellboy) with hostility and suspicion.

Hellboy’s story (in the movies) is one of striving to be accepted and loved by humanity; to become a part of us - yet his appearance simply won’t let him. Yet he continually strives to be one of us and to adhere to humanity’s standard of “good” - his considerable skills are continuously exploited for the benefit of humanity but he is given very little respect - he is kept locked up below ground and punished when he breaks out because he must be kept a secret. He yearns to come out and when he does discovers it doesn’t matter how “good” he is, he is still judged by his appearance, by the fact of his being non-human.

Hellboy, however, begins to demonstrate some awareness of this, shown in the moment where he moves to file his horns and then stops, staring at himself in the mirror. Hellboy has habitually filed his horns because he wants to “fit in” - he wants to look more “normal”. This shows a self-conscious awareness of his difference and a sense of stigma about it - he wants to be accepted, not as himself, but as human. I think there’s links between this and his generally hostile attitude towards other paranormal beings.

But in the end, he and the others all quit the BPRD in disgust because they become aware they’re being used in a useless battle, that no matter how hard they try, humanity will still just treat them as freaks whilst at the same time exploiting their abilities and never truly accepting them or permitting them full privileges and rights. Furthermore, using them in a battle that is deeply… unfair seems too inadequate a word to use… Using them to do their dirty work. Using them to continue a cycle of oppression and marginalisation. There is NO sense of triumph in defeating Nuada. They come to understand what drove him, why he was so angry and that his sense of loss and betrayal was right. So they quit.(And I absolutely love how Abe grabs Manning’s face and says “watch us” - it says SO MUCH)

There is other bits - like Hellboy’s throw away line about never having been given a badge, despite having asked for one, and Krauss commenting on the plight of the tooth fairies - imprisoned, starved and sold on the black market, rather than them just being OMGBAD!.

Now. The BAD stuff.

- The more subservient characters and the more brute characters were MARKEDLY less “human” in appearance and behaviour. They were depicted as being obsequious to the humanoid characters, or used as muscle, also generally seeming lower in intelligence…

- There was an unfortunate underpinning theme of entire species of creatures being inherently good or bad - little moral ambiguity and, uh, the whole POINT of Hellboy is his moral ambiguity – that he was a being created specifically to bring about the destruction of the world and chose not to.

- The theme of the move is entire races of beings being oppressed and disenfranchised and that this is BAD AND YET. YET. At the BPRD HQ, in the background we see various paranormal creatures being violently subdued and “causing trouble” and being EXPERIMENTED ON - AS COMIC RELIEF, despite the fact these background events are entirely decontextualized and the creatures’ story is unknown to us. It’s just implicit that whatever they’ve done, they’re Bad and the BPRD Must Stop Them. I don’t like that. At all. Considering the issues that arise with the BPRD during the course of the film, is it so much to think species profiling is occurring!?

- The whole good freaks and bad freaks thing - the good freaks tend to be those who conform to human expectation.

- Also consider how important it is that Hellboy be referred to as a Man and that he’s a Good Man and what makes him a Man is his actions and the choices he makes. This comes up in the movies, & a couple of the books (the ones that I’ve read, it’s probably in the ones I haven’t too… I haven’t read the comics yet so I dunno about there)… and it’s problematic. Add to that, the notion of manhood as presented in the film is one that is largely defined by white, western standards and… yeah.

- I simply cannot get past the fact that, in a movie supposedly celebrating the outcast, the likes of a misogynistic, homophobic, racist jerk like Seth McFarlane is playing a role.

Finally, the relationship between Liz and Hellboy. ARG.

I’m a bit OTPy about these two, I’ll admit. And del Toro PROMISED us so much - he was SO excited about this relationship - and then failed to deliver.

NO, I didn’t want there to be a big deal about the whole inter-species thing. I didn’t want to see them angsting about that or talking about how difficult their relationship was - I liked that none of their issues seemed to be at all about that.

BUT OMG! Where was the sexual tension and chemistry from the first film? Why was their relationship almost nothing but comic relief in this film? I mean, they’re a NEW couple, where were the cuddles and kisses? The PROPER kisses, not the chaste kisses on the forehead? Holy cow. It’s like del Toro suddenly went chicken on us with this. I wanted to see heat between them. They barely engage physically or intimately - the very fact that they’re presented as already having tension in the relationship (because Hellboy is a slob, of all things!!!) seemed to me like a way of copping out on the intimacy of it.

There were a COUPLE of moments of intimacy where it was clear they are very physically comfortable with each other, and ultimately the love shown between them was very powerful especially as Liz makes a couple of particularly strong demonstrations of her desire to be with him (like when she outs herself - she’s a freak but she can ‘pass’ for normal so I felt this was quite awesome, there’s even discussion in a background news story about what a cute girl like her is doing hanging out with freaks. And the other one backs up my belief that love is highly “unethical” as a general rule), but it wasn’t enough. And I deeply resented the injection of the hackneyed, cutesy humour and considering how deeply solicitous he was of her in the first film, depicting Hellboy as this immature and insensitive toward her felt really out of character.

I felt like the pregnancy sanitised their relationship. Ok, yes the fact she’s pregnant tells us they’ve been having sex, but again, maybe it’s just the associations I personally have with pregnancy, but it seemed like the relationship was reigned in and tamed by it. I don’t know, in the first film there seemed like there was so much intensity between them and the moment and kiss between them at the end was so awesome and passionate - why didn’t we get something similar in this film? This is often an issue with how pregnant women are portrayed though – all of a sudden, they can’t be sexual because now they’re mothers and that’s sacred!

So I’m not sure if the tamed relationship was due to del Toro chickening out on the inter-species thing or the sacred mother thing, but either way – it bugs me HUGELY and is way problematic!!!

If Hellboy III is made, the kids will be born and Hellboy will be learning how to be a father, del Toro has already said. I can only imagine the cutesy humour and the further stulefying of this relationship. God, del Toro, PLEASE, give us a little more nookie!!!!

Is that my final word on Hellboy II? Does it all just come to nookie for me?

Sadly, I think the answer may be: yes. Yes it does.

Ok, no my final words are: a lot of people have felt this was a bad movie but I’m beginning to feel that it’s actually pretty good, it’s just that its principle themes are sloppily deal with and aren’t effectively connecting with people. Really, I think there were some very beautiful and powerful moments in this film, but perhaps it was trying to be too much at once in too many different styles. And I guess a lot depends on whether you think the fantasy genre should use non-humans vs. humans as a racial allegory (2011 note: I think it’s WAY problematic if done carelessly – eg, if races of fantasy creatures conform to stigmatic stereotypes about actual human races. Also there’s been a long ugly tradition of associating people of colour as animalistic or subhuman so there’s big issues there in using the allegory if oppressed fantasy races are depicted in such ways). As mentioned above, for all its aspirations, this film has its highly problematic elements.

But… in the end, I think this film is being severely underappreciated.  I think it didn’t ultimately know what it wanted to be or what timbre to take and that it tried to do too much but not in a cohesive  and fully-thought-through way and because it was aiming for so much it just didn’t connect with audiences. There are plot holes and clichés and weak moments too. But, you know. Actually. I really like it, for the most part, in the end.

And the fact that del Toro is talking about bringing back Kroenen and Rasputin for III, if it is made, probably indicates what he attempted here was simply too ambitious and conflicted/flawed. I think people expected a narrative to continue more in the vein of what was set out in the first film and to go so wildly off into a totally different theme and genre alienated people. Even though the comics are a total mash of genres. But the Rasputin storyline is one that is part of the overarching plot of the comics and would’ve worked great for the second film too and would’ve certainly flowed more continuously. But del Toro and Mignola had a vision and wanted to follow the fairytale aspect of the comics. It just backfired.

Bottom-line: I love that this film is so ambitious, even if it is totally flawed. At the end of the day, it’s one of my faves. 


Reblogged from kyleandkittens November 27, 2011 by clownyprincess

kyleandkittens:

“You’re a full mong.” - Kyle Sandilands to Australian Idol contestant Bobby Flynn on national television.
 
“How dare he. [“Mong”] is prehistoric terminology. [People with Down Syndrome] are not called mongoloids any more.” - Down Syndrome Association of Queensland President Anna Magnus.
“There is simply no place for comments that are derogatory to people with a disability either on television or anywhere else. They say more about the person making them than who they are made about.” - Queensland Disability Service Minister Warren Pitt on Kyle Sandilands.
“It was basically meant to mean ‘loser’ or ‘idiot’.” - Kyle Sandilands’ manager, Ryan Wellington, in his “apology” on Kyle’s behalf.

kyleandkittens:

“You’re a full mong.” - Kyle Sandilands to Australian Idol contestant Bobby Flynn on national television.

“How dare he. [“Mong”] is prehistoric terminology. [People with Down Syndrome] are not called mongoloids any more.” - Down Syndrome Association of Queensland President Anna Magnus.

“There is simply no place for comments that are derogatory to people with a disability either on television or anywhere else. They say more about the person making them than who they are made about.” - Queensland Disability Service Minister Warren Pitt on Kyle Sandilands.

“It was basically meant to mean ‘loser’ or ‘idiot’.” - Kyle Sandilands’ manager, Ryan Wellington, in his “apology” on Kyle’s behalf.


Dan Savage talks to David Jay, founder of AVEN

Reblogged from July 14, 2011

iamthecrime:

hail-seitan:

I decided to listen to Dan Savage’s podcast, because up until now, I’ve only read quotes from him, and I’ve had a problem with a lot of the things I’ve read about him. I have to say, hearing him speak directly did not change my opinions about him at all. In fact, he came off as a bit sexist in parts, which added to my dislike. Referring to Marcus Bachmann as the “first lady” in an attempt to emasculate and discredit him comes across as really sexist. Telling a woman that her behaviour was “very female,” as if this is a negative thing and telling her to “man up” comes across as really sexist. I’m undecided about the “getting fucked” bit near the end, but it definitely has sexist undertones. Also, referring to anyone as a “controlling psycho bitch,” is not only sexist, but ablest as well. Fat-shaming is frequent throughout the podcast.

As to the part of the podcast about asexuality, it wasn’t quite as offensive as I expected it to be, given what I’ve read (which isn’t saying much, as it was still quite offensive). I don’t think this was the most adequate depiction of Savage’s views on asexuality, however. The fact that David Jay was under contract probably affected what Savage could and couldn’t say.

The comments from his listeners underneath the podcast make me want to cry. They’re awful. I really sincerely hope they’re not representative of the LGBT community as a whole.

I really don’t like Dan Savage at all.

Surprise! Dan Savage continues to be a jerk.

This just in! Dan Savage is STILL a jackass and STILL not worth your support or commendation.

(Source: abortion-barbie)


Sedentary Meanderings: Why I won't be in SlutWalk

Reblogged from ardhra June 13, 2011

ardhra:

Warning: mentions of transphobia, rape, sexual violence, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, racism.

I’ve thought about it quite a bit and I don’t think I’ll participate in the Sydney SlutWalk.

I’ve never really identified with the term “slut” and while I have no problem with people using it to…

An excellent, considered post discussing some of the fundamental flaws of the SlutWalk movement. Important to read.


The Musings of a Failed Black Woman: On disability and visibility ...

Reblogged from comic-relief June 7, 2011

You need to read both these posts. For reals.

comic-relief:

puckett101:

In the wake of that sketch of Barbara Gordon in her Batgirl costume walking away from her wheelchair, I felt compelled to write. I ignored that compulsion until I calmed down, because most of it was frustration and anger.

I can absolutely understand why people are excited about the possibility of Barbara Gordon walking again - it’s not that they’re prejudiced or that they have any animosity for the disabled, it would be joy and happiness for the character. Oddly enough, I’ve had this exact same conversation - only about us - with a friend of mine who has a degenerative condition that will eventually kill him.

You see, I’m disabled. I have been for several years. On the good days, I function well enough to run a few errands or do a load of dishes or laundry. On most days, I have to take medication that renders me incapable of performing a lot of fine motor skill functions and usually knocks me out. On the bad days - and there are more of them than there are good days - I struggle to get to the bathroom which is barely 10 feet from my bed.

My friend has a laundry list of problems - it’s best summarized by noting that he’s about 90-95% quadriplegic and that his conditions will eventually kill him. It could happen sooner rather than later or vice versa, but he knows his death is coming much sooner than mine, and he knows what will kill him or what will allow something else to kill him.

We had a chat a while back. I told him that if I had a wish, I’d wish they’d find a cure for him since my stuff won’t kill me and he responded with one of the most brutally realistic assessments I’ve ever heard from someone - he wished that the docs could fix me because it would take him years of physical therapy to do almost anything, given how much his body has deteriorated. Me? I’d be facing a lot of rehabilitation, but I could probably be back to something resembling normal in a couple of years of intensive physical therapy if the docs can ever patch me up enough to allow for that.

It’s not that we, as disabled people, wouldn’t be happy for Babs if she could walk again. I’d be thrilled if the docs could cure my friend so he doesn’t die. I’d be ecstatic if I heard from a girl I knew back in 8th grade who had spina bifida and she told me that the docs had been able to restore her ability to walk. I have no way to describe how I would feel if the docs could patch me up enough that I could pick up my little girl again or wrestle with her or run around in a park with her. She turns 10 this year, and I don’t know if she remembers when I could do that and did. If you don’t understand how that thought feels - how it feels to be unsure if your little girl remembers when she woke up from a nightmare and you were there to pick her up and comfort her because most of what that child has known of your life is disability - then it’s going to be difficult for you to understand why disabled people look at Babs the way we do.

It’s that every single healing mechanism in the DCU has been tried on Babs and found wanting. None of it has restored her ability to walk. It’s 23-odd years of canon. More importantly, Babs has accepted her disability and made the best of it, transforming herself into a world-class computer expert who does more as Oracle, who helps more heroes, who saves more lives, who stops more villains, than she ever did as Batgirl.

As Batgirl, her ability to effect change was limited to what she could punch. As Oracle, she can reach any network, any data store, contact any hero, anywhere … she can reach farther and deeper than she ever could before. Think of it as the difference between Cyclops and Professor X - Scott Summers can affect only what he can see. Professor X can affect almost anything.

In allowing Alan Moore to disable Barbara Gordon, and then keeping that in continuity since 1988, DC allowed Babs to become a vastly more powerful hero than she had ever been before. It no longer matters whether DC planned it that way (and I doubt they did) or whether it was accidental / inadvertent (and it probably was - scope creep affects every project, and DC probably didn’t notice how integral Oracle had become until Oracle was already so powerful that she couldn’t really be stopped, because what could they do? Paralyze her again?), Oracle had become one of the epic bad-asses of the DCU, and far more bad-ass than Batgirl had ever been. From her wheelchair.

Why does this matter?

Because we, as disabled people, face struggles that the able-bodied can’t understand. As an example, I was trying to cross a two-lane street the other day - I can walk, but I walk slowly and with a cane to stabilize my gait. I wait for cars to pass so I’m not inconveniencing anyone. I entered the crosswalk and a car pulled up on the cross-street, then started to turn directly into me and honked at me to speed up. Until the driver saw the cane. Then they looked away and something that looked like shame spread across their face.

That’s all too typical. Most disabled people are used to pity - people meaning well, but being inadvertently condescending. Most disabled people are used to avoidance - people seeing us and then quickly looking away, whether to avoid staring or because they’re uncomfortable with the disabled. It’s just part of the territory, like sharks in water or bears in woods or Godzillas in Tokyo.

But then I recently read an article about the difference between monsters and heroes in comics. And frankly, I politely and academically lost my proverbial shit when the author began talking about The Other, and the ability to pass as normal and so on. In essence, the author’s clumsy and ineffective scholarship, along with his jargon-laden writing, equated the disabled - people with canes, in wheelchairs, etc. - with monsters because we can’t pass as able-bodied people. In the author’s argument, he distinctly noted that it isn’t power that makes people monsters, it’s their appearance and ability to pass as normal. The author went so far as to say that people perceive the mere existenceof The Other as a crime against nature.

At the time, I wrote:

“As a visibly disabled person, I’m already feeling a bit like the author’s saying I’m a violation of the natural order because I can’t readily ‘pass’ as normal. More bluntly, the way this argument is being framed so far feels somewhat prejudiced, regardless of whether it’s intentional or not. If the distinction between a monster and human is whether one can ‘pass’ as normal - and I can’t - then the author is effectively arguing that those who can’t are monsters.”

Now, for the sake of people who managed to get through life without dealing with The Other or abjection in critical theory (and also don’t want to wade through those Wikipedia links, and honestly, I can’t blame you), here’s a brief summation of the ideas:

The Other, simply put, is different from The Same. The Same is you and people like you, or something else which is like something else. The Other is anything outside that grouping, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s where the idea of abjection comes in.

Abjection is the part of The Other that makes people feel uncomfortable. Since The Other exists outside The Same, being faced with it can be traumatic for people, such as seeing a friend in hospice care, dying from cancer. Abjection, in this sense, refers to anything that falls outside someone’s definition of sameness - it can include race, gender, sexual preference or gender orientation, etc. And it often includes the disabled.

Now cue up your Don LaFontaine voice:

“In a world filled with people who see monsters everywhere, one brave woman has the courage and strength to prove them all wrong just by being herself.”

So let’s be really blunt. And be honest with yourself, even if you never admit this to anyone. Disabled people make people feel uncomfortable. I spend a lot of time in doctors’ offices with people who have to be transported by ambulance due to their disability, and I still look at them and think how comparatively lucky I am.

Disability reminds us how fragile we really are as a species and how easily it can be taken away by disease, by aging, by freak accident. Or by some jackass in clown make-up wearing a Hawaiian shirt, although that is a statistically less likely way of becoming disabled.

Disability, in very profound ways, scares us. In fact, it terrifies us because it reminds us of our mortality. It reminds us that we will all die someday, and that we don’t all get to jump on grenades to save our friends or heroically push a child out of the way of a speeding truck. Most of us will die of old age, swallowing more pills than we did the year before to control our heart problems, our cholesterol count, to improve our kidney functions and so on.

Seeing disability and fearing it is seeing our future and not being emotionally ready or prepared to even acknowledge it, much less face it.

So this Otherness and abjection stuff isn’t just crap-ass academic Ivory Tower bullshit. It isn’t just some blowhard who never worked a real job talking out their ass. It’s real, practical, applicable stuff which is usually pretty rare for critical theory.

But here’s the thing - The Other is only The Other as long as people are able to remain ignorant of it. Out of sight, out of mind and all that. When people begin being exposed to something different, it can be traumatic - you may not remember the first time someone besides your parents held you as a baby, but the adults in the room probably talked about how cute you were as you cried because you recognized The Other - it wasn’t you and it wasn’t your source of milk, therefore it was The Other, it was abject and it scared you. But as you grew, adults - giants that they were - became less scary.

And the same is true for disability, even in something that seems as simple as a comic book.

Seeing a disabled person in a comic is sufficiently removed from direct personal experience to ease the discomfort someone might feel when seeing someone in a wheelchair. Seeing that character over and over further reduces those negative emotions. Think of it, in a way, asexposure therapy for The Other.

So. Why are we upset about the idea of Barbara Gordon coming out of her wheelchair?

Because you’ve said she couldn’t for more than 23 years.

Because she’s visibly disabled and extremely capable, arguably more so than many able-bodied heroes.

Because we have people writing ham-handed critical theory about comics which equates disabled people with monsters.

Because goddammit, she’s one of the very few disabled role models in comics, one of the very people in comics that disabled people can look at and see their own struggles for respect, for equality, for simpledignity reflected back at them.

Because when you create a character like this, when you maintain that character and her origins for so long and let people cheer for her and - by proxy - for ourselves, you have something like a responsibility to maintain that character, to not tarnish her with scandal or sordid behavior that is not in keeping with her ethics and morals, to uphold that character as an example of the goodness she has represented for the past quarter-century despite, or (in Oracle’s case) because of being in a wheelchair.

When you toy with that, when you play with it, you aren’t just updating a character or making something more relevant - you’re tinkering with one of the very few characters in comics that we can look at and recognize as one of our own.

And is it really wrong or harmful to want to see yourself reflected in a comic, to imagine yourself being able to be that heroic and noble, before returning to the grind of daily life, when simple tasks are struggles and may require assistance, before you go back to needing a nurse’s assistance to simply go to the bathroom?

When you tinker with this stuff, you’re messing around with things that can make difficult lives easier, that can bring joy into those lives and happiness that one of us is reflected in this fictional universe, and she’s even more capable and heroic than people who don’t think twice about whether they’re physically able to fly around the world - much less stroll down the block.

When you tinker with this stuff, you’re effectively tinkering with reality, and when you erase a character like Oracle from the universe, the effect might as well be removing the disabled from our reality as well.

It’s already June and the reboot / relaunch is coming in September. We’ll see then what happens with Batgirl, Barbara Gordon and Oracle. In the meantime, I’m crossing my fingers that disabled people still have a place of heroism in the DCU.

Well said.

I’d like to add that Oracle was just as important to people who have disabled loved ones. My dad was a paraplegic. Growing up, I rarely saw other disabled people. None of my friends knew what a catheter was or why they couldn’t steal handicapped parking spaces. They didn’t recognize the experiences that made up my every day life: coloring in hospital waiting rooms, putting my toothbrush into a cabinet full of pill bottles, learning to navigate a wheelchair lift. Dad was the one with the disability, but when we were with him, my mom and I were stared at and pitied and treated like monsters to be feared as well.

When my dad died, people actually said things like, “At least you can live your life now.” Like he was a burden. A chain around our necks or a curse. It’s incredibly hard to love someone deeply and know the rest of the world can’t see the goodness you see. Prejudice blinds them. My dad will always be the sad guy in the wheelchair to everyone outside our family, and that hurts my heart every single fucking day. Even in death he can’t escape the stigma.

Do you remember the show Doug? I loved that show when I was little for one reason: Patti Mayonnaise’s dad was in a wheelchair. I was so excited when I saw him. Elated. There was someone who looked like my dad on TV! God, you have no idea. It meant so much.

Oracle meant so much. People read her comics and related or looked up to her whether they had disabilities or not. She eased the stigma and gave people like my dad and I representation. She made me hope for a day when discussions like this would be unnecessary because disabled people could be seen as individuals, not monsters.

Fuck DC for taking that away. For taking away the chance that another little girl might see Oracle and recognize herself or her family. Fuck them doubly for spitting in the faces of people who will never walk out of their wheelchairs. I prayed every night when I was a child that my dad would be miraculously healed. Accepting that he never would was excruciating, and seeing shit like this makes me want to fucking vomit. How dare you exploit cured disability for profit, DC! You make me sick.

I’m sorry, this isn’t a very rational addition. Please just read what I reblogged.


Reblogged from thelaughingcrow April 14, 2011 by clownyprincess

thelaughingcrow:

“But what about her responsibility as a creator” SHUT UP. I was getting to that. Objectively speaking her only responsibility as a creator is to weave tales to engage the mind and stimulate our imaginations, she chose to go beyond that responsibility, to rise above it, presenting characters in her media as positively as she can regardless of race, gender, station, sexual preferences and all those minute differences which the human race seems to take an almost childish delight in pointing out.

Are you GENUINELY this stupid? Really? No, really. I wanna know. Because dude, damn, your idiocy is BREATHTAKING. 
Stimulate our minds and imaginations, is, objectively, YES, her only true responsibility as a storyteller.
But guess what, buddy? “OUR” minds are not just white, cissexual, able-bodied/minded, heterosexual male minds. 
The fact that you would say she is going ‘beyond’ the call of duty by being inclusive is a statement of staggering stupidity beyond all comprehension, despite the unbearable pompousness that reeks throughout. It betrays the fact that you are speaking from a perspective where so-called ‘minute differences’ are apparently OTHER - not actually a part of ‘our’ reality. 
NO. DIPSHIT. NO. The world comprises of much more than the MINORITY (white, cissexual, able-bodied/minded, heterosexual male) privileged population comics and other media currently focus on. 
The role of storytellers is TO TELL STORIES THAT ENCOMPASS OUR WORLD AND BEYOND, THAT WE CAN CONNECT TO, RELATE TO, BE STIMULATED BY, SEE OURSELVES WITHIN, BUILD UPON… stories, since day DOT, have reflected REALITY even if they go larger than life, because it is through stories that we preserve our history, learn about ourselves and explore the themes, passions and ambitions that compel us. 
THAT INCLUDES EVERYBODY’S.
NO CONTEMPORARY WRITER IS GOING BEYOND THEIR RESPONSIBILITY by being inclusive. Fuck me, the mythology and legends of old are littered with themes that POSITIVELY explore and/or depict issues of race, genderqueerness, homosexuality, feminism, classism, even disability… fucking Hephaestus, a GOD, was CRIPPLED… because all of these aspects have ALWAYS been part of the human identity and experience. And it IS OUR IDENTITIES AND EXPERIENCES THAT FUEL OUR MINDS, OUR IMAGINATIONS AND OUR STORIES.
Seriously. DIPSHIT.  This entire fiasco has been one long stomach-churning miasma of FAIL but when the stupid people chime in… God, I hate stupid people.

thelaughingcrow:

“But what about her responsibility as a creator” SHUT UP. I was getting to that. Objectively speaking her only responsibility as a creator is to weave tales to engage the mind and stimulate our imaginations, she chose to go beyond that responsibility, to rise above it, presenting characters in her media as positively as she can regardless of race, gender, station, sexual preferences and all those minute differences which the human race seems to take an almost childish delight in pointing out.

Are you GENUINELY this stupid? Really? No, really. I wanna know. Because dude, damn, your idiocy is BREATHTAKING. 

Stimulate our minds and imaginations, is, objectively, YES, her only true responsibility as a storyteller.

But guess what, buddy? “OUR” minds are not just white, cissexual, able-bodied/minded, heterosexual male minds. 

The fact that you would say she is going ‘beyond’ the call of duty by being inclusive is a statement of staggering stupidity beyond all comprehension, despite the unbearable pompousness that reeks throughout. It betrays the fact that you are speaking from a perspective where so-called ‘minute differences’ are apparently OTHER - not actually a part of ‘our’ reality. 

NO. DIPSHIT. NO. The world comprises of much more than the MINORITY (white, cissexual, able-bodied/minded, heterosexual male) privileged population comics and other media currently focus on. 

The role of storytellers is TO TELL STORIES THAT ENCOMPASS OUR WORLD AND BEYOND, THAT WE CAN CONNECT TO, RELATE TO, BE STIMULATED BY, SEE OURSELVES WITHIN, BUILD UPON… stories, since day DOT, have reflected REALITY even if they go larger than life, because it is through stories that we preserve our history, learn about ourselves and explore the themes, passions and ambitions that compel us. 

THAT INCLUDES EVERYBODY’S.

NO CONTEMPORARY WRITER IS GOING BEYOND THEIR RESPONSIBILITY by being inclusive. Fuck me, the mythology and legends of old are littered with themes that POSITIVELY explore and/or depict issues of race, genderqueerness, homosexuality, feminism, classism, even disability… fucking Hephaestus, a GOD, was CRIPPLED… because all of these aspects have ALWAYS been part of the human identity and experience. And it IS OUR IDENTITIES AND EXPERIENCES THAT FUEL OUR MINDS, OUR IMAGINATIONS AND OUR STORIES.

Seriously. DIPSHIT.  This entire fiasco has been one long stomach-churning miasma of FAIL but when the stupid people chime in… God, I hate stupid people.


Longb'ox: Comics Industry to fans: "We're sorry for everything"

Reblogged from awyeahlongbox April 14, 2011

fuckyeahlongbox:

Spontaneous parades were held across the world today after the comics industry issued a statement apologising for almost everything they’d ever done. “We’ve finally taken the time to understand the criticism we’ve been getting, and we feel really bad,” said the entire comics industry. “We’re sorry for the queer bigotry, the misogyny, the racism. We’re sorry that we continually promote straight white cis-gendered men as ‘normal’ and put every other character in the ‘too hard’ basket. We’re sorry for storylines that continue to denigrate characters of colour, female characters, queer characters. We’re sorry that we’re continuing to employ writers, artists, and editors, who think that this denigration is acceptable. And we’re sorry that for so long we’ve treated minority characters as fodder in our quest for more angst and more edginess.

“We hope that, in time, our readers will be able to forgive us. We look forward to working more closely with our community of fans to ensure that our characters and stories respect everyone - not because we want to be PC, but because we want to really show the world, not only as it is, but as it should be.”

Forrest Wilson, a spokesperson for all comics fans everywhere, was quoted as saying, “LOL no 1 gives a shit about any of that. If their going2 apologiz about anythin it shuld be 4 makin Wolverine in2 such a pussy”


March 27, 2011 by clownyprincess

So I’m just about to try to mockingly insult/get through to someone espousing outdated politics by telling them that they sound like Sheila Jeffreys under the belief they would be horrified and understand how vile they are being…

… only for them, before I can even SAY anything, advise me that their grotesque politics are shared by… wait for it… “PREEMINENT FEMINIST ACADEMICS LIKE SHEILA JEFFREYS” under THEIR belief that lends credence and weight to their hatefulness and ignorance.

When someone considers a comparison to Sheila Jeffreys a compliment, you know there’s no hope.

(Sheila Jeffreys is a whorephobic, misogynistic, kinkphobic, sexphobic & transphobic so-called ‘feminist’, if you can call someone telling women they’re too dumb to understand or make any choice about what happens to them or what they do, feminism. I personally don’t)


"Can We Stop Using the Term Ally?"

Reblogged from wundy-deactivated20120102-deact March 20, 2011

technicolortimecoat:

We really need to stop using the term ally. This applies to all of us in anti-oppression work, whether in the work in question we are part of the oppressed or oppressor class*. This is not about people who self-identify as allies and don’t work on their privilege and refuse to listen to members of the oppressed group, but to all people who might self-identify as an ally to an oppressed group. Ally is an inherently problematic. It:

1.) Presupposes you are doing a good job, and by its very use, is a coercive request to members of the oppressed group to give approval to the person in question, and more so, it is linked to an expectation of gratitude for attempting to do two things:

a) Acknowledge and work on** one’s privilege as a member of an oppressor class.

b) Helping to make voices of the oppressed class heard, and actively standing up in solidarity with the oppressed class.

(a) is just part of being a decent human being. If you are not acknowledging your various privileges and trying to understand what it is to be a member of an oppressor class, you going from benefiting from an oppressive system (which, as a member of the oppressor class, you can’t help but do) to contributing your energies to maintaining and strengthening that oppressive system. (b) is working in solidarity, and working in solidarity is a necessary part of a strong, broad-reaching anti-oppression movement.

2.) Distracts attention from members of the oppressed class and focuses on the self-identified ally. Anti-racist, anti-cissexist, anti-sexist, anti-ablist, anti-classist work needs to focus on the voices and experiences of the oppressed class, not the members of the oppressor class who are attempting to be decent human beings and/or working in solidarity.

3.) By self-identifying as an ally, you are building an identity on others’ oppression. This is profoundly appropriative, because it is making oppression you do not experience part of your own identity. It also furthers the Othering of oppressed classes, as it once again has people defining themselves in terms of not being the Other, and reinforcing the view of the Other at the margins.

So, if you’re acknowledging your privilege, seeing how you systematically benefit from it, and centering the concerns of those who do not share said privilege, you’re trying to be a decent human being. Congratulations. Have a cookie. And if you’re actively engaging in anti-oppression work in areas in which you’re not oppressed, you’re doing solidarity work. Just say you’re working in solidarity with members of the oppressed class. This centers the work being done, and the members of the oppressed class, and not you. Because when you’re a member of the oppressor class in dealing with a particular oppression, It. Is. Not. About. You.

*Yes, I recognize we are all variously members of the oppressor class and members of the oppressed class when it comes to various oppressions. Kyriarchy is ever shifting, and we all have some privilege, somewhere.

**By “work on” I mean being attentive to how one systematically benefits from it, and trying to center the concerns of those who do not share the privilege.

I can’t remember how I found this now. It was in a list of links somewhere online but I’ve been browsing so much today I just can’t be bothered to look again.


{ firecrackers & maple syrup }: Sex Worker Characters in Comics: What NOT To Do

Reblogged from them-witches March 11, 2011

spectralradiance:

clownyprincess:

This list is not intended to be exhaustive, more a crash-course in the simplest things you can do to avoid coming across as a vile whorephobe in your work.

What this list deals with is overused tropes and cliches that contribute to widespread misinformation and…


Important stuff, people.

I’m reblogging this to add a couple of things. I’ll edit the original post to include them, too.

Do not have your non-sex worker characters use words like ‘whore’, ‘ho’, ‘hooker’, etc

I know it tends to invite ridicule to say things like ‘don’t use those words! Those are our words!’ but - well - how else to say it? 

Like racial or homophobic or ableist slurs, or any other slurs focused on a particular aspect that is the direct reason for discrimination against a marginalised group, the ownership of those words with the purpose to reclaim is exclusively that of the group they are used against. 

This is not your language. It’s OURS. You don’t get to use it. No, not even through your characters unless your point is to draw attention to the fact your character is a whorephobic douchebag.

And THAT has to be very clear.

Words like ‘ho’ and ‘whore’ are offlimits. We use them amongst ourselves (though, like any reclaimed slur, there is debate around this), but it’s really not okay for people outside the community to adopt them, certainly not in the grotesquely casual way that so rarely goes challenged.

And no, don’t go telling me that will make your character’s dialogue ‘unrealistic’. Comics are unrealistic!!! By nature!! In intent! No one reads comics for realism!

And don’t try and flip THAT around by arguing that ‘if comics are unrealistic, you have no obligation to not write seedy, gross & exploitative stories about sex workers’. Both the issue of language and of plot choices comes back to the fact that they reinforce negative stereotypes which feeds into a broader attitude of active discrimination that has real negative impacts on sex workers’ lives. And that’s not acceptable.

Don’t give them HIV/AIDS

The rate of transmission of HIV/AIDS between sex workers and clients is so miniscule it doesn’t even register.

That’s not to say there are no sex workers with HIV/AIDS, but the likelihood of them having contracted it on the job is extremely low, as is the likelihood of them contracting Hep C or STIs. 

Why?

Because a sex worker’s body is literally OUR BUSINESS in most forms of sex work, excepting phone sex. Without our health, we cannot work. And we live in a capitalist society. We gotta be able to work.

Furthermore, because of the pervasiveness of discriminatory laws against us, we are obliged to take measures on our own initiative to protect ourselves.

This means that sex workers aggressively and consistently practice safe sex. We are educated, informed and aware about the risks, we supply our own condoms and other PPEs (personal protective equipment) such as gloves and dams, and we use them in our work with our clients, often times educating them along the way as well.

Sure, accidents happen, as they can do to anyone. But, overwhelmingly, sex workers have better sexual health than the rest of the population.

(Incidentally, in places where this isn’t true, there is also a marked lack of condoms & safe sex education available to access - which is the fault of archaic law and governments, not sex workers)

So once again this trope is perpetuating false information and actively contributing to the ongoing negative stereotypes about sex workers and sex work.


Sex Worker Characters in Comics: What NOT To Do

March 11, 2011 by clownyprincess

This list is not intended to be exhaustive, more a crash-course in the simplest things you can do to avoid coming across as a vile whorephobe in your work.

What this list deals with is overused tropes and cliches that contribute to widespread misinformation and pathologisation of sex workers.

It’s not that these things never happen or are beyond the scope of possibility.

It’s that these things are depicted to the exclusion of all other experiences and that has a negative overall effect on society’s perceptions and understanding of sex workers and the sex industry.

When you come from a marginalised group of people who are discriminated against and oppressed within society, depicting them in a very limited and narrow range ultimately has a hugely detrimental impact because people begin to overwhelmingly believe this is the default experience.

And when that perceived default experience is also overwhelmingly NEGATIVE, it enables society to continue to marginalise and oppress, to pathologise and VICTIMISE. 

And this plays into an overall culture that perpetuates the discrimination far beyond Law & Order: SVU - but into the very laws and governings that impact the daily lives of sex workers. The laws that create unsafe environments for sex workers to work in. The laws that mean sex workers have to be terrified of being outed as it may uproot their entire life. The laws that mean sex workers have no legal recourse if something bad DOES happen. 

What NOT To Do When Writing Sex Workers

1. Give them a childhood filled with sexual abuse

No really, this is paint-by-numbers pathology. Not everyone who works in the sex industry was abused as a child and not every person who was abused as a child goes onto become a sex worker. By giving your sex worker characters an abused childhood you are basically saying you believe that sex is so broken, ugly and wrong a thing that only damaged and broken people can do it commercially. This is bullshit. 

Were some sex workers abused as children?

Sure. 

But so were some lawyers and some doctors and some psychologists and some hairdressers and some salespeople and some jewellery makers and so on and so on.

The idea that abused people become so denigrated that they end up ‘selling themselves’ is offensive on a couple of levels - it demonstrates the most superficial understanding of what is a very complex reality which is dealt with in myriad ways AND it demonstrates that you believe sex work is the last refuge of the degraded, which means you have no respect for sex workers.

So how the fuck do you expect to write about them in any sort of real and sensitive way?

It also means you have some pretty fucked up ideas about sex.

No, really. If you believe sex is inherently corrupting and degrading simply because an exchange of money is involved you have some really fucked up paranoid, phobic ideas around sex. And guess what? That’s about YOU, NOT sex workers. So. Stop projecting, okay?

Either way, you clearly don’t regard sex workers as human beings enough to give them anything but a lazy and cliche background in lieu of actual character development. -Insert tragic childhood here- is just as sloppy and unconvincing a way to build character as we have all discussed ad nauseum that having a female character be raped to give her an agenda is.

2. Have them raped by a client and/or a pimp

Believe it or not, hookers and strippers do not get raped on a nightly basis. What happens between a client and a worker is negotiated beforehand and the entire process usually involves an ongoing negotiation if necessary (just like recreational sex generally does!). Sex workers develop methods of communication with clients in order to maintain boundaries. If drunk or disrespectful clients are pushing boundaries, sex workers have ways of distracting them and their attention in other ways to maintain control of the situation. Flirtation and coyness is a tactic, not a default state of being. Sex workers are not obligated or forced to see clients. Sex workers can walk out of a booking without giving a refund if the client is disrespectful. 

More sex workers work without pimps than do. Pimps are largely an overblown media fantasy. They exist, but they are nowhere near as prevalent as media would have you believe NOR are the relationships between hookers and pimps always as simplistically abusive as is ALWAYS portrayed.

But once again it is reinforcing dangerous, harmful and bluntly insulting preconceptions about sex workers because it is placing us into the fixed state of perpetual ‘victim’. And we’re NOT. Okay? We’re REAL people, with agency, with complexity, with diversity, with varied lives and experiences. Stop imagining our lives as this grotesque excursion into endlessly-violated depravity for your own sheer VOYEURISTIC satisfaction. Because that’s what it is. You like to imagine us as constantly raped because rape culture has characterised sexual abuse as something almost fucking *sexy*, something *juicy* and it’s easier to imagine it happening to sex workers because you don’t think of us as truly human, not really. 

The other reason not to do these things, apart from the fact this ‘plot’ device once again forces sex workers into a permanent victim position, is that it demonises clients and pimps. 

Now, MOST clients are just average people who want a service.

No, really. It’s really as simple as that.

They’re not base, grotesque, anti-social, disgusting perverts who just want to degrade women, trans* folk and other ‘cast-offs’ of society.

They’re just regular shmoes who want to get their rocks off. Or who want to talk. Or who want to be taught something. Or who want to experiment with something they have no one else to ask about. Or who just need a goddamn hug.

No. REALLY.

3. Give them a stalker

This also reflects the ‘permanent victim’ fixation and again demonises clients.

Stalkers, it has been proven time and time again, do not simply fixate on ‘loose’ women. Anyone at all for any reason at all can become the target of a stalker. 

Do sex workers get stalkers? Sure. And yes, they’re often clients who have become obsessed.

BUT once again, it’s about BALANCE. 

I SHOULDN’T have to be afraid of admitting that sometimes, now and again, some sex workers (out of the millions worldwide) will get a stalker. I shouldn’t have to be afraid of admitting that, but I am because I KNOW a whorephobic audience is going to pounce on that one concession and conflate it with reality. 

And when you are CONSTANTLY depicting sex workers with inherently negative lives - lives that are constantly violated in one way or another by boogeymen like stalkers and pimps and drugs - and associating those lives with our work, YOU ARE contributing to the ingrained societal mindset that sex work itself is inherently negative and that is really, really dangerous. Because it allows people to continue to justify their pathologising, victimising attitudes to sex workers, allows unfair laws and discrimination to remain intact and protected, allows the continued popularisation of false information and allows fantasy to stand in the way of fact.

And this allows the world to continue to not think of us as really human. 

AND it ALSO is just another facet of the old virgin/whore dichotomy - of rape culture. The patently FALSE notion that if you lead a certain kind of life, you will naturally attract violation and assault. That such terrible things can be avoided if only you toe the line like a good virtuous, well-behaved, complacent little virgin - but is only to be EXPECTED if you are ‘loose’, ‘slutty’, ‘trampy’ - indeed, if you’re any of the latter, well, you just DESERVE it, don’t you? Not only is this dehumanising of sex workers and permitting people to hold discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes towards us, it creates a false perception of reality, a blame-the-victim mentality that deceives people. The truth is, predators like stalkers and rapists are not exclusively ‘attracted’ to sex workers. Anyone could be targeted by them at any time. It just allows society to ignore the real problem - that BEHAVIOUR by predators and how it is nurtured and perpetuated by society - which just loves to blame the victim.

How hard is it to really imagine a sex worker without some constantly horrible thing happening to them, just leading an average life, working hard to pay the mortgage and the bills and the kid’s school tuition. Truth? That’s the most common reality. Oh, but that lacks drama, right?

You know, if you REALLY want to violate your sex worker character over and over, how about you examine how that is done LEGALLY, within the very infrastructure of the law? How about you look at the laws and institutionalised statutes that make a sex workers life and work harder for them, the stupid rules and obstructions we have to navigate just to make a living? That’s a violation too! A violation of human rights and freedom to work. But I guess that’s just not as sexy as a crying woman in her underwear tied to a bed whilst getting threatened with a knife. Vomit.

4. Have your hero save them from a stalker/rapist/serial killer/pimp

To put your sex worker character in a horribly abusive situation just to have your hero be more heroic is one of the more petty, grotesque, lazy and discriminatory plot devices you can come up with.

It’s become colloquially known as ‘fridging’. For fuck’s sake, don’t do it.

5. Kill them

Another dehumanising technique, used with rash abandon over the years on promiscuous women, queers, trans* people and sex workers alike. Even in ‘sympathetic’ stories, these ‘underdogs’ must die tragically and preferably horribly for their cause - to make a point. And that point is? To atone for their sinful lives by being scrubbed out of existence. 

GOD, IT’S SO FUCKING BORING, TRITE, ARCHAIC AND UNCREATIVE!!!!

6. Do not have your non-sex worker characters use words like ‘whore’, ‘ho’, ‘hooker’, etc

I know it tends to invite ridicule to say things like ‘don’t use those words! Those are our words!’ but - well - how else to say it? 

Like racial or homophobic or ableist slurs, or any other slurs focused on a particular aspect that is the direct reason for discrimination against a marginalised group, the ownership of those words with the purpose to reclaim is exclusively that of the group they are used against. 

This is not your language. It’s OURS. You don’t get to use it. No, not even through your characters unless your point is to draw attention to the fact your character is a whorephobic douchebag.

And THAT has to be very clear.

Words like ‘ho’ and ‘whore’ are offlimits. We use them amongst ourselves (though, like any reclaimed slur, there is debate around this), but it’s really not okay for people outside the community to adopt them, certainly not in the grotesquely casual way that so rarely goes challenged.

And no, don’t go telling me that will make your character’s dialogue ‘unrealistic’.Comics are unrealistic!!! By nature!! In intent! No one reads comics for realism!

And don’t try and flip THAT around by arguing that ‘if comics are unrealistic, you have no obligation to not write seedy, gross & exploitative stories about sex workers’. Both the issue of language and of plot choices comes back to the fact that they reinforce negative stereotypes which feeds into a broader attitude of active discrimination that has real negative impacts on sex workers’ lives. And that’s not acceptable.

7. Don’t give them HIV/AIDS

The rate of transmission of HIV/AIDS between sex workers and clients is so miniscule it doesn’t even register.

That’s not to say there are no sex workers with HIV/AIDS, but the likelihood of them having contracted it on the job is extremely low, as is the likelihood of them contracting Hep C or STIs. 

Why?

Because a sex worker’s body is literally OUR BUSINESS in most forms of sex work, excepting phone sex. Without our health, we cannot work. And we live in a capitalist society. We gotta be able to work.

Furthermore, because of the pervasiveness of discriminatory laws against us, we are obliged to take measures on our own initiative to protect ourselves.

This means that sex workers aggressively and consistently practice safe sex. We are educated, informed and aware about the risks, we supply our own condoms and other PPEs (personal protective equipment) such as gloves and dams, and we use them in our work with our clients, often times educating them along the way as well.

Sure, accidents happen, as they can do to anyone. But, overwhelmingly, sex workers have better sexual health than the rest of the population.

(Incidentally, in places where this isn’t true, there is also a marked lack of condoms & safe sex education available to access - which is the fault of archaic law and governments, not sex workers)

So once again this trope is perpetuating false information and actively contributing to the ongoing negative stereotypes about sex workers and sex work.

8. Write them with respect

All of the above are crucial factors in depicting sex worker characters with respect, but considering how you place them within a story and how they interact with other characters all contributes to the sense of respect shown for the sex worker character - by the other characters and by YOU. 

If you have your other characters-  particularly your leading characters, the ones the audience is meant to empathise/symapthise with - making snide/discriminatory/abusive remarks to the sex worker character about their ‘sluttiness’, about their work, about their lifestyle - without those remarks being corrected/chided/called-out/slammed and without that character facing any sort of censure or exile for their whorephobia you are sending a pretty fucking strong message to your reader and that is that it’s totally okay to debase and degrade a sex worker because of their work.

So WHAT if some stripper did topless movies? So. Fucking. What? If you have to write a character being evidently offended by that, rather than pass it off as comic relief - or worse, as righteous moralising - why not have another character ask them what their fucking issue is? Point out how fucking ridiculous they are being.

Like any marginalised group, sex workers simply need more balance in the way we are depicted. Overwhelmingly, our depiction is done in the most negative, fetishising and trivialising way possible, preventing any understanding of the true diversity of our experience and reducing it to one exoticised, voyeuristic cliche, used mainly to satiate some perverse ‘normal*’ person need to see horrible things happen to those they conceptualise as sub-human as well as reassure their own smug and complacent sense of self-satisfaction in what they believe to be their superior lifestyles. 

If you want to ring the bell for anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia, anti-misogyny, anti-ableism, anti-classism and anti-fatphobia, then know this: SEX WORKERS ARE OVERWHELMINGLY OF COLOUR, QUEER, TRANS*, FEMALE, DIFFERENTLY-ABLED, POOR AND WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF BODY TYPES.

Sex work offers a flexibility and income for people with varying intersections of marginalisation that many other industries simply do NOT. In the sex industry, people can make a good income for being ‘different’ compared to other industries where that ‘difference’ will see them discriminated against. It is VERY complex and not at all perfect but part of the solution is TO NOT:

- demonise

- pathologise

- victimise

us, not to reduce our existence to the easiest and simplest trope to write.

And all you tumbloggers out there, the ones who are sharp enough to see the subtlest discrimination in comics when it comes in form of homophobia, racism, transphobia, misogyny, ableism, classism and fatphobia then I am, as of right now, calling on you TO SEE THE WHOREPHOBIA AS WELL. If you are really serious with this anti-discrimination, struggle-for-equality objective, then you need to broaden your gaze still further and that may involve taking a really hard look at some of your own preconceptions and ideas. I am sick of feeling like I am the only person to see this stuff. It is just as important and just as relevant and just as intersectional. 

And you know what? It’s great to like this but… reblog it. This issue gets nowhere near the exposure that other issues do and it SHOULD because it intersects with all of them AND deals with humans being treated as sub-human in a variety of ways. Get it out there and try and participate. Put your politics where your mouths are.


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