Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
Love Steven Thrasher’s brilliant and moving piece about the move of the LGBT community into a mainstream and military/corporate sponsored positions. It reads in part:
Listen up, fellow homos—you have been bought, paid-for and sold to the highest bidder. The military industrial complex is so far up the ass of the LGBT movement that it can feel what is being digested in its upper intestines. Talking points and “messaging,” not discussion and debate, are the preferred methods of “communication” in a movement now run and owned by PR-firm trained Professional Homosexuals. Dissent will not be tolerated, and the assimilation of homosexuals into the rest of the militarized American public is complete.
In the fall of 2009, on the eve of the National Equality March on Washington, I covered my first (and only) fundraising gala for the Human Rights Campaign. But before the crowd could be entertained by Lady Gaga, Judy Shepard, and the President of the United States, it was time for a word from our sponsors—the “honor roll”: a nearly 10-minute-long video extolling the virtues of player after player in the military industrial complex.
I understood why certain entertainment sponsors were HRC donors, given their audiences. I had no clue at the time why it seemed like nearly every defense contractor under the sun was shelling out money to a gay rights group. (As of today, confirmed sponsors for the 2013 HRC dinner, still six months away, already include Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.)
Regardless of what you think about PFC Manning, the connection between the LGBT movement and defense contractors is chilling. The corporate sponsorship of Pride events which turns the entire experience into a day-long ad campaign for Bud Light is disgraceful. And the fact that a movement born out of the suffering and frustration of a marginalized group has evolved into a movement that throws some of the most vulnerable members of our community under the bus is truly sad.
In the last week or so I found out that Susan Wright became Fetlife’s new Community Manager. Susan Wright, the woman who thinks abuse survivors in the BDSM community shouldn’t go to the proper authorities because before we can seek legal help or emergency intervention “There also has to be a change in the way BDSM is viewed by the mainstream…” Which I’m sure will come any moment now as the BDSM community continues to hide abusers in its ranks to the dismay and disgust of the mainstream.
Susan Wright who goes on to say:
Personally I think we need to empower the physical BDSM groups and events more. If someone is abused by another member, they should be able to make that accusation and get a hearing from the group.
Even as her new boss John Baku counters:
…our focus really is on trying to get people to speak to the proper authorities so that the people who have committed these horrible crimes get put away.
Maybe they should talk.
Susan Wright who I hope understands in taking a job with a social network/dating site focused on BDSM that she is no longer dealing with physical groups, and more importantly can no longer use isolationist politics of BDSM (or the Don’t Bite The Hand That Gets You Laid model) for community control. Except maybe she can, because if there is anything we learn from the Yes Means Yes There’s a War On series it is that the cohesiveness of the BDSM scene, the thing Susan Wright and people like her have been flaunting as a way to protect kinksters for years, is the very thing that allows abuse to happen in these communities to start with. And we’ve known this for years, but now we can actually track the community closing ranks around an alleged abuser. But that is a story about group loyalty, about the fact that Wright like so many other BDSMers would rather align themselves with systematic abuse than question the sanctity of their groups. This is a story about a community and mode of operation that needs to be wiped out because it can’t be saved, it isn’t worth saving, and the fish stinks from the head as it were.
So how about we make it a story about compassion?
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) launched a survey. “We haven’t closed it yet, but so far we have 5,000 responses, and over 30 percent of them had have their previously negotiated limit violated, which I think is horrific,” said spokesperson Susan Wright. “There is still confusion between consensual BDSM and assault.”
Over 30%. Thirty percent of 5,000 is 1,500. Um, guys, think about your local BDSM scene, pretty small group right? Now think about BDSM conventions you’ve been to or heard of, couple thousand people at the really big ones? Now think about over 1,500 of the people who took this survey clicking yes to the question above. Susan, there is no confusion between abuse and BDSM, there are violent, controlling, unethical people being protected and promoted in the ranks of BDSM organizations.
Here is what must pass for confusion in Susan’s book from Thomas of Yes Means Yes:
A good friend who is a non-masochistic female submissive negotiated “a painless singlestail scene” at a convention dungeon. She was not a novice, but had 3-4 years experience and was very active in the local community. The dominant man was a was a current title-holder, doing the circuit of regional conventions.
In midst the scene, after she was spacey and not able to speak, he re-negotiated the scene and got her agree to body punching. She expected a thumpy massage. She got three ribs dislocated.
When he punched her kidney she fell, so he held her to the floor and kept punching her. She had to pull herself together enough to speak, and to call red, before he stopped. Then he told her not to tell anyone what had happened, and he dumped her on me and left. He did not show up at the pre-arranged meeting place the next the morning.
This was clearly not a scene gone wrong, or a mistake.
It goes on. And these stories go on and on and on.
Here is what these stories sound like as told by members of these communities:
When I was new to the scene, I briefly had a relationship with hephaestus829. During that relationship, he pressured me into having kinds of sex and play that I did not enjoy. He had unprotected sex with others without my knowledge.When I discovered this, he gaslit my concerns about my boundaries and my health. After I ended the relationship, he sexually assaulted me while we were both sleeping over at a mutual friend’s house. He got into the bed I was sharing with a female friend and put his hands under my pajamas, touching my back and genitals nonconsensually. He thought I was sleeping. I later found out that I wasn’t the first person he abused this way; I met another one of his victims at a national kink convention. Their story was remarkably similar to mine. – FAADE 10/27/12
After listening to and reading a number of these stories I can say the one above seems mild and that in and of itself is scary. Here is another one:
This person drove her boyfriend at the time (Kimball Karlson-Martini) to hunt down his other girlfriend, then watched him repeatedly batter that girlfriend with a closet rod over the course of an hour. She and Kimball kidnapped the girlfriend to their shared home in Tacoma when the girlfriend’s roommate interrupted them, then watched as Karlson-Martini humiliated, battered, and raped the victim several times. She then proceeded to cover up for the boyfriend for several months until they brought her in. Suddenly pled “mental illness” from which she instantaneously recovered.
Karlson-Martini was charged with kidnapping, assault, and rape. He pled guilty to lesser charges.
Read the news article attached there. Read the part where “Questioned by police at the hospital, the woman denied any attack” because “Karlson-Martini had threatened to kill her.” Then go back and look at the Social License to Operate presented by Yes Means Yes and the role that past silence plays in future silence.
Realize that Karlson-Martini is the kind of person the BDSM community protects. That 19 year old Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Marriott and Noelle Paquette are the people who die because of it. Pause for a moment. Realize that whatever the fuck the BDSM community is doing, we are doing it wrong.
And then, tell your own story. What have you done in the name of protecting your community? What have you not done? Are the things you’re saying making the world a safer place for people who were abused or for people who abuse others? Are you scared of an edge case or a systematic problem? What are you going to do to change this?
Something happens when I sit down to blog these days. Something unexpected that keeps me on the verge of that cool post I want to make about how lessons learned from the quantified self movement can inform orgasm control and chastity play but never with enough oomph to sit down and write it. Something that intensifies each time I have a conversation about the BDSM scene. I feel…empty. Maybe not empty, maybe illegible or unseen.
I think it looks like this:
- Kinky sex rocks, but the BDSM scene has caused enough fucked up things around me that it is toxic to me.
- Talking to people about these toxic things usually results in “but this scene I’m a part of is awesome unlike those other ones”
- I have heard this enough times that no instance of this is believable
- I try to explain either a) the disconnect between some of my core values and what the BDSM community brings to the table, or the many cases of abuse within the scene and hear something along the lines of “but what else is there.” “How else do you meet kinky people.” etc.
- I give up on shared meaning making around BDSM. (Translated for those outside the Bay Area as: I give up on finding common ground.)
- I feel invisible because the BDSM scene is protecting rapists why aren’t you outraged!
But you see, I am a child of the Internet. I know I am not alone. I am not alone in the sex I want, sure, yes, we know that, but much much more importantly, I am not alone in my discontent.
Last night I told a friend that many of my issues with the BDSM scene are basic Gen Y vs. Boomer issues – I don’t like positions of power or people in them. I don’t like secrets. I don’t like centralized information accessible only to the “right” people. The BDSM scene has insisted in subtle or obvious ways on all of these things, it is not a place where I can make my home.
The question is: let it burn itself down – move on, write that post about quantified self and then the other one about behavioral modification as learned from advertizing – or stay – swim upstream and convince the people in power that rape in the ranks has got to go?
I’ve had a lot of life recently. And then I had a spot of drama. Between the two I’ve had a hard time getting back on the alt sex/blogging bandwagon so I figured I’d start light.
First, despite the occasional traffic spikes around women in tech, gender stuff in general, and some strain of activism or another the most common search hit on my blog has something to do with male chastity and orgasm control. For those of you here for that I have something:
This 2001 Chicago Tribune article on chastity devices in modern times. I somehow had never encountered this article before and while it’s not particularly detailed it is a sort of interesting example of mainstreaming. The again, it focuses on fidelity rather than kink, which, I don’t know, might be the focus of most chastity device purchasers.
And in the mean time there seems to be yet another scandal in Fetlife land. I’ve posted about Fetlife’s lack of privacy before and Maymay beat me to pinpointing the dangers of Fetlife by at least a year, but there seems to be a new stir of discontent. The source of this discontent includes things like Fetlife’s monopoly on alt sex social networking, and (shockingly) mild worries about privacy. Far more emotional is Fetlife’s long standing policy banning users from naming people who have violated their consentin some way. For those who don’t want to log into Fetlife John Baku has this to say:
Currently, the 11th most popular suggestion in FetLife’s Suggestion Box is to “let us name abusers.“.
In the majority of the discussions I’ve seen on the topic, the community is pretty split on what stance FetLife should take. Some people feel that they should feel free to openly make criminal accusations while others think that FetLife’s groups and writing are not the right place to make criminal accusations.
I want to first clear up any confusion about what we do and don’t remove.
What we remove:
- We remove criminal accusation made against another member of FetLife. In the case of OPs, we just blank out the names and in the case of comments… since we don’t currently have the ability to edit them… we remove the whole comment and ask the user to repost their comment without mentioning names.
What we don’t remove:
- Discussions about people’s past abuses that don’t name names.
- Private discussions naming people who’ve abused them.
Note: I am not saying that all of the caretakers have been perfect in following these guidelines but we’ve been as a team working our butts off for the past month (and will for many months to come) to make sure the caretaking team’s actions are more consistent. I will post about this in another announcement.
Is there any room for improvement in our policies? Most definitely. But since the community as a whole is very split on the subject I don’t feel comfortable with either extreme. I am confident though that we can find an even better solution if as a community we come together and figure what is best for the health of our community.
To start the ball rolling here are some improvements to our current guidelines that I am toying with in my head:
- Ban members from FetLife who’ve already have been banned by multiple local events/groups for inappropriate behaviour.
- Make it so, certain caretakers, can blank out names in comments so we don’t need to remove the whole comment.
- And most importantly, do a much better job at being consistent.
Call me an optimist, but I really think as a community we can come together and find a solution that the large majority of us think is best for the health of the community. We might not come to a solution tomorrow… but hopefully we will come to a solution that we are proud of.
So, what it looks like from here is Fetlife is making a policy decision to cover its legal ass and this is pissing people off because the (optimistically) unintended consequence of covering their legal ass is protecting rapists in the BDSM community. Now trouble has been brewing in the kink scene over denying sexual assault and protecting abusers for some time, and as at least one friend of mine is happy to point out, we’re no different than other communities in this regard. However, while I’ll allow that the BDSM scene and the Roman Catholic Church are united in this matter, the BDSM scene is the only one of the two that goes around actively promoting access to safe sexual partners as one of its core value propositions. So, when SunshineLove highlighted both poor community management by Fetlife caretakers and poor understanding of consent by Fetlife creator John Baku she definitely caused a stir. John Baku issued a letter of apology for essentially going to a play party piss drunk and others started chiming in on this and other matters.
I’ll lay my cards on the table: I hate Fetlife. I don’t hate Fetlife for it’s policy on naming abusers (it’s a stupid decision, I totally get why people are angry, but I can see Baku’s lawyer hard at work trying to secure his fiefdom in that one), I don’t even hate Fetlife for its utter lack of privacy or data security (I don’t use it for anything vital and I don’t upload anything I don’t want my grandmother to see). No, I hate Fetlife for its completely antiquarian community creation and management model, its horrific interface, its demonstration of how the whole structure of the BDSM community is (or should be) obsolete.
Why would you make a website with a black background, white text and red accents if you were making this website anytime after 1998? Why would you make the login screen font huge so your user name could be read by strangers across the room? Why would you make a website designed for a sensitive somewhat private subject so utterly in your face it can only be browsed in a dark corner of one’s own house if the browser is to maintain any amount of privacy and anonymity?
Is it perhaps so you could capitalize on people’s existing cultural markers around the BDSM scene? Are you trying to signal that this is an “ingroup” sorta place? Are you asking people to transfer their pre-internet understanding of safety to the internet age by painting your website the same color as their dungeon walls?
Fetlife has a monopoly in its space. People don’t use Fetlife because it’s awesome, easy to use, convenient and well managed. People use Fetlife for the same reason I used to go to munches full of unpleasant occasionally invasive and creepy people with whom I had nothing in common outside of BDSM: It is the only game in town.
My goal is not to destroy the BDSM scene or bully Fetlife, but to make them one of many options and see what happens. Because, see, I believe that in competitive markets consumers win, and I know that as soon as I had an option that wasn’t either a) go to a creepy munch or b) not get the sex I want ever, I took it gladly. Competition forces market players to push their edge and improve services to stay relevant to potential consumers. Fetlife can, in fact, offer competition to the existing scene…and to some degree, by allowing people to find each other more easily, it does. Except it’s also part of the scene infrastructure and so in that capacity it is hobbled.
Fetlife is a tool, we should use it as such rather than imbuing it with the power to hold us captive, which is precisely what we do when we use one website, owned by one man, to hold most of the event information for an entire community. The BDSM community is also a tool, it is a community of interest, a social group; The BDSM community is not the regulating authority for your sex life. Community leaders are leaders by virtue of showing up and being loud. Community mores are, by definition, communally defined and you have as much as say in defining them as the next person over.
The message is simple and it’s a very Gen Y sort of message: Stop being fearful that you’re not good enough or cool enough and stop blindly accepting what the BDSM scene tells you. Instead, ask “what will it offer me.” Ask this of Fetlife, of your local munch, of your BDSM community and of your BDSM community leaders.
Push the issue. Demand value and demand transparency. Do not be lulled into complacency by the belief that this is the only game in town. It isn’t. There are close to 7 billion people in the world, I guarantee you, whatever you’re into, you are not the only one. BDSM leaders, websites, and communities get power because you give it to them, don’t you think you deserve something in return?
“Free blowjobs for hackers.”
“I could really get my hands on those machines….”
“You can help us with the art!”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it!”
I got an email earlier today inviting me to Naked Girls Reading, an event where naked women will read science fiction on a stage to an audience. I tried really hard to think that sounds like fun. I like science fiction, I like story time, and I like going to social events with the person who sent this to me…but this just didn’t sit well. Finally it dawned on me…Naked Girls Reading makes women an accessory in the geek world – clearly and firmly removing them from the category of core consumer, and placing them in that of perk.
Technology is a strange place to be female. On the one hand women in STEM careers make $0.86 to the man’s dollar…not perfect but better than the national average of $0.77, and I’ve heard a number as high as $0.94 for computing technology in specific. On the other hand, it’s clearly a male dominated field. The numbers are so stacked against women that tech companies start looking like the boy’s locker room, and as I learned in my post-grad-school job search, I am the diversity. The tech sector behaves as though women in its ranks are a new addition – “You are the last bastion in IT, boys. Hiss it through your teeth. Shut up, b****.” [Christensen, at Dell's summit in Copenhagen] – this is blatantly untrue. We can all talk a good game about Ada Lovelace, but thinking about the start of computing as we know it, I’m more into Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Fran Bilas, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff, and Ruth Lichterman [these ladies did the bulk of programing on ENIAC, btw]. Before it was the last bastion of male domination, computer programing was women’s work. More alarming is the fact that the gender gap in computer science is actually becoming greater over time even as women overtake men in college degrees overall.
KC, maker of the awesome Defcon creeper cards puts it bluntly: Defcon is hell for women. She’s right, every year I consider going to Defcon, look over all the awesome social hacking that will be talked about, get offers of crash space and travel buddies, and ultimate decide it’s not worth it because everything I have ever heard about DefCon has made it abundantly clear that this is a drunken, dick waving, boys club.
What could possibly make it ok for someone to walk up to Maymay at a SF hacker space and ask about free blowjobs? In 2012? How the hell does something like the Open Source Boob Project take hold, even briefly? This sounds like a racy episode of Mad Men, not something that would happening 2012.
Naked Girls Reading is trying to be funny – genre porn for the slightly socially awkward, maybe even a safe sexy thing for women to attend, but ultimately it perpetuates the myth that a geek woman is a mythical creature never found in nature. It positions science fiction as intended for men and it positions women as treats and sexual objects. Maybe our ongoing acceptance of these assumptions is what creates a female-hostile environment as maymay describes in his open letter to HOPE9 organizers.
I do love science fiction, I just wish it was as easy to get naked boys to read it to me as it apparently is to get naked girls to do it…
Cause I didn’t reject the status quo so that I could follow someone else’s rules, duh!
First off, a nice summary of Weiss’s book called Silicon Sadomasochism in a new-to-me blog called Color of Passion gives a run down of the main points of Weiss’s thesis and some Bay Area BDSM demographics:
Sociologically [Society of Janus] members are predominantly white married heterosexual professionals, with lots of Silicon Valley ‘techies’ and internet-based workers. They represent the ‘rich’ side of the polarised rich/poor society of the Valley and the Bay Area suburbs. They inhabit a superficially casual and non-hierarchical world of work with a strong culture of intense and flexible work plus equally intense consumerism, leisure and play. They have come to BDSM with no personal experience of the old closeted world of word-of-mouth groups and underground cultures. Instead, the new culture of BDSM fits comfortably into certain middle class values such as privacy, free choice, individual agency and autonomy. Unlike some segments of the middle classes, they are not risk averse, and are more like those who prefer to escape from their safe lives into high-risk leisures (BDSM for some, but rock-climbing or surfing for others).
Thinking further on the gendered aspects of the BDSM scene – the prevalence of male doms and female subs – Color of Passion had this to say:
… The rhetoric becomes increasingly problematic as Weiss examines the actual social moorings of play and roles in the day to day practice of the community, much of which mirrors wider oppressions in society. Many participant males were widely recognized to be sexists and clueless Doms…Yet community norms seemed to tolerate this. Men often assumed that women in the community were subs and there was a lot of low grade sexism and homophobia. Male subs had a very low status in the community and were often derided and seen as weak. Male Doms might refuse to see themselves as part of broader gender inequality in society, but many feminists in the community recognized that players cannot simply unilaterally announce their withdrawal from the world of social power. In effect, many male Doms simply embrace male privilege while finding an alibi to free themselves from the label of oppressors by claiming that sexism is ‘irrelevant’.
The BDSM culture is entrenched in the over culture and brings with it all the sexism, classism, homophobia and relationship problems found in larger society. Strangely, this is exactly what I have heard as a defense for the BDSM community, as in “yes the BDSM community has problems with rape and sexism but it’s reflective of larger social problems!” A sort of bad apples in every bunch defense. Which seems to me, but perhaps not to defenders of the BDSM community, like it should stand in direct opposition to the other argument they make of how BDSM is Safe Sane and Consensual and also deviant, dangerous, and darkly sexy and special.
Finally, the post offers a critique of Weiss’s work…
Weiss’s analysis is useful and plausible, but it could be pushed further. Firstly, by focusing on the Society of Janus it does not adequately portray the diversity of BDSM experience in the Bay Area. The Society of Janus, for example, has a particularly bad reputation for sexism and male domination and it may not be more broadly representative of BDSM. Behaviour in private play, professional domination, and associations with very different cultures may be very different.
If I understand correctly, Weiss’s Techniques of Pleasure is based on her dissertation so while the scope is certainly not exhaustive, I also wouldn’t expect it to be.
Anyway, I learned about the above article from Dirk Hooper’s Fetish Week roundup which I learned about in turn because my Fetlife privacy or lack there of post was featured in it. Thanks! Check out the round up for cool breadcrumbs of all sorts including a lot of continued chatter about 50 Shades of Grey. (You know, if you stop bitching about 50 Shades it’ll go away faster…this isn’t the making of an American classic, it’s just the hot summer read people will forget by Sept.)
This rave like image of a pink triangle on a San Francisco hillside surrounded with spotlights makes me cringe. No, not because I dislike parties, or even because I’m thinking of crowds. No, this pink triangle, along with the countless others I see on everything from store windows to cupcakes this time of year makes me cringe because it reminds me of these:
And these in turn play into a personally painful and meaningful history. The pink triangle was first used by Nazis to identify homosexual concentration camp prisoners. It was among several coded badges used by Nazis to identify prisoners, and it was a death sentence. Homosexuals liberated from concentration camps were often imprisoned again under a Nazi-created German law that made homosexuality a felony in Germany and remained for two decades following the war. Seeing a pink triangle on a cupcake does not make me think of freedom, promiscuity, revelry. It reminds me of the members of my family who died in concentration camps – it reminds me of ruined lives, of persecution, of my grandmother who once brought her doctor to tears when giving a medical history because she simply didn’t have family history beyond “killed in the Shoah.”
What does it mean when we put someone else’s death sentence on a cupcake?
And what does it mean when Pride is a party with barely a nod to remaining injustice?
This is a corporate event, literally. Sponsors include: Wells Fargo, Verizon, Bud Light, Smirnoff, AT&T, and Bank of America. Furthermore, this is a corporate party completely out of touch with real work that still needs to be done. This is an event oblivious to poverty in the queer community, to continued harassment of our young people in schools, to the devastating consequences that lack of marriage equality has for immigration, custody, and end of life issues. This is an event that encourages unchecked drinking without concern for the abuse of drugs and alcohol in our communities or the day to day horrors and lack of medical access that cause this. This is an event that has lost touch with its origins.
This is where queer liberation comes from. This is what happened before Bud Light sponsored our day in the sun. These are the people who made it possible for us to have GLBT employee groups at our Fortune 500s and the people we are now throwing under the bus. And this is why I am damn glad of #occupride. Because strange as it sounds from a self-proclaimed capitalist whore: and injury to one is an injury to all. Or in my own words: pushing someone down below you on the totem pole only legitimizes the totem pole and no matter what you think, you will never get to the top. So stop taking Kaiser’s bribe money, and stop giving Bank of America your ass, don’t let them bribe you into thinking that a shiny party is more important than trans health and a stable economy because when pride is over, they’ve still got you by the balls.
It’s crunch time for KinkForAllSanFrancisco2, or should be at least. I should be spending time at Noisebridge, sending reminder emails, hanging fliers, thinking of things to speak about, and the list goes on. I’m doing none of these things. Instead I am processing my own growing discomfort with activist rhetoric. I’m fussing about the political coming home to roost, and shaking a fist at ideas of movement before people – is there any movement that doesn’t throw people under a bus sooner or later?
If you’re considering having a crisis of faith, I’d suggest not doing it within two week of an event you’re organizing, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t quite understand how I pulled together enough faith to have a crisis of faith in the first place. I didn’t decide to throw together a KinkForAll [I also don't like the term unorganize] to change the world or the status quo. I decided to do it cause it seemed like a fun way to explore some ideas I’d been working through and get people I want to talk to each other in the same room.
The crisis of faith has nothing to do with KinkForAll, KinkForAll will happen, and it will rock because it is so flexible an event that it really would take a literal fire to mess with it. (Ah the beauty of flexible systems…) The crisis of faith is entirely about the people in my life. I woke up, at 3am, to the shock of realizing that two of my lovers where cheerfully road tripping down the pacific coast with another lover they share and I had to be up for work again in 4 hours. I woke up to the realization that my lovers use words such as “radical” and mean it. Really mean it. Burn the status quo mean it. I’m still trying to figure out why exactly I can’t just opt out of the status quo, and y’know, live my life.
I’m a die hard capitalist – born in Soviet Russia and raised to love America. I think socialism is a wonderful idea – in the Nordic nations; small countries with homogenous populations and a history of relative equality of means – just don’t try it at home. Taken on the whole my politics fit nicely, though not intentionally, in the map of liberal middle class Judaism: provide for the poor, repair the world, demand justice. But nothing about my politics, lived or idealized, can be described as radical. In that I have spent the time to find the balance I want in my life, am comfortable with the truths I hold, and strive to be open to new ideas, this is a good thing. In contrast to the people who currently dwell in my life, sometimes–today at 3am for example–it’s lonely.
It’s lonely in that “do we even have common language way.” Lonely like “will you ever understand what loving my job means to me?” Lonely like I impact multimillion dollar decisions in corporate America, and that’s important to me, but “money is a lie.” And yeah, it’s lonely in ways I don’t want to name too. Lonely like the fear of being told no one should have to work by someone benefiting from your work – and not being allowed to refute that cause, ya’know, class privilege. Lonely like Christian guilt – we can’t have nice things because…Jesus didn’t have nice things…? Or nice things are wrong somehow–not kinky sex wrong, not your cock in my mouth wrong, no, the other kind of wrong…injustice wrong. Can only be made right through martyrdom wrong. I’ll take my Jewish mother jokes over martyrdom any day of the week.
So instead of hanging fliers, writing emails, and planning talks, I went out for a drink with a friend. We debated social media privacy and data usage. We compared notes on articles we’d read about the ways social media reinforces structural inequality. We talked about the Lesbian Sex Mafia, and the Lesbian Avengers, and the bimodal economy – how the lesbian community grew around transgender inclusion and why class is so closely tied to iconic imagery of sexual orientation. Did it ever occur to you that traditional images of lesbians are working class while traditional images of gay men are upper class? And over a pisco sour overlooking the pier I let my guard down and savored being a techno-yuppie.
My lovers push me out of my comfort zone and for this I am grateful. I’m grateful too for the opportunity to refuel, but most of all, I am grateful having space to speak my truth – thank you.
“Performer line up: skinny white carbon copy clones.”
“Is it really 100% skinny femme women…?”
Before I get into the political aspects of this, here is something personal: those words describe me, my body, and your hatred or distrust of it. They describe a political arena where my body is a threat to your movement and unwelcome in your space.
No, don’t tell me that’s not directed at me, I’m sure you’re not like all the other XYZ people either. And yes, I know, I carry centuries of privilege and power in my body that you have been systematically stripped of, but tell me, does alienating me because of my body work?
Does it help us create enough shared power to fight words such as these: “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.” No, maybe it makes you feel better, but it makes me think twice about working with you, and it makes me wonder how such similar words could be coming from such opposing sides.
Here are some things going on in the world:
• 1,500 people die in conflicts in the Congo daily, including child soldiers.
• One in six Americans experiences “food insecurity.”
• A transgendered woman was killed in my neighborhood, not a decade ago but last month.
• Republicans are speaking about birth control as though it was up for debate.
• Closed subpoenas are levied against social networks we use daily to collect levels of information we could not have imagined a decade ago.
So basically, our world is fucked, our political system is fucked, and the biggest concern you have is my body? When the computer you are using to watch this insufficiently progressive porn is made with conflict minerals that fuel colonialism and poverty and there are no other viable options (for computing, though maybe also for porn) you decide to rage against some fellow activist or artist because their progressive work is not progressive enough?
When we’re so good at fighting each other is it any wonder that the religious right is winning?
So yes, it breaks my heart that my lover’s submission is treated as deviant or dismissed altogether because of his gender, it terrifies me (and humbles me) to know that one of my loves navigates the world…cautiously because of their gender, and I wholeheartedly believe that you and I both should have the kind of pornography available to us that makes us feel good, even if the images we prefer are radically different. And yet, holding all that as truth, if your political agenda includes shaming me or discrediting me for my body and the sex I have, I have no more desire to participate in that than in a Rick Santorum rally.
Today I got this email from the Obama campaign:
Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer:
I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:
I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.
But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I’ve gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.
What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.
Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.
So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.
Today I have heard praise, criticism, and cries of “fuck marriage!” Today I am proud of my country and of my president not because getting married is the right thing to do, or because we have overcome homophobia (we haven’t) but because a liberty, consideration, right or service extended to one citizen should be made available to all citizens. I understand that this is a complex issue for Americans and for the GLBT community, but personally, I consider this to be a simple and basic extension of tax policy and various other logistical benefits to members of our communities who were not visible 50, or even 5, years ago. Laws evolve because citizens evolve – if they didn’t I would still be obliged to bring a musket to church when visiting my home state of Massachusetts.
I have heard many an argument against marriage not from the religious right, but from the core of the GLBT community itself. The argument, it seems, is one against assimilation. It’s an argument, and a concern, I’ve thought a lot about over the years and I have finally come out on the side of marriage. Not on the side of forced assimilation, but on the side of the greatest possible range of options for the greatest possible range of people. Because, ultimately, radical sex does not get my vote by strictly policing the kinds of sex and relationships I can have. It gets my vote if and only if it opens more avenues of sexual expression than it closes.