Wednesday, December 28, 2011

9 Thermidor, Motherfucker

I'm sure many people are aware that Hugo Schwyzer rubs me the wrong way. I've been biting my tongue about this for a while, considering how many people on the "sex positive" end of things think he's just bloody wonderful. However, since 1) I've grown to have a great dislike for some of the politicking and mutual backscratching between the "sex-positive" blogosphere* and the feminist "big blogs", and blogosphere personality politics in general, and need to get it off of my chest, and 2) since "Hugogate" is topical, why not? More importantly, this brings up issues with the "feminist blogosphere" that are a lot bigger than Hugo Schwyzer.

Of course, the irony is, I'm not one of the people who's quick to write Schwyzer off as a would-be "murderer" or "rapist". I don't know the full stories behind his "suicide pact" or the students he slept with to say for sure that any of this was coerced. On the other hand, if one of these women came forward and said that the actual situation was far worse than Schwyzer makes it out to be, that wouldn't surprise me either. I do know this though – Schwyzer is somebody who's very quick to condemn other men in order to curry favor with women, and if it was another man who had been accused of these things he had done, I think Schwyzer would be out at the head of the mob.

One of Hugo Schwyzer's last missives to The Good Men Project has just gone up. It is basically a blanket denial that feminists engage in bullying tactics. Sorry, but I know otherwise, first hand. While I of course am not going to say that anger on the part of women or feminists isn't often justified, I think it is quite obvious to the outside observer that the feminist blogosphere is in permanent attack mode, and that bullying, both in intra-feminist conflicts and conflicts with non-feminists, is endemic.

My response to his post:

I find it highly ironic that while Hugo is in full denial mode about feminist bullying, in the “feminist blogosphere” he's under full attack by the mob. Check out Feministe or do a Google Blogs search for “Hugo Schwyzer” and you'll see what I mean. So, more than a little bit of denial here.

And while, yes, angry words in the blogosphere rarely add up to physical attack (something that's true in general, not just vis a vis feminists), blogswarming and generalized campaigns against one's reputation can be damaging. And while sometimes some people's reputation deserves to be damaged, you can hardly blame the targets of such attacks for being defensive, merited or not. I've seen plenty of cases where blogswarming campaigns were quite intended to intimidate or silence people, and at least partly succeeded.

I also find it quite rich that this “Words are not fists” post comes just a month after #mencallmethings (an event amplified, predictably, by The Guardian), which consisted of a string of feminist bloggers claiming outright victimization over angry words, often justifiably, but often over angry words that don't amount to nearly the intensity of some of the campaigns these same bloggers dish out on others.

And believe me, I have seen a few cases where the line from angry words and blogswarming has escalated, and yes, including from feminists. A certain particularly nasty clique of radical feminists centered around Radfem Hub and the fringes of the YouTube ultraleft are notorious for this. The worst incident I remember is when one of these charmers decided to drive home her opposition to an advocate of the decriminalization of prostitution by making the “argument” that if he believed prostitution was a regular job, why doesn't he start grooming his infant daughter for it by fucking her in the ass. And to drive the point home, one of these charming radfems made an OK Cupid “dating” webpage with the infant's picture and the same language about fucking her in the ass. Of course, the web page was soon taken down and the police were called, but it was a vicious, outright criminal attack nevertheless. So don't try and tell me feminists are automatically pure as the driven snow in this regard.

I will also note with some irony that another member of the above clique called Hugo a “rapist” in a YouTube video, and Hugo threatened a lawsuit. The combination of Hugo's blanket defense of feminist bully tactics when they're not directed at him, and his behavior over the video about him sends a clear message. Hugo is special and his feelings are to be respected and taken seriously. The rest of us little people just have to sit back and take it. That kind of hypocrisy leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, and in many others as well, which is why I think he's getting it from several different sides of the gender politics spectrum simultaneously. I'm amazed at how many people with otherwise very different perspectives are seeing so many of the same things.

Ultimately, this isn't all about Hugo, or at least, it shouldn't be. This is about mob rule, demagoguery, and some seriously problematic cults of personality that have arisen in the feminist blogosphere. And about over-privileged “experts” and “leaders” talking all over everybody else's voices. And that, of course, is not a good thing for men, women, or anybody else.

* (Note that my dislike of some of what passes for "sex-positive feminism" these days does not mean that I am any less strongly pro-sex worker and pro the sex worker's movement, nor does this mean I think any less of anybody who I've been on good terms with. If anything, it was actually some of the waffling of the "sex positive" milieu on the topics of sex work, porn, and general free speech issues that have played a role in making me identify less with "sex-positive feminism" than I once did. Of course, my views haven't changed, and I remain as committed to these issues as ever, and of course, have the highest opinion of early sex positive feminism and writers such as Ellen Willis, Gayle Rubin, and Susie Bright, even if I'm a bit disappointed with the direction the current sex-poz movement has gone in.)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A response to some ill-informed rhetoric

Well, surprise, surprise. It looks like CEHBeach, aka, HeavyTrafficAhead has decided to chime in after I tweeted this message:

AIM Clinic shut down: Now there's no comprehensive screening in the porn industry. Thanks #antiporn movement! #proporn

CEHBeach responds:

@iamcuriousblue #ScouseCaspaXS Let's get both sides of the story, shall we? While anti porn activist may cheer, they'd be mistaken (as you are) if they believe that this is about 'getting' the porn industry. It's about public health Also seems that this industry supported venture was guilty of half stepping and bullshittin about the services they were providing and illegally releasing patients medical records. What I want to ask is why is it that some people think that workers in porn don't deserve the same level of protection under OSHA that someone working at Home Depot gets? Worker Safety+Public Health > 'body autonomy'

My response:

Beach, as usual, you step into a debate without being in possession of the facts. Have you done any background reading on this, other than the Aids Healthcare Foundation press release? Seriously.

First, you trash the AIM Clinic as an "industry-supported venture". As if that automatically invalidates their work. AIM was a non-profit, supported in no small part by industry charity. If I had my way, "the industry" would have supported it more heavily than they did. They offered good-quality sexual health care and counseling in addition to HIV testing. The for-profit competition, Talent Testing Services, offers only the latter. Other testing services, including AHF, do not offer the kind PCR-DNA testing necessary to check whether somebody is infected with HIV *right now*, instead relying on run-of-the-mill ELISA antibody testing with a three- to six-month window.

Additionally, the press release goes as far as to blame AIM for having their database hacked by so-called PornWikiLeaks, blaming AIM rather than the website that violated performer privacy by stealing and publishing the information. In fact, I've got to say, seeing their database hacked like that, then seeing them sued for it by their critics sure reeks of "dirty tricks" to me.

AIM had an excellent track record since 2004 of catching HIV+ infections before they could be spread to others in the industry. (Oh, and the more recent so-called "outbreaks" in the porn industry? In each case, that was somebody who was infected outside of the porn industry and who's HIV status was picked up before they went and had sex on a porn set. "Outbreak" indeed.) AIM was not perfect, but it was a good institution in need of further improvement. Instead, AHC chose to destroy AIM through a relentless series of groundless lawsuits. Even for those who believe in mandatory condom use, I have to ask, how does destroying AIM improve anything? This is the same kind of broken "we've got to make things worse before they get better" logic used by "prostitution abolitionists" who attack existing harm-reduction measures.

You bring up the specter of Cal-OSHA regulations. Of course, if you had been following this issue, you'd know that there is no regulation specific to the sex industry, hence, they are falling back on unworkable regulations made for medical workers. Which means gloves and goggles in all porn, not just condoms. The lack of any industry-specific regulation is a big part of the problem.

And as for the larger political battle, I really don't think that AHF is coming from a "workers rights" standpoint. If this were the case, why have they systematically tried to exclude working performers from decision-making around rules governing the porn industry? Why is it that their main "representative" for straight female porn workers is the odious Shelley Lubben? A Religious Right crusader with no connection whatsoever to working performers, and who is quite explicit about it being her goal to use this battle to shut down the porn industry, not improve the lot of working performers. Much of this as well is about the grandstanding of Michael Weinstein, the head of AHF, who's previous claim to fame before his relentless campaign against the porn industry was an attempt to get Viagra classed as a Schedule I drug of abuse. I don't trust either part of this alliance, and I don't think their goal is meaningful worker protection.

It seems to me that if this was about supporting the industry workers against the industry bosses, there should be a hell of a lot more input from those workers than there is right now. But then given your demeaning rhetoric toward sex workers rights issues, I guess the entire idea of "Nothing About Us Without Us" has ever sunk in with you. And that's too bad, in my estimation, because that pretty much nullifies whatever might be progressive about your perspective.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Who's being intolerant here?

[Note: I may update this post a bit or add more links over the next week, but I've decided to publish it now rather than sit on it. I really hope to turn it into a YouTube video soon, but in my experience, making a video takes far longer than making a blog post, and I'm very stressed for time at the moment. Note that even though this is posted off of YT, it is inspired by some arguments there, making for a bit of a disconnect between the subject of the argument and the response here. However, see any argument where blatant authoritarians rail against "the status quo", not uncommon these days, and you basically have the same argument.]

An argument I see beaten into the ground by “the usual suspects” in the YouTube radfem crowd is that the large number of people who oppose them constitute a “herd” and a “hivemind”. That we are being “intolerant” of a “different opinion”. And that, by implication, radical feminists are some sort of dissidents, bravely standing up to "the status quo". And while I think this is so much name-calling and ongoing melodramatics on the part of these people, which largely deserves to be ignored, this drum is beaten so heavily addressing this nonsense head on is in order.

This “herd” rhetoric rings extremely hollow. To begin with, it is simply a kind of logical fallacy called the “Galileo gambit”, a kind of inverse of the appeal to authority, holding that vilification of one’s ideas provides evidence that one is right. This rhetoric makes heavy use of the language of tolerance and ideological diversity to promote ideas that are at their very core illiberal and intolerant. One only need only look at some of the specific things these people have done or advocated for to see this. When Diana Boston uses hateful language against “trannies”, this is a direct appeal to devalue trans people for their very identity. Or when “Bonedancerff” attempts to call for police intervention to stop something as simple as somebody getting a tattoo on her ass? How about when antiporn feminists call for support of the goals of PornHarms, who’s direct goal is to have hardcore pornography censored through zealous enforcement of obscenity laws? How about when people like Diana Boston have openly said that individual rights should be take a back seat to the “collective”? How is that not an appeal to the “herd” beating down the individual?

All of these are direct appeals to intolerance of speech, ideas, and even personal identities that fail to agree with the strictures of radical feminism. And yet when their ideas are subject to even the mildest rejection, the radical feminists scream “intolerance”, and make an appeal to tolerance that they are wholly unprepared to practice themselves. Apparently they feel that they are so completely special that their ideas deserve some kind of special treatment.

In fact, I think that radical feminism presents a very similar conundrum to a liberal society that racial supremacist or theocratic ideas do. How does a tolerant society deal with fundamentally intolerant ideas? How does a marketplace of ideas deal with those ideas that wish to eliminate that entire marketplace? I am a strong believer that a healthy democratic society legally tolerates the expression of illiberal ideas, and I strongly differ from the European and Canadian approach to censor hate speech. (Which I will point out has acted as a slippery slope into censoring speech that is critical of religion.) I fully agree with broad free speech protections exemplified by the US Supreme Court decision to allow neo-Nazis to march through Skokie. It is only when hate speech rises to the level of a clear and direct incitement to directly harm individuals or property that there is any justification for the state stepping in.

However, that does not mean that I think all ideas deserve equal treatment on an informal level. I think it is the mark of a healthy society that blatant racism and appeals to racial superiority are shunned. I’m pleased that blatant hatred toward gay and trans people, or the idea of the superiority of men over women, or vice versa, are increasingly looked down upon. And I think it is a very good thing that calls for the legal curtailment or stigmatization of explicit sexual images, attacks on sex workers’ rights, and the demonization of male sexuality are also increasingly unpopular on some of the forums I frequent and that people there largely see through the pseudo-progressive justifications for such ideas. (Note that I am not invoking some kind of Marcusean notion of so-called "liberating tolerance", which is actually entails an illiberal rejection of formal protections of free speech. What I am talking about are informal methods of sanctioning bad ideas.) As I pointed out in a previous video, free speech does not mean that anybody owes it to you to believe in your ideas, nor are your ideas owed any kind of popularity.

I also question the idea that there is anything terribly progressive or dissenting about the various causes espoused by radical feminism. The idea that pornography should be suppressed, that casual sex is wrong and particularly harmful to women, and that sex should only be practiced within a narrow range of what are deemed to be committed relationships (and yes, antiporn and abolitionist feminism definitely goes there – one only need a little ways into Gail Dines or Robert Jensen, for example, to find such rhetoric), that the state should step in suppress certain “dangerous” forms of expression, or that trans people are “freaks” and “frankenstein’s monsters”, all are very old and reactionary ideas that are not redeemed or made any less reactionary by reverse engineering them with a new set of politically correct-sounding justifications. That Catherine MacKinnon and Morality in Media work toward many of the same ends, or that somebody like Melinda Tankard Reist was able to go from being one of Australia’s leading antiabortion activists to being one that countries main antiporn feminists without changing a thing about her ideas, says a lot more about what antiporn feminism is about than any nitpicky details of the various ideological justifications from each group.

I’m sure one of the main responses I will get from the usual gang of idiots, if they can even muster a coherent response at all, is that I am a “liberal” and therefore fall short of their “radical” greatness. To this I say, what’s wrong with being liberal? What’s wrong with pushing a set of politics based on putting people before profit, and before ideology, basic respect for human and individual rights, free expression, social equality, and a role for the state in promoting social good, while nevertheless placing meaningful limits on its power? And in spite of claims by detractors, liberalism does not inherently entail bland status quo solutions to social problems, nor does it exclude radical solutions to social ills that need to be gotten “to the root of”. It does, however, preclude totalitarianism, riding roughshod over individual rights in pursuit of social goals (however noble) and generally putting ideology or abstract goals before real people.

So go ahead and call me personally intolerant of your authoritarianism and intolerance and call me (gasp!) a liberal. To that I simply say "Yes" and “Thank you”.

Monday, August 02, 2010

5 Years On: The Passing of Her Holiness, Andrea Dworkin

I came across this while looking through some of my old writings. This was written right after Andrea Dworkin's death, and I wish I had found it a few months earlier so I could have posted it for the 5th aniversary. Anyway, better late than never.

I think the post is interesting, because at the time I was seeing the stirrings of a major backlash against sex-positive feminism and unfortunately, the last 5 years have proven me right. At the same time, I think I had some good insights as to why this was happening, and where the sex-positive movement needs to take the thunder out of the radfem/abolitionist critique of sexual exploitation.


This entry is kind of belated, but then I found out about it kind of late. Andrea Dworkin died last week. Blogland is filled with discussions about her, and interestingly, a lot of the commentary is positive. (Even on the Suicide Girls message board, several SG models were vociferously sticking up for Dworkin and were ready to tear a new asshole on the (male) poster who dared to trash her. The fact that girls who quite openly and proudly doing softcore nude modeling have such a soft spot for AD speaks volumes about the weird charisma and reality distortion field that woman had.) Perhaps this can be chalked up to not wanting to speak badly of the dead, and of the feeling that Dworkin took a lot of shit for her ideas and actions and that too much insult had been thrown her way already.

I'm not sure I'm so inclined to be quite so charitable, though I'm past the age where I'd get any great pleasure dancing on somebody's grave, either. There's much talk about what a maligned figure Dworkin was, but the fact is, when it came to attacks, she certainly gave as good as she got.

Many of us remember all-too-well the laws that Dworkin and MacKinnon tried to enact back in the '80s. These broadly-written ordinances would have opened to crippling lawsuits anybody who produced any work of sexual expression that fell short of MacKinnon and Dworkin's narrow ideas on politically correct sexuality. And that's not to mention the frequent bitter attacks and even death threats toward other feminists who dared disagree with the idea that sexuality wasn't 100% male-dominated evil.

Dworkin's protestations about her supposed victimization was just so much posturing – she lost vicious fights that she clearly started and then complained when she took some hits. What's left out is that if her side had won, they would have beat down their opponents at least as severely. Its all too easy to posit Dworkin as a victim – if you totally ignore the way she treated others.

There's a lot of commentary about how Dworkin really didn't hate men, but this really seems to be disingenuous. In practice, the only men she didn't seem to positively loath were men like her partner, John Stoltenberg, who were really little more than a loyal poodles. She deeply hated male sexuality in any form that actually existed. If the situation had been altered – if a straight man said that he didn't hate all women, just the ones that weren't deferent to him and didn't hate gays, just gay sex, he'd rightly be seen as clearly sexist and homophobic. Dworkin's says the same things about men and she gets treated like she was some great egalitarian! Gotta' love double standards.

It's kind of ironic how her death followed just a week after Il Papa JPII. In some ways, Dworkin was kind of the Pope of a certain brand of radical feminism. Her writings on sexuality were quoted as dogma by some, much the way some Catholics treat Humanae Vitae as the last word on sex. Dworkinistas may or may not treat her writings as infallible, but they certainly treat it as holy writ that's not to be trifled with by the uninitiated, commonly complaining that unless you've read her entire body of work "with an open mind", you have no business criticizing her ideas at all. Never mind that these people want everybody to be subject to laws inspired by Dworkin's ideas, whether we've actually read them or not.

On another note, though, one thing I've been impressed by from several blog commentaries is that Dworkin isn't taught much in Womens' Studies courses, which surprises the hell out of me, since anti-porn authors pretty much monopolized feminist scholarship around sexuality up through the early '90s. It seems there was a backlash within feminism against that perspective just as there was in much of the rest of society. Womens' Studies can be very cliquish and exclusive and when the next generation of sex-positive/queer/pomo/third-wave types made their way up in that discipline, I guess many of them turned the tables and excluded Dworkin and company. This is unfortunate in that Dworkin is now getting a reputation as this great suppressed feminist thinker and sex-positive feminism is increasingly being seen as a sell-out status-quo.

If feminist and left blogs are any indication, there's a real backlash brewing against sex-positive ideas. Perhaps this is because sex-positive feminists are seen, wrongly in my opinion, of offering a blanket apology for the entire porn industry no matter how badly all-too-many pornographers treat their talent. This gets back to one of the more lucid points I've seen raised by Camille Paglia concerning political correctness, that if leftists or liberals shut down discussion of certain ideas, those ideas will be taken up and used by the Right. If we take anti-porn feminism to be a kind of right-wing within the feminist movement, we can certainly see this – progressive sex-positive feminists don't deal effectively with some of the more problematic aspects of the sex industry, so anti-porn feminists come out looking to some like only ones offering an effective solution.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Violet Blue's "Ourporn" Group Censored by Antis

Violet Blue's pro-porn Facebook group, "Our Porn, Ourselves" was hit by censors the other day. This was a page that contained no pornography or adult material, but simply was a political campaign against the censorship of pornography and stigmatization of porn viewers. The group has for the last several months been getting false flags for non-sexual photos on the group, and yesterday was taken down completely by Facebook.

As you can guess, it appears the usual suspects in the anti-porn movement were behind this. PornHarms has been crowing about it in their own Facebook group and on their Twitter feed. PornHarms claims the page was "inappropriate" and should not be allowed on any site that could be seen by children. This merely because it advocates a pro-porn political opinion. And in spite of the fact that anti-porn sites are often quite graphic about what they oppose. Once again, these people have proven that to be anti-porn is to be pro-censorship, and for the suppression not just of pornography, but of political speech on sexuality and sexual expression.

There is a good chance Porn Harms or somebody close to them is behind the false flagging campaign. At the very least, they are openly treating this act of censorship as a victory for their side.

Who is this "PornHarms"? Its main site, is registered to Patrick Trueman, a right-wing anti-porn crusader with some long history. He was once chief obscenity prosecutor in the Bush I administration. Since then, he has been active with religious right groups like the Family Research Council and Alliance Defense Fund, tirelessly campaigning for increased obscenity prosecutions. This met with some success during the Bush II years. He has been quite visible recently campaigning alongside other anti-porn activists to have the Obama administration renew these prosecutions. Notably, feminist anti-porngraphy campaigners like Gail Dines, who claim to be against censorship, have joined him in this call.

Porn Harms maintains a considerable presence in social networking sites, including YouTube. It appears that these sites are maintained and designed by the same person who runs AntiPornographyBlog. Although this person has generally maintained a behind-the-scenes presence on the net, mainly acting as a clearinghouse for anti-porn information and a place for activists to network, I think that given their rhetoric toward, and possible involvement with, the false flagging of the Ourporn Facebook group, they have some explaining to do.

Even though this did not take place on YouTube, I think that this should be taken as seriously as any act of false flagging here. I say, treat PornHarms as you would any other YouTuber who was openly reveling in the flagging down of another channel. Let them know how you feel about this in their channel comments. If you're on Facebook, let them know about it there, too. Let's also call out AntiPornography Blog for this, since they have a close connection to Porn Harms. Ask them how their alliance with a group that flags down political speech and calls for increased obscenity prosecutions squares with their claims to be "anti-censorship and anti-banning".

These people, whoever they are, need to be held accountable for their actions and the censorship they are advocating.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pro-Porn: An Apologia

There's been an interesting discussion over at Melinda Tankard Reist's blog, where she posted about the Stop Porn Culture conference, including Gail Dines keynote. (For those not familiar, MTR is one of the anti-porn folks mainly coming at it from the standpoint of "sexualization" of young women and girls. She is kind of an Australian equivalent to Diane E. Levin ("So Sexy So Soon").)

I will give one word of praise to Ms. Reist: unlike many others in the anti-porn movement, she seems to have open commentary at her blog, so there has been some interesting back and forth there. Whether this is her clear moderation policy or she's simply overlooking comments, I'm less clear about.

I had a chance to respond to one of the condemnations of pornography and porn culture made by another commentator, and I think my response was strong enough that its worth posting here.

First, the post I responded to, followed by my defense of a sex-positive and pro-porn position:

I’m also confused by the idea that if you oppose porn you’re ‘anti-sex’ while if you support it you’re all about ’sexual freedom’ and ’sex positivism’. Pornography is a commercial product that desensitises and deadens the senses, that promotes masturbation and isolation as opposed to sex with another human being, that favours sensation over sensuality, that dictates what ‘good sex’ and sex acts supposedly are, that dictates what ’sexiness’ is and that turns many people, particularly women off of sex a lot of the time. I’m mystified as to what any of that has to do with the positive expression of human sexuality. Pornography is a commercial product, it’s not sex. Pornographers are not interested in our sexuality, they’re interested in our wallets and their bank balances, end of story.

From another perspective, I was exploited in ‘the sex industry’ when I was a teenager. My sexuality and ability to have intimate relationships has been seriously impacted by my experiences during that time. To say that ‘the sex industry’ is all about our ‘right’ to sexual freedom is ludicrous to me. Not from my perspective. It’s about sexual exploitation for profit. That is it’s purpose. Whether that exploitation is consensual is neither here nor there. We’re talking about the ethics of the industry itself and what it means for everybody, especially the women who are most effected by it.

I think it’s very sad and indicative of how pervasive ‘the sex industry’ has become that so many people fail to differentiate between a commercial product designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to maximise profit, and real sex. And even worse that they’re happy to do the pornographer’s dirty work for them and defend porn in the name of ’sexual freedom’, ultimately to their own detriment (not to mention the detriment of those who are less privileged than they are).

Well, even though you probably don't want to hear a response from one of us horribly misguided sex-positives, I'll give one anyway, because I think debate abhors an echo chamber.

In my opinion, the freedom to express sexuality through media, in other words porn (note that I view the porn/erotica distinction as basically meaningless), is part and parcel of sexual freedom. The idea that "you can do it, but broadcast it and its morally wrong" (or even a crime) just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

The statement "whether exploitation is consensual is nether here nor there" is absolutely mind-boggling. It makes me wonder how you even define "exploitation" if the party ostensibly being exploited is not even allowed to define that for themselves. I think the Stop Porn Culture session that referred to homemade porn as "self-exploitation" was very telling. Is personal autonomy as an ethical value even on the radar of the anti-porn movement? Statements like this make me doubtful.

In my opinion, the fact that pornography is "commercial" is kind of a red herring. All mass media in a modern capitalist society is more or less commercial. There is a publishing industry, a newspaper industry, a movie industry, a music industry, and an art industry. To simply hold that these are no longer the subjects of free expression because these are often large for-profit industries would be ludicrous. I don't think this magically should change just because sex enters the picture. And, yes, the fact that its an industry that is dependent on the labor of its workers means that paying attention to the rights and needs of sex workers in that industry is vital. But I think approaching it from a sex workers rights perspective rather than a paternalistic "abolition" one is far better.

It is also important to point out that to speak of the porn industry as a monolith is ludicrous. The "porn industry" is everything from multi-million dollar companies like Playboy Enterprises to somebody who has a for-pay webcam set up in their bedroom. Do you really think all of these people are either exploiters or victims?

There's lots to unpack in your ideas about "real sex". Evidently, you're very down on masturbation, and against non-relationship sex. You seem to think pornography "imposes" this on the society, rather than being a reflection of how sexuality has been going since the sexual revolution. I think open, democratic societies are ones that can allow pluralistic values about sexuality to coexist. To have the state or a powerful social movement step in and impose a "return to order" in the name of a narrow relationship-only view of sexuality and "stopping porn culture" is moral authoritarianism of the highest order.

It is likely that you'll probably see these words as my simply doing the "dirty work" of "the pornographers" and dismiss it out of hand. But perhaps you need to at least understand where we pointy-headed "sex positive" and "sexual freedom" folks are coming from, and why we so vehemently oppose much of what your movement is trying to accomplish.

We're not trying to step on your sexuality. Please don't step all over ours.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Time to tell....

I made an initial response at the Pro-Porn Activism blog to the defamatory statements about my activities on Wikipedia made by Ann Bartow on Feminist Law professors. I encourage readers to have a look at both the initial post on PPA and the subsequent commentary, because I think its a good introduction to Ann Bartow's agenda and some of the fucked-up things she's done to other bloggers (feminist women bloggers, I might add) over the past several years.

(Addendum: here is a link to a blog post about her threats of outing several years back toward Zuzu, one of the bloggers at Feministe. This person actually stopped blogging temporarily because of it. Another target was Bitch|Lab (who later re-emerged as Shag Carpet Bomb of Wear Clean Drawers) who was targeted with outing and intimations of a lawsuit for making unfavorable comments about Catherine MacKinnon. B|L is now a dead blog, so this has gone down the memory hole. Also, Eugene Volokh writes here about Bartow's wonderfully professional discourse in legal circles.)

Due to the proliferation of Bartow's post over several other blogs (none of whom seem to ever question Bartow's agenda), I think its high time I wrote about my Wikipedia activities and set the record straight.

As Bartow make's a big to-do about, yes, I am a Wikipedia editor, and have contributed quite a bit to that project. I contribute both under my real name and the name I use here. Under the former, I contribute articles mostly scientific articles (notably, I am the proud founder of WikiProject Fungi), as well as articles on food, wine, art, and San Francisco Bay Area history and culture. As Iamcuriousblue, I contribute to articles on sexuality, sex work, pornography, and erotic art. As an all around geek and somebody with a great deal of knowledge and no small amount of education on obscure topics, this suits me well.

Contrary to what Bartow has to say about me, it is actually not my goal on Wikipedia to push a particular slant or agenda. I have no problems writing about a point of view that is totally opposed to mine and attempting to do so fairly. Nonethless, when I see somebody pushing an agenda, particularly the all-too-common sex-phobic and anti-sex-work agendas, I have no qualms about making corrections to the article and calling other editors on it. Since I and most other editors on Wikipedia respect rules about editing toward a neutral point of view, there's usually very little problem negotiating the shape of an article, even with somebody who's actual views are the very opposite of mine.

The problem comes when a Wikipedia editor has no respect for this rule or Wikipedia's process for consensus building. And this is where the "heavy edits" to the Melissa Farely article that Bartow refers to come from.

The actual situation is a great deal more nuanced than Ann Bartow lets on. There series of arguments is long and complicated and I don't have time to go into a blow-by-blow here, but I think its quite clear that the main argument was between myself and two other editors, both of whom are what might be called, using the turgid prose of Bartow's post, rabid proponents of Melissa Farley's views. (And I'll also point out that Ann Bartow is pretty far from non-partisn on the subject of Melissa Farley, or pornography, which doesn't exactly make her the most trustworthy source.)

The first conflict was Nikki Craft, the text of which can be found here:

She had written a clearly biased article and had the additional problem of being Melissa Farley's political mentor, and therefore clearly in violation of some of Wikipedia's guidelines about conflict of interest. Nikki Craft eventually left Wikipedia, unable to put up with Wikipedia's rules about editing toward a neutral point of view, as well as a conflict of interest battle of her own that started when she wrote her own biography on Wikipedia, in express violation of Wikipedia's rules against autobiography.

Some months after this died down, another editor going by the name of Axiomatica got involved with the Melissa Farley article. This conflict is long and involved, and the text of it can be found here:

If one reads far enough through the above-linked archives, it is quite clear that Axiomatica had a similar agenda to Nikki Craft and was not about to tolerate an article reporting critical views of Farley's work, nor any description of her history of anti-pornography and radical feminist activism prior to becoming an "expert" on prostitution. For my part, I wasn't about to back down.

I maintain, and continue to maintain, that my only goal was to maintain a balanced article on the subject and struggle for over a year to do precisely that. If you read through the archives, you'll also note my continuing attempts to bring the larger Wikipedia community into this controversy so that it would not simply remain a pissing contest between myself and Axiomatica. I also repeatedly and in good faith tried to enter into the Wikipedia mediation process with the other editor, a process that was continually sabotaged by Axiomatica, who on two occasions simply walked out on the entire process and restarted the edit war from scractch some months later when the mediation processes had closed. The larger Wikipedia community did not step in, unfortunately, and that, to my mind, represents the real failure of Wikipedia's process. Contrary to the portrait painted by Bartow, I wanted other people to get involved and help edit the article, since having a large number of people editing would have been the best antidote to one-sidedness and agendas on either side.

Finally, I want to point to one of my most recent edits that involved reverting another editors writing. It can be found here :
(in the section titled "Removed section per WP:SYN")

This was removal of a couple sentences that were critical of Farley's research, but represented novel ides on the part of that editor (what, in Wikipedia terms, is called "original research") and was therefore in violation of one of Wikipedia's core rules. This was written by somebody on my side of the issue and was a statement I more or less agreed with, by the way of my own opinion. I nevertheless removed it in good faith because I recognized this as pushing a point of view in violation of Wikipedia's rules. How does this square with portrait painted of me by Ann Bartow? And what, then, does such a shoddy and inaccurate hit piece say about Feminist Law Professors as a blog and Bartow as a scholar?

(Addendum, May 25, 2010: Oh look, Ms. Bartow has both outed and libeled me in no less a highfalutin academic source than the Michigan Law Review! (See p. 1093 of the PDF linked to.) I guess I even get doc-dropped in better places than most bloggers. :)