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BDSM and the virgin/whore dichotomy in literature

Pretty Woman and Belle de Jour: Are they happy hooker myths or the complete opposite?

“It’s not like Pretty woman, you know,” say the abolitionists whenever the issue of sex work (“prostitution”) comes up. They use this one-liner to justify criminalizing sexwork and pushing the Swedish or end demand model (which makes paying for any kind of sexual services a crime) on the rest of the country. At other times, a more 21st-century version of the old gem is used: “It’s not all Belle de Jour”.

But first…THINGS ABOLITIONISTS MISS

1) “It’s not all Pretty Woman” is only a valid and relevant argument if Pretty Woman was designed as a documentary to speak for sex workers. It is meant to be fiction. We all know Hollywood gets it wrong, especially with regard to marginalized groups; they do this all the time.

2) “It’s not all Belle de Jour” also makes no sense; the books do not claim to speak for all sex workers; the blog called itself “Diary of a call girl” – i.e. the diary of a specific individual; the books were called the “intimate adventures” of a call girl; again, a single individual. They were not academic articles or textbooks. Why do abolitionists persevere in thinking that Belle was speaking for anyone other than herself? And with lots of sex worker and sex activists out there, they choose Belle to focus on – feminism, or jealousy because the others aren’t famous? Hmmm…

3) You can’t call a real story unrealistic

4) Pretty Woman represents a street sex worker, not the majority of sex workers

5) Abolitionists and the feminists who side with them use criticism of Pretty Woman and Belle de Jour interchangeably, not realising that they’re not the same or even similar things, and it’s not ethical or logical to think of them as similar. To elaborate: when you say you hate a film, that’s OK. You’re criticizing the scriptwriters, actors, director, producer – everyone and every thing that holds a movie together. (Note that feminists use the title oof the film when they criticise it). But when you say you hate a memoir, you’re saying something againsst the person – not the author (because its not fiction) but the person (because it’s a memoir). Saying a film script isn’t realistic doesn’t hurt anyone; films exist to make big bucks for the studio and they’re multi-person projects as well as completely fictitious. But saying a memoir isn’t realistic is different. (Note that the so-called feminists don’t use the book’s or TV series’ name here, they use the writer’s name). And these two cultural phenomena are totally different: one’s a multi-million dollar project started by studio execs, made by celebrities and created as fiction. The other is the un-funded true story of a year-and-a-bit in the life of a migrant student, as told in her own words.

Am I suggesting the feminists shouldn’t criticise the blog, books or TV series? YES. No. I mean, we dish it to them, too; and free speech for one and all, right? I’m just suggesting that they see Pretty Woman and Secret Diary of A London Call Girl as separate, very different entities, and think more carefully about which of the two to criticise in any argument, and what point they’re trying to make by bringing it up.

6) The other Belle de Jour book and film, which Brooke Magnanti named herself after. (“It’s not all Belle de Jour! I mean the first Belle de Jour!”)

bdj67

PRETTY WOMAN

What they allege – with no evidence – is that Pretty Woman is not an accurate portrayal of sex workers (or, in their lingo, ‘prostituted women’). And actually I agree – but for the opposite reasons. The character in Pretty Woman is a street sex worker. Street workers make up only about 10% of sex workers in the UK, so the film is not relevant to the UK sex industry (and it was made in the USA, not UK). I’d heard all about how the movie unrealistically glamourises sex work, so when I watched it on TV I got a shock. It seemed as if the film had been written and performed to stigmatise sex workers and the sex industry.

And far from glamourising prostitution, the film actually stigmatises and stereotypes sex workers. Vivian dresses in a revealing outfit, has never seen an elevator or been inside a nice hotel, is awed by the size of a small room, is emotional, is unable to even shop for a dress without the help of others, and charges $300 per hour yet is stupid enough to stay an entire week for $3,000 which really would only be the price for 10 hours. I mean, yeah, I get it that if you use more of a service or buy in bulk you get discounts – but that discount seems a bit much.

Vivian also feels upset that her client told his friend she is a sex worker, and decides to leave without taking the payment for the services she has sold. This is stereotyping sex workers as ashamed of their careers, as if all sex workers are slut-shamers and furthermore have internalised that slut-shaming and turned it on themselves.

Vivian is portrayed as uneducated; her friend appears to be struggling with money.

Vivian then falls in love with Edward (after only knowing him for a few days). She decides to leave the sex industry (suggesting sex workers are unhappy and want to leave.)

This quote from Wikipedia says it all:

His leaping from the white limousine, and then climbing the outside ladder and steps, is a visual urban metaphor for the knight on white horse rescuing the “princess” from the tower, a childhood fantasy Vivian told him about. The film ends as the two of them kiss on the fire escape.

The whore has redeemed herself by love and monogamy with the kind of alpha male that would return in two decades’ time in the form of Christian Grey.

Conclusion: Not happy hooker! Instead, its a radfem’s wet dream, and pure hollywood from start to finish.

 

BELLE DE JOUR

I’ve only read a bit of the first book, but it’s obvious that this is more than antis have read, so that’s why I feel qualified enough to comment on it. I will also be using stuff like logic and actual reference to the text instead of huge sweeping statements about Pornstitution or Moral Decay or the State of The Country Today And Why Feminism No Not Your Feminism But My Slut Bashing Feminism Is The One True Way.

There is nothing “glamourising” about the book. In fact, sex bloggers right here on WordPress glamourise sex far more than Belle ever did. Her books are not explicit; they cover many aspects of her life including relationships with family, friends and The Boy. The whole point of the award-winning blog was that the sex work narrative got entangled with everything else – and maybe that’s one reason why the blog/books were successful. A description of one sexual act after another with no exploration of relationships and emotions may not be destined for success except as erotica or porn. I was surprised at the lack of explicit detail in the book, that summer day in 2011 or 2010. I remember reading “..and a bit of (very light) torture” and being slightly irritated with the author (who I only knew as ‘Belle’, unaware her identity had been revealed a year earlier), like, ‘I want the juicy juicy details!!!’

Does Belle de Jour glamourise sex work as much as E.L. James glamourises monogamy or marriage? Brand-names and helicopters don’t feature in Belle’s work. Or, for that matter, does it glamourise sex work as much as James Bond glamourises spying (and murdering)?

When you consider other published memoirs such as Sarah K’s BDSM memoir or the sex blogging of Zoe Margolis, the “glamourising” charge becomes even more problematic.

I’m no literary critic, but I’d say that the theme of Belle de Jour is one person trying to live her life; it has been said that recurring themes are loneliness, self-sufficiency and independence, though personally I’m unconvinced about the loneliness. But this blog – the Diary category – probably ‘glamourises’ sex work even more. I write in a sexually explicit way, being careful not to omit a single detail. Recurring themes are thrills, experience and sexual fantasy. The joy experienced by selling sex is repeatedly stated. My blog is not only memoir, but also (arguably) sex blogging – something Belle de Jour (arguably) never was explicit enough to be.

So why is it okay for sex bloggers to glamourise sex? Because they’re glamourising unpaid sex?

Antis feel sorry for me, and annoy me but they don’t say I’m glamourising prostitution…which may prove that instead of being about feminism or morality, they discredit people based on good old fashioned envy of fame and (in this case, percieved) material wealth.

The TV series was about a sex worker quitting sex work but finding out that it’s not as easy as it seems (this was the series’ tagline) – again, stereotyping sex workers as not enjoying their job. How is this glamourising? It is clearly showing the sex industry in a negative light, and the sex worker as having little agency and control over her own life and being unable to exit the industry.

Another criticism abolitionists and radfems make of the Belle books is that they’re unrealistic. But “Belle” was a real person who had really worked as a sex worker – her testimony is as real as the stories of the few prostitution survivors who are used by abolitionists to speak for their cause.

Abolitionists also haven’t figured out the main difference between Vivian and Belle: one isn’t real, the other is a real person deserving of respect like all human beings. There’s a reason why, when Belle had full editorial control (her blog) sex work was not portrayed negatively (or at least not more so than many other jobs) but in the TV series and in Pretty Woman it was portrayed as an industry the sex worker wanted to leave.

Conclusion: Belle de Jour is realistic because it is a memoir and you don’t get any more realistic than that. It has equal legitimacy with, (and represents the experiences of sexworkers much more closely than) the stories of the women who call themselves survivors. It does not glamourise sex work; it only tells a true story and is less glamourising of sex work than sex bloggers are of sex.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Film, Literature, Sex work

 

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Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came

In 2009, when I was 18 – or just turned 19 – I wrote a poem which was an allegory of a girl committing a murder while also, at the same time, being an allegory of her having sex for the first time. I thought it up in my student room. I then evolved a series of 7 poems which tell the journey this girl goes on, and simultaneously the psychological journey of her friend Roland who journeys into accepting her even when told about her murder. One of the seven poems was published; it also had a losing virginity allegory and was about Roland’s journey. The series takes place in Edinburgh – especially the Southbridge – and Edinburgh landmarks are referenced. The main point of the series is a psychological journey (for both the girl and Roland) rather than the physical acts of murder or sex. There are also Egyptian references that are less blatant than the Edinburgh references, as it is hinted that the girl is not an ordinary person, and that the events may never have happened/not happened in the way they appear as she is not really  – or fully -in Edinburgh. For example, she did not actually go through with the murder, though her intent was real.

The literature fans amongst you will realise by now that the published poem must have been inspired by Robert Browning’s poem, ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’. I first came across a reference to it aged 13 when reading Alan Garner’s ‘Elidor’, obviously inspired by the folk tale ‘Rowland and the King of Elfland’ but containing a preface featuring the last line of Browning’s epic poem, which is the same as the title. As soon as I read that line, I felt a sense of deja vu as if I had read the line before. The part about a dark tower, especially. I had to read the whole book – poorly wriiten as it was – because of that sense of deja vu. Years later, after writing a couple of poems in the series, I Googled for the poem (I remembered the quote in full) and realised Browning, whose other poems I’d read, had written it. I also found out about the Song of Roland poem, and Shakespeare’s reference to the folk tale as well as Stephen King’s series.

My own 7-poem series possibly inspired my subsequent story ‘The 7 Nights’, a yet-unfinished BDSM/rape/pantypooping story about Chastity and the pervert Roland.

A few days ago I was reminded of Browning’s poem and suddenly realised that the guy I’m selling myself to, whom I call Roland on this blog, did of course make the deal with me in the Tower (a top-floor restaurant on the Southbridge in Edinburgh). And of course the event was indeed about losing virginity and also about acceptance of doing something socially stigmatised, though not as badly stigmatised as murder.

I sometimes wonder if everything I write is doomed to come true. Like in my first year of uni, I wrote a story about my flatmates but then stopped because some things I wrote came true and it was getting creepy. Then, my extended fantasy about police and government spanking and torture in a particular country (inspired by Lochlan’s holiday there in 2009, the time of writing the poem series) was actually true (though not the spanking bit). Upon knowing it was true, I simply relocated the fantasy to Britain, embellished it a lot, threw in a lot of political stuff and called it ‘The UK Government Torture Act’. Now, with accusations against MI6, I worry that this story is also true, albeit that in real life Britain/MI6 gets other people to do their dirty work for them instead of doing it themselves like in my story. But hopefully the accusations aren’t true. All I know about the accusations is just hearsay – it always seems like if I watch the news religiously it is all unimportant, yet if I miss a day, something earth-shatteringly shocking happens. And no, I will not Google it! I can’t bear to hear about this sort of thing! I will just hope that the next update on this story happens on a day when I’m watching the news.If they’re guilty I will freak out, if they’re innocent I will freak out because they obviously destroyed the evidence/lied and got away with it.Interestingly, in the Tower, Roland claimed that MI6 frequently send people to other countries to be tortured so they could get valuable information from them by trusting those countries to pass on whatever the victims revealed. And that politicians knew about this. He said he knew it was true because he read an article online. This was before the recent accusations against MI6. However, what he said goes way beyond the accusations against MI6, which are only tied to 2 specific contexts: Libya and the CIA/Guantanamo.

A ‘childe’ was an untested knight. Like Browning’s Roland, pervert Roland journeyed towards the Tower to have a unique experience, and once turning onto this path he could not go back, instead moving inexorably toward his goal, then doing nothing except announcing his arrival. Though the journey is really mine, not his. And Pervert Roland knew why he wanted the experience – the virgin-whore art thing – while Browning’s Roland did it out of duty or fatalism. And I move inexorably toward the brothel where the artistic porn film/loss of virginity will take place; perhaps it is my own dark tower. And the loss of virginity, will, Roland has hinted, mean the killing of my ‘secondary personality’ Chastity (the murder theme). Another similarity is that, in the poem series, the girl confides in Roland (a character inspired by Lochlan) that she has murdered – a crime she imagines as loss of virginity/innocence. In real life, Lochlan was the first person I told about selling my virginity, and remains the person I feel most comfortable talking to about it.

The dark tower crops up in a lot of imagery: LOTR (Orthanc, Barad-dur), Harry Potter (Azkaban, Grindelwald’s home), C S Lewis’ unfinished story, The Dark Tower, the film Van Helsing, Stoker’s Dracula…though perhaps a lot of these images were inspired by Browning’s poem itself. Although the poem is depressing, I believe it has a positive interpretation, especially in Roland’s final show of defiance and the fact that he unbelievably succeeds in finding the tower. I don’t think the poem is morbid or that the tower represents death.

The ‘dark tower’ literature evolution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childe_Roland_to_the_Dark_Tower_Came

Browning’s poem

http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/rbrowning/bl-rbrown-childe.htm

Analysis ( all non-academic, short analyses):

http://www.gradesaver.com/robert-browning-poems/study-guide/section24/

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/rb/roland/roland1.html

http://voices.yahoo.com/analysis-childe-roland-dark-tower-came-by-5183043.html?cat=42

http://freejonah6.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/childe-roland-to-dark-tower-came.html

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/rb/roland/perquin.html

http://www.violetbooks.com/REVIEWS/rockhill-browning.html

 

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Read 3 pages of 50 Shades…it was AWFUL.

In Sainsbury’s they were flogging (heh) the trilogy for £3.99. I thoiught, why not buy the first book so I can review it/slag it off on my blog? I did a post on why 50 shades is antifeminist, anti-kink and anti-sex here: https://diaryofavirginwhore.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/why-50-shades-of-grey-is-anti-kink-anti-sex-and-anti-feminist/

Yes, it seems ludicrous to call a BDSM porn novel with a female protagonist all of the above, but I have my reasons.

So, I stroll over and read three pages, wondering whether I should throw away £4 on such a stupid, worthless thing when I could spend the £4 on ice cream or a hair clip or something. I couldn’t carry on reading after 3 pages. Here’s why:

Ana wakes up in the hotel room after Christian has ‘rescued’ her there after she got drunk. Her first thoughts are ‘oh no, the drinking, oh no, the vomiting, oh no the phone call’ – LITERALLY. Read the book (don’t waste your change on it, just read it at a bookstore/friend’s house/Sainsbury’s) it literally says that. Like getting drunk is a HUGE DEAL when you’re a 21 year old student. Who are you, E. L. James, a pornographic author writing to help me get my rocks/ovaries/prostate off, or my mum? No, wait, even my conservative mum wouldn’t think it was a big deal.

Then, Ana thinks – ‘did we..? It’s too terrible to think of!’ – that’s probably not a quote, but it’s close. So, 21 year old virgin graduate Ana, sex is too terrible to even think of? Sex with a hot billionaire is a terrible fate? What kind of freakin’ snob are you, do you want a billionaire Olympic Sex Champion? A trillionaire? E.L. James, don’t you realise that a sexually repressed female main character in a porn book is pretty weird? It’s not like most women can identify with Ana; although most of us are repressed, most of us realise it to some degree and we’re not that repressed.

Seriously, I’m betting that this book doesn’t get banned in Iran. That’s not a good distinction for a BDSM porn novel.

Christian then tells her that they didn’t have sex – sorry, he didn’t have sex, because it’s obvious Ana is asexual anyway and the only reason she’d want it or not would be to please Christian or just lie still out of apathetic passivity. Anyway, he didn’t have sex because she was unconscious and he “isn’t into necrophilia” and has a sexual preference for the woman being awake. That’s fine. I’m OK with that; it’s lighthearted, it’s a fairly amusing response from Christian.  However, the characters seem to interact after that as if it wasn’t a joke, as if it wouldn’t have been rape if Christian had attacked her while she slept. Later, Ana wonders why Christian didn’t have sex with her as she slept and worries she’s not pretty enough, meaning that she’d be OK with that.

Christian then says that if she were his, he would spank her for endangering herself. He is totally serious. Ana doesn’t mind him saying this much despite the fact that it’s insulting, offensive and threatening – especially since he barely knows her and she isn’t into spanking so won’t be amused by the comment or find it acceptable. Even I, a woman with a domme preference, wouldn’t. say (seriously) to a man I barely knew, “If you were my boyfriend you wouldn’t be able to sit cos I’d spank you for having a few drinks with the lads.” Likewise, if a man I barely knew said this to me, I wouldn’t be particularly impressed.  And what was so risky again? She had a few drinks with her pals and got drunk? Has nobody ever done this before?

That was three pages. I put the book back, realising that there was no way I could buy it just to blog about it; I’d be doing about four posts for every page.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Literature

 

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I meet Dr Magnanti/Belle de Jour, who inspired me to make this blog

My friend Lochlan invited me to a Facebook event to Dr Brooke “Belle de Jour” Magnanti’s talk on sex myths about adult entertainment causing violence. It was really good – well analysed, with irrefutable evidence to back up all her results and claims about previous studies not taking account of crucial factors such as population growth. (You should buy her book, ‘The Sex Myth’. It’s not a feminist book as she doesn’t identify as a feminist; it is a collection of essays which prove that sex trafficking into the UK is almost nonexistent, that women aren’t lees visual or less sexual than men, that teens aren’t more sexualised now than before and a lot of other myths. It’s all true by the way – the decade with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy was the 1950’s!)

I had always thlought that Brooke’s academic credentials are a powerful tool in her quest to spread the truth and get people to focus on the real issues instead of throwing away millions deporting illegal sex workers to stop sex trafficking and shutting down lap dancing clubs to stop rape. I do see her as a feminist; I think she is too generalising to lump all of feminism together; she could be identify as a liberal feminist; it was radical feminism that was/is sex-negative and criticised her for ‘betraying’ women by being a sex worker. But some sex workers are feminists. Actually, Brooke probably knows this but has chosen to drop the feminist label altogether. Anyway, at the Q and A section of the talk I realised that her academic reputation can also get in the way of her activism. I realised this when she ‘fudged’ the second question I asked, and although I usually despise this sort of thing – I once gave an EU Court of Justice Judge a hard time over fudging a question I’d asked which my lecturer then re-asked and he fudged it AGAIN – the lecturer couldn’t keep a straight face as I asked “where in the Treaty does it say that [and so on]” – I understood immediately why Brooke had to do it. She couldn’t risk getting quoted out of context or seeming too radical. If she did, this could make people not like her and not listen to the truth of her research. Then the feminist cause would be hurt by that, as she is a very valuable ‘asset’, if you will, to feminism in this country. And if I have to go without an answer to further the cause(s) that I fight blog/rant for, then I’ll do it gladly (and much more, if need be.)

I’d tried to read her book Secret Diary of a Call-Girl in Tesco’s about a year ago, but I just felt too envious of her to carry on reading, especially when she mentioned she’d firts got into the business as a dominatrix when she was a student – my dream student job. I’d always wanted to be a prostitute. I imagined myself working from a flat independently instead of being a call girl. It was also my dream to sell my virginity. As I read her book, I felt that I wanted to meet her, and also very jealous of her. But I also looked up to her for writing it, for giving this to society and changing stereotypes of STD-ridden working-class streetwalkers, letting us acknowledge educated women who were sex workers. And women with boyfriends who are sex workers. Telling us that prostitutes have parents.

So, I think Lochlan was not far off when he said “Is she your hero?” because, from a political point of view, the answer always had been “yes” even at my most envious moments.

Of course, she was my inspiration for this blog. I told her so.

As I had been jealous of her and simultaneously approved of her writing and saw her as a sort of role model, I was a bit – well, Lochlan referred to it as “starstruck” but nobody could tell, of course, as I can control my emotions. And I was aware that I was ‘starstruck’ because of how I saw her, and not because of who Dr Magnanti really is (i.e. a normal person who was good enough at writing to write an award-winning blog and a bestseller).

Dr Brooke Magananti’s talk summarised:

The belief that lap dancing clubs lead to increase in rape is false – studies that claimed it was true failed to account for population growth – rape actually went down (though Dr Magnanti doesn’t think lap dancing makes rape go down)

Studies showing that lots of children watch porn were not well conducted, using very small samples that were not representative

These issues are very complex and influenced by multiple factors

Policy shouldn’t be influenced by bad studies and shaky data

Sex trafficking is almost nonexistent, but is hyped up by the media

Bad studies are great for shock headlines, which concern the public and NGOs and perpetuate the cycle

I’d kind of been hoping I’d get to talk to her afterwards to get tips on how to raise awareness of certain feminist issues. So, let’s cut to when me and Lochlan are talking to her:

I’d had six drinks – Sangria and WKD (Lochlan had seven) and I was regretting this as we stood in line to talk to her during the break. I wanted to get my sentences in order so I could get tips on feminist activism and ask her some other stuff about the double standard and whatnot. I also wanted to tell her about Roland, because she would understand me. I am not saying my experience is the same as hers – I’ve not even read her memoirs, how can I – but I’m pretty certain judging by her book that she enjoyed selling herself and got pleasure out of it, just like me. I don’t know anyone else who’s ever done it. Actually, I might (you never know who’s done what – I don’t have “I’m Rolanding” taped to my forehead) especially if you count SeekArrangement.com as sex work, but they’re keeping quiet about it.

Lochlan had brought a copy of the old book for her to sign and I picked up ‘The Sex Myth’ right there before the talk. We got her to sign our books. Since I couldn’t count on not being accidentally eavesdropped or photographed by the journalists present, or anyone else, I asked her to make it out to Kalika, which she asked me to write on her hand since she couldn’t spell it. (It always hurts a bit when I write on my hand; does nobody else feel that?). (I knew she wouldn’t out me, as a former sex worker and scientist she’d be the last person in the world to do such a thing, obviously. And what would be in it for her? ‘BELLE DE JOUR EXPOSES GIRL SELLING VIRGINITY FOR 8K’ actually would ruin her far more than me (it would compromise her both as Belle de Jour, as she sold out a fellow sex worker, and also as an academic professional. As Roland would say, I’ve got nothing to lose) and she wouldn’t need the money even if guaranteed anonymity. It wasn’t her I was worried about, it was everyone else milling around that I couldn’t possibly keep an eye on while talking to her. It was the journalists, mainly, that I was worried about. Not only for that moment, but in case I was outed (or outed myself anonymously) in the future. After all, this blog will continue to be updated for months. I will market it. I never promised Roland I wouldn’t anonymously sell my story (I’m not saying I will – I’d rather wait a few years and sell it under my legal name when I’m a known feminist author or blogger (well, if!!!). It would be fun! And of course I’d keep Roland’s identity secret.) But, anyway, it was for the future that I was planning.

I admitted I hadn’t been able to read her first book because I’d been envious of her especially the dominatrix part and she said, “And now that you’ve seen me, you don’t need to be envious!”

“Well, it’s because I’m kind of doing something similar,” I said. It was hard to speak as eloquently as usual with all the drink, and I couldn’t see four sentences ahead like I usually can. “I’m selling my virginity,” I added. I didn’t even lower my voice, because calling myself Kalika was precaution enough. I think seeing her made me not care, too; after all, I’m selling myself to one guy, she is proud that she was selling herself to lots of guys. However, as Lochlan and I discussed later, she’s in a good place because she’s got a PhD and a successful career so it’s hard to criticise her. But I’d better wait till I’ve got a career till I out myself, and even then a teacher who wrote about her call girl experiences in a few articles was fired because she was once a call girl. So Brooke was lucky; maybe she was too well known to b fired as it would be very bad press if they fired her. Or maybe they can’t use the excuse that she’s working with kiddies so could pervert their innocent minds. Or gets on with her boss.

We were only talking for a few minutes but I think she’s very down to earth and not like what you’d expect, she’s very ‘real’ and a good person – not all sugary niceness, because even the most evil people can put that on -I mean ‘good’ as in sincere and dedicated to the truth. I’m not going to quote her anymore because she didn’t consent to her words being put on a blog. I know this post would be more interesting and longer if I just stuck in a transcript of the conversation, but I don’t think it’s fair.

So I’ll just write that Brooke: Thinks 50 Shades of Grey is just porn with no inherent feminist or sexual freedom values; was pleased that she was an inspiration to me for this blog; pointed me in the direction of a sociologist who was present to answer a raising-awareness question I had; and I think I’ll leave it at that.

Lochlan went off twice; he told me later that he bumped into his friend, who is a sex worker and blogs about sex activism. I’d suspected she’d be there; luckily, I was talking to Brooke so didn’t see her, so she’s still anonymous to me, though I must’ve walked right past her when I went to talk to the sociologist.

A few people went over to ask her questions at the end, too. Lochlan and I went to Browns on George square and had 2 cocktails each; I had a cosmo and a strawberry chocolate cocktail, had a grey-coloured drink and I can’t remember the other one. After a short fret to Lochlan over whether texting Roland about this would annoy him/seem needy, I texted Roland that I’d met Belle de Jour and told her about me selling virginity; I thought that would interest him. It must have, because he texted back something along the lines of Wow!!’How did you meet her?’ so we were texting for a little bit and I was reading his texts to Lochlan who of course only knows him by ‘Roland’ so it was hilarious (to me) that Lochlan was calling him ‘Roland’ constantly. I’d rather have called him so I could hear the surprise in his voice as I told him, but it went to voicemail and I was too tipsy to bother leaving a message. Then we went to Lochlan’s, stopping at a bar with live music along the way. I had a chocolate Russian and a Vanilla Russian, he had a White Russian and a Chocolate Russian. Neither of us were drunk though; I need a LOT to get drunk.

We walked on, talking about sex myths, sex work and Brooke and he asked me about Rolanding and I was like, “Well, I can only speak for myself but even if you wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the money, you can still get physical pleasure from it, obviously, because we’re biologically programmed to be that way. So even though Roland is really old, it’s still really fun. Like I thought I hated blowjobs but I love doing it. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

“So you’re not just doing it for the money then? There’s something else?”

“Well, yeah, duh, the sex. I’m doing it for the sex as well, of course.”

“When are you actually going to have vaginal sex?”

“The time after next time, in a brothel. Well, a massage parlour.”

“Is that what you want?”

“I don’t give a shit. As long as I get my £1,000. Whatever makes him happy.”

“Really?”

“Why should I care? I’ll have to close my eyes though and pretend it’s someone who looks good. I’d prefer it if he wore a paper bag over his head, but obviously I wouldn’t be able to talk him into it.”

“Is he really that unattractive?”

“He’s okay, I guess,” I said, “He’s not fat and doesn’t have wrinkles. I think he would look good if he wasn’t old. I mean, he actually looks younger than his age. So I think when he was young, he was hot.”

“Are you afraid of getting old?”

“Well, Asians don’t age and neither do blacks, so…no.”

“Oh that’s good then.”

Then, in his flat, he got me a pillow and sheet on the sofa and I put the sleeping bag on top of it and went to sleep.

Today, Lochlan walked me to the subway. Knowing I was going shopping, he said “Are you going to spend some of Roland’s money?”

“Well, it’s mine now. I worked very hard for it.”

He left me at the subway, as he had to get to class. I pondered the missed opportunity of us making a pun on the word ‘blow’, like blowing money/blowing Roland. Then I remembered I’m scared of subways! But I was okay in the end, it is just waiting for the train that I don’t like, when its silent and then when you hear it coming. I’m okay with subways that have bigger platforms (in other countries) though. I got off in Buchanan Street and headed to H and M, bought denim shorts, black jeggings and a grey denim shirtdress (£54, didn’t even glance at the price tags) then a pair of wedge sandals out of River Island five minutes later. That was £100 gone in twenty minutes, a new record for me, but achieved only by Rolanding or I wouldn’t have splurged like that. I only bought a belt after that, though, so it wasn’t a massive shopping spree. I ended up wearing the wedges in Glasgow, putting my flats in the bag. I touched up my toenail varnish with the nail varnish I keep permanently in my bag for emergencies.

 

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Why 50 Shades of Grey is anti-kink, anti-sex and anti-feminist

It seems impossible to get away from 50 Shades right now. I can’t go on Facebook, WordPress, to the supermarket, on the bus or train or sometimes even check my texts without hearing about or seeing the book. After I give the evidence/reasons for the claims I’ve made in the title of this post, I’ll copy/paste this conversation so you can get an idea of how I (and apparently some other people) feel about the trilogy:

Evidence that 50 Shades is all the things I claim it to be:

Anastasia is economically dependent; when she does get a career, Grey then buys out the company she works for, making himself her boss’s boss

Ana is virginal in direct contrast to the very experienced Christian who is such a playa that he has never spent the night or done ‘the girlfriend thing’

Christian’s kinkiness is explained as being a direct result of child abuse including sexual abuse, not just his sexuality. I.e. it is unnatural (he was not born with it) and pathological

Christian has a kink-shaming thing going on where tells his therapist that he thinks something is wrong with him (as the therapist explains to Ana)

Ana has a sex-shaming thing going on where she feels that it is surprising or wrong for a 21 year old to want to have sex.

Ana displays the classic traits of an enforcer (female enforcer of the double standard, see my post on ‘SM and the double standard’) by judging her flatmate Kate for sleeping with Elliott

Both protagonists are codependent and appear more interested in having some kind of little boy or sex slave to take care of than an actual sex partner or boyfriend/girlfriend

Christian is abusive, not a Dom. BIIIIIIG difference, James. BIG difference.

BDSM is linked to emotional damage by the title ’50 shades’ which corresponds to Christian’s assertion that he is “fifty shades of fucked-up” due to childhood abuse

Ana is a complete idiot, barely able to ‘research’ BDSM online without Christian’s guidance or find sex tips although she has a degree. Most kinky people were ‘researching’ BDSM online at age 12 or 13. (I started at 14 because we didn’t get internet access at home until I was 14, though my first attempt was at age 9 or 10 on a school computer).

Ana’s passivity, submissiveness and physical weakness are an antifeminist portrayal of women and, as she is well-educated, young, and not overweight, is completely unrealistic.

Ana is portrayed as having extreme physical weakness, i.e. taking four strokes of the crop is too much for her, sex exhausts her and a hand spanking is injurious to her physically (Christian has to use baby oil to soothe her) and emotionally (sje doesn’t want to repeat the experience).

The above portrayals also stigmatise BDSM as a very dangerous and harmful behaviour when actually this level of pain and exhaustion is very rare. Christian obviously was not paying attention/didn’t care (which is another disturbing aspect of this story).

Ana is not only a virgin but also asexual, having manifested no sexual desire before meeting Christian and exhibiting very little desire even after that. She has never masturnated. Even after being spanked she does not experience the spanking in a sexual way (either positively or negatively).

This asexuality is in direct contradistinction to Christian’s hypersexuality and extreme fetishes (no, I don’t think he is either of those – nor would I use ‘hypersexual’ on anyone who hasn’t been clinically diagnosed with nymphomania) but this is how James is presenting Christian. This contadistinction is just the double standard made more obvious and extreme.

Ana’s submissiveness and low self-esteem are portrayed as meaning that she is a natural submissive; similarly, Christian’s billionaire alpha male status mean that of course he is the dom. This stigmatises BDSM and is actually completely false. Sexual kinks and proclivities have no bearing on reality. Gays aren’t all effeminate, are they? Lesbians aren’t all butch, and cross-dressers only cross-dress sometimes. Transgender people can be gay or straight. ‘Tomboy’ girls and sensitive boys don’t grow up to be gay.(As a child I wore boys’ clothes/shoes and refused to wear skirts, dresses or play with Barbie dolls. A family ‘friend’ told my mother I was “a homosexual”.Now I love style and am so feminine that I’m prostituting myself; I love sex and men.)There aren’t any rules. If anything, powerful individuals are more likely to be subs because it’s relaxing for them.

Ana expresses disappointment that she was not raped while asleep by Christian, and questions her attractiveness because of this.

Ana is one-dimensional, superficial, whiny, has low-self esteem, lets herself be abused, has no confidence, possesses a very conservative view of sex, is sexually repressed, doesn’t know how to use the internet, and is stupid. (All unrealistic traits in a young educated American woman).

Female drinking and partying is presented as dangerous, with Ana being sick and having to be rescued by Christian and taken to a hotel

Christian exhibits the traits of a stalker and is overprotective; he buys her a new car because her old one is potentially dangerous (how? Are all poor peoples’ cars dangerous?) and takes her to a hotel when she is drunk instead of just taking her home. Also, he didn’t have to trace her call; she was just feeling sick from drinking too much, hasn’t that happened to nearly every 21 year old student? However, it is portrayed as deviant.

Christian’s character-specific skills are evident at all times (dominance, confidence, clear goals, persuasiveness, taking the initiative both in the bedroom and out of it, etc). As is the money that his skills got him. However, despite having a degree  in English Literature, a part-time job, a possible insight into journalism through her friend Kate’s involvement with the student paper, as well as interviewing Christian, Ana’s skills and experience are never evident. She doesn’t even have any hobbies apart from reading classics (i.e. a hobby synonymous with her studies) or any goals, career plans or interests. Her CV must be pretty short.

Not only is Ana asexual, she has no actual goals or wishes for her relationship with Christian. She just does whatever he says

She is stupid enough to believe that a contract binding her to be a BDSM sex slave would be legally binding in the United States of America in 2011/2012

There is no sex for about half the book. This is not porn. It is not even erotica. If I was buying erotica (which I did, but it was far too mild so I didn’t like it much) I would not expect to read over 200 pages to get to the first sex scene. I’ll bet most Romance genre novels are more erotic than 50 Shades; after all, no self-respecting woman in 2012 is going to read romance novels that end ‘so we finally held hands AND kissed, AT THE SAME TIME! Phwooarr!!!! And rode off into the sunset.The End.’

There is no explanation given for Ana’s sex-repression or willingness to be raped while unconscious/asleep. It’s presented as the right way to think. Given that teens are reading it (it’s socially-acceptable porn, they can read it in school, of course they’re reading it) this is actually very harmful to society.

The message of these two things is that it is acceptable for men (even educated business professionals) to be so bestialy hypersexual that they cannot wait till the morning or even 1 second to wake up a woman and ask if she would like to have sex, but instead have to rape her while she is asleep, like a dog. However, it is totally unacceptable for a woman to want to have consensual protected sex with a hot billionaire in a potentially-committed relationship at above the average age of losing virginity.

Rape is portrayed as totally acceptable and to be expected if you are a female who gets drunk with her friends. (You’d deserve it, because girls shouldn’t drink. That was reckless and wild. Only boys get drunk.)

The lowest, most cowardly form of rape (raping the victim while they are drunkenly asleep so they’ll never know and you won’t be jailed; if they get pregnant they’ll never figure out how it happened or maybe not find out in time to get an abortion) is totally acceptable.

Ana’s reaction to suspecting that she has been raped (which in itself is paranoia) and subsequent reaction to not being raped is very stigmatising of rape victims and survivors. It suggests that they may have wanted it or not cared very much that they were raped.

Linking being a Dom and being a potential rapist is a misrepresentation of kinky individuals

The ridiculously large gap between the protagonists’ incomes/wealth is hardly conducive to feminism (or realistic)

The unswitchability and extremeness of the maledom and femsub roles is antifeminist; they could have been a malesub and domme which would be statistically more probable for a billionaire. Or one or both could be a switch.

Christian uses more pressure on Ana to get her to sign the contract than the average person would be comfortable with

Contracts aren’t often used by the BDSM community and contracts lasting as long as three months are rare. James has chosen the most ‘extreme’ example of BDSM (the Master/slave relationship) as opposed to much more common forms of BDSM like DD, being switches, doing it for fun, spanking as foreplay, or just doing it for fun sometimes to spice up a vanilla sex life (the most common form). And of course every nuance in between. (Should that be ‘every shade in between’? Ha, ha ha [despairing laugh]). By choosing this extreme form, James has rendered BDSM less acceptable to vanilla people and more scary, as they will assume that everyone who likes spanking is in a Christian/Ana relationship. Woop de doo.

Now, you can’t get any more anti-sex, anti-feminist and anti-kink than 50 Shades.

Excerpt from online conversation:

Me: 50 Shades of Grey is a conservative patriarchal fantasy. It may have been written as the poster child of sexual freedom. It may be being read as the promise of liberation. But it isn’t. It is antifeminist, slut-shaming, and stigmatises kinky people. The fact that lots of women ended up so sheltered that it took this badly-written travesty to make us explore our sexuality just shows how repressive and sex-negative our society really is.

David:There’s nothing sexually free about it. The main character feels guilty for having sex, and for wanting sex, and that’s presented as a good thing; the way to be. Also, I hate the way they try to justify the main male character enjoying BDSM- it’s the result of severe childhood abuse, as opposed  just liking it. Urgh the trilogy is disgusting.

Me:omfg – TOTALLY. And she judges her flatmate too for sleeping with Elliot. The whole juxtaposition of virginal, vanilla Ana (who, unbelievably, seems practically to have never heard of BDSM) with Christian who’s such a slut that he’s never stayed the night with a girl, is very radically-conservative. (i say ‘slut’ ironically; i don’t believe in the concept of ‘slut’ – its just a patriarchal device to control women). Anyways, female drinking/partying is also degraded in the book, as is female sexual agency. Ana is economically dependent. Obv E L James has never tried BDSM, the descriptions are very unrealistic and OTT. And yeah, its verystigmatising, like all BDSM-ers were abused. Lots of abused ppl are into vanilla, maybe NOT liking BDSM is a result of abuse, James? And when she wakes up in the hotel room and is all, ‘why didn’t Christian rape me while I slept? I mustn’t be pretty enough for him’ is very disturbing.

Susan: Or maybe it’s just a book? That doesn’t have to have hidden antifeminist agendas? Maybe just a mediocre but slightly entertaining read? Just saying.

Me: Yeah I hear u, and I’m not saying it has a deliberate antifeminist ‘agenda’ – if anything, I think it was written to be sexy. What I’m annoyed about is that absolutely everyone thinks the book is feminist and helping to give us sexual freedom but it’s not. I can’t get away from hearing about how wonderful and freeing it is, whether its on Facebook or the media or just friends.And women being like ‘oh I never dared to try spanking until I read this book and found out I wasn’t a deviant’ and ‘this book gave me the courage to finally explore my sexuality and tell my hubby what turns me on at age 48’ is sad.

David: @Susan:- Even if it isn’t deliberate, it’s still ingrained. Also if you look up the author, especially taking a read of her Twitter, you’ll see she’s very set with gender roles and Man is Provider, Woman is Nurturer. Which isn’t exactly someone who makes for a great representative of sexual freedom. Also, remember it started life off as Twilight fanfiction. The only difference is the names were changed for publication. Twilight is a metaphor for no sex before marriage, being a subm issive wife before anything else (like being independent, going to college etc) and not having an abortion, no matter how much danger you put yourself in. All written by a devout Mormon.

Emma: A Brigham Young University graduate friend of mine described ‘Twilight’ as ‘Mormon porn’. There’s something in that, I suspect 🙂

Me: Isn’t it interesting how all the teen-aimed billion-pound movie/book franchises of the last decade have dealt with abstinence themes? Even Harry Potter hints at minimal sexual contact in the teen/young adult years and the characters end up married to their teenage boyfriends/girlfriends – Ron marries Hermione and Harry marries Ginny. And 50 Shades has a ‘wait until hot rich traditional gender-role guy’ as its moral. The franhises that were not abstinence themed (I Am number Four, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Hunger Games, LOTR etc) were either not aimed specifically at teens or aimed at teen boys. Whereas Twilight and 50 shades are aimed at women, and Harry Potter was aimed at teens of both genders.Vampires, witches and kinky sex are being tamed down and re-packaged in an abstinence-themed context for teenage girls and young women (judging by the characters’ ages, James probably intended to appeal to young women; it is the media who subsequently dubbed it ‘mommy porn’).

Emma: The Hunger Games is a genuine kids’ book, written by a classicist. Pretty much all of it is lifted from ancient Rome, one writer in particular. It’s well done, but the very different morality had to be dealt with carefully, and Collins does that. She can also write exceptionally well (as can Rowling). The trilogy is well worth a read. I don’t plan to read this 50 Shades book, not because I disapprove (I really don’t care what other people read; I’d rather they read than burn down their local Poundland or whatever), but because if I wish to read smut, I have my trusty classics major in hand 🙂

Calling all parents, teachers, social workers and psychologists: Where swere you when the female children under your care were going through puberty and adolescence? How could you let us get so repressed that 50 Shades is our sexual awakening?
 

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Single mums: the government, the law and the media hate you. GET MARRIED!!

Stigmatisation of lone mothers can be broken down into three basic forms: political/governmental, media, and academic/professional. Since the early 1990s the media have been fuelling discrimination and stigmatization of lone mothers as promiscuous, irresponsible and in poverty (Lewis 1998:7; Roseneil and Mann 1996). In the UK, the lone mother discourse is often confused with the teenage pregnancy discourse with myths about increasing rates of teenage pregnancy and most lone mothers being teenagers disseminated by both the media and politicians[1]; in fact teenage pregnancy has been steadily declining since the 1970s (Rowlingson and Mackay 2002:9) and only 3% of lone mothers are teenagers[2].The problem of academic/professional stigmatisation is less widely known; an example is Murray (1993) who described lone mothers as creators of the ‘underclass’; such theories have been discredited (Ellwood and Bane 1985; Garfinkel and McLanahan 1986; Bane and Jargowsky 1988.) The right wing think-tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs, deliberately published several books demonising lone mothers[3]. Discourses around lone motherhood frequently define lone mothers in problematic terms (Duncan and Edwards 1999; Foucalt 1972; Mann and Roseneil 1994), such as a ‘social problem’, a theme which occurs in a range of professional literature  (Popay, Rimmer and Rossitter 1983:23).  So far, we have looked at media stigmatization which led to the political and governmental discrimination against lone mothers. But the attitudes of ‘the system’ affect lone mothers on a much more personal level than government or media attitudes.

Duncan and Edwards (1997) have documented the way in which the competing discourses around lone motherhood frequently define lone mothers in problematic terms, such as a ‘social problem’ or ‘social threat’. Social workers may be influenced by these discourses as well as by discriminatory governmental or local council policies into believing single mothers are a problem

Vicki Harman’s article on how social workers deal with white single mothers of mixed race children reveals that the social workers involved interfered in single mothers’ lives unnecessarily and did not stop when they were repeatedly asked to leave the family alone. Harman warns against negative views of white lone mothers and highlights a need for social services to be more aware of social disapproval directed at white lone mothers of mixed children; she advocates training on discrimination experienced by lone white mothers. In another article, Harman claims that the presence of a mixed race child is seen as a symbol of sexual promiscuity – an assumption directed at lone mothers even more keenly, and resulting in women seeing them as a threat that they may ‘steal’ their partner. This resulted in withdrawal by the lone mothers from social networks.

Political/governmental stigmatisation is fuelled by, and in turn perpetuates, media stigmatisation. An example of political stigmatisation is the fact that the then UK Home Secretary suggested that [lone] unmarried mothers should give up their children for adoption[4].Lone mother families are not always seen as families. The Irish Constitution Art 41.2 states: “The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.” This appears to be beneficial to lone mother families as family is highly valued. However Art 41.3.1 makes a clear political statement that lone mothers (and several other family forms) are non-families and it is the legal bond of marriage which separates the family that is to be protected from the family that is to be combatted: “The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which Family is founded and to protect it against attack [emphasis mine].”  Various forms of EU Member State governmental and local authority discrimination have been documented (Rowlingson and McKay 2002:92, Polakow, Halskov and Jorgensen 2001; Sinfeld 1994).

Some EU Member States openly favour the couple family and are trying to reduce the number of lone mother families, especially those headed by young lone mothers, which is a type of social engineering (Solinger 2000). The political, media and academic stigmatisation results in stigmatising social attitudes towards lone parents in the community and wider society (O’Higgins 1974, Darling 1984; Maraden 1973; May 2011). Furthermore, the stigma had devastating consequences in the case of Birmingham CC v H [1994], where a 16 year old lone mother was denied all future contact with her baby, a decision which according to Jackson[5] breached Art 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK became a party to in 1991. Jackson claims that the court were only able to reach such a decision because of the demonization of lone mothers in the media and political discourse.

A similar discrimination is found inthe Irish case of Flynn v Power[6] in which the fact that Ireland’s Employment Equality Act 1998 (S37) allows educational institutions to give more favourable treatment to an employee to protect the ethos of the institution meant that it was held that being an unmarried mother constituted a justified reason for immediate dismissal upon knowledge of the pregnancy.

Political Empowerment

In the run-up to the last UK General Election, the NGO Gingerbread launched a campaign, Let’s Lose the Labels, against stigmatisation of lone parents. 119 politicians including David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown signed Gingerbread’s pledge to “tackle prejudice against single parents”[7]. The German NGO, Association of Single Mothers and Fathers, initiated the campaign “Help! I am being helped” against all three types of stigmatisation which I identified above[8]. It also questions the presentation of all lone parents as a homogenous group (a point raised by Roll in the 1992 Report to the EU Commission.) Maybe it’d be a good idea for lone mothers, their children and their children’s fathers to take to the streets, similarly to SlutWalk and Take Back the Night, but with an emphasis on family as well as women. Because by stigmatising and causing prehudice against single mothers, the haters are destroying families and emotionally abusing children.

Even the words we use to describe lone mothers’ families are prejudicial:

Broken home. Broken family. Single-parent family (an assumption that parents should be partnered). “She’s on her own” (how ‘on your own’ can you be with a child?).

These families aren’t “broken”. Broken implies a need to be fixed, or a ‘partner-present’ norm that has been violated, or a loss.

I can’t conclude this. How do you conclude a blog post on a blog hardly anyone knows about, on an issue nobody cares about or even acknowledges exists? I look at the objectives of feminism and I don’t see a lot of hope, and I look at stigmatisation of lone mothers and I see very little hope. Even feminists haven’t picked up on this as an issue, because of the overwhelming number of issues that need to be dealt with. All I know is, stigma of lone mothers, sex activism, rape culture and the American abstinence/virginity culture are all linked and bound up together. This should mean that if we defeat one of these things, the rest will weaken. But, eventually, we will not only weaken them. We’ll get rid of them all.

 

 

 

[1] Lister, Ruth Back to the family: Family policies and politics under the Major government in Helen Jones and Jane Millar The Politics of the Family Avebury UK 1996 11-31

[1] Mary McIntosh social anxieties about lone motherhood and ideologies of the family: two sides of the same coin in Good Enough Mothering? Feminist perspectives on lone motherhood edited by Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva Routledge 2003 UK 148-156

[1] Jones, Helen and Millar, Jane Introduction in The Politics of the Family edited by Helen Jones and Jane Millar Avebury UK 1996 1-10

[1] Michael Howard, quoted in the Daily Express (7 October 1993)

[1] Jackson, Emily. 1997. The child mother. In Family law and family policy in the new Europe, ed. Jacek Kurczewski and Mavis Maclean, 43–56. Aldershot: Dartmouth

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[8] Information for Single-parent families (No. 3 2010).

 
 

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“Yay abortion”: complexities of the pro-choice stance, pro-life welfare queens and Tam Lin

‘Pro-choice’ tends to be used as an umbrella term to cover absolutely anyone who isn’t an anti-abortion activist. But within this position there are widely differing stances.

1. There is seeing abortion as a necessary evil (I fall into this category)

2. There is being against abortion (pro-life) but not interfering in others’ lives by making it illegal for all women to have one

3. There is ‘true’ pro-choice, i.e. believing everyone should have an abortion whenever they want it

As well as every nuance in between! And to complicate things further, some pro-choice people are opposed to abortion after the first trimester, or four, six, or however many months, no matter whether they are in positions 1, 2 or 3.

And just to make things even more complex, people may be position 1 for certain situations and other positions for different situations. Take me, for example. Overall, I’m position 1. But I see abortion in regards to teenage pregnancy as a mixed blessing, because teens having abortions only reinforces the idea that they shouldn’t be having children or are too stupid/immature/irresponsible to have children. Also, a lot of teens abort because they have been indoctrinated into believing teenage parenthood is a ‘bad’ thing, a social evil, or that it will affect them going to university (it won’t. I know parents who are at university. You get extra student loans and grants if you have a child as well as benefits and child tax credit.) So, I am more towards being opposed to abortion regarding teenage pregnancy.

So being pro-choice means different things to different people. Some, like me, may actually agree with the pro-life arguments. The only argument the pro-lifers seem able to come up with is that abortion is killing, an argument that amazingly has managed to survive in the U.S., probably because abortion was finally achieved through a Su[preme Court decisin (Roe v Wade) and not a law passed by elected officials, which means it may have been harder for Americans to accept, and also easier to challenge.  Anyway, ridiculous as the argument obviously is – not even counting the fact that it is tied to religion, and only one religion at that – I do accept it. Abortion is killing, because not only does life start at conception, but the egg and sperm were alive prior to conception. And so what if it is killing? We kill plants, ants, slugs and spiders, and (with the exception of plants) they can feel pain, and are much bigger and more developed than a zygote or early-stage embryo. We kill other living cells in our own bodies when we wax our legs, get a nose job or scrape our knees. So yeah, abortion is killing, as is scraping your knee. Of course, the potentiality for growth is the diference between a zygote and another cell, which is why I think of abortion as a necessary evil instead of something to be celebrated.

However, the pro-lifers really confuse me with their activism. I know people who are 100% against abortion, but they’d never dream of trying to interfere with someone else’s life. If you’re against murder, don’t murder. If you’re against abortion, don’t have one. Even if you’re a welfare mom with six kids because you won’t abort, I will pay taxes for your kids out of respect for your beliefs and your right not to have an abortion. If your baby will be born a junkie, you have the right not to have an abortion. I don’t care how much of a burden on the state your kids will be. I don’t care if you are too doped up to use contraception and so you have twenty kids. If you’re against it, nobody can force it on you.

So why the activism? Why the intervention in others’ lives and the destruction of their freedom and right? All you have to do is not have an abortion if you are pregnant.

Weirdly enough, those who are most against teenage pregnancy are also against abortion, which is illogical. If you are against teenage pregnancy, you should be promoting abortion. (Not that I’m personally in favour of either encouraging ordiscouraging abortion, adoption or keeping the baby – it’s the woman’s choice and nobody else can make that choice because only she understands her own situation and what it feels like being her.)

Another odd fact about abortion is that the right-wingers constantly reinforce the idea that abortion is a new phenomenon brought on by the permissiveness of the 1960’s/the women’s movement/the liberals/secular society/the devil. Actually, abortion is thousands of years old, if not hundreds of thousands. It has variously been permitted and regulated throughut the ages from the Babylonians to the Romans and every other age – even the Victorians had illegal abortions. In ancient China herbs were taken to abort. In the old Scottish ballad Tam Lin, the protagonist is told by her mother to have an abortion by eating a leaf from a certain type of tree, but Tam Lin (the father of the baby) stops her, asking her instead to win him from the Faery Queen so he can live with her and “be your bairn’s father”. The woman agrees, meaning that she actually wanted her baby but only sought abortion out of not wanting to be a single parent, a situation which remains much the same in Scotland today where lone mothers are also stigmatised.

The stigma against lone mothers perpetuated by the right wingers will only lead to more abortions, which they also hate for some reason. Again, this is another illogical move.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Feminism, Literature

 

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