delve a little deeper....
In the last 15 or 20 years, I've watched the British press simply go to hell. There seems to be no limit, no depths to which the tabloids won't sink. I don't know who these people are but they're little pigs.
John le Carre
Way before Le Carre's time Marie Antoinette was the subject of a campaign of vilification that took place from the time she ascended the throne as Queen of France in 1774. This carried on throughout her reign until her death at the hands of the revolution in 1793. Much of the reason she was so unpopular was due to the tabloids of the day; crude pamphlets that were circulated at court, in Paris and then later more widely throughout France.
Marie Antoinette was painted as extravagant, frivolous, arrogant and callous to the sufferings of her people. Whilst there is evidence of her extravagance, she was hardly single handedly responsible for the decline of France's fortunes! Not only that, she was also reported to be a bi-sexual nymphomaniac, rapacious in her lusts for men and women, forever cuckolding her husband King Louis XVI.
They even had illustrations depicting her liaisons dangereuses...
But how much has changed? The power that these pamphlets had in forming the views of society has continued through to today. The pamphleteers of the 18th century could make up stories, use unsubstantiated rumours and use images drawn by someone's imagination. These days our tabloids are no less vicious, but have modern technology to help them get the dirt and to satisfy the public need for evidence so rather than drawings we get to pour over photo and film.
Last week the trial of Tulisa Contostavlos for supplying drugs collapsed when the judge threw it out based on lies that had been told by the prosecution witness Mazher Mahmood. Full BBC report here if you're not up to date.
Tulisa was set up by Mahmood a Sun on Sunday journalist who posed as a film producer who wanted her to appear in a Hollywood film starring Leonado DiCaprio. It was an elaborate scam that including flying her to Vegas, meetings in smart hotels with the lure of fame, fortune and the acting career she has dreamed of. Incidentally Mahmood is also known as the fake Sheikh who gets his headlines from sneaky manipulation, hidden filming, flattery and a lot of elaborate lies. He has set up Sophie Wessex, Sarah Ferguson, Sven Goran Ericksson, although met his match with George Galloway.
But why Tulisa and for what ends? She might not be the most famous or talented person in the world but she did OK with her band N-Dubz winning a MOBO and releasing two platinum and one gold album. Despite this Simon Cowell was critisised heavily when he gave her the role of a judge on The X Factor. Tulisa baiting continued and reached a peak when a tape of her giving an ex boyfriend a blow job was leaked. The tabloids and internet gossip sites had a field day and the nation could unite in believing this was the proof she was just a common chav and a slut. Because of course only a certain sort of woman gives blow jobs, let alone lets her boyfriend film it...
Tabloids survive by feeding the masses salacious stories centred on young women and their sex lives. It's no difference to how the young, naive Marie Antoinette was viciously and continuously critisied, lied about and mocked, much of it based on her sexuality and sexual behaviour both real and made up. The printed press still continue to act as our moral guardians and perpetually prod the fires of outrage and shock. You'd think 200 odd years on from Marie Antoinette's death society would be a little less taken in by sex scandals and that we might have grown up enough to accept people have sex. Haven't we realised that sometimes people have lots of sex with lots of different people and sometimes they even have sex with more than one person at a time or have weird sex you can't even read about in Cosmopolitan magazine? No.
Tulisa isn't the only one by a long shot. Abi Titmuss was shot into the spotlight when her then boyfriend John Leslie was accused of raping Ulrika Jonsson a TV weather girl and presenter who incidentally received much critisism for daring to be married three times and having four children by four different men (the slut) as well as having an affair with Sven Goran Eriksson (double slut!)
Titmuss was forced to leave her nursing job because of tabloid attention and ended up making a career of being a glamour girl. She has since said she regretted it but felt at the time she couldn't continue as a nurse and needed to make a living somehow. She was subjected to the humiliation of the release of a sex tape showing her having a threesome with John Leslie and another woman. in 2012 she said I was devastated by the violation. It affected me very badly. I guess there was something accessible about me.”
Both Abi Titmuss and Ulrika Jonsson appeared at the Leveson Inquiry with regards to their phones being hacked. Actress Sienna Miller and singer Charlotte Church also appeared. Miller had her phone hacked in relation to her affair with Daniel Craig.
At the Inquiry Church said her overnight success as the ‘Voice of an Angel’ when she was just 11 had warped her childhood and meant she was hunted by paparazzi for years, with newspapers determined to portray her as a ‘fallen angel’.
It's easy enough to conclude that sex sells and that if society wasn't so obsessed with the miniature details of the rich and famous and with even the less rich and not quite famous then the papers would cease to exist. It is easy for a journalist (I use that term loosely) to maintain that the public should be told when a whiter than white celebrity is indulging in an extramarital affair or dabbling in class A's.
But what of Tulisa? Her case clearly showed that she was manipulated and lied to and was lead by a shiny Oscar shaped carrot to agree to supply drugs to the fake film producer. She was daft to arrange it but if you watch the recent documentary Tulisa: The Price of Fame you'll see how she fell for it, how she bigged herself up and acted in a way she thought they wanted to see to secure the pretend film role. But why? Why on earth would anyone sit down and plan a ludicrously expensive operation purely to bring someone down? To potentially get them sent to prison. Whatever you think of her she didn't deserve that and was it just to sell papers or just so the media hacks can wield their puppet strings to dictate who the public should love or hate?
I never managed to comprehend why I was outed back in 2011. I'm not famous, not on anyone's radar nor particularly interesting or glamorous. I actually don't know why I was chosen to be picked upon other than a bloke I had a brief fling with and didn't like it when I ended it apparently told his hack mate about me. At the time when he texted me to tell me this (among a myriad of other threats) I laughed because it seemed so ludicrous.
As it happened they waited a couple of months and after firstly telling my employer about by dalliance on adultwork (Written about here if you're interested) I had a visit from a journo who had heard I had resigned from my job. This was a couple of hours after I had resigned. I hadn't told anyone, all I had done was call HR and then write an email confirming my resignation. I also blogged a one liner stating I had resigned from my job. The blog was friends only. I am in no doubt that noone who followed me gave the journalist access. The bitter ex fling didn't know any passwords and never could have guessed. I never knew how they got their information. One can only assume something was hacked. And even now, I find that notion ridiculous.
Anyway, to cut a long story short (and I'm not sure I can even write about that period in detail without getting upset) I was outed in The Sun. I don't want to reveal too much about the article, but it wasn't very complimentary. It wasn't filled with much actual truth and it was incredibly damaging to my career and personal relationships.
I kind of related to Abi Titmuss (yes, I am slightly ashamed of writing that) when I read her book because I felt that same sense of shame, despite being quite happy with my own body and sexuality, it's horrible to have intimate images spread across the paper without your consent. It's horrible to read in print someone calling you a tart or a slapper and know your family, friends, colleagues and potential future employers or partners could read this about you.
The irony being it forced me into sex work full time, not dissimilar to Abi going down the glamour model route I suppose because at the end of the day we all have to eat and once that slut mark has been stamped on you it's not easy to go back.
What was the point in what that journalist did to me? I definitely was not news or public interest and only served to damage my life and upset plenty of other people in the process. What was the point in what Mahmood did to Tulisa other than just to be really fucking nasty and fill a few column inches.
I've written before about sex workers and the tabloids, but by the same token the outing of sex workers and the revelations about the private lives of women all comes down to 'slut shaming' and a total disregard for someone's privacy. These articles perpetuate the ideology that women should be chaste, monogamous and traditional in their sex lives. If we haven't reached the 21st century without this changing what chance is there of it ever changing?
The Leveson Inquiry has changed nothing.
We started with one royal woman so we shall end with another more modern one.
"....This is not a time for recriminations but for sadness. However I would say that I always believed the press would kill her in the end. But not even I could imagine that they would take such a direct hand in her death as seems to be the case.
It would appear that every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy, ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana's image has blood on his hands today."
Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer
Ok, this is going to sound full of snark, but if it stops just one moron from ringing me up then I am happy! :)
Things clients say that won't get you a booking with me:
Crime: Overuse of terms of endearments
Likely to say: "Hello darling, how are you my darling? I'd like to see you today darling, when can I see you darling?"
Why it offends me: It's annoying, I am not your darling and if you annoy me in the first 3 seconds of a phone call I'm not going to tolerate an hour with you.
What you will be saved in my phone as: DNS (Do not see)
Crime: Asking a million questions
Likely to say: "Where are you? how old are you? Can you tell me what you look like? How much is it?"
Why it offends me: If you don't know these things about me, why have you decided to call me and if you tell me your mate gave you my number then I shall tell you to bloody ask him what I look like!
What you will be saved in my phone as: DNS (Do not see)
Crime: Getting off for free
Likely to say: How big are your breasts, are they full? Do your nipples get hard? Are you shaved? What will you wear for me? Are you horny?
Why it offends me: I can hear you wanking!
What you will be saved in my phone as: Phone Wanker
Crime: Boundary Pushing
Likely to say: Do you do anal/bareback/other service I don't offer? Oh but I'm small/clean/nice, I'm sure we'll get on really well, when you meet me you'll see I'm a gentleman...
Why it offends me: Just NO!
What you will be saved in my phone as: TWAT
Crime: Having a vivid imagination
Likely to say: My wife and I want to have a threesome. Now let me tell you a really long winded scenario about how I'd like the booking to happen. Oh, she is out at the moment, I'll get her to call you later.
Why it offends me: Your wife knows nothing of this you lying cunt!
What you will be saved in my phone as: TW (Timewaster)
Crime: Owning an enormous penis
Likely to say: I've got 10 inches can you take that much? I'm going to send you a photo! Are you sure you can take it? I've got good girth too!
Why it offends me: You've got a 4 inch winkle and you're never ever going to actually show up.
What you will be saved in my phone as: Cockwomble
Crime: Being Scary
Likely to say: Can we do a rape scenario? Can I tie you up and spit in your face? Can I take you dogging?
Why it offends me: No respect for my safety and security concerns, also I've never met you before!
What you will be saved in my phone as: DNS (Do not see)
Other things that make me be booked up for the next six months
1. What time are you open til?
2. What's your postcode? (as an opening line)
3. What girls have you got available? (Um Lydia, Lydia or Lydia)
4. Can I come now, I'm two minutes away. (when you don't know where I live and you haven't even said hello)
5. Can my mate come too?
6. Anything in an accent I can't understand.
7. If you're calling me when I can hear kids nearby (It weirds me out)
8. Would you fuck my dog for a grand (Yes, it happened)
9. I want you to pull my mate but not let him know I've paid you.
10. I want to meet you in a pub/in public (When I don't know them at all)
Am I too cynical?!
This month I spent some time ranting about The All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade (APPG) are launching an inquiry to assess the current UK legal settlement surrounding prostitution. They wish to identify how legislation to tackle demand could safeguard those in danger of sexual exploitation and abuse. I wrote about the issues that concerned me regarding the APPG in this blog and urged people to respond to the questionnaire. In fact I was so determined to get people to take note and respond I blogged a helpful breakdown of the questions, along with my answers.
Incidentally, the responses for this survey are due to be released in January 2014, so that'll be interesting.... watch this space.
I also had a photoshoot in January. Here is one of the photos:
Consisted of me both plugging my March tour to Reading and trying to convince people to romance me on Valentines day. Both failed miserably :(
I also wrote my first blog on my struggle with feminism and how I found it hard to relate to. As someone who of course believes in the equal rights of women, I found it hard to discover that many other women only want equal rights for a certain sort of women (ie. Not sex workers, the working class or anyone who they disapprove of) and that radical feminism has hateful views on sex work, transgender issues and all men.
The Easter Bunny with One Ear was one of my favourite stories I shared with you this year! The saga rumbled on into May too where I wrote about it again. I never did get a refund!
Other than being the oldest bunny in town I wrote a lot in March! Joan Smith pissed me off, I worried about Talking Dirty and I got pissed off again, this time with Melissa Farley and was inspired to write Why I made The Choice to become a prostitute by Brooke Magnanti who had written about Farley.
With April's showers came a long piece on porn, this took for-fucking-ever to write so you can read it again- it's a bit about the history of porn and inspired by me getting fed up with men who learn about sex from porn and therefore don't know how to do it properly!
I also dabbled in satire after Samantha Brick annoyed the entire nation yet again by announcing she was so beautiful other women hated her...
Finally, probably one of the hardest stories to write, but also one I am proud of being allowed to tell. It also highlighted the appalling rape conviction statistics and the Merseyside model in relation to Police attitudes to sex workers.
The Minxipedia was born!
AND I started a Twitter Storm!
Go May !
Oh, and then I got all angsty about feminism again!
Another tough blog- I wrote, for the first time about when I was outed at work. A hard one to write but something that a lot of people wrote to me and tweeted about which was lovely.
However, I also got slagged off by Mumsnet (I'm sure I need a T shirt for that) and in terrific news there was Victory for Scottish Sex Workers.
Part Two coming up tomorrow!
It's kind of ironic that last night I was literally round the corner from Soho having been to see Miranda Kane and her Coin Operated Girl show. A comedy performance of a former escort aiming to dispel some of the myths that sex workers are unhappy, forced, trafficked drug addicts *insert media stereotype of choice*. It's hilarious and brilliant by the way.
Completely unaware what was going on in Soho I went home to discover via Twitter that the police had been making raids on 25 flats of sex workers, three sex shops and two lap dancing clubs. This morning's media is awash with stories of crime, trafficking and forced prostitution. The angle is all about 'cleaning up' Soho and rescuing women. I am not naive enough to think that Soho is squeaky clean, I am pretty positive that there are criminal elements in Soho, however sex work is not one of them and the treatment of the women caught up in the raids is appalling and barbaric:
I just feel feel very angry, sad and helpless.
There is some irony that having published a guest blog earlier today from a lovely client that I then read THIS from The Independent by Mary Honeyball, a Labour MEP for London. Said article informs me that actually, my clients are committing violence against me and she is in favour of the Swedish Model.
Yes the Swedish Model which criminalises clients, but not the sex worker (except she uses the term prostitute, natch) which is well documented as dangerous, ineffective and stupid and of no help to sex workers whether they choose to be in the industry or not.
Soooo much has been written regarding the Swedish Model and attempts by other countries to introduce similar models or the criminalisation of clients including me, but far better by Dr Brooke Magnanti- here, Laura Lee here, here by the International Prostitutes Collective, here by Feminist Ire and here is a paper that explains why The Swedish Model has failed. A small drop in the ocean of blogs, newspaper articles and academic papers on the subject.
I read such articles as the one mentioned in my first paragraph and feel angry, ranty and sad. They make me want to shout, I feel frustration, I feel confused why sex workers are not listened to by these people who think they know better what sex workers want or need to operate safely.
I have said before but I truly believe the anti brigade operate on the basis of personal preferences (I don't want to have sex with strange men so why should anyone else), a sense of do good-ing blindness (Oh lucky middle class me, let me rescue some poor people) and possibly fear (These filthy women lure our husbands into dirty vices). Or is it just terribly trendy to come out as anti prostitution? (ooh brave old me, tackling such a gritty grimy subject, I'm just like Princess Di hugging those AIDS children) or simply misguided all men are bastards feminism?
I don't know.
I wanted to tackle what Mary Honeyball has said, but it's been said, over and over and over. Crap stats and skewed studies have been discredited, heck Melissa Farley for starters? Joan Smith, who is referenced in the Honeyball piece was laughed at collectively for her little jaunt to Sweden to sit in cop cars as 'research', but forgot to speak to any actual sex workers... then we get ridiculous TV shows where Jodie Marsh is considered a good idea and "hard hitting" expose documentaries about the seedy side of the industry whitewashed as the *entire* sex industry.
Honeyball starts her piece by referring to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women citing rape, domestic violence and genital mutilation as issues that (rightly) need tackling, then goes on to whine that prostitution isn't considered violence against women and that everyone seems to be mildly amused by it because Russell Brand pays for it! Seriously, you think that?! You don't think there is enough anti sex work propaganda about?! Or maybe, just maybe, many people do actually think that plenty of women do enter prostitution freely, do it happily and not under force or pressure. I do hope Smith reads the comments on her piece which are overwhelmingly negative with regards to her words.
Apart from anything, I don't want want crimes of violence against women shoved to one side and yet another debate on prostitution had. Those who are forced into prostitution are not sex workers, they are as much victims (and survivors) as other women subjected to violence.
Further to that, Honeyball says:
I favour the Swedish Model, a middle way which permits selling sex but criminalises buying it.
Can't you hear the clutching of pearls and smug, holier than thou smile? Aren't I clever, I'm not harming the poor women, just the nice, law abiding clients who pay for their services thus their bills and food on the table and shoes on their children's feet.
Not only has it halved street prostitution...
I think you'll find the advent of the internet did that to the industry from about ooh, what 1999?, Oh yes, by coincidence the year the Swedish Model was introduced. Spooky no?
...but it has also successfully stigmatised using the sex trade...
Ahh yes stigma, we all want more stigma don't we? Why don't we start sending unmarried mothers to the country to be hidden away until their baby is adopted or shall we start putting up signs in pub windows saying 'No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish' ? or why don't we sack women who work as escorts because they get outed by the press? (oh, that happens still).
Yes stigma, it's what made Britain great.
Finally, just in case anyone hasn't got this point:
THERE ARE ALREADY LAWS IN PLACE WHICH COVER THE RAPE, ATTACK, ROBBERY, COERCION OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN. WE DON'T NEED SPECIAL ONES FOR SEX WORKERS THAT STOP US DOING OUR JOBS!
This weekend was Nottingham Womans Conference. One of the topics was sex work. They invited no sex work relevant organisations along- at least not ones that were anti criminalisation, made up of current sex workers or those who don't feel sex work is 'bad'. This link from the blog of SWOU (Sex Worker Open University) details the issues many sex workers have with the conference.
Three women from SWOU went along to the conference to try and gain entry to the conference and to try and put across their views. If you read the last two blogs from SWOU you'll see other organisations offered the SWOU women a place but this was refused by the organisers.
It's not my story to tell, but the women from SWOU spent the day talking to people from the car park. Last night Eithne Crow tweeted some of the things said to her:
The woman from POW Nottingham yesterday asked me if I use condoms after ten minutes of discussing my various qualifications.
"What should I do once my clients are criminalised?"
"You'll find something else."
"Sex can't be work, it's too intimate."
Me: "But my physio put her fingers in my vagina last week."
"Yeah but she didn't come."
Me: "Because of my health, and the debts that I have, I can't currently do anything else than sex work."
3 other women: "We think you can."
"Do you get condoms and get yourself tested?" A left-field and exceptionally inappropriate enquiry during unrelated discussion.
People are very keen to tell sex workers they are wrong, to ask invasive questions and what we do isn't work, isn't acceptable and so on.
On Friday these tweets from @allovrr amused me and make a great point:
Good tip: every time you say something with SW in, substitute "postman". If it sounds weird, it's probably wrong/ whorephobic.
"Does your partner mind you're a "postman?" "You can't be a postman forever." "So what do you do other than being a postman?"
Further to that, I got embroiled this morning in a series of satirical tweets reversing the notion of paid for sex and 'free' sex.
The ridiculousness of these statements highlight how annoying and offensive some of the assumptions and questions are to sex workers.
So there you go.
Have a think before you ask sex workers questions or try to save them and how you might be offended if the same thing was asked of you.
Thank you to all those who took part in the #banfreebies hashtag. There are more if you care to look!
"But if you do not heed me and do not keep all these commandments, if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and breaking my covenant, then I, in turn, will give you your deserts. I will punish you with terrible woes--with wasting and fever to dim the eyes and sap the life. You will sow your seed in vain, for your enemies will consume the crop.
I will turn against you, till you are beaten down before your enemies and lorded over by your foes. You will take to flight though no one pursues you.
Bullying has always been around and can be found in any area of the globe or period in history you might choose from. There are individuals and groups that target others with tactics designed to intimidate, coerce or harm them. In some cases bullying is used to maintain social order and ensure that no one acquires too much dominance, status or personal power.
According to psychological sources, bullying is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one. This asymmetry of power may be physical or psychological, and the aggressive behavior may be verbal (eg, name-calling, threats), physical (eg, hitting), or psychological (eg, rumors, shunning/exclusion). The key elements of this definition are that multiple means can be employed by the bully or bullies, intimidation is the goal, and bullying can happen on a one-on-one or group basis (Nansel et al, 2001).
Even animals can pick on each other. Research has shown that among baboons from sub-Saharan Africa groups of related females work together to compete over resources and in doing so regularly gang up on individual females. (Altmann, 1980). It has been observed that some individual rats and mice will repeatedly attack others and steal their food.
The mice that suffered repeated social defeats were more anxious and experienced changes in brain chemistry (Kinsey et al, 2007).
It seems slightly ironic that a week after David Cameron told us that "online pornography is corroding childhood" that the press is now full of stories about internet bullying. Is this the real problem with the internet or has the internet just given us a new outlet for those who wish to intimidate or cause upset to others?
The death of 14 year old Hannah Smith this week who was relentlessly sent abuse via ask.fm has opened up yet another storm about how websites manage cyber bullying, abuse and trolling. Last week it was Twitter under pressure to change how it deals with bullying after campaigner and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez was put under what she described as 'a tidal wave of abuse' with rape and death threats. Threats were also made to MP Stella Creasy and Classicist Mary Beard.
Of course these are three well known people and what they received was a fraction of the abuse, bullying and harrassment found across the internet and poor Hannah Smith is one of many children across the world to have become suicidal over online bullying.
A man has been arrested over threats made to Criado-Perez, but of course the cynic in me wonders whether this was due to the fact she has a public profile (and even more cynically if because she is white, straight, middle class and nice looking).
However, today after the death of Hannah Smith pressure has been put on Ask.fm. Ask is a site that allows people to join and offer anyone who wants to ask questions anonymously- in that they don't have to sign in or provide an email address.
David Cameron has talked about irresponsible websites and asked people to boycott such sites if they don't 'clean up their act'. The Sun described ask.fm as a "suicide site" and said said the men behind ask.fm were "troll kings" on its front page. The irony of The Scum taking the moral high ground here is not lost on me. Several advertisers such as Vodafone, Specsavers, Save the Children and Laura Ashley have also moved to withdraw their adverts.
Following the pressure of Twitter to review their report policy and the frankly pointless 'TwitterSilence' on Sunday spurred on by Caitlin Moran to show some sort of protest (I never did quite get the point) it feels the blame for all ills of society is to be put onto the people who run websites.
Just because a car may run someone over the blame isn't put on car manufacturers? It's not down to them to ensure people either drive safely or not walk in front of a moving car. The onus has to be put on ensuring people drive safely, children are taught their Green cross code and harsh penalties for those who drive dangerously.
Ask.fm has around 8 million accounts and Formspring (a similar site) 29.5 million. Facebook has 1.11 BILLION users and Twitter 140 million users and sees 340 million tweets per day. Whilst all these accounts won't be used that is still a massive number of people to manage.
All these sites have processes to block, delete or report abuse and there are moderators who respond to this. Ask.fm have said they have a team of moderators present "around the clock - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days per year" who manually check all content posted to its site.
Like with the porn issue, parent's need to know what their kids are doing online, children need to be educated. They need to know the consequences of bullying online, the law with regards to making threats and of course how to respond when someone threatens or taunts you. This kind of thing has to start happening now. The internet has grown so fast and changed our lives so quickly, almost too quickly to manage and all of a sudden we find ourselves with 24/7 access to almost anything you could possibly want (or not want) to view and a new, more underhand way to hurt, abuse, insult and goad others.
I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would return to their ask.fm site once bullying started. Of course I'm not critisising Hannah Smith or anyone else who continues to read hate hurled at them or tries to fight back, but a simple lesson in life is that bullies like a reaction- any reaction. Silence bores them. Responding angrily or trying to argue against a viewpoint feeds them. Indeed, you'll often read 'Do Not Feed The Troll!' posted on forums when someone is spilling their venom or posting ridiculous or controversial view points. I think they are right. Responding to someone who is out to cause trouble won't make them stop and think about what they have done or change their views (unless you happen to troll Mary Beard and someone knows their mother!).
I'm not saying everyone should keep quiet about this kind of behaviour. The Twitter Silence day was met with a ShoutBack day by those who felt that being silent was offensive to those who don't get their voices heard often enough, whether it be women, sex workers or trans* women and men. Many see Twitter as a platform where they can be open about their life and experiences and by shutting up plays into the hands of those who don't think certain groups should have a voice. I certainly can attest to that and I do think that whilst there is no point engaging with trolls or hateful people I do think if you have the clout or the support network in place you can make others see what you are subjected to.
Freedom of speech is important though. I can shout pretty loudly about sex work and why I am not more inferior to anyone else and I have a right to do that, and I can do it in a reasoned manner. The person who thinks I should get a proper job or am letting all women down has the same right to make their views heard as me. However, once that crosses the line into personal abuse I'm shutting up. There is no point if you can't have a reasoned debate or exchange of views.
This doesn't help much when it comes to children being bullied on social media though. The answer isn't to limit the internet or reduce the ability to remain anonymous (in sex work circles for example staying anonymous is of paramount).
It's a change in education, it's making sure children (and maybe even adults) know the consequences of bullying, teaching them to stay safe, how to report bullies and where to get support and yes, maybe even teaching them to walk away. I really do believe sometimes silence is the right response. Retaliation only fans the flames of many who bully and abuse online.
There isn't a simple answer though, but screaming at the website owners isn't it either.
"Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema."
"What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war fever and leader worship."
George Orwell, 1984
“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Despite the distraction of the royal sprog arriving at Kate's heirport most people couldn't have failed to have noticed the headlines about David Cameron's porn speech. The speech starts:
"I want to talk about the internet, the impact it’s having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood and how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children and that must be stamped out."
Hmmm, I have two immediate thoughts about this.
1. Tory policy and cuts that plunge people and their children into poverty are more of a direct danger to society and childhood than porn.
2. People should parent their own children. This includes supervising them and educating them about sex.
Cameron goes onto explain that he is highlighting two areas
1. Illegal material
2. Legal material that is being viewed by those who are underage.
He is basically throwing all the responsibility at the UK internet service providers (ISPs) will be putting pornography filters on domestic internet connections. If anyone wishes to access pornographic sites then they have to opt-in with their ISP. So, as a household you will be asked if you want to opt-in to the system. Tricky if you're living with someone who doesn't know about your sneaky knocking one out over a redtube video after s/he has gone to bed. It also means sites like this one and all escort websites, directories and forums such as Punternet will be blocked.
Most ISP currently have filters which you can use to limit content to individual users or devices. For example, you can block adult content on your child's computer or have your own log in on the family PC which allows you to see adult sites. However, with this scheme you will have to contact your ISP to opt in which may well trigger a letter or email confirming this and the person you don't want to know you're doing this may find out!
This isn't the biggest issue by far. The BBC reported that some people discovered that the "family friendly" filters now required on public wi-fi hotspots stopped them reading news articles about government plans to impose pornography filters!
The irony may be amusing but the wider implication of what filters might block is a little ridiculous. 'Adult content' or 'porn' are vague descriptions. When does a photograph become pornographic? Would websites with Michelangelo's David pictured be filtered out on the basis David is stood proud with his lad out? Would Marks and Spencer's lingerie website become pornographic? Is this different visually to an tasteful escort in her scanties?
Of course, the context is blindingly obvious, but we're dealing with computers here. There won't be a group of people sitting about looking at every website and making a decision about it's content. This blog explains beautifully in easy to understand language of why the proposals won't work from a techie standpoint.
The filters that most current ISPs and search engines use are mainly down to certain words. So if switched on you can't get results that contain certain words.
I have done an experiment and turned on my Google SafeSearch.
If I google Minxy Lydia this website comes up top, with the safeSearch on the first hit is my twitter account. Firstly, that's annoying because I want people who have heard of me to find my website and secondly, kind of pointless, because my twitter account has my website address on it!
If I try Escorts in Hounslow then I get told that my search didn't match any documents. uueful if you're stopping a kid from finding whores, but not much use if you're looking to buy a Ford Escort locally, or indeed find a local friendly hooker for your adult self.
If I google Blue Tits (let's say I am doing a project on British birds) Google tells me
"The word "tits" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active" Instead of a useful ornithological website, I get hits regarding the boyband Blue!
Oddly, if I search Cunt I get:
The word "cunt" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active.
Your search - cunt - did not match any documents.
However, if I try the word Cunts then I do get a list- mainly Jarvis Cocker's Cunts are Still Running The World! (Oh how apt!)
More seriously, would children be denied access to sexual education and health websites? Would a teenage girl who didn't want to tell her parent's her boyfriend had raped her not be able to find support because the word 'rape' couldn't be searched for.
Luckily, when I tried to search Rape it did include rape crisis centres, so maybe there is some sophistication in Google's systems. However, when I googled Porn Filters for this with the SafeSearch still on, I got a list of sites about filters and nothing about the current news!
There have been plenty of jokes about Scunthorpe, Arsenal and Oilseed Rape being filtered out which doesn't happen with Google, but who knows what might happen as results of these changes.
Cameron has admitted he doesn't have all the answers- He said in an interview on Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine; "I'm not saying we've thought of everything and there will be many problems down the line as we deal with this, but we're trying to crunch through these problems and work out what you can do and can't do and what companies need to do."
To be frank, he sounded a bit clueless about it all and much of the critisism has been about how this grand plan will actually work and whether tech savvy kids would be able to circumnavigate any filters and blocks in place. There are already loads of sites that tell you how to get around filters.
I have a huge problem with the whole nanny stateness about it all. Of course I don't think children should see explicit pornography, but that is down to the parent's to manage that themselves and deal with sex issues so boys don't grow up thinking that sex is like porn and girls don't grown up thinking they are expected to look and act in a certain way. That's parenting, That's what you sign up for but nor should we have a government that tells us how they want us to raise children or what grown up adults should and shouldn't be able to see.
Which brings me to my next point.
The PM also stated at his speech this week; "We are closing the loophole, making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape."
OK. Rape shouldn't be available as porn for titillation. It seems simple but it isn't.
Rape fantasies are common for women. Nancy Friday wrote in her 1973 book My Secret Garden, "Rape does for a woman's sexual fantasy what the first martini does for her in reality: Both relieve her of responsibility and guilt. . . . She gets him to do what she wants him to do, while seeming to be forced."
There are several fantasies in the book that are, in effect rape and I have read and heard of plenty of other evidence to say that it's something women do think about and something that couples are happy to roleplay together. In addition if you look at some of the more graphic S&M films out there to the uninitiated they look horrific and terrifying, but to many they are a turn on and again, I know many people (men and women) who are excited by bondage, sadism and being forced to do all manner of degrading things. However, it is consensual and people get great pleasure from it. It is not actual rape.
Cameron is talking about making any depiction of rape illegal. This means rape porn which is actually two actors pretending to rape and be raped will become illegal. As far as I am aware actually raping someone and filming it is already illegal so as far as I can tell the government now want to control our sexual fantasies by wrapping it up in a 'think of the children!' cake. I'm unsure whether the law will extend to prose as well as pictures and film.
Does this mean owning a copy of The Accused become against the law? Or does because Jodie Foster won an Oscar for it make this OK? What about A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs, Boys Don't Cry or Thelma and Louise to name a few films that deal with sexual assault. How do you draw the line between rape that is OK and rape that is pornography and therefore not OK?
Why is it down to the government to dictate what we must and must not get off on? If pornography is defined as getting sexual pleasure from it then there are a whole generation of men out there who have just turned their mum's Freemans or Kays catalogues into porn!
Of course what really needs to happen is the problem of those who make, distribute and use images of actual children being abused. This is very different from 'teen porn' which is a totally different kettle of fish. Even the dirtiest websites ensure the actors (actor being a key word) are over 18 and state so on their sites.
The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP) who are affiliated to Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) already exist and surely should be given more resources to do their job, of course their budget has been cut recently as have many local councils who have seen 10% cuts which of course has impacted on Child Protection Services.
Cameron really needs to make up his mind what his priorities are.
It feels kind of selfish to complain about how the potential changes may effect me. I rely on this website, various directories, Adultwork and Punternet to provide me with marketing for business. It's my livelihood, it pays my bills and it's what I enjoy doing. Not to mention the fact that support sites such as SAAFE might be bracketed into the filters. For some, who can choose to opt in to the porn it's OK, but what about women who are controlled and rely on such sites for help and advice. What about people who do this secretly from their parents, partner or housemates. Leaving the decision of what can be viewed to one member of the household is unfair and dangerous.
This whole thing feels like yet another attempt from someone to make the lives of sex workers difficult. I don't think it is directly though.
It could be the start of something more sinister. Is it a path to using the Internet to monitor us more closely, to legitimise spying on us and leading us down a road not too far from the one Mr Orwell visualised in 1949? He might have been 30 years later than predicted, but the more we hear about spying, the treatment of those who whistleblow and the forced poverty that is falling on the 'proles' of the country who knows?
Read THIS. It's long, especially after you've waded through all I have written, but it's food for thought!
References and Further Reading
Full transit of Cameron's speech HereDavid Cameron knows nothing about online porn filters, The Inquirer, by Dave Neal
PM's child-abuse police figures are wrong, says ex-CEOP chief PCPro, by Barry Collins
Family filters won't block 'soft' porn: The Independent by Oliver Wright
Q&A UK filters on legal pornography BBC website.
10 Questions about Cameron's 'War on Porn The New Statesman by Paul Bernal.
Police Federation Fears to Cut online Safety Work BBC Website
Rape Fantasies and Knowing What's Real New Statesman, by Glosswitch
What's Behind Rape Fantasies?, The Village Voice, by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Not directly linked to the porn filter issue but interesting Western governments are 'seriously spying on the internet', says Sir Tim Berners-Lee The Telegraph by Radhika Sanghani
If you wish to sign the petition regarding the filtering of pornography I found this, but haven't looked into it to say whether it's the right one to sign! I expect many will be popping up!
I discovered the other week that I had received traffic to my website via Mumsnet. I had a look on their and did a search but could not find any link to me or this website at all. I thought it was probably something to do with this post which was my response to the Invisible Men Tumblr as I had quoted some thoughts from mumsnetters and linked to their thread about it.
Anyway, I found I had a few more hits whilst looking at my Google Analytics page today so thought I would investigate further and (after some faffing!) found that I was indeed linked on the Mumsnet thread. However, it appears whoever linked me had their post removed and possibly some comments were also removed as there was a swathe of deleted posts just before someone does mention my blog and then towards the end of the thread I am mentioned by name.
I am not inclined to join Mumsnet to give my own response so here is an letter to them. If anyone who is a member does want to link it or cut and paste it to the thread I don't mind.
I have no idea if whoever linked my blog piece on the website The Invisible Men did it because they found it a useful addition to the debate or if they wanted an excuse to be further outraged by it. Interestingly the post that linked it is not there anymore and of course I have no idea why.
I would like to clarify a couple of points.
1) I wrote the blog in an attempt to show that one needs to look further than a few lines of prose to get the whole picture. I also wanted to give my own personal view on reviews.
2) I have never thought that ALL sex work comes from a good place. I am aware my experiences in sex work are largely very positive, but I know not everyone's are. I am as appalled as any human is by abuse and suffering. I am not in denial that everything for all sex workers is hunky dory. Equally, I know not all clients are a respectful as mine.
One of the things that most annoys me is the RAGE against prostitution and the men who pay for sex from people with NO IDEA and those using flawed statistics and parroting from the anti prostitution lobby.
I don't expect everyone to share my opinions, and I can quite easily see why it would be hard for some women to comprehend how I do my job. However, my opinions made from my experiences in the industry and very valid and very real.
I could have joined mumsnet to defend myself, but I am not a mother and I don't feel it's my arena to join. Based on the comments directed at those who are clearly opposed to all forms of prostitution and the insults directed at those who have tried to put across their views there would be no point. These people have made their minds up and nothing I would say would make any difference. Besides I have better things to do with my time!
A new link to my original post has now been put up since I started writing this blog and someone is obviously 'spying' on me because I have been accused of lurking and a link to my twitter feed has been added.
In response to some of the things said about me:
Now she's lurking and insulting people publicly. Really vile. It's unbelievable someone can think like that.
I have a commercial interest in finding out where my website hits are coming from and I was of course intrigued why I was appearing on Mumsnet. Hardly my target audience. Also, who have I insulted? OK on Twitter I said: And no wonder men pay for sex if they are married to moralistic, sex is yucky, narrow minded old bags!
OK, a bit unfair I admit, but yeah, men do pay for sex when they are in a relationship with women who don't give their partners affection, kindness and time. Yes, and sex too, but it might surprise many people that it's not all about sex.
Other than that I have not insulted anyone personally (unlike a couple of Mumsnetters!) or any more than that one tweet shown above.
It's interesting that whenever pro-pimp/punter apologists post something they think exculpates them, they simply demonstrate their revolting beliefs and lack of intelligent thought. They make the case against themselves better than anyone else.
Seriously? My beliefs are revolting? Which ones exactly? Lack of intelligent thought? OK, fine you think that without knowing anything about me! So it's OK for you to insult me but not me you?!
Apparently we are just bitter, ugly and no good in bed. She'll be claiming our husbands all wish they could pay for her services next.
Again, you have no grounds for this accusation. I have never said that. Lying is a particularly unattractive trait sweetie.
It would be of course very easy to insult those who don't agree with me, I could easily say "Ha ha, some of your husbands pay for sex!", but I won't.
I know many many husbands pay for sex and statistically some of those on that thread do have partners who cheat or see escorts. I don't actually condone cheating myself and I think it's a shame so many people are in long term relationships that aren't open and honest enough for intimate issues to be discussed. I don't laugh or sneer at the wives whose husbands I see. I don't feel anything. It's not my place to judge someone else's relationship.
Let me summarise again the point I was trying to make regarding the Invisible Men tumblr. I'll try and be clear so the hard of thinking can comprehend:
Ultimately, many women enjoy sex work. I am not rude about monogamous, sex free relationships so why should anyone feel they can be judgmental about my choices?
I also do not feel I can discuss a job that I have never worked in and pretend that I know just what it is like and how someone doing it must feel. Therefore kindly fuck off with your half baked, inaccurate, mythical fairy tales borne out of your own insecurity and sexual suppression.
Remember the naughty bunny? Well for those who can't be arsed to read the link, in a nutshell I was sent a bunny ear set with only one ear attached to it. I wrote an email complaining about the one eared-i-ness of the bunny ears to the eBay seller. I got nothing in reply and ended up going with the one eared bunny look...The one eared bunny.
The bunny set and posting was only £3.69 so I forgot all about it and the whole one eared bunny thing was quite amusing.
The other day I got an email reminding me I hadn't left any feedback, so I did.
Today, I got sent an email from the seller. It went like this:
My name is Paul Brown, I am the director of BuySend. I was saddened to see the recent poor feedback you left and would like to rectify the situation immediately.
For the inconvenience caused I am willing to refund £10 of your sale price, or alternatively a full refund if your total sale price was lower. If you have already been refunded (for example if your item was out of stock), I am willing to refund you a further £10 via PayPal as compensation.
In return for this, I would be very grateful if you could revise your feedback to a 5 Star Rating so that we can keep our eBay Top Rated Seller badge.
IMPORTANT… THIS REFUND CAN ONLY BE PROCESSED IF YOUR DSR RATINGS ARE CHANGED TO 5 STARS.
I have just sent you a feedback revision request through eBay which will enable you to revise your feedback to a 5 Star Positive Rating. Please reply to this email once done and I will process your refund.
Thank you for your time and understanding,
So, basically they ignore my complaint and request for information regarding sending back the bunny ear set for a refund but all of a sudden I become important because they might lose their Top Rated Seller Badge.
Okaaaaay, so not only to they provide shit products (who the fuck is stupid enough not to notice a bunny ear set only has one ear?!), they don't respond to customer complaints but they STILL don't care about anything other than their Top Rated Seller Badge when they get low rated feedback.
As you may have noted, there was no apology (or even reference) to my actual issue or reasons that I didn't give them good feedback! They want to 'rectify' the situation by sending me a refund (all £3.69 of it!) but ONLY if I give them a 5 star rating!
Is this not a bribe? I know it's only a £3.69 product, but the principle is the same as if I had spent £369 or £3,690. Oh except I might have made more of a fuss if I had spent £369 on a one eared bunny set.
I duly declined the invite to change my rating and when eBay asked me why I filled the little box I told them exactly why!
I wonder if I shall hear any more about this?