Its likely that most of the readers of this blog are also readers of Renegade Evolution's blog and already know about this latest dustup. Nonetheless, I do want to post about it here, both as an expression of solidarity with Ren, and to point to how this fits in with the larger context of the "porn wars".
Basically, a student group at William and Mary College, in the wake of the controversy there over the Sex Worker's Art Show, set up a debate on porn and sex work between, on the anti-side, Samantha Berg (probably somebody who needs no introduction by now) and John Foubert, a "pro-feminist" professor of psychology at W&M, who basically comes across as an even more clueless version of Robert Jensen. (He wanted the Sex Worker Art Show banned from campus holding that the slight nudity in the show would directly cause men to go out and rape – I shit you not that this fool actually claimed this.) On the other is Jill Brenneman (who spoke at W&M earlier this month) and Renegade Evolution.
When Sam heard that she would be facing Ren in the debate, she had a hissy fit and demanded that the student group drop Ren as a speaker. The reason – Ren's infamous offhand comment from about a year ago that radical feminists who were hassling other sex-positive and WOC bloggers should "Fall under a truck and die choking on your own blood." Sam, in true drama queen fashion, claims this proves that big bad Ren is a clear threat to her physical safety. At present, the student who organized the debate is trying to talk some sense into Sam Berg, but there is some danger that Ren will be uninvited, as Sam was apparently invited earlier than Ren, hence Sam's threats to pull out apparently have some leverage.
To say that this is utter bullshit is to state the obvious. First, the "fall under a truck" comment is clearly just an angry statement rather than a direct threat, and one that Ren actually apologized for. (Unnecessarily, IMO, but that's Ren's prerogative.) Second, for anybody who's followed the radfem side of the blogosphere porn wars, Sam Berg's reputation as a loose cannon precedes her. She's well-known for her off-the-wall, creepy, and, surprisingly for someone who's supposed to be all about being 110% pro-woman, often rather misogynistic statements about those she's opposed to. Notably, describing sex workers like Ren as “I’m hot, bi-sexee, and willing to fuck and suck anything for money”. Or strippers as "women smiling while hanging upside down from a pole like a painted negro in a minstrel show dancing for peanuts". (OK, slowly backing away....)
The thing is, this is not a new pattern with the anti-porn feminist crowd. In the 1980s, Dworkin and MacKinnon would debate men like Alan Dershowitz, but would routinely refuse to debate sex workers and sex-positive feminists. The reasons for this were entirely propagandistic, a way of conveying the impression that they represented women, and only men opposed their politics. Later, when the issue of opposition by sex workers and other feminists became unavoidable, MacKinnon and other radical feminists would come to use the kind of tactics we being used by Sam Berg, claiming that the presence of such activists presented a physical danger to themselves and other women.
In 1993, students affiliated with Catherine MacKinnon forcibly removed Carol Jacobsen's video and photo exhibit "Porn'Im'Age'Ry: Picturing Prostitutes" (along with works by Veronica Vera and several other artists) from a conference on prostitution at University of Michigan Law School (MacKinnon's haunt) with the rather dubious claim that the exhibit was pornographic and presented a direct danger to the women at the conference. (That many of the same issues are still being played out 15 years later with the Sex Worker's Art Show is rather telling.) The films were shown at UM only after a lawsuit against the University by the ACLU.
In 2001, Janice Raymond of CATW successfully pressured NYU to have Jo Weldon, at that time an active sex worker, removed from a panel discussion on trafficking. The reason? Because Weldon was a sex worker and not on the same page as CATW, and that since CATW didn't have a sex worker or ex-sex worker from their camp on the panel, Weldon's presence "experiential advantage" biased the discussion against CATW. Note that CATW's tactics involving a last-minute demand for a change in speakers is very similar to what is happening to Ren here.
I also want to point to Witchy-Woo's recent rather off-the-wall broadside against Anthony Kennerson, over nothing in particular except that she wanted to bring up how much she hated him. (I've also been a similar target of abuse by this UK clique of radfems, with a long history of trying to bait Anthony and myself by calling us "cowards". I can't speak for Anthony, but my refusal to engage with them has nothing to do with fear and everything to do with the fact that there's really nothing to be gained by arguing with a pack of rabid, hostile ideologues.) Not that I think this has any direct connection with the W&M events, but it fits this larger pattern. Once again, in the context of a rare display of sort-of-unity between radfems and sex-positive feminists, a radfem takes it upon herself to call out a man who is rather peripheral to the whole discussion, who on this issue was more or less on the same side, just for the sake of, once again, creating a "radfems vs men" two-minute hate. I think its rather interesting to contrast a group of radfems going out of their way to pick a fight with a man versus another radfem avoiding debate with a woman who has proven she can effectively call their position into question. I think this has everything to do with the way radfems have been trying to frame this debate for the last 25 years. However, I think the time has long since passed since they can get away with trying to hide the fact that they have managed to piss off not just men and not just "johns", but an awful lot of feminists, women, and sex workers – in other words, many of the very people who they claim to be helping.