Monday, December 17, 2007

Helping Norma Jean
Angela KeatonAt Large Representative
Libertarian National Committee

A big beautiful tent full of libertarians. Join Libertarians for Arts, Entertainment and Culture.

Friends of Freedom:

Norma Jean Almodovar, the Libertarian Party of California's 1986 candidate for Lt. Governor and author of Cop to Call Girl, is facing some serious challenges. Since she has gotten out of prison where she was incarcerated for a victimless "crime," Norma Jean has difficulty finding work given both her record and courageous activism. In addition, Norma Jean's husband is in frail and failing health. A proud libertarian activist, she is struggling to ask for much needed help. Given the family's strong objectivist leanings, a traditional fund raising appeal would be inappropriate. However, you can do the following:

*Norma Jean has significant knowledge of Quark and Adobe software. You have an affiliate newsletter. Hire a layout editor who shares your values.

*Add a link to International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education. Contributions are tax deductable and help educate the public on the realities sex workers face under our current laws.

*Interview Norma Jean on your blog, webcast, podcast, cable access or micro broadcast. Her story is one woman's struggle against corruption and injustice.*Norma Jean is a talented artist. With the holiday season upon us, please support your libertarian artist. They are your values embodied in song, storyline and style.

If you would like to contact Norma Jean, please write her at She has led a one woman battle against the LAPD. For that alone, we give thanks.

In liberty, Angela

Thursday, December 13, 2007


As a precursor to my eventual full book review of Robert Jensen's Getting Off, I wanted to post an excerpt from the chapter entitled "Pornography as a Mirror," in which Jensen colorfully describes scenes from several porn movies in order to drive home the point of how awful and misogynistic all porn is.

With all the porn Jensen has watched (for research purposes, you understand), one can only assume that he summarized these particular movies because they're the most effective at validating his thesis - and the most likely to garner a reaction of shock from readers. So what's the deal with this...?
A scene from Delusional, a 2000 release from Vivid:

Lindsay, the film's main character, is a woman slow to return to dating after she caught her husband cheating on her. She says she is waiting for the right man - a sensitive man - to come along. Her male coworker, Randy, clearly would like to be that man but must wait as Lindsay explores other sexual experiences, first with a woman named Alex, whom she meets online and assumes is a man. Later, after Alex and Lindsay have sex with a man in the kitchen of a restaurant, Lindsay is finally ready to accept Randy's affection. He takes her home and tells her, "I'll always be there for your no matter what. I just want to look out for you." Lindsay lets down her defenses, and they embrace.

After kissing and removing their clothes, Lindsay begins oral sex on Randy while on her knees on the couch, and he then performs oral sex on her while she lies on the couch. They then have intercourse, with Lindsay saying, "Fuck me, fuck me, please" and "I have two fingers in my ass - do you like that?" This leads to the usual progression of positions: She is on top of him while he sits on the couch, and then he enters her vaginally from behind before he asks, "Do you want me to fuck you in the ass?" She answers in the affirmative. "Stick it in my ass," she says. "I love the way you slide into my asshole. ... Deep in my ass. ... I'm coming on your cock in my ass." After two minutes of anal intercourse, the scene ends with him masturbating and ejaculating on her breasts.

So, wait. Where's the degrading part in that scene?

It just sounds like sex. And by some people's standards, pretty vanilla sex. Even for people who would consider it at the kinky end of their personal spectrum, due to the dirty talk and assplay, I really can't imagine anyone finding it degrading who didn't have bigger hang-ups about sex in general. In fact, the only part of that excerpt that I see as degrading to women in any way is this:
Lindsay lets down her defenses

Note, that's not a line from the movie. Those are Jensen's chosen words to describe the onscreen events. I find it very telling that he uses language which casts the woman in the passive role, and the man in an active, even conquering role, with the implication of sex being a conquest and women having "defenses" which must be "broken down" by men.

This is, of course, the sexual script that's reinforced by the dominant culture day in and day out, to the detriment of everyone. This skewed view of gender roles (as Figleaf would say, women as the "no-sex" class) is exactly what Jensen claims to be opposing. Yet with a few words, he's revealed volumes about how entrenched he still is in sex-negative cultural norms.

[Cross-posted at Being Amber Rhea]

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Federal anti-sex work legislation passes House

A new version of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TPRVA 2007/11) just passed the House (as H.R. 3887) and is now on its way to the Senate. While it contains some laudable legislation combatting forced labor and child soldiering, it also, once again, targets voluntary sexual labor by conflating it with forced prostitution and sex trafficking. It contains a very sweeping section outlawing "sex tourism" (the section in question can be found on pages 69–72 of the text of the bill), which it basically defines as any movement over into or out of the United States for purposes of performing or purchasing "illicit sexual acts", which includes any and all commercial sexual services. Existing legislation prohibits traveling abroad to purchase sex with minors; the new legislation expands this to include sex with consenting adults, even in countries where this is legal. (For example, an American who buys sex in an Amsterdam brothel would be subject to Federal prosecution back in the US.) Notably, it also criminalizes travel to or from the US to sell sexual services as well. (For example, a Montreal escort who travels to an American city to sell sex would be further criminalized under Federal law, in addition to existing local law.) Basically, it resurrects the Mann Act and internationalizes it.

Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Union posted about the legislation over Bay Area Indymedia. Lisa Roellig, also of ESPU, has this to say over at Bound, Not Gagged:
TVPRA 2007/11 passed the house Tuesday. Below is the link for anyone who has the time to read it in in its entirety. The sections relating to the sex industry clearly conflate all sex work with sex trafficking and the consequences for all workers in our industry I believe could be quite horrific. I believe the passage of the TVPRA 2007/11 through the house should be considered an emergency and all workers and allies should mobilize before the legislation gets to the Senate for a vote.

I want to know if the porn industry has had any concerns with this legislation. In reading the legislation, I believe sex workers who work on camera have every reason to be as concerned as the sex workers who work “off camera.”

The most troubling aspect of this legislation is that not only does it conflate all sex work with sex trafficking but also that for the way our industry operates, where workers are frequently crossing borders to work, be it national or international, the potential for massive arrests and long periods of prison time are very distressing. Note, up to 10 years for the worker and up to 30 years for the support staff.

Anybody else feeling this?
Roellig raises an interesting question about how this affects the porn industry and porn industry workers, since porn models often travel internationally for the purpose of having sex on camera. Under present American legal interpretation, hiring somebody to act in a porn movie is considered distinct from prostitution under the legal precedent established by California v. Freeman; however, this decision is not binding outside of California (even though porn is shot in quite a few other US States) and is not binding on the Federal government. Hence, the Federal government could very well use this legislation to come down on porn production involving an international cast. (I've also heard some suggestions about attempting to apply Lawrence v. Texas to commercial sexual encounters, but as of yet, this is an entirely untested approach.)

The area of international anti-trafficking legislation is an area where "porn lobby" groups like the Free Speech Coalition have been really asleep at the wheel and needs to be more on top of.

Writing one's Senators and asking them to remove the "sex tourism" section and similar sections of the bill as harmful toward sex workers and criminalizing legal, consensual behavior might be worthwhile, though considering the sexual conservatism of most politicians and the overwrought rhetoric of prostitution abolitionists, changing politicians minds on the subject is a long shot. But then again, hearing more "I support sex workers, oppose the criminalization of consensual adult behaviors, and, BTW, I vote" messages from their constituency might just plant a seed.

Oh, and one other thing struck me about this legislation – about a month ago, I was listening to a story about problems in Iraq with Blackwater mercenaries, about how they were guilty of outright war crimes, but nobody in the US government can figure out their legal status, that is, whether they're under jurisdiction of Iraqi or US military or civilian law. Yet, when it comes to the simple act of buying sex, something that's legal in much of the world, suddenly sweeping international jurisdiction is real easy to come up with!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

More of AK Getting Off on "Getting Off"

Having now read Chris Hall's excellent review of Robert Jensen's Getting Off over at Sex in the Public Square (and greatly anticipating the lovely Amber Rhea's forthcoming review of same) has really brought up some points that I failed to address in my initial "review".

For starters, to quote this excerpt from Chris's review:

He does not, of course, ever say that we should just cloister ourselves and live lives of sexual abstinence. But when he does try to give solutions to the nightmare world that he depicts, Robert Jensen’s words lose their fire. His description of a positive sexuality is vague and bloodless, and speaks little of sex as a physical act but in semi-mystical terms about light and mystery and touch. It’s bland and dull, but even worse, it gives little in the way of practical advice. In the 90’s, I came away from reading sex-positive writers like Carol Queen and Susie Bright with sophisticated ways of thinking about safer sex techniques, talking honestly about limits, and what consent was and wasn’t. All that I get from Jensen is an admonition that we should try to make sex be more about light, and less about heat. (And god help me, I’m still not sure what that means.)

It took until this morning before reading that graph when it really did hit me: what Jensen means by his version of a "bloodless sexuality" that contains "more heat and less light" is similar to what the cultural feminists of the 1980s described as a "feminist sexuality" that would be imposed as much on women as on men. In that vision, sex would be concieved as much less a physical pleasure and more of a transcending, supernatural presence which would somehow go beyond the experiences and sensations of the individuals; more of a sprirtual and universal experience in communal bonding than any individualistic physical act. Of course, such a transcendent phonenom would be totally shorn of such "patriarchial" nonsenses as erections, body fluids, or even orgasms; such trite physical sensations would be whisked away by the sheer revolutionary outer-body experience that "feminist sex" would produce in men freed from their evil "patriarchial" ideas of power and domination. It's almost as if Jensen and his radicalfeminist mentors see his crusade against "masculinity" and the porn that he alleges is the foundation behind it as the key to ending world war, hunger, economic and social inequality, and most other ills of the world.

The problem with such a utopia, though, is that it comes dangerously close to an equally restrictive and "transcending" view of sexuality: that of the Religious Right.

It is no accident that the social conservatives have so appropriated much of Jensen's core theory about male sexual rapicity towards women; albeit with the aim of supporting and abetting their own traditional sexual morality of restraining sex within the act of procreation within marriage. The contraposition of the "liberating" and "beautiful" and "uplifting" power of what they call "the marital act" when "two become one" (or "when two become one") in the conception of a child, with the "ugly", "selfish", "compulsive", and "addictive" acts of sex for physical pleasure alone; has been a stable of conservative and traditionalist thought about sexuality since time immortal. Strangely enough, it has now been appropriated by the most sexually conservative feminists as a means of "protecting" women from the "male gaze", but with an added twist: "personal intimacy" and "emotional integrity" within codependent monogamy has replaced hetero marital procreation at the top of the privileged and sacred pyramid.

The emphasis may differ with each movement: the antipornradfems seek to regulate the supposed out-of-control nature of male sexuality at the hands of the "patriarchy"; while the fundamentalists target what they perceive as the threat of unbridled female sexuality in defiance of "God's law" (or "Allah's", or "Yawheh's" or any other deity of choice). But the effect is nevertheless the same: to inprision and restrict men's and women's sexual choices and impose a rather strained, exclusive, and repressive system of sexual regulation and choice by the use of shame and guilt (and with the full power of the State as a backup just in case the "gentle persuasion" and "conciousness raising" doesn't elicit the changes sought).

That such a reactionary concept of sexuality can be passed along as "progressive", even "Leftist" is one of the utter tragedies of this book....almost as much as the complete denial of female sexual agency that lurks just underneath the surface of Jensen's jerimiads.

The other thought that reared its head at me was about the individualistic approach that Jensen takes in his activism towards men who might be suspect to his illogic. He seems to see progressive activism as most of the culturalist Left and liberals of the 1970s do: as a means of consciousness raising of people already with "privilege" to confront, accept, and then repudiate such privilege and see the world as their apparant "victims" of such racial or gender or imperial privilege would. (Call it the "Walk a mile in their shoes" type of movement, if you will.)

This kind of activism sounds all well and good at first...but it ultimately suffers from the same flaw that most culturally-based movements falter on: the inability to take on fundamental physical institutions of inequality; and the confusion of individual acts of cruelty with institutional acts of inequality. Rape may be a universal crime of sexual anger and rage directed by men towards women (but don't forget anti-gay hate, either!!!), and certainly may be exploitable as part of larger hate campaigns against certain groups; but that doesn't change the basic fact that rape is for the most part an act of extreme violence done by an individual (or group of individuals) against an individual person.

Conversely, as much as many people might find facials or double penetration or anal sex "demeaning" and "filthy", the fact remains that even loving and caring and committed people can engage in such activities and find them personally upliftiing, or simply arousing. The difference is in the overall political and cultural outlook of whomever is making the prejudgment about such acts; not in the acts themselves.

On the other hand, though, laws specifically created to restrict and constrain sexual expression and behavior amongst consenting adults do far, far, far more damage to progressive activism than any of the dire consensual sex acts that so excise Jensen and his radfem mentors. Not only do they literally invite the State to intervene in matters of personal sexual tastes and asthetics that are better left to individual choice and free will; but they are the ultimate gateway to justifying more explicit political censorship.....the kind that has been traditionally used against the Left and against liberals in general for time immortal. Can't Jensen see the connection between McCarthyism and the anti-"homosexual menace" movements of the 1950s?? The intimate links between White supremacism and religious bigotry and sex crime so starkly seen in the castration and lynching of Black men (and rape of Black women) during the Jim Crow years??) The undercurrent of sexual bigotry and fear underlying the current memes against "illegal aliens" (read, anyone Latin@ who isn't a paid agent of the GOP or not useable as a slave for multinational corporations)?? The antiabortion movement and the attack on basic women's control of their own reproductive systems and all the "sluts get what they deserve" rhetoric??

Maybe Bob Jensen with his doctorate and his upper-middle-class background can overlook all this...but I as a working-class Black man certainly can't.

There are far, far more important issues of racial and gender and economic inequality -- and the institutions of capital and State that buttress and reinforce such inequality -- for liberals and Leftists to tackle; it is a distraction and a ruse and a dead end to get caught up in baiting and hating men for having impromptu erections (and women for getting damp panties and engorged clits) at the mere sight of imagery that doesn't fit a narrow ideologue's personal squicks. Save the hate for the rapists and true misogynists who earn it....and work the energy someplace else more fruitful than getting into every man's boxers....and every woman's panties.

[Cross-posted to The SmackDog Chronicles]