In Other News, I’m Not Dead

Hey, you remember that time I had a blog? Me too! I had an interesting few years; so interesting, in fact, that writing swear words on the internet was eclipsed by trying not to die.

And–go me–I didn’t die! I endured some pretty awful symptoms of PTSD, had assorted positive and negative experiences with the mental health system, dealt with addiction issues, and moved to the North. I like Sudbury, and although it took some time, I’m feeling a lot more like myself.

So now I have a blog again. Fuck yeah, motherfuckers.

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Has #metoo gone #toofar? Not so much.

I’m not a fan of Steve Paikin. Frankly, I think his milquetoast liberalism is uninspiring. Unenlightening. Boring. However, I do find myself less than convinced by Toronto woman Sarah Thomson’s allegation that he uses his position as the anchor of a current events talk show on public television to coerce women to have sex with him. But how should we talk about sexual harassment allegations we don’t believe? Is this potentially-false accusation a sign that women have gone too far by naming and shaming harassers, abusers and rapists?

Boys will be <<good humans>>

Let’s start with why I don’t currently believe this allegation. In general, I think women tell the truth about sexual harassment and sexual assault. I have no opinion on Thomson’s or Paikin’s credibility–I know that women who have been victimized often seem “crazy” because victimization is crazy-making. And men who victimize women often seem like really nice guys. Or like Wonderbread personified. Whatever. The reason I’m not convinced is that the allegation itself is not (or not yet, anyway) convincing.

For one thing, appearing on The Agenda is not worth fucking the kind of creep who would openly coerce women into sex. If I was going to screw some pig for publicity, I’d expect better company than that noxious blowhard J-Pete and Sid Ryan (who is great, but not that great).

More seriously, I thought Thomson’s comment about wondering whether the women who appear regularly on The Agenda have fucked Paikin was nasty to those women—calling their integrity and expertise into question while simultaneously suggesting they’re victims of sexual assault. The Toronto Star reported that Thomson’s assistant and campaign manager not only had not heard about the allegation before the story broke Monday, but also were not aware that Thomson had met with Paikin at all. Thomson responded by saying the assistant who spoke to the Star hadn’t been a part of her 2010 Toronto mayoral campaign at all, which is demonstrably false.

And then there is the lack of other accusers, of other investigations, of rumours, even. If Paikin did spend the last 25 years boldly attempting to coerce sex from potential Agenda guests and succeeding 50% of the time, that would amount to thousands of rapes. That no one has come forward to say “me too” is surprising. Either the facts are different from what Thomson reported, or Steve “Human Oatmeal” Paikin is one stealthy motherfucker.

But what matters to me right now isn’t really whether or not the allegation is true (although that is, understandably, what matters most to Paikin and Thomson). What matters is how the allegation, which appears to be widely disbelieved by the public and the media, is being framed, in the context of discourse on gender equality, sexual harassment and #metoo. Continue reading

Bad Ideas and Worse Realities: A Primer on Sex Work Stereotypes and Stigma

The purpose of this post is to begin to articulate the conceptual and material differences between a stereotype and a stigma, as each relates to sex work. My hope is that it will be useful to students in the “Sex Work and Sex Workers” class that I TA (which is why it reads as a primer on these concepts—because it is), as well as to sex work activists who are looking for rhetorical and theoretical tools to better explain how social beliefs and attitudes about sex work affect their lives. Continue reading

Exercises for Teaching About “Intersectionality” and “Agency”

The concepts of “agency” and “intersectionality” are ones my students struggle with often. As they learn about these ideas, they tend to cling to what I call the “choosey-choice” and “list” methods. That is, students see agency as an individual’s unfettered ability to make choices and to take full responsibility for the choices they make. Choice is paramount, and a “personal choice” (much like a “personal opinion”) cannot be “wrong” and ought not to be analyzed or critiqued. The suggestion that choices are constrained is taken as in itself constraining choice. Wooden signpost at crossroads or intersection

The “list” method for incorporating intersectionality into students’ thinking looks just like its name suggests. As long as a bunch of identities are listed, we need not account for the material manifestations of oppression or exploitation. We simply take as given that identities are whole, coherent, fixed things, inherent to who and what we are, rather than a set of social forces convening in particular ways to shape our circumstances and experiences. Thus, they need only be mentioned, and never critiqued or analyzed either.

I came up with a couple of classroom exercises, using accessible, timely resources from the internet paired with academic readings to help deepen students’ understanding of these concepts. These are, obviously, most useful in seminar-style and “flipped” classrooms, since they take up more time than someone using the traditional lecture model might want to sacrifice. Continue reading

[Re-Post from TAS] Why You Shouldn’t Study Sex Workers

Before I finished my B.A., I encountered a social worker who was working on her M.A. Her politics were generally pro-decriminalization, but she also liked to trade in horror stories about women whose vaginas fell out from having too much sex. She had secured the cooperation of a rescue organization that collaborated with police to be allowed to study their Very Marginalized Whores. She wanted my help nailing down her research question.

“Don’t do this study,” I said. “Find something else to research.”

“OMG why are you so mean?” was more or less her answer.

Read the rest of the post here. 

8 Things You Can Do to Help a Friend with Mental Illness

I have depression. Sometimes I have episodes of depression that make me break down completely. I stop being able to work, to write, to read, to get out of bed, or even to maintain basic nutrition and hygiene. It’s not pretty.

I am also very lucky to have a strong support network of people who want to help me. I remember reading awhile ago about how rare and precious this support network is:

Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: “How’s your depression these days?” “What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?” “Do you find your manic episodes are less intense now that you are on medication?” “What does depression feel like?” “Is the counseling helpful?” A much smaller circle of friends than those who’d fed us during cancer now asked guarded questions. No one ever showed up at our door with a meal.

killIt’s far more common for people to want to pretend my depression (and depression in general) doesn’t exist than to want to talk about it, so it’s a beautiful thing in itself that people are talking to me.

But I was unintentionally being uncooperative. People are asking how they can help, and I keep telling them they can’t help. Nothing will make me better. Ever. That’s what my depression tells me is true. But it’s not true.

In the spirit of meeting my support network halfway, I’ve made a list of things that do help. I was going to post it privately on Facebook, but I thought it might also be useful to people out there in the wide world who want to support their friends with mental illnesses but don’t know how. Continue reading

Re-post from TAS: “A Tunnel, Not a Door: Exiting Conditioned, Generational Sex Work”

I did a talk for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers last December, and I gave an edited version to Tits and Sass as a personal essay. It’s published under my fakey-fake name because sometimes I use Tits and Sass as a teaching tool, so I didn’t want my name front and centre on there.

This piece is adapted from a December 17th speech the author gave this year.

“You’re so lazy, you’ll never be anything but a whore. And you won’t even be a good whore because nobody wants to fuck a girl with a book in front of her face.” Continue reading