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
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.
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
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.
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.
It’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
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
I went to a “crisis pregnancy centre” today for a free pregnancy test. Once my friends Robert and Ian started humping on the couch in the counselling room, the anti-choice woman wasn’t much interested in keeping me around for anti-baby-murder propagandizing, but she did give me a test…
Or rather, she gave me a paper bag with a styrofoam cup, a film canister and a wet nap in it and sent me out back to piss in the parking lot because they don’t have a public washroom. Continue reading
Naomi, of http://www.kwetoday.com, has created this fantastic template letter for folks to send to their MPs in opposition to Bill C36, the Conservatives’ new anti-prostitution legislation. It explains clearly why this legislation is dangerous and ought to be trashed.
I have received a lot of messages from friends who were asking about what this Bill is all about? Here is a link explaining the Bill that is much easier to read than the Bill itself. This Bill is in response to the Bedford v Canada decision (which was an unanimous Supreme Court Decision). You can read about that decision here (and here is the actual SCC decision). Following this, many friends have also asked what they can do to help.
One way you can help is to write a letter to your MP. Here is a template to help you to write a letter to oppose #c36. You can find out who your MP is here. It is free (meaning no postage required) to send your MP a letter. A French-translation will be posted as it becomes available.
If you are looking for anymore sources and…
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