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?
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
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
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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As most people already know, the Conservative government released its proposed legislation related to prostitution yesterday. I sent this letter to Rick Dykstra and Peter MacKay today echoing the call for the bill to be scrutinized by the Supreme Court of Canada.
By maintaining the law against public communication by sex workers, coupled with provisions making it impossible to work indoors and difficult for sex workers who use drugs to work with others, the bill replicates exactly the same brutal conditions of criminalization that have been taking sex workers’ lives since the 1980s.
Regardless of where you stand on the criminalization of bosses and consumers, please raise your voice to object to provisions that can only facilitate violence against sex workers.
Dear Peter MacKay and Rick Dykstra,
I’m writing to echo the call for Bill C36, “The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act,” to be submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada for review to determine whether its provisions pass constitutional muster.
In December 2013, the SCC decided unanimously that the federal government does not have the right to get sex workers killed in the name of eliminating prostitution. Canada’s anti-prostitution laws (which criminalized public communication for the purpose of prostitution, working indoors in a brothel, and taking money from sex workers) were shown to cause immeasurable harm to sex workers.
As analysis by Pivot Legal Society and many others has shown, the government’s proposed new legislation is not substantially different from the unconstitutional laws. It still criminalizes communication in almost every public place; it criminalizes the advertising sex workers must do in order to work indoors, effectively making off-street work impossible; and it still criminalizes many kinds of relationships with sex workers that are not exploitative, forcing sex workers to be isolated. These three practices, taken together, are lethal. They always have been.
I call on Peter MacKay and the Government of Canada to submit this legislation for review by the Supreme Court of Canada, and to draft, in its place, legislation that truly protects sex workers’ lives and livelihoods.
MA candidate, Geography, Brock University
Please feel free to use my letter as a template for your own. I plan to phone my MP tomorrow to repeat my demand for scrutiny of this terrible piece of legislation by the Supreme Court. You can find out who your MP is here: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseofCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC
This is Not Feminist Legislation, and it’s Not Supply-Side Decriminalization
For those of us who would like to see sex workers totally decriminalized within our lifetimes, the Conservative government’s Bill C36 – a replacement for the anti-prostitution laws struck down by the Supreme Court in R v. Bedford – was worse than we thought. I think a lot of us, including me, were expecting to see a hollowed-out version of the Nordic Model. Y’know, lots of bluster about pimpsnjohns and no more than the barest of lip service to addressing workers’ “push factors”: things like poverty that make prostitution one of very few viable options for many workers, labour market conditions outside of the sex industry that make sex work, even under the brutal conditions of criminalization, more attractive than temporary or minimum wage work. Joy Smith’s Tipping Point in bill form.
What we got are the same laws we had before, dressed up a bit and with sharper teeth. The better to get people killed with.
There is a law criminalizing the purchase of sex. But pre-Bedford anti-prostitution laws also criminalized clients, and we have
already seen how they were enforced. There is also exactly the same communicating law as before – the same communicating law that is undoubtedly responsible for hundreds’ of women’s deaths and countless women’s incarcerations – but now it’s limited to areas where there might be children. That could include any residential or commercial neighbourhood (so basically everywhere), which means sex workers will still be pushed into industrial areas at night, and will still be rushing transactions with their criminalized clients. We know exactly how this story ends.
The new “BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN” veneer on this dangerous, cruel law doesn’t actually give sex workers space to work in their communities—but it does codify in law the cultural belief that sex workers ought not to be near children. Maybe someone with more legal knowledge than I have would be willing to discuss how this could affect sex workers in family court or interactions with child protective services (we know that Indigenous women are overrepresented among outdoor sex workers and, not by coincidence, that Indigenous children are overrepresented among children in foster care—so this really matters). Or how it could affect sex workers being denied housing in certain buildings or neighbourhoods, or former sex workers facing discrimination in non-sex employment. Continue reading