The Worth of Whores

Don’t measure a woman’s worth by her clothes, it says. With bad words describing the kind of judgement you might get when you wear clothes that are too revealing. Worse than “slut”, worse than “asking for it” is the word “whore” all the way on the bottom. It’s quite correct, I fear. In our minds, sluts and cockteasers are bad enough. But whores are most certainly the lowest of the low. I was watching an episode of American Horror Story the other day. One of the characters cried to her lover “I’m not a whore, I matter! I matter!”.

Dutch media usually depict sex workers as victims, innocent girls forced into a life of prostitution. Never because they thought it was their best option, but always coerced by pimps or poverty. But tv shows and movies usually seem to take it a step further. Sex workers become completely dehumanised. A dead hooker is just a thing, not really a person. Their death isn’t even worth reporting. Their murderer gets away with it, or is chased by police after he makes the mistake of killing a real woman. Suddenly, all those dead hookers become an interesting trail. This happens so often and so completely that it becomes in a sense almost invisible. Unless you are a sex worker or love a sex worker, and then it starts to hurt.

When you work in an industry as stigmatised as the sex trade, jokes which dehumanise workers and normalise violence have a considerable impact. As long as the viewing public continues to get a kick out of tropes such as “dead hookers in the boot of a car”, the violence some of us encounter at work will be seen as inevitable, and, worse still, unchangeable.

If Romances Movies Were Feminist

Abusive relationships are romanticised and even fetishised in popular movies about love. If a man really loves you he’ll disrupt your life, cross clearly stated boundaries, stalk you, coerce you, and argue that he’s helpless in doing so because his overwhelming love for you just forces him to do all these things. He just loves you so much, so that must mean it is true love. Parents let their teenage children watch Twilight as if there’s nothing wrong with modelling such destructive and unhealthy relationships in movies. We get a warning if there’s any boobage to be seen, warningbut I wish there more awareness of the dangers of romanticising unhealthy ‘love’. How awesome would it be if Twilight started like this:

WARNING: The following show features abusive behaviour performed either by professionals or under the supervision of professionals, Accordingly MTV and the producers must insist that no one attempt to recreate of re-enact any activity performed on this show.

Remember the “tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?” lyric in Grease? It’s a classic, obviously. But even in more modern movies, some really creepy, rapey, stalky stuff comes out. Jealousy is framed as romance, possessiveness is framed as love, stalking is framed as caring. And yeah, movies about healthy everyday relationships would be boring, but the scary part is that all this abuse is never used as ‘bad stuff’. If a man hits a woman it’s “oh my heavens look what horrible things she’s going through” but if he watches her sleep… for months.. without her knowing.. that’s supposed to not freak us out?

The Weekly Personal (aug 2016)

gay prideI’d never been to the Amsterdam Gay Pride before. I went to Pink Sunday in Tilburg once, that was great fun. But I’d only seen parts of the Canal Parade on tv a couple of times, and I was excited to experience it in real life. And yeah, it was great. A couple of friends of mine live in Amsterdam and a whole group of us met up to watch the boats, drink wine and eat crap. I think it’s nice how gay pride has become the cool thing to do, even though it’s sad actual LGBTQ groups and people hardly have any space in the whole Parade anymore.

Many visitors were wearing the Gay Pride Hema t-shirts. Hema is a family-friendly shop that sells stuff like towels and pens and kettles. For Gay Pride they sold shirts with the Dutch treat ‘tompoes‘ which translates into Tom Puss (puss, right?) and sausages (haaa!), and I thought they were hilarious. We’re not there yet, obviously, gay rights are still something to be fought. But we’ve come a long way! (why were all the models White though?)

hema

 

 

 

Ireland: Protect your whores from the nuns!

The Magdalene Laundries might have closed, but sex workers are not safe from Irish Sisters at all. The nuns simply regrouped, renamed themselves and are still harming prostitutes. A little background information:

FMagdalen-asylumrom 1765 all the way to 1996, ‘fallen women‘ in Ireland were taken from their homes and incarcerated in so-called ‘Magdalene Laundries‘.  A fallen woman could be an unmarried pregnant woman, a girl who was considered too promiscuous or a prostitute who needed to be ‘saved’. In these prostitute-prisons they were horribly abused and had to perform forced labour.

“the institutions had little impact on prostitution over the period”, and yet they were continuing to multiply, expand and, most importantly, profit from the free labor. Since they were not paid, Raftery asserted, “it seems clear that these girls were used as a ready source of free labour for these laundry businesses”. Wikipedia

The 1993 discovery of a mass grave in Dublin opened up the conversation about the exploitation of prostitutes and led to a government inquiry. A formal state apology was issued in 2013, and a €60 million compensation scheme was set up. The four religious institutes that ran the Irish asylums have not as yet contributed to compensate the survivors of abuse. This is despite demands from the Irish government, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture.

You think the exposure of all their crimes would have at least stopped the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and Sisters of Charity from abusing sex workers, right? They refuse to acknowledge what they did or compensate their victims, but maybe they would be out of the whore-hurting business, right? Surely they’re not making money, right now, doing the exact same thing, right?

Yeah, right.

The Sisters continue their abuse

ruhamaRuhama, the largest anti-sex work organisation in Ireland, was founded as a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters“both of which had a long history of involvement with marginalised women, including those involved in prostitution“. They’re even funded by the Department of Health Department of Justice. They received over 14 million between 2006 and 2011.

We know that Ruhama is led in part by Magdalene Laundry nuns” said Kate McGrew, member of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland. Sex workers in Ireland have been fighting for human rights, labour rights and protection from (state) violence. But they have found a persistent and aggressive enemy in the Catholic sisters. Ruhama has not just been bothering prostitutes again, they also actively campaign against sex workers’ rights. They opposed Amnesty International’s proposal in favour of human rights for sex workers and are fighting against everything sex workers demand.

But still, the Irish government is allowing Ruhama , those same people who abused and exploited prostitutes, to advise them on laws that directly impact sex workers, while excluding sex workers themselves. Not only is the Irish government funding the same people that abused sex workers for all those years, they even consult them as ‘experts’ on prostitution.

How many more skeletons need to be found in closets or cesspools before the public wakes up to the evil of prohibitionism? How many more lies until the self-appointed saviors lose their credibility for good? And how many more women have to die? – Maggie McNeill

itssomethingRuhama does not offer any actual help to sex workers who need help. Rescue organisations and anti-prostitution NGO’s rarely do, they mostly make money by ‘raising awareness’, abusing prostitutes, receiving money from governments and providing ‘education’ to health professionals and policy makers. But it seems they haven’t killed any babies. yet. So, you know, that’s something…

You can read more about human rights for Irish sex workers here. You can read more about abuses in the anti-trafficking rescue industry here.

The End of Fetlife?

There are a lot of things to not like about Fetlife. Their security is terrible, just terrible. They’ve tried to please the creditcard companies by making certain (quite random) fetishes unsearchable, such as hypnosis. Their way of dealing with abusers and bullies has been horrible. But with all its faults, Fetlife has been so valuable to the kink community. I get a lot of emails from people new to the scene and Fetlife was the place I’d send them to, because that’s where you could find events and connect to your local community. The workshops, the munches, the play parties, the discussion groups, everything you need to get started in the kink scene.

FetlifeFetlife has now decided to close down to new members.

In the future there will be an invite system so that people who are already active in the kink scene can ask someone they know to let them in. This is fine if you live in a big city with a kink scene that’s easy to find, just Google ‘Seattle BDSM’ and you’re done.

But it’s going to make live hard for everyone not from those Western well-populated areas. I’ve tried googling “Udaipur BDSM”, no luck. And it’s going to cause real problems for the Dutch community, because we don’t have a serious alternative to Fetlife. Our events are usually small and rarely anything professional, most events don’t even have their own website. Munches are started by a few people saying “let’s get sushi!”, someone creating the event and people showing up. Communities are not static, people join, people leave, we need those new people to find us somehow. Before Fetlife we had some online message boards but they’ve all died when Fetlife became popular. I really don’t know what we’re going to do.

How To Spot A Kinkster In Public

I was at a vanilla wedding the other day, when I noticed some marks on my friend’s arm. Now I met her through the BDSM scene so it didn’t surprise me, but if you’re wondering how you can recognise a kinky person in public, marks like these are a pretty good indication they’re into rope play ;). It’s easy to spot a kinkster in public if you know what you’re looking for!

(Posted with her permission, obviously)

kinkster in public

The Dutch Sex Work Downfall

Sex work in the Netherlands is heavily regulated. Although sex workers themselves want full decriminalisation, just like all other sex workers all over the world, the reality is that prostitution here is legalised. It’s subject to many prostitution-specific laws, restricted by all sorts of regulations and anything but fully decriminalised. The leader of our Christian Party is now pushing new laws that would further criminalise sex work: he wants to make it illegal to pay for the services of a sex worker when you should have been able to know she’s a victim of exploitation. “For example, when she’s working from a cellar somewhere, bruised, with two big Bulgarian guys at the door” says a member of the ‘Green Left’ party.

At first glance, this would make sense. Politicians often paint this picture of the perfect victim: from an Eastern European country, very young, doesn’t speak much Dutch or English, thought she was going to the Netherlands to work as a model or waitress, only to find herself in some dark and dirty little room, raped by up to 40 men a day. Some politicians keep it somewhat civil, but many fall into a semi-pornographic style when describing their fantasies.

corinneBut the National Reporter on Human Trafficking, Corinne Dettmeijer, who is in favour of this new law, actually gave the perfect argument against it: she’s hoping clients will go to legally working prostitutes instead of women who work from basements.

In the last couple of years, over half of legal working places for prostitutes have been closed. Brothels are shut down, windows are closed, and no new licences to work are given to anyone, certainly not to sex workers themselves. Those who still work from a licenced location are harassed by police, their workplaces broken into, their homes smashed up and their belongings taken. They are subject to random semi-arrests, where they’re put into police vans and taken to the station for questioning because they’re suspected of being a victim. Eventually police will find something, maybe drugs in someone’s locker of a bruise that can’t be explained and the licence is revoked and another work place shuts down.

Hotels are pressured into reporting any ‘suspicious’ activity, and although escort is not illegal, police do stalk and harass escorting sex workers. Many hotels no longer accept escorts or try to keep them out. Renting an appartement to work from is all but impossible, and working from home means your landlord can kick you out.

So voluntary workers are pushed into basements and sheds and caravans.

Regular security companies will not work with prostitutes. Just like banks and other organisations they stay far away from sex work. So if you’re working from a shed somewhere and you want some big guys to keep you safe, you’re forced to work with people who will do it. you know, off the record. Two big Bulgarian guys, perhaps.

And there you have it: the girl working from a shed with two big guys at the door.

As Corinne Dettmeijer says: clients need to be able to go to legally working prostitutes. The only people who benefit from this increasing criminalisation are traffickers, just look at all the work this brings them, security gigs, finding hidden workplaces, and oh the vulnerable position the government has placed these prostitutes in, I’m sure traffickers are deeply grateful.

I propose a radical new approach.

  • Make it illegal for cities to not provide plenty of legal workplaces for prostitutes. If there is just one sex worker that wishes to work but can’t find a legal place, the city needs to pay a huge fine to the sex worker. Zero tolerance for any city that requires their prostitutes to work in the shadows. Zero.
  • Reward organisations that will work with sex workers. Whether it’s a bank or a security company, we need to do the exact opposite of what we’re doing now. Instead of being suspicious, and discouraging companies from working with prostitutes, we need to reward it. Not sure how yet. Maybe give prostitution-friendly companies an advantage when giving out government-related jobs?
  • Remove all laws that are specifically about prostitution. It shouldn’t matter if you paid her, if you’re having sex with someone and you really know she doesn’t want it, that’s rape. It already is by the way, it’s not like the law says “rape is bad unless it’s a whore then you’re fine”. Exploitation is always bad, rape is always bad, trafficking is always bad, regardless of her profession.

When all these things are done and sex workers are working happily and without stigma or discrimination, and traffickers are pretty much out of a job because the market is already full of voluntary workers and they don’t need traffickers for security or housing or anything else anymore, and you still have this fantasy of women who are raped in basements with two Bulgarian guys at the door, perhaps come to me so we can work on you accepting your kink and not forcing it on other people, ok? There’s consensual ways you can explore this stuff without involving unwilling prostitutes who are only harmed by your hero-fetish.

Also, check out the new president of Proud, Yvette Luhrs, in the video! She’s amazing!yvette

The ‘Weekly’ Personal

It’s become almost an ironic title, hasn’t it? The ‘weekly’ personal. A memory of some really ambitious idea I once had. Anyway, life has been great. I’m currently working on a project to provide education about sexual diversity to health professionals, more specifically an online course on BDSM. The company I work for is so supportive, I’m very lucky I found a job so soon after returning from all the travelling, and even more lucky it’s a position in which I get to do what I’m most passionate about: educating people on sexuality and psychology. I’m also seeing clients a few days a week, which I enjoy a lot.

marijke sm

Finding good stills in a video in which you’re talking is hard.

The course is such a fun project to work on. I give most of the classes (on video), but I found some really good other teachers too. I asked kinky people in my own community to contribute, let me interview them (on camera!) about their experiences, and I got over 40 responses from people wanting to help. I mean.. I knew the kink community was wonderful. I knew we help each other out and there’s support and I was quite confident I’d find maybe 5 to 10 people willing to be filmed, on camera, about BDSM. But 40.. I’m still a little emotional about it, it’s just so great. I made a selection and have interviewed a little under 10. I have my own camera team that does the recording and editing for me, and it’s been lovely working with them. They’re professional, kind, and fun to hang out with.

Our friends organised a ‘welcome home’ party for Robin and I when we got back, which was great fun. Life is really starting again, we’re renting a good place and looking to buy a house, we both found jobs that we’re happy about, our cat Poes is living with us again after staying at Rene’s house for a year when we were gone. And although I enjoyed the company of other travellers, I’m so, so, so happy to be back with my friends again. I have an amazing social group, most of whom I’ve known for over 10 years, and I don’t know.. new people can be great, and new friendships can be very deep, and I do love meeting new people, but it’s great to be back :).

There have been some sad things in my life as well, of course. I’ve lost some people, sometimes because they’re literally gone, sometimes because my relationship with them ended, and it’s had a big impact on me. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.

Like stills from a video. Whoa.

marijke

Happily talking about BDSM.

whatt

Violent Agreement

When Robin and I were in Australia I met up with this great guy that I just couldn’t stop agreeing with. Ever have those conversations where half of the time you’re going “exactly!”? Yeah, it was like that. He called it violently agreeing and, obviously, I couldn’t agree more.

I get that when I watch Esther Perel and Dan Savage. Violent agreement.

Sometimes I just get so happy knowing the world is inhabited by numerous great people who are doing and saying amazing things, and although I know I won’t get to meet most of them, it just feels so rich. I could go anywhere and there’s people there, amazing people, everywhere. Connections to be made, things to be learned, experiences to be shared, violent agreements to be had. It’s like knowing your fridge is stocked when you’re not hungry. My friends are amazing and so many other people are too. Violently loving <3.