One of my favourite things is to work in a coffee shop. Very hipster, I know, but when you work from home a lot and studying it’s so helpful to have to get out of the house so you don’t end up spending the day in your undies watching Netflix. Mara and I had our favourite coffee places back home (“where everybody knows your name <3”) where I did my studying for CBT, writing blogs and a book and organising events. Here in Australia Robin and I try to find good places to work as well, I’m re-learning French (“oui!”) and doing a project management course. And writing, obviously (some for pay!).
We’re in Melbourne at the moment, on our way back to Brisbane. Oh man, travelling has been amazing. Living in a car (and the occasional AirBnb), seeing so much, meeting all these great people, what an adventure. In the map you can (roughly) see where we’ve been.
Just one more month before the Big Move. It’s crazy how sentimental I’m getting over everything Dutch. It’s just a year, I’ll be back in no time. But yeah, Dutchlands, I’ll miss you. I was sure to eat ‘haring’ when I was at the marketplace last Saturday, and kibbeling of course. The NS has provided me with plenty of delayed trains and the weather even went full Netherlands with loads of rain and cold wind. I’ve cancelled my subscriptions, planned to see my family and friends a couple of times and have somewhat started packing. But first I will take my suitcase to Copenhagen because I’ve been asked to speak at the ESSM congress! My plane will leave tomorrow morning and I will stay in Denmark until Sunday. I’m so exited! I’ll be talking about consent and BDSM, and listening to many many many other speakers. and then it’s just three more weeks before we leave. It’s a little overwhelming :).
Happy new year dear readers! I’m writing to you from from a little town near Winterberg in Germany, a lovely area with lots of snow, hills and German beer. My sister and brother and their partners went skiing and snowboarding, but since I am terribly clumsy (I have a permanent injury from falling on a trampoline. Not off, I was on it and simply fell) TBD and I decided to take a long walk and it was gorgeous. We’ve been swimming, have taken our sleds to spend hours in the snow, played lots of games and had excellent food. My brother is making a compilation video of all our adventures! New years eve we went out to dinner in a restaurant and then went back to the house for fireworks and champagne.
Honestly, 2014 has been an awesome year. My personal life was lovely, filled with love and friends and great experiences. I published a book, worked nearly full time as a therapist at a sex-positive sexology/psychology practice, organised a conference, wrote a guest column for Maggie McNeill and a some columns for the Dutch newspaper The Post Online. I met with some of the most amazing Dutch feminists, sex workers rights activists and other inspiring people. I became a board member for Sekswerk Nederland, attended meetings as an expert on sex work, started my education as a cognitive-behavioural therapist and became active on Twitter.
And I started blogging almost six months ago, and it has been very rewarding. On its busiest day more than two thousand people visited this website, which is more than I ever expected. My most popular post has been The Myth of Trafficking, followed by Are You a Whore? and How to Support Sex Workers. It’s been somewhat of a challenge to regularly post interesting content, my weekly personals are nowhere near weekly and I have more ideas for new posts than I’ll ever have time to write. But I’m enjoying being part of the sex workers’ rights/human rights/gender equality/sexology/sex positive community more than words can describe.
You know the saying “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”? In the last year I’ve read a lot about sex work, the psychological consequences of sex work, cultural aspects of sex work and other research, and the more I learn the more I realise I don’t know nearly enough. I sometimes feel almost guilty for blogging about it, attending meetings as an expert on sex work and doing tv interviews because I don’t feel I know all there is to know. And then I watch interviews with politicians, rescue-industry people and idiotic journalists and I realise I’m a fucking expert compared to them. It’s like they haven’t even bothered to look anything up, search for any research to support their claims of even make sense. It makes me feel less insecure, but most of all I’m furious they they feel so free to restrict other people’s freedom. They don’t even try to make a coherent point. “I’m going to ban lemonade. IF IT SAVES JUST ONE CHILD! What, do you think it’s okay to rape others? Because I don’t! Stop lemonade!” Ï mean, how can you even argue with something that makes no sense?
Yesterday I grabbed a Greenwheels car, picked up Mara and then drove all the way to Ghent for a lecture on BDSM. Kajira is a student organisation promoting rights for BDSM’ers and they’re really cool, so I didn’t mind traveling a few hours. Everything is so different in Belgium, it really feels like you’re abroad, and Ghent is a gorgeous city so we drove there early and spent the afternoon drinking coffee and eating bagels and feeling touristy. I’m not sure how many people attended my lecture but the place was packed. I talked about early theories on kink (“what on earth is wrong with these people?!”), actual research on bdsm (“nothing wrong with these people”) and the problems kinky people can run into. The audience was great, lots of great questions and comments, wonderful vibe. I talked to an American girl who recently moved to Belgium and she told me about the wonderful kinky communities you guys have over there. I’m jealous. I remember when I was in San Francisco and attended a party at the Citadel I saw all the workshops and discussion groups and I wished we had stuff like that here. Don’t get me wrong, the Dutch scene is great. We have a warm community and love my pervy chosen family, but we don’t have a thousand munches and groups for everything and a party every weekend. She told us she misses it too. Mara and I drove back to the Netherlands, got lost, nearly wrecked the car and eventually arrived home and drank tea with milk and watched How I Met Your Mother in bed until we got down from our adrenaline rush. What a night!
The Kink Congres was a success as well. There were lectures and workshops all day and a BDSM documentary at night, and from what I heard people enjoyed themselves. It was my first time organising such a huge event and there’s many things I’ll do different next time, but all in all I’m happy. There was a lecture on BDSM ‘from the outside’ by a vanilla friend of mine, a lecture on the law & BDSM by a lawyer, a lecture on kinky sex work by an actual kinky sex worker (well done, Marijke ;)), a lecture on BDSM problems and a group discussion on emancipation of kinksters. The workshops were about bondage, whips, communication, negotiation and relationships. I ran around “like a chicken without its head” as we would say in Dutch, loved the lectures and had to miss the workshops. Mara, TBD, Rene and Singer were a great help, Natya was there to sell our book and in the evening the Dude and Dudette joined us so Dudette could be the most charming barkeeper and the Dude arranged everything for the movie.
Oh and about the book: we’re getting such positive feedback! I’m not sure how many books we’ve sold so far but many. I’m so proud of us. It’s been a long process, Natya and I have worked very hard, and now it’s here. Our first book!
These last few weeks have been crazy. Fuck, I’m happy.
We don’t really celebrate Halloween here in the Netherlands and I think it’s a shame. I’ve always loved holidays, I’m a total sucker for Christmas and Easter and all the magical vibes and decorations and songs, my family celebrates most holidays together and we always have a great time. I went to the Efteling last weekend, it’s the biggest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world and I’m still recovering from the excitement! But Halloween just isn’t a ‘thing’ here and although I guess I could celebrate on my own, it’s just not the same.
I’ve never felt at home in pagan communities, or else I might have celebrated with them. I’ve tried, I’ve been to more pagan meetings than I can count. But the problem is that I consider myself an atheist pagan, an atheist who does not believe in anything supernatural, and the pagan subculture is obsessed with everything outside of the natural world. It’s not just that I think reiki healing, crystal energies and astral bodies do not exist, though that is what I think, it’s mostly that I don’t care about those topics. My religious feelings concern the natural, I’m not interested in acupuncture or homeopathy. They’re like football or fashion, I don’t want to talk about it or learn about it because I don’t care. I remember a meeting where one of the women recalled how she’d been a witch in a previous life and had been burned at the stake. I realised then as I realise now that those memories, although false, were very real and traumatic for her and I held my tongue as the others in the group comforted her as she sobbed. But I couldn’t help thinking “this is not how I want to spend my Saturday afternoon”. Another time a good friend and I attended a Beltane celebration, where a non-pagan author presented her fictional book about witch hunts in the Middle Ages. I’ve never understood why modern-day pagans feel those witch hunts are connected to their religion, but anyway, the author was there and told us something about history. Then this woman stood up and started talking: “the witch hunts are not over, not a little bit! Just a couple of weeks ago, a tree in my street was going to be cut down but the tree talked to me, said it wasn’t ready to die, so I chained myself to the tree and the police eventually came and cut me from the tree and sent me home! They discriminated me because of my religion!”. The author looked puzzled and uncomfortable as others agreed with the tree-loving-witch. My friend and I tried not to laugh, but mostly I realised that this is not my scene. I’m fine with anyone believing in whatever they want, but I don’t want to spend my time on reincarnation and aura-healing. I want some nature-loving pagans to dance around a May-pole with, celebrate the changing of the seasons and read scary stories on Halloween!
So I’ve invited some friends over tomorrow night and hopefully we’ll watch a horror movie or something. Thankfully Sinterklaas and Christmas are coming up, I can’t wait :).
One of the many reasons I love the psychology practise I work at: they have The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in their bookcase. It’s not the perfect book on non-monogamy, but it’s so telling that they consider this relevant literature. Sometimes you need reassurances like these, because all the sex-negative, neofeminist, prohibitionist ignorance can become truly disheartening.
This November I am hosting a conference on kink! It will be a whole day filled with interesting lectures and hands-on workshops by academics and educators and activists and kinksters and I’m just looking forward to it so much. I’m also terrified of course, I’ve organised it all by myself and I’m sure things will go wrong. Still, I can’t wait. It’s on November 22nd and it’s in Dutch, so if you’re in Amsterdam and speak the language, feel free to join us. Here’s the website: Kink Congres.
Decriminalising sex work helps prevent the spread of AIDS, recent (and older) studies have shown. These facts have been picked up enthusiastically by sex workers’ rights activists as an argument for decriminalisation. Although I believe it is important to debunk myths such as the idea that sex workers carry more STD’s or that sex work spreads disease, I’m not too fond of the sex workers’ rights as a public health issue approach. The point is, I wouldn’t accept the argument if it was the other way around. If decriminalising sex work would result in an increase in HIV infections, I would still believe that sex work should be decriminalised because this is a matter of individual human rights. Killing everyone with HIV would be a very effective way of fighting AIDS, but we all understand that the individual right to life overrules that strategy. Sex workers’ right are human rights, irrelevant of the impact on the spread on AIDS. Don’t get me wrong: we should debunk the lies. People against decriminalisation because they think it’s bad for public health should be confronted with the facts, people fighting the spread of HIV should support decriminalisation, but when push comes to shove, this is not a public health issue. Sex workers’ rights are human rights.
Anyway, I joined Marlies Dekkers, Jantien Seeuws and Andreas Wijsmeijer last night at the Arminius ‘Denkcafe’ on BDSM. We were invited to talk about the hype around 50 shades of grey, media representations of kink and of course the BDSM scene itself. More than 100 people showed up, the BDSM shop Mr. B. from Amsterdam showed us some kinky toys and all in all it was a great evening. I love getting in front of people and telling them about sex, it’s so much fun. I’ve never been nervous in front of groups. Well, that’s not true. I get nervous during mandatory introductions, I get nervous when I have to stand in front of a group as someone else talks about me and I just have to stand there (yeah, graduation was fun.. meh!) but when I have something to say I love to talk.
Some good news: they opened up the kink-location Phee’s! It had been closed because of kink omg sex omg whores omg trafficking, but after protests it was opened again! Yay! And then it was closed again. You can’t make this stuff up. But I met up with the awesome people from the Prostitution Information Centre in Amsterdam and their activist network, and with Felicia Anna, so that was cool. Het blog is a must-read by the way!
Weekly! Ha, That’s what you get when your plans are too ambitious, failed weekly personal updates. We’ll just have to make do. Life has been good! A couple of weeks ago I organised the ‘Sushi Baby’ munch, a meeting for people who are interested in BDSM. We have dinner at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant (which isn’t too bad for an all-you-can-eat) and meet up with other kinksters. It was fun, it was a lot, I felt full for days! And then a week later my family and I went to an all-you-can-eat wok-restaurant for my mom’s birthday, and that was fun, and a lot. And then yesterday my partners’ parents took us out to dinner, not an all-you-can-eat thankfully but it was a lot. Man, I love food.
I went to the 20-year anniversary of ‘PIC‘, the prostitution information centre in Amsterdam on the 24th this month. We went to visit the famous banana-bar, saw some shows at Casa Rosso, looked through the erotic museum and saw the Belle statue at the Wallen. I’m very happy we don’t put women in jail for having sex with other consenting adults just because someone doesn’t approve of our motivation to have sex. You can just walk through the red lights district, there’s tours where you can even visit one of the work-rooms for the women behind the windows, information on how to rent a window is visible for anyone. The Netherlands still is one of the safest, accepting, tolerant countries when it comes to sex and sex work.
But us Dutchies are working hard to change that. I recently read about a case in the Netherlands where a man was convicted of human trafficking because he lied to his (sex worker) girlfriend. She was a sex worker before she met him, gave him money because he promised her a future together, then he turned into an abusive bastard and left her for the girl he’d apparently been with the entire time. If she’d been a hairdresser there wouldn’t have been a case, but she was a sex worker, so human trafficking. Seriously. They even want special judges that are specialised in trafficking because it’s such an invisible and complex problem that regular judges get all misled and confused.. or something. But I met up with Peter Kwint, a politician who is involved in the 1012 project in Amsterdam and he was really cool and not anti-sex work at all and who knows he might change something so we’ve got that going for us which is nice. He bought me a lot of good beer and then let me partycrash some girl‘s birthday, it was great.
I’m back in school to become a cognitive-behavioural therapist! I still work as a therapist at Praktijk voor Seksuologie/Advies & Hulp of course, but it means I’m also keeping really busy with studying. And I have our cat Poes to keep me company. Aahw. So cute.
Oh, and they closed ‘Phees‘, a location for non-commercial BDSM meetings and party’s, because of laws against trafficking. Yup. They now need a brothel-permit (which are impossible to get) because sex! It might happen! And you know what you get when you have sex? Alllll the trafficking! Told you they’re not only coming for the whores.
You know, I always fool myself into thinking I’ll be super productive when I have time off. A whole week in a beautiful house in France, nothing to do but hang around, enjoy myself, surely I’ll have plenty of time to write tons of blog posts, answer all of my e-mails, maybe even organise my documents and set up a better back-up system! Yeah. Never happens. We sat in our jacuzzi almost every night, looking out over the valley, talking and drinking wine. Days were spent reading books, playing games, taking short walks and sunbathing. My partner and I intended to go to Paris the last weekend to visit a friend of his, but it was one of the ‘black Saturdays’ and we got so stuck in traffic we never even reached the city. We ended up on a friendly camping site filled with Dutch families (seriously). But we made it to Paris the next day, visited some of the tourist attractions, hung out with the friend and drove all the way back home that night. On Monday after work I finally wrote the blog posts, answered my e-mails, fixed my laptop, cleaned the house and went out for ice-cream.
Visiting CoMensha was interesting. They are the national coordination centre for trafficking, they provide rescue shelters for victims and register reports of suspicions of possible victims of trafficking from police and marshals. I’ve been very sceptical of their reports and how their numbers are being used by the national reporter on trafficking and other politicians. The vast majority of people reported to CoMensha do not want to be helped, they often express discomfort about the questioning and stalking and some of the registered individuals are simply highly-educated non-sex worker women who travel alone! But the number of reports are still used as an indication of trafficking in the Netherlands, the national reporter is working to make reporting of ‘suspicious’ situations mandatory for even more organisations and politicians wave the inflated numbers around when proposing new laws restricting sex work. I met up with Bas de Visser last week, the Senior Advisor Public Affairs & Public Relations. He explained that CoMensha focusses solely on human trafficking, helping people who want help. They keep records of reports of suspicions of trafficking but they do not (and can not) check the reports or do any research. They try to be as clear as they can about this, try to consistently report on “suspicions of possible victims” instead of victims and try to make sure it is clear that they do not examine the reported cases. The fact that the national reporter, NGO’s and politicians then use these numbers as reports of actual victims is something they can’t be held responsible for. We talked about the way the inflated numbers are used to take away sex workers’ rights, about the raids on brothels and sex workers working from home, how all these developments are harmful to both victims and sex workers. We talked about the rescue industry. We talked about the fact that sex workers are talked about but rarely invited to talk with. The conversation derailed into a discussion about the Swedish Model, how clients of sex workers are treated as disordered, how even chemical castration is offered as a ‘treatment’. We talked about treating sex work as work, the new proposed legislation targeting clients, the lack of funding for sex workers’ rights organisations. All in all I got the impression that CoMensha tries to focus on trafficking in all sectors, is not anti-sex work, is somewhat sceptical of many of the proposed legislations concerning sex work (they were not in favour of registrations of all sex workers, for example) but don’t consider it their work to fight for sex workers’ rights.
Personally I feel they could do more to publicly distance themselves from the way their numbers are being used in the media and by politicians. When another anti-sex worker politician quotes their report as “thousands of victims every year!” I feel they should contact the media to explicitly state that that is not what their reports say. But it was good getting to know their organisation, that they are not an enemy and could even be an ally to sex workers’ rights.