Sunday, July 29, 2007

And suddenly I'm not so sure...

Although being exposed to many people who felt otherwise, I have always been of the opinion that prostitution is inherently harmful to the worker and, therefore, immoral for the john (see my previous post). I have tried to have an open mind about it, starting discussions with friends and unsuspecting acquaintances, but I could never before see past my pre-established assumptions. Yesterday I finished the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women by Alexa Albert (highly recommended). It is a first-hand account of a Harvard med student who gains access into a legalized brothel in Nevada to study condom use, but realizes she has access to something even more valuable and interesting: the prostitutes themselves. The book discusses the lives and thoughts of the actual women working in what is considered by some “the world’s oldest profession” and by others the world’s saddest.

I came into this read with both my previous feelings and my desire to learn more, but came out even more conflicted. With countless personal stories and quotations from the women, they become people who you grow to know, understand, and respect. Now, don’t get me wrong, my problem with legalizing prostitution was never that I thought the women who chose it were immoral people. It was more along the lines of: is prostitution ever really a choice in the first place? Isn’t it just a dehumanizing result of patriarchy, where men assert power and control over women’s bodies? Isn’t it psychologically damaging to the coerced women who suffer from being used by these men? I never considered how the women themselves think of their work or what it is really like to work in a legalized brothel in this country. I see now that the women were not subjects even in my mind and I did not give them agency.

Although I have laid out the questions, I still don’t have the answers. I don’t know if sex work is really a choice, if it would exist without patriarchy, or if it causes mental harm to the prostitute. I do know, however, that it is more complicated than I thought. Many women in legalized prostitution in Nevada love their job, their friends, and their life in and outside of the brothel. From the accounts in Brothel, the women take great pride in their work, discussing more required skills and techniques than I had imagined. Many see themselves as performing necessary social work like any other helping profession, some even considering themselves therapists of sort. They give their customers more than an orgasm; they give them the physical contact and closeness that many lack in their lives. And they make bank for it. They also make close friends in the business and, although there can be cliques and competition, they ultimately form a tight-nit family. I do have gripes about the reasons some women enter the business, such as pressure from men in their lives who then reap the financial benefits; the way the brothels are run, of course women-owned and operated, unionized, co-ops would be preferable; and the restrictions on the women who work and live there, having limited contact with the outside. Yet despite these current problems, I have begun to see the possibility of a legitimate profession. I have gained insight into the other side, not only the other side of the argument, but also the other side of the closed brothel gates.

So now I have the pros as well as the cons down. However, I am still left mostly unsatisfied without concrete answers. Always the social scientist, and tired of the opinion pieces littering the net, I jumped on PsychInfo to research scientific studies regarding pros and cons of legalized prostitution (you can search Google Scholar if you do not have access to a university library database search engine). I had read Melissa Farley’s work in the past, but wondered if that is all that is out there about the effects of legalized prostitution on the women involved. From my browsing I concluded that the researchers are as divided as the feminists. Some studies showed that legalization helped to decrease violence and the spread of STIs without lowering the women’s self-esteem or increasing their drug use. Other studies, such as those by Melissa Farley, disagreed. (You can find lots of general stats here.) So now with apologies, I leave you in the same place I started and the place most psychological research papers end, with a recommendation for further research.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thinly Veiled Self-Promotion

I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner.

All of this talk about personal art on the blog, especially feminist art, and I forgot about my own. For the last six months I have run a store on CafePress, a website where you can upload your own designs onto their products, people buy them, Cafe Press makes and ships them, and you get commission (at a price you set). It's a great way for artists with little start-up capital to get their stuff out there. Now, I'm no artist, I'm just a computer nerd that has spent too much time downloading free fonts and messing with Photoshop.

Our friend Nidhi, who turned me onto the site and trained me in its operation, has been making some serious cash with her awesome designs.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Lovely Lady Lumps

Thanks Korin for the link.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just in case you were going to pay money to watch it....

Transformers: Army of One

So, I admit it. I watched transformers when I was a young girl, sitting beside my brother on a Saturday morning, watching one gloriously 80's cartoon after another. I had heard good things about this live action tribute to the cartoon that started as an advertising campaign for shape-shifting toys. Turns out, it took the team that worked on the giant robots 38 hours to complete ONE frame. Who's got high hopes now?

Excited, buttocks pressed against the edge of the seat, I watched a killer first few scenes where something big is being built up and eerie space invasions whisper promises of an action-filled, self-aware film about relationships between man and technology, good and evil, a boy and....his camaro?

I was almost won over when the two heroines of the film surfaced with sharp wit and amazing abilities (cracking computer signals, hot-wiring cars, explaining an advanced fuel-injection system) that almost hinged on some sort of female empowerment. They had so much potential, they could have done so much....but alas, they are only female.

At the core you have two “hot” women, whose make-up never gets smudged, in tight clothes and existing solely for wet dreams. Their character development and awesome talents begin and end with their usefulness, while the men – useful or not – gain the protection of giant robots and, by default, save the day. The heroine ends up on the hood of the car in her hero's arms (whose only dream throughout the movie, as far as I can tell, is to get the car to get the girl) and the other female hero, the brilliant computer hacker, has to go a man's house in order to get the code cracked.

Which leads me to another human rights flub the movie is guilty of – racism! You have a bunch of white guys parading around, saving the day, and in the midst you have the comic relief in the form of big black men yelling at their mothers, break-dancing, and eating too much. On the outskirts, there is a Spanish speaker who can't seem to forget his Spanish heritage no matter how often the other soldiers remind him to speak English. (Oh that silly Latino!)

At the end of the day, it is one long parade of awesome looking vehicles, bad scripting and bad editing. Nothing pays off, nothing satisfies, and all the issues that could have been dealt with in this movie are over-ran by a whimsical Optimus Prime saying “I see good in humans.” And, if you watch closely enough, you might see some advertisements for the military. Just a few. Just a few that look like hot guys knowing exactly what to do (lead the monsters toward the city! That way we can avoid civilian deaths!(WTF?)) and a level headed secretary of defense. Just a few that look like entrusting the bad-guy's evil weapon to the military is a better idea than giving it to the giant fucking robots that came from outer space to destroy it!

In short, it's really bad.

- Korin Lykam

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let's talk about vaccines.

I'm 26. Almost 27, at which point I will no longer be able to get the HPV vaccine. For some reason, I'm not convinced I need to get it.

"Females who are sexually active may also benefit from the vaccine. But they may get less benefit from the vaccine since they may have already acquired one or more HPV type(s) covered by the vaccine." Source: CDC

What do people think? What have people done?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ouch, That's My Identity

So I came out as bisexual in high school and since then I have met many a person with much to say about my sexual identity. From the straight, male jock to the radical, third-wave, lesbian feminist many a stinging remark has been made about bisexuals. Here is a quick and handy definition of bisexual I've compiled from these experts over the last decade:
Bi-sex-u-al [bahy-sek-shoo-uhl]: A person who has the capacity to engage in sexual and/or romantic relationships with other people regardless of gender as long as they are never monogamous or date less than two people (of different genders) at once.

The bisexual male does not exist as he is actually just about to call you and tell you that he's gay.

The bisexual female does exist, but can be difficult to find in a sea of heterosexual female liars. I mean, I love women, just not the fake bisexual ones. You know those girls, you sleep with her for a while, maybe even have a relationship, but then after that's done, she dates a guy. Liars.

At least lesbians are honest, when they leave you, they go and date another girl. Unless they're a lesbian who dates guys sometimes, but I digress.

The bisexual female can be defined by her previous and current sexual and romantic partners. In order to be a real bisexual a woman must have reached orgasm with or been a girlfriend to 60-100% female and 0-40% male partners. Any fewer female and any greater male means she is a heterosexual liar and cannot be trusted. Any bisexual female who is currently in a committed relationship with a male is a heterosexual liar.

Of course all gender is an illusion and no one should have to pick or be defined by their gender.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

a queen in kings county

brooklyn brooklyn
it was good before you
could it be good after you,

wish i could say
i recognized you better from the back
so you walking away wouldn't be so strange
but i still remember the first time i saw your eyes
the first time they saw me

brooklyn brooklyn
two months in and you've got me twisted around your little finger
loving red brick
wrought-iron garbage cages
24s of malt liquor
and the born and bred motherfuckers that decorate
every one of your stoops

i come from a land of cool and wide
slow and sexy
clean and green
to brooklyn brooklyn
hot fast dirty
where you gotta search for the soft spots:
on the roof at midnight finding shapes in the clouds
smooth brown liquor in dixie cups
a "good morning neighbor"

brooklyn brooklyn
you know you already got me
but i labor you like the last cigarette
suck your sweet smoke
to the butt
let you fill me before i breathe out

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Support NPOs with your searches

I stumbled upon this and had to share. Goodsearch is a very easy add-on to your search box that will donate 1c for each search you do to the charity of your choice (of the ones who have signed up)... so please, check it out!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"If you have a conscience, act."

Raising awareness of HIV & AIDS prevention has never looked so hot. These dresses, by Brazilian artist and activist Adriana Bertini, are made entirely out of expired or defective condoms. Her dresses sell for big bucks and all proceeds go to organizations working to fight against AIDS. Pretty inspiring.

Thanks Rebecca for the tip.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Gays: Too Sexy for School

I really do apologize for posting such an inappropriate image on a Sunday. I understand if you need to block it out with your thumb or a post-it note or something less "illicit" and "suggestive". I mean "I don't have a problem at all", it's just that the picture is so provocative, especially for homophobes.

This June the Newark Public Schools superintendent, Marion A. Bolden, distributed yearbooks with a conspicuous black blob over this photo on Andre Jackson's personal senior page. Jackson took this photo of him and his boyfriend which is very similar to many photos of hetero couples deemed appropriate to publish. I mean shit, there is even a picture "of a young man and a young woman kiss[ing] on a couch, his hand on her leg as she sits on his lap" on the page across from Jackson's. But you've got it all wrong, this is not about them being gay. Clearly.

And I was hoping we were getting somewhere in American schools.

Thanks Feministing for the link.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


So if you have a Mac you won't be impressed but I just got one today(!), and this is my lame excuse for art.

Speaking of amazing female artists, yesterday I made an appointment with Idexa at Black & Blue Tattoo. Black & Blue Tattoo is a woman owned and operated tattoo parlor in the Haight that I totally can't wait to support. If you're in the SF area and looking to get inked, I recommend checking them out. If you want to work with Idexa though, be prepared to wait. I took her next available appointment which isn't for over a month and also happens to be my birthday. I'm stoked.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happy July!

I just want to remind everyone that if you would like to post your own poetry, photography, artwork, etc. that would be awesome. Some folks have expressed an interest in this but I'll break the ice with a poem or two once I find/write them (it'll be soon I promise!). So bust out those pens, cameras, or brushes because we'd love to see what you can do!

On a personal note, I just decided that I will in fact be going to grad school at Boston College in the fall! Ilya and I will be moving there on September 1st. I hope I can catch some time with all you West Coasters before then and I'll see all you East Coasters soon! Oh and check out this awesome group I already joined!

One Morning on Paris

I'm having kind of a video day, so please excuse me. First I'm just going to explain, because it is confusing, that this video is actually two segments spliced together. After Brzezinski says, "To the news now," the second segment begins.

On June 26th Mika Brzezinki of MSNBC's Morning Joe made a stand against the news' obsession with Paris Hilton. Brzezinki has received lots of praise via the Internet for her one-woman, on-air protest. I agree that Brzezinki is awesome and what she did was fabulous. Her co-anchors, however, are fucking assholes. Brzezinki is trying to make a rational point about how sick it is that this trivial story is the lead instead of more important news. What is so fucked up is that her co-anchors do not take her seriously whatsoever. When she initially says she has to do the Paris story one anchor teases her (rather harshly) with, "She's not a journalist anymore". Then when she says she doesn't want to do the story and that she didn't choose it he says, "You make your own lead, that's a cop out...Take control of your life alright." The disdain and disrespect in those comments alone is clear. Then they purposely disrespect and frustrate her further by playing Paris video clips in the middle of her protest. I totally understand when she says, "I'm about to snap," I wouldn't have been able to keep it together being tormented by those guys on the air, it's humiliating. Despite her childish co-anchors, her actions are commendable and inspiring. I hope more anchors take her lead and stand up for their dignity and ours.

Thanks Rebecca for the link.

I am Beautiful.

"Big girls, you are beautiful" is a great sentiment, but something seems off about this. Maybe it's that it still poses women's bodies as objects to be judged (and either approved or rejected) by men. Maybe it's that the women don't have the agency or voice in the video to say, "I know I am beautiful". Or maybe it's just the odd lyrical references to diet coke and pizza. Either way, I am not convinced that this is a step forward, even for pop music.