Why Sex Worker Rights Complement LGBT Rights

I’m pretty new to being vocally sex positive.  I’ve been polyamorous all my life, so in my personal circle, I’ve been critical of dominant relationship paradigms — for me.  I’ve been bisexual all my life, so when someone has asked, I’ve said yes, I’m bisexual.  And I’ve been submissive most of my adult life.  That actually doesn’t come up in conversation much with my friends, so while I don’t hide it, I also don’t make a big deal out of it.

But through my volunteer work with the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, and with this blog, I have become much more vocal about what I’d like to see happen beyond the personal level:  transgender people should be able to use whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate; no one should be discriminated against in employment or housing, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity (or race, age, etc.).  And this:  I believe sex work should be legal.

Why?

Because I’d like to see sex workers empowered with protections and rights.  I’d like to see the highly professional people I know who do sex work get some recognition as the hard workers they are.  I’d like the profession to be better regulated, for sex workers to be seen as separate from the current international story that human trafficking and preying on the week is what drives sex work.  I’d like the profession to be regulated, too, because that would make illegal activity around sex work more visible.  And I’d like the people who patronize sex workers to be free to do so.

I also think it’s an important human rights issue.  Currently sex workers are arrested and jailed for their motive for having sex and for whom they have sex with.  Just like at one point, gay men could be jailed, beaten, and worse for their idea of whom they found sexy.  And there is also this, from the Huffington Post:

In terms of ideology, the two movements are not so far apart. The heart of the demand for LGBT rights is the idea that all people should be granted autonomy over their lives and bodies, that anyone should be allowed to sleep with who they choose and that it only concerns the people in the relationship and not the government or bigots. The very same idea is at the core of the fight for sex workers. Why should they not be granted the same freedom? Why should they not be allowed to have sex with who they choose? — Stephanie Farnsworth

If anyone wants to be truly free on this planet, we must fight for the rights of all our people to be free.

 

 

Tea & Consent

I ran into this video awhile ago and it’s stuck in my mind. It’s the perfect video for explaining consent to someone who just. doesn’t. get it.  If that sounds like someone you know, see if you can share this video with them, and then find out what they think. It could be a life-changing conversation.

Don’t Say Maybe When You Mean NO

Forever 21 pulled this t-shirt from their shelves this week after criticism on social media that the message supports rape culture:

forever21

Called “jaw-droppingly repulsive” by twitter user @Steph Dale and “very rapey” by Cosmopolitan, the shirt stirred up instant controversy.  Forever 21 responded by pulling the shirt and deleting it from their website, apologizing to “anyone who was offended by the product”.

I read it differently.  In many cultures, women and men are both socialized to say “maybe” or “later” when we mean “no”.  Nice people don’t say no.  Nice people let other people down easy, or do whatever they have to do to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, at least directly.

Yes, people engaging in sex absolutely have the responsibility to gain the consent of the other person/people involved.  Yes, consent should be wholehearted and enthusiastic. Whether you’re asking someone if you can give them a hug or spank them while they’re wearing a duck suit, anything less than an enthusiastic “yes!” should not only give you pause, but should be a warning sign that maybe you don’t want to engage in behavior with this particular individual, because they are not clear on what they want or don’t want.

But as a sexually active individual, it is my responsibility to develop and make clear my boundaries.  “Maybe” doesn’t cut it, unless I follow up with a list of conditions that would make it a yes.  “Later?” isn’t enough of an answer.  “I don’t know” isn’t clear enough.

“No.” “No thank you.” “I like you, but no.” “No, but you might approach so & so (who happens to love being spanked while wearing a duck suit)”.  These should be the phrases and sentences we train ourselves to say.  As a sexually active being, even as a submissive, even as a masochist, I don’t ever get the option of abdicating responsibility for my own safety AND enjoyment.

Frankly, I’d wear this t-shirt and welcome the dialogue that I might encounter.

Upshot: don’t ever take a maybe for a yes.  And don’t say maybe when you mean no. And for all of us, let’s build a culture in which consent is clear and “no” is a socially acceptable and common answer.

 

Sources:

Today: Forever 21 apologizes for ‘don’t say maybe’ t-shirt after social media backlash

Huffington Post: Forever 21 Removes Creepy Graphic Tee From Its Website