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Archive for January, 2009

British radical feminist, Julie Bindel, wrote an article in memory of Norma Hotaling, a formerly prostituted woman, a US campaigner against the sex trade and the founder of the SAGE project, Standing Against Global Exploitation – whose mission is “to improve the lives of individuals victimized by, or at risk for sexual exploitation, violence and prostitution through trauma recovery services, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, housing assistance and legal advocacy.”

This from Julie Bindel’s Guardian article:

Norma Hotaling, who has died aged 57 of pancreatic cancer, was internationally renowned for her advocacy work in the US on behalf of victims of sexual violence, in particular prostitution and trafficking. The Florida-born campaigner founded a world-famous programme to deter men from paying for sex.

Hotaling herself had endured the worst type of violence. Shortly after the death of her father, when she was three years old, she was sexually abused for the first time, with further occurrences between the ages of five and seven. She went to school in Palm Springs, but by the time she was 18, she was on the streets selling sex and soon became a heroin addict.

In 1989, after 21 years in prostitution, Hotaling decided she had had enough. She turned herself in at the nearest police station and insisted that she be put in jail, where she stayed for six weeks, almost dying during drug withdrawal. She soon began to devote her life to helping other women. First working with Aids sufferers, in 1992 she founded Standing against Global Exploitation (Sage), a San Francisco-based centre offering services to help women out of prostitution.

Furious that street prostitutes continued to be arrested and blamed for their circumstances, Hotaling decided to try to educate people living in neighbourhoods most affected by the trade. She began meeting regularly with community leaders, explaining that the women were not there out of choice, but that the kerb crawlers were. It was then that she decided to do something about the demand side of prostitution.

Ironically, it was her collaboration with the police officer who had arrested her countless times in the 1980s for soliciting, Lieutenant Joe Dutto, that enabled her work with sex buyers to take off. She contacted him after hearing of his concern about the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in the city, and, by then armed with a degree in health education from San Francisco state university, offered her skills.

Hotaling devised a programme that was to become known as the John’s school, which came to be replicated across scores of cities in the US, Canada and the UK. Formally known as the First Offenders of Prostitution Program (Fopp), charges against first offenders were dropped if they paid a fee and attended a day-long course, including sessions run by former prostitutes, on the realities of the sex trade. Most of the fees went to help women attend the Sage programme.

“I was scared,” she said about the first time she ran Fopp. “I knew they would hate me. I never thought in my wildest dreams they would get anything out of it. At the end of the programme they were all crying.” Very few men who attend Fopp are known to reoffend, and its existence has enabled a change in emphasis to focus on the demand for prostitution as the cause of the problem.

In recognition of her work with Sage and Fopp, Hotaling received more than 20 awards, including Oprah’s angel award in 2001, presented to her on air by Winfrey herself. She also advised governments on how to tackle trafficking and prostitution and addressed conferences all over the world.

Asked in 1997 how she managed to work with women who have complex problems, she replied: “It’s like caring for orchids. They die so easily. But you take the dead-looking stem to someone who knows orchids and that person can look at the root and say, ‘Look! There’s still a little bit of life here.'”

Hotaling never married. She is survived by her mother and brother.

• Norma Hotaling, campaigner, born 21 July 1951; died 16 December 2008

And another wonderfully courageous feminist has died. I feel a deep grief…

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… is now up at Women’s Life Matters & Women’s Lives Matter.

It has a section called Sex-Trading = Slave-Trading?

Other features are called Race Divide, Gender-Crossing, Women’s Global War of Terror, etc, which can be found on the main page and contain links to many posts on different topics.

Many thanks to Rain. She did a great job gathering all those articles.

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Seduction is the rapist’s sleazy sales pitch.

If I don’t want you without tapping the vast reservoir of conditioned responses to dominance-submission-paradigm eye dances/gender performances/body festishes then our physical transaction amounts to nothing more than a hazy reification of woman-hating. And no person, except a raging sexist and rapist, believes women knowingly consent to these measures.

Pisaquari, in a comment to this post.

When I think about seduction, a couple of words come to my mind: exploitation and manipulation, ‘sexploitation’ to boot. These words actually bring up vivid memories in my mind: about someone whose name started with a D, who was male. I don’t think I’ve been talking about this to anyone for years, not even to my most recent partner. Tears come to my eyes each time I remember D’s seduction of me, his sexual exploitation and manipulation of me…

For sure, I did not mean to somehow ‘shock’ some readers with my broader definitions of rape in that post here. I can understand why, to some women (who often come from mainstream society & culture), some radical feminist thoughts may sound strange or crazy, etc. Hell, I would have confused my younger self had I been reading something similar to this – a radical feminist writing – a few years back, when I was being manipulated by D, for instance.

I will talk about this younger self of mine as she were like a few years back exactly at the time I was seeing D: I was this rather ordinary girl, ordinary but ‘sexy’, ‘beautiful’ (according to him) and naive – or at least behaving in a very naive way ’cause it was ‘fun’ and it made me smile. I remember that before I met D I had been raped – though I never called it rape. When I had been raped, coerced into sex, harassed, harangued, over and over by my first boyfriend (before meeting ‘seductive’ D), I had never called my experience rape, not once. All that was “just life” and I deserved it: sometimes I blamed the pain I’d experienced in my first relationship on the fact that “I hadn’t been listening to my Christian parents and all their moralistic advice” (now I know differently: Woman-hating, whichever side of the patriarchy it comes from, is woman-hating)…

Back to where I was: When I met D, I had come from a very hard, very painful relationship and I wanted to get over it. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to be free. My first boyfriend had been real evil to me but surely not all men were assholes, were they?

Okay, let’s talk about seduction then… as it happened to me on a personal level…

I used to be this girl who loved going clubbing, drinking booze, smoking pot, wearing ‘sexy’ high heels, stockings, skirts; this girl often dressed in black, wearing loads of makeup and often hoping, with a huge smile on her face, that D would love her as much as she loved him. Nowadays, I don’t club, don’t drink, don’t smoke (it’s been years…), don’t wear high heels or stockings or skirts or makeup, and I sincerely don’t give a shit if D ever loved me: he was an asshole that used me, used my body, played on my feelings, tried to fuck up my mind…

D once came to me. I remember he was so ‘charming’. I remember sitting next to him while he was playing guitar one of the first times I’d met him. Dunno if I’d fallen for him yet at that time but I did have a crush on him. He was so chivalrous, you know, he kept telling me I was gorgeous and all the words that many women have been influenced to buy as a way to happiness in a patriarchy. He made me sleep with him. I remember thinking during a minute that he may have been bragging about it to his friends the next day but then I fell back into denial, even though I’d briefly heard rumors about it. [Denial is a powerful part of the conditioning you get under male supremacy. The culture had taught me that denial of some behaviors of the men you like or love was healthy, it makes you happy, but I did not know that at the time – or only in the back of my mind…]

I came back to D later on. I so much wanted to see him again. He was so kind; he’d even bought me flowers. I had been told once that when a man bought you flowers it truly means something, and my first boyfriend had never bought me flowers…

One day, when he thought he’d finished with using me as a sex-object, he threw me out of his place while I was staying there for a few days. But he came back and he kept seducing me. And I was weak. I know malestream society would, with no doubt, put the blame on me for going back to him but he was capable of being so kind, so polite, so seductive and, like all the ‘good girls’, I had been taught to forget and to forgive…

He was so skilled at seducing me, manipulating me, looking at me with his seductive eyes, making me believe that I was being valued in his heart while, as a matter of fact, I was just “another girl” to him. Sometimes, I’d believe him, I’d fall for his “sleazy sales pitch”. Other times, I wasn’t sure and thus I’d go away, just for a while to not be hurt in case I was being manipulated… The situation was extremely difficult because I loved him, I think…

Another day, after he’d used me again, he said, “I’m sorry, I’d told you that I loved you just to have sex with you one more time.” He just wanted my body to use for his own purpose, his own gratification…

Then, at some point, when we were just friends, him and I, he’d left me alone drunk at one of his pals’ who’d then tried to fuck me that night. He’d wanted his friend to use me too; I’d overheard them talking to each other earlier that night…

Last time I saw D, I remember him telling me what an asshole he had been to me but, in hindsight, I believe he was trying to excuse himself for all the times he’d fucked me over… I felt terribly used and abused. I had gone through his seduction of me…

. . . How then do we define rape?
Rape is a crime against women.
Rape is an act of aggression against women.
Rape is a contemptuous and hostile act against women.
Rape is a violation of a woman’s right to self-determination.
Rape is a violation of a woman’s absolute control of her own body.
Rape is an act of sadistic domination.
Rape is a colonializing act.
Rape is a function of male imperialism over and against women.
The crime of rape against one woman is a crime committed against all women.

. . . Rape occurs when a man, who is dominant by definition, takes a woman who, according to men and all the organs of their culture, was put on this earth for his use and gratification. . .

— Andrea Dworkin, “The Rape Atrocity and the Boy Next Door”, in Our Blood, p. 32 & p. 46.


The thing is that when I eventually opened my mind to radical feminist thoughts, even some that I’d initially found strange or confusing, I noticed a great feeling: I finally had some sort of a power, the power of knowledge; I was able to see the dominant system with all its intricate parts, to understand how the world works, to know how much women have been culturally brought into submission by patriarchy (through pernicious ideologies, behaviors, attitudes fully internalized through socialization), to be aware of how relationships between men and women are all, to some extent or another, exclusively set within the boundaries of patriarchy. And that kind of knowledge, that kind of feeling I never, never ever, wanna give up on.

Apart from the power of knowledge, radical feminists have very little power. We are a little handful of women living on patriarchal Planet Earth and publicly striving for the good of womankind. And we are hated. We are so hated that constant insults and misrepresentations get thrown at us. For the little number we are in the female population, such an amount of hatred seriously looks to me like an overkill.

When we speak of rape while using wider definitions than malestream culture, we sometimes confuse people and even drive them mad. That reminds me of the expression “Not my Nigel” aimed at describing many women’s denial of malestream institutionalized misogyny and abuse of females. The fact remains that men of course ARE the ones who perpetrate rape and who also condone pro-rape attitudes, especially within their pornified male circles. And they get away with it. “Not my Nigel” notwithstanding: the vast majority of men 1) hate women, 2) participate in rape culture and/or 3) have been conditioned to get off on the oppression of women. Here is an interesting feminist article on women, heteronormativity and the socialization of men:

Women do not live in a benign or even neutral society. Most of us move through this culture in denial of its prejudice because the reality is too horrible to bear: the absurd injustice of a caste system based on gender. Feminism teaches us ways to recognize this prejudice in institutions, systems, and individuals around us; to understand how we have internalized the prejudice; and finally to acknowledge that our private, personal relationships are affected by it. Yet whether or not we call ourselves feminists, we know this caste system exists. All of us, women and men alike, are conditioned to conform to this culture. Men are trained to be dominators, women to be subordinates. No one is exempt. Everything we do, think, and feel takes place in this context of male supremacy and climate of woman-hating.

— Kay Leigh Hagan, in Orchids in the Arctic.

I can understand why some women (coming from mainstream thoughts and ideologies) would feel seriously confused by this post here. But to me it is no longer so hard to connect the dots, i.e. to be able to see what happened to me as I understand it now thanks to radical feminism:

First of all, my first boyfriend – with his repeated mistreatment of me, of my body, of my mind, of my soul – had fully trained me to submit to patriarchy and all its supposed charms. I had never dressed provocatively or been involved in sexually submissive behavior before I had been sexually abused for the first time. I had never been conditioned to let myself be used before that had happened to me, or to let myself be fucked over in order to be loved. And I do not believe that I am to be blamed for what happened to me (Any other woman whose personal experience may have been similar is not to be blamed either, for that matter).

Second, I’m sorry if rape comes across as a bit of a strong word to some women, especially considering the fact that all of us have conformed and internalized the patriarchal values of this culture, yes, including me (in the past). I have been raped and it is not in my intention to minimize anyone’s experience of sexual coercion by arguing that rape can take different forms – hell no, I am a survivor myself! I am merely arguing that sexual abuse and male sexual exploitation of women exist in a continuum: Some are blatantly violent while others are subtler but still cruel ways of making someone your submissive ‘object’. That is, for instance, while my experience with D may not have been as bad as the living hell I’d been going through with my first partner, what D did to me was literally using me as an object in order to get his rocks off, using me again and again.

Third, was it sexual abuse I felt at any point when I was with D? The ‘seduction’ part, I mean? Well, I may not have felt any crime or aggression; I may not have felt any contempt or hostility at all when he was seducing me. But, looking back, do I think there was a violation of my right to self-determination when he was manipulating me with his words, his ways of looking at me? Hell, yeah! Do I believe it was sexual exploitation? Hell, yeah! Do I perceive men’s seduction of women as a colonizing act? Hell, Yeah! Did I feel there was a sadistic domination in his seducing of me? Hell, yeah! Do I believe that seduction is part of male imperialism over and against women? Yes, I do!

However, that does not change the fact that I did feel aggression, contempt, hostility, sadistic domination and violation of my right to self-determination, and much more when I was being raped by my first boyfriend… I felt all that too later on in life, when I was living in domestic violence…

p.s. Still preparing my post on masochism. I will need just a bit of time before it is released, but not too much…

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According to some Human Rights Watch headlines last month:

Soaring rates of rape and violence against women

2008-12-19 07:56:53

More Accurate Methodology Shows Urgent Need for Preventive
Action

(New York, December 18, 2008) — A new government report showing huge increases in the incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault over a two-year period in the United States deserves immediate attention from lawmakers and the incoming administration, Human Rights Watch said today. The statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault.


The National Crime Victimization Survey, based on projections from a national sample survey, says that at least 248,300 individuals were raped or sexually assaulted in 2007, up from 190,600 in 2005, the last year the survey was conducted. The study surveyed 73,600 individuals in 41,500 households. Among all violent crimes, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault showed the largest increases. Except for simple assault, which increased by 3 percent, the incidence of every other crime surveyed decreased.


“The numbers in this survey show an alarmingly high rate of sexual violence in this country,” said Sarah Tofte, researcher for the US Program at Human Rights Watch. “This should serve as a wake-up call that more must be done to address the problem in the US.”


The projected number of violent crimes committed by intimate partners against women increased from 389,100 in 2005 to 554,260 in the 2007 report. By comparison, the number of violent crimes against men by intimate partners went down.

Now, first of all, this is very upsetting, disheartening, worrying and yet not surprising, considering the fact that we live everyday in a woman-hating, male-supremacist culture. And this is real grim…

Second, porn apologists can carry on with their “cathartic effect” propaganda; it has not been proven to be true. These figures remind me of how much pornified culture and rape culture are one and the same thing, especially considering that the pornography industry makes $13 million in the US alone every year, remember? Which means there is a huge amount of male demand for an industry that relies on beliefs that “women enjoy being hurt, being demeaned,” etc and thus that endlessly perpetuates female suffering for the sadistic pleasure of its males consumers and, often, yes, rapists.

Pornographic culture relentlessly invades malestream media with its fragmentations of women into body parts, its portrayal of female humans as “worthless sex-objects that ‘ask for it’ or that deserve what happens to them”, and its glamorization of sexual violence, etc; see, for example, this YouTube video for a NOW campaign.

Finally, can women really feel safe with the vast majority of men in a patriarchy, i.e. the ones who were born in male privilege and who were taught to benefit from masculine socialization and domination?…

You know, I watched “The Accused” again on new year’s eve. It’s a film (with Jodie Foster) that was made in 1988. It is an amazing movie that highlighted a topic that is usually so rare in Hollywood. I hadn’t seen it in years. Watching it again made me cry over a simple fact: the very real, cruel and sinister attitudes that encourage, condone and attempt to justify rape have not changed one bit in 21 years (unless they actually have gotten worse). I was observing the woman-hating and victim-blaming that many of the men in that movie were praising through sentences such as “she was begging for it,” “it’s her fault,” “she put on a sex show,” or “she wasn’t even raped,” etc. And I remember thinking “That is all very real. That’s very much similar attitudes to so many men’s who live in a patriarchal pornified culture,” and I couldn’t stop crying, especially during the rape scene. These things are not just fiction. Rape keeps happening, in real life, thousands and thousands of times everyday. All the underpinning behaviors that support sexual violence and the root causes of rape haven’t changed. Not one bit. If they have, they have merely gotten worse…

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