March 3, 2009

Quick hit: International Sex Workers Rights Day

Posted in Feminism, Human rights, Sex at 9:50 pm by The Lizard Queen

I just wanted to take a moment to point out that today is International Sex Workers Rights Day. There’s lots of great information over on SWOP-USA, including a background on the day itself.

Also, a dear friend of mine has a pertinent guest post up on Sex in the Public Square regarding human remains found on Albuquerque’s West Mesa.  A snippet:

Thus far, two sets of bones have been identified. They belong to Victoria Chavez and Gina Michelle Valdez. Both young women had a history of drug use and prostitution; this is the one point the media coverage has not failed to announce, and it has defined for investigators the profiles of the remaining dead people. Any other features of these people’s lives is rarely worthy of mention, which leads me to believe that if it’s not salacious-seeming, it’s not salient, right?

Go check out the whole piece!


1 Comment »

  1. DavidD said,

    Consider a different setting and a lesser degree of harm. Consider walking past a girl in an ER with a head wound. You know nothing about her, but your colleague does. As both of you walk past the girl, your colleague turns and tells you, “She was bouncing on her bed.” Do you want to know more? Is that just the most efficient and accurate way your colleague can inform you of what happened to this girl, incomplete as it may be?

    Of course there would be much more to know if one wanted to pass judgment on the injured girl. Maybe she was bouncing in a completely safe and responsible way, but her sibling pushed her. Maybe the injury was completely the girl’s own fault. Both of these are possible as are many other circumstances where the girl can be considered to be partially at fault.

    If one were concerned with the girl’s recovery, a series of other issues would be pertinent, about the degree of injury, the risk of recurrence, the likelihood of other dangers in this girl’s life, and her psychology. Then what about other girls and boys and their risk? Bouncing on one’s bed is a complex phenomenon, influenced by many biological and cultural factors. It’s not good for people to jump to conclusions about that, even though the biology of human brains makes it our nature to jump to conclusions.

    It is a little salacious to speak of a girl jumping on her bed, isn’t it? It’s fun to imagine someone else having fun. Some of us are even perverted enough to experience the schadenfreude of someone being hurt by the consequence of his or her fun. Still is that the reason your colleague stopped at this one sentence? Maybe a little, maybe whatever salaciousness there is to that, it helps to focus the listener’s attention on the rest of the story. Yet I’d say the cognitive reasons for reducing this victim to one sentence are more important than whatever excitement we imagine the listener having.

    Does this one sentence go too far in allowing the listener to detach from the victim? It would lead me to detach some. I don’t bounce on my bed. I may have when I was young. It’s hard to remember. If I did, I was luckier than my sister, who was injured this way at least once. If not her, I could imagine other people I care about being injured. If I couldn’t, if I thought all people who bounce on their bed are an inferior species who deserve whatever suffering life gives them, then identifying this victim as one of that species would reinforce my distance from her. If that’s the case, though, nothing written in the Albuquerque Journal will change that.

    I care about this patient I’ve created here, even though she’s just an idealized version of real people who suffer, whether completely from their own actions, completely from someone else’s actions or something in between. I don’t need to know her life story for me to care. Even if someone is already dead, I hope biological gifts like dissociation helped minimize her pain. For others whose suffering along the same lines is yet to come, I give of myself to help, but there’s only so much of me vs. an entire culture which doesn’t just make women suffer violence, but makes everyone suffer in many ways. Then there are so many lies about that, from everywhere along the religious and political spectra.

    I don’t want to hear everything there is to hear about that. I know about children jumping on beds. I know about violence against women, whether prostitutes or not, whether drug addicts or not. I know more about that than whatever led to Casey Anthony’s death, despite how that has become a cause celebre, with Nancy Grace being certain that Casey’s mother murdered her to be free to party. Do you want these Albuquerque deaths to be covered like that? Would it make a difference if everyone who suffers got equal time on TV? I don’t think it would, not from the coverage I see.

    Labeling victims is a useful thing to do when it comes to any of us deciding what we’re going to do about it. Whether the listener judges the victim or feels distant from the victim doesn’t depend on the label, but on who the listener is. Lots of us are angry at the culture, but to oversimplify who and what we blame for that is to be part of the problem, not the solution.

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