Friday, June 12, 2009

A Podcast And Birthday Wishes!

A fresh podcast, in which we read some follow-up letters about kinky relationships, and then Monk rants about the joys of creating a business selling kinky products. If you ever toyed with starting a business selling something to the kink community, you'll wish to listen to him, the voice of experience in these matters.

Speaking of kinky relationships - today is the birthday of someone very dear to me. I'm thinking extremely fond and sadistic thoughts of him...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wow, This One Got Long

I’m in a letter-answering mood this week, let’s see what else we can pull out of the mailbag…

Mistress Matisse…
I have a question. I remember you mentioning in a column that your clients tend to be conservative. I have this idea that many guys with sex-negative, homophobic views are secretly seeing sex-workers. Maybe you even recognize some conservative politicians amongst your clients. Do you ever feel like you're betraying your fellow sex-workers or the queer/poly-community? Because you're supporting, in a way, the hypocricy of those conservatives? i realize my question isn't exactly fully thought out, but do you understand what I'm trying to say, or am I way off?

Maybe it helps to clarify my question when I explain how I came up with it. I (male and gay) recently met a gay guy who is a musician recording for a christian label (which forces him to stay closeted). I understand that he is religious and that recording under that label is his way of expressing his believe and supporting the good things his church does (like helping street children) but I still feel like he is betraying the queer community somehow, by working for that homophobic institution. Isn't your situation somehow comparable?

Goodness, how very Lysistrata-ish of you. Short answer: No, I don’t. No, it’s not. And no, I do not have any prominent conservative politicians (that I know of) among the people who come to see me.

You can find people in the queer community, and the poly community, that are sex work positive, but you can also find lots of people there who are strongly opposed to sex work. I do not feel that I need to consult their wishes - or anyone else's - in making my career choices. And I can assure you that other sex workers do not feel betrayed by me having conservative clients, given that they all do too.

If you want to get into long-winded political philosophy, then read on…

My dear earnest young man, your assumption here is that "liberal" equates with “sex-positive, non-homophobic, supports sex workers.” You are correct: this reasoning is not fully thought-out. It’s superficial and unexamined at best, and mainly just wrong.

(You also assume that I would define myself as a liberal. I don’t. I’m not a conservative, either. I am a complex blend of leave-me-alone libertarianism, it-takes-a-village progressive, and free-market conservative.)

Now, I will grant you that someone who calls himself a liberal is more likely to say he supports gay rights than someone who calls himself a conservative. However, I have known liberals who paid lip service to the party line, but carried around a lot of unspoken homophobic assumptions. And I have known secular conservatives who honestly didn’t care who slept with who. Or who married who, or who adopted children, or whatever, as long as they didn’t frighten the horses.

However, liberals as a political group are no more likely to be supportive of sex work than conservatives. I have seen just as much dismissal, condescension, and vitriol towards sex workers from the far left as the far right. In the view of many liberals, sex workers are simply victims. And if they refuse to be victims, then they are just bad, evil people. They’re like – oh my god – capitalists! (To be pronounced in same tone that a fundy-christian would use when crying “whores!”)

I'm curious what exactly you think liberals do that’s so supportive of sex work as a job choice? Because I am not aware of any legislation introduced by a mainstream liberal politician to decriminalize my career. I don’t mean citizen’s initiatives like Proposition K, I mean a sitting elected official making a clear effort to repeal laws prohibiting sex work. I don’t know of any. If you find me some, I’d be pleased to hear about it, but my experience and observation is that liberal and conservative politicians may phrase it differently, but they both get to the same conclusion: keep sex work mostly illegal and heavily stigmatized.

On the other hand, my experience and observation has also shown me that thinking individuals of either side can often be educated. Both liberal and conservative people have told me that knowing me changed their opinion of sex work and sex workers, because I was happy and smart and had my shit together.

But only if they're open-minded. I’m remembering one extremely liberal man, who I knew for several years back when I was an escort, who simply could not let himself believe that no, I wasn’t a drug addict, and no, I didn’t have a pimp, and no, I wasn’t abused as a child, et cetera. He was a very nice man, but his continual anxious hand-wringing about whether this was really, really something I was okay with doing got on my nerves. It certainly was not conducive to a good fuck.

No, if I was going to screen for political affiliation, I might very well choose secular moderate-to-conservatives, if for no other reason than they generally sympathize with my work-ethic and entrepreneurial bent, and my desire to be mostly left alone by my government. They see that I am not a victim, and that no one is forcing me to do anything.

And that guy you’re sprung on, the closeted one? He isn’t being forced, either, unless his christian employer is holding a gun to his head. He is choosing it. He may not like everything about the choice he’s made – I can tell you don’t - but he’s a grown-up, and he gets the responsibility for his decisions.

Approaching sexuality with this "never give aid and comfort to the enemy" mindset disregards the power of body and soul. And if you’re going to say that no one from a less-powerful social group should be sexual with someone of a more-powerful social group, then you’d have to say women should not be sexual with men, period. Nor any person of color with a white person, nor any working-class person with a middle- or upper-class one. Not a realistic premise.

So think about it: Are you really saying we should put pressure on people to keep their sexuality strictly in line with, and segregated by, their political affiliations? I don't think that's the way to make the world a more sexually progressive place.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Letter from a reader:
A community I frequent was recently invaded by someone who claimed we had driven a friend of his to suicide. Less than 48 hours later, he finally admitted that it was completely fictional. He does this about once every year or so just for the attention, so it was kind of obvious. It got me wondering, though. I know you have your share of trolls, but have any of them ever tried to claim that a friend committed suicide because of you in order to make you "change your ways"?

Oh wow, talk about drama. I assume this writer means an online community. There’s nothing like the safety of a computer screen to really show the crazy in people, is there?

No, I haven’t had this particular episode of insanity directed at me personally. But I have also seen people try out various versions of this story in online communities. It's a perennial favorite, I think. I’m going to kill myself, my friend is going to kill himself, my friend did kill himself, et cetera. One ambitious lad claimed that he actually had killed himself, and that the post we were seeing had been cleverly delayed to appear after he was dead. Now we’d all be sorry, wouldn’t we!

I don’t think it works as well one-on-one. People who do this seem to crave the mass outpouring of attention that only a large group of total strangers can give.

The idea that such an event would change someone’s ways is odd to me, anyway. If someone I’ve never met is unhappy enough to kill himself, then that’s very sad for his loved ones and I wish it hadn’t happened, but that’s not about me. But then, I’m one of those people who doesn’t accept that (for example) my being happily kinky is somehow contributing to some other woman, completely unconnected to me, being raped or battered somewhere. I think you’d have to be the sort of person who took responsibility for other people’s feelings, and that’s not something I do.

I also just do not understand suicide, in general. I’ve had some unhappy times, but I have never even considered ending my own life. There have been a few moments, in my distant past, when I mused pleasantly about ending someone else’s, but… (No, not really. At least, not in any sort of legally-actionable kind of way. )

So no suicide threats. I have had strangers do what I call “having a relationship with me when I’m not there.” That goes like this: they write to me. I probably read it, because I try to read all my email. But I don’t respond, because I get tons and tons of email, and I can’t possibly answer them all. (Or, I respond just very briefly.)

They take offense, create a whole set of reasons for my non-response, and project them onto me. “How dare you! Obviously you hate me and wish me ill! You're a terrible person! I was going to be your best friend, but now I’m never going to speak to you again, and I’m going to tell everyone how mean you were to me. ”

Um, yeah, okay - you go right ahead and do that. I will just sit here and consider how disappointed I am at not getting to have you for a best friend. Or, not.

A therapist I once had told me, “We’re all so self-centered, we worry that everything others do is because of us. Consider how often you think about yourself during a day. Now consider about how often you think about other people. You think about yourself much more often, right? If someone is acting funny, odds are, it’s not about you or something you did wrong. It’s about them, about something that’s nothing to do with you. So ask, if you really want to, but when in doubt, assume that it isn’t about you unless they say so.”

And sometimes even if they say it’s about you, it isn’t.


I have known, slightly, two people who committed suicide. In both cases it was a terrible tragedy, and I do not take it casually. Please don’t kill yourself, and if you’re thinking about killing yourself, go here and call someone to talk. They can help.