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Monday, September 23, 2013

You're Not Mentally Ill. And the Sky is Hot Pink. Because I say so.



This article is likely going to piss a lot of people off. That’s just too damn bad. These are my truths, my opinions, my thoughts, my healing. I’m entitled to this and so I’ll go ahead and write it.

It’s hard to know where to start. When I was in my late teens, I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I’ve been in and out of therapy for years, on and off various medications. I’ve made more mistakes than I’d care to admit to, but at the end of the day I’m pretty satisfied with where I’ve ended up. MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR. Should I repeat it another thousand times? Perhaps.

MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.
MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.
MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.
MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.
MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.
MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.
MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR.

Ok please don’t make me repeat that again. So moving on…

I’ve led a colorful life. I’ve been victimized, and I’ve victimized others. If you’ve never done the latter, then good for you. I admire you but unfortunately, most of us cannot say that. There are different levels of victimization (of course), but for now can we just leave it at that? Simply put, I’m not a saint, but I am a woman with a heart of gold and good intentions. Like many other human beings, I’m multi-dimensional. I struggle, and I screw up, and I do positive things, and sometimes I try my best. Sometimes I don’t. If you’re a person who’s never made a single mistake, never hurt another human, never acted selfishly, never lied…stop reading. Go and get sainted & leave us common folk alone. We’ll probably have more fun without you. (Ha.)

There are times when I’ve done crappy things to those that I love. Here’s the thing about hurting people- they always want an explanation. People always say “but why? How could you?” Fair enough. I’ve asked that question of many who have hurt me. I’ve screamed it, yelled it through tears, written it. I’ve begged for the answer. Part of asking for an answer is accepting the answer that’s given to you. It’s usually not enough to satisfy, and it usually falls short. Sometimes the person gives a bullshit answer. What should we expect? Perhaps we should stop asking.

Mental illness and/or drug addiction ARE part of the reason that people act out and hurt others. Can anyone deny that? Once again, IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE. Please don’t make me type that another 8 times. People need to stop conflating “explanation” with “excuse.” Mental illness IS a source of poor behavior, a partial explanation, a possible cause. It is not an excuse, and when somebody mentions their mental illness when discussing their poor choices, please stop telling them that it’s not an excuse. Unless somebody says “I did these awful things but I can’t be held responsible. It’s not my fault, I’m ill,” they don’t deserve to be told that they’re “using mental illness as an excuse.”

The problem is that as a society, we don’t know how to talk about mental illness, and we sure as hell don’t know how to discuss abusers who are mentally ill. When we hear of things such as abuse, torture, harassment, rape, etc, our blood turns hot. We become (rightfully) angry, and unfortunately, along with that rightful reaction comes a tendency to ignore reason. We want answers, but we won’t accept the answers. We’re out for blood. So, what can the abuser do, other than go 6 feet under? What is the acceptable way for an abuser to return to society? I’m sincerely curious as to what people have to say about this. I don’t have an answer. However, I do not believe that telling someone (even if they are an abuser) to “Shut up. Go away. Die. Disappear. Stay off of social media. Stay off of life!”  It may be our gut reaction, but is it reasonable? For those of you that say yes, think about this- do you believe in the death penalty? Why or why not? My guess is that anyone reading this is fairly liberal, and likely to reject the death penalty. I’m against the death penalty because I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye,” and I believe in rehabilitation. I believe that the death penalty is hypocritical. Okay, I know it’s a far stretch to compare shunning somebody to the death penalty, but does anyone see the point that I’m trying to make? We’re always quick to be liberals when the person in question isn’t somebody who has personally abused us. But what about when they have? Then what? How do we deal with them? How do we deal with our boiling blood, our rage, our pain? How is the person in our life supposed to answer us? What would satisfy us? Should they just go 6 feet under?

I feel myself straying from my original point because honestly, I’m tired and I didn’t plan to write anything tonight. I’m feeling slightly triggered by all of the social media posts floating around out there tonight. As someone who has mental illness and who has also worked as a therapist treating mental illness, I’m disappointed by the attitudes that surround me. People whom I regard as intelligent are saying things such as “that person is using mental illness as a privilege!” No, he’s not. He’s simply answering your questions, and to pretend that mental illness wasn’t at least a slight contributor to those actions is foolish. As I’ve written in earlier posts, it IS possible for a person to be a manipulative abusive fraudulent POS and also be mentally ill. I’ve noticed that people don’t like to realize that simple fact, but it’s the truth. C’mon folks- THINK IN DIALECTICS! Let me repeat this- To pretend that mental illness wasn’t at least a slight contributor to those actions is foolish. That’s part 1. Part 2 is this: it doesn’t mean you have to forgive that person. You don’t have to feel sympathy for that person, but to deny that mental illness played a role is silly.

So, why is it that people don’t want to believe that an abuser is mentally ill? Well, perhaps because mental illness usually garners sympathy. We usually feel sorry for sick people, right? And, nobody wants to feel sorry for an abuser. Newsflash- we don’t have to. We don’t need to feel sympathy for the mentally ill. We can be just as fucking angry at them.

I can already hear people saying “but what about the victims?! You’re an apologist!” No, I’m not. I’m simply capable of holding multiple uncomfortable truths in my mind, all at once. It would probably be easier and less painful to be less insightful, but that’s not my style.

Facing these uncomfortable issues head on has made me think of the abuse that I’ve faced throughout my life. It dawned on me that since I’m running around lecturing people about facing uncomfortable truths, I should try to face my own. So, I decided to think about my ex, and how I would feel if this controversy were surrounding him. I immediately felt angry. I’d want people to write him off, to scream at him, to tell him to go away. But, is that okay? No, it’s really not. As much of a piece of crap as he is, he’s still a human, and there are reasons behind his horrid behavior. One of the main reasons that he was so abusive (in my opinion) is his severe problem with anger. He’s got one of the worst tempers I’ve ever had the displeasure of being around. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and would be happy to never see anything like it again. So, it would be safe to say that he abused me partly due to his anger problem, correct? Is that excusing him? No, of course not.  It’s just the truth. It is what it is; nothing more and nothing less. In my opinion, he’s also mentally ill and that’s also part of the explanation for his horrendous actions towards me. That’s also not an excuse. I don’t have to like him and I don’t have to forgive him, and I never will. I also don’t have the right to demand that he disappear from the public sphere, that he stop living his life. That’s not an easy thing to admit because trust me, there are days that I wish he would disappear. BUT that’s not my call to make, and it’s not reasonable.

So what do we do with abusers? Do we pretend like they’re not mentally ill because it suits us to believe they’re in perfect mental health (even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are- HELLO FOLKS! THAT IS A CLEAR AXIS II PRESENTATION IF I’VE EVER SEEN ONE!)
Do we banish them? Kill them? Treat them like a child & take away their social media accounts? Demand that they never see the light of day again? When we ask them for an explanation, do we continue to tell them that it’s not good enough? If so, why do we keep asking for one?

Seriously, what do we do? I’m seeking an answer for that. Please keep in mind that it’s almost midnight and that I’m tired. I’m not sure if everything in this post made sense…but I am trying to stir up some reasonable discourse. I’ve been thinking about these issues for quite some time, and now I’m sharing them with others. Thank you for reading.

Christina

For background on these issues, click here:


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Sex Worker Outing & Getting Outed- Interview by Gram Ponante

Hi friends! Gram Ponante, America's beloved porn journalist, interviewed me a couple of weeks ago. We touched on some serious issues including what it was like for me to come out as a sex worker to family, and more. The original interview is here, but it's NSW (not safe for work). There are some advertisements and pornographic pictures on the site, so for those of you who would rather skip that, I re-posted the interview here. Enjoy! :)

Christina Parreira On Sex Worker Outing & Getting Outed

A few weeks ago, Christina Parreira posted on her facebook page that her mother was dismissive and judgmental about Parreira’s work in the sex industry. A stripper, occasional cam model, and fetish performer, Parreira also holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is a Ph.D. candidate and sex worker rights activist. We talked about coming out as a sex worker to family, and the conversation grew from there.

Gram: How receptive had you expected your mother to be, and had you prepared yourself for Not Receptive At All?

Parreira: Coming out to family members can be a very scary experience. My mother is rather conservative. She’s only slept with one man her whole life, and that’s my father. The concept of sex work is foreign to her. She views it as degrading and “dirty.” I knew it was going to cause big problems in our relationship if she found out, so I kept it from her as long as I could. However, given my increasing interest in the sex industry, she started to ask questions. She knew something was going on, but she just wasn’t sure what. At first she assumed I was a stripper or perhaps a prostitute. She used to ask me why I had so many wigs! She started harping on me about something that I wasn’t even doing at the time, and I finally broke down and told her the truth; that I was a cam model.
Although she was angry, she was relieved that I wasn’t leaving the house to work and that I wasn’t at a club (she deemed this to be more dangerous than just working from home on a webcam). Although things were tense, she took the news better than I had expected. Things remained relatively calm until I became more vocal about being a sex worker. She read my blog and realized that I was “out” to everyone, and this is when the real problems began. At this point in time, I have decided to take a break from my relationship with her. As much as this pains me, I feel it’s necessary to keep my respect and sanity intact.

Gram: I have a pornographer friend who says that he hasn’t told his family because only he has made the decision to be a pornographer, but they have not made the decision to be related to one. Your mother’s attitude toward your work seems like the two of you have found an unhappy medium between your not hiding the truth from her and her rejecting your truth. Is it possible you could have not told her?

Parreira: I think it would have been much easier to never tell her, although she would have continued to worry and make her own assumptions. Also, I am not one to hide. As I said, I felt that hiding that part of who I am would only perpetuate the stigmas that I work to fight against. I felt that I was being disingenuous, and I did not want to live that way
My mother worries about public perception. She would be much happier if I were a sex worker that didn’t talk about being a sex worker. By being so open about it, she says that I am bringing shame upon her, and she asked me how I could “have sunk so low.” As much as she’s disgusted with what I do, she’s even more disgusted with the fact that I am not ashamed.

Gram: Here is a particularly invidious question: How would you imagine your mother treating your profession in a perfect world, or would a perfect world mean you wouldn’t be a sex worker?

Parreira: In a perfect world, I would still be a sex worker, but I could do so without being shamed or stereotyped for it. This goes for every individual who works in the sex industry. Sex workers would be treated with respect, would have labor rights, protection under the law. We would have the basic civil and human rights that we deserve. Perhaps my mother would disagree with my choice, but she would still respect me. My mother views sex work as amoral. In a perfect world, she wouldn’t push her morals onto me, and would respect my right to do what I please with my body.

Gram: Again with the perfect world, I know that a lot of porn performers rarely acknowledge that personal relationships can get tricky in this business. Sex is personal, and often proprietary. Jealousy is hard to avoid even with the grooviest couples…

Parreira: It’s an ongoing journey. In both camming and stripping, I provide a service to individuals: attention, titillation, fantasy, company, conversation. My clients provide me with monetary compensation. It’s a clean exchange without false pretenses, and it feels very honest. I understand that this is just a job and I feel that I am able to separate the two. However, sex work has changed me. It would be strange if an individual worked in ANY profession for five years and didn’t experience some changes, right? I’ve had sex on camera for money, many times. “On camera sex” is different from off camera sex. I’ve had moments in my personal sex life where I begin to mimic some of what I am used to doing on camera, and then I catch myself. Sometimes it can be hard to relax and just enjoy the natural process of sex, but this also depends on my comfort and familiarity with my partner. Working as a stripper has also produced some changes, but it’s still too early for me to pinpoint exactly how those changes are manifesting. I’ve only been dancing for a couple of months. It’s interesting to work in a space with all female workers, and the majority of male clients. I observe the way gender roles play out in the club. They seem much more extreme inside the club than they do in the “real world.” I will be honest and admit that I am at times very turned off by some of the stereotypically male behavior that I witness inside the club. These men are clients, and in my mind, they are fundamentally different from the men that I would choose to get romantically involved with. This is how I keep it separate, and I’m not so sure that this is healthy. After all, this separation suggests that clients are “bad,” and I do not want to fall into the trap of stigmatizing clients of sex workers. However, I can’t help being put off by some of the client behavior that I have observed. It’s really a tricky thing to navigate, and I believe it’s an ongoing process.



Gram: In a scenario where people think of sex work as a job like any other, but perhaps more glamorous, wouldn’t there also be a decrease in the exciting taboo of being/employing a sex worker? What are your thoughts on the role of a societal taboo in the function of your work?

Parreira: Even in a world where sex work is considered work, sex will always be a hot button topic. There’s always scandal and taboo when it comes to sex. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Even if it does, sex workers will always have work. To be blunt, humans like sex. Humans have been paying for sex for a very long time and will continue to do so. As a species, we enjoy sexual contact with other humans. That’s not changing anytime soon, regardless of how “taboo” it is.
It’s also very important to note that different types of sex work come with different levels of taboo. The same goes for stigma. Television shows have been made about “high end” white escorts, but I’ve never seen a show about minority street workers. People just want the glitz and the fantasy, the “high end call girl.” They put her on a pedestal while still shaming her for being a whore. But, at least she’s visible. The most marginalized are hardly acknowledged.
It’s hard to make general sweeping statements in regards to sex work because we aren’t a homogeneous group. We face various levels of stigma and this has to do with the varying levels of privilege. Unfortunately, the most marginalized workers aren’t usually given a voice. Look at me- I look white, I’m in my 20s, and I’m educated. You’re interviewing a privileged sex worker. I have a lot to say and I face stigma and adversity, but I can’t pretend that it’s the same as a sex worker who’s black, transgendered, and living in poverty. I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but there’s something about the word “glamorous” in regards to sex work.

Gram: That’s true. Each financial; end has its own stereotypes and is nowhere near as homogenous as the public thinks it is.

Parreira: Unfortunately, the mistake that many sex workers make is in perpetuating a harmful hierarchy, rather than helping one another. I’ve heard many porn performers make remarks about being “better than the girls who escort,” and I’ve heard “high end” sex workers make comments about workers who charge less. It’s all bullshit. Society already thinks we’re all whores, so why are we attacking each other? That’s the last thing the sex workers’ rights movement needs. It’s one thing to discuss and acknowledge the role of privilege. We need to be doing that! Our oppression isn’t created equal. It is not okay to use one’s privilege to shame others. “I’m a classier whore than she is! I don’t fuck for less than a grand an hour.” Oh, shut up already. That sort of talk isn’t helping anyone. Get off your high horse and do something useful with that privilege that you’ve got!

Since first we talked, Parreira has been outed as a sexting partner of Hugo Schwyzer, a Pasadena City College instructor and sometimes-controversial “male feminist” blogger. Schwyzer’s online and in-person meltdown have been well-documented elsewhere, but in recent weeks Parreira was outed as one of Schwyzer’s sexting partners (though the two never met). Parreira has since surfed a wave of high drama of exes real and virtual, in which her porn name (Christina Page) was linked with her real one.


Gram: The sex industry is very much like academia. There are a lot of jealousies and politics to navigate.

Parreira: There is a lot of drama. It’s easy to get caught up in it, especially when one feels passionately about an issue. Issues of bodily autonomy are a hot topic and always have been. People with varying ideologies will always argue over who’s right. The radical feminists think we’re all brainwashed and suffering from a false consciousness. Even within sex worker activists, there’s arguing over privilege, decriminalization of indoor/outdoor prostitution, and so forth. I try to keep a level head, but it’s difficult and I’ve lost my cool many times. I keep striving to keep an open mind and understand where others are coming from, but it can be very stressful. I try to practice self care, but that’s a work in progress!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My New Interview for Raw Attraction Magazine: Cam World, Sex Work, Gender, Sexuality

Hey friends! I recently did an interview for up and coming magazine, Raw Attraction. Here is the link, and I've also posted it here for your reading pleasure :) Please feel free to comment & share if you enjoy!

Raw Attraction Magazine

We speak to Christina Parreira, M.A who is a PhD Sociology student with a primary focus on sex work & prostitution. She is also a 'web cam' girl. We wanted to speak to her about how this affects her life and public perception of her.

At Raw, we believe women (and men) should be able to do what they want with their bodies as long as they are happy.

Christina... Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to step into webcam work

I had been in a relationship for a few years, and my partner and I were looking for ways to spice things up. One of our friends told us about couples who broadcast live on amateur porn sites, and I was intrigued. It proved to be a fun way to add new excitement to our sex life, but it wasn't something we were charging money for. Honestly, I didn't even consider the possibility of profiting from it when we started. At the time, I was working on my Masters in clinical psychology and the majority of my income came from student loans. I was also working as a waitress part-time, but I was really burnt out on restaurant jobs.

As soon as I realized that other performers on the site were profiting from cam work, I refused to do it for free. Why on earth would I do something for free that others were getting paid for? Unfortunately, my partner wasn't thrilled with my new plan. He felt that it became all about work, and that getting paid took the fun out of what was initially something meant to improve our sex life. We eventually parted ways (not because of the cam work) and I continued to work as a cam model on my own. I started my doctorate and continued to work as a cam performer, and fortunately was able to take out fewer student loans thanks to my new source of income.

What do you normally do when you are on web cam? How do you feel when you are working?

Earnings vary depending on how many hours I work, how many clients are online, the time of day. Much like waitressing and stripping, it can be very hit or miss. It took me a while to build up my fan base, my "regulars" as I call them. It also depends on the website's traffic and how well the site promotes itself. Once I established myself as a cam performer, I'd average anywhere from $100-300 per night. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I took a 6 month break between academic programs and during that period, cam work became a full time job. I was consistently earning over a grand a week. I was working 5-6 nights per week on cam.

As far as what I normally do on cam, it really varies based on what the client requests. Some clients want what I refer to as a "standard show:" a strip tease and a toy show. However I also cater to a lot of fetish clients, and that doesn't even involve nudity. I've done hundreds of foot fetish shows, dominatrix shows, role play, cuckold and humiliation, etc. When I am on cam, I feel that I am fulfilling a role, a fantasy. Honestly, it doesn't feel a whole lot different than when I used to work at a bar. I'm paid to perform a service and if I'm comfortable with that service and I agree to the terms, I accept payment and I do the best I can to please the client. I will admit that at first, camming was a novelty. I felt sexy, I felt a thrill from it. As the years went on, it turned into a boring job just like any other. I go through the motions, get paid, and sign off. I've actually been spending less and less time on cam. I'm starting to feel burnt out from it, and I have much less patience for irritating clients. I've been doing this work for almost five years, and with anything else, it gets tiresome.

Are you able to easily tell new boyfriends/lovers about your work? If yes, how do they react?

When I first started cam work, I was much less confident about telling others. It was a source of anxiety for me, and I was concerned over what future partners would think. I think that was part of being young and insecure. At this point in my life, I feel confident in who I am and in what I do. I'm also passionate about advocating for the civil and human rights of sex workers and have met many incredible sex workers/activists over the last couple of years. Being around other individuals who do similar work has helped to empower me. I won't date anyone who is not okay with what I do, and I am always upfront. Given that sex work is such a large part of my life, both in how I make my money and in my academic interests, it would be near impossible for me to hide. I don't think I should have to hide it, and I certainly won't have anyone telling me what I can and cannot do with my body. If somebody cannot accept that I'm a sex worker, they can head towards the door.

When I was younger, I had partners who were insecure about the whole cam thing. Those relationships didn't last long. My last serious partner was involved in the adult film industry, and so he was supportive of my work. It was one of the few things in our relationship that wasn't problematic! Currently, I'm single and taking a break from dating. I've had a string of unhealthy relationships and am at a point in which I need to take time to work on myself and to focus on my academic work. I can't be bothered to worry how future partners will react.

How has it changed you in terms of your attitudes to sex and in the bedroom when you are having sex?

This is an interesting question, and one that I'm still exploring. I don't know if I have a clear answer to this yet. It's not black and white. Our attitudes and behaviors change as we progress, and as a result of exposure to many influences. How can I know exactly what has been a direct result of being a sex worker and what has been a result of exposure to past relationships, sexual partners, etc? There's overlap there. It's not cut and dry.

I've always been pretty open when it comes to sex, but I can definitely say that cam work has broadened my awareness. I am more  accepting of different fetishes and fantasies. For example, when I was new to cam work, I did not understand how or why somebody could be turned on by feet. I was shocked by some of the requests that I got from clients! To be honest, I thought some of it was really weird! I'm more open minded now, and I have more appreciation for the broad spectrum of human sexuality. Actually, I feel really privileged in a way. I've been allowed into the deepest darkest corners of people's minds. Men have shared their secret desires with me, and it's been fascinating.

Has sex work changed my behavior in the bedroom? Maybe we should call up some of my exs? Just kidding. Well, anything that a person does for five years will have an impact, but I'm still trying to figure out what that impact is. Occasionally when I'm having sex with a partner, I notice that I may "amp it up" a bit, as I would when I'm in front of the camera. It's one thing for me to keep an eye on. I've noticed this more when I'm with casual partners rather than when I'm in a relationship. I'm very comfortable with my sexuality, and perhaps that's a result of being a sex worker. However, as I've already said, I'm not comfortable with making a statement such as "I'm comfortable in bed because I'm a sex worker." That's assuming direct causation without taking other variables into account.  I'm much more than just my job, and I've been exposed to many other things that may have affected who I am sexually. Sex work is only one facet.

What are some of the craziest fantasies that guys come up with?

I hate to say that any fantasy is "crazy," as that has a judgmental tone to it. However, there were some that surprised me, mostly due to a lack of exposure. I've seen clients use clothes pins on themselves, rope, nipple clamps, etc. I don't think that this is by any means "crazy," but I suppose by many people's standards it may be thought of as unusual. We should be careful to not shame anyone for their preferences though. Actually, I will say this- the bestiality people freak me out. I can be judgmental about that because it is abusive and unethical. I have a dog and I've had clients request "dog shows," and I tell those people to go to hell.

What is your opinion on the male species after working in the industry?

My answer to the "male species" question is the same as my answer to the sexuality question. It's hard to say how much sex work has played a role, and how much my previous experiences & relationships have played a role. Also important to note that I have had a few female clients. They're rare, but they exist! I know plenty of females who enjoy porn, but it seems that fewer are willing to pay for it. So, I don't want to make any sweeping generalizations about a gender based on my work. Perhaps more women would be willing to pay for cam girl services if it were more socially acceptable for women to express their urges and desires. Women often get shamed for their sexual urges, so they're not given equal opportunity to explore them. But, back to the question of men, I have been guilty of statements such as "Ugh men are such pigs!" and so forth. I really don't want to turn into that though. Also, I have to admit that I'm probably not in the best position to articulate my views on men at the moment. In my personal life I've had negative experiences with men over the past year, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm taking a long break from dating. So, how much of this is a result of my cam work and how much is a result of my previous relationships? Ask me again in a couple of years!

What is your ultimate fantasy?

My ultimate fantasy? Having sex with porn star James Deen in a Hello Kitty-themed Love Hotel in Tokyo. Yes, that exists. Seriously, can you think of anything better? I can't!
What are the positives from the work and what would you recommend to anyone wanting to get into it?

The biggest positive from my work is without a doubt the money. That's why we all work, isn't it? I also have a lot of freedom in terms of when I work and how much I work. I am my own boss, and I love that. I'm able to go to school and support myself. I've also met some interesting people that also work in this industry. As far as advice for other women (and men because men can be cam performers too!) I would say don't ever do anything that you're not comfortable with. This work is not for everyone. I cannot stress that enough: sex work is not for everyone and that's okay. Observe your limits and boundaries. Check in with yourself. If something feels right, then explore it. Perhaps even more importantly, if something feels wrong, don't keep doing it! Be kind to yourself and to your body.

You can find Christina at http://legalizetoprotect.blogspot.com/ and on twitter.com/SinCityGrrrl


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Slut Riot: A Sex Worker Shares Her Perspective

Hello friends! I am so pleased to announced that The Sin City Siren is doing a week long campaign about slut-shaming, including articles on the topic from different perspectives. Today's article comes from a sex worker- me! I have shared the link here as well as the article. Thank you so much to The Sin City Siren for this opportunity. Enjoy! XO

The Sin City Siren's Slut Riot!


Slut Riot: A sex worker shares her perspective

In today’s installment of Slut Riot we hear from a sex worker who also happens to be a graduate student. I encourage you to read her words and consider any assumptions that float into your head. Do you pre-judge her before you even start because you hold sex workers to a different standard? Can sex workers be slut-shamed when their vocation requires the real or imagined acts of promiscuity? Keep in mind that the social caste system that marginalizes and even dehumanizes sex workers is just an extension of the pervasive patriarchy all around us.

By Christina Parreira, M.A.

Women who transgress traditional gender roles are often targets of ridicule, shaming, and even violence. What does it mean to violate these mores, and what type of women are most at risk? Women who exhibit promiscuous behavior are shamed for being sluts, but what about those who charge for it? Sex workers are arguably one of the most targeted groups when it comes to the phenomenon of slut-shaming.
American culture has a love/hate relationship with promiscuous women. I am reminded of the Madonna/Whore complex, a psychoanalytic theory which states that men view women as either virtuous saints or tarnished whores. According to the theory, it would be nearly impossible for a man to simultaneously respect a woman and explore his sexual fantasies with her. Granted, this theory is outdated, but I think it has some merit in the discussion of slut-shaming and sex work.

A sex worker is any individual who trades a sexual service for compensation. This includes porn performers, strippers, phone sex operators, escorts, prostitutes, webcam models, and so forth. Some sex workers work legally, while others work illegally. Unfortunately, the criminalization of prostitution in most of the US contributes to the shaming of sex workers, but even those who work legally experience slut-shaming. Porn and stripping are both legal jobs, but both come with high levels of stigma. Porn stars are the stuff that dirty wet dreams are made of, but you wouldn’t dare bring one home to mother … would you? Men shower strippers with dollar bills at bachelor parties, but many wouldn’t be caught dead dating one. The sex industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and yet the performers who make up this industry are regarded as pariahs. The hypocrisy is stunning — to masturbate to these individuals in private but to damn them in the public sphere.

I have worked as a webcam performer for almost five years, and recently started stripping. I identify as a sex worker and receive the majority of my income from this work. I am also a graduate student. The reactions that I get from people when they learn that I’m a sex worker are astonishing. Even more confusion results when people learn that I am also a graduate student. Why is this? Are people stunned that sex workers also have brains? Why aren’t we allowed to be simultaneously intellectual AND sexual? How does the exchange of money affect people’s perceptions of individuals and the level of slut-shaming that takes place? Women who exhibit “slutty” behavior are already damned, but what about those who profit financially from this behavior? The shaming is even more amplified. Not only are we sluts, but we have the nerve to charge for it! It is important to note that this does not only apply to female sex workers, but also to male and transgendered workers.

Society targets sex workers the way it used to target the so-called witches of Salem. Individuals who engage in sex work shatter the widely held beliefs of what constitutes socially appropriate behavior, making sex workers a prime target for slut-shaming. I hope to one day live in a world where I can do as I please with my genitals without being shamed. A world in which a rape victim isn’t blamed for what she was wearing. Unfortunately, I think we have a long way to go.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Check Your References Ladies! Re: Hugo Schwyzer

Hello friends!

Hugo Schwyzer quit the internet, had an affair, and sexted with a 27-year old sex worker. Ahem.

I don't have the patience or energy to give much of the back story regarding this issue, so if you have no idea who Hugo Schwyzer is/what's going on with him, don't bother to read on.

For those of you who are keeping up with the controversy & reveling in every second of it, please continue. 

First, I want to express my disgust with every single person who is participating in the shaming of a man with mental illness. It's perfectly acceptable to dislike somebody, to disagree with them, to point out the sheer hypocrisy of the situation. Feminists are pissed off and have reason to be, I get that. I won't spend time on that particular facet of the issue. There are dozens of other blogs and angry articles swirling around the twitter universe & blogosphere. Have your moment in the sun, Hugo-haters. You've been waiting for this day.

You know what's not cool? Poking fun at him for being in a psychiatric ward. Placing bets on when he will try to commit suicide. Rejoicing in his mental anguish. This is all shit that I've seen on twitter and it's disgusting. Despite his mistakes (and yes, they are mistakes. We've all made them- right?), he's still a HUMAN. It's interesting to see all of these human rights activists cheering for joy as they watch a human being's health decline. Very interesting, folks. Everyone loves a bully.

A real gem- "Hugo Schwyzer's meltdown is spectacular, and befitting a man of his craven stature. Be warned manboobs and ilk: your doom is preordained" twitter by @heartise 

I've also seen the line "grown men are fragile" going around twitter, mocking Hugo's "quitting of the internet." So now we're shaming men for expression emotions? Real nice. Another fantastic display of feminism.

Tweets such as "hahahahaha a beautiful goodbye to the sensitive fucklord that is hugo schwyzer" by @voraciousbrain

What a fabulous society we live in. What's going to happen if Schwyzer actually commits suicide? Will everyone throw a party and piss on his grave? These people should be absolutely disgusted with their behavior. I have also suffered with mental illness and so perhaps I have a bit more empathy than others. Perhaps I also know a thing or two about being bullied and abused by those who hide behind a keyboard.

Sigh. What drama.
February was not a good month. Thankfully, I'm happily living in Las Vegas now and looking forward to starting my PhD in Sociology in less than 1 month! Woohooooooo! My future is bright and I'm feeling at peace (a rarity for me). I wish Hugo luck in his recovery. No one deserves to be shamed for having a mental illness.

From the bottom of my ever-changing, always learning, work in progress heart,
Christina Parreira

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Experience At A Feminist Conference: On Censorship, Objectification, & What It Means For Me

I'm writing this as I sit and wait for my flight, watching planes take off over the mountains of Salt Lake City. This would be a serene moment, if it were not for the rumbling of my upset stomach after eating McDonalds for breakfast. As if I don't already know better. Anyways, I am heading home after spending a wonderful five days at the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP) conference, where I presented my project, "Sexism, Strippers, and Slut-Shaming," as part of a symposium. I was fortunate to spend time with former professors and colleagues that I haven't seen since leaving Connecticut. I was pleasantly surprised with Salt Lake City. My stereotypes were in full force when the plane touched down, and the woman who sat behind me rambling about the evils of welfare did not help. In reality, the city wasn't the scary Republican hellhole that I had imagined. We enjoyed good shopping (maybe too much shopping?), food (I tried Lebanese AND Himalayan food!), and of course several thought-provoking lectures as part of AWP.

The conversations that were had in these feminist spaces were stimulating, but not always comfortable. I found myself constantly vacillating between "Yes, I'm a feminist" and "No, my ideals don't fit with traditional feminist ideology, so therefore, I am not a feminist." The topic of violence in the media came up over dinner conversation, which led to a discussion of Rhianna and Chris Brown's newly rekindled romance. The knee-jerk reaction always being the same; "they're terrible, he's an abuser, she hasn't made any public statements that would help young women, they're setting a bad example, her lyrics are glorifying violence against women." At least one of these statements was my own, and I'm not disputing the validity of any of them. I'm not interested in having that sort of discussion or writing about it. That's not what this is about. This is about the proposed solutions. Just as many radical feminists (ahem, Gail Dines) would love to see porn censored, there are feminists who would like to see this couple, and their music, disappear. I will admit that I became defensive during the discussion, reminding everyone that shame and censorship DO NOT WORK.

Other points of interest- do her lyrics really glorify what happened to her? Who are we to judge her words, her art? Who the fuck cares what she's glorifying/not glorifying; in a community that values free speech, shouldn't this woman be allowed to express herself, and her pain, in whatever medium she chooses? Whose responsibility is it to make sure that young "impressionable" women don't hear these messages? What about starting in the home, and with education? The same could be said of porn. Porn is not meant to be used as sex education, and if it is, then we have a problem in homes and school systems. Why are we relying on media (that is supposed to be consumed by adults) to teach our kids about sex and relationships?

Back to Rhianna- it made me feel uncomfortable that she never released a public statement in regards to getting back together with Brown. I would have been more comfortable if she had said something along the lines of "What he did was terrible, but he is seeking treatment" or any variations of this. Let's look at how my statement began, shall we? "I would have been more comfortable." Well, art/music/writing isn't about making me, or anyone else, "more comfortable." If you don't like it, go out and create something that you do like. Don't censor, create something better. After all, does the removal of potentially harmful things ever actually work? Well, the war on drugs was a great success, so, perhaps.

Quick point on Brown- yes, he abused her. Does this mean he will always be an abuser? Fuck no. How could I have training and experience in the field of clinical psychology and have the nerve to assert that an abuser will never change? Is it likely? Is it easy? No, no. However, there's a danger when we begin to make blanket statements such as "once an abuser, always an abuser," when we assume that there is no room for improvement, no room for growth. These were statements and sentiments that I heard expressed various times throughout the conference, and it scared me.

Now, there's nothing wrong with discussions these issues. In fact, I think we should be talking about this topic; how it makes us feel, what we believe is the public perception, what young women and men are learning from these highly publicized romantic relationships. Unfortunately, in feminist spaces, I have noticed the conversation veer towards censorship far too many times. Just as it has done about porn, and about portrayals of violence in media. When we begin to censor, where do we draw the line?  Honestly, the whole idea frightens me; it scares the shit out of me.

Now, switching gears. One of the highlights of the trip was a conversation that I had with a fantastic feminist professor whom with I had previously worked. We discussed our views on pornography, sex work, and the objectification of women. We also discussed the hierarchy that exists within sex work, and I was the first to say that as as young white women, I am part of the privileged end of the continuum. There is no doubt about it. I have good height/weight proportions, white skin, and am in my 20's. There is no fucking way I am facing the same adversity as a minority status sex worker in her 40's. Or, I could have just left off the age, let's leave it at "minority sex worker." It's an intersection of age, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, and to  pretend that it's not is just ignorance, period. What does this really mean in terms of choice? What do I do with this knowledge and how can I still do good work within the community? Well, that's a conversation for another day, and one in which I look forward to having with others at the Desiree Alliance conference. My chat with this professor primed me for many NECESSARY conversations in the future. But, back to objectification. It's her belief that pornography, and the constant images of "sexy" women that serve as nothing more than jerk-off material, perpetuate a culture in which women's bodies are used and discarded. We agreed on the terms of objectification, but not on the implications. I am objectifying myself, there's no doubt about it. Do I feel good about this objectification, and am I making a choice to do it? Yes, and yes. It was a refreshing discussion, because unlike so many other feminists that I have talked to, her response was "and that's your choice, and it's okay. But, in regards to this issue, you're not a feminist." Would you believe that I actually felt liberated when she said this? I'm not a feminist, and that's okay. No judgment, no shaming, no chastising. I am making a choice, and that's okay. It also doesn't mean that I can't hold feminist ideals in other arenas, it doesn't need to be so black and white. Honestly, one of the most thought-provoking conversations that I have had in a long while.

Perhaps this objectification does have a negative impact on culture and the way in which women view themselves. Just as perhaps violent media and song lyrics have a negative impact, but again, what's the solution? We come full circle. It's not censorship; it's not pulling all porn off the internet; it's not telling sex workers to stop objectifying themselves; it's not telling Rhianna that she needs to stop expressing herself. Or that she needs to make a public apology, just to make US feel better about HER trauma.

I feel the  need to end this article by saying that I wrote this much as I would write an entry in my journal. These are only my views, and they're expressed (perhaps not as eloquently as they could have been) after five days at a conference. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and insights, and that's it. Pick them apart and bitch at me all you want, but they're still only MY views, and I'm allowed to have them.. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Susan Davis on Rabble Canada Speaks Out


The article that I posted a couple of days ago about Meghan Murphy and other abolitionists has received A LOT of attention, from both sides. Last night, I noticed that I was getting traffic from Rabble Canada, a site that Murphy blogs for. She also has a podcast on Rabble, so I followed the link and found that the traffic was coming from the sex work message board on Rabble. Susan Davis re-posted my article on the page, which sparked more controversy, also leading Murphy to assert that I have an "unhealthy obsession" with her. This gave me the greatest laugh over the last two days! The egocentric and continually self-obsessed Murphy assumes that anyone who disagrees with her is in fact "obsessed." Another typical effort from the anti-sex work camp to trivialize our voices. Anyways, you can see all of that here: Rabble Message Board
I was touched by one of Susan's comments, and with her permission, have re-posted it here. Well done, Susan! Also, thank you for sharing my writing and spreading our message. xo
"As a sex worker there seems to be some lack of balance here on rabble. i just mean that while this forum is great and honestly i don't mind people reacting here and discussing these issues but for me it is every day, i am a sex worker.
i have never said that all sex work is safe, wonderful and fulfilling or that violence doesn't happen. i have been a full time support worker for free with no back up or infrastructure for years. i have heard of and experienced violence.
my issue is with the constant belittling of my fellow sex workers in the name of saving us. why can't abolitionists as feminists listen to us and hear all sides. why when faced with a different perspective is the reaction to dismiss? why is citing a "researcher" whose credibility is in question deemed ok? it wasn't good enough for the supreme court but its ok for abolitionists?
we are told that there is no war but yet here we are again. why can't sex workers speak for themselves and why is it that only the perspective of those workers whose experiences mirror what people expect to hear is believed?
i don't understand how such a slanted perspective can be the only actual "staff" journalism on this issue. where is the feminist columnist/journalist who is/was a sex worker? where is the balance between the exposure the 2 positions receive?
the terms seem to create an environment where balance and unbiased journalism allow people to decide for themselves which perspective/outcome/appropriate action they support.
the voices of actual sex workers should be at the forefront of this discussion and should include diverse perspectives to ensure Canadians have a clear understanding of the decisions looming on the horizon. if that perspective does not come forward, the right thing to do would be to seek it out to ensure that balance of information is available to people who care about this issue.
already on the prairies municipalities are taking action changing by-laws and creating all kinds of ridiculous and dangerous rules. why? because abolitionists are funded like crazy to spread their message. where is the support for sex workers to do them same?
forced registration, fining for non compliance, arrest and detention during registration, forced information sessions containing all of the usual rhetoric (its like they copied john school) the worst of that session is the "how to save your money" portion put on by the bank, they're not above selling us mutual funds even though we're down trodden, victim's of our own self delusions...oh yeah and human trafficking....is this the desired affect? is this what abolitionists wanted? because here it is. thanks a lot, we really appreciate your enabling of police violence against us....oh, you didn't know that was happening? you didn't mean for that to happen?
the question is will any of you do anything to stop it? will you accept that this is a direct result of only one perspective being heard?
you say i am slanderous, you say you mostly support an abolitionist stance, you say you want balance on issues on rabble....
its a little hard to believe when it seems that the reigning opinion here is against us.
will rabble hire a feminist sex worker journalist? will rabble bring balance to this discussion which affects me and my entire community every single day?
here' a story for you, some contrast to the violence described above...to be clear this is not diminish the experiences described but to try to balance views on our daily lives.
a friend of mine was visiting from Edmonton where she has moved to take care of an aging regular client who can no longer take care of himself. this man had been her friend for a long time prior to his health crisis and so she went ot visit him in the care home where he lived. he wept when he saw her and began to describe the horrible treatment he was receiving from the care givers...not changing his diaper, one bath a week, very little food, no human interaction...
she was moved and totally upset and so removed him immediately....legally...but as immediately as possible... she has since been taking care of him ....for no money.....that's right....no money whatsoever....
she shared pictured of him smiling in a bubble bath with candles all around him....
is this guy a criminal rapist? was he ever?
how can in this day and age our society paint a situation with only one brush? where is the support for sex workers who like their work to be heard? when do we get understand that we need to hear from all sides to ensure we stabilize the safety of people working in the sex industry. when will abolitionists recognize the impact they have on our safety?
will you ever listen to us?"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Is This Feminism? Murphy and More. FACEPALM.


Over the past year, I have come across several individuals who really hate porn, sex work, and the women, men, and transgendered individuals that take part in sex work. I am hard pressed to find another industry that faces the same discrimination, and that is the target of the same fear and disdain as the sex industry. Simultaneously, there is this absolute need to “save” those who engage in sexual labor, even in the absence of the worker’s desire to be saved! I don’t understand it. I worked as a server and bartender for several years. I HATED IT. I used to drive into work with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and often left work crying, despite the hundreds of dollars that I had made. No one tried to save me. I never ran into any non-profit groups that promised me “a better life.” Well, perhaps we could begin with an analysis of this countries general fear of sexuality, but I think that’s better suited for a future book.

When examining the anti-sex work camp, it’s easy to spot the loons. I have written extensively about Shelley Lubben’s Pink Cross Foundation in the past Shelley Lubben Article as well as “doctor” Judith Reisman (this is a hilarious one!) "Dr" Lubben & "Dr" Reisman  Jordan Owen has brilliantly demonstrated time and time again why Gail Dines isn’t worthy of a second listen. Jordan Owen is AWESOME

The problem is with this new breed of feminists, who appear well-intentioned but are really just wolves in sheep’s clothing. The feminists who are here to SAVE the sex workers, if only we’d listen to them! If only we really understood the damage that sex work is inflicting upon us, individuals like Meghan Murphy could swoop in and give us a better life. The problem is that they don’t offer any actual resources, and worse yet, anyone who tries to engage Murphy in a debate will be belittled and trivialized. Does it sound like anyone is actually being saved here? Of course not. Murphy, and others like her, isn’t interested in truly listening to sex workers OR “saving” them. They are interested in furthering their own selfish agenda. In Murphy’s own words, if you disagree with her (or are a proponent of free speech), you’re “stupid.” Yup, here’s her latest article. Meghan Murphy Loves Criminalization  This is Murphy’s brand of feminism, and if you don’t agree, then you’re simply not worth her time. 

For the record, I don’t discount the voices of women who have been victims of sex trafficking. It happens, and it’s a problem. Does anyone disagree with me there? However, that’s not what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on the fact that Murphy (and every other individual mentioned in this article) ignores the voices of sex workers who CHOOSE to be in the sex industry. According to these brave feminist saviors, these women & men don’t actually exist. Again, they’re just suffering from that damn false consciousness.

Here's a noteworthy quote that I came across during the Murphy debate on Twitter: 

Guess what? I DO want an alternative to sex work None of the antis are helping with that. They just shame, silence, support abusive policies”’

What's Murphy doing for her???

I first encountered Murphy on a mutual friend’s Facebook page. She calls herself a feminist, and apparently writes, so I made the mistake of thinking that I could engage her in an interested debate. OOPS! When she told me that Farley’s research is “solid,” (scoff), I asked her what she knew of Farley’s research. (If you're not familiar with Farley's work, look it up, at your own risk. Anti-prostitution researcher, although I hesitate to even call what she does research.) Murphy had once interviewed Farley, so this was enough evidence for her. She proceeded to tell me that perhaps if I read any of Farley’s research, I would understand why prostitution is harmful. Hmmm. I have had the displeasure of reading and critiquing Farley’s “research,” as have many others. When I tried to talk to Murphy about small sample sizes, poor sampling techniques, and unethical research practices, she responded with insults.



Individuals like Murphy (whom, by the way, has no training in statistics or research methodology) hide behind Melissa Farley’s research. Farley has a PhD, and therefore, she MUST know what she’s talking about, right? She receives funding from the US Department of Justice, and her studies are published in academic journals. As we all know, journals ONLY publish “solid” research, so we should believe everything that Farley writes, right…? Please tell me that you note the sarcasm here. *sigh*

Is this the face of feminism? I suppose so. Farley has been cited over and over and OVERRRRRR again by abolitionists such as Meghan Murphy & Stella Marr, yet nobody pays any mind to the fact that other researchers have filed complaints against her to the American Psychological Association. Am I missing something? These abolitionists love turning a blind eye, don’t they?  Complaint Lodged to APA

I could go on for years about Farley, but I could never do as brilliant a job as Dr. Barb Brents (a researcher who actually DID HER RESEARCH IN THE NEVADA BROTHELS) in this one article. Barb Brents Re: Farley In 2007, Brents writes

Thus I conclude that Dr. Farley could not have intended this particular document to be presented as scientific research. Rather this report must be read as a series of essays drawing on facts as they support her organizations goals and positions. Should Dr. Farley choose to publish scientific work from her findings, I will look forward to seeing these in other peer-reviewed venues.” 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that’s the same Melissa Farley who was arrested 13 different times in 9 states for tearing up Penthouse and Hustler magazines in 1985. I’ll give you a moment to let THAT nugget of knowledge sink in.

So, who is Murphy and why does anyone listen to her? Well, for starters, she holds a Masters degree in Women’s Studies, and I think she’s also completing a degree in journalism. So, clearly, she’s received excellent training in research methodology, right? FFS. In the absence of any empirical support, experience in the sex industry or academic background to actually critique the studies that she touts, WHY does anyone bother to listen to the Rick Santorum of feminism (as she calls herself on her own Twitter page). It’s a mystery to me.

She does a great job of spouting the same crap that other abolitionists have been repeating for years. Keep repeating the same message, and supporters will latch onto it, even in the absence of truth. Perhaps the most offensive of Murphy’s missteps was her conversation between several sex workers on twitter a few days ago. Sex workers were telling Murphy that THEY CHOOSE THEIR JOB. THEY ARE NOT COERCED. She does not want to listen. Well, we are all suffering from a false consciousness, so I guess that explains it. Murphy, Marr, Dines, Lubben, Riesman, and Farley all know me better than I know myself. I’m impressed. If only I could understand my inner workings as much as these strangers do. They’re really onto something!

To summarize:
Dear antis- you don’t give a crap about sex workers. You only care about how YOU feel about sex work. Your morals are yours and yours alone. I would appreciate if you kept them off of my body. In the event that I ever need saving, I won’t come to you. Not unless I want to be shamed and judged. Thanks.

UPDATE: Rabble, a site that Murphy actually blogs for, has re-posted this article. Murphy responds to the re-post by claiming that I am "obsessed" with her. Hilarity ensues! Susan Davis writes:

"this is a great piece against abolitionist journalists and shows alot about our resident blogger meghan murphy.
she has recently published an article in which we equates criminalization of rape as effective with the criminalization of sex work as being potentially effective...
i don't know where to begin to answer that argument so instead i found this response below"
http://rabble.ca/babble/sex-worker-rights/feminism-murphy-and-more-pioneering-sex-worker-advocacy-connecticut


UPDATE: Even more new developments. Susan Davis of Rabble Speaks Out

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2013 Desiree Alliance Conference in Vegas!

Hey friends! I'd like to take a bit of space and time to acknowledge the 5th annual Desiree Alliance conference that's taking place in Vegas, July 14-19th:  The Audacity of Health, Sex Work, & Politics. This is some information about Desiree Alliance, the conference, and the general funds fundraiser that I am assisting with. General Funds for 2013 Desiree Alliance Conference

Desiree Alliance organizes conferences to provide leadership and create space for sex workers and supporters to come together to advocate for human, labor and civil rights for all workers in the sex industry!!

We greatly appreciate all contributions of any amount. As you can imagine producing a national conference is very expensive, Our registration fees are very low to encourage attendance from diverse communities, so we rely on the support of volunteers and contributors like you.

So, if you support the cause of sex worker's rights, research, discussion of health & policy  awareness, harm reduction, and education, please consider donating to this fund. Any help is appreciated!! Also, please share this page!! 

Below are links to the main Desiree Alliance page, as well as the conference page and information on submitting proposals!