Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Joy of The Cunt

Sometimes I post about great stuff other people are doing. Today is one of those days.

I came across these fantastic women just prior to the Erotic Awards (see my blog page in the Campaigner category there?) and Night of The Senses ball on Friday just gone. They are collectively called Cherish The Cunt, or occasionally CuntCraft aka the Clitorarty.

What I love about these women is their attitude and approach to working with, and celebrating the diversity of that universal female wonder, also known as - the cunt, the fanny, the vag, the poonani, the minge, the gash, the lady garden (yes really!), the yoni, the sacred cave, the pussy, the beaver, the clunge, the vajayjay, the bearded clam, the quim, well you get the drift? More names than a tax dodging official on a bad day! 

So Collette and Rebecca in collaboration with several other fabulous women artists, set up their business with a wonderful set of objectives which you can read here. Removing shame and celebrating difference are so vitally important in moving towards a healthy expression of sexuality, womanhood, and by default, manhood. We are drip fed false ideas of beauty, of what is normal, and of what is acceptable to the point where we can no longer share our real truths or even identify what they are. Think your labia are abnormal? I bet firstly you're not alone and secondly, you'll find you are absolutely in fantastic company. Sites like Vulva Love and Vaginas Of The World go a long way to de-mystifying this sacred and extremely mystical place, the Holy Hole, the palace of wonders, the root of creation. 

So, please take a moment to find out more about their work. They are currently fundraising to provide "sexual health materials with a pleasure twist" and you can see their campaign here. I for one think it's a much needed and important resource.

We're taught about sex as a biological act rather than a pleasurable one and most of us have grown up clueless about what we should be thinking and feeling about sex, about our bodies and about intimacy that isn't about procreation and/or self restraint. We don't then know how to manage situations where we feel violated, we don't know how to find our boundaries and ask for what we truly desire as we've generally got no idea what that is. Along the way in my own voyage of discovery, I was fortunate enough to stumble across the teachings of Shakti Tantra  which have forever changed the course of my life. Let's out the CUNT and celebrate her magnificence. She is pretty damn amazing!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bluebeard's Key

Evening all - today sees your hostess Claudia contemplating morals (again I hear you gasp!)

After reading an article this morning which raised my blood pressure to unhealthy levels, I could not help but find myself jaw dropping-ly amazed by the blatant hypocrisy that seems to rule our societies major financial and governmental systems. What could have incensed me so much I hear you ask - well, it was the news that a number of porn stars have recently found that their bank accounts have been shut down on the grounds of "compliance issues." You can read the article here. Compliance issues here representing the 'improper morals' of the client, in the case of the bank subsequently receiving and handling money presuming to be made from pornography.

F**K me! Was I getting this straight I wondered? The banks, notorious for investing their money in arms and warfare, unethical trading, large scale corporate corruption both from within and without, were refusing to take money from porn stars on the ground it is 'immoral'? Am I missing something here?

Chanel Preston (pictured above) makes porn and enjoys it. It might not be everyone's cup of tea but it operates within the realms of adult, consenting, co-operative sex. It does not pretend to be anything other than it is. You either love it or hate it, avoid or ignore it, use it to enhance your sex life or reject it, wish you could do it or are frustrated by the often joyless representations of women's sexual power in it, or some other variable of response. So how did the banks, with their squeaky clean record of investing our global finances (spot the irony) then become our moral arbiters? And what is it about sex that still shakes us up so much.

All of this got me thinking, and led me as these things often do, down a fork in the next road where I came across a delightfully frank article where my long time heroine and inspiration Annie Sprinkle (pictured below) was discussing the taboos around paying for sex.

I believe that we are still incredibly hung up about paying for sexual services despite the fact that we think nothing about paying for almost every other aspect of our personal desires and needs. We pay for alcohol and drugs to relax us, we pay to enlist the services of people whose skills we need at any point in our lives, we pay to experience the lives and cultures of others, we often pay to work or perform, and we pay for just about every need we have without too many questions being raised. We are human beings conceived in sexual bonding, and it's fair to say that the exploration of our own sexuality then continues all the way through our lives - the good the bad and the ugly all entering the fray, for most of us that is. How is it then that we still balk, moralise and intervene on the issue of the buying and selling of sex?

For me, it's the Bluebeard's Key of our lives - the key to the door we are given but told not to peek into, never to venture in for the rivers of blood that will be unleashed if we dare to cross the forbidden threshold. "Here, I'm offering you this in trust but you must not let your curiosity reign supreme." Discipline (but not paid!) must be found or the devil may cavort!

It's curious to me that should I have a sexual desire or need that I could never openly admit I may choose to pay for. Honest, clean negotiation? What's wrong with that? At least the bank aren't my caretakers or judges on the matter at hand. At least the choice is mine. Sex, the most normal drive and urge in the world, so distorted, so misrepresented, so repackaged and re-sold to us that we even believe the mythology now. That everyone else is having better sex than we are and that it's wrong to pay for it.

Give me one good reason why?

For centuries women have been getting into trouble for daring to unleash their curiosity or their need - Eve, Pandora, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Bluebeard's wife and so many many more, all of them/us doing little more than expressing a desire. What then of women's sexuality when it is unleashed and expressed?

Whilst sex remains the Bluebeard's Key, we will never change things and it's most certainly time to change things. Unlock the door and dare to get the pleasure you deserve!

Let's turn it into a pleasure zone! 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Lion's Den

It's the night before the event of the year people! Tomorrow, at a secret venue in London, the Erotic Oscars are announced, and the country's perverts, pleasure seekers and pace setters gather and celebrate their diversity and their right to free sexual expression (consenting + adult as per...)

The hard work and organisational skills which go into getting this event set up need no explanation, save to say that many of us are eternally grateful for the devotion and discipline shown in managing such an event. 

I've been nominated this year in the category 'Campaigner of the Year' and I'm both honoured and exited. I'm in great company in so many of the categories, an overwhelming array of talent indeed. You can see the finalists listed here 

Personally, this is my path in life, to bring healing and intimacy into the world to the best of my ability. To restore health, passion and pleasure into the lives of those who feel disconnected or at a loss and in this capacity, I am fiercely committed to the right to self determine and express our own sexuality. I always seem to feel the need here to insert the proviso that I'm talking about ADULT CONSENTING sexual freedoms here as so many seem to feel threatened by sexuality and it's very nature. It's like the great big theatre where all of our shadows, demons, fears, insecurities and histories are most certain to come and join us! But fret not, the good news is that when we begin to befriend them, there'a a jewelled path to pleasure awaits us if we're willing to risk exploring. It's significant to me that I still have to add that proviso to rebut the claims of those who conflate sexual freedom with harm, trafficking, oppression etc etc, as if one did not have the intellect to distinguish those states from the right to choose what we do with our bodies and with whom. 

For sex workers, it would seem that we remain the scorned woman, the one who represents the great fall from grace, the absence of the sacred, the harlot, the temptress and the whore. Why is that? A recent letter from the feminist Rahki Kumar to Michelle Obama could not have laid out on the alter this sacrificial lamb any clearer. The letter you can read here. What do YOU think? I'd be interested to hear?

Now, I have real issues with this letter. I've been working for over 30 years in sexual freedom activism and sex work rights campaigning, and I am sick and tired of people equating all that's bad and negative around sex work with poor and disempowered versions of womanhood. What if a woman WANTS to celebrate her independent sexuality, and chooses to sell sex? Not all sex workers are trafficked, drug addicted, pimped victims, and the stats quoted in the letter are unfounded and untrue.

Now then, if a person (man, woman, trans, child) is trafficked into any kind of indentured labour, and  not just sex, but sweat shops or dreadful demeaning jobs, or hang on even corporate immoral bondage!, well then yes, we should offer the support that is needed, as defined by those people experiencing that issue (otherwise it remains patronising and moralistic) to help them change their lives. It is possible to have a sacred soul that includes sexual freedom and the celebration of sexual FUN. So what if my nipples show whilst I'm celebrating, that doesn't invite anyones judgement (women get raped for wearing the wrong clothes - tell the attackers to stop raping!). If I want to wear a sheer bodysuit, let me. 

I agree that there are huge aspects of Beyonce's and many other pop icons (and other role models) imagery and lyrics etc that are problematic, largely as they/we are so manipulated by the media, but let's stop bloody equating this women's emancipation with a purity that for me, is actually quite alarming and certainly does NOT speak to me in any way at all. I have sacred sex, AND I enjoy it, and sometimes I wear outrageously sexy clothes when I'm having it! letter would read VERY differently, Let's stop marrying poor role models with unproven stats about sex work, it's not a pretty liaison and it's erroneous, harmful and does women no favours whatsoever.  

Celebrate your sexuality as you choose, respect others, have fun or get the support you need. Not too much to ask is it?

And in the meantime, good luck to all of the finalists tomorrow! Have a great one. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sex Work as a Feminist Statement

Happy Beltane everyone! I've been away from the blog the last couple of months setting up my new healing centre, focussing on developing my client practice and how to integrate that with my other health and wellbeing work. Those who know me, know I'm an ardent juicing proponent, and I'm slowly moving towards a more raw food diet. All of these aspects of my life have been flying around needing my attention, hence a slow trickle through the blog. I've also been giving more talks on sex work, its relationship to feminism and sexuality in general, which I really enjoy. For me it's a crucial part of spreading the word about sex work, of taking the real voices of sex workers further into the community and going some way to shattering judgment and prejudice.

I've never professed to be an academic. I've never claimed to be an expert on anything. In fact, it's fair to say that I have a tendency to mistrusting anything or anyone who presents themselves as being somehow more able to express an opinion on something based upon pure theory as opposed to life skills or experience, and a great suspicion of anyone laying claim to the mantle 'guru'. In my time as a drug publications researcher and support worker, coming across many drug workers with absolutely no experience of what it really feels like to live under the omnipresent shadow of addiction, I came to understand very clearly that it's important to listen to the voices of those who know how it feels to live something. If you want to know how it feels to live with addiction, ask an addict. If you want to know how it feels to run a marathon, ask a long distance runner. If you want to know how it feels to build a shopping mall, ask a construction worker, and if you want to know what it feels like to sell sex, ask a sex worker. That would be logical right? That would make sense wouldn't it? So why are sex workers so consistently and routinely omitted from any serious debate and discussion around health, social and law reform that directly impacts them? Why are they so deliberately ignored, and told they are deluded if they dare to suggest they not only choose their work but have opinions on it?

Explain it to me would you.

Most objections I hear seem to come from the basic premise "but no woman would ever choose to do that would she" and here I find the concept of choice really quite fascinating. Of course we may well choose to engage in sex for money, why not? Why do we still get so stuck on the idea that something that can be immensely pleasurable can at the same time make us some money? Why is it okay to trade our time, skills, expertise in other areas, but not our bodies, and who gets to decide that morals, which are generally entirely subjective, suddenly hold court over our capacity to make a self determined good living. Note the key words there "self" and "determined". We're not talking about coercion, non consensual or trafficking here, we're talking about free will, about independent agency and the right that all people have to say YES to things as much as they have the right to say NO. So why is it still so damn tricky to speak out and say "I choose to earn a living exchanging sex for money." Is that so different from the other ways we may trade sex and our bodies for progress, favours, approval, security, things of value etc etc?

I recently came across a job description. The job title was 'Awesomeness Arranger' and was followed by an equally vacuous, extremely patronising and quite frankly outrageously sexist job description which included things like "a masters degree in making people smile", and "a degree in bubliness" as preferred qualifications. It also offered 'totally rad badges' as perks, and stated that 'girls' must not make duck faces, engage in unnecessary high pitched laughter or have bangs or small pet dogs. You get the jist.

By contract, I read this job description:
High hourly rate, flexible scheduling, a sexually safe work environment with carefully chosen and monitored staff. High standards of customer behaviour, a safe place to discover your sexuality and a supportive working environment.

The first was for a burrito chain, the second for a well know and highly regarded strip club, the first of its kind to become unionised by the women and men who who worked there with the support of those who ran the place. Which would you choose?

No job is ever all good, most are a mix of good days, bad days, dull days, frustrating days and inspiring days. Some more leaning toward the bad end, some the good, but the point is that it's important to focus upon working conditions just like any other job. We need to be focussing on what makes a job safe and healthy, and how can we operate within the law as far as is possible in accordance with the individual laws of each country and/or state.

"Prostitution is not a monolith. Each woman experiences the profession differently."

Again, just like any other job. Imagine this: I dislike the international trade in sweat shop labour, how it serves large conglomerates at the expense of real humanitarian consideration. Would I try to ban clothes? No! I'd look at improving the conditions, pay rates, breaks, work environment of those producing the clothes. We all need income, and as the song goes 'it's not what you do it's the way that you do it, that's what gets results'! Sex workers are still consistently ignored. As a marginalised group, can you imagine any other marginalised group being as constructively excluded from any debate around how to make things better for that group without consultation? Again - no.

And as Gail Pheterson puts it so well "the stigmatisation of prostitution and sex work underlies the social control of women"- I am most inclined to agree. My body, my choice.

My one plea if you're reading this; keep your heart open, your mind open and keep listening, and maybe slowly we will see change for the positive in this profession. Sex is the final frontier, it's where our fears, shame, anxiety, guilt and judgment can all find a cosy nesting place if we let them. So let's not let them any longer. Speak out and be heard. Listen and reflect, and above all have fun and stay safe.