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Comments now have to be approved before they will appear on the site. Apparently I'm getting spammed so much that the damn spam blocker won't block it all! Seeing as there haven't been any genuine comments in over a year, I figure this won't be affecting anyone too adversely 😉

P.S. there will probably be some genuine posts, not about spam, soon.

EDIT: comments are now disabled on all old posts. I discovered that forgetting to clear the spam filter on one single day would create such a backlog of spam that the admin panel wouldn't open. It was just too much of a hassle! When/if I post new posts, comments will be enabled on those, but until then…

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Inactive

Obviously this blog has been inactive for quite a while now (since December 2012, really). I reserve the right to resurrect it at some point in time, and I still check in every once in a while. As a result, I've noticed today that the blog has become absolutely besieged by spam. If I'm not mistaken, I inadvertently caused the problem myself 10 days ago when I upgraded the version of Chyrp (my blogging software) running to the latest, not realising that it would wipe my Akismet key – effectively, severing the link to my spam filter. Consequently, the deluge of spam.

Some posts now have so many spam comments that I can't actually bring them up in the control panel to delete the comments. It looks like I'll have to delete some entries, although I'll try to repost them. If you're for some reason subscribed to an RSS feed for this blog and see a lot of old posts come up, that'd be why. My apologies!

If you're still interested in my political views and want to see me reblog a lot of other people's content, feel free to check out my Tumblr.

EDIT: The spam comments are all gone, for now. I may have deleted a couple of legitimate ones unwittingly; sorry if that bothers you, but I really had no option.

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While not going so far as to actually do anything remotely dictatorial, Chávez was far from a democratic leader. Instead of competing honestly in elections, he provided services and raised the standard of living for the people of Venezuela, ensuring their gratitude and thereby gaining an unfair advantage at the polls. Much of the funds for this insidious election tactic of ‘making things better’ were rerouted from the newly nationalised oilfields: through this wanton kleptocracy, billions of petrodollars were withheld from deserving rich white people.

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Capitalism doesn’t inspire creativity, it stifles it. There are millions of geniuses that might be doing something brilliant, but instead are putting stickers on packets of biscuits they can barely afford for 12 hours a day so some lazy prick can play golf every Sunday with all the other impotent do nothing pricks.

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The real harms of prostitution

I stumbled across this article the other day, and found it really thought-provoking. It’s an argument as to why prostitution is so harmful that it should never be legalised, so perhaps you can guess why I’d have mixed feelings – on the one hand, I do believe that prostitution is inherently harmful, but then on the other I don’t understand how pushing things ever-deeper underground is supposed to help.

I think in describing the horror of prostitution, this article does a reasonable job. It cites a study that found that 68% of sex workers in the nine countries surveyed suffer from PTSD; it talks about how many sex workers have been threatened with, or actually experienced, violence at the hands of their clients, and it argues that legal brothels lead to an increase in human trafficking and sex slavery, which may well be true. Further, towards the start of the article there is this wonderful quote that I'd just like to include in its entirety:

In prostitution, men remove women’s humanity. Buying a woman in prostitution gives men the power to turn women into a living, breathing masturbation fantasy. He removes her self and those qualities that define her as an individual, and for him she becomes sexualized body parts. She acts the part of the thing he wants her to be.

I guess this begs the obvious question: if I think prostitution is so harmful, why would I want it to be legal?

I think partly the answer to this comes back to, why does prostitution exist in the first place? And I think it exists because of the context of capitalism – and before that, other forms of class society. Under capitalism, it is virtually impossible to survive without money, and the only way to get money is to have something to sell. For business owners, it’s pretty easy to see what they have to sell. For the rest of us, what we have to sell is our ability to work – we sell ourselves to a boss who puts us to work, and who makes sure to pay us less than the value of what we produce, because otherwise there’d be no profit. This is the entire basis of capitalism.

Another important part of capitalism is institutional unemployment. That is, if there was truly full employment, workers would have the leverage to demand whatever pay and conditions they want – because what exactly is the boss going to do? They can’t fire such uppity workers and replace them with less demanding ones if everyone already has a job. This is why bourgeois economists consider 5% unemployment to be “full employment” – they consider it necessary to have a certain part of the population be so marginalised and desperate that they can serve as an excuse to bring pay and conditions down for everyone. Naturally, these people tend to come from oppressed groups – people of colour, people who don’t speak the language, transgendered folk, the disabled. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t need money just as badly as everyone else, just that they have a much harder time coming by it.

This is all perhaps an excessive preamble to the following: the sex industry preys on people, mostly women, like this who have few options. If all you have to sell is yourself and the only boss who will buy you is the owner of a brothel (or if your other options seem even worse than sex work)… well, if you really need that money, that’s what you will do.

Shitty work in general makes people feel alienated from it – personally I work at a call centre, which is hardly spiritually fulfilling. The difference with prostitution is that it makes people feel alienated from their sexuality – a core part of the human experience for most people. They have to give themselves over to someone who regards them as a body to be fucked, basically, and it doesn’t particularly matter if they find this client completely repulsive. It is true that prostitutes in legal brothels in Victoria have the legal right to reject any client they like, but in practice they can’t get too fussy, because what work are they going to get then? Then they have to pleasure whoever’s hired them, and without regard for themselves, unless their hirer has a particular predilection for that. From the sounds of things, that really doesn’t happen very often. Basically, instead of sexuality being what it should be – about mutual desire, mutual pleasure, with both parties able to explore the acts they’d like to try and avoid the acts they don’t – it becomes a transaction, in which (almost always) a man purchases a body for the purpose of satisfying himself.

There are so many “feminists” – liberals – who go on and on about choice, about how women choose to enter the sex industry, and they seem to love telling highly individualised stories of high-class escorts with excellent working conditions. I find this incredibly frustrating because sure, if you refuse to have any kind of systemic analysis, I’m sure you can find plenty of examples of relatively privileged people who made genuine choices to go into sex work and never regretted it and had a blast. This isn’t the experience of most sex workers. It’s also not a substitute for an analysis of the system. The article I linked to right at the top here also says the following:

Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in legal prostitution. In one Dutch study, 60 per cent of women in legal prostitution were physically assaulted, 70 per cent were threatened with physical assault, 40 per cent experienced sexual violence and 40 per cent had been coerced into legal prostitution.

I realise that one study isn’t necessarily a clinching argument either, but from what I’ve heard about legal brothels in Australia, these statistics sound like ballpark figures here too. And this is what I’m talking about – not individual women’s choices (they can do what they want, honestly), but a system in which many people do not have much choice, and get subjected to experiences such as these.

So we get back to that question – why would I want this institution to be legal?

Basically, because the institution exists whether it’s legal or not. The way to abolish it is to challenge the basis for its existence – the poverty that coerces people into sex work when they don’t want to be there; the gendered and sexual oppression that means bodies can be commodified, treated as objects for sale. There should be open borders, so that migrant women can’t be threatened with having their visas revoked, or being reported to authorities if they’re “illegal” in the first place. Sex work should certainly not be criminalised, such that no sex worker should ever fear harassment from the police, nor feel they have to depend on pimps or bosses for safety.

The way to abolish this industry is really the same as for a lot of other revolting industries – it’s for workers to organise and demand real change. It’s for capitalism and oppression to be abolished. In a post-capitalist world, where production was organised around human need and there was no such thing as money, there couldn’t be any such thing as prostitution, only sex. Shouldn’t that be what we strive for?

Basically, I disagreed with this article because it denies the crucial point that prostitution is inevitable until class society is overthrown. Criminalising it has never stamped it out. And if conditions are still terrible while prostitution is legal – I obviously don’t disagree – the solution is not to make it illegal again, but for workers to struggle against those businesses, in the same way that say, workers at Baiada struggled against the company whose horrible working conditions saw a man decapitated. I do think prostitution is qualitatively different from chicken factories for its role in upholding gendered and sexual oppression, but the appropriate (systematic) way to approach them is similar.

This post has been a bit all over the place and I apologise for that. Basically, the point is that this author and I are in agreement that prostitution is harmful, and not at all in agreement about what is to be done about it. I think the role of capitalism is central, and so capitalism has to be fundamentally challenged if we ever want prostitution to go away. And that is that.