I’m still finding it hard to sit down every single Sunday and write. Last year it was really important to me to do so, because writing here was so tied up with giving up alcohol that I felt if I didn’t write every Sunday I may as well go back to drinking and the two – writing and not drinking – became inextricably linked. Now I know I can happily not drink just by, you know, not drinking.
So Sunday arrives and I either have a completely blank head and that weird sensation of knowing you enjoy something but also feeling like it’s become work and therefore you don’t enjoy it any more even though you do. (I’m not the only person that does that, right? I am sure other people must have, say, got their dream job being paid for what they love to do and then suddenly discovering that once you’re paid to do what you enjoy doing it’s suddenly not fun any more? Having said that I am not being paid to write (yet…) so who knows what would happen if I got a job that paid me for sitting down and writing.) At other times, Sunday arrives and my head is buzzing with so many ideas and thoughts that I can’t catch any of them and just end up letting them go because trying to pick one of those buzzy thoughts out of the air and trap it on paper or screen feels too difficult.
Before I know it, Sunday is almost over and I find ways to justify not writing. Or I’ll start writing, and tell myself I’ll finish it on Monday. Tuesday. Friday. I’ll just write next week. But I know that I am even less motivated to open my laptop on a weeknight than on a Sunday. I don’t want to have to do any thinking after a day at work. That’s why I watch so much CSI. Or If I’m feeling like shouting at the TV, NCIS. (Seriously, how the fuck has DiNozzo not been fired for sexual harassment? He’s a fucking sex pest.)
Despite the overwhelming meh, I still have itchy fingers and it’s not always that I want to write much as need to write (to stop the buzzing. And the guilt.) So this week I am forcing myself to open the laptop and I’m going to try to grab some of the loudest buzzy thoughts and trap them in words to stop them buzzing, and maybe start some conversations, and see what happens…
Sex Work – A thought experiment.
I’ve been involved in a number of debates about sex work recently, which is unsurprising given the amount of press since Amnesty’s announcement that they were consulting over their new policy on human rights for sex workers, and their subsequent declaration that they support decriminalisation. This is a huge and complex issue, that much has been clear over the last week of my enthusiastic internet debating. Argumentative, remember? On a personal level, I know people who’ve been trapped in the sex industry, and desperate to get out, and who’ve subsequently struggled to enter legal work after. I also know people who chose sex work, who love it, who made a lot of money and found a lot of job satisfaction and enjoyment out of that work. Just like any other industry really. Only other industries aren’t illegal, or as (potentially) exploitative. Or ones that are, but aren’t selling sex, and mainly employ men; but we don’t see any rush to criminalise construction.
I don’t come at this from the angle that sex work is inherently wrong. I don’t see the sex trade as necessarily being about a transaction that is inherently based on men buying women’s bodies, although to be fair that’s pretty much how it is right now; and I think it’s vital to point out that #notallsexwork is the same. There are many sex workers out there who are not women and many sex work consumers who are not men. And I don’t buy that in Feminist Utopia there’d be no sex trade. In fact, I rather think that there would very much be a sex trade in Feminist Utopia, because female sexuality would no longer be demonised and women would be as able to want, seek, enjoy or refuse sex as men currently are, and there’d be no stigma over sexuality.
So here’s a thought experiment for you.
Sex work is monetising one’s own body. In order to sell one’s own body for any reason, society has to accept that one has agency and ownership over one’s body.
Free market capitalism relies on workers having no control of the means of production.
Patriarchy relies on women having no ownership of their own bodies.
We live in a capitalist patriarchy and rules, laws and views on sex work will be filtered through that lens.
Allowing women to choose sex work as a profession, or to leave sex work as a profession, requires acknowledging that prostitutes have ownership of the means of production. Literally that women have ownership of their own bodies.
It shouldn’t be a radical viewpoint that women should own their own bodies, but in capitalist patriarchy it’s about as radical as it gets.
Gender – shifting the ‘default’
I read this wonderful article the other day about one individual’s journey of gender exploration. It occurred to me as I was reading that we look at gender all wrong. If you think about it, it makes more sense to have “agender” as a default state, a centre of a spectrum from which other gender expressions fan out; rather than our current idea where people must fit into a binary of either female/feminine or male/masculine and that anything else is a deviation from that. Because I wasn’t sure I could articulate my thoughts about it well, I tried to draw a diagram. It’s by no means perfect, and it’s no gender unicorn.
I was trying to show how it would make way more sense to view complete lack of gender as a default, and not a fixed position. As you move through life you might find you move around in the circle loads, like Tyler from the Guardian article. Or you might move around just in one side. Or you might stay at one end. There probably wouldn’t be very many people right in the middle, or at the far ends, and given the freedom to explore gender, and freed from the constraints of cultural pressure to conform to one side or the other, people may well find they experiment and move around more.
Of course it has to be pointed out that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are entirely socially constructed, so what is at either end of this diagram isn’t even fixed.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all understand gender as a spectrum that we could all explore however we wished, without judgement or dismissal?
A feminist dating
It’s my 1 year anniversary of being single (congratulations to me!) and just as I predicted I’ve rather enjoyed it. It’s great to have had time to really pick apart what it is I want out of life, and what it is I’ve been socialised to think I want. I did briefly download Tinder just to see what the fuss was about. I received a bunch of unsolicited dick pics and went on one pretty disastrous date and uninstalled it within a week. I re-activated my long dormant OKCupid account, decided that Me-Four-Years-Ago was a totally different person and de-activated it so I could start a completely new one. In the ‘about me’ section, front and centre, I wrote that I was a feminist. A card carrying, humourless, shrill angry feminist who wrote angry things about feminism on the internet. This is against the advice that we feminists are often given. We’re told to “tone down” our feminism or we’ll frighten people off. We’re to be less angry, or we won’t “find a man”. We’re told “you’re probably single because you’re too feminist”.
But you know what? If I have to compromise my beliefs in order to find a partner, then that partner is not the partner for me. Sure, there’s many people for whom “feminist” is a turn off, but that doesn’t bother me, because I don’t want to date anyone who wouldn’t date a feminist.
I’m not really looking for a relationship though. I like not having to be responsible for someone else’s feelings, and not having anyone else be responsible for mine. I like not having to negotiate my spare time, or share space in my bed (I am a diagonal sleeper). The best relationships I’ve ever had were the ones that started unexpectedly when I wasn’t looking because I was quite ok with the way things were. I generally find that people that really want a relationship, who think they need a relationship to be happy, are those that struggle most with being happy. I reckon that feeling of need puts so much pressure on any new relationship that they can’t live up to what you want. I believe that if you think you need a romantic relationship or a significant other to make you happy, then the last thing you need is a relationship with someone else. You need to make a better relationship with yourself so you are happy alone. Someone else should add to your life, not fix or complete it. If feeling like that makes me undateable and too feminist, then so be it.
I leave you with this passage that MummyDinosaurPirate sent to me many years ago, when I wasn’t in such a good place having been through a nasty break up. It’s been my model for healthier relationships ever since.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet