Kicking and screaming

I don’t envy the Pope. While sure, it would be nice to wield as much power and influence as he does, it would come at the price of getting hated on by a pretty significant portion of the world. I suppose he tries to balance it out by focussing on his legion of sycophants blowing white smoke up his ass, but at some point you’d imagine he gets a bit down on himself for having to be such a prick all the time. If I’m rude or incivil to someone who, perhaps upon reflection, maybe doesn’t deserve the sharp side of my tongue, it follows me around for days. I can only imagine what it must be like to know you’re responsible for the deaths of millions of poor children and women following your boneheaded advice about condoms (for fear of hell).

Add to that the fact that you’re primarily responsible for an organization whose edifice is rapidly crumbling, particularly among places where the public education systems (which your organization had a hand in building, let’s not forget) are paying off and churning out critical thinkers. Perhaps the only organization in the world with worse PR problems than British Petroleum. An organization whose public face (besides yours) is that of ludicrous and notoriously unpopular failed U.S. presidential candidates. An organization that is the punchline to pretty much every paedophilia joke under the son sun, a reputation for which you made a significant contribution.

No I can’t imagine it’s easy wearing the big pointy hat. Not only do you have to carry around this completely justified international hatred, but you have to do it whilst simultaneously digging holes deeper and deeper for your organization to sink into. After all, what kind of religious institution learns to change with the times and find new ways of doing things without relying on centuries-old practices rooted in patriarchial attitudes and zealous political gamesmanship? Certainly not the Catholic Church: [Read more...]

Swedish sex models!!!

So there is a bit of a back-and-forth happening between Greta Christina and newly-minted FTBorg Taslima Nasreen. Ms. Nasreen wrote a piece essentially equating all sex work with exploitative slavery. Greta, a long-time sex work advocate, disagrees with a great deal of Taslima’s piece. So do I, for the record. However, I found it more than a little interesting and opportune that this issue has come up. Some of you will remember my buddy T who guest-wrote a great piece following the news of the Ontario Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize brothels. T and I were going back and forth on a longer piece about the strengths and weaknesses of Sweden’s model governing sex work. Since Ms. Nasreen specifically name-checks Sweden numerous times in her piece, I thought it would be the perfect time for T to publish this work.

Hir thoughts below the fold: [Read more...]

Movie Friday: PG Porn

To cap off what was a ‘good news week’ (minus Monday, perhaps), I thought I’d showcase a couple of videos that don’t have any message to them whatsoever, but are just lulz-worthy. Don’t be fooled – there is no nudity or sex in these clips, but you might not want to watch them at work because a passer-by might get the wrong idea. Consider yourself warned.

I guess, if I were to stretch it, the part about the ‘big tool’ being not the proper one for the job could be a veiled reference to yesterday’s post. But it’s not. Also, I think Sasha Grey is pretty cool.

This one cracks me up too:

Oh porn. You are so silly.

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Liberalization of Canada’s sex work laws: a more informed perspective

One of the things I’ve learned in my years (ironically, from a friend of mine) is that nobody can possibly be an expert on everything – as such, it’s a good idea to have a lot of friends who are experts at different things. That way when I need advice on understanding physical sciences, politics, law, current events, philosophy… basically anything that I don’t understand well, I can “cloud-source” it to any number of buddies who will be able to give me a much more in-depth look at things than I could manage on my own.

One of these is my pal T, who has devoted a lot of time and energy to understanding issues surrounding sex work and sex workers. Ze found me through the blog (coolest thing about this job – awesome people find me rather than me having to put in the effort to make it work the other way ’round) and we started talking about stuff. Ze opened my eyes up to some viewpoints I’d never considered before, and so when I heard about the Ontario ruling I immediately asked hir for hir thoughts. Ze was kind enough to school me a bit on some of the details and implications of the ruling. Hir response is below the fold. [Read more...]

A rare (and major) success for Canadian sex workers

So I have made my stance on sex work pretty clear - I see nothing inherently immoral about having sex with someone for money, provided both parties are reasonably informed of the risks inherent in any kind of casual sex and are capable of giving consent. That’s more or less the liberal boiler plate for sex work. I take it a step further than some do when I say that I also don’t see anything inherently tragic about sex work. Yeah, the most easily-retrievable meme about sex work is that of the street-walking hooker, desperate and starving and turning tricks to feed her smack habit. Rescue sex work exists, and drug addiction can be a serious problem in all low socio-economic status groups – the intersection of those two cannot be ignored or dismissed. However, that’s not a problem with sex work per se - there are a number of other factors, both personal and societal, that create those situations. They certainly do not comprise the entirety of the trade.

While I have expressed my reservations before about losing the focus of this blog, tilting at every windmill I come across, something happened this week that sort of blew the doors off that plan. I say ‘sort of’ because it involves Canada’s courts, and this is a ‘good news week’ (to try and balance out last week’s and Monday’s heaviness), and because fuck it, I want to. A few months ago, a group of sex workers and advocates challenged Canada’s laws on operating ‘a bawdy house’ – the language gives you a hint as to how old the law is. The law states that while prostitution is perfectly legal, it is illegal to make one’s living as a prostitute or to operate an indoor business for the purposes of prostitution. Which leaves… the street.

Scary shit happens out on the streets. When you have less control over your surroundings (and who your customers are), you are at greater risk of violence and/or exploitation. If sex work is how you pay your bills, then you’re trapped between a rock and a hard place when it comes to turning away customers or deciding to avoid the streets. One might argue that forcing prostitutes to the streets puts them in unnecessary danger that they wouldn’t face if they could practice their trade indoors. One in fact did argue that. One won: [Read more...]

Oh frabjous day!

Two kinda cool things happened recently.

First, remember that sex show in Abbottsford that got canceled a while back?

I mean really, I almost feel lazy writing about this story because it requires so little effort on my part. What could I possibly add to this story? Abbotsford was going to actually have some fun, until the religious folks caught wind of it, and like the proverbial dog in the manger, decided to uphold their reputation as the town from Footloose. Because, you know, drinking leads to touching, and touching leads to those funny feelings that the priest told me was the influence of Satan, possessing your wee-wee. And won’t somebody think of the children?

Yeah, I had a good time with that one. Well guess what – the show is back on! [Read more...]

To have to have and to have to hold

I have more or less given up on expecting that religious folks will recognize the inherent contradictions between their secular morality and their religious instruction. We all have blinders about our own bad behaviours and illogical thoughts, but religion is particularly protected from introspective self-scrutiny. Matters religious are supposed to be believed “just ’cause”. Faith demands that we suppress our instinct to reject those things which are logically impossible or unsupported by evidence and simply accept a particular dogmatic instruction. Thus is a capacity for doublethink built, and with it a resistance to see hypocrisy as in any way problematic.

That being said, I am repeatedly fascinated by the way in which many “moral” principles that are described along religious lines come into conflict with secular moral principles that can be derived philosophically. Human beings use a variety of sources to determine right from wrong, and we’ve developed methods of decision-making when circumstances present us with a novel situation or a contradiction. How do we do the right thing in a circumstance we’ve never encountered before? Can we draw a parallel to something we’ve seen before? What happens when rule X and rule Y come into conflict? Do we discard one rule? Both? Is there some nuance we can find?

Such ethical wheeling and dealing is a necessary fact of life in a world that throws all kinds of challenges our way. Bound within certain ethical frameworks about the definition of ‘the good’, we can find ways to make decisions that satisfy our innate desire to feel good about ourselves. However, this kind of nuanced thinking is denied to us when we adhere to regulations that we see as inerrant. If we must follow the rules, we have no recourse when, for some reason or another, we find the rules in conflict with each other. [Read more...]

Passport? Boarding pass? Assault?

So since I made the move to FTB (and I’m still super happy about that), people have started talking to me about conferences and meetups and conventions and whatnot. Being fairly new to organized nonbelief, I have never been to one of these fancy functions (although I will be at Imagine No Religion 2 in Kamloops in May). I’ve never had a major yen to congregate in this way. While I do enjoy the company of my fellow infidels here in Vancouver, I’ve never had a strong desire to attend a large event organized for that purpose. I’m not knocking them, I’m just saying they haven’t been a big draw for me.

However, as I make more friends who I would otherwise not have a chance to see (I am referring largely, but not exclusively, to my colleagues at FTB), I begin to see the desirability of getting to hang out with a big group of heathens. The problem, for me at least, is that very few of the meetups happen in Canada, which forces me to go to the United States. Where this happens: [Read more...]

Oh God, Oh GOD, OH YES! Oh no!

There was some very interesting discussion that cropped up in the comment thread of last week’s Movie Friday where I asked you to discuss what the lyrics to Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With” actually mean. Many of you thought that she was articulating a kind of “faitheist” position, or one of arch-deism, where those who disbelieve are hypocritical fools, yet those who profess strong belief are simpletons. My own interpretation was a bit more generous, thinking that perhaps she was talking about God as a concept rather than as an actual entity (either theistic or otherwise). A bunch of others helpfully suggested a bunch of other female artists that I could check out since my iTunes is lacking (for which I thank you).

I am still struck by that line “God can be funny”. For all the misery and general awfulness that religion causes in everyday life (to say nothing of its capacity for breeding hair-ripping frustration), there are a lot of reasons to laugh. Sometimes you laugh because it’s either that or cry, sometimes you laugh because it’s genuinely hilarious, and sometimes you laugh because there’s no other reaction to something so bizarre. Religious people don’t particularly like having their beliefs and behaviour ridiculed, and often claim that anti-theists like myself are waging a campaign intended to discredit and undermine the very foundation of our society. I obviously disagree – I am not putting in nearly so much effort as they claim. One does not have to hold up religion for ridicule, one merely has to hold it up: [Read more...]

It’s a good day for the ladies

One of the most frustrating arguments I encounter when talking about feminism is the various double standards. Women are portrayed as the passive recipients of actions, and yet are the ones who must take responsibility for their marginalization (either by “grow(ing) a pair”, “get(ting) a sense of humour”, or not “dress(ing) like a total whore”). There is rarely the corrolary pressure put on men to moderate their (our) behaviour, at least not by non-feminists. Of course when feminists do say “hey guys, don’t do that”, they (we) get piled on for being a castration-hungry horde of groupthinkers who are just trying to get laid (if you’re a straight man) or who just need to get laid (if you’re not).

Not too long ago, I talked about an experience I had when I was doing undergrad orientation, where the women in my residence were taught a number of ways to safeguard themselves against date rape. Oddly (or, rather, not oddly at all), there were no accompanying instructions for the guys. Safeguarding people from date rape was a ‘victim-only’ responsibility. In that same post, I lauded a program that is seeking to shift the conversation away from that kind of blame-based advice and toward a “personal responsibility” *twitch* model. The idea seems to be picking up steam in some unlikely places. [Read more...]