Stepping Up and Stepping Down: Let’s Dance

Will we put our money where our mouth is?

We are living within a new articulation of social dynamics as they pertain to sexual agency and community positions. This affects more than sexual politics too. Change is hard. The #metoo conversation has started and it is not even remotely close to over. One of the more interesting conversations circling communities that like to think of themselves as progressive, is the “people of privilege should step down and let underprivileged people start serving the community and working at higher visibility/more responsibility/better paying positions” one. Obviously there is a lot of lashback from the (mostly privileged) status quo, but there is also conversation around the idea, which I think is great. Recently I read an article on Fetlife which was not disagreeing with this position, but was basically saying “if we ask people to step down, or if there are positions to be filled (especially as a result of an abuse of power), then underprivileged people need to step up”. The article’s author then sited his experience trying to fill a role on a local committee where no women, transpeople, or POC applied. His point seemed to be “why should I relinquish power if there’s no interest from someone with less privilege to take on the position I’m relinquishing?”. I’d like to examine the meat between these ideas. Yes to both of them (privileged people should step down, and underprivileged people should step up)! Let’s figure out how we do these things effectively though, by looking at what brought about this gap in action:

First, it’s important to understand the power structure that has left minority people behind in the first place, and how that influences underprivileged people’s interest and ability to step up when a leadership role is passively open for the taking. I’m speaking of socialization and business grooming practices. Consider this: White cis men in power, men, white people, cis people, straight people, able-bodied people, people with financial privilege, and other people with privileges who are in power currently, should be actively on the lookout for people without those shared privileges and directly ask them to become involved.

Why, you may ask? Most people who are minorities, especially people who have multiple minority realities in their lived experiences have never (or have rarely) been seeked out or directly asked to contribute to communities other than their own minority ones by fulfilling leadership roles. When there’s a space to fill in a community which is historically headed by people with privilege, there is frequently not an instinctual “Oh, I should go for it, I bet I’d get hired” bell which rings for the underprivileged person with interest. This is effective socialization and there are facts and figures about how that socialization works to keep “like people” in power over time and effectively separate those with differences out of the advancement equation. If that bell does ring though, it is often immediately accompanied with a “but I’m probably not qualified”, or “will I be the only ____ on the committee, how will that feel, how much education/energy/argument with my own board will I have to engage in to feel like it’s a safe and progressive space to send my attention and time into or associate my name with?”, or “I’d love to, but it doesn’t pay and I don’t make enough money to spend a ton of my time volunteering for something right now”, or any number of things which speak to the fact that most minority people are not directly supported or groomed throughout their lives within mainstream (or even underground privileged-people-running-the-show) communities to step up. Often minority people enter various community spaces feeling somewhat isolated, feeling “other”, feeling less powerful, feeling unheard, making constant accomodations for various levels of ignorance or outright bigotry they find themselves surrounded by, etc. It does actually take more energy for a person without certain privileges to hang out for any length of time in a room full of people with privilege than the other way around. I speak from the perspective of someone who has some privileges and not others. I have been the privileged person amongst others with similar privileges in many rooms, and I have been the minority person surrounded by people who didn’t understand what it was like to constantly deflect conversations, read and evaluate body language, check my safety situation, educate instead of freely converse, decipher whether or not it was safe to be out about certain conversational topics or should I remain quiet about my reality (if that was even an option)… The list goes on. It is tiring. It is hard. It is a skillbuilding opportunity. It doesn’t make me feel as though I should make my way to the head of the room and start speaking out.

In the performance art world I frequently hear people with privilege echo this same perspective: I want more ___ people at my event, why aren’t they showing up in droves?!

As a producer, director, and teacher the only answer I have is this: You haven’t literally gone to ___ spaces and let ___ people know they are a valued asset in your space. You haven’t directly gone out of your way looking to hire ___ people, or actually hired ___ people if you had a chance to. You haven’t made sure to smile at or approach ___ people when they did come to your events and make certain they felt seen, welcome, heard, valued, and safe. These are actual actions you can take to help ___ people want to be in your space. Once ___ people want to be in your space they often bring their ___ friends.

I understand that this may sound like unreasonable work to do — after all people are submitting themselves to your ad for leadership already (privileged people mostly or entirely) — so why should you have to seek out people who aren’t just applying like all those privileged folks are? Please consider that when you are one of the few ___ people in a room, the chances that you feel freely welcome to take over that room (should an opportunity arise), is much less taken for granted and is actually more personally and sense-of-communally complicated for the ___ person than for the person with privilege(s). Therefore attention to those truths is a part of this conversation.

I absolutely vote for ___ people stepping up. I also think it’s important for ___ people to be directly cultivated and warmly invited by the current privileged powers-that-be to step up when the time comes. This is how we much more quickly approach balance and do something actively to disintegrate and restructure a cis white heteronormative patriarchal hierarchy (cough *pyramid scheme* cough) which currently serves no one wholistically in reality, but we’re so used to moving within it, has started to feel like the air we breathe or the matter the universe is made up of.

I would love to be groomed for greatness and community service at an organizing level personally. I also have no idea how I would begin to feel safe, listened to, and as though people were interested enough in my thoughts for me to put my hat in most rings when I do see an ad up. Being asked by someone well respected and already involved in the power structure of that community would do a lot towards bridging that gap. These are real world complexities to consider.

In a conversation about community balancing itself through thoughtful action based in behavior modification, it’s hard to feel as a though someone who is comfortable in their position must “give up” something they value. I think of it like this: in a family when you notice someone not participating to the level they are capable of for whatever reason, you can act as a family participant and help them find their niche even if it means inviting them to do some of the jobs you enjoy doing. You don’t go on whining about how you’re both basically the same (the “we’re all human” tantrum) so that you can staunchly keep doing whatever you want to do and not contribute to the balancing of family industry. We must work together to shift the burden of a system we’ve taken for granted for too long, and change it into something which benefits us all.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

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~Thank you.

Sex Work, Emotional Labor, Feminism, Gender Diversity, and… Hi again!

Photo by Davis Aquilina

Photo by Davis Aquilina

When I wake up at 6am it turns out I get some good thinking/articulation done. I think it also helps that I recently moved to a wonderful sex-positive household, and unpacked more in the week after moving in than I’d unpacked in the past three years… I think I’m… Happy?! Happiness does my brain and body good, and a little while ago, early in the morning, I found myself responding to a friend’s musings about sex work online, I also found myself responding to some of the negative and dogmatic responses she had received — her post being pro sex work. As I was responding I thought of you, my readers here at ABC’s. So I’m sharing my thoughts from that conversation; I hope you enjoy reading on…

CONVERSATION ABOUT SEX WORK — specifically pertaining to sacred sexuality within chosen and ethical working conditions: Here’s a general summary of the conversation: “Legalize Sex Work, especially Sacred Sex Healers!”, and then “But why pay for something that’s supposed to happen between lovers for free — that’s the one twoo way and righteous”, and then some “But what about God?! Don’t waste your seed on multiple people, make it to the afterworld and save yourself for the love of [insert deity here]… and then “But massage is paid for and that’s intimate touch too and healing”, and some “Women do this service to men who need it for reasons of advancement and sexual healing and it’s a sacred path for women to choose taking,” then more “but really monogamy and not paying for sex ’cause… um… not paying for sex!”… 

Here’s what I had to say: There are two points I would like to make on this post that I don’t see being discussed but that I feel are extremely relevant to this topic, and they pertain to Gender and Labor. These ideas intersect in different ways but are related. As long as we look at sex work as “women’s work for the benefit of men” it will not be regarded as the deeply spiritual and healing thing that it is. It will continue to be headlined under the dogmatic false-duality heralded by patriarchy and never be seen as a just function within the industry that it is a part of: (a viable and much needed aspect of) the Healing Industry. That said there is also a need for us to look at the fact that people — regardless of gender — take on the roles of both sex workers and clients. Men, Women, Transpeople, Intersex people, Genderfluid individuals… All of the peoples both heal and buy healing when it comes to sex work for varied and personally important reasons. This is relevant because sex work is not an industry (when worked within freely and ethically and intentionally) that can be defined as a dogmatic function of patriarchal oppression, especially when we look at the reasons people both provide and seek out these services. I believe sex work can be (at least) a radical reclaiming of the body for people who are giving and receiving within sex work, sex work can provide an important function for individuals who desire and need it, and in fact be the antithesis of a repressive labor of exploitation.

The other point I’d like to give some time to is concerning gender — because we regard and speak about (contemporarily and historically) sex work as “women’s work”, the worn path of discussion about whether or not it should be paid for is an entirely tired and generally insulting downward spiral into the depths of (again) dogmatic and patriarchal thinking. There has been a cultural discussion for decades (recently re-energized) about how our society does and does not find value in work we consider to be “natural to the feminine instinct”. A great article for reference: “Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor

I, for one, am all for people capitalizing on their talents and passions regardless of gender for the benefit of both themselves and others in this lifetime. Should sex work be legalized? Yes. Should sex work be paid for? Yes. Should people who engage in sex work and sex workers be stigmatized for their connection to an energetic flow that our society would have us repressed and segregated from? No! Should scumbags who use the reality of societal repression of sexuality as a way to demean and control others in the sex industry be viewed as criminals of the state and prosecuted accordingly? Yes! Do we deserve safety while exploring our sexual energies/bodies/desires in this lifetime? Yes! Is sex work gendered? Hell no. Are people who need and find and benefit from services within the sex industry a single gender/sex/orientation/identity? You better believe it ain’t so…

So, where are we left? Well, I think at: respect people for the journeys they take in this lifetime even if those journeys are foreign to you. I don’t need a pacemaker, and you might not need sexual healing from someone other than your primary partner. I’m not judging you for your heart condition; walk a mile in my shoes and you might not find yourself with much steam to judge the needs of my vagina… My ultimate hope is about safety though, and building a better industry to carry out its essential core values: healing, wholeness, and happiness… Which cannot happen if the very discourse we have on the topic is rooted in sexism, homophobia, religious and/or sexual repression, cis-centrism, false dichotomy, and by abandoning mention of rape culture and the effects of trauma on a person’s ability to develop a safe and healthy sexuality to begin with… Sexual Healing might just be the oldest profession in the world because we desperately need it.

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin 

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~Thank you.

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