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Debate Surrounding Anarchist Bookfair's Location Misses The Nuance of the Porn Debate
Over the course of this week, the internet has been set ablaze by an argument about the 2013 Bay Area Bookfair's choice of the SF Armory as this year's venue. The debate, rather than helping address substantial concerns about the Armory as a venue, has instead only flattened the nuanced conversation about the porn industry and helped obfuscate the Armory and Kink.com's role in creating unfair labor practices for porn workers and in furthering the gentrification of the Mission District.
Debate Surrounding Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair's Location Misses The Nuance of the Porn Debate, Real Issues With the Armory
Over the course of this week, the internet has been set ablaze by an argument about the 2013 Bay Area Bookfair's choice of the SF Armory as this year's venue. The conversation was initially sparked by a number of feminists including PM Press author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The debate between anti-porn feminists like Dunbar-Ortiz and those who could be described as having a vaguely third-wave feminist positions about the Armory, the Bookfair, and Kink.com, rather than helping address substantial concerns about the Armory as a venue, has instead only flattened the nuanced conversation about the porn industry and helped obfuscate the Armory and Kink.com's role in creating unfair labor practices for porn workers and in furthering the gentrification of the Mission District.
While certainly allegations of BDSM being "torture porn" are self-evidently ridiculous, its defenders have also at times fallen back on a boring, uncritical rehashing of liberal third-wave politics that ignore the structural constraints of gender and the economy. Anti-porn advocates have a point when they question the role of consent and the sex industry as a particularly gendered sector of the economy that many women and gender-variant people have turned to in times of desperation. In my experiences as a sex worker, I hate working. To talk about this work as 'consensual sex' is a bit sickening when I think of fucking nasty old men that I'd never ever have sex with outside of the conditions of desperately needing money to survive. It's difficult to see consent when Capital's gun is at the back of my head. Of course this is obviously not a reason to condemn my life choices or act like I need saving, but neither do I appreciate being painted as an aspiring entrepreneur or a 'bright young woman saving money for college' to prove my worth as a human being. As anarchists we should be able to put forth an analysis of the sex industry without relying on liberal arguments about being free actors on the market. Nor do we need to rely on the idea that only sex workers could understand the sex industry [I understand that diamond mining is bad work no matter how many posi, entrepreneurial diamond miners I meet...] The reality is that we are all forced to make less-than-consensual decisions about how we will survive under capitalism. There is a gun to the back of the head of a woman who is working as a server in the restaurant you frequent, of the woman cleaning your 'feminist' friend's apartment, of the gender-variant person who can't make money because of their gender presentation.
The economy is indeed structured in a gendered way that makes the sex industry a lucrative way of making money for women, gender-variant people, and gay men, and the spectacular images of pornography that have been created by the exploitation of many of these people do constrain our desires and construction of "what real [gay, BDSM, TS, etc.] sex is.'" The pornography industry lays bare the recuperation of sexual revolution: liberation means you can have the digitized image of whatever you like. Sexual culture has been confined to the endless circulation of images on the internet that confines our possibilities. To endlessly talk about being a feminist "who likes porn" does not actually address the real ways in which structurally our desires are truly mutilated by an industry that has appropriated them and made them a sellable image for profit.
The most unfortunate part of this argument is the anarchists that have chosen to defend not only BDSM and pornography, but also Kink.com and the Armory, speaking of the "good consent procedures" in place for its actors and it being a good place for "young women to make money." For anyone who has followed Kink for more than the last week, this apologism for a company that has been complicit it in the redevelopment of the Mission District and unfair labor practices against its organizing workers is embarrassing and neglects the very real issues that are at stake in having the Anarchist Bookfair at the Armory. I wonder how many workerists would be up-in-arms about the mistreatment of workers at a venue that weren't webcam sex workers. I wonder how many anarchists talking about loving Kink know about how they want to tear down the food pantry next door. If we insist on entering this conversation, let's acknowledge that there is more than one issue at stake, and that creating strawmen back and forth does no benefit our position. Let's actually stake out an anarchist position in this mess: that we are against the gender violence (of sex work and all work), against the economy that sells our desires and the companies that profit, against the bosses at Kink.com that profit from our sexualities that might have once been subversive, against the redevelopment of our neighborhoods by 'kinky' tech yuppie assholes, against PM Press for making the bookfair into a book-selling marketplace for them rather than a place we might actually forge new connections.
Fuck the Armory and Kink.com, fuck PM Press, fuck Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Rebecca Solnit, fuck the second-wave and the third-wave, and most of all, fuck work.