Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Submit to The Land Line

Brilliant friends,
        The Land Line is a new quarterly journal with wild dreams and schemes, and we're seeking submissions for our first issue. We're looking for work that's raunchy, flamboyant, interdisciplinary, and intellectually rigorous. The journal is a kaleidoscope of research-based essays butting up against nonlinear comics, cultural criticism leaking into poetry. We want to hear about the film you're working on or the community organizing you're doing, but we also want writing that goes beyond your field and expertise. The essay you couldn't publish anywhere else because it's too sleazy for academia, too long for most magazines, too obscure for your local weekly.

Here's some of what you can expect in our debut issue:
-Sheridan Lefanu and sleep paralysis
-Independent contractors; labor organizing and performance by exotic dancers and televised wrestlers
-History and new developments of crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing disparities
-Ask a Virg-ho, sex advice from a sex worker
-First installment of a column about names, self-naming and name-sharing

          The journal is put together by a loose collective of staunch amateurs, distributed for free, and free of ads. We do layout by hand and print on newsprint, black and white, tabloid format. We're all feeling giddy about the first issue of The Land Line and hope you'll be a part of the project. Deadline is November 25th, but we'd love to hear about what you're working on as soon as possible so we can start piecing things together and, you know, get even more excited.

Yours,
Robin Hustle, prose editor
Edie Fake and Grant Reynolds, comics editors
Fionnuala Cook, poetry editor
and all of us at The Land Line

Curdled Milk and Two Eggs Sunny Side Up at Brainframe 2

I read Curdled Milk and Two Eggs Sunny Side Up at Brainframe 2, curated by Lyra Hill. Video by Jenna Caravello. I'm not being bashful, just realistic: I suggest you skip ahead to TESSU at around 2:55.


Robin Hustle reads at Brain Frame #2 from Lyra Hill on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Brain Frame 2 with Lyra Hill, Edie Fake, and Otto Splotch

Brain Frame is a series of comics readings and it is very funny. You can see videos from Brain Frame 1 here: Brain Frame


Thursday, September 22 at 8 p.m.
1542 N. Milwaukee, second floor



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No-Man's Land
Bloodsport
Links and Hair
Light On Spark
Links for Sharks
Watery Eyes
Wash and Dry Nights
Bronze Medal
Fuck Hound
Thrice Tailored
You Came and You Pillaged
The Pool
The Mouth Pool
Pillow Sin
The Sext Pool
Hedge Daughter
And Her Son Villain
Humdrum Work
Whittled Idiom
Out and In
Middle-of-the-Road
Breast Binge
Angel's Food
Avon Lady
Sticky Kill
The Mold Toast
Mouth Spore
Chicken of the Woods
Smack of the Lards
Pure Aged Pork
Hide-and-Go-Seek
Whippersnapper Spunk
Guard's Fool Punk
Heifers and Narcs
Golems Scare
Malevolent Guile
Rogue Sir, Hark
Grass Fails
My Kin Lie Dark
Rage Dark
Lobo Visage
Chafed Clam
Pulled Man
Top-Down
Crash/Burn
Porcelain Crown
Fata Morgana
Sirocco Dawn

I'll be reading this piece and others at Woman Made Gallery on Sunday, August 14th at 2 p.m. The event is an installment of Megan Milks' Uncalled-for Reading Series and features Mairead Case, Dalice Malice, and Jami Sailor.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Underground review in the Chicago Reader

Bert Stabler reviews Underground
Underground is on view at Woman Made Gallery until mid-August and features work by Edie Fake, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Megan Diddie, Sanya Glisic, and myself.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Society of the Scandal: Randall L. Tobias and Hand Jobs EXPOSED

Written for The Skeleton News in June 2007 and reprinted in Power of the Impotent. Feel free to extrapolate my thoughts on the Weiner photo. 

Randall L. Tobias, deputy secretary of state and AIDS czar, resigned in late April following the exposure of his habit of hiring women from an upscale DC escort service to come over to his condo and provide massages (that is, hand jobs). Tobias, a former pharmaceutical mogul, was hired by President Bush in 2003 to oversee all U.S. foreign funding. His main duties were to distribute fifteen billion dollars allocated to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and act as a mouthpiece for the program and its abstinence-based approach to prevention. Ironically, PEPFAR requires that NGOs sign an anti-prostitution pledge to receive funding for HIV/AIDS prevention. Groups run by sex workers, or that work directly with sex workers to gain healthier, safer working conditions have been denied U.S. funding under the plan. The "ABC" approach to prevention – Abstinence, Be faithful, and Condoms, in order of "effectiveness" – has been enforced internationally by Tobias as the only appropriate form of sex education, despite the lack of data supporting the effectiveness of abstinence-based programs. PEPFAR has taken us a decade backwards in AIDS prevention and prostitutes' rights throughout the world, and lo, its spokesman, a married sixty-five year old, is hiring hookers.
       Sure, it's hard to respond to this news without a smug eye-roll at the hypocrisy of politicians, but in doing so we fall into the shallow pit of scandal. The event of an exposure, as microcosmic and temporal as the opening of a camera shutter. We are not concerned with the fact that Tobias was hiring prostitutes; we expect as much from a man in his position. Scandal is the revelation of what we already know, an indiscretion revealed, and it feeds our collective forgetfulness by valuing exposure over comprehension. We can laugh, and cringe, when Tobias is caught with his pants down disregarding his own international policies, but doing so leaves us hanging on the act of getting caught. Don't get caught.
      There are sustainable truths in Tobias' predicament. Prostitution happens and a demand for it exists, even though we tell men they're very bad if they pay for sex. Despite the lofty ideals of abstinence education, most people, young or old, married or not, have a funny inclination toward having sex with one another. And as Tobias himself demonstrated, hand jobs are a terrific form of safer sex.
      But none of these truths is newsworthy. Journalism rides bareback on the well-formed muscles of scandal because we enjoy the titillation an exposé provides. We might do ourselves a favor by asking better questions, ignoring the scandals, and seeking higher forms of titillation: say, inviting someone over for a massage. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Curdled Milk

Curdled Milk (2011) is available at Quimby's Bookstore and at www.quimbys.com. It will be on view in Underground at Woman Made Gallery, 685 N. Milwaukee, July 8 through August 18. 




























Love of Woman for Woman Should Increase Terror


                                         Love of Woman for Woman Should Increase Terror, 2010

Drawings from Mirror Tricks and Leftovers Again?!

                                                                             
                                                                                           Untitled, 2006




                                                                               Civilized Man, 2009




                                                                                          Feral Man, 2008




                                                                               Pissing in the Cave, 2007




                                               Touching Pair, 2006

Friday, April 15, 2011

Prostitution-Free Zones in Chicago?

28th Ward Alderman-elect Jason Ervin is proposing legislation that would create "Prostitution-Free Zones" in Chicago, making it a criminal offense for convicted prostitutes to occupy public sidewalks and parks. Ervin's website says that "the proposal aims to tackle the safety concerns for children and residents and the unsightly attraction caused by prostitution and prostitution-related loitering in areas around the city." This is an absurd and discriminatory proposal, modeled on such gems as the city's gang-loitering ordinance (which effectively makes it illegal for young men of color to occupy public places) and sex-offender free zones (that result in encampments of homeless former sex-offenders under bridges when there's nowhere left to live). If you are a Chicago resident, please take a minute to write to your alderman using the letter below or one of your own. 

Use this letter if you are a resident of another ward :


April 15th, 2011
Re: Prostitution-Free Zones

Dear Alderman FILL IN THE BLANK,
      As a resident of your ward, I am deeply disappointed with the city council proposal to ban convicted prostitutes from public areas of our city. Creating "prostitution-free zones" is a violation of the human rights of targeted individuals, and a wrong-headed approach to the problems associated with prostitution.
      Laws that calls for selective enforcement, like Chicago's gang-loitering ordinance, are often discriminatory in their enforcement. Young people of color are unjustly targeted. African-American women are already disproportionately prosecuted for prostitution in our city, and women perceivedto be prostitutes would be subject to increased police harassment under this legislation. The streets and parks of Chicago belong to all its citizens, and become safer when we work together for community improvement.
      The ability to obtain other forms of work and the chance to receive student loans are limited for convicted prostitutes. An alderman concerned about the prevalence of prostitution in his ward should work to create job and educational opportunities for former prostitutes, not limit their presence in public space. Prostitutes are members of our community, and you should address their safety and opportunities for growth, not their "unsightliness."
      It is easier to target convicted prostitutes than it is to address the problem of violence and the shortage of viable employment in our city. It is my hope that you will not use prostitutes as scapegoats in "tough on crime" measures as alderman. Thank you for reconsidering your approach to this issue.

                             YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION  HERE


Use this letter if you are a resident of the 28th ward:

April 15th, 2011
Re: Prostitution-Free Zones

Dear Alderman-Elect Jason Ervin,
      As a resident of your ward, I am deeply disappointed with your proposal to ban convicted prostitutes from public areas of our city. Creating "prostitution-free zones" is a violation of the human rights of targeted individuals, and a wrong-headed approach to the problems associated with prostitution.
      Laws that calls for selective enforcement, like Chicago's gang-loitering ordinance, are often discriminatory in their enforcement. Young people of color are unjustly targeted. African-American women are already disproportionately prosecuted for prostitution in our city, and women perceivedto be prostitutes would be subject to increased police harassment under this legislation. The streets and parks of Chicago belong to all its citizens, and become safer when we work together for community improvement.
      The ability to obtain other forms of work and the chance to receive student loans are limited for convicted prostitutes. An alderman concerned about the prevalence of prostitution in his ward should work to create job and educational opportunities for former prostitutes, not limit their presence in public space. Prostitutes are members of our community, and you should address their safety and opportunities for growth, not their "unsightliness."
      It is easier to target convicted prostitutes than it is to address the problem of violence and the lack of viable employment in our ward. It is my hope that you will discontinue your use of prostitutes as scapegoats in future "tough on crime" measures as alderman. Thank you for reconsidering your approach to this issue.

                                 YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION HERE




Saturday, March 12, 2011

Curdled Milk

Curdled Milk, a series of drawings reinterpreting text from Emile Zola's Nana, is now in print. It's available from me, through Quimby's, and on Saturday, March 26th at the Chicago Zine Fest, http://chicagozinefest.org/ at 1104 S. Wabash, 10 a.m. to 5.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chair


                                                                pen on paper, 2006

Mirror Tricks 2

Mirror Tricks 2, accompanied by drawings,  was published in $PREAD Magazine and as a zine in 2006. It has been  presented as a silent overhead projector show in Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, and Olympia. 


"You’ve got secret peep-holes in every wall. Every partition, every mirror, is rigged. In one place, you can hear the sighs, in another the echo of the moans. You don’t need me to tell you that brothel tricks are mainly mirror tricks…"
                                                                                      Jean Genet, The Balcony


Tom believes in equality he dominates me / then I dominate him. Suck my cock, whorrrrre. harrrder slutttt, // spank spank spank / Dominant voice is high, nasal. He is diabetic, enormous. anonymous alcoholic. Always reminds me he doesn’t mean what he says, then. Respects me. Shows favorite transsexual porn hired a transsexual But she couldn’t keep it up // Suck nipples. One hand holds cock at base or it gets lost (is trying to lose weight so I live to see my daughter get married //) other holds hair so Tom can see me suck. Now my turn, bend over, Tom // wants to watch in Super 8 motel mirror I stretch legs around body, struggle to balance, two hands pull cheeks apart Now I’ll fuck you, Tom / I’m pounding you with my big black cock / my whole cock is in your ass // Tells me wife won’t use vibrator he bought her, uses it on me. Tells me marriage is only for raising children but no, marriage is for men like Tom to live / to pay to make me come / I orgasm because she can’t

Calls me Violet for a night out with friends drunk in limousine Met Violet at the bar // George drives a limousine. In session calls me by “real name” we have the same desk his desk has all its drawers. Oversized new townhouse in poor neighborhood Won’t my friends be jealous when property value goes up // uses every minute of his time, sweat drips into eyes. between orgasms wears my cock over his to fuck me / for two years asks for discount

A prostitute teaches class. She is working / riding class. The ruling can fuck her. Can take her, children, papers away. A prostitute is class(y)

I’m black is that alright? // Andy picks me up in the Mission, morning, slick black car to townhouse in the hills / Your ad makes you look more refined. Uh, sorry? // (Out of money for a week haven’t left neighborhood / night before rushed to massage incall wanted me to suck his cock no condom. took back my money, fifty for my trouble.) How about a little discount stay for a couple hours. for 250. Blemishes, what, hickeys? thought you said you had cute feet how will I get you in with that outfit // pull black knit shawl over bare legs I don’t bargain on my, okay, an hour and a half for three // No, what’s fifty bucks, must be old photos I’ll take you home // Took them two days ago. okay 250. // And lick my asshole // Floor, bed, table, covered, papers, clothes. coke. He’s been up all night pours me whiskey over ice. Suck on toes he sucks mine. Rim. fucks me, comes, wants to cuddle. answers phone invites a friend You’ll love Chris spends thousands at the clubs // Need to go home friends will wonder about me // Just suck him when he gets here don’t say anything He’ll pay you after // You just give him my number I’m leaving soon // Fucks me again, Chris lets himself in, while Andy fucks, makes me another drink. Andy knows lots of men with money, can set you up // Chris drives me home

A prostitute dresses the feast turns herself out. Layer cake, roast, cocktail dress. A john does not dress himself, overeats. A prostitute does not swallow

Stock exchange after hours. Do you like to party? // no but you can. Bill is too high thinks my rate is higher. don’t correct him. Private office no windows, sit on the couch together, bikini poster girls touch themselves on the wall. Would you like some champagne? I’ve been naughty I’m dirty. clean me // Trickle champagne over Bill’s head, down chest he rubs his nipples his cock. Drink from the bottle drool champagne down his back. Take a break, snorts coke off my ass, we drink. I’m still so dirty I need a shower // Sorry Bill but that’ll cost you extra, // Bill lies on carpeted floor sticky with champagne Crouch over his face I aim for his mouth. Piss in his mouth Now Bill is clean enough to fuck me, bends me over desk porn on computer fucks for ten seconds comes and I leave.
who will clean Bill’s floor tomorrow

A prostitute comes and goes. She comes from Nepal, the Ukraine, the West Side, goes to India, Germany, downtown. Comes with fake visa, husband, expectantly, with hunger. She comes for her children, her mother, her self, for you. She comes across danger, willingly. Or passes through, or lives in. How does a prostitute come? (You) Ask without fear. but listen with. A prostitute is prone to abjection because she rides, straddles. (you) try but a prostitute will always cross borders

Talk about feminism and he sucks your toes // Leila recommends me to him I am eighteen and he will be easy, one of my first. A lawyer across street from City Hall, secretary I never see answers phone sign in at security desk years later voice on cab radio, coming home from a trick: eviction lawyer. Barry seeks feminists but this is not what he wants / he wants to wear my bra over hairy chest, to see his cock between my legs to feel my finger in his ass. I’m an anal virgin // tells every girl, again, has hired every. Women have so much power when they penetrate men, don’t they? All women should learn to be as powerful as you // I’ll show you what it feels like to be a woman // tell him of penetrating men in women’s bathrooms, training them to be better men / A man’s feminism,

Mornings I care for children, children who sing Where is Thumbkin? Here I am how are you today, Sir? very fine I thank you, run away, run away eat foods carefully sliced for small fingers read books again and again until they know every word. A boy tries to differentiate women, calls me Mommy to find out what will happen. I am not your Mommy she is at work. I am - - - // Tries again and again. Children repeat, want to know rules and how they break / don’t know there is no rule for how rules break might never find this out. Mommy comes home and I can leave, sleep / no, rent a week overdue and the eviction lawyer calls:

How do you feel about incest? // Now Barry calls me Mommy. Still strokes his own cock as if it were mine / asks of my radical feminist training sessions. but now also “nurses” Wouldn’t you like to lactate? // tongues my clit fucks me. calls again and again on my way to see him. Calls to ask Are you feeling maternal today? // Oh yes Barry and I will teach you to be your Mommy’s good boy //

My mother / is a feminist, might not know I am a prostitute / was solicited by men for walking down the street, the stroll, she lived on. Afraid prostitutes make all women for sale to men. (Tell her) (Because) a prostitute is not for sale / a prostitute shows no woman is for sale. The danger of the prostitute is permanent / for all women / when all women are in danger of (permanently) becoming prostitutes. A woman is contained by threat of pollution A working prostitute is contained by arrest Any known prostitute is contained by the stench of her record (A man performs prostitution, as john, as hustler. but is not permanent. Men may try anything once, fuck any. May move between and remove / without (provoking) fear)

(You) Ask me about the strangest sex. Ask me how much money. Ask me if I experience pleasure. Ask me what my other lovers think. Ask me about fear. Ask me about the condition of my genitals. Ask me about family. Ask me how many. Ask me to come for you.

A Cleaning Job at the Board of Trade


                                                                              pen on paper, 2006

Straddling the Line: White Slaves, Trafficked Women and Other Victims at the Border

Written for The Skeleton News, December 2006, and reprinted in Power of the Impotent in 2008.     

      The sex industry is an international crime syndicate exploiting hundreds of thousands of women and children, according to the recent proliferation of sensational reporting, popular books, and made-for-TV movies, along with governmental concern and a growing body of legislation. The Department of Health and Human Services has plastered major cities with posters urging us to “look beneath the surface” of the tearful, vacant-eyed, and seductive non-white women (and girls) pictured to see them for who they really are: victims of human trafficking. In early October 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a steamy four-part “Diary of a Sex Slave,” accompanied by a feature article on Mayor Gavin Newsom’s efforts to curb trafficking by shutting down the city’s massage parlors and implementing a moratorium on new massage parlor licenses (modeled on New York City’s 1994 shutdowns). Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times published an article, “Sex and Sorrow: The Modern Slave Trade,” about Eastern European women engaging in forced prostitution, with images of an attractive woman hanging from fishhooks borrowed from a Latvian campaign. The 90’s and our current decade have also seen the formation of numerous NGOs dedicated to helping trafficked women, and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations now maintains an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. These groups estimate that 50,000 women and children are brought to the U.S. for “sexual slavery” each year, a number culled together from an estimate of the total number of migrant workers who enter the country with the help of an extralegal party.
     There is cause for concern: women (and men, and young people) have indeed being coerced into working off debts, through prostitution, toward those who have helped them emigrate. However, there are many more women (and men, and young people) who are working off debts in clothing factories, in the agricultural industries, as domestics in private homes. This is an abhorrent and exploitative practice, but as the severity of anti-immigration laws increases, more migrants are dependent on smugglers and paper-producers. Victims of debt slavery are hindered, not helped, by the discourse and legislation against "trafficking," and young people engaging in prostitution need to have social services and other employment options available to them rather than being told they are victimized children.
     The new concern for migrant women engaging in prostitution, referred to (regardless of consent in many cases) as “trafficked women,” is not what it appears to be, nor is it new. It has not been addressed as part of the exploitation of migrant workers (which has barely been addressed at all), but has been largely mythologized and used to punish all sex workers and migrant women. While trafficking appears to be a new concern, receiving media and governmental attention in the last two decades, much of this mythology was born a century ago. To gain an understanding of the current trafficking discourse, it is necessary to look at its early 20th century predecessor, “white slavery.”
     Between 1890 and 1920, American cities grew tremendously with the influx of migrant workers, many of whom were indigenous to the United States. Rural Southern blacks moved en masse to Northern cities during the Great Migration, primarily to the industrial centers of Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. Young people from agricultural regions and small towns were eager to experience the supposed grandeur of a nearby urban center, and sought work to support themselves and their families at home. The first decade of the 20th century had the highest rate of immigration in the history of the U.S.; emigration of “undesirable” Europeans and others was on the rise. Many of the new migrants were veterans of revolution and working-class uprisings; most were impoverished workers. Germans, Italians, Poles, French, Russians, and Jews of all nationalities were viewed by Americans as dangerous, non-white criminals, intent on destroying all morality through radical activity and strange sexual positions. And women, native-born and immigrant alike, were entering the workforce like never before.
     With the growth of cities came the inevitable growth of prostitution, and with this came moralizing backlash and lascivious intrigue. Novels, films, and “true accounts” featuring fallen women enjoyed incredible popularity. During its opening week in New York City, over 30,000 people watched the film Traffic in Souls, and 156 books addressing prostitution were published between 1910 and 1914 alone. The producers of this popular media were the producers of the “white slave.” Often a helpless, innocent country girl entering the big city with high hopes, she found herself duped by a swarthy man and forced into prostitution (from which she would eventually be rescued by a handsome Christian man or a crusader against the sex industry). She might also be lured in her home town, with promises of marriage or work on the stage; on occasion, she was a fresh-faced, fresh-off-the-boat immigrant. Women working in department stores or the theater were at great risk for abduction, women working in factories were likely to be tempted by the life of ease and luxury presented by a procurer, and indeed any woman in a dance hall, in attendance at a variety show, or alone in an ice cream parlor might easily be drugged and kidnapped into sex slavery. Clifford G. Roe, an attorney and leader in the crusades against white slavery, claimed in his widely read book The Great War on White Slavery, or Fighting for the Protection of Our Girls that white slavery originated with the Jews, was perfected by the French, and was now an international crime syndicate primarily run by Jews, French, Negroes, and Italians (along with Chinese in San Francisco). Estimates of just how many girls were “enslaved” in the U.S. varied greatly, from 5,000 to 65,000. From women’s organizations to the Klu Klux Klan, America was desperate to save its young women from a life of suffering as sex slaves.
     In truth, there were few such sex slaves, if any. When offered a choice between working twelve hour days in a factory for barely enough money to room in a tenement, or living and working with other women in a brothel where she could choose (in most cases) how many clients to see each day, and what acts to engage in with them, it seems some working-class women chose the latter. In one of the most amusing reports of a 1910 sex slave sting operation, Investigator George Miller of the Rockefeller Commission on White Slavery “bought” (that is, paid a finder’s fee for) two girls from a black madam named Belle Moore, claiming he was opening a brothel in Seattle. In his reports, he describes them as seeming younger than fifteen, emphasizes that “these are white girls,” and passionately writes of one of them crying because she couldn’t take her teddy bear with her. When these “girls” arrived in court they were found – to the surprise of reporters and the public – to be in their mid-twenties, one previously married, and quite seasoned as prostitutes. The New York Times, which prior to the trial ran frequent articles addressing the crisis of white slavery, noted that one of the prostitutes throughout her testimony swung a patent-leather toe in the neighborhood of the stenographer’s left ear.” Both informed the jury that they had been given a choice to move to the Seattle brothel. The media made quite a fuss over the whole scandal, and many major newspapers, notably the New York Times, stopped running articles about white slavery after the trial, declaring it (by 1914) a moralistic hoax invented by anti-vice crusaders. Despite the exhaustive and well-financed efforts of the Rockefeller Commission, no “white slaves” had been identified or “rescued”.
     Unfortunately, this could not extract white slavery from the tantalized minds of a people, nor did it stop the crusades. Aside from the brothel busts that put many a working woman out of work, the rhetoric surrounding white slavery had lasting negative effects on women’s lives. The Mann Act, or White Slave Traffic Act, was sponsored in 1909 by Congressman James R. Mann (and probably authored by Chicago crusader Ernest A. Bell). It had great support from the purity organizations of its time and many leading politicians, and remained relatively unaltered until 1986 (see postscript for its current incarnation). The act criminalized the transport of women across state lines for “immoral purposes,” and in the year it was ratified, over 2,000 people were arrested under it. Though the act was passed specifically to protect women from white slavery, the vagueness of “immoral purposes” suited it for use against non-coerced prostitutes, traveling women and their companions, and couples who might engage in non-marital sex. No proof of immorality was required, and if a man had considered having sex with his companion, he was in violation of the Act. Not surprisingly, in spite of the Act’s intention of punishing would-be traffickers, it was used to arrest and charge the women it was “protecting,” making it a moralizing arm of the state which effectively limited the ability of all women to travel for work or pleasure.
     The rhetoric and legislation surrounding white slavery, however well-intentioned it might have seemed, did not represent true concern for the lives of women. It developed at a time of rapid urbanization, mass waves of immigration, and a growing number of women in the workforce as a tool to reinforce ideas about race, sex, and sexuality. Its mythmaking was effective as such, and bolstered American fears of “undesirable” immigrants, racial “mixing”, and independent women. We might turn a smug, postmodern eye on the white slavery panic, were it not for the current trafficking hysteria that is its mirror image. 

 
     Globalization in recent decades, urged along by so-called free trade agreements and World Bank loans to poor countries, has drastically widened the disparities between the first world and developing nations. Emigration is on the rise, most notably among women, who make up an unprecedented half of the world’s migrants today. As in the early 20th century, migrant laborers have been welcomed into the U.S. as workers willing to work for low wages under poor working conditions, while being told they are unwelcome, illegal, un-American. We are happy to hire Filipina nannies for less than minimum wage, but don’t want them caring for their own children (if they have been able to emigrate together) with the aid of welfare or food stamps. Likewise, Latvian and Vietnamese prostitutes are hired in scores by men who expect a cheaper service, or who think these women, because of their ethnicity, immigrant status, or finances might be easily pressured into unsafe sex. Non-white prostitutes are in demand not only because of first-world eroticization of the “exotic,” but for the same reason all migrants are desirable: their real or perceived vulnerability as workers.
     Rather than address the very real needs of migrant prostitutes, or any prostitutes for that matter, we mythologize and criminalize their existence in the service of other ends. When a prostitute is rhetorically transformed from a migrant worker to a “trafficked woman” she loses all agency in her life. This mythologizing is harmful to all women, all sex workers, including the women it purports to help.
     In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was passed. In order to receive assistance, including a temporary ‘T-Visa’ and four-month access to public aid, a migrant worker must prove independently that they are victims of a “severe form of trafficking” and cooperate with law enforcement (an open-ended clause which could mean assisting in escort agency busts or the prosecution of their own “traffickers”). The TVPA does not provide for long-term work visas, citizenship, protection against debt collectors, the costs of repatriation, or back-wage payments. Few traffickers have been prosecuted under the Act (mainly in other industries), but many migrants have been detained, investigated, and deported.
     Disturbingly, in the 2002 annual report on trafficking the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations broadened the definition of trafficking to include all forms of prostitution, not only forced or exploitative prostitution, and identified a need for total prevention of prostitution as necessary to the effort to combat trafficking. This new definition of trafficking, reminiscent of the 1920s-‘30s reification of ‘white slavery’ as any form of prostitution after its original use had fallen flat, has allowed a dangerous rhetoric to blossom. Anti-prostitution feminists have long claimed that all prostitution is coercive, that a prostitute cannot give consent, and have had a strong role in creating this legislative definition. With its use, any organization that supports the decriminalization of prostitution or advocates for the rights of sex workers is deemed to support trafficking in women, and is ineligible for U.S. funding.
     Organizations led by current and former sex workers throughout the world have proven most effective in combating exploitative work environments for prostitutes, and in HIV prevention. The World Health Organization has for decades supported the decriminalization of prostitution, declaring it a necessary step in fighting AIDS. Redefining trafficking to include all prostitution allowed the 2003 passage of the President’s Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has stripped NGOs seen to be “promoting prostitution or the legalization of prostitution” of their funding. Many of the most promising and competent sex workers’ organizations worldwide support healthier, happier working conditions for prostitutes, making this a tragic loss for HIV/AIDS prevention and prostitutes’ rights. SIDA-3, an HIV prevention project for sex workers in Burkina-Faso, recently reported such drastic drops in condom availability since the implementation of PEPFAR that women are “washing and drying… condoms after use and hanging them on the line to dry,” a completely ineffective and desperate attempt at safe sex by women with few other options. The mythology of the trafficked women has resulted in an international crisis for prostitutes.
     Rather than inventing the needs of mythic victims, and victimizing all migrant women workers and prostitutes, we must begin to confront the real needs of real women. Prostitutes can, and do, speak for themselves and fight for their rights, but their lives are in great danger when lawmakers and crusaders victimize them and strip them of their agency. If all workers, indigenous and migrant, machinists and prostitutes, are to have healthy work environments and living wages, it is imperative that we look beneath moralizing first-world rhetoric and begin to listen to workers themselves.

Postscript, January 2008:
     The William Wilberforce Trafficking Protection Reauthorization Act [H.R. 3887] is making its way through the House (passed) and Senate (scheduled for debate). Anti-prostitution NGOs involved in the 2000 passage of TVPA have since derided it as ineffective, as it has supplanted more archaic legislation like the Mann Act which they consider useful for its complete lack of division between coercive and non-coercive prostitution. Following this lead, H.R. 3887 includes a modernized version of the Mann Act which will be devastating to prostitutes throughout the country.
     The inclusion of the updated Mann Act makes all prostitution that affects interstate commerce a federal crime. What seems to be a minor rephrasing of the Act – from “travel in interstate or foreign commerce” to having an “affect” on this commerce – is a 21st century reflection of the internet as a world without state and national borders. This application of interstate commerce as inclusive of online commerce means that all prostitution by migrant workers or citizens that involves the internet is a federal crime. The vast majority of prostitution in the United States involves online advertising and communication. The Department of Justice is being asked to work with local vice squads to arrest prostitutes (and owners of popular sites like Craigslist) on federal prostitution charges.
     With each reauthorization, the TVPA has become increasingly punitive of prostitutes themselves, feigning less its supposed intentions of protecting women from exploitation. Further criminalizing migrant and sex industry workers, forcing them further underground, will serve only those who exploit them.

      

Two Eggs Sunnyside Up

Originally produced as a radio piece for a program of dream-based audio by Mairead Case for Neighborhood Public Radio at the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Printed in Leftovers Again?!.


“IT MUST INCREASE BUT I MUST DECREASE.”
-André Gide

A prisoner sits in a cell with her sole companion Two Eggs Sunnyside Up. Oh Two Eggs Sunnyside Up, my sole companion, without you I’d be nothing nobody dead // Lovingly adorns her companion in hot sauce. licks tenderly his edges. Swirls her tongue in his golden center / coos. oh Two, two two two Eggs, //
(A LOVE SONG TO TWO EGGS SUNNYSIDE UP)
Never run never run never run never run dearest
Your whites are the rafts that keep me afloat
Your yolks the suns that bind me to the spinning earth
And your crisp brown skin is the parchment on which every love story is written.

Two Eggs Sunnyside Up, my gaze penetrates your golden eyes
I suckle at your golden teat
My tongue throbs against your tender membrane
Until my lips drip with your rich… creamy… uohhhhhhhhhhh…

Two Eggs Sunnyside Up, wear your finest bib of hot sauce
I’ll wear all I have
Never run, my dearest
Together we’re the toast of… this place.

After making love, in a fashion, to Two Eggs Sunnyside Up, she curls up with her tenderly nibbled companion and soundly sleeps. LITTLE DOES OUR PRISONER KNOW THAT EVERY NIGHT WHILE SHE SLEEPS THE WARDEN REMOVES HER GENTLY LICKED COMPANION TWO EGGS SUNNYSIDE UP FROM HER CELL, REPLACING HIM WITH TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT EGGS. AS FAR AS SHE’S CONCERNED TWO EGGS SUNNYSIDE UP REGENERATES NIGHTLY IN HIS SLEEP JUST AS SHE DOES. FOR THAT MATTER A CAT COMES IN ON OCCASION AND UNCEREMONIOUSLY EATS THE LEFTOVERS OF TWO EGGS SUNNYSIDE UP AND SHE’S NEVER EVEN SEEN THIS CAT. She’s never even seen the warden, poor bitch.

One day she wakes to an unknown woman standing in her cell holding Two Eggs Sunnyside Up and before she can open her confused, ugly trap to defend her lover’s honor the woman speaks:

ou on’t now ho m, oor itch, ut ow ou’ll now oo ell. ou ave een y risoner ince efore he eginning f ime nd ’m ick f ooking ggs or ou hat ou on’t ven at. ngrateful itch. or his eason ive ou hoice, nd ake t uickly efore hoose or ou: ither ou wallow hese ggs r ’m oing o eed ou at eat rom ow ntil t uns ut hich ill robably e n ouple ays nd hen ou’ll tarve. ct ow r ie, itch. //

Unfortunately, the warden speaks an obscure highbrow dialect, eliminating the first letter of every word spoken, and the prisoner has no idea she is being asked to make the most important decision of her utterly unimportant life.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Queen and The Plague: Colony Collapse Disorder

This essay was written in March 2007 for The Skeleton News and reprinted in my zine Power of the Impotent. In the spring of 2010, 33% of American honeybees were found dead in their hives; Colony Collapse Disorder has been on the rise since it was first recognized in late 2006. Its cause remains unknown, and while many have raised concerns about the relationship between CCD and genetically modified organisms, little research has addressed the subject. 

There can be no doubting that they understand each other; and indeed it were surely impossible for a republic so considerable, wherein the labors are so varied and so marvelously combined, to subsist amid the silence and spiritual isolation of so many thousand creatures. They must be able, therefore, to give expression to thoughts and feelings, by means either of a phonetic vocabulary or more probably some kind of tactile language or magnetic intuition, corresponding perhaps to senses and properties of matter wholly unknown to ourselves. And such intuition well might lodge in the mysterious antennae – containing, in the case of the workers, according to Cheshire’s calculation, twelve thousand tactile hairs and five thousand “smell-hollows,” wherewith they probe and fathom the darkness. For the mutual understanding of the bees is not confined to their habitual labors; the extraordinary also has a name and place in their language; as is proved by the manner in which news, good or bad, normal or supernatural, will at once be spread in the hive; the loss or return of the mother, for instance, the entrance of an enemy, the intrusion of a strange queen, the approach of a band of marauders, the discovery of treasure, etc. And so characteristic is their attitude, so essentially different their murmur at each of these special events, that the experienced apiarist can without difficulty tell what is troubling the crowd that moves distractedly to and fro in the shadow. 

                                          —Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee, 1901 

     This spring, honeybee-keepers opening their hives after the winter hibernation found them empty. A troubling epidemic is attacking the honeybees of North America. Colony Collapse Disorder [CCD] has swept through at least twenty-two states and parts of Canada, leaving up to 80% of local hives dead in its path. While colony illnesses are not uncommon, and something similar to CCD has been observed in past years, the current wave of the epidemic is the most devastating blow the honeybee has received. The bees themselves seem aware of the gravity of this threat, and exhibit unusual behavior while ill, and in their actions toward infected colonies. 
     Bees are social insects, each with a precise role, and it is chilling to observe the profound alterations made on these roles by the disorder. In an ordinary infected colony, bees are found dead directly outside the hive, carried out by the living. A healthy colony immediately takes action to invade a diseased one, stealing their resources or evicting the residing colony from their hive. Moths, wasps, and other insects will take advantage of an ailing hive with similar invasions. In a hive with CCD, the dead bees are mysteriously absent, indicating that they have flown away from the hive to die, and invasion by any species is rare. This is particularly astonishing as the infected hives exhibit a complete absence of adult bees, and are being maintained by young adults who would not otherwise be suited for the workforce or hive defense. Other insects seem aware that something dangerous is lurking within these disordered hives, and are refraining from their usual invasions. 
     The role of the queen is exclusively reproductive; she mates regularly with the male drones of her hive to generate workers, drones, and new queens, until she dies or is killed by the worker bees to be replaced by one of her daughters. She is genetically tied to all the colony, and the pheromones by which bees recognize and communicate with one another can be traced to her. In a healthy colony, the queen leaves the hive only for her mating flights. In a CCD hive, she is uncharacteristically present outside the hive, in a desperate, futile attempt to communicate with her missing colony. 
     Malnutrition, one of the few disorders known to so drastically alter the social structure of honeybees, was immediately dismissed as the cause of CCD. Devastated hives are found with their food stores intact, and living bees are reluctant to eat the food available to them. This may indicate that the disorder inhibits their desire to eat, or could suggest some acknowledged dangers within the food itself. 
     Researchers are have explored many potential causes of CCD but have found nothing conclusive. Varroa and Acarapis woodi mites, parasites which have devastated bee colonies in recent years by introducing viruses to the hive, are under investigation. Antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and other apicultural and agricultural toxins are also being researched, but are extremely difficult to trace as most commercial colonies are moved between states frequently for pollination and are exposed to many unknown substances. 
     Compelling research by scientists at Penn State University suggests the possibility of an immunosuppressive virus (carried by mites or plants), similar to HIV, which would account for the similarities between CCD symptoms and those of malnutrition. The emergence of such a virus would be indicative of the danger of human intervention in natural processes and raise many new concerns around the genetic modification of plants. Genetic engineering is most commonly used to splice pesticides and antibiotics directly into the genes of plants, which gives microorganisms a great advantage. 
     In the 1940s, geneticist Barbara McClintock discovered that genes could reposition themselves on strands of DNA, producing changes in the appearance of an organism. Her research with maize chromosomes in the 40s and 50s was the first step toward modern genetics, and eventually the production of genetically modified organisms [GMOs]. Her findings helped Joshua Ledenberg, a decade later, discover the ability of microbes to mutate, advantageously re-sequencing their DNA to produce immunity against antibiotics. While antibiotics, pesticides and the like have made important contributions to public health, their misuse has been of great advantage to microbes. When in the early 1960s it seemed malaria might be completely defeated, overuse of the pesticide DDT allowed pesticide-resistant mosquitoes to appear throughout the world, and fifteen years later malaria incidence was 2.5 times higher. Agricultural misuse carries the greatest responsibility: 70% of antibiotics are used for non-therapeutic purposes, such as accelerated livestock growth. Also accountable are medical misdiagnoses and overeager prescribing (i.e. prescribing antibiotics to treat viral infections) and patient error (not finishing and improperly disposing of prescriptions). These factors have led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and diseases from ear infections to TB, which seemed easily treatable at one time, are increasingly difficult to combat. And while vaccines hold much promise in protection against viruses they are relatively ineffective if less than 80% of a population is immunized. New or frequently mutating viruses including HIV have shown us that microbes have distinct evolutionary advantages over humans, and our tinkerings help them at least as much as they help us. 
     Monoculture, or the elimination of agricultural diversity in favor of thousand-acre cash crop growth of single plant species, is the driving force behind our “need” for GMOs containing genetically implanted pesticides and antibiotics. Interestingly enough, crops embedded with pesticides and antibiotics don’t reduce the need for additional application of these materials, thus exponentially multiplying their use. And the very process by which we modify genes adds to the trouble: in the creation of GMOs, antibiotic resistant marker genes are combined with “genes of interest,” facilitating the acceptance of the modified genes. These genes are harmless within the plant, but provide microbes with an opportunity for mutation. The FDA is currently “encouraging” biotech companies to phase out the use of antibiotic resistant genes, but with little pressure or fiscal incentive. 
     Improper use of antibiotics, pesticides, and vaccines is the primary factor in the emergence of new or brilliantly mutated microorganisms that have devastated human populations in recent decades; perhaps a previously unknown microorganism is responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder. Research into the drawbacks of GMOs is burdened by the economic power wielded by the companies that produce them, and much important work has been cut in its tracks. If CCD continues to appear throughout the country it will be impossible for agribusiness to ignore this line of questioning. Bee mortality is not only the concern of apiculturists: apples, strawberries, cucumbers, almonds, pumpkins, pears, raspberries, and many other crops are almost completely dependent on honeybees for pollination, and bees add over $14 billion to annual agricultural profits. 
     Researching and preventing CCD is necessary for the survival of both honeybees and agribusiness. An epidemic of this scale must be stopped expediently if we do not want to witness the total devastation of an important insect species. We cannot stop this bee epidemic, or future ones like it, if we are unwilling to stand up to biotech corporations for the right to understand the potential hazards of genetically modified crops. A complete and unhindered line of questioning is necessary to determine the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder before ruling out GMOs as a factor. If we are thorough in our explorations, we might answer some vital questions about the risks of pesticide use, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms, which pose threats as great to ourselves as they do to the honeybees.