How Do We Make Bernie Better About Sexwork?

I am a strong Sanders supporter, and I am more than willing to concede that Bernie needs to do better regarding certain issues. Sex work is definitely one of them.

We in the pro-Sanders camp need to acknowledge that his votes in favor of FOFSTA and SESTA hurt sexworkers and we must acknowledge that Bernie needs to be pushed more on the issue of sex work.

Not only did Bernie vote for both of these harmful bills but when talking about media coverage of Stormy Daniels, Bernie has maintained a tone that writes off sexwork in a way that is damaging to his progressive image.

While at SXSW last year, he remarked that while the Stormy Daniels story is “legitimate news… the media is too obsessed with it,” which is actually a valid point. However, his reasoning was grossly flawed.

In this country, we have a lot of people who are in pain — single mothers, people who can’t afford college — they want to see something that reflects their reality.” And obviously, a president suing an adult film star isn’t that.

This reasoning ignores some very important realities, one being that porn performers and sex workers often are single mothers or parents. It also forsakes the reality that many turn to sex work because of the economic oppressions that he mentioned. In other words, it reflects the idea that porn stars and the issues effecting them are not to be taken seriously because porn stars themselves are not to be taken seriously as people.

This has been a difficult dance for me. I strongly support sex workers and want our culture to abandon the negative cultural constructs that we have attached to sex and sexuality. I also need the strong social welfare and environmental programs that Bernie Sanders is running on to come to fruition, we all do, or we are all going to die. So, as a Sanders supporter I think it is our job to hold him to scrutiny when he falls short.

Here is what I make of the whole Bernie Fofsta/Sesta/Sexwork situation: Bernie does not hate sexworkers, however because he is a product of his time and place he has preconceived notions about sex and sexuality that are the by products of our sex negative cultural constructs. Bernie and his sexwork policies are a good reflection of how even if you lean hard to the left, you will still have ingrained notions and prejudices if you are raised in an oppressive society, and inevitably some of that will lead to a perpetuation of the same oppressions we as leftists desire to overthrow.

All is not lost though, the key to overcoming ingrained prejudices and cultural constructs is to recognize them, and then take active steps to correct them. If Bernie has proven one thing about himself it is that when the public cries fowl on him, he listens and takes the steps to do better. The good news is that Bernie has already expressed a willingness to decriminalize sex work! However, more still needs to be done. We, his supporters, need to raise our voices and elevate sexworkers who are organizing. If enough of us do this, then Bernie, as well as all of the politicians in power, will have to take notice.

So, how do we get Bernie to be better about sexwork?

1. Elevate Sex Worker’s Voices, Support Sex Worker Unions

First and foremost, to stand in true solidarity with sexworkers we must avoid the savior complex.

As long as strippers, escorts, and porn performers are generating wealth with their labor then we must acknowledge that sex work is work.

We also must recognize that there are already those in the sex industry that are working to organize their own, such as Antonia Crane, Siousixie Q, Sex Worker Outreach Project, and the “soldiers of pole” stripper union. We don’t need to invade the spaces where sex workers are trying to organize, what we must do is elevate those who are already organizing and fighting and stand behind them in solidarity when they step up to lead. Sex workers do not need saving, they need solidarity.

It should also be remembered that these workers do not need our’s nor Bernie’s validation, they do not need to beg for Bernie’s approval or his audience, what they need from him and all of us is our solidarity. The more that we support the efforts of people like strippers to unionize, the more Bernie’s hand will be forced to recognize that sexwork is indeed a form of labor. For better or worse, Bernie listens when unions are involved.

2. Fight Our Sex Negative Cultural Constructs

It is okay to talk about sex. You would think that we’d have accepted that as a culture because sex is shoved into our faces in almost every form of advertisement or entertainment. Yet the fact that we are only now having this conversation about sexwork, the fact that our government’s response to the human trafficking problem has been to go after the sex work industry as a whole, and the fact that people still have not grasped the nuances of trans rights or gender fluidity, all demonstrate how far we have to go when it comes to sex as a culture. We can’t accept the idea that sex work is work if we can’t accept our own ideas about sex. If we want to make Bernie better about the issue of sex work, then we ourselves need make ourselves better and more enlightened on the topic of sexuality.

3. Make It Clear That Sex Workers Benefit From Social Welfare Programs

The benefits that sexworkers would receive from Bernie’s social welfare programs needs to be made more explicit and central to the left’s platform. We should make it clear that Medicare for all covers sexual wellness such as fertility and STD testing.

Not only that but both Medicare for all and college for all reduce the need for people to resort to sex work out of desperation. While many resort to sexwork willingly (even enthusiastically) some in the industry get into it because they cannot find other work. Also, more often than not you will find that several sex workers are trapped under crippling student loan debt or medical debt like the rest of us.

Bernie’s programs would also benefit those who engage in sexwork willingly because if we free our minds from sex negative thinking while we also free ourselves from these financial restraints, then those who have been sexually repressed will be free to explore the aspects of their sexuality like never before. They will be free perform and indulge without judgement, as they should have the freedom to do.

4. Decriminalize all sexwork

This is probably the most important thing to push for. Those who do sex work consensually should have the freedom to do so without fear. Because we live in a punitive system, the laws that police claim will protect trafficked sex workers usually leads to them being prosecuted more than rescued. Prostitutes are also statistically more likely to get arrested than pimps or traffickers. All socialists and leftists must explicitly support the decriminalization of sex work, period.

Now that Bernie has expressed a willingness to decriminalize sex work, it is on us as his supporters to assure that sex work decriminalization becomes a part of his platform.

If enough of a movement is started, especially among his core base of supporters, then Bernie will have to take notice of how he has misstepped on the issue of sex work in the past. While it is fantastic news that he has said he is willing to decriminalize sex work, we cannot ignore where he has fallen short on this issue. His FOFSTA and SESTA votes are a glaring black mark on his progressive resume. I assure you, I say this as someone who loves Bernie Sanders, I want to see him win.

Bernie needs to be better about sexwork, and it looks like he is on the right track. But we, the public, need to be attentive and see to it that sex workers receive the attention and solidarity they need.

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Leon

Leon sat on the porch as the sun set behind the red silhouetted hills off in the horizon. As it went down the sun turned the sky into a deep purple with streaks of orange drizzled throughout. The sun itself had shifted into a deep red hue, a red that reminded Leon of the flags he once raised over vanquished enemies. Even though the shadows of the mountains had swallowed the whole front of the compound, Leon could still see the shadows of his bodyguards patrolling the entrance, their rifles almost making it look like they were carrying crucifixes on their backs.

It had been years since Leon was forced to flee his homeland, and though he was gracious to his hosts and happy to be alive, he just never could get used to the climate. The desserts of Mexico were vastly different from the muddy winters and bright springs of home. Leon was glad to have found refuge in Mexico, but he always missed home.

Leon did find the sunsets in Mexico more beautiful though. They gave him something beautiful to look up at when he wanted to take a break from his notebooks and studies. Leon was a man of the pen, a day he did not write a letter, an article, or a chapter in his next book was always a bad day.

Today was shaping up to be a bad day, nothing could get him to work on his book, not even the strong coffee that his local comrades had gifted to him. Leon was not able to write anything that day, until he came out to the porch to watch the sunset. For some reason, the deep red sun shading the sky had inspired him, and he took advantage of the withering daylight to fill his notebook as much as possible.

After the last bit of sunlight had been swallowed into darkness, Leon grabbed his books and notes and moved inside into his study. He sat at his desk and tried to continue with his writing, but he was drained out. For some reason now that he was away from the sunset he could not think about his text, he could only think of the sunsets back home.

He was lost in his pondering when he was then jolted by a knock on the door. Leon got up to answer it an on the other end of the door was one of Leon’s guards and a young comrade, Franc. Franc was young and Leon admired the energy of young comrades like him. He had been to the compound several times before with articles for Leon to read and had earned a degree of respect for his candor from Leon’s other comrades.

“Mr. Franc calling on you, comrade.” Said the guard.

“Send him in send him in.” Said Leon, gesturing for the young man to come in, closing the door and leaving his guard in the hall to stand watch as he did every night.

“No doubt you have an article for me to look at Comrade Jacson?” Said Leon as he returned to his desk.

“Yes Comrade.” Franc said pulling a stack of papers from out of a whicker brief case. “I wrote about the syndicalists, and contextualize what happened to them in the wake of this new world war.”

“Ah yes, so many of our enemies are all at war at once and all with each other!” Leon gave a chuckle looking at the papers handed to him as he sat down.

Leon shuffled through the pages to count them quickly before he began to read.

Suddenly Leon felt like a thousand nails had been driven into his forehead. He felt the crack of his skull and the surge of torture that came flowing through his entire body from the corner of his shattered temple.

Leon looked up from the papers to see that Franc had struck him. He struck him with something both sharp and blunt at the same time somehow. As Leon screamed in pain Franc delivered another blow, adding a stabbing pain to the torturous throbbing and shattered bone that was now torturing Leon.

Franc raised his weapon for a third blow, but was stopped as Leon sprang up and grabbed France by his arm and laying a firm grasp on his weapon.

Leon screamed, “You traitor! You scum! Murderer! Help! Help!” The two danced around the room, their shoes scuffing the wood of the floors as each one dug their heals in to try and over power the other. Leon might have been older than Franc, but one does not run an entire army without learning hand to hand combat, “And be damned this Stalinist traitor!” Thought Leon as he struggled to overpower Franc, “I will not bow down to anyone without a fight!”

Leon continued to scream for help as blood from his wound pooled over his eye and lips and dripped into his long beard. The guard from outside burst in, they grabbed Franc and pulled him back, forcing him to drop his weapon. The guard blew his whistle and with in seconds the room was flooded with Leons guards, others went to handle Franc while two sought medical attention for Leon who had collapsed into a guards arms after Franc had been subdued.

The guards beat Franc senseless until he was a pile of mush on the floor, but they did beat him just short of beating him to death. They wanted the man alive for his trial.

Leon was rushed to the hospital. Blood dribbling from the top of his head and through his hands as he tried to use what little strength he had left to put pressure on the wound. Some of the blood on in his beard was beginning to dry and congeal.

By the time the doctors got to him Leon was a weak husk of himself. They managed to bandage the wound but the doctors saw little else that could be done.

At the hospital Leon lingered in and out of consciousness. He’d awake from the pain, then he would collapse into unconsciousness from the pain. The blood had been cleaned from his eye and beard, but Leon could feel more of it seep into his bandages as he lied in bed. All time was lost to the pain, Leon did not know if he had been their for hours or for days.

After what felt like days of torture Leo woke once more, he could see that the sun was setting through a nearby window, just before he closed his eyes for the last time.

It’s Wrong When It Stops Being Fun, A Poem

A wise man once said “It’s wrong when it stops being fun.”

Well, I have to ask myself, has it?

Has pining over the right word and cadence lost its spark?

What, except the dark cloud that seeps its invisible cloak on my psyche,

Keeps me from putting all for the gods and earthly kind to see,

to hear,

to learn the truth.

Poetry is not supposed to be work,

or is that too bourgeois?

I say poetry like anything can be rebranded for the worst,

but poetry is thought, the one thing that cannot be erased.

Poetry, is something to make all our own.

So, has it stopped being fun?

Not by a long shot.

Soul and Pain, a poem

Soul and Pain.

Here we are again,

A dying planet and a line of willful morons

Humping their hands while complaining about the better sex.

No game, and they won’t shut up about it.

Our so called leaders are afraid to lead

Because they might not be leaders anymore if they do.

Complacency is safer than action only if you’re rich.

Sex and violence and sexual violence.

Two souls comrades butchered in the streets.

Lynchings protected by badges and city hall.

Soul and pain.

21st century lies and truth.

Soul and pain.

Lies and Slander, A poem

“The poor deserve it!”

Lies and slander.

“The left hates…”

Lies and slander.

“The police protect and serve.”

Lies and slander.

“Your standard of living will only go up.”

More lies, more slander.

“Love is all you need.”

More lies, more slander.

“This is land of the free.”

The biggest lie, the biggest slander.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda – A poem for a dying planet

Would have,

Could have,

Should have.

These words which only pay lip service

to memory and potential

and attribute cause to regret

Serve no purpose but to hinder us

As our world decays.

We owe it to ourselves,

To our living legacies still too young to fend for themselves,

We owe it to them to act.

To organize and hope.

Two words to embody and elevate,

While we smash the banks of marble,

And pine for the fjords of freedom.

Would have,

Could have,

Should have.

Nay.

Will have.

Can have.

Shall have.

The Professional Protester Episode 51 : Reparations Must Be More Than a Single Transaction

https://youtu.be/pP6fLVdwaNI

Recently Bernie Sanders caught some flak when Julian Castro “called him out” on his comments on reparations. Bernie said reparations has to be more than just “writing a check.” Julian Castro countered with “Why wouldn’t you want to compensate people who were property?”

Putting aside that this completely misrepresents what Bernie ACTUALLY said, I feel this is demonstrative of the difference of how socialists and abolitionists approach reparations versus how liberal capitalists approach social justice as a whole

Reparations for slavery cannot be reduced to a singular transaction. Even if we wrote every black person in the U.S. a check, what would that do to solve the problem of police murdering black children? How would simply giving everyone a check bring us abolition of the modern day system of Jim Crow and slavery that are our prisons?

Ask yourselves this, we cut everyone descended from slaves a check, then what? Where is that money likely to go? Statistically speaking it is most likely going to go towards paying off student debt, medical bills, mortgages, or most likely to pay the vampire that is rent! Once that money is spent, what happens after the fact? Will their be restorative justice for those who have been imprisoned for too long? Will police who kill with a sense of trigger happy racism be brought to justice? The money dolled out would create a small degree of economic stimulus, I will concede that, but what would that do to alter the systemic issues that paralyze the working class, most of whom I might add are black women?

This is a symptom of the liberal capitalist, reducing civil rights and justice to a matter of transactionalism. Look at the narrative they take when discussing the suffragette or civil rights movements. Too often I here that the right to vote was “given” or “conceded” to women and black people by the powers that be. NO! I challenge that!

These victories were not “given” to women or people of color from powers above them, it was taken by them and it was taken rightfully so! What happened in both the suffragette and the civil rights movements was that oppressed people 1.organized 2. took mass militant action 3. took power using their mass collected power. It was not transactional the way that neoliberals would have us believe. These rights were not granted from on high, they were seized from the bottom up! This idea that rights and justice are simply a transaction is perpetuated by capitalists who think that you can throw some pocket change at an oppressed populace and then go “See, racism is over!”

No, reparations cannot simply be reduced to a single transaction, that is problematic for many reasons mostly in that it infantilizes black people and dehumanizes the issue of racial justice. Justice is much more than financial transaction and neoliberal capitalists need to learn that.