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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Why Liz Warren should have gone on Fox News

Elizabeth Warren turned down an invitation from Fox News to do a candidate town hall, calling the “news” station out for their blatant hate speech and for “giving a megaphone,” to racists.

While Warren is right that the fake news network is a homing beacon to the vomit inducing white right, she has lost an opprotunity to gain serious political capital by rejecting their invitation.

Now I want to stress this point before I go any further, Warren is not obliged to go on Fox News. To be honest any leftist or anyone who leans left is not obligated to take the baited hook that right wingers like Fox News or Ben Shapiro throw. “Debate me!”

Warren is also one hundred percent right about the station’s explicit racism and implicent enabling of violent white supremacy.

However, Warren has shot herself in the foot once again, like she did when she released that racist DNA test and when she endorsed Hillary Clinton. This would have been Warren’s opprotunity to save face with the white and rural voters who are so quick to reject her for the connections she made in her career to Obama and Hillary Clinton. If she had taken this town hall she could have used it as a platform to go into the heart of the belly of the beast and take down the harmful talking points against her policies, much like how Bernie did.

Bernie went into the belly of the beast, knife in hand, and came out holding the monster’s heart to the sky. When the anchor was bested by his own baiting question about government run healthcare, it was check mate for Bernard Sanders.

Bernie’s town hall gave him a huge degree of political capital. Overnight one of Fox News’ most idiotic talking points was defeated, “Most people don’t want government run health care,” they like to say. Yet with a simple cheering of the crowd and Bernie on the receiving end, the station has now been forced to scramble and rethink its rhetoric.

That is a key to winning in the art of war, keep your enemy confused, and make no mistake, we are in a class war.

This is the chance that Warren has thrown away, the chance to let Fox News own itself, as the kids would say, and come out the other end victorious and validated. By refusing the invitation, she has only played into the fodder that democrats cannot speak to Fox News base, and that fodder will cost her in the long run should she actually win the nomination.

Warren is right, Fox News is the news station for racists. However you do not end racism by running away from it. Racism ends only when it is confronted. The same with all forms of bigotry and prejudice. Bernie confronted the prejudice that Americans fear big government more than they fear big insurance, and he won. That is something the left is finally getting good at again, winning.

Warren can’t win a fight when she runs away from it.

Elizabeth Warren’s Mistake In 2016

I acknowledge that in 2016 I came very intensely after Elizabeth Warren. Like many of Bernie’s 2016 supporters I was hurt by her endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I think Warren has since almost made up for the error by coming forward with genuinely radical and necessary policy platforms in her presidential campaign, policies that remind us that she was once a people’s hero in the fight against Wall Street and can be once again.

Her plan to cancel student debt is as pivotal as Bernie’s Medicare for All or prisoner voting rights platforms. Her open challenges to Joe Biden on his ties to the credit card companies is commendable and so is the work she has put into protecting consumers for this entire decade. She deserves credit where credit is due.

With all of that said, I am still a little bitter about what happened in 2016. I realize it is somewhat trivial to complain about what could or should have been, but damn it I am genuinely convicned that if she had not played the 2016 primary as cautiously as she had we would not have a Trump presidency.

Here is what I mean, because Warren waited to endorse whoever won the nomination instead of endorsing Bernie from the beginning of his candidacy she hurt his campaign, a campaign that would have easily defeated Trump in the general election. Yes, I am still a “Bernie would have won,” kind of person and truth be told I probably always will be.

It is understandable why she waited to endorse the definite front runner instead of taking a stand early on. At the time it made sense as the politically cautious move to stand for a united Democratic party against Trump. However that caution came at a price. It hurt Bernie’s ability to develop the klout needed to counter harmful talking points spewed by the Hillary people.

When Warren endorsed Clinton she went from being a darling of the Occupy alumni to another mouth piece for neoliberals, at least in the eyes of Bernie supporters who also supported her. One of the reasons that Bernie, and Warren for that matter, have stayed so popular is that several of us who came out of the Occupy movement remember them as the only public servants to demonstrate admiration and respect for the movement and its sentiments.

So Warren did not only hurt Bernie by endorsing Hillary late in the election, she hurt herself. By endorsing Clinton and by endorsing her as close to the end of the primary as she did, she synonymized her name and platform with the vomit inducing identity politics of Hillary’s campaign. Instead of having her working class values and background tied to Bernie’s pro working class platform, she attached her identity as a woman to Clinton and by doing so she helped enable the “only sexists vote for Bernie” talking point of Hillary supporters, a talking point which erases and hurts all of the non male supporters of Bernie.

Had Warren endorsed Bernie from the get go, the myth of the “Bernie bro” would have been squashed and would have had no foundation to grow. Also, with her endorsement would have come her very extensive and supportive base, but now that base is arguably very much in the establishment camp because of her hesitancy to get involved with the primary until a front runner was decided. Warren is now synonymous with supporting establishment capitalist democrats like Hillary, which is folly because Warren’s policies are arguably much closer to Bernie’s than they ever were to people like Clinton, Harris, Biden, or Booker.

I want to make it clear, I do understand why Warren didn’t endorse Sanders, but I think it was a mistake that inevitably cost Bernie the primary and damaged Warren’s reputation as a challenger of big money capitalism, which in-turn gave us the shitty general election that birthed the Trump presidency.

But what hurt Warren the most is the fact that despite her policy and platform being much more in line with Bernie’s she endorsed someone with completely opposite values to her. Warren has much more incommon policy wise with Bernie than she ever will with the Clintons and Bidens of the world. The fact she did not make that clear in 2016 not only hurt Bernie but it hurt her, because now there are leftists like myself, who do remember her public challenges to Wall Street and her bold demands for consumer protections and market regulations. Now it is hard for me to get excited about her candidacy because I still view the Clinton 2016 endorsement as an act of political cowardice. I used to think it was straight up betrayal, but after getting involved with politics as an activist and as an organizer I’m willing to say I understand why she did what she did in 2016. However let us always remember that understanding an action is not the same as supporting it.

Will Liz Warren make the same mistakes this time? It is very possible that she will. Warren clearly is a politician who acts with caution. I do not fault her for being tactical but I will fault her if that tactic comes with compromising her values. However I can say that if she remains consistent with her demands for canceling student debt and if she does not backtrack support for Medicare for all then I would be genuinely happy with a Sanders/Warren or Warren/Sanders 2020 ticket. However I would be thrilled by the idea even more if she stepped up and admited that not endorsing Bernie in 2016 at the beginning of the primary was a mistake.

All in all, I do want to like Elizabeth Warren, I do miss the days where she and Bernie both were patron saints of the 99%. But until we address what happened in 2016 I will always have misgivings about her. I do not think Warren is bad, at least not as much as I used to, I do think she has to answer for 2016.