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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Debating Choice at TCD

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A strange and unusual thing happened last week. I popped along to check out TCD’s debate on whether “This House Believes Abortion Is A Woman’s Choice“. In all honesty, my expectations were pretty low going in- I was mainly showing up to see Feministe’s Jill Filipovic in action. From the debate, I expected the usual suspects and more of the same- accusations flying from all sides, a lack of common ground so extreme that it’s surprising that we’re all technically speaking the same language.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I am, by the way, a dyed-in-the-wool pro-choicer. I believe fervently that our bodies and our lives are our own. We should not be punished for our sexualities. We should not be forced to give up decades of our lives for the sake of someone else’s principle. While as a good skeptic I cannot deny the possibility of changing my mind, I consider that possibility remote.

Before I talk about the arguments I found useful and interesting on the part of the pro-life speakers, however, I’d like to take a moment to discuss those which were neither. These arguments were based on essentialist and demeaning ideas of gender. They’re getting a TW for transphobia and misogyny, so I’ll clearly mark when I’m done talking about them if you’d like to scroll past them.

The Bad Stuff- TW for transphobia, extreme sex-negativity, misogyny, and discussion of sexual assault.

“The ability to give birth to children is the essence of what makes a woman a woman”

According to this speaker, what makes a woman a woman is the ability to bear children. That is it. That is all. The sheer degree to which this dismisses those who cannot or do not have children- infertile women, trans women, many queer women, childless/childfree women- is difficult to exaggerate. Are these women not women? Are we really going to determine our entire identities by the presence or absence of a functioning uterus? How incredibly insulting is that to the women in the audience who are unable to have children? Who do not wish to have children? To adoptive parents, to non-birth mothers in same-sex couples, to women whose children were born through surrogates? And what about the many trans men out there who have given birth? Or the women who have given birth to the children they raise, who consider themselves to be women above and beyond their role as mothers? This statement is not only insulting to all of the above people. It is also, quite simply, wildly inaccurate. It’s just plain wrong.

“Abortion is not a woman’s choice but a thing that men make women do.. abortion leads to men treating women like objects and doing whatever they want with them”

I find it difficult to imagine how allowing women a choice makes other people do “whatever they want with them” in a way that taking her choice away does not.

Listen. I wish we lived in a world free of sexual coercion. I really do. If banning abortion led to a world where women were not objectified, where we were not sexually assaulted and abused? In that world, us pro-choicers would have a lot of explaining to do. However, we don’t live in that world. Women are objectified. Women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to be the victims of sexual coercion and abuse. These things happen whether or not abortion is legal. Legal abortion, however, gives women one small area of choice within this. It lets us have one small space of sovereignty over our own bodies.

“Abortion disenfranchises half of the people in the pregnancy”

In case you’re unsure, this person was talking about men, not fetuses. Women having abortions without their partners’ agreement hurts men’s feelings, you see. There are two people in every pregnancy, and those are the two people who brought the pregnancy about.

I’m sorry, but no. Yes, there are generally two people involved in bringing about a pregnancy- assuming that nobody is being sexually assaulted or raped at the time. Which happens. But even in a situation where a person gets pregnant through a consensual act, there are not two people in that pregnancy.

Men’s feelings have the potential to be hurt- deeply- if a woman aborts a fetus who could have become their child without their agreement. This is absolutely true. Emotional hurt is no small thing. However, women’s feelings as well as our bodies and our rights to bodily integrity all will be hurt, permanently altered and disenfranchised if we are forced to carry to term and to give birth without our consent.

“If a woman did not use contraception or early abortion, she should not have the right to later abortions”

In an ideal world, this might be an argument. In a world where there was no stigma around pregnancy, where everyone had access to clear and comprehensive education around bodies, sexuality, consent and contraception. In a world where people’s circumstances never changed dramatically and unexpectedly. In a world where nobody learned well into a pregnancy that their fetus’s life was inevitably going to be agonising and short. In a world where nobody developed medical conditions in pregnancy which threatened their own life, health, or well-being. In a world where nobody was in an abusive relationship, family or living situation which threatened their ability to exercise their own free choices.

In that world, maybe this would be reasonable. But we don’t live in that world.

Now for something a little more interesting

Fortunately for those of us at the debate, the tired old arguments above were not the only things the pro-life side of the debate had to say. One argument in particular impressed me. Here’s the gist:

Legal abortion creates a false sense of choice for women. Our choices are not only to give birth or not to do so- these choices do not and can not exist in a vacuum. Where we have a situation where women do not have access to all the supports they need to be mothers as well as engaging fully in other areas of their lives, where women are forced for economic reasons to not be mothers, their choices cannot be free. Legal abortion, by giving women an easy ‘out’ from motherhood, also gives employers, other institutions, and the state an easy ‘out’ from providing for the needs of women who are mothers as it allows them to deem women to have a made a free choice to not participate fully in these.

That there?

That is a frackin’ point. Women are often forced to choose between careers and motherhood. Women who are mothers are excluded from many areas of life by the assumption that they will take on the majority of caring responsibilities. Women are forced not to be mothers by their economic situations. Women’s lives are stunted by this lack of support for mothers- for parents! This is a major, major issue.

Of course, none of this means that using women as pawns to force the hand of wider institutions in providing for the needs of parents is a reason to remove legal abortion from women. But when we speak of reproductive choice, it is incredibly important to do so with an awareness of all of the factors- social and economic as well as legal- that get in the way of women’s choice. The reproductive rights movement, and those of us who are pro-choice, need to be sure that we’re fighting for women’s rights to choose freely, to be supported in the choices we make, and to not face marginalisation or crushing poverty for those choices. And- let’s face it- the lack of legal abortion as an option in Ireland hasn’t resulted in employers falling over themselves to offer better maternity and paternity benefits and leave.

From the pro-choice side

I’m not going to spend as much time on these arguments as the pro-life side- mainly because all I could add to the conversation would be thumbs up and enthusiastic nods of agreement. But here’s a taste of what people had to say:

“If you really love a woman, how could you want to subjugate her body for nine months? If we tried to control the bodies of men for nine months, we would see violence in the street”

“For every woman who wants to work when she’s pregnant, there’s another who simply doesn’t want a kid”

“Why should women have to pay for the violation of their own bodies, with their own bodies? Even if you have sex and end up pregnant, you should be able to walk away with your body intact and not be labeled a slut and a whore. Gender equality is impossible in any real sense if women live under constant threat of having their bodies taken from them.”

“Its time to remove the idea that women deserve to be punished for having sex. This debate does NOT happen in the abstract, and the women most affected by this are those whose bodies have never been given the real credit of belonging to themselves”

One more thing..

This was from the closing speech of the speaker who made the economic argument against abortion above. Again, I may not agree with her about abortion, but lady has a point.

“How can we come together on our shared goals and stop driving ourselves into corners? …What about violence against women, pregnancy at work, listening to women who had abortions and adoptive birth mothers?”

Yep. That. Let’s do that.

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What happens to the victims?

Regular readers may have noticed by now my deep scepticism that Sweden’s sex purchase ban has actually reduced the amount of sex trafficking to Sweden. There are a couple of reasons for my suspicions. First, as I wrote in this post on another blog, the definition of “trafficking” is so easily (and so often) manipulated to suit particular agendas that I’m automatically sceptical of any claims made about it, anywhere. (Actually, I’m increasingly coming around to doubting the usefulness of the term at all, but that’s a subject for another post.) The second is that when you strip away the Swedish spin and look at the number of trafficking cases their police are actually finding, as detailed in a number of my posts on this blog, it becomes pretty obvious that the country is in a state of collective denial.

But let’s assume for a moment that I’m wrong, and that the ban actually has had the claimed effect on sex trafficking to Sweden. Obviously, if you’re a member of a Swedish government party or a police official coming under pressure to “solve the trafficking problem”, this looks like a very good thing. But here’s a question I’ve never actually seen answered (or even asked) by the law’s advocates: what happens to the victims?

Because there seems to be this assumption that if sex traffickers can’t get their victims into Sweden, they’ll just give up and go home. Why would that be? There’s nothing special about sex trafficking into Sweden that would lead traffickers to make a career change if they couldn’t do it anymore. So what would they do instead?

One well-noted side effect of the almost singular focus on trafficking into the sex industry is the tendency to overlook this type of exploitation in other sectors. In fact, trafficking for non-sexual purposes wasn’t even criminalised in Sweden until 2004 – two years after sex trafficking was specifically outlawed, and five years after the sex purchase ban was introduced. Yet Swedish police reports confirm significant incidences of other types of trafficking:

The fifth item there is “Human trafficking for other purposes, total”, and as you can see the numbers are actually higher than for the second item, “Human trafficking for sexual purposes”. The usual caveat about actual vs detected cases applies, but it seems to me there are one of two possibilities: either the chart understates the amount of sex trafficking and there is actually far more than the Swedish police know about (in which case the law really is a dud, at least from that perspective), or trafficking for non-sexual purposes is a bigger problem than sex trafficking. And if the latter is true, then that suggests that to the extent (if any) that the law has reduced sex trafficking, the traffickers are simply placing their victims into other industries. (For those who are tempted to believe that this in itself is a victory, on the theory that any type of trafficking is better than sex trafficking, please do some reading on the abuse faced by migrant domestic workers and then come back and tell me that sex trafficking should be “solved” by shifting victims into that sector.)

An alternative possibility is that sex traffickers haven’t changed industries at all, but merely destination countries. This in fact is the position advanced by the Swedish government, which regularly compares its “foreign prostitute” count to that of its neighbours in order to promote the deterrent effect of the law (although, as Laura Agustín has pointed out, it’s relied on erroneous data to do so). What if we assume that the law actually has reduced the number of migrant sex workers in Sweden compared to its neighbours, and that this in fact represents fewer sex trafficking victims (an unsafe assumption, but one we’ll make for the sake of argument)? Well, again, this is all very good from the Swedish government’s perspective: it makes those victims someone else’s problem. But what does it do for them? And why is this issue so thoroughly ignored by the law’s advocates?

“But it isn’t,” abolitionists might protest. “We want all countries to adopt the same law, so that there is no other country the traffickers can go to.” But if that’s the best they can come up with their plan is doomed from the start. Realistically the law is not going to be adopted in every single country, and even if it was it would not be identically enforced everywhere. Sex traffickers would simply find the countries where it was easiest to get around the law at any particular point in time, and operate there. If anyone has any doubts about this just bear in mind the apparent displacement (as noted here) of migrant sex workers to Sweden after Norway adopted its own sex purchase ban.

Some abolitionists, it seems, aren’t even aiming as high as a worldwide ban. I can’t find the page now, but a week or so ago I read an article advocating the spread of the Swedish model in order to make Europe a cold house for traffickers, or words to that effect. Think about that for a minute. Even if we got past the problem of non-uniform laws and enforcement, where do they want the victims displaced to? Iran?

I’m not suggesting there is no place for criminalisation in counter-trafficking work. There is – for genuine cases of exploitation. But if we are actually interested in preventing people becoming victims, and not just keeping those victims out of our backyards, we simply have to go beyond deterrence strategies aimed at traffickers and service users in particular sectors. We need to look at structural issues, issues around development in source countries, the interrelationship between sex trafficking and trafficking for non-sexual labour, inadequate labour protection for workers in general and migrant and sex workers in particular, and how fortress-like border policies drive labour migrants and refugees into traffickers’ arms.

These are not easy issues to address, especially given the lack of political will to address them. But how much easier would it be to pressurise countries to address them if abolitionists weren’t giving them an easy way out by allowing them to say they’ve done their bit by cracking down on prostitution?

The simple fact is that even if the sex purchase ban worked to prevent sex trafficking to Sweden, there is no reason to believe it has prevented a single person from being trafficked. None whatsoever. It is not, in any sense of the matter, a solution to the trafficking problem. And it is diverting people’s energies from looking for real solutions. Trafficked persons, and persons at risk of being trafficked, deserve better than being told we’re “helping” them by trying only to keep them out of our country.

More on those non-existent Swedish brothels

In this post last week I questioned the bald assertion by Stockholm Police Department Detective Inspector Jonas Trolle that it is “impossible to run a brothel in Sweden” thanks to the country’s sex purchase ban.

Now we have this article in which no less than the head of the anti-trafficking section in the very same police department laments that there may, in fact, be a brothel on every Stockholm corner:

Police and the tax authorities have launched closer surveillance of Thai massage parlours in the country, suspecting that the sharp increase in their number indicates sex trafficking and tax evasion…

“We also hear of and witness other, more advanced sexual services, which means that you may soon wonder if we have a brothel on every or every other street corner,” said Ewa Carlenfors, head of the section against trafficking at Stockholm police

Do these Stockholm police ever talk to each other? Or do they just agree to lie to people from other countries?

Norwegian sex workers’ views of sex purchase ban

As supporters of the Swedish model never tire of pointing out, Norway and Iceland have also recently banned the purchase of sex. How’s that working out?

Well, in Iceland it seems to be a total flop, as Icelandic police have decided they have better things to do with their limited resources:

police authorities claimed they neither had the funds nor the manpower to fight prostitution which… is clearly thriving in Iceland in spite of it being illegal.

In Norway, a couple different media reports (both in Norwegian) claim a resurgence in that country’s sex trade; neither is particularly a credible source, but there doesn’t seem to be much actual research on the subject. The closest I could find, apart from the Pro Centre report mentioned below, was this police report (also in Norwegian) on human trafficking for sexual and other purposes, published in August of this year. Like the Swedish stats I discussed in this post, it shows higher numbers after the law’s introduction, though it’s equally impossible to be sure whether this reflects more victims or just better detection. It is silent on the amount of prostitution generally.

On this page, on the website of the Norwegian sex workers’ organisation PION, I found a statement about their own views of the law. Because of the importance of this information and the lack of an English translation on the site (at least that I can find) I have run it through Google Translate and copied the translation of the crucial bits below, with minor grammatical edits (only where obvious) and paragraph breaks added for ease of reading. Corrections from actual Norwegian readers are welcome.

It is difficult to estimate whether the law has helped to reduce the amount of sale of sexual services in Norway, but there is little doubt that the law has contributed to a significant weakening of prostitutes’ rights. The law has led to women in prostitution now experiencing a major invasion of privacy. This happens for example when the police reveal sensitive information to homeowners and hotels, or when the police deliberately carry out their operations with the press in tow so that the woman’s identity will be published in the media (pion Annual Report 2010).

Previous research and current surveying shows that women in prostitution are highly vulnerable to various forms of violence and abuse (Bjorn Dahl and Nordli 2008). The sex-purchase law has helped to raise the threshold to report violence and abuse, so abuse now increasingly remains unannounced and with impunity. There are also clear indications that the extent of violence has increased (PION Annual Report 2010).

Despite the fact that there is no prohibition against the sale of sexual services in Norway, women in street prostitution are chased away from the street by the police with the message that they encourage criminal activity. The health situation of many women in prostitution is exacerbated, in part because many are now reluctant to have contact with service providers. The buying-sex act seems to have contributed to the development of a service with significant health risks for women in prostitution, including sex without using condoms. There are reports of an increase in the number of pregnant women and STD, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea (Pro Centre Annual Report 2010).

A vulnerable group that has been further marginalized by the introduction of the sex-purchase law is female migrants, with and without legal residence status, who often lack basic knowledge of Norwegian, networks and relevant education. This is also the group that has experienced the biggest obstacles to getting out of prostitution and into regular employment.

The statement is titled Rejected and censored: PION’s contribution to women’s convention shadow report and it notes that opposition from certain other women’s groups (not identified) prevented sex workers’ views from being included in the said report. This silencing is something that sex workers around the world are all too familiar with.

I will return to the Pro Centre report at a future date.

Some thoughts on Department of Justice report on Sweden visit

I’ve been looking over the report published this week by the Irish Department of Justice, on the visit of its officials to Sweden last year to examine the sex purchase ban.

I was expecting the worst because, as Stephanie and I noted in this post, that visit involved meeting with a sum total of zero sex workers or representative organisations or allies. Every single person or group they met, at least in an official capacity, was in favour of the law.

Does the report reflect that omission? Well, yes and no. Sex workers’ views of the law are absent from the report, and consequently so is any mention of the law’s significant negative consequences. But that (rather large) complaint aside, it’s generally a measured, considered document with a healthy little dose of scepticism. This is mainly in terms of whether the law could be applied within the Irish legal and constitutional systems, but it also raises a few questions about the merits of the law itself.

The Irish Times has excerpted a lot of the Department’s key concerns here and I won’t repeat them. I did, however, want to single out a few of the report’s passages for attention:

Attempt is considered difficult to prove with the result that, in cases of street prostitution, the police deliberately wait until the sexual act has begun, and the offence has thus been committed in full, before intervening. (page 6)

This strikes me as a strange way to deal with an offence that is supposed to be as inherently damaging as the Swedes and their supporters portray commercial sex as. It’s not unusual, of course, for police to delay intervening in crimes-in-progress for just long enough to ensure the offender has done enough to make himself liable, but it’s hard to imagine that if they believed a man was about to assault a woman they would stand back and let it happen just to get their arrest in. If they did – and especially if they made a practice of doing so – I imagine there would be outrage from feminist groups. And in the ideology of those who support the Swedish law, a man who pays a woman for sex is assaulting her, so where is the outrage? Are advocates of the law simply not aware of this practice, or are they aware but accept the explanation for it, and if the latter then how do they square it with their view about the intrinsically harmful nature of paid sex?

It’s interesting also that the report specifies street prostitution. In the article I linked to yesterday, a man who bought sex indoors was arrested after leaving the brothel; the police listened through the letterbox to get the “proof” they needed for the arrest. This aural voyeurism has been reported before, in this case, which describes the police who listened in as being “treated to a symphony of grunts and moans”. So, no interruption at all there; they let the poor prostituted woman endure her paid rape (as the Melissa Farleys of this world describe it) for god only knows how long. Again, where is the outrage?

it might also be argued that policing operations to target the purchase of sex – which would be a minor offence – would divert law enforcement from operations targeting serious and organised crime, including human trafficking. (pages 9-10)

This is really a serious question. While there are shootings and burglaries and tiger kidnappings going on – and while our police are under a recruitment embargo and subject to the same swingeing cuts affecting all our public services – do we really want them spending their time hanging around outside people’s houses listening to them fuck?

While it was never an intended consequence of their legislation, Sweden’s 1999 ban on the purchase of sexual services was followed by complaints from Norway and its Baltic neighbours about displacement.

Ironically, this has also worked the other way around: in their most recent report on Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual and Other Purposes, the Swedish police note “mainly in Gothenburg…a marked increase in the numbers of Nigerian women who are being exploited in prostitution, which is considered to be the effect of Norway’s new Purchase of Sexual Services Act which came into force”.

Think about that for a minute: Sweden’s sex purchase ban displaced sex workers to Norway, and then Norway adopted the ban and displaced them right back to Sweden. It is worth asking why, if Sweden is really so inhospitable to the sex industry, they weren’t displaced to a country where buying sex is legal – such as Denmark, which is only a few hours from Gothenburg on the ferry.

the Attorney General might be asked if the Law Reform Commission could be requested to examine the legal and constitutional implications of a ban on the purchase of sex. This could be done in the wider context of a review of our legislation on prostitution and include an international comparative analysis of different legal regimes to combat the phenomenon, not just in the Nordic region.

A visit to New Zealand, perhaps?

**

The report has two Appendices. The first, “Main Findings of Swedish Evaluation of the 1999 Ban on the Purchase of Sexual Services”, is drawn from the English-language summary of the 2010 Swedish government report. It’s a shame that the Irish officials didn’t read the entire Swedish report, because the English-language summary leaves some of the more revealing material out, such as the fact that the Swedish evaluators consider increased stigmatisation of sex workers to be a “positive effect” of the law.

Appendix 2 is a selection of criticisms of the Swedish government evaluation. These are said to be drawn from “the print media” but there is no further identification of the sources; I recognise some of the quotes from Laura Agustin’s critiques. Again, this is a shame, because the ordinary reader won’t be able to gauge the credibility of those doing the criticising. It would have been useful to point out, for example, that Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman, National Board of Health and Welfare, and Federation for LGBT Rights were among those who deemed the evaluation to be biased and methodologically unsound.

But the significance of the Irish report lies not in its power to persuade readers – after all, it wasn’t written for public consumption, at least as far as we know. What’s important is what it says about where the Justice Department’s head is on the issue. And it strikes me that the sheer number of the criticisms it includes – where it could have simply noted that such criticisms exist – suggests that the Department officials were trying to make a point. As I said, a healthy scepticism.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that sense will ultimately prevail. The government is, after all, run by politicians, and politicians are being subjected to an inordinate amount of pressure on this issue. (If the Attorney General decides the law would be unconstitutional in Ireland, how long do you suppose it will take before we start hearing calls for a referendum?) But suddenly the Irish debate doesn’t seem as completely one-sided as it has been up to now. The Irish Times, which has gained a reputation in recent years for refusing to publish the letters of sex worker allies, even ran an editorial opinion piece today opposing the law. That would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

No wonder so many of the law’s Seanad supporters opposed allowing time for a public debate on the issue. When you have a public debate – a real debate, that is – you have to let other voices in.

I Was A Teenage Bisexual: An open letter to Dan Savage.

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Hello Dan,

Hey, how’s it going? I’m a big fan of yours. Love the Lovecast. Love It Gets Better. I think what you do is pretty awesome. Which is why I’m very, very disappointed to have to do this.

Catching up on my podcasts this morning, I listened to Episode 257 of Savage Love, where you were asked by a listener to discuss recent research showing that bi men do, in fact, exist.

Your response in a nutshell was to spend several minutes ranting about how the discrepancies between research methods (in particular participant recruitment) between this study and Bailey’s 2005 study show that you were right to be skeptical of the identities of teenage bis, or bis without sufficiently gender-balanced relationship histories. And to talk about that scepticism. A lot. And how we should all be sceptical.

Dan, I need to explain how you are wrong.

I don’t want to say that you are wrong about some people changing their identification, or about some people being unsure of how to label themselves. Those are real things, and it’s important to acknowledge them. What I want to talk about is the difference between what is appropriate for researchers and appropriate for activists. I want to talk about how your own perspective prevents you from showing the same empathy for bi kids as you do other LGT kids.

Let’s talk about the difference between study design and outreach.

In the study you quoted, the researchers weren’t looking into the diversity of bi experiences, or differing narratives of sexuality, or how behaviour and inclination interact in different cultural circumstances. They simply wanted to see if there was such a thing as a genuinely bi man. It didn’t matter at all if they eliminated some genuinely bi men from the study. What mattered was that the guys they included were bi, so they set the bar extremely high. That’s fine. Good use of limited time and resources.

What makes good study design does not always make good outreach.

In research, our aim is to answer a particular question. In outreach our aim is to, well, reach out to people and make their lives better. It doesn’t matter a jot if half the people we’re talking to don’t turn out to be in our target group(s). If I talk to a bunch of, say, twenty people who identify as bi, and ten (or twelve, or fifteen) of them aren’t ‘really’ bi? It doesn’t matter. The others will have heard me.

Here’s the thing. When you talks about young bi people, one of the first things you say is that you don’t believe they’ll still be bi in ten years time. You identified as bi yourself, you see, and you’re gay now. And you’ve met tons of people with the same story. So you’re hesitant to take bi-identified people at their word until they’ve had a good long time to prove themselves.

The people you forget about here? Are the bi people. The real, honest-to-goodness bi kids who are, as much as everyone else, looking for some affirmation. In this case, of their very existence. Taking the perspective of the gay kid who uses bi identity as a safer place to explore their queerness erases that of the bi kid who, along with all the homophobia they have to deal with, has to contend with the assumption that they couldn’t be what they say they are.

Bi kids need our support as much as gay kids do. Bi kids need to know that we acknowledge them, that we affirm their identities and experiences, as much as gay kids do. Bi kids are as vulnerable as gay kids are. They are at risk in the same way that gay kids are. By denying them the safety of acceptance in a queer community, we only increase their isolation.

I was a teenage bisexual. Of my friends who identified as bi back then, some are gay. Some are straight. Some are bi. The same goes for my friends who identified as straight then, and even those who described themselves as gay.

I was a teenage bisexual who was lucky that the support I needed was there. Dan, in the unlikely event that you’re reading this? Please understand that your own ego and your own ideas about teenage bisexuals are getting in the way of being a support to the bi kids out there. The ones who need us to stand up for them, and speak out for them, and promise that our community will be there for them. Dan, if you won’t listen to me, then listen to this:

“Bi orientation is associated with worse mental health than heterosexual orientation… with the homosexual group falling between the two” (Korlen et al, 2002)

The emphasis is mine. Dan, I’ve heard with my own ears how heartbroken and angry-as-hell you are at what is done to gay kids every day. I need you to understand that whatever your own opinions, we need voices like you to support bi kids as much as their gay and lesbian peers. Bi kids need to hear that they exist. They need to hear that they are not alone.

I was a teenage bisexual, and now I’m a bi adult. I don’t mind if some of the people growing up with me identified as bi for a while. If my identity was a safe haven for them as they figured themselves out? I’m happy it was there for them. I’m happy they could stay here a while.

Dan, as activists and people who reach out to kids, our purpose isn’t to prove ourselves right. Our purpose isn’t rigorous study design and eliminating false positives. Our purpose is to be heard by the people who need to hear us. It’s to let them know that they’re not alone, and that there are others like them out there.

When one of the major difficulties a group faces is doubt over their very existence, then we need to stand up for that existence. We need to tell bi kids that their experiences are real. And when sometimes, a few years down the line, it turns out that we weren’t always right? We need to swallow our damn pride and do it all over again.

I hope you can listen to this.

Aoife

“It’s impossible to run a brothel in Sweden.” Really?

Just a quickie here (ha ha). In a previous post I questioned the assertion by Swedish police officer Jonas Trolle, cited in this Irish Times article, that it is impossible now to run a brothel in Sweden.

Shortly after that claim was made, this article appeared in the Swedish English-language media about a man who was caught buying sex as…

Swedish police were carrying out surveillance against a suspected brothel in Bromma, a suburb of Stockholm, where they suspected that several Romanian women were working as prostitutes.

More evidence of the Swedish authorities’ willingness to stretch the truth in efforts to persuade other countries to adopt their sex purchase ban.