Bound, Not Gagged

>> Monday, May 19, 2008

I came across the Bound, Not Gagged blog while reading the "Death and the D.C. Madam" article over at Salon. It's a couple weeks old, but I'm behind in my reading.

What I found most interesting was not the actual article itself, but one of the selected reader comments at the end. I think it's spot on and here it is in it's entirety.

There's a bigger problem here

There's a very sick double standard in our culture when it comes to prostitutes and (not to lump together, but I'm going to) strippers. I'm glad one of the women pointed this out when she said, "you realize that you're totally expendable."

For years a staple of the bad movie genre has been the "Oops, we accidentally killed the prostitute/stripper -- and hi-jinks ensue" flick. I have never been able to understand why somehow killing a prostitute or a stripper is considered an okay comic plot device, but it is.

Actually, I was planning to write a letter saying how wrong that is and how people have equal human value no matter what the do. But it occurs to me that this has larger implications for all women. Think about how the media goes crazy when young white girls and women go missing -- and the they go even crazier when it turns out the missing girl/woman is or may be pregnant. The whole tone becomes essentially "White Baby Container Missing!"

I don't think the hatred and vile devaluation of sex workers, as bad as it is, is just about them. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that, to this day, a women's value is computed in terms of her chastity, or by coming as close to chastity as possible. So chaste is good (Elizabeth Smart); holy, almost-chaste baby vessel is good (Lacy Peterson); respectable monogamist is okay, but then your human value slips precipitously the more you depart from these strictly assigned female categories, and accompanying visuals. If you're black/latina/asian and you're missing, you're on your own. If you're older, or a partier (who can't be made to look chaste) or a lesbian, or any number of other "outlyer" categories, you're on your own. And, at the coldest end of the spectrum, if you decide to do what YOU want with your own body, including make money with it (in an unacceptable way, as opposed to models, or athletes, or women who let people eat sushi off them for a living) you pretty much are inhuman scum who deserves anything that happens to you.

Serial killers don't just disproportionately prey on prostitutes because they're vulnerable. It's also because they can usually get away with it for years, if not decades, before anyone, other than surviving prostitutes, even notices or cares.

Women actively participate in this self-destruction too. We feel very free to condemn other women while giving the men who seek them out a universal pass on THEIR crime. Men are still considered such a commodity that we will destroy each other to avoid condemning them. So David Vitter and Eliot Spitzer abuse their marriage vows, abuse the public trust, abuse their wives by forcing them to participate in their public wallow of shame -- and then emerge fine, clean, and "penitent" because boys will be boys, but girls had BETTER NOT be whores.

So Debra Jean Palfrey and Brandy Britton and God only knows how many other women who were told they were human garbage are dead. And society says, "They CHOSE to break the law!!!" But so did Dave and Eliot and I bet they're still golfing happily at the country club.

I can only hope than women who aren't sex workers wise up. And I hope that women who get caught up in the wheels like Ms. Palfrey and Ms. Britton don't assume all other women will judge them. I'm not a sex worker (given the length of this letter my boss might say I'm not any kind of worker....). But I don't care if you were a prostitute. I'd worry for your safety, but it's your life, and (at least for now) it's YOUR body. Whatever you choose to do with it you deserve to live.


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