Momentum Con Prep, Eman al-Obeidi, Arizona is Batshit, and Sasha Grey’s Neü World Order

It’s been an ever-so busy week over here, and I apologize for the paucity of blog posts, dearest readers, but do not fret! This weekend I will be attending Momentum, a convention for feminists and sex-positives and all sorts of other thinky/sexy bloggers, social media types, writers, thinkers, and etc. I am frickin PSYCHED! I’m going to attend talks by some of my favorite porn directors and stars, polyamorous theorists and activists, feminists of all shapes, sizes, colors and genders, and oh so much more. I’m packing today and will head down tomorrow, and I promise blogs all weekend!

In the meantime, I’ve been pondering a few things. This past week has been filled to bursting with exciting/scary/interesting sex news, and I kind of don’t even know where to start. I think a quick run-down of the biggest deals is in order, with my very own commentary, of course.

1) Eman al-Obeidi: The Libyan woman who burst into a hotel last week to tell foreign reporters that she’d been repeatedly beaten and raped by Gadaffi’s (or however you spell his name) troops after being detained at a checkpoint; who showed reporters her bruises; who was chased through the hotel by government loyalists, wrapped in a tablecloth by a waitress, and pushed into a car and driven away to an undisclosed location; whose parents say she’s being held at Gadaffi’s compound while Gadaffi’s people say she’s with family; who was called a drunken prostitute by the government and whose parents then went on TV showing photos of her getting her law degree (I realize that having a law degree in no way precludes anyone from becoming a prostitute, but it is a bit toward the unlikely side)… is now being sued by the men she accused of raping her. Sued. One would assume the charges are being pressed on the basis of defamation of character, but I’d like to point out to these men that, while al-Obeidi’s image and name are all over the international news… NONE OF THEIRS ARE. Sure, they might face a bit of annoyance over all this, and I’m sure that the alleged attackers’ names have been mentioned here and there, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around how these men could possibly think that they have been in some way more damaged than al-Obeidi herself. Regardless of whether they actually did rape her (as far as I know, there was no physical examination given and so the allegations are just that and no more), somebody sure as shit beat her up, as her bruises proved. And while I understand that in some parts of the world, beating a woman for no discernible reason isn’t as much of a shameful thing as it is here, she surely experienced physical pain and embarrassment at their hands. And then was humiliated by the rough treatment she received from people who would do anything to get her out of camera’s reach in the hotel where she tried to tell her story. And then was whisked off to an undisclosed location and called a drunken prostitute on the news. And now she is being sued because she is hurting other people?
It just boggles the mind.
I try to understand the differences between cultures and gender-based ideology when I consider these things, but from a purely and completely logical standpoint, this makes NO sense. This woman was abused in some way physically before she came forward, and she was damn well treated abominably on camera by hotel staff and government workers, and now she’s somewhere in Libya probably being treated terribly again while her parents are offered money and houses to get her to recant her story… And she’s being punished. There is just no fucking way this makes sense. And I’m kind of pissed off that this isn’t a bigger story.
As I’ve mentioned before, in times of war and upheaval the struggle of women to maintain their rights and legitimacy as human beings seems to often be compromised. I mean, hell, since we’ve been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, abortion rights and same-sex marriage debates have become the hot topics here, and that’s an incredibly softened version of what’s going on elsewhere. Sex-based repression seems to go hand-in-hand with military action and civil unrest. And granted, it’s sometimes difficult to keep a real focus on the struggle of women when there are bombs going off, guns firing, and riots in the streets. But women are half of every single equation there is, and when they start getting treated as if they’re invisible and expendable simply because there’s violence to be gawked at, there’s a serious problem. Where’s the outrage over Eman al-Obeidi’s situation? Where’s the international demand for justice? Where’s our giving a shit about women in trouble in other parts of the world? Where IS Eman al-Obeidi, for god’s sake? Why don’t we care?
This is maybe a bit of a silly diatribe; after all, women are treated with contempt, disdain, and violence every day in so many parts of the world. The Congo, Saudi Arabia, Iran, hell, everywhere. I can’t get on here every day and lecture everyone for not paying enough attention when the amount of attention that needs to be paid is far beyond the cognitive capacity of most of us. But when such a radically insane story pops up that seems to me to demand attention and very little gets said about it, I get all kinds of pissed off.
Eman: if you’re out there and you’re reading this (which would be amazing), I can’t offer you much aside from support. I’m too poor to buy you a plane ticket, and I’ll be damned if I know how to get you out of wherever they’re holding you and onto a plane. But if you can make it to New York, you’ve got a place to stay. You’ve got friends here. Hang in there.

2) Arizona has just passed legislation that will, ninety days after signing, prohibit women from getting abortions based on the assumed race or gender of the fetus. Which is just like… what? I mean, really? In Arizona, are people really going to abortion clinics and saying, “You know I just REALLY wanted a boy and the early sonogram showed that it might be a girl, and anyway, it might be Pacific-Islander and I really want a black baby, so let’s get rid of it”? I cannot fathom that this is a problem so dire in the state of Arizona that this law is necessary to protect the welfare of fetuses. One more notch in the bedpost for anti-womens-reproductive-rights conservative assholes who will take any chance to further restrict the ability of women to make their own medical and reproductive choices. Sigh.

3) Sasha Grey has a “neü” book out: a series of photographs from her time in the adult film industry called Neü Sex. She’s been out and about promoting it and has been getting media attention from her oh-my-god-a-smart-girl-who-did-porn public, and that’s fantastic. Go, Sasha! But as Tracy Clark-Flory pointed out, a lot of what Sasha said at her appearance at Housing Works this week didn’t make much sense. And that’s kind of the thing about the entire Sasha-Grey-post-porn phenomenon that gets on my nerves: in context, none of this makes sense. Sasha Grey isn’t in any real fundamental way radically different from a ton of other porn stars I know. She’s incredibly sexual, beautiful, business-minded, well-spoken, attention-seeking, and… here’s the not-shocker… intelligent. I get it, I get it, the stereotype of the female porn performer is a big-boobed, tan, not-so-smart blonde, and Sasha breaks that mold in a whole crap-ton of ways. But the only way in which she stands out from all the hundreds of other porn performing brunettes with brains bigger than their breasts is that she’s so vocal and so public about how smart she is. Which, again, isn’t really a problem. Good for her for being vocal about the fact that porn doesn’t equate to stupidity. But I guess what I find missing from her soapbox is interest in expanding this platform of hers to include anyone but herself. Sasha is not the only smart sex worker out there, and since she’s so fixed on being a crossover star based on her brains and ballsiness, it’d be really nice of her to mention more often that she knows lots of great, smart, talented people in the adult business. But she doesn’t. She’s distanced herself from the business for years, ever since her career started blossoming in other areas. I’ve heard rumors that she didn’t even call AVN back when they sniffed around asking her to host this year. She hasn’t performed since, I hear, 2009. She hasn’t been at many conferences lately, and I haven’t seen her in a signing booth since 2009. She’s become separated from her past, and while there’s nothing wrong with that if she wants to move on, she continues to use her past in the sex industry as her raison d’etre for everything else she does, and that seems like something of a dirty move to me.
I think what it comes down to is that, look, Sasha is capitalizing on what made her famous to get more famous. And I certainly can’t fault her for that–after all, I named my blog after the McSweeney’s column that got me enough attention to drag a readership over here in the first place, and to which I will now completely unabashedly post link. But it seems that in order to use her past to promote her present, she is joining the crowd in casting aspersions upon the industry she left. By showing how different she is from the industry and very purposefully distancing herself from it to gain more legitimacy, she’s just adding to fuel to the fire of public opinion about how porn is no place for an intelligent and talented woman. But I know many intelligent, talented, interesting, educated, beautiful, incredible men and women in porn, and Sasha, it seems, is totally willing to pretend they don’t exist… or worse, that she is better than them… to get what she wants. And it annoys me.
Every time she does something new and the media goes bananas about it, I scratch my head. “Why do we still care?” I ask myself. Obviously, Sasha is a captivating porn performer with a presence that earns her a fanbase that includes porn fans and merely curious anti-establishment types alike. And I applaud her for that. But at the same time, I mean, she’s not the only person who’s ever done porn to possess a brain that works, and it’s an indictment of our culture that we are so endlessly fascinated by this “diamond in the rough” idea that we fail to look for any more diamonds. It’s more fun to look at “the exception that proves the rule”–who we like to assume is Sasha and only Sasha–than to look at those who comprise the rule. Most porn stars are happy to do interviews in which they can prove that they are indeed smart, but for whatever reason, people don’t like to read them that way. It seems that we want most porn stars to talk about sex and money and prove the stereotype so that we can all go on paying them no attention until they end up on Charlie Sheen’s arm or starring in Stephen Soderbergh movies, because that’s easier for all of us. But if we instead spent any time really thinking about people who make make porn, talking to them and about them like thinking individuals (as I try to do in my interviews here and on WHACK! Magazine), we’d notice that Sasha Grey is totally great and everything, but she’s not much more of a diamond than anyone else.

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