Saturday, January 23, 2016

a predictable entry...

I feel like anyone that knows me knows this type of thought process was coming...

My mom and I were talking about me and school. (I started library school this week.) She asked me if there was anything in my life that I am lacking. And the honest answer is that besides money and hopes for retirement, NOTHING.

I have a home, a family, and friends. I am healthy and I know how to get by on very little money. When I pay off my car in less than a year, I'll be $300/mo richer.

The only thing to gain as a librarian is a hope to retire someday. But is time off in the last couple of decades in my life worth giving up half my time now until the age of 65 or 70? I really don't think so. I suppose I'd also gain respect from a lot of people. It sounds WAY cooler to say you're a librarian than to have to correct people when they accidentally call me one now just because I work in a library. But that respect is ultimately just me worrying about what people think of me, and that's never held much weight with me anyway.

I've never been an ambitious person. I'm quite content with sitting in my own little corner thinking about nothing. I don't get bored. My goals in life include having a happy and healthy family and my own comfortable home. I have these things now, and those extraordinary things in themselves I know make me incredibly lucky. And those are the most important things. To be a librarian, I might be sacrificing a bit of my health. For a person like me, working full time would be a big strain on my mental health at the very least. Having a desk job (sitting still all day) I KNOW would have a big strain on my physical self. Being higher up on totem poles professionally is an isolating thing, by nature. I've never wanted to be in charge of things.

I'm very proud of my peers (Cari, Jeana, Jill, Mark) that have gotten their degrees in library science and gone on to be directors of libraries. That is so cool and they are good at their jobs. They are good at these jobs because they have big ideas and are incredibly smart and outgoing and rad. I love them for it.

I have to be honest with myself about my own abilities, though. I just chose to go back to a job in circulation because it was LESS responsibility. I'm not well-suited to big ideas and outgoingness. There are a lot of really rad people in the world that don't do what society would consider as "important" jobs. I've NEVER cared what kind of job a friend has as long as they're happy. I've seen more unhappy people in jobs of prestige than in jobs of lower status and perceived "drudgery".

I've given up on a lot of things in my life. I'm really quite good at making excuses and I'm on the path to making them about school right now. It's hard to say if I would have ever truly benefited or excelled from any of the things I've given up in my life (piano, flute, jazz dance, soccer, cello, etc) but my life is far from empty without these things.

Yesterday I realized that I'm starting to feel as free and "me" as I did in high school. I've had moments of this thought occurring in the last 6 months or so, but the thought is really becoming reality. I've started bellydancing regularly again...and just dancing for fun again. I danced for hours last night while listening to my radio show. I HAVE a radio show! I really really love it and get more enjoyment out of it than I could ever imagine enjoying being a librarian. The things I enjoy in life have always been simple things anyway. Perhaps if I had stayed in dance classes as a child I would have lost the joy I get now from dancing like an idiot with zero grace or style.

I do regret not learning a musical instrument, though. I feel I am too uncoordinated, but I know it would just take an inordinate amount of dedication...a trait I've had in life, but usually not in applications that involve working with my hands or "manipulating objects in the physical universe".

Have I essentially talked myself out of school? Maybe, but I feel a responsibility to the wonderful women that wrote me references and encouraged me in this endeavor. I feel I should stick out one semester for THEM. I've never been able to follow through when the motivation doesn't come from me, though, so I make no promises. Either way, I'll be fine.

Friday, January 22, 2016

MixtressRae's Top 50 Albums of All Time

The rules I used in figuring out my top 50:

*one artist can't have more than two albums on the list
*no greatest hits
*no soundtracks

They are listed in reverse chronological order from release date. highlighted titles denote a top 10 selection.
Portishead's Dummy is my #1 Favorite Album of All Time. I've listened to it hundreds of times since its release in 1994 and I have never tired of it or skipped a track from it because I didn't want to hear it. That's BIG props.

Grimes // Art Angels
Chelsea Wolfe // Abyss
Grimes // Visions
Scissor Sisters // Night Work
Goldfrapp // Seventh Tree
Chromatics // Night Drive
Yeah Yeah Yeahs // Show Your Bones
Fiona Apple // Extraordinary Machine
Metric // Live It Out
M.I.A. // Arular
Queens of the Stone Age // Lullabies to Paralyze
Air // Talkie Walkie
Goldfrapp // Black Cherry
Tool // Lateralus
Moby // Play
Massive Attack // Mezzanine
Gary Numan // Exile (extended)
Bjork // Homogenic
Delerium // Karma
Cake // Fashion Nugget
Sneaker Pimps // Becoming X
Fiona Apple // Tidal
frente! // shape
Lush // Lovelife
Tori Amos // Boys for Pele
Cibo Matto // Viva! La Woman
Garbage // self-titled
Bjork // Post
PJ Harvey // To Bring You My Love
Veruca Salt // American Thighs
Heather Nova // Oyster
Portishead // Dummy
Nine Inch Nails // The Downward Spiral
Tori Amos // Under the Pink
Nirvana // Unplugged
Sarah McLachlan // Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Mazzy Star // So Tonight That I Might See
PJ Harvey // Dry
Bel Canto // Shimmering, Warm, and Bright
Depeche Mode // Violator
They Might Be Giants // Flood
Peter Gabriel // Passion
The Cure // Disintegration
Kate Bush // Hounds of Love
Depeche Mode // Some Great Reward
Kate Bush // The Dreaming
The Cure // Pornography
Talking Heads // Fear of Music
Roxy Music // Country Life
Brian Eno // Here Come the Warm Jets

Thursday, January 21, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: topics of sexual nature

I received a bit of flack from my last post because it was perceived that I assumed that sex workers had all gotten into their profession from a place of abuse, neglect, and destitution.

I want to clarify a few things here. I don't personally know what this life is like and I am reading a memoir about a woman that reacted to this life in the way that I know I would were I a part of it. I feel that many women that make similar choices probably are doing so as a result of a path that started in neglect, abuse, or destitution.

There is a chasm of difference between a person that's heavily screening clients beforehand and in complete control of their sex work and a person that needs to service tens of men every day to support themselves.

I'm in the process of sorting out how I feel about sex work in general. It is my instinct to say that it is damaging because a woman's body cannot be for sale and until our society respects and accepts women as equals, this situation will likely almost always be bad for the woman in sex work. I cannot imagine it being any other way, unless you truly do have ALL control in an environment in which you do sex work. You cannot completely control these situations and even if you successfully weeded out the abusers as your clients, you wouldn't be seeing enough to make a good living. Perhaps this is a dismal view of our society, but I believe it is accurate.

These are my instincts and I talk about things as I'm processing them. I understand that there are many sex workers that disagree with these statements and my philosophizing about their work means little in comparison to their experience.

I don't place any shame or blame or disrespect on sex workers, only their clients and the society that's made this practice a thing. I have experienced some flavors of the fucked up sexual dynamics of men in a society wherein no is not a word heard by their ears often enough.

I was accused of assuming all women within prostitution are "broken" in my last blog entry. I have a hard time disagreeing with that because I have a hard time believing ANY women in our society aren't broken. I was trying to imagine a way that sex work could be beneficial to a woman that had grown up happy and wasn't under threat of homelessness and was doing the type of sex work that involves many men per day. The part that was harder to imagine even than the part where a person might get benefit, a benefit other than financial, from this profession was the part where a woman had grown up happy, without any incidences of abuse from family, friends, boyfriends, society, etc. That whole and happy woman is a myth, I think. Until our society has true equality she will be like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the Unicorn, a figment of our imaginations. Every single woman I've ever known has been damaged by something or someone that took their choices away from them.

In reading Rachel Moran's memoir, I've been experiencing a lot of emotional echoes from her experience within sex work to my own sexual life that never included getting paid for it. She talks of how she learned how to be a sexual being growing up in this trade. I learned that part of myself in a 5.5 year abusive relationship. I once said to my second partner before our first time together that every time I've ever had sex it has felt like rape. He didn't respond to that statement. Either it didn't seem upsetting to him or he completely misunderstood, but I took it to mean that maybe it wasn't that important. The psychological ramifications of growing up thinking it would all feel like an invasion are vast, as one can imagine. Consent from me didn't become a consistent part of that aspect of my life until partner 3. By then I was 22. Another odd parallel with Moran's story is that this is the age when she got out of sex work. I don't want to suggest that anything I experienced was anywhere near as awful as what she experienced, but I had similar emotional/psychological reactions that she outlines in the book.

Her story is, as a friend said, just that. HERS. But I think it's telling that my perceived experience as a person leading a completely different life feels similar to me. Because the sex life of a girl that is kind-of saying yes can look like that of someone that was very damaged by a lifestyle of sex work. Her experience within that industry matters. Pretending that sex work is full of choices is just not plausible in our society, though there are corners of the internet wherein I feel hopeful that women are doing this work without abuse. I can't believe it's common because I don't even believe that it's very common outside the realm of a man thinking he's bought YOU.

But this isn't me telling someone what to do. This is me theorizing how this type of work would make me feel. This is me experiencing empathy for the way a woman dealt with it.

And on a personal note, as I said above, I process things in writing. Y'all see the process more than the fully formed thoughts most of the time. Because of this, I can be unintentionally insensitive. Intentions matter a lot to me and I am always very open to people calling me out on stuff I may not understand fully. But if you've issues with the way I presented something, please contact me directly. Try to explain your viewpoint from an assumption that I'm probably just ignorant of whatever the issue is. I am NEVER going to be intentionally espousing the view that people should be stripped of their personal choices, though I am having a hard time thinking of sex work (again, there are many different kinds, but here I am speaking of the sex with many men per day type) as being a choice that someone is ever making for reasons other than financial.

It's causing a war within me because I want sex work to be like Inara in Firefly. She was a woman that chose her own clients,was respected in society, paid very handsomely, and enjoyed her work. I want that for sex workers, but I'm afraid we might be lying to ourselves if we think that any more than 10% of them can work this way in our world as it is today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Paid For: thoughts about sex work

I'm reading Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution by Rachel Moran and I'm inclined to believe most of what this insightful and intelligent woman puts forth about sex work in this memoir.

First, how sex work SHOULD work: A sex worker outlines his/her services provided and fees for such services. A sex worker needs to be completely in control of the boundaries and services provided. Terms/fees/services included all set beforehand. Person paying for services rendered respects boundaries/terms set by sex worker. Because of the intimate nature of such work, person providing services can stop at any time. It is still sex and it still requires consent at all times and for each service provided. END OF STORY.

How Moran tells her story is completely NOT like this. Until we live in a non-sexist/feminist society, it can rarely be like this. Until respect is given to all humans as a matter of basic humanity, the story of the majority of sex workers is COMPLETELY different than the paragraph above.

Moran describes sex work the way she and her peers experienced it as Pay-Per-Rape, and I can understand why. Men who pay for sex think they have paid for a person, but they have not. They have paid for a service a person is choosing to provide. Men, because they are the ones in power both in our society as a rule and in the sex-worker/punter relationship (though this should be the other way around), are routinely abusive to women they've paid to provide them with sexual relief. Sex workers are literally raped, beaten, and abused in many other ways routinely. I'm sure it's easy to understand how this dynamic plays out without ever having been on either end of this exchange. It is horrifying, heartbreaking, and a downright awful way for a person to be treated.

Moran was from a family of dysfunction. She ran away at 13 (or thereabouts). She found herself homeless. After sleeping on the streets for a time, and one can imagine how awful being without a home truly is, it was suggested to her by a boyfriend that she could start giving hand relief and blow-jobs for pay. The prospect of having a roof over her head was so enticing that she began sex work at the age of 15.

It's easy to see how this choice (not that the choice itself is wrong, but the abuse she endured for making this choice) made sense for her. She didn't have a home. She had no basis of love and respect from her childhood. There aren't many other jobs available for a girl in her early-to-mid-teens. I could see how maybe this seems like an option for a young girl. To choose sex work as a profession, one would need to be old enough to make this choice for herself, and 15 is too young. I can also imagine how a girl of this age would make this decision. At 15, you don't know how ugly sex can get. You don't know how awful men can be. And then you're in and you're maybe getting beaten and abused and disrespected and seeing your peers on the street getting treated the same way. That's just the men who employ you; there's also the matter of society at large treating you as if you're nothing.

Imagine being 15 and feeling like you had to do something you didn't want to do for money, which is not the case for all sex workers to be sure, but is the case for too many. Imagine every family member and friend you'd go to if you needed a place to stay not being there, or not caring if they are there. Then imagine being treated like a non-person by the people you provide your services to AND society at large. You would feel worthless and everyone around you would be confirming it. This book is truly breaking my heart.

Perhaps in a world where sex workers could set their own terms and received respect of their personal boundaries and their worth as humans within their profession and by society as a whole, things would be very different. I don't know. But I can say with complete certainty that sex workers need our respect and far too many of them may also need our protection.

I don't have personal experience as a sex worker, and I acknowledge that Moran's experience is not every sex worker's experience. Should a person want to do this work, she should be respected and have complete autonomy. This isn't the case for many many women, but I hope that it is the case for many others.

The book has really dispelled a lot of my naive assumptions about sex work, though I am sure to have many more. I am so so sorry to anyone who has been the recipient of sexual abuse, no matter what your profession. My heart breaks for people that have endured this sort of treatment. It is not. fucking. fair.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vehicles of Mass Music Consumption.

At the same time that I am in a full-on embrace of the newest way to consume music (Spotify/subscription music services in general) I have started buying CDs again.

I lost my extensive music collection (upwards of 500+ CDs, dozens of mixtapes, and a crate of records) in the tornado of 2011, but I didn't care much because all of that music lived on my laptop as 1s and 0s anyway.

But now, almost exactly 5 years after I spent the winter of 2011 re-ripping all my CDs in 320kbps, I'm beginning to collect CDs again. I don't have much in the way of what you'd call "disposable" income, so I'm not buying albums I already have. But new music I want to OWN, a concept we don't necessarily even have to partake of in a subscription music world anymore, I've been buying used.

While it's easier than it's ever been to acquire music; (with Spotify I pay a monthly fee of $10 and click on a little + sign next to any music I want to "add to my music") this music is not ours.

My new system of acquiring music goes something like this. I hear music I like. If I really like it, I click that little + button. If I listen to it repeatedly for days, weeks, months, I'll look for it used in the physical format of Compact Disc or Vinyl. If the vinyl comes with a digital download and I really really like it, enough to pay 20 bucks, I do so. More often, if the used CD costs roughly the same as buying the album from iTunes or Google Music digitally, I do that. Having that tangible item that is YOURS cannot compare to the ephemeral ownership of digital downloads. Don't even get me started on DRM...

When you get your new-to-you CD home with you and start to rip it into your digital world you get the choice to store it in any size of digital file you'd like. 320kbps is perfectly acceptable, but for the truly important albums, you can go lossless. That's when your digital music sounds just as good as the CD. This is truly important when you care about sound. When you have invested in a good stereo setup, headphones, etc. If you can tell the difference between a CD's sound quality and your digital files, then physical representations of music are still the way to go and I'm glad I'm going back as a way to go forward.

I still don't own a dedicated CD player unless you count the one in my car, which I don't, because I don't spend much time there at all. Listening to CDs will be difficult until I find a component CD player for my stereo, but I've got a little baby CD collection again, and while it's uneven and strange, it's mine and that's pretty cool. I can lend them to friends. I can put them back on my computer if my computer self-destructs. I can open them up and look at the artwork and read the lyrics.