Erotics

Transgressions: From porn to polyamory

There is not a single individual who does not bear the elements of fascist feeling and thinking in his structure.
Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

The fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization

We are using the policeman’s eye when we can’t see a sex worker as anything but his or her work, as an object to control.
Melissa Gira Grant, Playing the Whore

1. PORNOGRAPHY

If your superego is repressing the import of Giving Godhead, the title of a poetry collection by Dylan Krieger, it is indeed a pun. Puns spill out of her book like a punctured bladder, afterbirth from a womb, or whatever metaphors splatter out of her writhing word swamps, where religious and sexual symbols freely copulate, as in these opening lines from her poem “swaddling plot”:

every sabbath eve in my rape dreams I swaddle christ’s body in spray-on glitter & kitty litter as in, literal pedigree: we bred a savior from king David and a rainstorm spitting brain matter simultaneously baby, rave zombie, and crane-lifted detonator, watch how he weeps for the seepage to fall down — after all, that was what the forty days were all about: god’s very first constipation blackout, when fountains of garden/flood penance blood stopped him up, and all he could muster was bad manna & flames the size of a mustard seed.

The surrealist poets also worked with primeval material, often to witty effect, but their singsong word collages seem contrived by comparison, as if the point is to throw words and phrases together in clever combinations from cut-ups: “…clean out your cockpit of intoxicated spiders / Tear the sexual leaves of grief from your heart / Pluck the feathers of nostalgia from your nipples / Push the slow-moving masochistic mudslide / of contralto voices / from your afternoon skull of anxiety” (Jayne Cortez, in Rosemont). Too often the surrealists seem interchangeable, a pranksters’ poetry drawing its inspiration from the same set of clown suits in the costume shop. At first glance, Krieger might appear to be engaging in similar antics, but there’s more going on in the collective unconscious she taps into, something deeper and scarier than anything Carl Jung cooked up. Hers is a poet’s voice, highly conscious of itself as a musical vehicle, an oral art meant to be read aloud. But even Sylvia Plath’s incantations of violence, unmoored in her madness from the strictures of suburban America though she was, seem tame next to Krieger’s serpentine cadences (from the remainder of “swaddling plot”):

but don’t nitpick this ardently faulty arithmetic for the Old Testicles always give rise to the New — the gospel of it’s-all-true, so are you saved or screwed? bathed or bruised? he became just like a regular jew, except w/ more pinpoints to prove, like perfection according to whom? the narrative arc of this covenant is askew so no more dumping the bodies of godheads I once blew: I’ll wrap them up in exfoliant seaweed and roll them like snow into forts. I can never remember the ending right through — something about cyborg nuns running a whorehouse and a sex act in which I am swallowed whole and then vomited off into satellite orbit

The other 43 poems in the volume are equally unrelenting, outrageous, and if you are religious, blasphemous. They are indeed abstruse, but there’s an advantage to that: they read afresh each time, and their music is richly dissonant. For the benefit of the perplexed, the volume concludes on a more conventional note with a “Sacreligion Manifesto” (all caps are Krieger’s): “TODAY SOMEBODY ASKED ME IF I HAD ANY ‘INTEREST’ IN WRITING ABOUT THINGS OTHER THAN GODDAMN! AND SEXUALITY….PLEASE. SO MAYBE THIS IS ME: THREE PARTS PUNISHMENT JUNKIE AND SEVEN TENTACLES SAD MONSTER-BAITING JUST TO MAKE YOU STARE AWHILE. BUT SERIOUSLY: LANGUAGE IS MY FUCKTOY.”

An effusive New York Times review called Giving Godhead “easily among the most inventive and successfully performative works to appear in living memory” and “the best collection of poetry to appear in English in 2017” (Simmons). I ordered the book and wasn’t disappointed, but the poems were a bit much for me to get through all at once. I savored a few at a time, grew disturbed and set the book aside — not to discard but to mull over it — and finally finished it a year later. The photogenic headshot of Krieger on the back page got me curious, and I looked her up. Besides promoting her books and poetry readings (recorded on vinyl) on her Facebook and Twitter feeds, she poses provocatively, and it turns out, has an OnlyFans page (onlyfans.com/fullserpent), where she performs live striptease. Dubbing herself a “Poet. Sex Worker. Hedonism Guru,” as well as a “left-wing anarchist,” Krieger, who was brought up and homeschooled in a Christian fundamentalist family in Indiana before earning degrees at Notre Dame and Louisiana State University, is remarkably up-front and articulate about her sex work. Whenever people who know her as a poet express shock or dismay upon discovering her pornography credentials, her response is characteristically laconic: “I am equally shocked that they’re shocked! This has always been a part of my personality and my literary identity.” And while she herself avows being immune to shame, “I feel sympathy for other people’s shame. I think that’s a huge part of sex work: Helping people work through shame”:

I’ve always put my sexuality front and center in my work, not just because sex sells, but because I am just as fascinated by it as my audience….I see both poetry and sex work as maximizing the pleasure of their audience while also urging them to face tough truths. Just like everyone else, people who hire sex workers often have sexual hang-ups and insecurities; and facing those things can be difficult. It is the poet’s job, as well as the sex worker’s job, to make that confrontation as memorably pleasurable and insightful as possible. (Interview with Jason Arment)

Dylan Krieger epitomizes the fusion of art and the erotic in several aspects. On its own terms, her poetry is unabashedly sexually explicit, without this in the least diminishing its interest. This is not to confuse it with “erotic poetry,” of the banal sort that purports (and often fails) to arouse. Lewdness is in the eye of the beholder, and the problem is not its pornographic content but our pejorative definitions of pornography. It’s poetry, rather, which affirms the deep intellectual connection between radical art and porn. The graphic arts have long aspired to and converged on sexuality; a trip through the Vatican Museum reveals this in all its schizophrenic splendor. Krieger also lives this fusion in her work and career. She’s not just creating poetry of disarming sexual frankness as a radical act; she’s expanding and recasting her audience through her sex work. It is neither therefore a question of whether pornography is good enough to qualify as “erotic,” nor of artists stooping to the pornographic; it’s not a question of whether sexual explicitness dignifies or diminishes art as if it were merely a matter of style and taste. I would like to flip the terms here to consider the possibility that any form of sexual representation is, by its very nature, artistic. There is no contradiction, no valid distinction, between the erotic and the pornographic, no line of demarcation separating them, except arbitrarily drawn. If not all porn qualifies as art, it is perhaps because it is not pornographic enough.

A notorious case of indisputably pornographic art of the highest caliber is famed Swiss artist H. R. Giger’s gorgeous Work 219: Landscape XX (aka. Penis Landscape) painting, an interlocking series of erect penises penetrating finely rendered splayed vaginas. When the punk rock band Dead Kennedys included the painting as a poster insert in their 1985 Frankenchrist album, they were charged under the California penal code with distributing harmful material to minors, and the album was removed from record stores across the U.S. As with the Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano (“Piss Christ”) controversies of the same decade, it’s telling that pornography was still politically relevant and its more accomplished specimens able to elicit the kind of inflammatory public reactions that the fine arts are no longer capable of since Modernism’s heyday a century ago. But now three decades on, amidst the deluge of commercial porn on the Internet, pornography’s shock value is no longer a matter of aesthetics. As the state reasserts its power to legislate sexuality, the terms of the debate have shifted ominously and exclusively to matters of criminality, trafficking, and corruption of minors.

Nothing pleases the state more than to strip porn of any legitimacy and to align public opinion on its side. Whereas most tolerate porn as low-brow entertainment, how could cheap X-rated material presume to have the slightest aesthetic value, when the creators of porn themselves would probably dismiss the notion that their business had anything to do with art? Regarding the most casual forms of lewd reproduction, people sexting their body parts to each other with their cellphones, for instance, it’s true that not much effort, much less artistic sensibility, tends to go into this. Then again we don’t really call that porn. To qualify as “porn,” a certain level of professionalism is assumed and required. Even the internet category of “amateur porn” is curated for its quality and survives on the basis of some kind of merit and audience ratings. Some porn is better than other porn and some porn is actually very good. The best commercial porn, in fact, has very high production values. It may not be to everyone’s taste, obviously. I for one find most of it lacking in interest, though good porn I find exquisite. But even the bad acting, silicone breasts, and repetitive choreography of run-of-the-mill porn works for many people and is not an argument against the aesthetic value of porn. I suppose many porn producers do consider themselves artists. They could be said to stand in the same relationship to “art,” conventionally understood, as graphic designers do; the most brilliant among them are highly sought after and paid.

What all porn has in common is a fascination with the naked body in its primal state of desire. Porn captures the entire body’s natural beauty, all its crevices included, and the beauty of its coupling with other bodies. There is an intensity to the sexual moment, and representing it is to enshrine it. Sexual activity is replicable enough, yet paradoxically there can never be enough. That’s why there is so much porn, always has been, going back thousands of years in sexually explicit artifacts discovered all over the world, and always will be.

People are sexually pulled in different directions. What is singular about porn? What draws performers to it, rather than to other transgressive sexualities like prostitution or bondage? Before tackling this question, we must confront the assumption, and divest ourselves of the lie, fashionable of late, that sex work is inherently degrading, and all people who engage in it are victims of “trafficking.” Anti-pornography and anti-prostitution activists alike are notoriously, comically, indifferent toward, and ignorant of, the very people they describe as “victims.” They are sexual fascists, and like all fascists seek out contentious, hot-button causes to raise their profile with the goal of obtaining political power for draconian ends. If my way of characterizing these activists seems extreme, well, they are extreme. It’s one thing to be outraged by genuine trafficking, namely the moving of people across borders to make them more exploitable, sometimes to the point of outright slavery — Bangladeshi men, for instance, locked in foreign construction sites under brutal conditions, or Philippine maids confined to the homes of wealthy Middle-Eastern families for round-the-clock work, no pay, and sexual abuse. It’s another to equate every instance of sex for money, whether it involves downloading porn, visiting a strip club, or being erotically massaged, as “trafficking,” the person providing the sexual content or service as a “victim,” and all other parties in the transaction including the customer or consumer as “traffickers.” The lonely nerd with his digital collection of AV idols is thus equated with major operatives in the human slave trade. This absurd, mendacious rhetoric and willful distortion of language bears little relation to reality and is insulting to those who proudly choose sexual employment and those who would engage them as customers. The problem, however, is that these activists have gained inordinate power and constitute a serious legal threat and danger (for more background on the trafficking controversy, see Bernstein; Grant; Halperin & Hoppe; Lancaster; Rubin).

Urges are manifold and mysterious. We are virtually powerless to alter the path our sexuality thrusts us upon. I will be returning to this point below in discussing prostitution and polyamory. But to give one example of the epic force of sexual compulsion, I became involved with a Chinese female graduate student years ago in Beijing who simply could not get aroused unless spanked, and spanked long and hard, sustained spanking to the point of bruising. This created problems as I not only had little inclination to satisfy her in this way, I lacked the strength and technique to carry it out. I tried to more than once, but spanking, whipping, and other S/M activities require a surprising amount of skill. In the meantime, she was applying to Ph.D. programs in music history in the UK and accepted an offer at one school. I pointed her to the alt.com website, and she was able to hookup with a man of a similar bent who invited her to live with him for free in exchange for housework and serving as his slave. She was quite happy with the arrangement after getting settled in England, she later told me, and I was happy for her. When people fail to actualize their sexuality, they turn into a shell of themselves, in their sexual depression (unless graced with a weak sexual drive). When on the other hand sexual urges find their outlet, it is striking how they enliven and animate people; they become one’s raison d’être. That is why sexual proclivities are so intractable and irrepressible.

The predominant urge driving people into commercial porn, according to its many practitioners, is exhibitionism. Author and porn activist Jiz Lee invited 55 fellow performers, some quite famous in the porn world, to submit their accounts of “coming out” to their families and communities, and compiled them into an edifying volume, Coming Out Like a Porn Star. Sheer sexual freedom and publicly sharing and celebrating this freedom — the ultimate expression of exhibitionism — are common themes. As contributor Phoenix Askani remarks, “It was so incredibly freeing to be naked in front of a crew and do something that felt so exhilarating and natural to me while knowing it would later be distributed and on the Internet, available to even more eyeballs….My friends were mostly supportive and knew how in-tune with my sexuality I was and had heard me speak of my desire to express it on a grander scale.” Likewise contributor Verta: “What I loved so much about the idea of doing porn is there is no typical porn star. They’re all humans, from different backgrounds, whose common denominator is exhibitionism. To me, having sex for money was not at the top of my list of reasons for going into this industry. All I wanted was to enter a community of people who Get It.”

One point of contention among pro-porn activists is the sameness and crassness, in a male-dominated industry, of so much of commercial porn. As entrepreneur Cindy Gallop describes it, “when total freedom of access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s equally total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex,” porn becomes, “by default, the sex education of today. In not a good way” (cited in Lee). To counter the lowbrow norm with something more authentic and creative, to capture “what goes on in the real world, in all its funny, messy, wonderful, ridiculous, beautiful humanness,” Gallop launched an online forum for viewers to upload their own homemade porn, only requiring the contributors to adhere to the curators’ criteria of “the sex you have in your everyday life naturally and spontaneously, without performing for the camera” (https://makelovenotporn.tv).

Porn is inescapably a fraught subject in the internet age. Enthusiasts along with free-speech advocates contend that no matter how outrageous or extreme, porn is safely contained behind the screen of representation. Others claim that porn is anything but harmless; we refer to the assault on young people of porn’s brash, potent imagery, allegedly shaping, constricting, and distorting their sexuality. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many, if not most, men do seem to prefer women with the bodies and looks of porn stars, and expect their sex partners to match their facility in bed. But the causal relationship between porn and imitative behavior is nonetheless tentative and dubious. In my mid-teens, I once lined my bedroom walls with Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds, but even then I knew that the models were only that, models, whereas real women’s bodies were infinitely varied. The air-brushed centerfolds soon palled and I outgrew this phase after a year or two. I preferred older women in my youth, and always women with natural, unshaven bodies in all their glorious permutations. I’ve ever enjoyed the prospect of a unique and different woman, in both mind and body, from what I’ve experienced before. I have my physical tastes, but there is no ideal body type, and finally what matters most is the erotic personality, which can make the most physically unappealing person deliriously seductive. However, I cannot speak for others, and the mass media are admittedly potent in their effects. Instead of condemning the deleterious impact of porn on impressionable youth, we ought to get our priorities straight and confront the far more insidious impact of brute violence in the media and ask why a constant barrage of machinegun fire and explosions must serve as the predominant attention-grabbing visual motifs in American TV, film and video games. But I believe it’s safe to say that most people are bound by the reality principle, and a steady diet of porn or Hollywood violence doesn’t cause them to act out in their life what they see on film.

The issue of porn and free speech, and that of sexual expression and rights more generally, leads us to another area of contention that must be addressed. That is the question of limits and extreme taboos. There is a nether region of sexuality that civil society understandably condemns and forbids: sexual harassment and violence, adult seduction and abuse of minors, and other perversions such as bestiality, necrophilia, and incest (though incest among consenting adult siblings is arguably tolerable). Outlier individuals whose urges drive them down these alleys there are indeed, and all that can be said for them is tough luck. Obviously, not all urges are defensible. Advocates of sexual liberation must clearly draw the line and pull back from the abyss. One abyss causing intensive concern in the porn world today is the Dark Web, with its obscure lairs where pedophiles and child-porn collectors congregate. Regular media reports from law enforcement suggest that the Dark Web is churning, exploding, with child porn. I am admittedly ignorant of the true extent of this problem and cannot comment about it with any expertise as I have never visited the Dark Web, nor am I acquainted to my knowledge with anyone who has, at least for this nefarious purpose.

We must bear in mind, though, that in the name of fighting crime, the government frequently hypes dangers to extend its disciplinary hold over the population. It also has a penchant for stretching the definition of “porn” well beyond any dictionary sense. For instance, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott threatened to prosecute “to the fullest extent of the law” those responsible for distributing to minors the allegedly pornographic memoirs Genderqueer by Maia Kobabe and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, both freely available on Amazon (the former a bestseller and the latter an “Editors’ pick”), merely because they involve gay and lesbian relationships (Brooks). And of course, child sex scares, particularly in the U.S., have a way of blowing up into gigantic proportions which are then readily politicized by groups such as QAnon, a fascist cult whose adherents apparently believe that the Democratic Party annually abducts hundreds of thousands of children for ritual sexual abuse and blood sacrifice (Lavin). I am thus suspicious that law enforcement exaggerates the child porn threat to justify cracking down on the entire porn business, exactly as it exaggerates the “trafficking” threat in order to crack down on prostitution.

2. PROSTITUTION

Early in George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, Will Ladislaw’s German companion Adolf Naumann runs up to him in a corridor of the Vatican Museum to announce the entrancing object he has just espied, not a masterpiece of painting or sculpture but of nature,

a breathing blooming girl, whose form, not shamed by the Ariadne, was clad in Quakerish gray drapery; her long cloak, fastened at the neck, was thrown backward from her arms, and one beautiful ungloved hand pillowed her cheek, pushing somewhat backward the white beaver bonnet which made a sort of halo to her face around the simply braided dark-brown hair. She was not looking at the sculpture, probably not thinking of it: her large eyes were fixed dreamily on a streak of sunlight which fell across the floor.

Gesturing from the Sleeping Ariadne sculpture, a famous copy of a Roman original, to the newly discovered object of desire, Naumann exclaims: “There lies antique beauty, not corpse-like even in death, but arrested in the complete contentment of its sensuous perfection: and here stands beauty in its breathing life….” I have elsewhere dubbed this the “museum paradox”: renowned masterpieces in the greatest museums pale next to the intrusion of a physically attractive fellow visitor. Caress it for all it’s worth, the lushness of that painted or sculpted flesh is trapped beneath the impenetrable wall of representation (the same wall of torment separating the viewer of porn from the performer). In their shared contemplation, however, the viewers are brought into intimate proximity. When the intruder happens to be hot, the sheen, the fragrance, of this new creature standing by your side overwhelms and obscures the dead object in front of you. No matter how ideally rendered, the image of beauty can’t compete with reality.

Aggressive males of a more cultured stamp haunt the palaces of the unacquainted to take advantage of these fleeting moments of spontaneous intimacy and work their charm upon the solitary museumgoer. But unless you act fast and have a way with words, and the attraction is mutual and the scene propitious, that lovely presence standing next to you is also out of reach. In fact, just about every attractive person you see around you as you go about your day is out of reach. There are simply too many obstacles standing in the way. You have to contend with people’s natural shyness and fear of public interaction, blind devotion to their significant other and corresponding indifference to strangers, and ingrained habits of social propriety and etiquette. In the rare instances when feelings are reciprocated, you then have to contend with the convoluted and usually hopeless procedure of wooing the already attached, which likelihood stands in direct proportion to their attractiveness.

Prostitution cuts through all of this like a knife. It delivers the living, breathing object to you instantly. This is its raison d’être — and its fascination. The fascination is mutual, and this explains the peculiar allure of this form of sex work. Prostitutes who enjoy their work find the immediacy of the sexual encounter every bit as exciting and arousing as do their customers. Bars and parties can’t compete, where it turns out to be as difficult to score a hot person as in a museum. The porn and tech worlds can’t compete. There are indeed big plans for “virtual sex” — people copulating with holographic images, body sensors allowing couples to “feel” each other at a distance, massage by mechanical hands operated remotely, and in the pipeline, affordable sexbots of astounding sophistication. I’m sure all these toys will be fun, but no, they will never, ever replace having a real person in your arms.

On the subject of technology, incidentally, another paradox might be called the “Bill Gates paradox,” not to single out this particular icon but to make a general observation about really smart people, the entrepreneurs and the gurus of the tech world, so idolized and lionized in our time to the exclusion of almost everyone else, so that we all feel like second-class citizens and rather stupid next to them. And yet, when it comes to their sex lives, they are often the most ordinary, bumbling oafs, conservative without knowing why and bound to the most blinkered notions, at the utter mercy of rampant fantasies and possibly emotionally retarded as well, with all their intelligence concentrated in one half of their brain while they crawl uncomprehendingly through their relationships with their reptilian other half.

A word on terminology. Many prostitutes now eschew the term in favor of “escort,” “sex worker,” “contact sex worker,” “in-person sex worker,” “full-service sex worker,” even “somatic therapist.” To reject the term, however, only serves to reinforce its negativity — and the unfortunate, widespread assumption that prostitution is bad and wrong. I reject the negative associations of the term, not the term itself. I believe in restoring its positivity, specificity, and distinctiveness, something along the lines of the courtesan, a term that has also fallen out of favor. Another reason for retaining the old term is that “sex worker” is too broad; it includes people in the porn, striptease, bondage, and massage businesses, as well as prostitutes. To avoid ambiguity, I employ a perfectly adequate and recognized word of historical coinage, the prostitute.

When people comment on the profession, they tend to decry it with emotional expressions — “pathetic,” “demeaning,” “degrading,” and so forth. I suspect they don’t really know why they object to it, other than to parrot what everyone else says. But however much I rack my brain, I cannot find any rationale, ethically or otherwise, as to why people should not be able to freely and legally exchange sex for money. Fear, I believe, underlies much of the hostility toward prostitution. If the profession were decriminalized, normalized, valued, and celebrated, I’d guess that a lot of women, a frightening number of women, women you know and could never imagine, would take it up (and men as well; I’m sticking to females here since that’s where the fear lies). And they would have good reason to, given their lousy treatment under patriarchy right up through the present, with their thousands of hours of unpaid labor at home and the gender pay gap in the workplace, not to mention the myriad forms of discrimination they face on a daily basis. Nothing restores power and autonomy to women more than the full control over their bodies that sex work affords, provided of course they are free agents. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the bourgeois family is already a form of prostitution, and that of the worst kind, where the husband, in his dual role as customer and pimp, has a lifelong claim over his prostitute and usually declines to remunerate her financially for her sexual and household labor.

As one sex worker has noted, the profession with the most natural affinity to the prostitute is the psychologist: “What a good sex worker and a good therapist share is the gift of their professional attention to something most of us do intuitively. If they’re any good at what they do, they can set themselves aside to focus on you, the client” (Davina). I’d expand this to include women in the arts and academia. The intellectual courtesan, the artistic courtesan, has a storied tradition not just in Asia which perhaps first comes to mind, but in Europe as well. The European prostitute — whether called “courtesan” or “whore” (the latter was regarded affectionately and the terms often interchangeable) — was highly valued for her culture and society. “The libertine whore,” as Kathryn Norberg remarks on her apex in seventeenth and eighteenth-century France, “is well read and sophisticated….The warrior, the lawyer, the financier and especially the philosopher share their wisdom with the whore. A student of pleasure, the prostitute is also a student of philosophy, in particular of the Enlightenment materialism that colors so much of this libertine literature.”

This tradition of the prostitute as radical thinker and philosopher needs resurrecting, and intellectual women are best poised to do this and set an example for all women. Prostitution is more than an exercise in freedom, drawing people together for sexual and philosophical communion and enabling and easing this through the exchange of money. The discovery of it, the decision to venture upon it, in the process peeling off layers of ideological conditioning to reveal the stultifying creed of monogamism at its core, is a profoundly intellectual act. The intricate challenge of meshing sex work with one’s existing career, whether professor, therapist, or housewife, and coming out openly to friends and marketing oneself on social media or discreetly through word of mouth, are all vital choices requiring a revolution of the mind.

A proper understanding of paid sexuality cannot, of course, ignore the question of violence, above all in the U.S. with its stringent anti-trafficking laws, whose effect is only to reinforce violence against sex workers. As noted above, mainstream discourse on sex work is presently dominated by the strident anti-prostitution camp, who’ve drowned out more reasoned voices. As they characterize it, wherever she exists in the world the sex worker is inexorably enslaved and brutalized. The rhetorical tactic regularly adopted (e.g., MacKinnon), designed to elicit maximum moral outrage, is to ignore what sex workers themselves have to say and cherry-pick the most abject, mute examples of female exploitation, typically in impoverished countries, and hold them up as representative of all sex workers. As one sex worker describes this rhetoric:

The sex work debate, no matter how sedate and sympathetic its interlocutors claim it to be, is a spectacle. It attracts an audience with the lure of a crisis—prostitution sweeping the nation!—and a promise of doing good by feeling terrible. Sad stories about sex work are offered like sequins, displayed to be admired and then swept off the stage when the number is done. As a treat, the organizers may even decide to invite a token whore to perform. (Grant)

To shore up their argument that the prostitute is a perpetual victim of violence, stereotypically at the hands of the pimp who relieves her of her daily earnings and smacks her back into obedience if she dares protest, requires the anti-sex work crowd to posit that the sex worker is by definition “trafficked,” held captive, and enslaved. When the evidence shows, on the contrary, that sex workers enter into the work of their own accord, it is countered that they delude themselves into believing they are free agents, because in fact they are compelled into the trade out of economic necessity, forced into the only job that pays enough to enable them to stay financially afloat. This specious reasoning begs the question of why so many people live paycheck to paycheck and are often drowning in debt yet manage to refrain from going into sex work. Women have the power to refuse to engage in anything against their will; to be truly forced into prostitution, they would have to be kidnapped and shackled. There are indeed abusive pimps in the lower echelons of the trade. But the norm is to work for a boss or madam in a mutually beneficial arrangement, and many sex workers actually enjoy their work and wouldn’t do anything else.

Singling out the cartoonish figure of the pimp as an explanatory bogeyman in fact serves to obscure and hence reinforce the sway of actual violence over the sex worker. If it were merely the violence of the pimp, that is, of certain pimps, the pitfalls of prostitution might be considerably ameliorated; the prostitute would only have to step out of her harmful relationship. The larger problem, however, is that those who should be protecting them, the police, and those who should be enjoying them, their customers, are quite as capable of violence as the pimp, and their violence, particularly that of customers, is more pervasive and unpredictable. With her decades of experience as a sex worker in the U.S., Lola Davina spends the first chapter of Thriving in Sex Work, her popular manual on the profession, giving the rundown on minimizing violence at the hands of both “clients” (a term favored by escorts over “customers”) and the police, though “most cops,” she notes, “don’t want to arrest sex workers,” having more important things to do; many cops are their clients.

Law enforcement has long had an ambivalent relationship with prostitution. Outright physical assault and harassment of streetwalkers and masseuses (of the shadier sort of parlor) by the police varies from locale to locale, and their personalities. Police are human and can be brutal towards sex workers for the same reasons as customers: they can’t control themselves, they calculate they can get away with it towards those engaged in illegal activity, or they may truly believe the prostitute deserves it. Cops’ hostility and mistreatment can also take passive-aggressive forms, as when they decline to come to the aid of prostitutes in distress. Online platforms provide a measure of protection for in-person sex work but are a double-edged sword. Though Twitter officially prohibits ads for prostitution, escorts skirt around this by providing their private contact information. America’s most liberal major social media site is in fact useful as a tool for weeding out bad customers. Sex workers have a way of getting around; they tend to all know each other and look out for each other, wherever they hail from. Trolls who harass their Twitter feeds, would-be customers who are rude, and the odd client from hell who slips through their screening process, soon find themselves blacklisted as their screenshots and identities go viral in the adult Twittersphere. But if you’ve ever wondered why escort services are allowed to advertise at all when prostitution is supposed to be illegal, the police depend upon these ads to gain information about sex workers and surveil them.

In Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work, sex-worker activist Melissa Gira Grant’s theory of “acceptable violence” is one way of framing the issue of sex work’s fraught relationship with the law. Prostitutes are tolerated, even necessitated or “produced” for the benefit of society, precisely so that they can be punished as negative exemplars of dissipation and harm, and law-abiding citizens accordingly made fearful and attentive to the moral imperatives of the state:

The stigma and violence faced by sex workers are far greater harms than sex work itself….Prostitution marks out the far reach of what’s acceptable for women and men, where rights end and violence is justice. This is accepted as the cost of protecting those most deserving of protection. Opponents of sex work decry prostitution as a violent institution, yet concede that violence is also useful to keep people from it….To truly confront this type of violence would require us to admit that we permit some violence against women to be committed in order to protect the social and sexual value of other women.

The more violent the society, the more sex workers bear the brunt of this violence. It’s above all a problem in the most violent of developed nations, the United States. Not only, of course, sex workers. We are acutely aware of the endemic problem of male violence against women, not just that inflicted by psychopaths, but above all intimate partner violence. If men find it so easy to beat their wives or girlfriends, how much easier it must be to beat up a prostitute. Then there are all the normal, well-adjusted gentlemen who don’t beat up their partners, who know how to compartmentalize their rage and let off a bit of steam by channeling it away from the domestic hearth and onto the prostitute. We may forgive these men for they know not what they do (all the easier if hatred of the prostitute has our unconditional support), but I’m going to have to complicate things here. The problem is not just that of misogyny. Violence toward the prostitute is a function of fascism.

The fascist state is at its most optimum when it has enough popular support to delegate its dirty work to ordinary folk. In Nazi Germany, ordinary folk were given brown uniforms and swastika armbands and called Brownshirts. In Trump’s America, they are given red MAGA caps and form armed Christian militias (Villarreal). But they don’t actually need uniforms and operate more effectively behind the scenes, when you don’t know who they are. They themselves don’t have to know who they are, or that they are being employed by the state to do its bidding (all the better if they don’t know, as they can be relied on to work for free). Fascism has evolved over the past century into subtler forms; it no longer crudely trumpets itself a la Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, parading the entire nation by the nose. When it isn’t outsourcing its violence to other countries in overt or covert warfare, it offloads its rage onto the disadvantaged at home — racial and ethnic minorities and sexual deviants (historically the two often get conflated). Sexually independent women, perhaps the greatest symbolic (and potentially real) threat to fascism, are smacked down through socially tolerated harassment and violence, and as tolerance for this shrinks in the #MeToo era, other outlets must be found. Sex workers are still fair game for assault. Echoing what the Jews received at the hands of good Germans: they only bring it onto themselves. It’s not the police who are primarily responsible for this; this work is delegated to customers. But even as the customer doesn’t know why he does it, his coiled fist released against the prostitute is not haphazard or random but draws its thrust and power from the state; he is himself the fist of the state.

3. POLYAMORY

Nothing is more logical than polyamory. Consider, for starters, the reasons why the extended family — vertically encompassing three generations — is manifestly superior to the nuclear family. The nuclear family is an isolated unit, with the burden of household labor and childrearing falling heavily on two people, the parents. The extended family adds two, possibly four, retired people with time on their hands to take on these responsibilities, freeing up the parents to devote themselves to their day jobs. Grandparents are well poised to educate children with their life experience and wisdom; in return, surrounded by loved ones, they are less lonely, and assistance in the event of accidents or infirmity is close at hand. The common objections to the extended family are intergenerational friction and the lack of privacy. But this does not invalidate the extended family; it’s a commentary on our distorted expectations of privacy in modern times. Finally, by pooling resources, the family saves money. This of course can cut both ways. In the U.S., retirement pensions seem to be on the way out as more and more people are confined to jobs in the gig economy, and paltry Social Security payments can force the retired to depend on their children financially. However, this is not always so; many grandparents may be in a better position to help their children than the other way around. In any case, the U.S. is not representative of most countries, which tend to have better social safety nets.

Polyamory reaps the benefits of the extended family by extending it horizontally, joining two families into one. Or more than two families, the only constraints being the size of the kitchen and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the degree of complexity members are willing to take on in managing the family. The same advantages of the vertically extended family apply to the horizontally extended, or polyamorous, family, and more: the conviviality of a big dinner table and the relish of food prepared by different hands; the costs saved from the pooling of resources, along with the pooling of skills, trades, and backgrounds; greater opportunity for social and sexual interaction for those frequently denied these, the elderly and the severely disabled; the benefits to children of a multiple-family household (attested by a fifteen-year longitudinal study by the sociologist Elisabeth Sheff); and the checks and balances of differing adult viewpoints and outlooks, seeding a wider array of ideas and safeguarding against tyrannical parenting and neurotic behaviors hidden away in the isolated nuclear family.

I would add that my characterization of the insular nuclear family as potentially harmful to its members could actually be seen as a gross understatement. Wilhelm Reich called the nuclear family a “factory” or “incubator” of fascism, a point elaborated by Shiri Eisner:

Most violence perpetrated against women, as well as children, happens within heteronormative families. Intimate violence, sexual violence, spousal rape, spousal murder, incest, violence against children, and economic violence are only some of the horrors that marriage is designed to contain….Marriage is also used as an instrument of control by the state and government. Dividing its subjects into minimal units keeps people as separate from one another as possible. Minimizing communities in this way makes it harder for people to oppose the state or government, keeping it safe from civil uprisings. In addition, heteronormative families serve as convenient production units, manufacturing productive citizens, workers for the capitalist system, and soldiers for the military. Most people learn to love and serve their governments first and foremost within their families, through “educational values” such as patriotism, nationalism, militarism, and capitalism.

The multiple-parent family is not immune to these same influences and is potentially susceptible to something even worse — group coercion and cult formation. But people who are consciously polyamorous usually carry within them democratic principles and a healthy sense of communitarianism as a check against this.

Now, polyamory may stop here, contenting itself with the communal meshing and mingling of several couples and their children in the daytime, while each nuclear unit retreats to their private sphere at night. Or it may go further. If two couples (I will keep things simple) willingly and enthusiastically go to the length of merging their daily lives and perhaps their finances as well, if mutual fondness and compatibility have brought them this far, then it’s not such a stretch to imagine them popping open another bottle of wine and interacting on a more intimate level — romantically and sexually. Indeed, to become “nesting partners” may have been the intention all along, and the reason why they sought each other out in the first place.

Nothing is more logical than polyamory, and nothing is more radical than polyamory. Polyamory is fluid, and this is terrifying to monogamy, which is rigid. Polyamory is negotiable and allows for sexual interaction or not as the parties are so inclined; monogamy is non-negotiable. What’s radical isn’t so much the more daring forms of polyamory, such as the sexually communal household, “whose members,” for example, “have decided that in the event of pregnancy, all the men will have parenting duties,” and “the woman will get a paternity test to determine the biological father,” as polyamorists Veaux and Rickert describe. What’s more radical is the fluidity and elasticity of the concept itself. However it is carried out in practice, the very idea of polyamory is existentially threatening to monogamy. There is no requirement that those in poly relationships, whether involving three, four, or more people, live communally; they may all live separately. A poly relationship may be as simple as a “V,” where one person in a couple, the “pivot,” is involved with a third person or “metamour,” and there is no contact between the latter and the pivot’s other half. What is required and what differentiates such a triad from a traditional love triangle, or from cheating, is that all three are aware of the arrangement and approve of it. Or two poly couples may engage erotically only on occasion, without it altering their normal lives, as among the polyamorous in conservative communities who are wary of “coming out.” This more sporadic version of polyamory might seem indistinguishable from swinging; the difference is that poly couples tend to work harder at cultivating each other on more than just the sexual plane.

There is no agreed-upon set of rules or requirements for polyamory, only the principle that human relationships are more fulfilling and enlivening when three or more people engage in the same ways monogamous couples do. Polyamory includes monogamy in that it accommodates couples who consider themselves monogamous but are polycurious and experimental enough to loosen some of the shackles of sexual exclusivity. But to arrive at this insight nonetheless constitutes a momentous conceptual breakthrough: the realization that monogamy is no longer needed.

The millennia-old regime of conjugal psychological terror known as monogamy is finally, we hope, embarking on its historical endgame and the opening phase of its collapse. The best way to understand monogamy is to see it for what it is: a faith, a dogma, a religion — the religion of monogamism. Monogamism has such a grip on society because it underlies all patriarchal religions. It even ensnares atheists. It’s the Ur-religion, molding itself from an early age to your very conception of reality so that you are enjoined to follow its dictates without realizing it. You believe in exclusive happiness with one lifelong partner and only one lifelong partner for no other reason than you’ve always believed it, and your parents believe it. Yet it’s a belief as illusory, arbitrary, and contrary to nature and reason as belief in any of the garden-variety deities proffered by organized religion, distinguishable only by the different styles of rags worn by their prophets.

Granted, many monogamous couples are truly sufficient unto themselves and would find the notion of tinkering with their domesticity simply redundant. More power to the lucky few who find their soulmate and remain faithful out of sheer love. Nor should we discount the many who have difficulty enough making it through the day, for whom life is complex enough as it is and the prospect of venturing beyond monogamy exhausting. Remember, though, that polyamory is an option, not an imposition. Monogamism, by contrast, is equivalent to dictating that for obscure ethical or cultural reasons, once you choose your major in college you must accept a lifelong career in the same and can only get out of it in a court of law, or that to preserve a neighborhood’s pride in its long-standing residents, you may never move out of your first purchased home, or that for the sake of shielding the citizenry from corrupt foreign influences you aren’t allowed to travel abroad. In any other context this would be regarded as totalitarianism, or something akin to old-school communism. Yet you would embrace totalitarianism in marriage as common sense and blithely count yourself among the faithful.

The most potent antidote to monogamism is bisexuality, which lies at the core of polyamory. Bisexuality implies love of a third person; one cannot be bisexual without violating traditional monogamy. When a couple brings a third person into their life in a shared sexual capacity, and one of them is of different sex or gender, someone is being bi. Poly relationships build on the idea of bisexuality, if not always carry it out in practice. There is a well-known conundrum in the poly movement that females are far more likely to be bi than males. When a couple takes on a woman she typically has sex with them both, but if it’s a man, the two males can hardly bring themselves to get physical with each other, even if their female partner desires it. I suppose there’s some comfort in their willingness to go this far and get naked in close proximity, but it’s not an ideal state of affairs when male heterosexual anxiety straightjackets the polyamorous “throuple” from fully engaging. Then there are, of course, exclusively gay poly relationships, and gay sexuality has its own role to play in the undoing of monogamism, but I concur with Shiri Eisner that the gay rights movement’s endorsement of gay marriage, as its main ticket to social respectability, is reactionary and backwards.

Bisexuality is progressive and vital because it implies and initiates conceptual momentum. People become bi, not the other way around; people don’t become straight after their eyes are opened. People do experiment with bi encounters before settling down in heterosexual marriage, but they never lose the idea or the longing. In this respect polyamory is a kind of advanced bisexuality, opening up its potential, transmuting it further into something so elaborate that monogamy fades into irrelevance. But precisely because they catalyze change, bisexuality and polyamory alike usher in uncertainty. That’s actually a good thing, as it makes participants work harder at their relationships rather than take them for granted. Sometimes people move on. The two couples who move in together and share each other may end up switching partners. People who embark on polyamory understand the inherent instability of multiple and simultaneous relationships. Many thrive on this shifting territory, seeking out change and personal growth through close involvement with new people and benefiting from their influence. Veaux and Rickert call this the “game-changer”: “When we open our hearts to multiple relationships, every now and then someone comes along who changes everything…They upset existing arrangements. People confronted with a game-changing relationship will not be likely to remain happy with old rules and agreements for long; the definition of a game-changing relationship is that it reshuffles priorities.”

One game-changer is the portentous arrival of the exceptionally attractive person, possibly sexually and intellectually charismatic as well, drawing everyone’s eager attention. The experienced polyamorous pride themselves on their ability to manage jealousy and keep this destructive force under a tight leash. Indeed, they even take pleasure in a partner’s new lover, a novel emotion dubbed “compersion.” But the entrance of a hot person onto the scene inevitably stirs up fear and envy among everyone since she commands choice; she can take her pick of anyone and she knows it (I take the female as my example but it may equally apply to the male). Even when she devotes herself to one “polycule,” her commitment is provisional; she has nothing to lose and everything to gain by moving on to ever more interesting people. Her privilege may make her impatient, preventing her from reciprocating intimacy and inadvertently sparking tension among the rest. This is where sex work has a role to play in polyamory. By offering her body for a fee, the hot female can apportion her intimacy more evenly among everyone. This would tamp down jealousy and competitiveness as she would be limiting and regulating her multiple ties in a transparent way. It would also solve the problem of the “unicorn,” polyamory’s ironic term for the virtually unattainable, and hence mythical, hot female willing to satisfy hetero couples’ common fantasy for their perfect bi plaything — unattainable because no one wants to be used in this way. Unless, that is, for a little tip.

I suspect that many polyamorists would be aghast at this suggestion, just as they would squirm at being yoked to an essay on pornography and prostitution. Isn’t the whole purpose of polyamory to open up sexual possibilities beyond the confines of monogamy in an organic way? Wouldn’t this laudable goal be contaminated and poisoned by money? But the objection to sex work is predicated on nothing other than the tautological idea that it is objectionable. With a bit of imagination, we are free to reject the presupposition, the prejudice that sex work is bad, and view it instead not as a problem but as a solution to a problem. Sex work and polyamory are not necessarily incompatible; they are both logical solutions to the intractable problem of monogamy. They add two indispensable battalions to the forces of sexual transgression in its war against conventional propriety, and the sexual fascism at the heart of convention. It’s a culture war, but with real casualties. At the front, in the trenches, in their harlequin uniforms of golden hair, silver lipstick and sequined miniskirts, are the most emboldened of the sexual radicals, trans women prostitutes, especially Black trans women, who visibly embody everything insulting and frightening to entrenched morality — racial antagonism, sexual commerce, gender confusion — which lashes out at these beautiful souls and dumps their bodies in back alleys; 47 cases of murdered transgendered people were reported in the US in 2021, the highest number yet and likely an underestimate (Cohen). As polyamorists Easton and Liszt note, “many of our dearest friends work in the sex industry, doing essential and positive work healing the wounds inflicted by our sex-negative culture,” while the transgendered “can also tell us a lot about how differently other people treat you when they see you as a man, or as a woman. Perforce, transgendered people become experts at living in a very hostile world. No other sexual minority is more likely to suffer direct physical oppression in the form of queer-bashing.”

Sexual transgression is routinely condemned and punished by society, and all the more severely the healthier and more liberatory its forms of expression are. Hiatuses of relative sexual freedom are always contingent and ready to backslide as the forces of reaction gain the upper hand. Gay rights have made dramatic advances in many countries over the past half-century, primarily in the developed West. It’s easy to forget how atrociously gays had been treated in the U.S. and the UK prior to that when the revelation that a person was homosexual was utterly scandalous and devastating to their career. Recall the great Englishman Alan Turing’s (possibly suicidal) death from chemical castration in 1954, whose code-breaking genius helped turn the tide against the Nazis in World War Two, due to another brand of fascism, the sexual fascism of the British Government. Sexual liberation generally, including the freedom to practice polyamory, has followed not so much from the “free love” culture of the sixties, as from Stonewall 1969 and the arduous political fight for these rights spearheaded by gays and the transgendered. Everyone who regards sexual freedom as important — you don’t have to be gay to appreciate this — owes the gay rights movement ongoing gratitude for their courage and sacrifices, which we all benefit from. (At the same time, those fond of ridiculing free love as a hippie cliché should beware of inadvertently ventriloquizing the voice of the state.)

Polyamory is still relatively new — the term wasn’t coined until the 1970s — so new that many non-English-speaking countries don’t even have a word for it and poly people have been able to slip under the radar. But it has existed as an unspoken phenomenon surely since time immemorial. In Imperial China, zhao fu yang fu, or “enlisting one husband to support the other husband,” euphemistically referred to the practice of an impoverished couple inviting a better-off single male to move in with them and share the wife’s bed in exchange for his economic help or labor. Typically the arrangement was only for mutual convenience but as Matthew Sommer documents in Polyandry and Wife-Selling in Qing Dynasty China, in many instances the wife was sexually fulfilled, transforming the relationship from a polyandrous to a “polyamorous” one; things often took a violent turn if she transferred all her affection to the new partner. While the government forbade polyandry and was capable of punishing it harshly, local authorities and communities tended to look the other way. Today in China, since the “Professor Ma” scandal of 2012 (a man who had recruited people online for sex parties), under the “group licentiousness” law it’s illegal for more than two people to have sex together and those caught can expect several years in prison. Polyamory in China is thus banned without being named, the authorities clearly preferring that the practice remain unnamable and unthinkable, although I have heard the apt term duo ai, or “many loves,” used colloquially.

Over the past decade or two, polyamory has gotten increasing exposure in the mainstream American media, while online poly organizations have proliferated and are easily found on Facebook and Twitter. But the echo chamber of like-minded enthusiasts can be misleading, and whether this trend will gain more traction or hit a wall is too early to say. Locally, my impression is that most people, and I mean educated liberals I know who in other respects are open-minded in their outlook, find the idea of polyamory bizarre and off-putting, if they’ve heard of it at all. I have to be very careful how to even broach the topic without seeming to recruit them or otherwise spooking them. It’s also for this reason, I believe, that no major, incisive, politically informed publication on polyamory has yet come out, that I am aware of. Instead, the books that have come out have been carefully calibrated to known readerships. Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt’s The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities, published in 1997, was the first to embrace the topic and reach a receptive audience (Liszt scrapped her pseudonym for her real name, Janet W. Hardy, in their 2017 edition). Written in a breezy feel-good style suited to sex-positive New Age feminists, the book remains fresh and startling in its frank advocacy of no-holds-barred multi-partner sexual experimentation, but without much to say about real-world polyamory’s traps and minefields. Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert stepped in to fill this gap with More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory, downplaying the erotics to focus on the emotional complexities of juggling simultaneous relationships. At once exhaustive and exhausting, their tome covers every possible chemical reaction from resentment to rage which three or four people can be predicted to cook up with the lowering of territorial barriers, and the best advice the authors can muster in response with their decades of experience.

Both of these books have a tricky balancing act in appealing to the more adventurous among average readers while not alienating too many with polyamory’s stark implications, which candidly put, invite you to overturn your familiar reality and join the sexual avant-garde in weakening or dissolving altogether the obligatory ties of matrimony. Consequently, they are at pains to avoid situating polyamory alongside other radical sexualities with which it has more in common than it often acknowledges. What aligns all of these movements is the difficult but inevitable process of “coming out,” and then defending oneself from all the potentially damaging ramifications of coming out. It’s quite revealing to see how key texts of practices as varied as bisexuality and transsexuality (Eisner), the lesbian BDSM and leather scenes (Rubin), prostitution (Davina; Grant), pornography (Lee), and polyamory (Easton & Liszt; Veaux & Rickert), to name just a few, address this duty in such similar ways. As Shiri Eisner puts it in Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution,

Oppression of any one group doesn’t happen in isolation, but parallels, draws from, and intersects with that of others….The bisexual community is also shared by transgender and gender-queer people; nonmonogamous, polyamorous, slutty or promiscuous people; sex workers; BDSM practitioners; drug users; HIV+ people, disabled, chronically ill and mentally disabled people; working-class people, migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees, racialized people, and many, many more.

Although polyamorists would prefer to sneak into mainstream respectability by presenting themselves as reassuringly ordinary white-picket-fence neighbors, what they really need to do is join up in political action with other sexual radicals to shout down and combat compulsory monogamy’s power to destroy lives. I’ll give the last word to Easton and Liszt on the precarious situation of polyamory in the country where it’s made the most headway:

There absolutely are costs to being out. Polyamory is not a protected status; people can lose their housing or their jobs if they have a hostile landlord or boss. If you are divorced and not on good terms with your ex, custody of your children may be at stake….Children also complicate whether to be out publicly. Depending on where you live, you and your kids may experience stigma, and you may even face legal threats. Particularly in some conservative areas of the United States, polyamory can be and is used as a powerful weapon in custody battles.

WORKS CITED

Arment, Jason. “Poetry and Sex Work: An Interview with Dylan Krieger,” The Big Smoke, May 19, 2021 (https://thebigsmoke.com/2021/05/19/poetry-and-sex-work-an-interview-with-dylan-krieger/).

Bernstein, Elizabeth. Brokered Subjects: Sex, Trafficking, and the Politics of Freedom (U of Chicago, 2019).

Brooks, Brad. “Texas Governor Calls for Investigation into ‘Pornography’ in School Libraries,” Reuters, Nov. 10, 2021.

Cohen, Li. “2021 marks deadliest year yet for transgender people in the U.S.” CBS News, Nov. 20, 2021.

Davina, Lola. Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry (Erotic as Power Press, 2017).

Easton, Dossie, and Catherine A. Liszt. The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities (Greenery Press, 1997).

Eisner, Shiri. Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution (Seal Press, 2013).

Grant, Melissa Gira. Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Verso, 2014).

Halperin, David M. and Trevor Hoppe (Eds.). The War on Sex (Duke UP, 2017).

Krieger, Dylan. Giving Godhead (Delete Press, 2017).

Lancaster, Roger N. Sex Panic and the Punitive State (U California Press, 2011).

Lavin, Talia. “QAnon, Blood Libel, and the Satanic Panic,” The New Republic, Sept. 29, 2020.

Lee, Jiz (Ed.). Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy (Three L Media, 2015).

MacKinnon, Catharine A. “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 46 (2011) (https://harvardcrcl.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2009/06/MacKinnon.pdf).

Norberg, Kathryn. “The libertine whore: Prostitution in French pornography from Margot to Juliette,” in Lynn Hunt (Ed.), The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 (Zone Books, 1996).

Rosemont, Franklin (ed.). Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion (Black Swan Press, 1989).

Rubin, Gayle S. Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (Duke UP, 2011).

Sheff, Elisabeth. The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013).

Simmons, Thomas. “A Poetry Collection Born of Fury, Sex and Trauma,” The New York Times, Aug. 3, 2017.

Sommer, Matthew H. Polyandry and Wife-Selling in Qing Dynasty China: Survival Strategies and Judicial Interventions (U California Press, 2015).

Veaux, Franklin, and Eve Rickert. More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory (Thorntree Press, 2014).

Villarreal, Daniel. “‘Buy Firearms and Form Christian Militias’: Far Right Reacts to Rittenhouse Verdict,” Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2021.

* * *

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This essay will appear in Sexual Fascism: Essays (forthcoming, January 2022)

Related posts by Isham Cook:
The sewage system
Toilet terror
American massage
American fascism: The sexual rage of the state
Sexual surveillance in the Covid-19 era




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