Women, Lesbians and Prostitution: A Workingclass Dyke Speaks Out Against Buying Women for Sex*

By Toby Summer**

(As published in Lesbian Culture Anthology, edited by Julia Penelope and Susan Wolfe, Crossing Press, 1993. Originally published in Lesbian Ethics, 1987.)

*I am thankful that Lesbian Ethics exists; without it, no one could hear my written voice over the roar of the Man’s lies. I am also deeply grateful to those women who make my life possible in an impossible world. I thank you for your guidance, insight, truth-saying, assistance, criticism, patience, love and support. Without you, my courage would have failed me here.

**Toby Summer is not my real name. I do not use my real name because I don’t want to be exposed to the sexual humiliation that goes with having been abused as a prostitute. It never ends. No one who knows who I am is authorized to "come out" for me; if, when, where, how, to whom, and for what purpose I do choose to identify myself, it is my choice. It is the only control that I have that leaves me any human dignity.

Dedication

To the woman in my life who knows most what this has cost the both of us.

Introduction

Shining bright red, a miniature box of wooden matches sits next to my flat blue cigarette package. I bought the cigarettes, but some man forgot the matches when he left. The matchbox is embossed with gold, two circles. Inside the smaller circle, an owl sits on the stump of a redwood tree. On the left of the owl, there is a stick-figure drawing of a whole living redwood. On the right, child-like squiggles represent flying birds. Between the two circles, bold capital letters name the institution issuing the matchbox: BOHEMIAN CLUB. It is world famous; infamous, more accurately. War lords of this outlaw nation belong to this exclusive club, this men-only club.

While week-ending with a friend on the Russian River, I once penetrated the Bohemian Club’s summer encampment’s security. We strolled right through the center of camp. Structurally it looked like Girl Scout camp, but felt different. Bohemians don’t allow girls.

This club may soon have to hire women as workers because they lost a case in court for sex discrimination in employment. If and when they do, it won’t be the first time they’ve paid money to women, just the first time for non-sexual work.

I draw the above frame around the subject that I want to address to my community. This frame of men with absolute power and women with so little starkly shows that men make the rules and women do what we’re told to do. This is a system that uses class and race to divide women from each other, but it is based on sex discrimination. Prostitution and pornography are graphic practices of female sexual slavery within this system; the major difference between the two practices is that in pornography there is a permanent record of the woman’s abuse that can be sold again and again.

I do not deny that women are hungry for freedom and equality; I am such a woman. I do not deny that women make hard "choices," nor do I deny that women find many ways to resist male supremacy. I have made such choices and continue to devise ways to resist, too. I simply underline the obvious: women do not rule. We have not consented to this system; our consent is not necessary or required. Men set the standards and women either go along and get along or try to think of ways to resist without getting killed. We get killed either way.

I. Connections

In Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry, a newly released book by Cleis Press edited by Frederique Delacoste and Priscilla Alexander (1), the Bohemian Club is mentioned by name in at least two prostitutes’ stories. The first woman stiffly walks us through the staging area of her experience as though it were a grade B movie set. She doesn’t say how she feels. Her description struck me as perfunctory and disconnected. Scarlot Harlot’s profile of the Bohemian is one of her eleven submissions to Sex Work; her style is much more personal and engaging. She also admits that she’d make more money in a massage parlor than working the river’s rich trade. To understand the amounts involved, we have to move to another story in Sex Work, called "In the Massage Parlor." It gets specific: $10 for a "tip," or a $15 blowjob that deflates into a $5 "tip." The massage parlor worker also reveals how she feels about the actual "work" that she does: "When they [the johns] touch my breasts, I tell myself they’re not really touching me…[a]nd sometimes I wonder how I can let the men do that. I wonder what is left for me. I wonder where I am." (p. 63)

In Sex Work, Joan Nestle has contributed a piece entitled "Lesbians and Prostitutes: A Historical Sisterhood." She says, "Besides recognizing the history of prostitutes as a valuable source for lesbian history, another connection that emerges is the lesbian customer [sic] and protector of prostitutes" (p. 238). She illustrates this with "the wonderful and moving story" of Jeanne Bonnet who is a transvestite and a john, who winds up "decid[ing] to enlist some of the women she visited [sic] in her all-women’s gang" (p. 239). Blanche Buneau, won away from her pimp by Bonnet, is shot and killed by him in their bedroom. The year is 1876. Nestle adds later, "Lesbians have and still do turn to prostitutes for sexual comfort [sic] as well as work as prostitutes themselves" (p. 249). Nestle attempts to draw connections between prostitutes and lesbians, but she has no radical analysis of the condition of women, lesbians or prostitutes.

There are connections between lesbians and prostitutes. I know because I am one. A lesbian. An ex-prostitute. I have lived the connection. I still live daily with the results. I have been a lesbian for about thirty years. Coming out as butch (transvestite actually) as a young teenager in the late ‘50s meant that I couldn’t finish school, couldn’t get a regular job, couldn’t rent a place to live after home became unbearable. The irony of loving women—which created a situation for me (actually created by an ageist, classist and sexist society whereby the alternative to jail and the street was the street, jail and fucking men for a meal, small change, and a temporary bed)—is only surpassed by the damage. Consider the fact that I learned what sexuality meant from johns and pimps before I could find out what it might mean with the girl I loved. This lesson is not erasable. My body remembers all of it. It seems that bodies learn—in the body, physically—how sex is to be felt, not just done or gone through. I submit to my readers that it was not a good thing for this girl-child, this young lesbian to do with her bright-fired self.

II. The Man’s Lie: Strategy and Damage

The removing of oneself from one’s body is a strategy for immediate survival; many prostitutes acknowledge this. This numbing—whether done like other torture victims do it or done with drugs and alcohol—is flight from that which is intolerable. Numbing mechanisms become reflex quickly. Reversing the process, later or in other circumstances, is difficult. It is my belief that such numbing in sexual assault situations sets women up for tolerating abuse, especially prostitution and sado-masochism.

Although I used this strategy as often as not, I also used a more damaging one at the same time. Today, I call this second strategy the Man’s lie, but then I called it pro-sex (2) and my choice.

The Man’s lie is still passing as truth not only from the Man but also through the lips of women, who—like I did—believe the lie. I mean, when Scarlot Harlot quotes her friend, Priscilla Alexander, as saying, "The right to be a prostitute is as important as the right not to be one. It is the right to set the terms of one’s own sexuality…[my emphasis]" (Sex Work, p. 61), what I hear is that someone thinks that prostitution has something to do with women owning our own bodies—somehow—while at the same time selling the very same bodies to men who hate women, whores (3) and lesbians and who do not make any excuses for their hatred.

This mind-fuck is very familiar to me; I thought for the longest time that I had invented it. I double-fucked myself for years before coming face-to-face with the truth of how male supremacist sexuality got to me. Not just remembering, but feeling; not just looking at all of it momentarily, but living it; not just opened up, but analyzed from a radical feminist politic for what it is and does. I have not always been a feminist, but I have always wanted to be free and female.

What I did in my mind did have something to do with freedom when I spoke the Man’s lie silently to myself about prostitution. I felt closer to freedom when I told myself that I chose what happened (even the rapes), that I felt OK about what was done to my body (even against my will), that the sex in the room had something to do with me and my sexuality (even though when she was in the room, too—my lover—the only thing I tried to do was keep him interested in me so he wouldn’t fuck her…some butch role), that the nausea-alienation-bruises-humiliation-STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)-poverty-abortion all were somehow fixable with what amounts to an EST positive attitude.

Oppressed people develop a sixth sense with which we anticipate the next move of our enemy in order to try to be successfully out of the way or in the most acceptable pose. The EST positive attitude served that purpose, as well as twisting my own mind; that is, the Man’s lie not only took the truth away from me, but it also served the Man by allowing him to point to me and say, "See. She loves it. She chose it. She’s even a lesbian…they all want it. Women are whores by nature."

This strategic lie attempted to turn my degradation into something else, something more human, something that was not force and coercion. Poverty and oppression against women and lesbians certainly qualify as force and coercion, even if the barrel of the gun is behind the curtain of sex. What was accomplished with this lie was not a changed reality but merely a renaming of reality for something other than what it was. Reality did not change until I changed it, personally, for me; I got a different "job." I wasn’t successful the first or second times. Even after I got out, I took my EST positive attitude with me when I went. What it didn’t explain was why I’d rather work in a hot commercial laundry for $1.00 per hour than fuck another man. The Man’s lie should have been exposed at that point, but it wasn’t. I hid behind the fact that I was a lesbian; that is, I told myself that I just didn’t want to fuck men. There was no understanding that there was something wrong with what happened to me as a woman. That lie stayed coiled like a viper for many years, waiting.

The lies that I’ve lived with, trying to make prostitution into anything other than what it is, are why I’m writing this paper; them and the damage. I did not want to do this paper. I hate every minute that I have been forced to spend on it. Like every fuck. Confronting how I’ve been hurt is the hardest thing that I’ve had to do in my life. A hard life, if I may say so. It is humiliating to acknowledge victimization. It is really quite simple; if you lose, you don’t win. One cannot be hurt and not be a victim to the perpetrator, and to all those who come after to watch the show. To avoid further abuse by the sexual practice of humiliation, I claimed the intolerable as my own, because being a victim was and still is intolerable. What I am doing in this paper is the intolerable. I want you to know that. I’m doing it because I can’t stand it that lesbians are buying women for sex and calling it progress, freedom, our sexuality, lesbian politics. I cannot stand the pretense of regard towards the women bought. Buying a human being is not regard. It is another lie. Prostitution is not freedom, not just another job. It is the abuse of women. It is sexual slavery. Period.

I want to say one thing about "healing." For me, it is a fact that so-called healing is an empty and desperate gesture towards that which we do not have: freedom to be equal, creative and as safe as men are safe. I know that some damage is permanent; that is one of the reasons to stop what happens to women. Among other damages, what has outraged me most deeply is the damage done to my sexuality; it is the one thing that I had thought that I had saved (4) out of that disgusting abuse. Somehow, I despair of any hope to undo this damage. (5)

I wonder to myself what it means that so many women lovers have told me that our love-making was "the best it’s ever been" when what I held in my body was this incredible abuse. Once a whore, always a whore? I mean, how could they not feel what was going on? Was I that good of a performer? I’m not talking about faking orgasm either. I’m taking about how orgasm felt. How the sexuality itself felt. Fucking my way to heaven with thousands of orgasms and many truly loved partners did not "heal" the abuse. It may actually have deepened the learned sexual dynamic; it certainly caused confusion between this dynamic and any regard and respect we enjoyed with each other.

While I may not believe in "healing," I do believe in change.

III. Sexuality Inequality

Dominance and submission is the basic dynamic of sexuality; regard for an equal is not sexy. Hierarchy is sexy. Power is sexy. Vulnerability is sexy. Humiliation is a sexual practice. It is humiliating to be a second-class citizen; that’s why men keep women second class. Men as a class devised male supremacy because men—but not only men—find it exciting to use force and coercion. "The good news is it isn’t biological."(6) This dynamic is best expressed through prostitution; ruling class men buying women to feel their power manifested. Workingclass men, middle-class men, men of all races and ages, disabled men and gay men are also to be counted as johns when I start counting. Name your category and I’ll tell you what he looked like. It is felt in bodies as sexual, this expression of power. (It is a sexual rush to just contemplate it; ever watch some up-scale man thumb through a Vogue magazine? He consumes it like other men do actual pornography. Watch the body language. Whores are good at noticing men’s body language. I watch them, openly. It disturbs them to be watched.)

I know that some gay men do not flinch from fucking women or lesbians. My own experience stands: some of my johns were gay men who just thought I was a young teenage boy turning tricks for spending money (blowjobs reveal nothing in terms of biology and I consistently passed for a straight boy when I chose to), but some of them knew I was a lesbian and thought it cute to buy a gay "sister." Someone once asked me why it was that gay men seemed to have a stake in female prostitution; I think I know. Our gay brothers directly profit from keeping all women down and prostitution is central to keeping women down as a class; gay men sometimes use women that way, too.

Without dominance and submission sexual boredom sets in. My guess about why many lesbian couples who stay together over time seem to coast to a dead stop sexually-or at least turn to on a slow bell—is that familiarity breeds a working knowledge of the other person, while commonality creates a rough-cut version of respect. That is, the more we like each other and the more actual respect we have, the less dominance and submission is left, and therefore sexual feelings are not aroused as easily. Even built-in hierarchies like class, race, age, disability sometimes soften over time. Heterosexual hierarchy is much less likely to soften because male and female are terms defined by the dynamic of dominance and submission; it is categorically defined as sexual hierarchy where other hierarchies are not seen immediately as necessarily sexual. (They are, but it requires some analysis to get there from here, e.g., pornography shows us that Black women are used in specific ways to make their skin into a sexual organ to be then violated like genitals. We do find much visible bruising on Black women’s bodies in pornography.)

I want to ask my community, when we have sexual feelings, what are we feeling? Is it the pleasure and danger, perhaps? Have we eroticized our own destruction, as in the Story of O by Pauline Reage? Do we, like O (stands for "nothing"), murder ourself? I wonder what there is left for me. I wonder where I am. Or, do we, like Pat Califia, San Francisco’s picture perfect "lesbian" sadist (who left town after allegedly carving an unwanted swastika into a workingclass dyke’s body [I know the Jewish nurse who had to clean the wound], and who "…couldn’t figure out how to reach orgasm with a [woman] lover") turn 180 degrees from ‘sexual dysfunction’ into a sadist who would rather fuck a hot male masochist than a vanilla lesbian?(7)

It seems to me that what might have been Califia’s original problem is simply that two women—without more—don’t generate enough dominance and submission for her arousal; the sexual dynamic of hierarchy was missing. I think that perhaps more women than Califia might feel this way. Maybe sado-masochism has been the key to inventing arousal, so that orgasm is possible for some lesbians. I know that butch-femme roles work that way even when mixed-and-matched (kiki in ‘50s language). I know that many, if not all, of my women lovers were aroused by what they perceived to be my butch ways. The difference between Califia and myself is only a matter of degree, not content. Sexual hierarchy is sexy. This is why I think that many lesbians have embraced sado-masochism and other trappings of male supremacist sexuality such as pornography, prostitution, strip shows, etc., as a "newly found, previously denied, to-be-explored" sexuality that we need to adopt, adapt, whitewash, and call our own. (I also think that some lesbians learned "their" sado-masochism directly from gay men, as well as from prostitutes, ex-prostitutes, and pornography.)

Prostitutes have been known to express our utter contempt for the johns that use us, but usually only to each other. We do not correct the power imbalance when we do this, although it does feel briefly better to vent the outrage and disgust. This is one way to acknowledge abuse of our bodies while attempting to block the fact that we are second class citizens being used for what women are: sex. The bravado about having power over men because men buy us is simply bullshit. "When those who dominate you get you to take the initiative in your own human destruction, you have lost more than any oppressed people yet has ever gotten back."(8)

The prostitute who performs as a female sadist, a dominatrix, does not reverse the dynamic of dominance and submission. It may be true that she has "complete power" (Sex Work, p. 51) over the male masochist’s body for those moments that she is paid to do what she is told to do by him; but I think that is a matter of this man wanting to violate the social taboo (9) against men giving up male power. It is also true that the power of male supremacy is so great that a man can feel very safe even while he chooses to toy with "submission" momentarily. Let me suggest to you that if the dominatrix used that "power" that she has during this singular moment in history—in the way that men use their power over women—she’d be either in jail or dead. It is phony power.

While men eroticize the "exchange" of money for sex (arousing in and of itself because it actualizes and symbolizes the woman’s subordination), the female sadist may eroticize her perception of "power." This is learning sexual hierarchy from the dominant’s point of view. However, individual perceptions do not alter social structures. It is conceivable—even likely—that some women have adopted this point of view as their "own." This is possible because dominance and submission is learned behavior. If and when some women learn to eroticize dominance in its complete manifestation, what we will have will be biologically female people who are socially men. That is, it is possible that such a woman could eroticize the murder—sexual murder—of men. Picture a female Green River Murderer who murders men. For sex. There can be no subordination of anybody without the ever-present threat of murder to give the threat life. Liberal men who promote sexuality-at-any-cost for "women, too" probably have not thought about this possibility. Even if they have, what it would mean—socially—would not be what it means for a man to do it to a woman while male supremacy remains intact. Biological hopscotch cannot alter the system. Social transformation to female supremacy would have to occur before it would mean the same thing that it means now.

Personally, I think that it’s not what I have in mind when I think of freedom.

IV. About Class Solidarity

I have watched with some interest an element of organized prostitution women adopt language from the organized labor movement. They argue that prostitution is just another job, albeit a relatively high paying one. They call pimps "managers" and johns "customers." They say that what is wrong with the "business" is that it is illegal, or, as in the case of Nevada, that the State controls prostitution. They claim that what is needed is a union to bargain for wages (already high, they say), hours (already good, they say), and working conditions. If wages and hours are already good, the issue must be working conditions. These same women argue that what is better about prostitution than other jobs for women is that prostitutes have "control" over what they do, what they "choose" to do. They don’t explain why prostitutes can’t control pimps and johns who hurt them right now. They slide past hard issues and blame them on the illegal nature of prostitution.

The fact that prostitution is illegal does not explain why men sexually murder women and children for sex. The fact that police do not seem to care about dead prostitutes, or other dead women either, does not explain why men do it. The fact that some police officers are corrupt and brutal when they harass and arrest women for prostitution is a secondary issue.

It is not that I think that prostitutes should be arrested; I do not. My solution would be to make buying women illegal, as well as all third-party involvement, but to "allow women to sell their bodies" without legal penalty. This would put real power into the hands of prostitutes; they could overlook the crime committed against them by the john if he abided by their agreement, e.g., paid them, did not otherwise abuse them. This suggestion is not a solution to prostitution; it is a transitional band-aid.

None of this addresses the system which requires male sexual access to women and children at all times. The analysis exhibited in the "business-as-usual" presentation of prostitution is one that does not in any way challenge the harm of prostitution itself. If workingclass people had no analysis of capitalism, then what we would have is what this element of organized prostitution has: no structural challenge to the status quo. Men must have this sexual access to women and children. (Why?) Fringe benefits like workers’ compensation, demands for no more arrests, or somehow resisting torture and murder are OK as far as they go, but they do not challenge the system of male supremacy of which prostitution is the ultimate systematic expression. Trying to make an inhumane system more humane with reformatory adjustments is like spitting in the ocean: I’m not against it, but it doesn’t do much.

Finally I want to say that—as an ex-prostitute, a workingclass woman, a radical labor organizer—I have to wonder if the women who are using the language of organized labor are seriously trying to make common cause with working people. I wonder about this because of the contempt that is frequently expressed for other women who work at low-paying, low-status jobs everyday, who do it all their lives, who frequently challenge their wages, hours and working conditions (including sexual harassment). For example, in Sex Work, Scarlot Harlot says, "Ex-prostitutes are out of touch with the true glories of the trade. Plus, they were never very good at it. That’s why they’re ex-prostitutes" (p. 123). (However, she also said on the TV show "People Are Talking," KPIX, San Francisco, July 2, 1987, that she didn’t want to be doing this for money but couldn’t make as much money otherwise. She was the only woman on the show who still did prostitution; no one asked her why she didn’t want to do it.) In Sex Work "Aline" says, "I much preferred exhibiting myself, flirting, showing off my body than working at some shit-job cleaning someone else’s toilet for poverty level income" (pp. 131-2). (However, on the next page she finds her "work" intolerable and says it’s "time to clean toilets.") Prostitutes, ex-prostitutes, and "feminists" cannot succeed in making common cause by ridiculing other women who are struggling to get by without fucking men.

V. Sisterhood: Just Another Brotherhood?

Now what about lesbians buying women, prostitutes, other lesbians? For sex. Like men. It isn’t news. (10)

Lesbian pimps have always been around. Lesbian prostitutes have always been around. Lesbian johns have always been around. I’ve known some of them. What has not been challenged is the harm done to those women who are positioned to be bought and sold. It is the failure of "feminism" to leave the structure of male supremacy intact while women pry their way into it. It is outrageous to me that women attorneys, who call themselves feminists, who don’t have to sell themselves to men for $15.00 a blowjob, say, "I think that prostitution is an excellent way to earn a living" (Flo Kennedy, attorney, activist, TV interviewer, MS Magazine, July 1987, p. 18). Kennedy is just the most recent example. Attorney Nan Hunter, who wrote the FACT brief against the Dworkin-MacKinnon anti-pornography civil rights ordinance, said in it, "A range of feminist imagination and expression in the realm of sexuality has barely begun to find voice. Women need the freedom and socially recognized space to appropriate for themselves the robustness of what traditionally has been male language " [my emphasis].

Never mind the other women, who are not attorneys, who are crushed by the weight of the pornographers, pimps and johns. I want to know why anyone thinks they have a right to buy a woman for sex.

The connections between pornographers and women who call themselves feminists have always fascinated me. For example, we find Susie Bright, editor of On Our Backs (lesbian pornography) in such publications as Penthouse’s Forum, and Hustler. See "Confessions of a Teenage Lesbian" by Susie Bright, "a real live dyke," in Hustler, March 1986. I found in Sex Work another such connection. Debi Sundahl, also known as "Fanny Fatale," a stripper, says that the first place she worked was called the Lusty Lady Theater and that the owners of this place "…were involved in founding…the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco" (p. 176). Sundahl takes credit for "…start[ing] the first women-only strip show at a lesbian bar in San Francisco" (p. 177), for publishing the first issue of On Our Backs, "a lesbian sexual entertainment magazine," and for making "adult or x-rated videos for lesbians under the name Fatale" (p. 178). It is also interesting to me that Phyllis Lyon (of Del Martin/Phyllis Lyon fame) is the Registrar for this Institute; she is also a FACT member.

I can’t say I have a lot of hope for change. I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference between the heterosexual community, the gay male community, and lesbians, except that women as a class do not have power as men do. But I have noticed that some women are aspiring to join the Bohemian Club. Similarly, in San Francisco there has been a hoopla around the 87th U.S. Open Golf Championship hosted at the S.F. Olympic Club’s lakeside golf course (one of several men-only clubs; it has 7000 members). Seems like the city leases 17 acres of land to them and that it is unseemly for a city run by a woman mayor, a woman president of the board of supervisors, and a woman city attorney, to contribute to the success of the club’s discriminatory policy. News, it is: The city may not renew the lease unless the exclusionary policy changes (S.F. Chronicle, June 23, 1987).

Some women seem to think that if they can do what men do then "we" will be equal. The question to be asked is, if women get to do what men get to do, and one of the things men get to do is buy women, who is going to be left for anyone to buy? Some women want to rule, and have the privileges, too. Some lesbians buy women for sex like the Bohemian Club members do, already.

Notes:

1. Sex Work is a collection of stories written by women who have been or still are inside the sex industry. I considered submitting an article to Sex Work, but decided it was not a context for my viewpoint. At least one contributor, Sarah Wynter, was not told that Sex Work would be co-edited by Priscilla Alexander, co-director of C.O.Y.O.T.E. (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), a San Francisco based group which addresses "prostitutes’ issues." This group has very liberal politics. For example, what is wrong with prostitution is not "…the stigma imposed on sex work, keep[ing] all women from determining their own sexuality" (Priscilla Alexander, "Prostitution: A Difficult Issue for Feminists," Sex Work, p. 184). Identifying "stigma" as what is wrong is a re-naming of reality that unfocuses perception of real harm to women in prostitution. Most people recognize harm when they see it. Whatever the response, the harm is noticed. The shift from seeing harm to criticizing emotional responses emanating from the perception of harm targets a non-primary issue. It is a smokescreen, used so that no one will challenge the actual harm.

The Sex Work bibliography, section 8—"The Pornography Debate," is skewed; with exactly one exception, one half of the "debate," the radical feminist critique, is missing. The political bias of Sex Work seems to grow out of its association with COYOTE. Alexander is the only contributor who has not worked in the sex industry. COYOTE is the only contact for women organizing on the issue for which an address and phone number is given, although other groups with different analyses are represented in Sex Work.

2. Andrea Dworkin (Intercourse, New York: Free Press, 1987, "Communion," pp. 48-9) writes, "Lost in the simple-minded prosex chauvinism of Right and Left is the real meaning of affirmation, or any consciousness of the complexity—the emotional tangledness—of a human life." ‘It is really quite impossible,’ writes James Baldwin (Notes of a Native Son, Boston: Beacon Press, 1984, p. 131), ‘to be affirmative about anything which one refuses to question: one is doomed to remain inarticulate about anything which one hasn’t by an act of imagination, made one’s own.’ There is no imagination in fetishlike sexual conformity; and no questions are being asked in political discourse on sex about hope and sorrow, intimacy and anguish, communion and loss."

3. The word whore is an insult to all women, commonly, like the word dyke. When I use it here, I do not mean it in that way, although I am not attempting to reclaim it as dyke has been reclaimed by some lesbians. I use it because I want my readers to occasionally feel the feelings associated with it; I also think that no one has the right to use the word whore unless that person has been one of us. And then, only carefully.

4. Andrea Dworkin, Op. Cit, p. 50. "Truth is harder to bear than ignorance, and so ignorance is valued more—also because the status quo depends on it; but love depends on self-knowledge, and self-knowledge depends on being able to bear the truth. For Baldwin, in his fiction and essays, being human means that one pays for everything one knows and for everything one refuses to know; that ‘you have to, in order to live, finally, make so many difficult and dangerous choices that the one thing you’re really trying to save is what you lose. And what you’re trying to save is your ability to touch another human being or be touched by that person’" (James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, A Dialogue, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1973, p. 86."

5. In Sex Work Gail Pheterson claims that it is "…another illusion…that male sexual violence causes irreparable damage to female personality" (p. 224). I say it is no illusion.

6. Catharine A. MacKinnon, "Pleasure Under Patriarchy," in Theories and Paradigms of Human Sexuality, Plenum Press, in press.

7. The failed orgasm quote is from Pat Califia, "We Know What We Want, " Sinister Wisdom, Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1976, p. 67. Her preference for a male is stated in her "Unraveling the Sexual Fringe: A Secret Side of Lesbian Sexuality," The Advocate, Dec. 27, 1979.

8. Andrea Dworkin, Op. Cit., pp. 142-3.

9. It is my opinion that taboos exist to be violated and that such violation is a sexual practice. Rape laws are that way. Likewise prohibition against sex with children. Sexual crimes are enhanced by male laws against them; such laws do not seem to deter very much. It is sexy to be an "outlaw." Violation of anything is sexy. Especially women.

10. Lesbian battery isn’t news, either. But it has been only recently taken up as a political issue by the lesbian community. (Battered women’s shelters have been reluctant to accept either battered lesbians or battered prostitutes, a "connection" missed by Joan Nestle.) It is no solution, but the feminists who organized the first conference on lesbian violence are to be commended on their work (May 3, 1987, San Francisco). However, the tough issues of sado-masochism, pornography and prostitution were not addressed; when I brought them up they were shuffled aside. For instance, I want to know about the connection that pornography has to both battery and sado-masochism in our community.