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Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

I’m Not Doing This Because I Enjoy It

(Getting the truth whipped into me by Tracey Farren.)

Dear Tracey,

There are many things I haven’t given too much thought. Not because they don’t interest me, but because there are so many other things begging my attention. Prostitution wasn’t really on my to-mull list until I read your book. It’s one of those things you eventually take for granted in Amsterdam, where women in skimpy underwear, posing enticingly, bathed in red light are just as much a part of the cityscape as canals and bicycles and the sweet scent of marijuana. Because it’s all out in the open, one is inclined to conclude that it’s just a business, a vocation, something that some women choose to do because it’s an easy way to earn money. Some people work in offices, hating every minute of their eight-hour day, others rent out their vagina or mouth or whatever, hating every minute of however long their shift lasts. Six, seven, ten, twelve hours? I don’t know, for the simple reason that I’ve never given this topic more than a passing glance, usually from the seat of my bicycle. But your book has changed all that.

To start with, I found myself wondering how many of those women in windows are pre-programmed (for want of a better word) to become prostitutes. To what extent have humiliation, trauma, neglect and desperation contributed to their ultimate decision to choose this particular vocation? I am fully aware, of course, that many of these women – even in Amsterdam – are forced into prostitution and are under constant duress to remain in the business. But I am referring to women like Tess, your marvellously portrayed ‘hooker with a heart of gold’, who slips gradually through the occupational ranks from high-class escort working for an agency to pavement prostitute, working solo, without the questionable protection of a pimp.

As the story unfolds, one gains insight into the traumatic experiences of Tess’ youth; the dark and sordid details of a life derailed. The fact that these experiences are narrated by Tess herself (in a letter to her mother) add an especially poignant dimension and makes them easier to digest, because they are recounted with great aplomb and a comical touch in a superb parlando style that never wears thin because it’s staccato rhythm feels so right:

“A hundred bucks. Tourist price. Annie gets out at Wynberg park while I bend my head and tame the snake. A German, no hair on top. Two bald heads. I stop halfway, tell him I don’t swallow, so he gets a pack of Nandos serviettes. He’s polite, pink, sweats along his eyebrows. Afterwards he says, ‘Danke,’ his voice weak, like he needs to build up his red blood cells again. I nod, watch the forest glow, some last minute trick before the sun drops behind the rock. A better ending than that dumb dance show.”

Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat goes your gun, gradually blowing away preconceived notions about the ‘kind of women who end up as prostitutes,’ replacing those notions with the cold, hard, bloody realisation that intense misery usually precedes the initial decision to have sex for money. And even the word ‘decision’ seems ill chosen, when so many factors, circumstances and, yes, people collaborate to carve a path that leads to the inevitable.

In social psychology, this type of prejudice or cognitive bias is commonly known as the “fundamental attribution error”. What this boils down to is that we are inclined to exaggerate personality-based explanations for the behaviour of others, while underestimating situational factors underlying their behaviour. Conversely, we tend to exaggerate the extent to which situational factors determine our own behaviour. In short, we’re all a little unfair when judging the actions others, but I think this applies doubly to men when it comes to prostitution and pornography. At their basest organic level, most guys are subject to one of the world’s oldest algorithms: sexy/naked lady = erection = need for sex. This has not only spawned a multi-billion dollar sex industry, but is also still commonly offered as an extenuating circumstance for rape: “She was wearing a short skirt and high heels, your honour, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

But let me circumnavigate those dark waters for the moment and return to my original tack by way of a bold statement: I think most guys want to believe that sex workers do what they do because they are ‘that kind of woman’ or because they gain some sort of enjoyment from it. When the algorithm kicks in, most guys shut down their brains, bind and gag their superegos and give their id free rein. I’m also inclined to believe that this will never change, no matter what repressive measures are taken. Having read your book, however, I think it might be a good idea to attach a clear message to all pornographic material (perhaps it could also be posted on the doors and windows of brothels). That message should read:

“WARNING: I’m not doing this because I enjoy it.”

Perhaps that will convey the powerful message of Whiplash to the many millions of men who will not read your book.

(Tracey Farren’s book Whiplash is published by Modjaji Books.)

 
 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    May 11th, 2009 @17:07 #
     
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    Here's one for the scrapbook, Colleen and Tracey. Possibly the most insightful review of Whiplash yet.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    May 11th, 2009 @17:38 #
     
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    Wow Richard, thanks very much. A very powerful statement about Whiplash. Will let Tracey know. I've already put it out on Twitter...

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 11th, 2009 @17:46 #
     
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    This is amazing. It picks up on all the reasons Whiplash is 100 times more powerful than any academic lecture on the relationship between the sex industry, patriarchy and human suffering yada yada. Without being academic or preachy, Richard does a grand job of showing how a book can shine a torch inwards as well as outwards. This review does both him and Whiplash credit.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    May 11th, 2009 @17:57 #
     
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    Reeling from such a hard-hitting and thoughtful review. Wasn't expecting to be sucker punched this early on a Monday morning.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @18:04 #
     
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    Thank you, Fiona. Having re-read the piece, I'm suffering from a severe bout of coldlightofdaytis brought on by some rather adumbrated, perforated and occluded reasoning. In my defence, this book has raised so many questions, it's almost impossible to deal with them in short form.

    One of my main concerns is that more and more budding adolescents are gaining their first insight into sex via pornography of one kind or another. In the days of yore, long before easy access to internet porn, I too gained my first quick fix via stolen glances at Playboy mags imported by a friend's father. This is not something I'm particularly proud of, but I'm inclined to believe that it's an experience I share with many men. It's quite frightening to think that my son's first sexual experience (the start of his conditioning?) will probably be brought on by images that portray sex in a wholly unrealistic manner, created by people whose prime objective is commercial.

    Having boldly streaked across the lawn, I will now withdraw into the shrubbery and wait to see who else is willing to strip down and step into the light.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @18:12 #
     
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    Phew. Thank you all for your warm words. I think this whole issue needs to be dragged kicking and screaming from it's academic niche and made as accessible as possible. Here's hoping my little streak will help to achieve this.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 11th, 2009 @18:20 #
     
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    At the posh girls' boarding school my parents made sacrifices to send me to, the filthiest, most hard-core porn novels circulated freely, mixed up with the Jean Plaidys. They put me off sex completely for years.

    Richard, it's an awfully sad truth that few people's first encounters with sex as mediated via the outside world are even mildly pleasant, much less tender and loving. I remember a programme on BBC about people's first times -- because it was the UK, at least no-one had been raped (40% of young SA women's first sexual experiences are non-consensual) -- but no-one had enjoyed it, most had been drunk, and most felt humiliated or regretful afterwards. *shudders*

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @19:28 #
     
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    Tragic stats. So, how do we go about turning the tide? Personally, I've made a mental note to discuss this issue with my son when the time comes. Perhaps sex education shouldn't only touch on the anatomical workings/dangers of sex, but should also make it obvious to youngsters that the images they're confronted with offer a very contorted view of reality.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    May 11th, 2009 @19:55 #
     
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    I'm hoping that boys and girls learn more from the behaviour that is modelled to them by the adults in their lives. So if they see men and women treating each other respectfully as equals, and if they go to a school where gender equality is practised as a matter of course, that will hopefully serve to counteract their inevitable exposure to sexuality through the media, both mainstream and fringe.

    I really hope so, because I am so not looking forward to conversations that begin, "When you look at pornography on the internet one day - which you will - please bear in mind the socio-economic factors that coerced these women into posing for those images..."

    Perhaps I'll just give them Whiplash to read.

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  • Maire
    Maire
    May 11th, 2009 @20:10 #
     
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    Fantastic review Richard! A real thinking (honest) man's appraisal of a brilliant book. I love the fact that while she may not have been given any ribbons other than a white one, Tess continues to make waves - and this time it's from across the waves!

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @20:25 #
     
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    Thank you kindly, Maire. I've also posted the review on GoodReads (http://is.gd/yN5z). The more comments posted there, the more readers it will attract across the pond and elsewhere.

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  • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    May 11th, 2009 @20:26 #
     
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    This is an incredibly powerful review. The prostitutes I knew in Paris in the eighties plied their trade for one reason only - getting enough money for the next hit of heroin. It's a vicious circle, especially as the drug pushers also often control the sex trade. And it's the prostitutes who work the streets who are the ones most at risk of rape, violence and death. In the last ten years, sixty sex-workers have been murdered in the UK (only sixteen of these cases have been solved). The mind shudders at the thought of the number of deaths that must occur, undocumented, in this country.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @20:41 #
     
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    Thanks, Sarah. The added tragedy is that many people, the police included, often conclude that those women were "asking for it".

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 11th, 2009 @20:54 #
     
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    Richard, your son will model his sexual behaviour mostly on how you treat his mother -- so he'll be fine :) But when I had to talk to high-school students about sex (the school asked me to speak on feminism, heh heh) I talked about how I wished my sexual choices at their age had been based on what I wanted (not the church, not my peers, not my family, not popularity with boys) -- and that meant first figuring out what I wanted. As Fiona says, we have to present kids with such a long string of no's and X is exploitative, and you could get Aids etc etc etc. I wish there was a way to say "if it's not tender and funny and fun, you DON'T HAVE TO DO IT".

    It should also be compulsory for all parents to kiss in front of their children at least once a day. Not tonsil hockey, but not a brisk peck either. Something that says I really fancy this wonderful person. Yay, I have the bit between my teeth, nothing like pontificating about marriage and children (zero experience) and sex (advancing age rapidly wiping out all memory thereof).

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @21:01 #
     
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    Fortunately, as you have already guessed, I've got the kiss-and-cuddle programme well covered. But how the hell does one convey that message to all those kids whose first encounter with sex will be prised from Pandora's cyberbox?

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  • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    May 11th, 2009 @21:09 #
     
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    Have you seen the show 'secret diary of a call-girl?' It's about the glamorous life of an upscale call-girl, played by Billie Piper (Dr Who's sidekick). I haven't seen it, but by all accounts it seems to present prostitution as a viable career choice - ie easy money if you don't get raped, addicted to crack, beaten up or dead. The following is an article where actual call-girls compare the show to reality. Of course, they are in a different bracket and space from prostitutes such as Tess. But quite an interesting look into their world, anyway:
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/08/05/call_girls/index.html

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    May 11th, 2009 @21:21 #
     
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    (Was feeling unqualified to comment, but will streak with Richard on this chilly day.)

    When I was 12, well before the internet, I collected pictures from fashion mags of stocking ads and jeans ads and bared necks with jewellery. I watched some porn when I was 14. I think it's far healthier to watch porn when you're 14 than when you're 34. Once past the Oedipal stage, everyone builds their sexual identities on media fantasies - whether it is Barbie, movie characters (or book characters). At a certain and early stage, children move beyond identifying with the example their parents set, and have to look to the world outside, fraught as it is, as it has always been.

    The best parents can do is foster critical skills and empathy. One day a boy will see the look in that computer-girl's eyes and wonder why she's not having fun; he'll see that girl in a tiny skirt on the road on a freezing night and know she'd prefer to be inside, warm and safe. He'll realise that (as Helen says) it's no fun unless it's fun.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @21:23 #
     
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    Intriguing article, Sarah, but I bet these are the bright and silky hairs on the underbelly of the beast.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 11th, 2009 @21:26 #
     
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    *Emerges from shrubbery to embrace fellow streaker, opening a whole 'nother can of worms.*

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 11th, 2009 @22:16 #
     
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    LOL... that's an eye-watering mental picture, Richard...

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  • <a href="http://novelofdoom.wordpress.com/" rel="nofollow">Vanessa</a>
    Vanessa
    May 11th, 2009 @22:26 #
     
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    Thanks for a thought-provoking review, Richard!

    Is it just me with an overwhelming desire to make a bunch of “WARNING: I’m not doing this because I enjoy it.” stickers and volunteer for work at a news agent?

    I went into a Maritzburg brothel once, as an impressionable youth, during a brief flirtation with evangelical Christianity. What struck me most then was the lack of glamour - girls in cheap skimpy nighties, huddled around a small heater in a draughty entrance room, reading magazines and waiting for something they didn't want to happen.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 11th, 2009 @23:59 #
     
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    Today's afternoon service interruptions were brought to you buy the apostrophe in Richard's post title. It was a "smart" apostrophe - the kind which, naturally, turn the internet dumb.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 12th, 2009 @00:14 #
     
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    (They also turn editors dumb, as you can see.)

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 12th, 2009 @00:15 #
     
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    My apologies for the apostrophic consequences of my post.

    And thank you, Vanessa, may those stickers be read far and wide.

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  • Sarah Frost
    Sarah Frost
    May 12th, 2009 @00:59 #
     
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    I see the Independent Online has an article today about a paper being written/research being done on whether Adult Prostitution in SA should be legalised. I'm wondering if it will make things any better for the sex workers here. Its open for public comment, so y'all who're fired up about Whiplash and good with words might want to have your two cents?
    See:
    http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=15&art_id=vn20090511054315301C131873

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  • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    Karina
    May 12th, 2009 @01:11 #
     
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    Has anybody ever seen/read a serious anthology of autobiographical stories about First Times? The kind of book that tells real, honest stories (good and bad) which teenagers can relate to and make up their own minds about...
    If not, maybe here is an idea how we could communicate with our children on this tricky but so important topic...?

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 12th, 2009 @01:44 #
     
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    Richard, you helped us root out a bug, so thanks for that.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 12th, 2009 @07:30 #
     
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    @Sarah - Will definitely take a look.

    @Karina - Sounds like an intriguing way to offer kids alternative/additional insight into this complex transitional phase in their lives. Not sure if anything of that kind is available in SA or elsewhere.

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  • <a href="http://traceyfarren.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Tracey F</a>
    Tracey F
    May 12th, 2009 @20:06 #
     
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    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for that wonderfully thoughtful piece on Whiplash. It goes a long way towards explaining why Whiplash might be painful for men. Even if they don't spend their pocket money on prostitutes, the book is bound to resonate with their self knowledge, specifically their libidos. It is bound to remind that they are often aroused by a personless sexual object; that set of legs, breasts, those pretty genitals, without seeing the girl behind them. The way that men are socialised is, I believe, a serious sickness in our society, and has everything to do with keeping women dirty and down.

    The fact that prostitution exists and the false way that it is portrayed is an obvious symptom of some fear. I would say that in an unconscious way, they need deny their hearts and keep femininity at bay in order to stay dominant in our political economy. Of course certain women play along, as prostitutes, porn stars, or wives faking sexual satisfaction. As Whiplash tries to show - and I'm seriously gratified that you got it - these women ALWAYS have their personal reasons.

    I can't help trying to think of solutions, and here is where I do my own streak beneath the suburban streelights. I think that if we want to achieve sincere psychic change (starting with the mind, rather than social structure)we can't bend too far the other way. I don't think it is sufficient to tell our children that sex is a 'soulful dissolving of physical boundaries', 'an ultimate sharing', 'a transcendance of material separation between two beings' (all phrases that I have used on my teenage children). I think we also need to acknowledge that sex is primitive. It is a mating ritual, heavily influenced by hormones. It leads to procreation and the advancement of the genes. It entails impact, friction and a good deal of urgency. I think we need to acknowledge that there is something in us that remembers that time in the cave or at the fire, when our species was deliciously unevolved. I think we need to recognise the dualism in sexuality, or we run the risk of nurtuting guilt in our children and, accidentally, losing their trust. If we say, 'Sex is about love,' we have no ammunition agains the raw appeal of porn, which does degrade the feminine and consolidate the status of the male bully. I think we need to tell our children, 'Be primitive with someone you love. Trust them enough to express yourself beyond language and decency. This is where the play comes in. Allow yourself to enact entirely uncivilised desires, a carnal game that spirits you away from bank accounts, traffic rules and traditions of grammar. I think we should tell them that excellent sex comes with a typical worldly contradiction. The trust it requires can only come with love. The fun is made possible by mutual respect. I suppose what I'm saying is, we need to help our children to acknowledge their animal aspect, without making it into an ugly power contest. That is what loveless sex does.

    As for Whiplash, yes, I have not yet met a prostitute who does the work because she loves sex. Without exception, the prostitutes I met were contemptuous about the little it takes to bring ecstacy to men. They mock the client's assumption of power, simply because he pays. It's another example, I suppose, of the world's dualism. Prostitutes lose power to gain it in a destructive, loveless ritual.

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    May 12th, 2009 @20:48 #
     
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    I am so very glad that Richard wrote this review. It makes me so sad when male friends and colleagues are so flippant about the women who work in the sex trade, and I include strippers in this. I wish I could wave this book at them and say, "read it." How very true, Richard and Tracey, most of those women don't do what they do because they enjoy it.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 12th, 2009 @21:13 #
     
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    Tracey, that is an amazing response, and you have articulated beautifully so much of what I am struggling to express in my writing about sexual violence. Your thoughts on power -- am reminded of the female friends I had who were incredibly "promiscuous" in their 20s. It was NEVER about the sex for them, even though most of the sex they were having was consensual (I find it appalling that many SA women distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sex, but don't consider the latter to be rape -- but that's another conversation). When pushed, they admitted it was about the power -- that for a few minutes, a pair of pert breasts or whatever could reduce a man, for all his power and money and fists, to something needy, whimpering, desperate. No wonder there is such hatred for women running like a thread through all this. You are indeed a Soul Sister.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    May 12th, 2009 @21:33 #
     
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    "Be primitive with someone you love. Trust them enough to express yourself beyond language and decency. This is where the play comes in. Allow yourself to enact entirely uncivilised desires, a carnal game that spirits you away from bank accounts, traffic rules and traditions of grammar."
    How absolutely brilliant.
    As a writer, a thinker, a reader I am so willing to play with duality and plurality; but as a parent I lose all confidence: I want there to be black and white truth, I want to get it right. I must keep remembering that parenting is about the shades and the colours and the complexities as much as the rest of life. Parenting is supposed to train us for the rest of life, and the sort of parenting I vouch most of us got was all about polarities, which taught us nothing but a default state of conflict in ourselves and with others.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 13th, 2009 @07:19 #
     
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    Wow, some excellent musings there, friends. Pity I was out all day. Thank you all for contributing. This is cyberspace at its very best.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    May 13th, 2009 @16:13 #
     
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    I've been following this discussion with interest. Makes it all worthwhile somehow. Thank you Richard for getting the ball rolling with your brilliant, honest and risk-taking review. And to everyone else for engaging with the issues raised by Whiplash.

    Here is a once off offer - if any Book SA bloggers have not read Whiplash yet and would like a copy and promise to write something - even one paragraph about your response to the book, you can email me and request a Review Copy. You need to email me today 13th May 2009. cdhiggs at gmail.com

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    May 13th, 2009 @16:15 #
     
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    I'm uncomfortable with the notion that "it's not about the sex" for women - that the female libido has no place for loveless, faceless sex. That seems to hark back to those old Victorian "Angel in the House" myths, in which the female libido was inextricably linked to domestic love, monogamy and procreation.

    I also squirm in protest at the idea that pornography is enjoyed only by men, and piously rejected by women. That women who claim to be aroused by the sight of anonymous body parts are "only pretending" or "letting down the side" or engaged in some kind of power play.

    Without streaking under the street lights myself (it's cold out there!), I have to say I don't think the male and female libidos are essentially all that different. They are certainly CONSTRUCTED differently by society, but I'm reluctant to let those constructions pass unchallenged.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 13th, 2009 @17:44 #
     
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    Damn, we could split this thread up into four or five sub-threads at this point!

    I'm certainly inclined to agree, Fiona, but not all porn is created equal, if you catch my drift. My initial premise was not so much about the viewer's (male or female) enjoyment of porn, but the reasons why sex workers get involved in the industry. But I am in no way implying, of course, that differences/similarities/construction of male and female perception of pornography is not relevant in this regard.

    Damn, I need to get some work done. Hope to return later.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    May 13th, 2009 @19:01 #
     
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    This is such a big thing to even try to get in to, so I have much admiration for everyone who has engaged so articulately and thoughtfully.

    Some quick thoughts: About 8 years ago, journalism gave me the opportunity to spend some time with SWEAT (the Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce), homeless sex workers who were being beaten up and raped by cops in Claremont, girls (as in under-18) working main road Sea Point and women working at the Cape Ranch, which was then supposed to be the most upmarket (read: cheesiest, with plastic plants and braai day) brothel in Cape Town, as well as a lisping Dominatrix at Paradise.

    For many of these women, there wasn't a choice. This was their only way of economic survival or providing for their kids, to greater and lesser extents. Big difference between the "17" year old Charmaine working the streets for rocks (as in crack - and she looked 15 max) and Tracey, the 30 year old nice educated middle class divorcee at The Ranch, who said this allowed her to send her kids to a private school, to buy them a playstation for christmas.

    While the women I spoke to at the Ranch absolutely defended their "temporary" career move (they all talk about when they're going to get out) and Tracey said she enjoyed the sex and had experienced her first orgasm with a client, when I asked if she'd let her daughter work as a sex worker, she was adamant that there was no way in hell. When I pushed her, she said it was because she wanted more for her. So despite all the assurances, and no matter the work environment there is always some kind of internal conflict.

    It's an ugly business born, usually, out of necessity and desperation, that preys on the vulnerable. I don't think we should discount that some rare women might enjoy their work. Author Mary Gaitskill writes enough short stories about students and New York arty girls getting into prostitution on the side that I can't help but feel that she has had some experience, maybe only peripherally.

    At the same time, sex trafficking, or let's call it what it is, rape slavery, is one of the greatest evils of our time (or, actually all time, considering we've been at it since day one)

    The only way to help prevent women being forced into sex work, raped, drugged, sold into slavery, abused and robbed is to decriminalise sex work, maybe even legalise it, so that it can be policed and regulated so that the women who work as sex workers for whatever reason can do so in relative safety and get access to healthcare (which SWEAT does a lot of already).

    As for women and porn / women and sleeping around - I think the problem with the messages our society sends women and girls is that we're telling them to be sexy not sexual. It is in part a power play - look hot, learn pole-dancing, lap-dance your guy friends or make out with your girlfriends (so you can totally turn on the guys, not because you're actually into it), flash your peachfish to the paparazzi and get them all riled up - having that effect on men is heady stuff.

    But it's all seemingly for show. It's provocado. So we have teen girls willing to give blowjobs at the drop of trou, but who think guys going down on them is gross. Paris Hilton lolls around bored in her sex videos (going on Ariel Levy's description in Female Chauvinist Pigs: The Rise of Raunch Culture), she's sexy personified but when it comes to actual sex, she doesn't seem to get any pleasure or enjoyment out of it at all. So what's the fucking point?

    Women need to know it's okay to enjoy sex, to be sexual. As Tracey says : "Be primitive with someone you love. Trust them enough to express yourself beyond language and decency. This is where the play comes in. Allow yourself to enact entirely uncivilised desires, a carnal game that spirits you away from bank accounts, traffic rules and traditions of grammar."

    Maybe that includes casual sleeping around for kicks, maybe it doesn't if you don't have the emotional temperament for it. If you're doing it for power not pleasure, that's a little worrying.

    And we definitely can go too far the other way. I was disturbed that the recent Feminist Porn Awards site included videos on gay sex, transgender sex, lesbian sex and extreme bondage, but didn't seem to have any hetero.

    I think the idea that feminism has one absolute set of rules is ridiculous - it's about freedom of choice, to be a stay-at-home mom or workaholic, burkha-wearer or boob-job devotee. It's how you interpret that choice for you. You don't have to agree with every other woman on earth on how to be a woman.

    But that the fun, consensual sex with a man could be somehow "un-feminist", or at least un-feminist enough that it shouldn't be part of feminist porn, is retarded.

    Also, I think there's a famous porn production company in San Francisco (Kink, maybe?) where they revel in it being absolutely consensual, non-exploitative, everyone is there because they absolutely love it including the apparently very hardcore stuff they do. Let's not forget that people have weird kinks and fetishes.

    And recommended reading: Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs

    Phew. I hope that was vaguely coherent.

    Waiting for Margie Orford to weigh in.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    May 13th, 2009 @19:13 #
     
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    Extremely coherent, Lauren. I was expecially interested in the middle-class dancers at The Ranch who vigorously defended their "choice" of profession, but were horrified at the thought that their daughters might follow them into it.

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    May 13th, 2009 @19:16 #
     
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    Aaargh! Ben - editor, what happened to paragraph breaks?

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 13th, 2009 @19:36 #
     
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    Fascinating, Lauren, and you have exactly explained the dichotomy I was struggling to articulate: that the differences I was referring to aren't to do with sexuality, but how to USE it as a form of power play. (This is shorthand for "both Fiona and I are right"). Lauren hits the nail on the head: a lot of the "sexy" behaviour modelled by younger women is "provocado". Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that "sex" is now so much in the public domain -- something that's acted out constantly with one eye always peeled for the pararazzi, always that calculated consideration of the impact you're having -- that turns us into a society of porn stars and voyeurs (and lower down the food chain, gang rapists). Maybe that's what we should tell kids: it's not about performing, but something that is most delicious when private?

    So much work to do, but this is such a compelling thread...

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    May 13th, 2009 @19:53 #
     
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    @louis & @richard: I think you guys are spot on that it's as much about what we teach our boys as our girls.

    And have to clarify that Tracey the sex worker at The Ranch in 2000 is an entirely different Tracey to Tracey Farren author of Whiplash, just in case anyone was confused (which you likely weren't, but just in case all the same)

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 13th, 2009 @20:05 #
     
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    Having covered many of the underlying issues, may I suggest that we steer the discussion towards possible solutions?

    I definitely agree with Lauren that prostitution should be legalised and regulated. That may not make it right or enjoyable for sex workers, but it would improve the circumstances under which the ply their trade.

    And perhaps some sort of warning, as suggested in my initial post, might be a good way to keep reminding the average voyeur/client that sex workers seldom do what they do because they get a kick out of it.

    As for the provocado sexiness exhibited in music videos, advertising and elsewhere (and the macho-power babble of rap and other music genres) - I think the creators in question should be reminded to take a long, hard look at the impact they have on young children and teenagers. Yesterday, I saw an great presentation by leading designer Valerie Casey, founder of the "Designers' Accord", which basically lays down guidelines for eco-friendly, conscientious design. Within a year, this accord has been adopted by 100,000 people in the design industry, worldwide. Perhaps creatives working in advertising and the music industry, should be stimulated to adopt a similar accord, or at least consider the possible repercussions of the images they transmit to the world - slutty-waitress baby being a case in point.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 13th, 2009 @20:12 #
     
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    Here's a link to the Desingers' Accord website:

    http://www.designersaccord.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    May 13th, 2009 @20:31 #
     
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    Yes, Ben, us creatives need white lines to make our point! (For spacing rather than snorting, of course...)

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  • Sarah Frost
    Sarah Frost
    May 13th, 2009 @21:19 #
     
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    Richard, apropos of your mentioning 'provocado sexiness in music videos' - I downloaded a Macy Gray Youtube video this morning called Sexual Revolution (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Iez2EjZFdE) - which is on purpose provocative, but also very humourous, and found myself wondering whether it was good/bad to have such blatant physicality publicly accessible, then concluded its more tender than macho, and actually, good on Macy Gray for singing that its OK for men and women to be libidinous and playful. The media a positive

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  • Sarah Frost
    Sarah Frost
    May 13th, 2009 @21:20 #
     
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    influential force too (what's with the word limits in these posts?)

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 13th, 2009 @23:19 #
     
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    Dunno what happened to the line breaks. Richard tried this -

    http://is.gd/zteq

    - but it didn't seem to work.

    I wonder if code works? Try putting & # 3 2 between the lines (but w/out spaces):

    break

    break

    break

    break

    Did that work?

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 13th, 2009 @23:19 #
     
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    Nope

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 14th, 2009 @01:06 #
     
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    SWEAT definitely supports legalising the sex trade in SA. And I think Richard's "I'm not doing this because I enjoy it" slogan should be part of the public discussion -- hmm, how to implement. (The movie Pretty Woman has a lot to answer for.) A huge part of the solution is the drum I'm always beating: teach boys, not just girls, about this stuff. Can't wait to explore your design site, am proofing poems and seeing all sorts of teeny tiny glitches waving at me...

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    May 14th, 2009 @07:42 #
     
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    If you shift+refresh this page, you'll see line breaks added now.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    May 14th, 2009 @08:35 #
     
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    Ooh, it worked! But it churned for a long time first.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    May 22nd, 2009 @22:48 #
     
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    Part of an sms I got from a friend, AW, stayed with her in Franschoek last weekend for FLF; gave her a copy of "Whiplash" as a thank you for the accommodation. We were at school together (last saw her in 1979 - and reconnected on Facebook):

    "Just finished Whiplash. Rad book, doll! Cried my eyes out for the last quarter. Couldn't see the words. Had to stop. Thanks for giving it to me. I want to start belly dancing."

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    June 3rd, 2009 @19:59 #
     
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    Richard, thanks so much for this review and the discussion it generated. I appreciate all the Book SA bloggers who read Whiplash and loved it, but especially you for this brilliantly thought provoking review.

    I have a feeling your review might have contributed to the short-listing. But who really knows.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    June 3rd, 2009 @21:23 #
     
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    Well, Colleen, if all it takes is an honest opinion and a short streak, I should be able to keep it up. Heartfelt congratulations to you both once more!

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