And now for some scripture-based levity.
At the end of July, Neal Falls booked an appointment with a sex worker named Heather in West Virginia. He planned to kill her, as police believe he may have murdered as many as nine other sex workers in Ohio, Illinois and Nevada. But with Heather he failed. But with Heather, finally, he failed. When he attacked her, she fought back, got his gun and killed him.
Falls’ death was national news but, as such things do, it soon faded out of the headlines. Heather, though, was still bruised and traumatized, unable to work and in difficult financial straits.
Luckily, not everyone forgot about Heather. Mistress Matisse, a writer and dominatrix in Seattle, heard about Heather’s experience and was determined to help. Through other sex workers she tracked Heather down, called her and booked a flight to West Virginia. She showed up at Heather’s door and hasn’t really left. She’s organized fund-raising, lined up medical assistance and connected Heather with nonprofit help.
This isn’t a new role for Matisse. She’s worked as a sex worker in various capacities since she was 19. But as she’s gotten established in Seattle, she says, “I have gotten to the point in my career where it is in many ways self-sustaining.”
As a result, she’s had more time to devote to activism. Matisse was there to help Heather because she’s made it her business to help sex workers who are in crises.
I talked to Matisse about her activism, her work with Heather and why sex workers are the best ones to help sex workers.
Most of your activism is independent, rather than directly working with non-profits or sex worker organizations. Why is that?
I get a lot out of sex worker organizations as a participant. I couldn’t be who I am without the sex work community. At a certain point it became clear to me that I should do sex work activism the way I do business.
I play well with others, but I’m also an introvert, and I don’t do well in people’s systems. I do well in my own system.
As a dominatrix, my work is creative. Someone is going to walk in, and you have a very short time where you sit and talk to them and kind of go, ‘What is it that you want and that you need? And how can that fit into things that I do, or am willing to do, in a way that’s creative and sexy and fun?’ In like five minutes, OK we’re doing that thing. It’s a very quick assessment. Make a plan. Make it happen. And that’s a dynamic that I do well with, and I enjoy it.
So for me what happens a lot is that I hear or see that there’s a sex worker who’s in a crisis, and I just reach out to her and say, ‘What do you need? How can I help you?’ And there’s a connection with her, and then I begin to address her needs at an individual level.
Working with an organization, you’re committed to working at a certain pace. They’re writing policy changes they want, or they’re lobbying in a very directed way to an elected official. They are process-oriented things, and I really want people to do them. It’s just that I’m not good at doing them. It just feels like slogging through mud to me.
So you’re working directly with Heather now?
Heather’s a case that moves me. My heart’s always very involved. And that’s why I like working the way I do. It’s emotionally very rewarding for me. Some people get rewarded from having written a really great policy, but that’s not rewarding for me.
I saw Heather on the news and I immediately knew — every woman who works alone, like I do, that’s the worst fear, is that you open the door to a murderer. And every time you see a new client, that thought is in your mind. I mean, I’ve opened thousands of doors over my career, to thousands of men, and crossed my fingers and hoped to God that it wouldn’t be one of those guys.
I’ve never been harmed by a client, but there have been a few cases where I have been very frightened, and that fear that you feel when you think, ‘Oh my god, is this guy going to hurt me? Am I going to be one of those girls?’ You never forget how that feels. So when I read this story…
This guy had a list of names of who he’s going after next. So Heather saved all those women’s lives. And it’s only sheer luck that the guy decided to go to West Virginia instead of Seattle. As far as I’m concerned, Heather saved my life and the lives of all the people I know in sex work, just as surely as she saved her own and the women on that list. This guy had been at it for a while. He’s a professional. So this is very emotional for me and very personal for me, and I decided that I was going to take care of it and make sure that she got everything she needed.
I started to call people (in the sex worker community) on the East Coast asking, ‘Who knows this girl? Who knows who she is? Who has met her?’ After a couple of days of calling around we came up with her phone number, so I called her and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I saw what you did and I’m a sex worker, too, and I would like to help you.’
Is it important that sex workers be the ones to reach out to help sex workers in need?
Well, for Heather, she was having a problem because there were some people local to her who had started a fundraiser for her, they said, but they were being really weird and controlling about the money. They weren’t going to let her have it unless she fulfilled certain things that they thought they should do.
They wanted her to give interviews, when she was clearly in no shape to give interviews. She told me they had bought her this dress they wanted her to wear. They wanted her to look like a nice respectable girl. They wanted to rescue her in the way, ‘We’re going to change your life. We’re going to change who you are, and we’re going to save you from this life.’
The reason that sex workers are the best people to help other sex workers is that we do it from a place of respect for the individual, and we understand that someone has to consent to being helped, at every stage of the way.
Trying to force ‘solutions’ on us that aren’t solutions just makes our lives more difficult. And most of the time, when you get a non-SW trying to help a sex worker who’s in trouble, they focus on sex work BEING the problem.
If someone wants to stop doing sex work, then we want options made available to them. But even in that situation, it’s crucial that you not shame someone who’s done sex work to survive. Like calling them a victim, even if that’s not how they identify, and focusing on how awful it must have been, asking for horror stories instead of just saying, ‘OK, so what do you want to be doing, and how can we get you there?’
I approach helping someone like I approach the BDSM scene. There’s a person here who I think wants me to take control of the situation. But you have to get consent for that. So I can say to you that I see that you’re having some trouble here, if you allow me to, I can do anything I can to alleviate these problems. Do you give me your consent to do that? Yes. You have to get the consent, and you have to go on getting the consent throughout the process.
These people wanted to get money for Heather, that’s great, but she didn’t even know them before they started doing that. And they were talking about her on the news and stuff. And they were going to hold onto the money until she did all these things they wanted her to do. What you’re doing to her she’s not consenting to, so it’s not really help.
I can look at Heather’s house, and say, moving out of here should be your first priority because a terrible thing happened here, and she’s like, ‘No, it’s not my first priority. X is my first priority.’ So that’s what we’ll do.
Do you consider your activism —helping sex workers— to be feminist activism?
The concept of feminism is kind of like the concept of God. There’s all this doctrine and dogma and stuff. And then there’s what people do. And everyone’s version of God is a little different. I’m very much in favor of a lot of the stated goals of feminism, just as I’m in favor of many of the stated goals of religion, which is be kind to other people, don’t lie and murder. It’s those ten commandment style things that I think we’re all on board with.
But mainstream feminism rejects sex work as an acceptable choice. So for me being a sex worker and being a feminist is kind of like being an immigrant who votes Republican. Even if you happen to agree with the rest of the party platform, there’s the small issue that they want to kick you out of the country. So I don’t describe myself as an adherent to a political philosophy that wants to eliminate me.
What can people do to help Heather if they’d like to contribute?
We’ve put together a crowdfund specifically to cover medical expenses; people can contribute to that here.
Complete Article HERE!
You grew up in a family of substance users. You know that your risk for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol is greater because of this hereditary factor. But what exactly are your risks? And is there anything you can do to reduce your risk?
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the single most reliable indicator for risk of future alcohol or drug dependence is family history. In an article written for NCADD, Robert Morse, MD, former Director of Addictive Disorders Services at the Mayo Clinic and member of NCADD’s Medical/Scientific Committee, says, “Research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment…millions of Americans are living proof. Plain and simple, alcoholism and drug dependence run in families.”
How Family History Affects your Chances for Addiction
Family history affects your chances of addiction in many ways. Genes are one important factor. But alcoholism and drug addiction are “genetically complex.”
Recent research has identified numerous genes, and variations within these genes, that are associated with the addictive process. One way genes affect a person’s risk for addiction involves how genes metabolize alcohol. Another is how nerve cells signal one another and regulate their activity. Such changes in genes can be passed down from one generation to another.
Perhaps the strongest evidence for heredity’s role in addiction comes from twin studies and adoption studies. Studies of twins found a 60% rate of similarity regarding addiction in identical twins vs. a 39% rate of similarity in fraternal twins. Studies of children adopted in infancy and studied for addiction risk in adulthood found that biological sons of alcoholics were four times more likely to become alcoholics, even when the adoptive parent had no issues with addiction, so the l factor of family environment was minimal.
But genetic predispositions are not the only factor in predicting the role of family history in addiction risk. Environmental aspects also play a role, even though they may be less significant in some cases.
Researchers have identified several family-related risks for increased vulnerability:
- Family dysfunction (conflicts or aggression)
- A parent who is depressed or has other psychological issues
- One or more parents who abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol
Additional social and personal issues that contribute to risk include:
- Limited social skills
- Fragile self-esteem
- Minimal or no support system
- Personal history of impulsivity, aggression or difficulty managing emotions
- A history of trauma or abuse (high risk for post traumatic stress)
- Other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder
- Friends or acquaintances who are regular users and who provide easy access to drugs or alcohol
Addressing and Reducing Risks
An alternative viewpoint regarding a family history link for addiction comes from a National Institute of Health (NIH) meta-study of 65 published papers documenting 766 study participants who were college or university students. Controlling for alcohol consumption and use disorders, family history was reviewed as the variable. The meta-study found that students who had family histories of alcohol or drug problems did not drink more but they were likely to be more at risk for problems that are associated with drug or alcohol use (ex: causing shame or embarrassment to someone; passing out or fainting; or having problems with school).
The bottom line is that there are still a lot of uncertainties when it comes to assessing drug and alcohol risks as they relate to family history. The good news is that even if you come from a family with a troubled history, or a history of addictions, that does not mean you will automatically become an addict. The risk is higher, but there are ways to prevent that from happening. You can choose to be proactive and greatly reduce your addiction risk.
Here are a few suggestions to reduce your addiction risk:
- Avoid under-age drinking or substance use; early-onset of use increases risk
- Choose abstinence or carefully monitor your consumption
- Avoid associating with heavy drinkers or substance users
- Manage your psychological health; seek assistance from a mental health provider if you are highly stressed, anxious or depressed
- Participate in workplace or school prevention programs
Should you already find yourself dealing with an alcohol or drug issue, here are some intervention strategies provided by the National Institute of Health, in their publication, Alcohol Alert:
- Motivational Interview: This strategy focuses on enhancing your motivation and commitment to changing your behavior, if you are currently abusing drugs or alcohol. Typically you would work with an addictions counselor or mental health professional and discuss your beliefs, choices and behaviors associated with substance use. The purpose of the interview is to help you develop a realistic view of your use, problems associated with it and your treatment goals and expectations.
- Cognitive–Behavioral Interventions: These strategies are taught by a counselor or therapist, or they can sometimes can be accessed via an online self-help program. They help you change your behavior by helping you recognize when and why you drink excessively or use illegal substances. Cognitive-behavioral approaches challenge irrational expectations about substance use and raise your awareness of how drugs or alcohol affect your health and well-being. They provide tools for mentally and emotionally addressing denial, resistance, self-criticism and shame.
- Drug-Free Workplace programs: Many workplaces now help their employees who are abusing alcohol or drugs. Lifestyle campaigns encourage workers to ease stress, improve nutrition and exercise, and reduce risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, or drug use. Other programs promote social support and volunteerism. Many Employee Assistance Programs offer employees referrals to substance abuse or other treatment programs, and may help pay for treatment.
Remember, the risk for alcohol and drug addiction does run in families. But you can manage the risk and avoid an addiction problem in your own life. Be proactive in monitoring your substance use, manage your mental and emotional health and seek support if you need it. The final outcome will depend on you and the choices you make today, not on your history.
Complete Article HERE!
by Jenny Pogson
If you think only young people are at risk of sexually transmitted infections, think again – rates could be on the rise in older adults.
With more of us living longer and healthier lives, and divorce a reality of life, many of us are finding new sexual partners later in life.
While an active sex life comes with a myriad of health benefits, experts are warning those of us in mid-life and beyond not to forget the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection from a new partner.
Figures suggest rates of infections have been on the increase among older people in the US and UK in recent years and there is a suggestion the same could be happening in Australia.
Chlamydia, a common bacterial STI, is on the up among all age groups in Australia, and has more than doubled in those over 50 since 2005; going from 620 cases to 1446 in 2010.
Gonorrhoea, another bacterial infection, has seen a slight increase in the over 50s, rising from 383 infections in 2005 to 562 in 2010.
While these increases could partly be attributable to more people being tested, the trend has caused concern in some parts of the medical community here and overseas.
Older people are increasingly likely to be single or experiencing relationship changes these days, according to the UK’s Family Planning Association, which last year ran its first sexual health campaign aimed at over 50s.
It’s much easier to meet new partners, with the advent of internet dating and the ease of international travel. Plus, thanks to advances in healthcare, symptoms of the menopause and erectile dysfunction no longer spell the end of an active sex life.
But despite this, education campaigns about safe sex are generally aimed at younger people; not a great help when it’s often suggested that older people are more likely to feel embarrassed about seeking information about STIs and may lack the knowledge to protect themselves.
And, as noted by Julie Bentley, CEO of the UK’s Family Planning Association, “STIs don’t care about greying hair and a few wrinkles”.
Risky sexual practices
Dr Deborah Bateson, medical director at Family Planning NSW, started researching older women’s views and experience of safe sex after noticing a rise in the number of older women asking for STI tests and being diagnosed with STIs, particularly chlamydia.
The organisation surveyed a sample of women who used internet dating sites and found, compared with younger women, those aged between 40 and 70 were more likely to say they would agree to sex without a condom with a new partner.
Similarly, a telephone survey commissioned by Andrology Australia found that around 40 per cent of men over 40 who have casual sex do not use condoms.
While the reasons behind this willingness to engage in unsafe sex are uncertain, Bateson says older people may have missed out on the safe sex message, which really started to be heavily promoted in the 1980s with the advent of HIV/AIDS.
In addition, older women may no longer be concerned about becoming pregnant and have less of an incentive to use a condom compared with younger women.
“There is a lot of the information around chlamydia that relates to infertility in the future, so again for older women there may be a sense that it’s not relevant for them,” she says.
However, the Family Planning survey did find that older women were just as comfortable as younger women with buying condoms and carry them around.
“There’s obviously something happening when it comes to negotiating their use. Most people know about condoms but it’s just having the skills around being able to raise the subject and being able to negotiate their use at the actual time,” Bateson says.
As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure – something to remember when broaching the topic of safe sex and STIs with a new partner.
“If you’re meeting a new partner, they are probably thinking the same thing as you [about safe sex],” says Bateson.
“So being able to break the ice [about safe sex] can often be a relief for both people.”
Anyone who has had unprotected sex, particularly with several people, is potentially at risk of STIs, says Professor Adrian Mindel, director of the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney.
“People who are changing partners or having new partners, they and their partner should think about being tested,” he says.
“Also think about condom use at least until [you] know [the] relationship is longer lasting and that neither of [you] are going having sex with anyone outside the relationship.”
The UK’s Family Planning Association also stresses that STIs can be passed on through oral sex and when using sex toys – not just through intercourse.
It also notes that the signs and symptoms of some STIs can be mistaken as a normal part of aging, such as vaginal soreness or irregular bleeding.
And remember that often infections don’t result in symptoms, so you may not be aware you have an STI. However, you can still pass an infection on to a sexual partner.
So if you are starting a new sexual relationship or changing partners, here is some expert advice to consider:
- If you have had unprotected sex, visit your GP to get tested for STIs. This may involve giving a urine sample to test for chlamydia, examination of the genital area for signs of genital warts, or a swab of your genitals to test for STIs such as herpes or gonorrhoea. A blood test may also be required to test for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.
- If you are starting a new relationship, suggest your partner also gets tested.
- Use a condom with a new partner until you both have been tested for STIs and are certain neither of you is having unprotected sex outside the relationship.
- If you have symptoms you are concerned about, such as a urethral discharge in men or vaginal discharge, sores or lumps on the genitals, pain when passing urine or abdominal pains in women, see your GP.
Complete Article HERE!
Dr Dick: I am gay and I have no idea how to break it to my family. And they say, every time they see a gay guy, look at that fag glad he’s not my kid. I would disown him. Just wondering if u could help me.
Ain’t it a bitch being surrounded by a bunch of yahoos! Coming out is rarely easy, but doing so to ignorant, fearful, bigoted people is the worst.
Pete, you should know that such bigotry is deeply rooted in the bigot’s own fear about him or herself. It stands to reason, all irrational fears and hatred, like homophobia, are more indicative of the troubled psychological make-up of the one with the prejudice rather than the people he or she abhors.
Often people will use religion to back up their prejudice. It’s particularly galling when non-religious people do this. But it’s safe to say that authentically religious people don’t need to persecute or ostracize those who do not believe as they do. Any more than authentically heterosexual people need to persecute or ostracize people of other sexual persuasions. Let that be the standard by which you judge the worth of any message coming from a religious dogmatist or a moralizing heterosexual.
Before you start in on the self-disclosure thing with your family, Pete, I suggest you first try to clear a path for that discussion. Begin by challenging those around you who shame or denigrate those who are different. Ask them why they make such ridiculously uninformed and hurtful statements. Ask them if degrading other people makes them feel superior. And if it does, what does that say about their inadequacies. You could suggest that their intolerance of gay and lesbian people proves they have some hidden, unresolved sexual issues that they need to address. I mean — me thinks you doth protest too much — and all that, right?
If your family environment doesn’t improve with that tactic, you may find that, at least in the short run, discretion is the better part of valor. Sometimes coming out to one’s family is best done only after you’ve come out to friends and co-workers. This strategy will provide you a bank of support that you can fall back on if the family disclosure things turn out badly.
My counsel to those just starting the coming out process is to reserve the good news about you and your sexuality for the audience best situated to receive it. Celebrate your queerness with open-minded people first. Nowadays there’s way more acceptance of alternative lifestyles in the popular culture then ever before. Younger people, particularly, seem to have more tolerance for diversity. But however you choose to handle this difficult yet important developmental task, don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Don’t cave into the bigotry that surrounds you. Don’t let it intimidate you into a life of shame, repression, or self-loathing. Live authentically, Pete. And live proud! Because when you do, you are a shining example of a happy, healthy and integrated and well-adjusted human being.
Read other people’s coming out stories; they may offer you strategies for your own coming out. Then consider sharing your story to help others.
Finally, just remember you are not alone. Sex positive and gay positive organizations abound. If you need help with any of your coming out, if you’re feeling isolated and alone — turn to one of them. They are there to help. And there are even support organizations for your family members too. Turn them on to: PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians).