Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Self Righteous Fire Storm

A fascinating miniature firestorm is going on across the US at the moment. No, it's not about a guy with explosive jocks. It's about a woman who styled herself as Alexa DiCarlo. She had, to my knowledge, three different but related websites: Her blog - The Real Princess Diaries, a site with stories of sex workers' first experience of professional sex - My First Professional Sex, and her "professional" site as a sex worker. Alexa also had a formidable presence on Twitter as AlexaRPD.
Of those sites the first and last are currently "down for maintenance" and only MFPS is still up. Alexa has also gone silent on Twitter. Why? Well that's the nub of this story.
Alexa popped onto the scene about 2 years ago with the Real Princess Diaries. Briefly the story was that she was in the process of moving from Florida to San Francisco in order to start a Masters in Human Sexuality. She was also going to change from working as a stripper to working as an escort to fund her studies. She was leaving her girlfriend Niki behind in Florida but the relationship continues.
The RPD website was a place for Alexa to present her views about sex work, sexuality, Yellowstone National Park and anything else that caught her fancy. She also increasingly posted about elements of her work and private sexual activity. Alexa also maintained Tumblrs with erotic photos. She is a pretty engaging writer, opinionated and forthright. Clearly intelligent. She presented strongly as a sex workers' advocate and had a passion for sexual education. Her politics are left rather than right.
You can imagine that she garnered a pretty big following on her sites and on Twitter. But trouble was brewing. Alexa refuses to meet with other sex workers. She says that she doesn't want to compromise her future by becoming publicly known for engaging in illegal activity. And sex work is illegal in the US for all intents and purposes. It seems to me its her right to remain anonymous if she wants to.
Behind the scenes there have apparently been attempts to meet with Alexa and to verify that she is in fact who/what she says she is. To no avail. And so this article appeared on Carnal Nation and one of its key targets was Alexa. The premise being that she is likely neither a sex worker nor "real". That then spawned articles such as this one - it's the Drama Llama post of 23 December you want; and this one by Amanda Brooks.
I'll let you read those articles and blog posts for all the gory details and all the "evidence". Basically the argument is that she's not real, she isn't a tart, she has ripped off others' photos and she certainly can't claim to be an activist.
Perhaps the mildest of the posters is Amanda Brooks, a noted activist and writer who wrote a thoughtful piece. I posted a comment on Amanda's blog which she responded to. Basically we differ and the difference is, to quote Amanda: "As you yourself stated, you are not a worker, therefore you will NOT see the issues the same as we do."
That's absolutely right, but there is always more than one perspective on a situation and none of them is necessarily "right". I'm a radical constructivist by the way so that might help you understand how I think about these issues!
So now to the bits that make this so interesting. Firstly you have got a group of people - sex workers and sex worker advocates - who are all in a tizzy about who can call themselves an advocate. I fundamentally differ at this point. I can call myself a "car drivers' advocate" if I want. You of course don't have to accept that I am, and if you are a car driver you don't have to accept that I represent you. But what you have no right to say is that I can't call myself a car drivers' advocate because you don't think I am. I believe the same principles apply to the Alexa situation. People can say "I don't see Alexa as an advocate", I don't see that they have a right to say "Alexa can't call herself an advocate".
The second interesting point is about "what's real". In this country we've had a number of literary "scandals" over the years - writers who were not as they presented themselves. The Ern Malley affair and the Demidenko "scandal". These matters were not funny for a lot of the literati. They did however shake the tree, many of us found them enlightening for the way that they shed light on the literary establishment. More recently we've had the whole discussion about Anon - the author of a Bride Stripped Bare and even more recently the whole disclosure of the identity of Belle de Jour.
As far as I'm concerned this is all grist for the mill. You can present as whoever you want on the net or in print. It's up to your readers to determine how authentic you are and whether you are worth reading. I think there's a bit more to flow under the bridge with the Alexa saga and it will be an interesting thing to watch. But two elements of the whole issue are worrying:
  1. Somebody or a group of people have taken it upon themselves to begin outing sex workers in the US. They are on Twitter here. I have no idea what their motives are but they appear to be related to the Alexa saga somehow. I think that's most unfortunate;
  2. A commenter on Amanda Brooks' blog said, in part " To see people who should know better, who do know better continue to buy into the line that “Alexa” is somehow being harmed in all this, floors me. “Alexa” Is a fictitious character. " That also worries me. "Alexa" is certainly a working name, a blogger's handle, but there's a human being in this somewhere. I think it would be unfortunate to forget that. Human beings can get hurt, even if they are not who we think they are.
Food for thought in this movable feast called the net. Oh and if you are wondering...yes I'm real. It's just that my Mum doesn't call me Critical Alpha.

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