Category Archives: rape

A tip for the guys: don’t be the guy who records consent

Content note: this post discusses rape

Today in “here’s a bloke who totally doesn’t understand how consent works” we have this chap, who was “falsely accused” of rape, and now makes recordings of consent before he has sex:

It has taken me a really long time to be intimate with another women and if and when that situation does arise I tend to ensure that I have recorded full consent before anything takes place.

I would ask questions like “What is your name? Are you comfortable in being here?” Just to make sure that I have proof that everything and anything that had happened, was fully consensual by both of us.

Yes. Seriously. That’s what he thinks is OK. And the BBC seem to have run his top tip completely uncritically. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad idea and not actually seeking consent, but lest any young men try to imitate this, here’s why it’s absolutely not a decent way of seeking consent:

  1. Consent isn’t this magical switch which, when switched on, means you consent to absolutely everything that happens afterwards. It’s a process. It can be withdrawn at any point. So just because someone says “yes” at first doesn’t mean it’s going to be a “yes” all night, to absolutely everything that happens thereafter. It’s important to keep on checking, over and over.
  2. A recording can be coerced. Think about how most hostages say they are being “treated well”. Do you believe they are truly being treated well?
  3. A recording can be tricked. Is it going to cover absolutely anything? Probably not. This is probably just a general gesture of “consent” rather than what you are actually consenting to.
  4. Basically, the whole thing sounds like a rapist’s get out of jail free card. It misses how consent works in favour of legally covering bases. Knowledge that

Women, if a man whips out his phone and insists on recording your consent, I strongly urge you to run the fuck away. Maybe he is just a decent chap who doesn’t get it. But he is behaving like a predator by doing this. And he is behaving like a predator for wondering how he can avoid prosecution rather than being sure the person he is having sex with is enjoying it.

As an aside, it’s also worth avoiding men who say they were falsely accused of rape like the plague. Statistically, it’s more likely that they did it and got away with it.

For young men, consent isn’t actually difficult. It might result in you not getting laid exactly whenever you want. But what it does do is ensure you’re not a rapist. And isn’t that the most important thing in the world?

Guest post: ‘What’s he done now?’ Abuse in the IS Network!

Content warning: this post reports sexual violence, physical and emotional abuse, and rape apologism in detail, mentions CSA

This is a statement from “Harriet”, an anonymous former member of the International Socialist Network. She contacted me asking for help in getting her experience out there. Please be warned that her statement describes in detail what happened to her, so please make sure you do what you can to keep yourself safe. Harriet would like her story to be heard.


‘What’s he done now?’ Abuse in the IS Network!

The following piece is about the physical and emotional abuse I experienced in the IS Network, the organisation that split with the SWP because of the rape of a young woman by the secretary of the SWP. I am writing under an alias to protect my mother from the truth about the abuse I experienced as a child. I may talk to her about this in time, but that’s my decision. The man who did this to me was the secretary of the IS Network at the time he sexually assaulted me. He is currently active on the left and within the unions. His name is Tim.

I’ve just ordered another 2 cans of 13 Guns, I do this often now, numb myself. I like the feeling of my body relaxing, knowing that I don’t have to deal with reality until my subconscious procures my senses and I see what this man did to me in my dreams.

Alcohol releases the intensity of anger. I am on anti-depressants for the first time. The booze and the drugs feel good, calming and replaces the tears and pain with a lightness, allowing me to cope. I want my life back, I want to feel innocent and trusting like I used to, but I know too much to go back.

I realise now, that what we think of as choice is not always so, it’s often forced upon us. If I had a choice I wouldn’t write this piece, because I don’t like hurting anyone, but I don’t have a choice. I have to write this because it’s the right thing to do. I am afraid of writing this article, because I have tried to speak out before but I was called a liar, and messages I wrote to this man were published on my Facebook page, which were taken out of context. I was an organiser in the IS Network and he was a powerful influence within the organisation. He was taken seriously. If I wanted the IS Network to survive I had to forgive him. I had to get him to take me seriously. But he never did.

When I met him I was taken in by his stand against abuse in the SWP, because of this I thought he was different. I have lost count of how many times I have been harassed and sexually assaulted in my life, but I know it started at age 6 and from this age I was a survivor.

Tim was one of the Facebook 4, kicked out of the SWP for standing up against sexism. This is part of the reason I trusted him. But Tim has emotionally abused me for years and from the moment he met me he has targeted me as a sexual object of his desire.

I know now that he is a bully. I remember when he started shaming comrades in his publications on the IS Network website. His writing was provocative, intentionally hostile and defensive but I wanted him to like me so I didn’t say anything. Sometimes I had to compromise what I knew was the right thing to do intuitively. But If I did I would be out of the clique. A group of comrade from the IS Network would organise separately to the official IS Network Facebook group and when I realised this was a group of people bantering at best and using it to bully other comrades outside of the clique at worst I left. This was raised by other younger comrades in the IS Network as an issue after I left the group, but dealt with antagonistically by members of the clique.

At times I have felt particularly angered so I have stood up to Tim’s bullying of others, such as when he ridiculed a comrade on Facebook for posting selfies. This was obviously gendered because I only ever saw him ridicule selfies taken by men. But the fact of the matter is that Tim does not like being challenged for his behaviour so he complained to the steering committee that I was ‘abusing’ him on Facebook because I was standing up for a comrade he was clearly bullying.

I often felt that his behaviour towards others on the left was bullying, ridiculing their comments and pictures.

I knew I was healthily challenging his behaviour but I bowed to the pressure, apologised and left the group he was organising, even though I had just carried hundreds of leaflets for them for miles and hurt myself doing so, only to arrive back to the flat with the box of flyers, to more piss taking on Facebook. But we couldn’t lose another exceptional talent.

When we first met he said I was different and he wanted to go out with me. I wasn’t sure who he was comparing me to, but I was flattered. I was feeling good in myself, my hair had mostly grown back and my weight was good, I wasn’t too thin and even though I wasn’t feeling great about what had happened in the SWP, I was generally healthy. I certainly didn’t drink every day like I do now, drinking came later.

In retrospect, I remember he always had a lot to say to men, but he hardly spoke to me. He generally wanted sex and quickly. I remember on one occasion at a party with IS Network comrades he asked me to go upstairs and he would follow, mocking me to get my attention. He always wanted to get me into bed so quickly. It always came out of nothing too. He took advantage of the fact I liked him, even though we established we were only going to be friends.

He dumped me after the second time sleeping together, this was before the time above actually, and in fact literally straight after sleeping together, but even though it hurt, I took it well and told him that I would be happy to be friends with him. But he could never do friendship, this became obvious over the next couple of years. He had a hold over me, and I am sure he was well aware of this.

Then came the assault when he was the secretary of the IS Network, the splinter group of the SWP. The group that left the SWP because of the abusive secretary of the SWP.

This is the statement I wrote but is remains unpublished until now:

I have been angry with Tim for a long time – his sister was right in pointing this out, however, my anger towards him was never directed at her, I was angry with her because she never challenged his behaviour and would hate people on the basis that they upset Tim. The reason I was angry with Tim and still am is because of the way he treated me.
I never got to tell Tim why and how he hurt me, because he always refused to listen. The reason I emailed him to tell him it was over after the night of his birthday party wasn’t just because of my feelings for him or not wanting to get hurt, it was because he had already hurt me. Tim pressured me into having sexual relations with him, which he should have realised I didn’t want, because I repeatedly made that clear to him.

The incident I refer to occurred after I was persuaded to go to his birthday party in Bristol a day before the IS Network conference in Sheffield. The invite came at the last minute after it was implied only certain people from the Facebook invitation group would be welcome, and I felt a bit uncomfortable going because every time I saw Tim in person he would try it on with me, we would end up having consensual sexual relations and then he would ignore me afterwards, which made it really difficult working as an organiser in the IS Network.

The night in question was the same as usual, he came on to me and I reciprocated. As usual, we hadn’t spoken much that evening before he asked me to sit on the sofa and then kissed me hard as soon as another comrade walked out of the room – everyone else had gone home or gone to bed. I was very aware when this was going on that I was on my period, so when he said he wanted to fuck me hard I tried to pretend he didn’t say ‘hard’ and responded ‘you want to fuck me?’, he said yes but hard.

At this point I told him I was on my period so I couldn’t, but he persisted and asked me to go to the bathroom with him so we could have some privacy. As soon as we were in the bathroom and he started kissing me I pulled away and told him I didn’t want to do this and I was very cold, at which point he got the message and went downstairs and I told him I was going to the toilet, and then he walked in on me when I was on the toilet and I had to tell him to leave – he apologised and left.

I went back downstairs, but another comrade had taken the sofa and Tim the only other chair, at this point I was tired and just wanted to fall asleep in his arms. I climbed onto the sofa with him. Tim said he thought he was taking advantage of me and that he liked to have sex with beautiful and intelligent women. At this point I felt used and pressured and felt as if I should be pleasing him.

I didn’t want to do anything but we started kissing and he asked if I would get naked with him, I didn’t want to do anything while I was on my period, our comrade was on the next sofa and I was tired and cold, so I told him I was cold and he said he would warm me up. I felt the pressure so I took off my top, at which point he grabbed my hand and took me back upstairs to the bathroom. In the bathroom he immediately went down on me, I was not turned on at all, but was more concerned about being on my period and kept pulling his right hand up to check it for blood. I forgot to bring a change of sanitary products with me so was feeling particularly vulnerable.

Tim realised I wasn’t getting wet and turned on, at which point he told me he liked it when I was wet and he licked me, implying that he didn’t like that I wasn’t wet. Tim then moved on to sucking and then biting my left nipple, and carried on after I told him that it was hurting me, but he kept saying he couldn’t hear me, even though I kept on crying it out and he carried on biting my nipple until he bit it red raw and hurt me so badly that I had to physically pull him away, but he ignored me and continued to bite my nipple. I remember very little after this.

The next day after conference I felt awful. When I took my bra off that evening the skin on my left nipple came away and I started bleeding. I felt used and abused and like I didn’t want him near me again. I emailed Tim that week to say we couldn’t do that again. This was the only time sexual relations with him felt like sexual assault so I confided in a friend not very long after the incident and she advised me that consent boundaries were crossed.

We argued often after this incident and I felt he was always angry with me and tried to control me.

Then I confided in the women’s caucus about being abused when I was 6 years old. I confided to the women’s caucus in confidence, to explain why I had been so upset with dealing with the subject of the SWP being allowed on campus. I ended up getting into an argument with a woman in the caucus, which we realised afterwards was a complete misunderstanding, but in order to prove what had happened in the caucus she said that she would publish it in the main group. This was a private argument, which included confidential information about me. I was worried this information was going to be published in the main group with both genders, so I said if it was I was going to make complaint.

Tim publicly humiliated me in the IS Network Facebook group and tried to obstruct my complaint. His sister, who was a member of the complaints group, liked Tim’s comment obstructing my complaint on Facebook. This was a clear conflict of interest and should have been immediately picked up by the complaints group and she should have stepped down from her position of authority on this case. Instead she used her position to further marginalise me and undermine my legitimate concerns about confidentiality and abuse.

The abuse that took place in my neighbour’s house at the age of 6 was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, I convinced myself at the time that I was dying, I started losing my hair and became increasingly distant from those around me.

It had taken me 20 years to admit the abuse I went through as a child to my sister and thought I could trust the women in the women’s caucus but no one apart from 2 women stood by me in the IS Network Facebook group that day. I was completely alone and ended up with severe depression and months off work. I still tried to keep the ISN going, but with very little support from anyone around me.

Then when I approached Tim to discuss these issues he decided to go and tell all of our Bristol comrades that I have a mental illness. I was stupidly still trying to see some good in him. Hoping he would apologise for how he treated me. The constant emotional abuse and the physical abuse. I never wanted to go public with this, because I never wanted to forget the goodness I saw in him, the person who I see others love. I never wanted to take that away from them.

I want an apology for what Tim did to me. I want to join a political group without being told I am problematic. I want my old self back, the person who used to trust and laugh, the woman who loved her comrades and friends and always welled up when I spent time with my comrades, because they made me so proud to know such principled people who would always stand up and fight. I want to not feel broken anymore. And I want to love again like I used to. In order to realise all these things I needed to write this piece.

Always, Harriet Casey


Supporting statement from Kaff

I have witnessed Tim’s behaviour towards Harriet and fully support her above statement. I was present at a gathering of ISN comrades in Bristol and I was worried about his behaviour. He was being very overt in his sexual advances and Harriet looked uncomfortable. I would have been very uncomfortable in that situation also. I also remember that Harriet seemed to want to stay with us all where we were sat, in the dining room, but Tim was very much focussed on going upstairs with her and I remember a conversation that involved his sister saying that Harriet shouldn’t be getting involved with Tim because she was still living with a previous partner under complicated circumstances. I thought that was very odd because she didn’t once appear to be advancing on Tim sexually, he was the one making sexual advances on her. I had no preconceptions about anyone at this gathering at that point because I was still very new to politics and had only met Tim briefly before. Following this night, Tim’s responses to Harriet’s comments on Facebook posts were very unpleasant and he was bullying her. She received very little support from anyone and we all let her down. The reason I am writing this is because I don’t want her to be alone in this anymore, she needs all of our full support. by Kaff

George Lawlor looks like a rapist

Content warning: this post discusses rape and rape culture

There’s not really a specific look to a rapist. They’re not born with the word RAPIST emblazoned across their foreheads, nor do they glow faintly in the dark. There’s no visual markers of a rapist. Would that there were, it would all be so much easier to just set the fuckers on fire before they have a chance to hurt someone.

Warwick student George Lawlor missed the memo that there wasn’t a specific rapist aesthetic, and was mortally offended when, like loads of other people in his year, he was invited to a workshop on consent. He reacted in the most point-missing way possible.


“I love consent,” he bleats, calling the very notion of consent workshops “incredibly hurtful”. He writes screeds about how everyone totally understands consent while not demonstrating this in the slightest, boiling it all down to–and I quote–“Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple.” George Lawlor reckons workshops talking about what consent really, actually means is a waste of everyone’s time, particularly those who organise such events.

In doing all of this, George Lawlor has achieved one thing, and one thing only: he’s made himself look like a rapist. His short article and selfie have worked wonders in demonstrating a lot of the little hints I look out for, after years of the unfortunate experience of having encountered rapists. Men who display these behaviours, I now avoid. Here are the ways that George Lawlor has made himself look like a rapist:

  • He prioritises his own feelings above those of anyone else. At length, George Lawlor bangs on about how hurt he is that someone invited him to a consent workshop and how selfish it is that such workshops are happening without a thought for his own wounded feelings.
  • He manifestly does not understand consent, thinking it a simple matter of a yes or a no. Sadly, it’s a fuckton more complicated than that: a yes can be coerced, a yes can be withdrawn, a yes can be drunkenly slurred by someone who is in no fit state to understand what this word means.
  • You know who is usually most insistent that they are not a rapist? Rapists. False denials of rape are so common as to be banal.
  • He displays absolutely no willingness to self-examine the gaps in his own knowledge, or to reflect upon past experiences and see that maybe he should think about doing things differently in the future. Those who think they have nothing to learn are those with the most to learn, and a safe person should always have the capacity to admit that they could be wrong.
  • While he does not squawk out the mantra itself, the notion of “not all men” hangs over his article like a fedora. Those who want to protect their own self-concept are often fucking dickheads.
  • He clearly doesn’t understand why feminists are starting to organise consent workshops to teach consent universally. Spoiler: it’s to kick back against a culture that helps rapists, by arming everyone with an understanding of how not to rape.
  • Those who get sneery about feminist initiatives and organising are almost always misogynistic dungheaps of the highest order.
  • He clearly doesn’t understand what a rapist looks like: how it’s more likely to be the guy you know than some random stranger in an alley, how it’s more likely to be a guy who thinks he did nothing wrong than a monster chuckling about how he’s totally a rapist, how rapists don’t have horns or something like that.
  • He clearly hasn’t a fucking clue as to how to end rape culture, suggesting “campaigning, volunteering and caring for other people” would be a better use of our time. Well, we’ve been doing that since fucking forever, and it has its place, but that doesn’t exactly work on its own (and volunteering and caring usually works best after the fact).

For a Tory, George Lawlor sure is waving a hell of a lot of red flags.

Are consent workshops a panacea, a means for hitting the nail on the head and ending rape completely? Of course not. But are they a useful tool for chipping away at rape culture? Absofuckinglutely. Everyone should discuss what consent is, really think about it, and get to the difficult truths about their own histories. Awareness is absolutely crucial: both self-awareness of what you’re doing, and awareness of what other people are doing and whether that’s OK or not.

In resisting this preventive measure, George Lawlor is helping rapists, and only rapists. He’d do well to begin by asking himself why he wants to do that.

Update 16/10: You should all read this excellent piece from Warwick’s Women’s Officer, explaining why consent workshops are vital. It’s especially important you read it if you’re a man who’s come here to clutch your pearls at the thought that women are creeped out by behaviour such as Lawlor’s.

Walking home alone: a manifesto for preventing rape

Content note: this post discusses rape and victim blaming

It’s “common sense” which is still trotted out repeatedly that to “stay safe” (meaning: don’t get yourself raped), women shouldn’t walk home alone. It’s the sort of thing that I consider a dead horse, and then I see it in the wild yet again because patriarchy still hasn’t got bored of pointing blame at survivors. The latest in this very long and very tedious string comes from Essex Police, who have launched a campaign under the banner of safety.

It’s victim blaming, plain and simple, telling women not to walk home alone.

Defenders of the “don’t walk home alone” position will cry out that it’s a safety precaution, and therefore isn’t victim blaming. Thing is, it’s bollocks that it’s a safety precaution, because it could actually expose us to further danger.

If you want a safety precaution, here’s one: walk home alone. 

Your rapist is more likely to be the male friend or acquaintance who kindly offers to walk you home than he is to be some random stranger in an alley.

In four out of five rapes, the perpetrator is already known to the survivor.

If a man offers to see you home safely, say no. Kick him in the nuts, pepper spray his eyes, and run as fast as you can to get away from him. Statistically speaking, if you’re going to get raped following a night out, it is four times as likely it’ll be the guy who wants to escort you than someone you don’t know.

There’s a safety precaution right there, and it’s rooted in stats, unlike the repeated assertions to go home accompanied by someone. Walk home alone.

Of course, this safety precaution is, at the end of the day, as nonsensical as any exhortation to get yourself escorted home, because it’s still moving the responsibility for rape prevention away from where it lies: with the rapist. What’s really needed is a mass structural change, demolishing the culture that facilitates rapists. But until then, when the concern trolls bleat about “safety precautions”, remind them who the rapist is truly likely to be.

Rape scenes are usually lazy writing and directing

Content warning: this post discusses rape, sexual violence and media misogyny

Rape scenes are horribly popular in the media, and seldom necessary. With a flicker of hope, I wonder if savvy viewers are finally kicking back against this tedious trope as an opening-night audience booed a completely gratuitous rape scene crowbarred into an opera.

The defences of the scene were the same old tired shit. The director of the Royal Opera House said:

“The production includes a scene which puts the spotlight on the brutal reality of women being abused during war time, and sexual violence being a tragic fact of war,”

while one of the cast said:

“Maybe it went a little longer than it should have, but it happened and I think it’s an element you can use to show just how horrible these people were that were occupying this town,”

while the director of the production said exactly the same thing too:

“If you don’t feel the brutality, the suffering these people have had to face, if you want to hide it, it becomes soft, it becomes for children,”

I often wonder about the existence of this hypothetical audience member who cannot understand that a villain is bad, and conditions are awful for women, without being literally shown a woman being raped. I presume Rossini, who wrote the opera in 1829, didn’t have such a low opinion of those who would appreciate his work, considering he didn’t write that scene in himself–it was added by the director.

I’ve written before about how a competent production doesn’t need to show a rape scene for the audience to grok that this is a bad place full of bad people, comparing the latest Mad Max to Game of Thrones. To me, putting a rape on stage or screen or on the page as a form of scene-setting is the very pinnacle of laziness. A decent writer or director can build up an air of threat, of terror, without having to use salacious violence against women as a shorthand for this. It’s the Michael Bay school of show don’t tell… rather than hinting and using subtlety, they show with a gross insult to the audience’s capacity to think.

Yes, there are times where as rape scene is actually relevant to the plot, but these instances are few: tiny, compared to the number of times such scenes have been smeared in there like shit on a portaloo wall.

People will use the potentially imaginary audience member to excuse what is essentially a failure of men’s skills at writing and directing. I cannot say I have ever met or spoken to–or even had a screeching comment–from somebody who admits that they are incapable of grasping that the situation is dire or the villain is a bad ‘un without having to see somebody being raped.

Perhaps, therefore, audience are smarter than writers and directors think. And this means that they must stop using the same worn-out old excuses to cover for their fatuous productions. In turn, perhaps this means they will finally have to face a challenge of creating something with a little bit of thought behind it.

Mad Max > Game of Thrones IDST

Content warning: This post discusses rape and violence against women, and contains spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road and Game Of Thrones S05E06.

Why yes, this is the second post in a week about what Mad Max: Fury Road is doing right, so right. Or, at least, more right that a hell of a lot of the shite that’s on our screens these days.

Readers of this blog will likely be aware that the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “Unbroken, Unbowed, Unbent”, featured a rape scene which was not in the books and seemed to serve little purpose (although I’d argue it did serve a function, and a fucking horrid one at that). Defenders of the scene, and defenders of the show’s attitude towards rape in general tend to follow a similar line. “But it’s accurate that in a medieval setting, women would get raped!” “Would you rather they just ignored the issue?”

First of all, the historical accuracy argument is fucking bullshit in a show where dragons and zombies gad about doing dragon and zombie stuff, the climate produces seasons that last for decades, and everybody has a full smile of straight white teeth. Let’s see it instead for what it is: a fantasy setting where, along with all of the above things which didn’t really happen in medieval Europe, it’s also a dystopian world where women are treated as chattel and therefore rape and violence against women is commonplace. Here, the “would you rather they just ignored the issue” argument has slightly more traction.

The thing is, if that is indeed a conscious part of the world that has been built and is being explored in the show, the writers and producers are still doing a fucking terrible job of pulling it off. If they want to explore these issues and show this horrible world they’ve created, they can look to Fury Road to see how it’s done.

Fury Road takes a look at violence against women in a dystopian world, and it does this without a single rape scene–hell, there’s probably only a few seconds of screen time dedicated to showing any violence against women. Instead, they explore it through competent writing, realising that we do not need to be shown these things to appreciate that they are bad and that they are a very real problem for the victims. Instead of being shown women being victimised, we are shown the impact it has on them, their desire to get away. We see instead their feelings, scrawled in paint across the room in which they were kept. We see them angry, we see them sad. We see its perpetrator, and we despise him without having to have every little detail of his violence rubbed in our faces.

It is entirely possible to address and discuss these issues on screen without subjecting the audience to the horrors. In fact, it’s easy to write a blow-by-blow rape scene. It is perhaps more challenging, but infinitely more rewarding for the audience to use some fucking subtlety and actually delve into what this means rather than what happened. Fury Road went to the length of employing a feminist to consult on the handling of violence against women, and it shows, because what emerged was a far better and more nuanced exploration of a world rife with gendered violence than much else.

We live in a ridiculous world full of dreadful writing if I have to call a fucking Mad Max film subtle and nuanced.

In which I review a book that I read: Tiny Pieces of Skull

Content note: This post touches on transmisogyny, rape and sex work, and contains spoilers for Tiny Pieces of Skull.

Roz Kaveney’s at-least-partially-autobiographical novel, Tiny Pieces Of Skull: Or, A Lesson In Manners, was a long time coming. It was mostly written close to the time it was set, in the late 70s, but did not see the light of day until now. Its publication in the present day, perhaps, marks a shift in attitudes creating the social conditions where such a book actually can be published.

Tiny Pieces Of Skull follows Annabelle, a recently-transitioned trans woman, through a pretty eventful period of her life in London and Chicago, including surgery, sex work, rape, drugs and crimes. With themes like this, one would expect a moralistic lecture, or at the very least a misery memoir, yet the book is anything but.

At its heart, Tiny Pieces Of Skull is a book about women and their complex inner lives. It is a story of learning and growth, and a tale of community, the little spaces carved out by the characters in a world that is against them. Terrible things happen to the characters, and it is made all the more shocking by how completely normal this is treated. Annabelle quickly understands the daily battle of survival, and it swiftly becomes almost like background noise. The title quite adequately portrays the content of the novel: Tiny Pieces Of Skull is a starkly violent phrase reflecting the 70s Chicago underground, while A Lesson In Manners describes Annabelle’s coping strategy: using her wits and charm.

Each event in the novel could form fifty thousand words in and of itself, and yet TPoS tears through everything at an alarming pace. We are barely given time to react to and process one thing, when something else happens. Blink, and you might miss something deeply important. Like the protagonist, we must adapt quickly and never get too comfortable.

While TPoS may be mostly thirty years old, I was struck by how much is still relevant to discussions happening today. Its unflinching yet non-judgmental attitudes towards being trans and being a sex worker is a masterclass in writing trans and sex worker characters: their circumstances are important, and yet it is not these things that define them–they are rounded people outside of this. While the word “trans” does not even feature in the novel, it is abundantly apparent that this shapes the characters’ experiences. Instead, the word “sister” is used, because that’s what TPoS is about: sisterhood.

Like with blood sisters, there are bonds between the women, even when they absolutely detest each other. They gossip, they bitch, they cut up faces and yet they are united against external threats: cis men–rapists and the police. They come through for one another in the face of fundamentalist Christians and men who prey on vulnerable women.

While many of the specifics in TPoS have changed over time: the spectre of the AIDS epidemic had yet to rear its head at the time it is set, so it is therefore not a threat to the characters, for example, it is still highly relevant to all women. The villains–cis men with power–remain the same to women of all circumstances even today, yet we must acknowledge that still trans women and sex workers are more at risk from this brutality.

It’s the sort of short novel you can tear through in an afternoon, but it will stay with you. Personally, I’m planning on reading it again pretty damn soon.


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