Thursday, October 23, 2014

How do You Like Your Eggs?

There has been a lot, and I mean a LOT written about Apple and Facebook's announcement that they are including egg freezing in their health care packages. I don't understand why this has become such a major news story, but certainly almost every blog I follow has been writing about it. I figure I shouldn't buck the trend.

I don't really give a wit about Apple and Facebook and their employee benefits. I don't work for them. I think most of the women that work for them probably make enough money that they could figure out how to pay for this procedure on their own if they really wanted to. For women who are making minimum wage, this is something that is never, ever going to happen.

But how many women want to do this anyway and why is it even an option. Some of the discussion on this has pointed out how this gives women more options in terms of managing their fertility and their family planning decisions. I would beg to differ that it really doesn't. The press on it makes it sound as if this is a simple thing to do, if you have the money. It's not simple at all. Harvesting ovas for freezing is a long and invasive procedure which involves the use of hormones with major side effects. Long-term side effects for these procedures aren't really known but most women who take these hormones suffer, in the very least, from major mood swings, anger, and depression. Bloating and weight gain are pretty common as well. This is only the first part of the procedure and is the only thing that anyone seem to want to talk about in relation to this.

The second part of the procedure is actually using those ova to get pregnant. Invitro-fertilization also involves a long process of hormone therapy with major side effects. The success rate for IVF is abysmal. Depending on the statistics you look at, about 30% of first time IVF treatments result in a pregnancy. That success rate varies with age and drops dramatically as the woman gets older.

I fervently believe in women's rights to have access to these options if they want them but I think we need to tell women the truth about them. And the truth is that they are invasive, difficult, and not highly successful. We seem to be selling women the idea that they can get pregnant any time they want to because we can freeze eggs and we can do IVF but that's just not the case. Many women undergo these procedures and do not get pregnant.

IVF and egg freezing are not the only way to manage fertility. Most women never learn how their reproductive cycle works in the first place. If we actually taught this to young women in school, they would have a much better understanding of how to get pregnant and how not to get pregnant. They would understand more fully what happens to their bodies as they age and be more aware of when their chances of getting pregnant will begin to decrease due to age and start to make some decisions based on that.

The other piece of this discussion, which no one seems to be talking about, is the larger issue of making the workplace fair for women who want to have children. We do have maternity benefits in Canada but that only goes so far. Many women fear losing their place in the promotion line, or even losing a position they love, because they took a year of for parental leave. In this country, it is illegal to fire someone because they are pregnant or because they were off on maternity leave and yet I know so many women who's employers found creative ways to do it anyway. Many people I know arrived back at work to find that their 'job description had changed' or the 'company had down-sized' or that they had otherwise been worked out of a job. These are the choices women have to make which may make them reconsider getting pregnant until the time comes that they run out of time. Then, they may find themselves with fertility issues that they weren't expecting. Freezing eggs isn't really going to prevent this problem. Making workplaces more inclusive and supportive to young mothers is the only solution to that problem.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why is There an App for That?

Last month, I heard about an app called 'Good2Go' which describes itself as an app to ensure you have consent for sex and/or are able to consent to sex. It is confusing and bizarre. What you are supposed to do, I think, is tell the app that you want to have sex with someone (I think you are supposed to enter who it is). Then you give your phone to that person and they key in whether they consent, don't consent, or want to talk about it first and give you back the phone. The video for the app shows this happening but I don't understand why you wouldn't be able to communicate to that person on their phone by the app. Anyway, that's the least of the problems here. If the object of your affection consents, you then ask them if they are sober? They key in how much they've had to drink and the app will tell both of you if they are able to consent. Then there is some sort of weird confirmation or registration thing that I don't understand. If all the hurdles are clear, then you are 'Good2Go' and you can get busy.

There are clearly a LOT of problems with this whole idea but my first thought was 'What the hell happened to talking?'. If you need an app to ask someone to have sex, make sure they consent, and make sure they are sober enough to consent, then perhaps you don't have the social skills required to engage in any sort of relationship, sexual or otherwise. And consent is not one simple yes or no question. Consent is actually about constantly being in tune with and checking in with the person you are with to make sure they are into it, turned on, physically comfortable, and having fun. The app says all over it that consent has to be ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time but the very existence of this stupid thing really negates that idea. If you said you were Good2Go, doesn't that mean that everything that happens after that is perfectly fine? If consent can be withdrawn at any time, what use does the app serve in the first place. People complain that the idea of asking for consent on a ongoing basis is unnatural and legalistic. If you are of that opinion, then this certainly doesn't help - this is about as unnatural and legalistic as you can get. A real conversation about consent simply does not happen this way. It's about talking about what you would like to do, finding out what the person you're with is into, agreeing on the stuff you want to do, and then paying attention and noticing if any of you seems uncomfortable, not into it, hesitant or anything other that totally turned on and into it. Very rarely does a consensual sexual act sounds like 'I would like to have sex with you, do you consent to that?' 'Yes, I consent to have sex with you.' It is usually totally hot, more things like 'I really want to kiss your lips right now.' 'I want to put my hand in your panties and see how wet you are.' 'What makes you hot? Tell me what turns you on? What do you want me to do to you?' These are the kinds of things people really say during sex and those are real examples of asking for consent. As long as the response is heard and respected, that's consensual sex. It's not one question, it's a lot of things and it's supposed to be, and often is, an organic part of a sexual encounter.

We have created this bizarre concept that sex is about getting something from someone. All you have to do is make sure that you had permission to take that thing and everything's okay. This is what we seem to be teaching our young people about sex. 'Be sure you have permission.' 'Always get consent'. Yes, it's important, actually vital, to have consent. But it's not about just getting what you want and making sure the other person said yes some how. It's about having a mutual interaction - knowing what they want and ensuring that all parties are getting what they want out of it. It's an ongoing, engaged, relational thing, not a case of yes you can have it or no you can't.

We have so much technology that allows us to communicate with each other. If we actually think that clicking a button on a smartphone app is the right, or sufficient way to invite someone into an intimate sexual encounter, then our technology isn't helping us communicate at all. Perhaps it's make us less able to actually talk to each other.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Suspicious Money Dealings

Earlier this spring, there were several reports of American bank Chase closing the personal accounts of several porn actresses. There was a major backlash against Chase, and rightly so, but now it's becoming clear that the issue is a lot bigger than just them. Yesterday, the Third Party Payments Processor Association filed a brief accusing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation of unfairly targeted industries for moral reasons.

It seems that in 2011, the FDIC published a list of 'high-risk' industries that they deemed worthy of increased scrutiny. Many of the industries on the list are completely legel, including pornography. The TPPPA says that not long after this, the FDIC began pressuring banks to end relationships with processors who process payments for merchants in the porn industry. Apparently, it didn't end there. TPPPA and some of the banks allege that FDIC put enormous pressure on banks not to work with both processors and merchants related to the porn industry, threatening them with the highest level of scrutiny possible.

If this doesn't scare the pants off of anyone involved in banking and any industry that relies on payment processing, it should. Pornography is not the only legal industry on their list, they also targeted dating services and drug paraphernalia. What's happening here is that this arm of the federal government is deciding that it doesn't think people should be engaged in certain things - based on nothing other than a moral opposition and completely wrong-headed assumption that these industries are related to illegal activities. The truly scary thing about it is that they are not dealing with that belief or concern through any legal means. They are not simply watching the activities of those industries for anything that looks like illegal activity. They are, without any proof, trying to wholesale destroy those industries by cutting off their access to banking and payment services. If a company cannot process credit cards - particularly one that operates only on-line, they are done. Period. End of sentence. So without having to bother with any such pesky things as actual real investigations, evidence, and criminal charges, they are just choking off merchants that they don't like.

Even if you are not a fan porn and bongs, this should scare you. What's to say that the FDIC won't decide that they are suspicious of art dealers, drugstores, women's clothing retailers? They could target anyone they want this way, simply because they have a moral opposition to the industry. This is a gross and disgusting abuse of power and violation of the rights of business owners and of individuals to spend their money how they choose.

Of course, things in Canada are quite a bit different but as a retailer in the industry, I've had my share of issues with banks and merchant service organizations. When I first started, I called about seven different merchant processors before I found one that would work with me. All the others said that they would not work with any merchant in any adult related industry whatsoever. They classified my business, which sells adult toys in a retail environment, in the same category that they put strip clubs and massage parlors. Although I think restrictions against those businesses is unfair anyway, I think it's particularly unfair to put my business in the same category. I sell products, not services. There is very clear documentation of what I sell and what has changed hands. It's much more similar to a sporting goods store than it is a strip club. But, in the eyes of many of the banks in this country, anything to do with sex is risky and they don't want to touch it. In one case, I actually had a bank tell me that it wasn't because the industry was high risk, it was because they felt working with adult toy stores would tarnish their reputation.

Several years ago, I switched to a new bank (I won't name this banks, so as not to be petty - but part of me does feel they should be outed for this). The bank itself was eager for my business and happy to have me on board. They wanted me to switch my merchant account to their payment processor (mainly so they could get the revenue, but also because they thought I would get lower transaction fees). The processor called to set up the account and was unaware of what my retail business was. When I told him, there was a looooooooong pause in the conversation. Then he told me that they cannot work with a business such as mine.

So yes, this stuff happens here in Canada, just on a smaller scale. These are decisions that are made by each financial institution themselves, not directives that are coming from a federal agency. However, with the federal government we have in Canada at the moment, I don't think it's all unreasonable to think that something similar could happen here. I'm happy to see the complaint about the FDIC exposing these underhanded tactics that I'm sure they felt they could easily get away with. We need to be vigilant about this kind of thing. Access to basic banking services is actually a right in our country, not a privilege and we need to stand up for that right.