Tag Archives: other HR

Other harm reductionists have to deal with extremists too

by Carl V Phillips

A quick aside today, though one that ought to be very interesting to those who are aware that the “traditional” harm reduction community — those focused on illicit drugs and sex — have generally refused to support THR.  You might know that a few of us worked for years to try to make THR part of the agenda for the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA — which recently changed its name to HRI, but everyone still seems to think of it as IHRA).  This effort was led from the inside of that community by Gerry Stimson, arguably the dean of harm reduction (at least one of a very small number of people who deserves that title), and from the THR side, mostly by me and my shop.  There are definitely many in that harm reduction community who see the value of THR and support it, but not enough.

As far as I am concerned, the fight to join forces is over and lost, and I have no intention of wasting more time on it.  It seems that the people who speak up for and try to protect the health junkies and prostitutes — err, sorry, I mean IDUs and sex workers — think that smokers are just not worthy of the same consideration.  Punishing those other behaviors and letting people suffer needless risks is unacceptable, but somehow they find it acceptable to just tell smokers they must quit or die.  Besides, the tobacco/nicotine industry is evil and should just be shut down — apparently in contrast to, say, the heroin industry.

Ok, in fairness it is not quite that simple, though it is remarkably close to that.  It is very frustrating and disappointing trying to deal with those people, so I have to admit a bit of schadenfreude in running across this post that points out the frustration of defenders of harm reduction approaches for sex workers.  They are unhappy about feminists who take an extreme anti-sex-work view that tends to interfere with rational, practical, harm-reducing, freedom-respecting approaches.

Those “radfems” (which I gather from the comments is their version of “ANTZ”) seem to be operating from the ANTZ playbook.  The post, written as a parody guide for the anti-harm-reductionists tells those extremists,

The feminist movement really is in a pickle these days. It used to be a given that things like prostitution, pornography and stripping were bad, but nowadays there’s some resistance to these time-honoured notions. Women are increasingly coming out as sex workers and demanding rights. As feminists seek to shut down strip bars and criminalise clients, those women are complaining not just that they’ll lose their livelihood, but that they’ll be at increased risk of abuse and violence if their industries go underground! You can’t let such trivial concerns get in the way of your crusade, so below are some handy tips for discrediting these pesky meddlers. Remember: being an actual sex worker doesn’t entitle her to speak about sex work!

The post goes on to invoke familiar claims like: no one really wants to do this; everyone involved is just a victim and a dupe, no matter what they think; it is all about greed and profit; and the mere appearance of this in society is more important than the actual outcomes.  It also include tactics for creating biased “evidence” and making sure that policy makers pursue purity over concerns about people.

It is truly amazing how closely this resembles the world of ANTZ and their anti-THR efforts.  Read it (trust me — if you read this blog, you will find it worth a few minutes of your time), and I think you will agree.

And because of that, it is all the more pathetic that THR is opposed by so many of the same people who experience frustration like that in other areas.  It just goes to show…  well, show something about human nature.  I am too tired to figure it out right now.