[general trigger warning: rape, sexual abuse, domestic abuse]
Today is January 18th, which means that all across the internet, major websites are protesting the internet censorship bill, SOPA. Regardless of how you feel about piracy, you should go read up on this bill and what it does— it authorizes very damaging powers that effectively shut down innovation and business on the internet, limiting speech of all kinds in the process.
Now I am going to talk about piracy, and why it’s important for issues of sexual violence.
I’ve realized in recent years that sexual abuse has become a “wedge issue” for me. I ended a friendship last year because the other person used language that trivialized rape. I stopped participating in an online forum because of the rape-supporting rhetoric that was allowed to permeate through its discussions.
But I resent the “wedge issue” label that is so often attached to other issues, because that implies the issue takes on more gravity and importance than is actually necessary, that there are more important things to be focusing on. It is not a wedge issue to be interested in my survival and the survival of others. It is survival. It is not a wedge issue to want to make sure that other people, especially children, never have to deal with what I and so many others do every day (and here I am going to remind you again that 1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men, 2/3 of non-binary people, 30% of men with disabilities, and 90% of women with disabilities will experience some form of sexual abuse or rape in their lifetime).
I support, without apology, piracy in all forms. The one exception is if it is done for profit beyond distribution costs. The reason I believe in this is simple: if ten-year-old-me-who-was-being-sexually-abused did not have piracy to supplement my life, if I did not have music and movies and other media to give me that space to feel less alone and terrified, I would not have survived. Piracy is what allowed me to access worlds apart from mine, spaces which were safe and loving without condition.
In public debate, we like to overemphasize the convenience and self-centered aspect of piracy— but at its core, piracy is caused by poverty. As long as there are poor people, there will always exist a need to pirate things. And as long as there are poor survivors of sexual violence, I will support piracy.
Art (and I use this in the loosest sense of the term) saves people. Art helps people to live when life seems beyond worth. Art gives life meaning. Yes, we do live in a world where artists, like the rest of us, need money to keep living. But there is really no way to attach a worth to what art gives.
Last week, I talked about My Little Pony and how other kids shows teach survivors important lessons, even without being intended for that audience. But I’d like you to take that a step further— can you imagine what would happen if every teenager in America was able to access a copy of Bastard Out of Carolina? Or Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak? There is no doubt in my mind that the world would change. There is already so little out there for survivors; why limit their chances even further?
Survivors, and those of us still surviving in the middle of a dangerous situation, often lack the privilege of being able to buy things. A woman whose bank account is under her abusive husband’s control cannot purchase anything without question. A queer teenager without money needs to find ways to survive from somewhere— and can you imagine the logistics of hiding a library book from your abuser who has open access to your space every day? It’s not only risky— it is, as we know from the many women murdered each year for trying to leave their abusers, flat out dangerous for survivors to reach out for help in any form. Piracy is not always a simple black and white question of “criminals” versus the rest of us, it’s often about desperation.
I cannot support any policy or belief that goes directly against my experience and my survival. It really is that simple. This is why I believe in unfettered access to art and digital content, without question. Survivors do not need judgement. They need spaces without judgement.
Art is survival. People need art. Unfortunately, we’ve created a world in which not everyone has free access to what they so desperately need. This is why, until sexual abuse becomes as nonexistent as dragons, as mythical as the holy grail, I will continue to support piracy.
One more reason to hate SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and every other thing related to piracy.
Reblogging as an author and editor who, in theory, should be opposed to “piracy.”
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