US Pharmaceutical companies have moved their operations overseas over the course of the past decade. Instead of testing trial medicines on Americans, more and more of these tests are being carried out on poor people in faraway places. Russia, China, Brazil, Poland, Uganda, and Romania are all hot spots for what is called clinical research or clinical trials. Now employing CROs—or Clinical Research Organizations—the industry is big business, worth as much as $30 billion US dollars today.
One country has experienced a boom like no other in this industry--India. Spoken English, an established medical infrastructure, welcome attitudes toward foreign industry and most importantly legions of poor, illiterate test subjects that are willing to try out new drugs have transformed the Indian landscape into a massive testing ground for pharmaceuticals. Fault Lines' Zeina Awad travels to India to see what the clinical research practices look like on the ground. What role are the US regulatory bodies playing in overseeing the trials? Are participants aware that they are taking part in a clinical trial? Is the testing being held up against international ethical standards?
My body floated into the bedroom in a cream baby-doll nightie. I found it hanging on the “nicer items” rack in a thrift store. It was Oscar De la Renta and still had the tags on. After buying it, I stood in front of a mirror, admiring the billowy layers of fabric that curved my ass in a heart shape.
I crawled over Ned to get into bed, he groaned, punctured by a knee or elbow. I wasn’t feeling particularly turned on. His hands felt my neck and chest, lukewarm. But, it was awhile since we had sex. At least a week. And it had been a long time since he’d come onto me. I wanted him to know that I was available, it was okay. I pulled him on top of me. I moaned when his cock entered me.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about having sex when you don’t want to, because you can’t say no, are too drunk to make a decision or “it seems easier.” I didn’t call this rape, but said these were gray-areas of consent. “Consent is not the opposite of rape” I said, “enthusiastic consent is.”
Graphic Sexual Horror is a documentary film about the late, hardcore BDSM pornsite,insex.com. To me, this film can be succinctly described as a brain virus. Since the seven days that I have seen it, I've not quite been able to shake it from my head. The images of women chained, cropped and tortured for viewing pleasure continue to project themselves into the dark of my eyelids, and my brain is still working overtime to try to make sense of it all.
Part of the reason why this film is such a mind-fuck is because of the utter lack of positioning on the part of the documentary makers. The film took a stand back position, gracefully allowing the porn and this company to be shown for what it was, without any sway on what we as viewers were to think of it. The film was neither a monologue at or a dialogue with the viewer on the subject. Rather, it felt like some omniscient third party, passing along information and images to be burned into our retinas.
Here is what you need to know in order to understand the film: Insex was a brainchild of BDSM enthusiast and artist, PD. The site employed models, many of whom that weren't into BDSM, to engage in hardcore BDSM play on camera for a generous amount of money. There was always a safeword any model could use to end the session, but the women were also rewarded with more cash, the longer they went and the more they endured. This site was eventually shut down by the State.
While Arvan's post touches on many fascinating aspects of InSex and of Graphic Sexual Horror, the one that I left the museum discussing was the ambiguity of consent. InSex's trademark was hyper-realistically torturing women to the very edge of their limits. The documentary asked whether these women had given fully-informed, empowered consent, and left the audience with the answer, "Some of them, some of the time." Which is almost more unsettling than "No," because it calls into question our sacred differentiations between sadomasochism and exploitation. But then, any strong differentiation has to withstand occasional questioning.
While waiting for the firestorm over my three masculinity posts to die down (I’ll post a followup soon, promise), I want to parse out some recent thoughts on — you guessed it — consent!
I’ve been dating a guy here in Africa whom I will henceforth refer to as Chastity Boy.* I recently wrote a piece on my southern Africa experience that included descriptions of my relationship with him. I texted him, asking permission to write about him — which he granted — and then the next time I saw him in person, I had him go over the writing and specifically give consent for the piece itself. I warned him that the writing would almost certainly end up in a public place, though it would be under my scene name Clarisse.
This step accomplished, I sent the piece to some friends for feedback. One of those people was a mutual friend. Chastity Boy heard that she’d read it and wasn’t happy; he asked me about it, saying things like, “Well, it wasn’t quite a red flag, but close …” Naturally, with him talking about red flags, I felt scared that I’d transgressed a serious boundary. My ears perked up, I sat straighter and I tried to figure out why I’d failed to sense that boundary.
We talked for a while. “I don’t understand,” I eventually said. “You knew those pieces could end up in public. That’s why I thought it was okay to send them to her.”
“Well, but that’s different … I knew it’d be in public, but I didn’t expect people I know to see it,” he said. He thought about it some more. “I guess it just took me by surprise.”
Something that happened to me a few days ago got me thinking about personal-space boundaries - both in the BDSM community and in everyday life.
I was on a busy train platform, reading a book and waiting for my husband to meet me to get on the train, when a stranger approached me and said, "Hello, I'm new here and looking to make friends." I looked up, mildly annoyed, thinking he might have better luck if he were not interrupting people, perhaps somewhere more conducive to conversation than a busy train station. After an awkward silence, he added, "I'm gay" - I'm guessing to clarify that he wasn't trying to hit on me.
"I'm waiting for someone," I answered.
"Oh," he said, looking disappointed. "Well, if they don't show up, then maybe you and I could go somewhere instead," and he put his arm around my shoulders.
"No!" I said, loudly and clearly, and pushed him off of me.
He looked hurt and repeated, "I'm just looking to make friends" - and reached out to stroke my arm. At which point I panicked and ran out of the train station, and took several long minutes of deep breaths before regaining the courage to go back to see if my husband had gotten there yet.
It shows the relationship between street harassment and rape. Women discuss their fears in public spaces and how the acceptance of that culture of fear empowers rape and disempowers the targets of rape whether they be male or female.