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Launched!

A book is like a child:  it is easier to bring it into the world than to control it when it is launched there.  –  George Bernard Shaw

Alta Moda by Negib Giha (2010)

Last Thursday I had my very first book signing at the Healthy Rhythm Community Art Gallery in Fairfield, Texas.  I had met the owner, Ken Vail, at the Southern Harm Reduction Conference in New Orleans last December, and he had graciously invited me to hold my very first event there.  A reporter from the local newspaper interviewed me; she also reviewed my book last week and had some very kind things to say about it (I have already posted a quote on Amazon).  Following that was the actual event; the crowd was small, but Fairfield is a small town so I didn’t expect a multitude.  What was really nice about it was that it turned into a sort of discussion group, and one young couple stayed after for quite some time after the official end of the event, asking the sort of intelligent questions I love answering.

One of the things I’m looking forward to is doing a number of different types of events.  I expect that some of them will be large and some small like this one; in some I’ll perhaps share the stage with others, while other times I’ll be alone.  Some events will be more book-centered, while others will concentrate more on my blog or activism.  But the important thing in all of them – large or small, lucrative or not – is that I’ll be meeting people, giving them a chance to ask questions, busting myths and showing that sex workers are neither vampires nor victims, but just people like anyone else they might meet.  And as long as I get plenty of opportunities to do that, I will consider this tour a success.

The Craving

My wife and I have been together for 13 years, and our sex life is basically nonexistent.  She was always very conservative about what she would do, but she has serious chronic health problems so even straight intercourse is now rare (less than 20 times in the past 3 years).  She’s an excellent housewife who takes excellent care of me and my son, and I love her and would never want to hurt her.  But I do need sex, and if I bring it up she says it’s because I watch too much porn.  So I decided to see an escort and found one I think I’ll like, but what if I become addicted to seeing escorts?  I searched the internet and found that this can be a scary addition that can cause a marriage to crumble.  How can I know if I’ll be addicted or not?

Woman with MonkeyYour situation is not at all unusual.  Though there are various reasons for it and various degrees of the problem, the basic situation (husband wants more and better sex than wife will give) is so common it probably accounts for the majority of sex workers’ business and I’ve written about it six times in just over a year:  “The Twig is Bent”, “Fossil”, “Familiarity Does Its Thing”, “On a Mountaintop”, “Late Bloomer” and “There Ain’t No Bad Guys” all contain advice that you may find useful, but it’s clear that you also feel guilty about getting your needs met.  If your wife said, “if you wouldn’t look at food on TV you wouldn’t need to eat,” you’d recognize this as a patent absurdity, yet our culture tries to convince people this is true of sex; the myth of “sex addiction” is part of that attempt.  It is impossible to get “addicted” to escorts, just as it’s impossible to be “addicted” to sex or porn (and if you don’t believe me, click on those 7 links).  It’s certainly possible to become obsessed with seeing escorts, because people can become obsessed with anything from stamps to television shows to policing other people’s sex lives.  But if you don’t have a history of becoming obsessed with things, you needn’t worry that it will suddenly happen now.  Escorts are not witches with the ability to enchant you with a kiss; we’re just ordinary women providing a service.  So unless you’ve had problems with spending too much money on liquor or cigarettes or gambling or DVDs or strippers or whatever in the past, I sincerely doubt you’ll run yourself broke with escorts.  Once you see a few you’ll be able to determine how often you need it and how much you can afford, and then as long as you’re careful you might actually find (as so many men have before you) that seeing sex workers saves your marriage rather than endangers it.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

If they come for me in the morning, they’re coming for you that night.  –  Monica Jones

Eleven months ago Monica Jones, a transgender sex worker, activist and social work student at Arizona State, was arrested for “manifestation of prostitution”, Arizona’s label for the tyrannical laws which allow cops virtually everywhere in the United States to arrest any woman they like by claiming she “acted like a whore”.  The tag “Lack of Evidence” is full of such instances, and I synopsized a few of them in “Be Careful Who You Rape”:

…When prostitution is criminalized to any degree, women who carry condoms, answer personal ads, wear sexy lingerie, go without lingerie, fail forced “virginity tests”, ask a cop if he’s a cop, “act sexy”, go out after dark without a male chaperone, or even just “look like a prostitute” are regularly arrested and charged with having sex for a reason some people don’t like…

Stand With Monica JonesThough there have been a few cases of such ridiculously-flimsy charges being struck down lately, those were not in Phoenix, Arizona, a city so addicted to authoritarianism it has kept Joe Arpaio in office for 22 years.  Jones argued in class with Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, the ethically-retarded academic paid by Arizona prohibitionists to produce bogus “studies” for them; she was thrown out of a previous “diversion” program for refuting the lies and exaggerations the propagandists were trying to drum into their victims; she has prominently protested the blatantly-unconstitutional Project ROSE; and she has posted Backpage ads to warn sex workers about the stings held to force women into the program.  In other words, she was a known enemy of the Phoenix prohibitionist machine and ventured into public (i.e. cop territory) during a time she knew they were out hunting; it was a virtual certainty she would be arrested.  And though many activists expressed shock and surprise when she was found guilty eleven days ago, I would’ve been extremely surprised had she not been.  The American courts are not about justice; they are about providing the appearance of due process while grinding up every single person cops and prosecutors decide to target, and the few who escape are like the bits of meat that are occasionally hurled free from a mechanized abattoir and go flying to the floor: not totally chopped to pieces, but not the same as when they went in, either.

As is typical in emotionally-charged legal cases, there are a lot of rumors and half-truths flying about; I therefore think it would behoove us to set the record straight on a few matters.  First:  the statement which I’ve heard more than any other since this whole thing started is that Monica was arrested for “walking while trans”, in other words unjustly profiled as a sex worker based on nothing other than her transgender status.  But while it’s true that cops do often wrongly assume transgender women are all hookers and harass them on that basis, this was obviously not what happened in Monica’s case; as I explained above, she was a persistent gadfly and a thorn in the prohibitionists’ side, and would no doubt have been targeted for that reason no matter what her race or gender status.  Furthermore, it’s a bit disingenuous to say she was wrongly profiled when she is in fact a “known prostitute” and a vocal member of SWOP Phoenix.  Her arrest was wrongful because laws against sex workers are wrongful, not because she was misidentified.

Next, as I pointed out above, the US court system is not designed to produce justice but to produce prisoners, and while there are some wise jurists out there who really do care about justice, they generally aren’t judging misdemeanor cases in municipal courts.  The typical judge at this level isn’t a brilliant doctor of the law carefully considering questions of fairness and constitutionality; he’s a fair-to-middling lawyer who graduated in the bottom half of his class and is more concerned with what he’s going to have for lunch than whether a law under which someone’s been charged is just or moral.  Such a man isn’t interested in rocking the boat; he pretends to believe whatever lies cops vomit out, decides whether the defendant probably did whatever it was, then reads out whatever’s on the little idiot-proof sentencing chart the ruling legislature insists he follow.  Monica admitted to grabbing the cop’s crotch (for some unfathomable reason); that alone was enough to convict her under the statute even if Hizzoner had been disinclined to play the stooge for lying cops that day.

Judge hanging with his hands tied behind his backFinally, given the circumstances as explained above, the judge was actually fairly lenient by Conviction, Inc standards.  In recent years the judicial branch’s power has been eroded very badly by both the legislative and executive branches; plea-bargaining and universal criminality have handed control of the proceedings to the prosecutor (executive branch), and mandatory sentencing has allowed the legislative branch to usurp much of the remaining judicial authority.  Having declared Monica guilty, the judge was bound by law to sentence her to at least 30 days, which is what he gave her.  The suggested fine was $2500, but he had the authority to reduce it for hardship; he lowered it to $150.  Arizona’s fascist prison system also demands a prisoner pay for his own abduction and mistreatment, to the tune of $2540.70 for 30 days; the judge used a loophole (because Monica is a student) to lower that to $350.  Moreover, he deferred the sentence until the end of May so as not to interrupt her school semester, and also said he would stay the sentence if she filed an appeal within the required 14 days.  If she does go to jail, it will undoubtedly be the men’s jail because this is, once again, Arizona we’re talking about; however, she would be placed in solitary confinement for the duration as she was last time and would therefore “only” be in danger of rape or assault from the guards rather than the other prisoners as well.

It goes without saying that I’m neither defending the conviction itself, nor the caging of human beings on the say-so of subhuman thugs.  I’m merely pointing out that it’s foolish to expect a bean-counter to paint pictures or compose violin concertos when he is paid to (and is indeed only qualified to) count beans, and that it’s naïve in the extreme to expect anything but tyranny from the worst pocket dictatorship in America.   If Monica can find lawyers to handle her appeal pro bono (or nearly so), she has a chance of winning based on a judgment of the law itself at the appellate level, but there is no guarantee of that; cases like this can work their way all the way up to the Supreme Court if the losing party has enough time and money to pursue it that far.  Clearly, neither Monica herself nor SWOP has that kind of resources, and I’m not really sanguine about anyone else (like the ACLU) investing in it.  The case has, however, drawn international attention and is even being watched by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights; perhaps some deep-pocketed organization will finally decide to stop dodging the issue and commit itself to sex worker rights by challenging the laws that let cops arrest virtually any woman they like without any valid reason at all.

No one who cannot limit himself has ever been able to write.
-  Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

Harold Lloyd Safety LastAs you’ve probably noticed, I’m really extremely busy these days; between doing this blog, working on commissioned articles, giving interviews and going on my book tour I barely have time for real life.  We’re also hoping that by the end of this year, my husband will be able to spend a lot more time at home; that’s a good thing, but it does decrease the number of hours per week I can spend writing.  As I explained in “Public Conversation”, the changes I’ve already made have allowed me to shorten my email response time to a maximum of a week (by the end of last year, it was commonly two weeks or more).  But that’s not enough; I still spend over 72 hours a week researching and writing, and I need to get it down to 56 or below by the time I start the tour next month so I can have at least 6 hours a day average for tour activities, 6 for sleep and 4 for personal care (yes, I’ve planned it that closely).  By the end of the year, I need to get it down to about 40 hours a week.

Since I’ve instituted a new procedure to streamline my research time, I’m confident I can achieve these goals; something else has to give, though, and that’s unpaid guest writing (other than my long-term arrangement with Cliterati, because I republish those essays in my blog anyhow).  In the past, I was happy to do guest posts for others, and I still would be if time and energy permitted; unfortunately, figures don’t lie and the cold equations must be obeyed.  I had to find some way to save time, and I think this will affect fewer readers than any other change I could make.  I’m still available for interviews without charge; an interview takes far less brainpower than an essay, and is done in an hour or so rather than three or more for an essay.  And I’m still available for commissioned articles, of course, nor am I too persnickety about the word rate (so don’t feel bad if you can’t pay a lot).  The important thing is justifying the time and energy in my mind, and even if I get only $100 plus really good exposure, that’s totally worth it to me.  As regular readers well know I’m a creature of habit and don’t like to change things without good reason.  But as I’ve explained when I’ve made other changes in the past, sometimes they’re necessary for me to maintain both the pace and quality y’all expect from me.

Easter 2014

Again rejoicing Nature sees
Her robe assume its vernal hues
Her leafy locks wave in the breeze,
All freshly steep’d in the morning dews.
  -  Robert Burns

Easter GreetingsAs I pointed out last year, most of the holidays Christianity took over from paganism and redecorated with a Christian rationale are still pagan to the core; this is especially true of Easter, which is virtually indistinguishable from the other spring festivals which preceded it all the way back to Sumer and before.  Christians still celebrate with the ancient symbols of flower, hare and egg, Jesus’ coming forth from the tomb is just the old story of Tammuz or Attis or Adonis or Osiris with refurbished names and details, and (in English, at least) even the festival’s name is that of the goddess from whom Christ inherited the day.  Before cute bunnies and the like become the dominant iconography in the early part of the 20th century, the goddess still appeared on Easter cards and other illustrations in the guise of an angel, a young mortal girl or even the Blessed Mother; no matter how much the Church patriarchy tried to suppress her, she just kept popping up out of the spiritus mundi like spring flowers from winter soil.  And though the sheer joy of spring is severely muted due to the disconnection of modern urbanites from nature, her symbolism still persists; as this holiday reminds us, many things which have been buried are nonetheless not truly dead, and merely await the proper time to emerge into the sunlight once more.

Links #198

To go to this extreme, you know, it was the only alternative or something like that, but you weren’t made aware of that and that was kind of what I was curious about.  Because it’s not tolerated, but you need to go through — let the school handle it.  - Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet

These two Asian commercials couldn’t be more different, so I couldn’t resist juxtaposing them.  The first is a PSA against outdoor defecation from India, contributed by Jasper Gregory; the second is another of those lovely and moving Thai commercials (as previously seen in Links #168), contributed by Mike Siegel.  All the links above the first video are from Radley Balko, and those between the videos from Walter Olson (“tits”), Cthulhuchick (“cadaver”), Clarissa (“DMV” and “how about now”), and Amy Alkon (“advances”).

From the Archives

Project ROSE is a diversion program like a person who pushes ten people onto the train tracks and pulls three off is a hero.  -  Ryan Beck Turner

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

It’s especially satisfying when a vice cop is the victim:

…Denver police detective…Michael Ryan…[is under] investigation [for] solicitation of a prostitute…Ryan works in DPD’s Vice and Narcotics unit and was instrumental in the investigation that led to federal judge Edward Nottingham resigning in the face of accusations he had patronized prostitutes.  Ryan…also served on a human trafficking task force…

A False Dichotomy 

Another good essay from Belle Knox:

…The concept of the desperate exchange permeates discussions about sex work…People assume that my support for sex workers and porn is somehow invalidated because I chose to do porn for the money rather than for love.  They act as though this is some shocking victory for them because being a sex worker wasn’t my dream job…it now somehow reverts to being morally wrong, and I become another pitiable whore to be dismissed at leisure…of course I do porn for money.  It’s a job, not a summer retreat…The majority of people don’t work every day for fun; they do it because they want…something in exchange.  Do you honestly think that the people working at McDonald’s flipping burgers and responding to rude customers on a daily basis would come to work every day if they weren’t getting paid?  Moreover, do you think as a child their dream job was to do this?…

Rooted in Racism

Police in southern France have been accused of racism after asking local hotel owners to report the arrival of Eastern European guests, in a bid to crackdown on certain crimes like pimping…a national police union official [pretended]…”(It) would not violate the values of the Republic by advocating snitching…in the fight against pimping speed is essential”…French authorities have taken a hard line against the presence of Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria, repeatedly bulldozing their unsanctioned settlements and expelling them from France…

For more examples of “sex trafficking” and “the fight against prostitution” as excuses for racism and xenophobia, see here, here, here and here.

Umpteen Thousand People Can’t Be Wrong

It takes a special kind of stupidity for a reporter to call for censorship:

Young girls are being sold online for sex…but not much is being done to stop…the most popular websites…Backpage.com…makes millions of dollars each month from “escort” and “body rub” listings.  Portland police…said it’s frustrating to know Backpage.com makes money off illegal activity, but if it went away, another similar site that is less cooperative with law enforcement would likely pop up…

Divided We Fall

when…Queer Strike “named and shamed” LGBTI organizations who they said were refusing to help decriminalize sex work in the [UK], the picture they gave was misleading…in most cases it simply wasn’t part of those organizations’ remits.  This is a particular issue under British charity law, which means they have to stick to their stated “charitable aims”…

Feet of Clay

I’m really pleased to see Reason doing a lot more on sex worker rights these days, and doubly glad to see “sex trafficking” in scare quotes:

…If you could put a date on when modern-day progressives fully re-inhabited the moral rigidity of their…forebears, it might be September 24, 2012.  That’s when Village Voice Media…split off…Backpage.com after a years-long, progressive-led campaign to shutter the site over claims that it facilitates “sex trafficking”.  “If street pimps go to jail for profiteering on under-age girls, should…Village Voice Media really get a pass?”  New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, the country’s most prominent progressive scold, wrote in a March 2012 column that blamed Backpage for the 2003 peddling of a 16-year-old prostitute, even though the site didn’t exist in 2003.  “Paradoxically, Village Voice began as an alternative newspaper to speak truth to power.  So it’s sad to see it accept business from pimps”…Kristof had the paradox almost exactly backward.  It is he and his fellow crusaders, not the buyers and sellers of controversial products and services, who are aggrandizing power at the expense of the little guy and mangling truth in the service of that unseemly goal…

True Colors

This title of this New Yorker article would seem to indicate a general piece about HIV in the American South, but it’s really much more about Deon Haywood, Women With a Vision and the arson which destroyed their offices on May 24th, 2012.  The responsible party was never caught, but here’s a clue:  the fire was started by piling up all the reproductive health models and posters in one room and setting them ablaze.

Think of the Children! (TW3 #23) Christy Mack

Sex rays can apparently enter one Lego construction and be randomly emitted from other Legos elsewhere, presumably via quantum tunneling:

[In January]…Christy Mack…tweeted [“Whoever builds me the best Lego creation to put in my house gets a blow job”]… The response on Twitter was enthusiastic, to say the least…Unfortunately for Mack’s fans, and toy store proprietors nationwide…the Lego challenge drew to an abrupt close…[when] lawyers for the company had contacted her, objecting to her usage of the Lego name…

Broken Record

They won’t stop until they extend the “gypsy whores” myth to every possible event:  “An undercover sting operation targeting prostitution and child sex trafficking netted five arrests in Augusta [Georgia]…because of the Masters Golf Tournament…

Another Example of Swedish “Feminism” (TW3 #36)

Who cares that a woman was stabbed?  The sadfeelz of naïve prudes are much more newsworthy!

Hookers are using…Airbnb…to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels…One apartment…belongs to publicist Jessica Penzari…But when a hooker got slashed by a client in the…apartment over the price…Penzari got a call from cops…Airbnb put her up in the swanky InterContinental hotel in Times Square for two nights…and also paid to change her door locks, clean her apartment and replace her pillows and other belongings…Airbnb said…“we have zero tolerance for this activity”…

According to the Post, having a snack at your desk is “turning prime office space into a temporary restaurant”.

Under Every Bed

The underworld of prostitution and human trafficking is a dark one, often hidden from the public eye, but it exists in [Alabama] a lot more than one may think…”We used to be just a pass through state,” said Pat McCay with the Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force.  “They would come from Atlanta to Memphis…Now they are staying”…

The event which sparked all this portentous talk of vast criminal cartels?  A cop arrested a massage girl.  Of course the reporter has to get the usual self-important bile from a “legitimate” masseuse.

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #314) 

As the days pass with no sign of [missing 8-year-old] Relisha [Rudd], some…believe she may have been sold into a child sex trafficking operation.  They point to the wads of cash and expensive items Relisha’s mother and boyfriend flaunted on Facebook in the days following the little girl’s disappearance…Andrea Powell…of FAIR Girls…says, “There’s kids as young as 5, 6, 7.”  The average age of entry into this dark and devastating underworld is 13…Relisha RuddIn Washington, D.C. alone, the trafficking of children is a $100-million industry…

Given that the population of the Washington metro area is 5.8 million, that would make the “trafficking of children” worth over $5 billion in the US as a whole.  The level of mathematical illiteracy required to believe such a blatant absurdity constitutes a national crisis vastly greater than “sex trafficking” could ever be.

I Saw My Brain

Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Fla…brought felony charges…in October 2013 against two girls, 12 and 14, after the suicide a month earlier of a third girl, Rebecca Sedwick…[Judd] charged the two girls, Katelyn Roman and Guadalupe Shaw, with aggravated stalking and released their names and mugshots…He made it sound like they posed an urgent risk…A month later, prosecutors dropped the charges after…failing to find evidence of [Judd’s claims]…Judd’s tendency to overdo it isn’t news to the voters who elected him…a…suspect [was shot]…68 times…he boasted of arresting a man for running an Internet pornography site out of his home…[he] took the basketball hoops out of the local jail and stopped supplying inmates with underwear…[he uses] pepper spray on detained juveniles

Micromanagement

Is there anything more worthless than an “authority’s” promise?

French investigators began taking DNA samples…from 527 male students and staff at a high school…as they searched for the assailant who raped a teenage girl on the closed campus…All those who received summonses…were warned that any refusal could land them in police custody…Authorities have promised to discard the DNA collected once a donor is eliminated as a suspect…

One Born Every Minute (TW3 #338)

A French fundamentalist priest repeatedly raped three teachers at the school he ran in…Paris during so-called exorcisms…[he] was indicted this week on charges of rape, cruelty and torture…he had first raped one teacher during an exorcism to purge her of the “evil” from a previous sexual assault…[then] used his “spiritual influence” to convince two [others]…to undergo similar exorcisms…[which included torture with] a broom, a toothbrush and scissors…Police became involved only last year when two of the women reported the rapes to authorities…[but] several years ago the…society of St. Pius X tried him in a religious hearing and sentenced him to two years in a monastery…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #343)

A strong criticism of the ethical bankruptcy of Project ROSE from academics studying “human trafficking”:

This program is ostensibly designed to “rescue” victims…of sexual exploitation, yet there is no form of victim identification at any point in the process.  Rather than attempting to assess whether someone is being coerced…they threaten the arrested person with prosecution…If sex trafficking victims/survivors do not meet the “perfect victim” criteria and are convicted, they will face mandatory minimum sentencing in Arizona’s particularly brutal prison system…It…bears little resemblance to anything that could be considered an anti-sex trafficking program…and…is a tragically absurd version of a “diversion” program.  Instead of keeping people out of the criminal justice system, it sweeps them up and funnels them in…Project ROSE is responsible for at least 100 percent more incarcerations than “diversions”…ASU social workers…are acting like colonial missionaries – they offer to “save” the sex workers they perceive as helpless and damaged, but should [they] not gratefully accept…“help,” then armed…men are at the ready – “for their own good.”

Crumbling House

We are aware of certain allegations that have surfaced…regarding Somaly’s history…We are treating these accusations with the utmost seriousness…the Foundation has recently launched an independent, third party investigation to further examine these claims …

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

According to STRASS, sex workers are increasingly marginalized and insecure since the parliamentary debate on the criminalization of clients…attacks against prostitutes have increased…On the night of March 31…a Chinese prostitute was stabbed to death…“Her assailant was known to be a bad customer so she would have refused him if she had the means.  But she had been unable to work for several days, due to constant police operations targeting Chinese women, and was therefore unable to take the time to choose her customers” said a STRASS statement…The police harassment has been repeatedly denounced by Doctors of the World…

Surplus Women (TW3 #413)

Remember, three weeks ago they were saying there was no serial killer.

Two registered sex offenders have been arrested in connection with killing four women in Orange County…[targeting them] because of their ties to prostitution or escort services, and investigators suspect there are more victims yet to be identified…Franc Cano…and Steven Dean Gordon…were arrested Friday evening…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #415)

the Upper House of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution calling for an objective debate…amid plans by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002…The Bundesrat found that debates in the public sphere and in the media were still based on prejudices, a lack of knowledge and sensationalism.  The Bundesrat particularly opposed the blanket equation of prostitution and human trafficking…[and] opposed the introduction of mandatory health checks, judging them as unreasonable and hardly expedient…

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