Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies are. - Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s time once again (though relatively early this month) for my monthly collection of articles which hearken back to previous columns.
Think of the Children! (September 30th)
The considerable hysteria around child sexual abuse, which has grown to the proportions of a full-fledged witch hunt in which thousands of lives have been ruined, rests upon the belief that any sexual contact between two humans, at least one of whom is under the local age of consent, is inherently and devastatingly harmful, no matter what the circumstances. Yet, “playing doctor” was at one time very common among children, even children separated by a few years, and I’m not aware of any claims that practically the entire human race existed in a permanent traumatized state prior to the genesis of sex abuse hysteria in the 1980s. I’m not talking about rape or exploitative incest (which can be harmful indeed), but rather contact between children who are friends or voluntary contact between adolescents and adults. At one time it was common for girls of 14 or 15 to marry men in their 30s; are we to believe they were all irreversibly traumatized by it? And frankly, I’m highly skeptical of currently-fashionable claims that the average teenage boy considers being seduced by an adult woman anything other than fantastically good luck. What if most of the trauma associated with sexuality involving minors derives not from some mystical property of sex itself, but from the considerable fuss adults make over it when it is discovered (including endless invasive and uncomfortable interviews with creepy strangers asking highly personal questions), not to mention guilt over getting someone else in trouble?
Psychologists Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch and Robert Bauserman asked those questions, and in 1998 published a meta-analysis of 59 child abuse studies which found that, when physical abuse and other such factors were controlled for, university students who had experienced what authorities termed “child sexual abuse” (CSA) reported that “negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported.” But did the therapeutic and law enforcement communities breathe a collective sigh of relief upon hearing the good news that most of those kids weren’t as badly hurt by this “secret epidemic” as previously thought? Of course not! Therapists were unhappy at the prospect of a lucrative income stream being interrupted, and cops NEVER welcome the removal of excuses for harassing, controlling and destroying people. For their pains, the good doctors were widely vilified and even subjected to a vote of censure by the United States Congress, and since then the paper has been largely ignored except for misuse by child molesters attempting to defend their disgusting actions in court. This is particularly sad because, though child sexual abuse is relatively rare in comparison with physical abuse (beatings, etc), the sexual abuse gets vastly more money and attention due to its lurid appeal; the common problem with serious (sometimes fatal) consequences is therefore pushed aside in favor of a far less common one with less serious consequences. And that’s a damned tragedy.
Lack of Evidence (December 16th)
I’ve often pointed out that as long as prostitution is criminal not even amateurs are safe because, since prostitution is defined by its motive, no actual evidence of the “crime” is possible and cops are allowed to claim almost anything as “evidence” of it. Well, a particularly horrible example came to light on March 23rd as Amnesty International reported that Egyptian women arrested in last month’s protests were subjected to “virginity tests” and told that any who “failed” them would be charged with prostitution. Would these women have still been tortured if prostitution were legal in Egypt? Undoubtedly, but it would have been impossible to pass off a sort of medical rape as an “evidence-gathering” procedure for any other “crime”.
It’s a Start (December 30th)
It looks like New Orleans may really be serious about curtailing its long tradition of harassing prostitutes; according to a March 25th report by WDSU-TV, the NOPD fired two cops for arresting women on a charge of “loitering for the purpose of prostitution”:
The New Orleans Police Department terminated officers Beau Gast and Thomas McMasters on Friday after an administrative investigation…[which] revealed that both men falsified records and knowingly arrested two women on prostitution charges without a warrant…[both] admitted that they didn’t check to see if either of the women had a prior conviction of prostitution solicitation within the previous year…That check is required by law to arrest anyone on prostitution loitering charges. Both men said they were aware of the law, but they did not abide by it. The charges…include…false imprisonment, neglect of duty, failing to take appropriate and necessary police action and creating false and inaccurate reports. McMasters had been with the force for 13 years and Gast became an officer in 2007, NOPD said.
Thanks to regular reader Joyce for calling the story to my attention.
Check Your Premises (March 10th)
Witch-hunting is apparently still a popular pastime in Salem, Massachusetts, where a journalist was recently convicted of “victimizing” two prostitutes by employing them in his low-end escort service. The following is paraphrased from a story which appeared in the Eagle-Tribune on March 19th and was sent to me by regular reader Alex:
Former sportswriter Kevin Provencher, 52, was sentenced to 2½ years in jail after he pled guilty in Salem Superior Court to running a “prostitution ring” out of hotels in Andover, Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Assistant District Attorney Melissa Woodard accused Provencher of “taking” half of his employees’ earnings and charging them for the hotel rooms he booked for them. Provencher carelessly booked rooms for the hookers at the same hotel every weekend, eventually attracting the attention of busybody hotel staff who called the cops on them. The women earned $240 per hour or $150 per half hour with a 50% agency fee. Provencher was also charged with intimidating a witness after he “threatened to have his attorney shred the two women apart in the media if they spoke to the police,” Woodard claimed.
The two prostitutes, who were identified only as “Jane Doe” and “Jill Doe” during the hearing, decided not to appear in court but one said she believed Provencher took advantage of her, and the other said that she was held accountable after being arrested, and Provencher should be as well. Based on these claims, Woodard tried to get Provencher imprisoned for 35 years and was apparently disappointed when she didn’t get her way; “His crime was not a one time lapse in judgement,” Woodard said. “(Provencher) planned, thought out and ran these services on the expense of these two women.” Defense attorney Paul Garrity said that his client should only serve probation because he has no prior record, saying that the “side business” was started because the downturn in the newspaper business resulted in a significant salary reduction. He called it a bad decision on Provencher’s part and said the district attorney’s recommendation was not reasonable. “To call these women victims is really overplaying this,” Garrity said. ”That’s just not accurate.” He said the two women and Provencher were “equal players” in the operation, and said there is evidence that the two women still may be active prostitutes.
Of course they were equal players, and of course they’re still working as whores; why shouldn’t they? They probably have extensive client lists now, and if they get caught again they have learned how to play the victim card by pointing a finger at a driver, boyfriend or other convenient male. Assuming the threat accusation was a prosecutorial fabrication intended to paint him as a dangerous criminal, Provencher made three major mistakes that I can see; he took too high an agency fee (50% is excessive if he charged the girls for the room), should have changed hotels and enforced discretion, and should have provided a lawyer when the women were arrested. But his greed and stupidity don’t automatically convert hookers into innocent lambs, except in the eyes of predatory DAs employing trafficking rhetoric to score convictions.
How Old is Oldest? (March 12th)
In this column I mentioned the blog The Scientific Fundamentalist and described a correspondence I had with its author, Satoshi Kanazawa. He was very interested in what I had to say, and told me he was going to do a follow-up column on what we discussed. Well, he published that column last Sunday night (March 27th) and not only was I very flattered by his praise, but also very pleased at the huge amount of traffic which came from the links in his post! That influx enabled me to hit a milestone I’ve been slowly approaching for a few weeks now: 100,000 total views as of the morning of March 28th. That’s still just a small cloud in the blogosphere, but it’s growing fast (116,208 at the time this was posted) and is a big step toward my first million. Thanks, Satoshi!