Man’s mind is so formed that it is far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth. - Desiderius Erasmus
Eleven updates and two meta-updates.
Amsterdam (November 1st, 2010)
Prohibitionists claim that “sex trafficking” decreases when prostitution is criminalized and increases when it is legalized or decriminalized; the Netherlands is one of their favorite targets, and here Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire demonstrates that recent statistics fail to support prohibitionist claims, and that what “trafficking” there is seems more the fault of Dutch controls than of the sex trade itself.
Sea Change (November 4th, 2010)
Increasing numbers of educated people reject prohibitionist claims about sex work and even recognize it as a positive good. One of these is Dr. Hernando Chaves, sex columnist for AskMen, who recently answered the question “Is there anything wrong with [seeing] a prostitute? What risks are there…?”
…This answer for you depends on…personal attitudes, social judgments, religious/spiritual views, your culture…and a host of other variables…In many cultures throughout history, money…[has] been exchanged for…sexual activity, sometimes as a form of…worship…besides the risk of being arrested and charged where it’s not legal, the risks are quite similar those you would take on with a non-sex-work partner. Any partner can break your heart, take your money, pass along an STI…and so on. It’s not fair to attribute these risks [only] to sex workers…some…bring up sex slavery…and other dark sides to sexual activity, but…true sex work…is a business decision made by consenting adults…
Welcome To Our World (January 20th, 2011)
Most of you have probably heard of the controversy over Mike Daisey’s highly-falsified report of conditions in Apple’s Chinese factories:
Public radio’s popular This American Life episode about abuses in the Foxconn factories…has been retracted on the grounds of… “significant fabrications”…When you read something bad about a Foxconn factory and then see that thousands of people line up for the chance of a job at one of them, that really ought to make you wonder. What were those guys doing the day before they decided to stand in line?…
This is of course what writers like Dr. Laura Agustín keep trying to make people understand: prohibitionists harp on what they consider horrible conditions in third-world brothels, or in the process of migration to a more affluent country, but ignore that people nearly always chose them as the best available option. Furthermore, busybodies just can’t resist depicting these choices as worse than they actually are:
…If you’ve ever tweeted about how bad Apple is, blogged about the evils of Foxconn’s sweatshops, or “Liked” a Facebook post excoriating how iPads are made, then you should listen [to the retraction of Daisey’s story]…I’ve covered the company as a reporter for more than a decade…Mike Daisey claimed to have come across 12-year-old workers, armed guards, crippled factory operators. We saw none of that. And we did try to find them. Nothing would have been more compelling for us and our story than to have a chat with a preteen factory operator about how she enjoyed (or not) working 12-hour shifts making iPads. We didn’t get such an anecdote…The biggest gripe, which surprised us somewhat, is that they don’t get enough overtime. They wanted to work more, to get more money…It wasn’t paradise…some of their managers were harsh…and…others found their job boring. Some were just plain homesick…Compared to the lies, the truth just doesn’t make good theater.
Now substitute “Nick Kristof” for “Mike Daisey”, “brothel” for “factory”…you get the picture.
Shifting the Blame (January 26th, 2011)
This story has been pitched by a number of advocates as good news, but my skeptical mind can’t help noticing that the commissioner who said “What activities these victims may have engaged in…does not matter…They were young women whose lives were cut tragically short,“ has been replaced by one who is “on the same page” with the DA who says it was the victims’ fault for being whores:
The Suffolk police…has a new chief who says he plans a fresh look at…the Gilgo Beach murders, and believes more than one killer was responsible…That view is at odds with a single-killer theory that was aired last December by then-Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, setting off an unusual public argument with District Attorney Thomas Spota, who also believes there were multiple killers. Spota said it’s good that he and Fitzpatrick are “on the same page…Not one detective familiar with the facts of this case believes one person is responsible for these homicides”…
Of course, that’s what they would say since the chief suspect is a cop. And speaking of serial killers…
Surplus Women (September 27th, 2011)
“The FBI suspects a number of serial killers are working as long-haul truckers, the better to cover up their monstrous deeds.” It looks like they’ve found one:
A 54-year-old truck driver from San Antonio…[named] Kenneth Dunn picked up Stephanie Williams, 43, at a truckstop outside of Dallas in February. Dunn then fatally beat Williams and dumped her body in an industrial area…about a week later, Dunn was arrested and charged with murder…Police said that five other prostitutes have been found dead in the Lubbock area over the past dozen years…Dunn…hasn’t [yet] been charged in any of them…
Elephant in the Parlor (October 23rd, 2011)
Politicians hiring hookers isn’t news, unless they’re impotent Swedish politicians:
…[A former government] minister…has been convicted for trying to buy sex from a known prostitute…police saw him pick up the woman in his car…[but he] felt that he was being followed, [so] he stopped the car…and let her out…When he found out he was under suspicion for attempting to purchase sex he confessed straight away and was fined 19,200 kronor ($2,814). Now, however, he denies all allegations. “I have prostate cancer and it is treated with hormones, which means the sex drive disappears. I am medically castrated, one could say,” he told Aftonbladet. Instead, the man claims he was giving the woman a ride home…“The police told me that I could choose between the case being taken to court with all the public exposure that would entail or accept an order of summary punishment…”
Note how, though women are supposedly not targeted by the Swedish Model, the police spy on “known prostitutes” in order to entrap and shake down men.
Bad Fantasy, Good Reality (October 27th, 2011)
Yet another Asian prostitute study confirms what we already know:
Female prostitutes on average earn VND10.6 million per month (over $500) while male prostitutes earn VND6.55 million (over $300), around 2.5 times over the average earning of the group of 20 percent highest income earners in Vietnam…Dr. Nguyen Huu Minh…says that around three fourths of the interviewed prostitutes began …at the age of less than 25; 18 percent of them at the age of 16-18 and around four percent at the age of less than 15…nearly 50 percent…have secondary, high school and university degrees…over 60 percent of the interviewed prostitutes work independently or in a group of friends and acquaintances…Most…said that they became prostitutes because of high income (53 percent)…
Note also that even in one of the poorest countries in the region, very few girls enter the trade at an age below 15…just like everywhere else.
Schadenfreude (November 28th, 2011)
Southeast Asian sex worker rights organizations enjoy making videos to call attention to their mistreatment at the hands of police spurred on by American busybodies; here’s a cute little silent comedy named “Last Rescue in Siam” from the Thai organization EMPOWER. Enjoy!
Gullible’s Travels (December 27th, 2011)
In the first paragraph of this column I provided a short list of recent media scares; if you’d like more of the same, here’s Gawker’s “Timeline of Moral Panics in the Last Decade”. Sex trafficking hysteria is conspicuous by its absence; I guess they only wanted scares rather than full-blown panics.
Twice as Interesting (February 11th, 2012)
The prostitute and the stripper who participated in the Ottawa “Human Library” recently published an article in which they take exception to a reporter’s coverage of the program:
…Anthony Furey…balks at “activist agendas” that “turn human beings into stereotypes”…he considers most of the human books to be “of a decidedly fringe flavour”…[and] insists that the…event “fetishizes people’s differences” and argues that “whatever differences there are have more to do with their character…” [But] as much as we’d like to think that people are judged only by their characters, that is simply not true…for those of us “of a decidedly fringe flavour,” our experiences with stigma and discrimination have shaped our lives. These are precisely the differences that are important to hear about. As such, the Human Library is not fetishizing people’s differences, but rather bringing diverse (and in many cases, rarely heard) experiences to light…
Knights Erroneous (March 18th, 2012)
A couple of hours after last Sunday’s column was published, I noticed a huge surge in traffic; as it turns out, Nicholas Kristof had discovered the column and “tweeted” it to his 1.2 million followers, eventually resulting in a new record for visits in one day (3522). A number of those visitors subscribed, so I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome them and to thank Kristof for all the new readers. On the same day he published another of his Backpage smear columns, only this time he failed to cover his tracks:
Nicholas D. Kristof…wrote…”Alissa says pimps routinely peddled her on Backpage”…That is not true. According to Alissa’s court testimony, she was 16 in 2003. Backpage.com did not exist…in 2003…she…came to the FBI’s attention in August, 2005 [and] was…relocated away from…Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City…In the summer of 2005 Backpage.com did not exist in [those cities]…Had Kristof followed any of The New York Times’ standards of journalism, he would have known this. He could have read the court transcripts…[or] coverage in The Boston Globe…[or even] asked us…Instead, he concocted a story to suit his agenda and then asked his readers to boycott Village Voice Media…
This isn’t the first time Kristof has lied to advance one of his crusades; look for “Feet of Clay”, coming April 5th, for another example from a decade ago.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office spent five years and hundreds of man-hours spying on Anna Gristina, and for what? “Gristina…is considering pleading guilty to the one charge against her — felony promoting of prostitution. Even if prosecutors were successful at winning the maximum sentence…2½ years…she’d serve only…a year…before…work release as a nonviolent first offender…” New York readers, do you really feel this is a valid use of your public funds? This editorialist doesn’t: “…See, crimes should have an actual victim. If they don’t, than they don’t make any sense. Crimes without victims are well, stupid. They are a waste of resources, tax dollars and waste the freedoms and liberties of the people charged…This prosecution is simply idiotic…”
Last week I reported that a newspaper editor had died while visiting his sugar baby; well, it turns out she wasn’t a sugar baby and he was a total hypocrite:
…The young woman Caldwell visited was a full-time call girl…[who] has been advertising…for three years on a regional website called TNA Board…Since 2000…Caldwell …published at least 16…editorials on prostitution. “Some people will tell you that prostitution is a victimless crime,” an Oregonian editorial said in 2001. “They’re wrong…[W]hen you think about it, you realize prostitution isn’t ‘victimless’ even when prostitutes reach the grand old ages of 15 or 17 or 19.” In 2008, another…editorial linked prostitution to “distress, blight and violence,” and…[in] 2010 [another]…in favor of a city proposal to seize assets…[said] “The embarrassment factor probably doesn’t weigh heavily on pimps…but with johns, it’s a different story.”
Maybe once enough of these lying bastards are exposed, they’ll finally begin to publicly support the rights of women they patronize in private.
One Year Ago Today
“The Soft Weapon” reports on the Village Voice’s debunking of the Schapiro Group, and a Canadian editorial’s comparing sex work to hockey.