“My dear Watson,” said he, “I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”
I’m not an egotistical person; I know I have lots of faults. But neither am I delusional; I know that I’m relatively bright, have a good memory and that my personality is unusually dynamic. Because of these factors it’s very, very difficult to win an argument with me; I have a tendency to steamroll anyone who tries. I don’t start arguments, but by Athena I sure finish them. This is the most important reason I refused to get involved with any man after Jack until I could be sure he was A) uninterested in starting arguments; and B) could hold his own against me if one started despite our best efforts. Dr. Helena once asked me what kind of man I wanted, and I replied, “One who can say ‘SHUT UP, MAGGIE!’ if necessary, and make it stick.”
Now, though many of my readers probably guessed all that, random people who haven’t (or won’t) read my essays may not. If they’re laboring under prohibitionist delusions about whores being pathetic, weak, damaged women who can’t stand up for themselves (which, as anyone who’s ever spent any time on a hooker board knows, is about as far from the truth as it’s possible to get), they might expect me to retreat from forceful confrontation by well-adjusted prudes like themselves. This occasionally brings on attack via Revealed Truth about the evils of sex work or “trafficking”; when it’s in the comments here I usually just employ my screening process so as to avoid subjecting my readers either to annoyance or to the unlovely sight of my eviscerating someone with my Medusan agony blade (figuratively speaking, of course).
On Twitter, however, it’s different; I was ingrained from a young age with the principle that it’s rude to ignore people, so when I’m in what I perceive as a public space (rather than my “home” here) I find it difficult to simply ignore drive-by comments directed at me. Since I hate arguments I start out politely and often finish the same way; sometimes the commenter reveals himself to be a troll or buffoon and I can excuse myself in good conscience within a few “tweets”. But other times I am confronted with someone who seems to imagine herself (and it’s nearly always a “her”) some sort of crusader going into battle against the great Sphinx, and to believe that I will surely flee from the light of Divine Wisdom as revealed to her by the Holy Polaris Project or the Prophet Melissa. But since I refuse to take anything on faith or to accept arguments from authority, and they never have any actual facts, they enter these battles of wits only half-armed at best. I still start out polite, but as they continue to reply with nothing other than the equivalents of “nuh uh,” “sez you,” “my mommy says so” or “you’re going to make Baby Jesus cry,” I tend to get a lot more ruthless.
Here’s a recent example, an argument with a proponent of increased regulation of the Amsterdam sex industry; I’ve combined my 140-character replies together and eliminated a few tangential interchanges. The first was my reply to her statement that she had nothing against sex workers who worked by choice, but that draconian measures were needed to prevent coercion:
Huge fractions of the human race are coerced every day. What about lawsuit threats? What about psychological manipulation of family members? Threats issued by creditors? Threats of complaints by neighbors? And governments are the worst “coercers” of all; what are laws backed by threat if not coercion? These things are ALL coercion. To pretend that it’s somehow magically different when a woman is a sex worker is disingenuous.
She then asked why I was opposed to anti-trafficking laws, and I replied:
The whole “trafficking” paradigm is flawed, as pointed out by @LauraAgustin and many others. People cross borders to work; labeling them as “trafficked” (i.e. passive objects of cargo) denies them agency and imposes a simplistic model on a complex human interaction. If “authorities” want to end exploitation of migrants they need to STOP pretending these people are helpless children and reform immigration laws, requirements for work visas, labor rights, etc. Criminalization of immigrants only enables exploitation. In all forms of labor INCLUDING sex work, only rights can stop the wrongs.
She then made a comment that criminalization deters “trafficking”, followed by a snide comment about how she thought it was “hilarious” that American sex workers “think you know better than Dutch police and officials”; my reply:
Criminalization isn’t EVER a solution. And sexworkers DO know our own subject better than cops and politicians in ANY country.
Her reply (verbatim and sic):
no, you dont know better than cops especially and politicians in any country, thats delusion of grandeur, seriously.
As you might imagine, such abject badge-licking ticked me off:
Yes, I DO know better than cops & politicians IN MY OWN FIELD. Drs know better than them in medicine, engineers know better than them in engineering, teachers know better than them in teaching, etc. Cops and politicians are not gods, nor even superior beings. To imagine they are is not only delusional, but dangerous to the liberty & rights of everyone.
After a pause she replied that it was “disturbing” that I “deny sex trafficking”; the accusation had the tone of an accusation of blasphemy. My final reply:
“True Believers” usually do consider it “disturbing” when their beliefs are questioned. People who care about truth aren’t afraid of questions; only those with need to believe myths are. Just because there are presents under your tree does NOT mean they were left there by Santa Claus. The fact that some phenomenon exists in some way does NOT prove any and all “explanations” presented for it. The fact that some people are abused or coerced does NOT automatically mean the entire “sex trafficking by international criminal cartels with millions of victims” paradigm must be true. There are other explanations; those who reject them embrace a religion, not science.
That pissed her off so much she finally stopped replying and blocked me, obviously so my heretical words could no longer sear the purity of her eyeballs. But I wasn’t done for the day yet; oh, no! Just a few hours later well-known prohibitionist mouthpiece Stella Marr decided to address me directly, which is pretty brave for her; usually she prefers to skulk about in places she doesn’t think I’ll read, calling me a “pimp” (like Donna Hughes, she uses the word to mean any sex work manager or agent of either gender). On this particular occasion Stella started by calling me a “liar” for my column “The Odor of Socks”; at first I tried to take the high road, telling her how she could modify her behavior so as not to alienate sex worker rights advocates. But she just kept replying to nearly everything I said by calling me a “liar”, “bully” or “pimp” until I got her into a corner by responding to her Swedish Model cheerleading (“It is not tyranny, Scandinavia is the most civilized part of the world, with the most sexual freedom stop #lying”) by linking to that morning’s column, “The Swedish Cult”, and to the item about Sweden trying to force men to pee sitting down. Faced with points she couldn’t refute she claimed I was making her feel “threatened” because I was a madam, and asked me to please stop replying. I told her I’d stop replying if she did, but she just kept it up, apparently assuming I’d eventually give in to her repeated requests that I stop replying first. Eventually, she realized I wouldn’t relent, but it had gotten quite ugly by that point.
Though the general consensus was that I was more than sufficiently provoked to justify my reaction, I’m still not proud of myself for letting her get me that upset; usually I can stay cool and rational even when badly provoked. But I guess there’s just something especially infuriating about a halfwit having the nerve to attack someone completely out of her intellectual weight class, responding to all my attacks with the rhetorical equivalent of flailing arms and then expecting me to back down when she eventually realizes she’s in way over her head.
One Year Ago Today
“Honolulu Harlots” is the story of the tolerated brothels in World War II-era Hawaii, and the power struggle which eventually doomed them.