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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

The violence of a john does not diminish the role of the state in making a prostitute more vulnerable to that violence.  –  Beverley McLachlin and other justices of the Canadian Supreme Court

R.I.P. Al Goldstein Al Goldstein

Al Goldstein, the gleefully-controversial publisher of Screw magazine, died on December 19th after a long illness and an even longer decline in fortunes; he was 77.  Screw debuted in 1968 as a sort of déclassé foil to Playboy, and Goldstein was arrested many times on obscenity charges; my very first memorable exposure to anti-sex feminism was an episode of the Tomorrow show in which a neofeminist dumped a shredded copy of Screw on his head (I was 12 or 13 at the time).  The New York Times obit is excellent, and worth your time; though his name is less well-known than those of the more successful and mainstream porn magnates, Goldstein was a lot more influential than you may realize and is remembered quite fondly by many in both the sex and publishing industries.

Another Example of Swedish “Feminism”

[A] nude named Juno, painted by baroque artist G E Schröder, had hung in the guest dining room for some 30 years before deputy speaker Susanne Eberstein [ordered it removed]…”It is…a feminist issue.  It’s tiresome (looking at) a bare-breasted woman when I sit at public dinners with foreign guests.  I think it feels a little hard to sit there with men who look at us women”…Eberstein explained.

Secret Squirrel

The DriveSafe device can be inserted into the onboard diagnostics port of any non-hybrid/electric car made after 1996…[and] communicates via Bluetooth with the Esurance smart phone app.  Parents can then fine-tune what their kids’ phones can do.  “Customize block lists so they can’t tweet but can still access navigation apps and receive calls from you,” Esurance suggests.  Or simply disable texting…it also tracks every aspect of a teen’s drive:  how fast they went, how quickly they accelerated, how hard they braked, and where they went…

Against Their Will

Kamalabai Pani…of Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP)…in India…[recalled a] raid on…May 20th, 2005…[which] came on the heels of VAMP’s sister organization Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM) turning down funds from USAID [because of the “anti-prostitution pledge”]…“The police…dragged [sex workers] off by the hair…[they] were beaten and dragged to the vans”…The raid was timed during a school holiday.  “It was May and the schools were on vacation, so [girls visiting] their mothers [could be arrested and represented as “trafficking victims”]…a smear campaign [was then] launched against SANGRAM…claiming that USAID had terminated [their] funding…because they were traffickers and had tried to “thwart rescue efforts”…The raid…was initiated by…Restore International, a Christian NGO under the leadership of Greg Malstead…[who later] continued to harass the sex worker community…detail from Juno by G E Schröder

The Crumbling Dam

The City of Vancouver [BC] is looking to repeal an anachronistic 1923 bylaw that requires club managers to…not allow a ‘prostitute or person of evil repute’ to enter…

Follow Your Bliss

American missionary Daniel Johnson…was arrested…in relation to sex crimes committed in the U.S. and…is now accused of raping five boys…between the ages of 11 and 15 at an orphanage in [Phnom Penh]…

Backwards into the Future (TW3 #137)

Beijing has heralded this year’s decision to abolish re-education through labour (RTL) camps…But human rights groups say…thousands of people are still…held in a parallel system known as “custody and education”, overseen by public security officials rather than judges.  Unlike prisoners…the detainees [most of them sex workers, are used as slave labor and] must pay living costs and take compulsory tests for sexually transmitted diseases…

Flush Criminalization

Scott Greenfield on the effects Kathleen Rice’s ugly “end demand” campaign:

…our Protestant ethic condemns the sale of sex and vilifies those engaged in it, regardless of whether it fits within the paradigm of loose, evil women or victims of evil sex trafficking…the latter…gave Kathleen Rice the perfect opportunity to…score points…But…as Newsday reports, it wasn’t the johns, but Rice’s prosecutions,  getting flushed…So far, there have been six guilty pleas and five dismissals.  Not a very good average, given that Rice gets to cherry pick her prosecutions.  In fact, it’s a total disaster.  But…these accused johns…[were] publicly humiliated by the arrest, the detention…Rice’s poster, the cost of hiring a lawyer and appearing in court over and over…[at least one’s] wife is divorcing him…Most people, including those who cling dearly to their Puritanism, don’t think breaking up families is an appropriate goal of the legal system…But…as long as there is that lie in small print at the bottom…Rice…gets all the benefits of public adoration with none of the responsibility for destroying the lives of the innocent…

Opting Out

I really wish I didn’t have to say “I told you so” quite so often.

Pornography filters used by major internet service providers are blocking websites offering sex education and advice on sexual health and porn addiction…[while] failing to block hardcore porn-hosting sites…Among the sites…blocked as “pornographic” was BishUK.com, an award-winning…sex education site…Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse CentreSexual Health Scotland,  Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline, and Reducing The Risk, [another]…domestic abuse…site…

Not to mention EFF, Blogspot, Boing Boing and the site you’re reading now.  However, you can get around this:

A Google Chrome…extension…[called] “Go Away Cameron”…will allow UK internet users to visit any site they want, bypassing government restrictions…The creator of the…extension,…@nubela, said that…the add-on simply picks up the government block and bypasses it…

The Punitive Mindset (TW3 #337) Chris Grayling as Scrooge

For the first time this Christmas, people in [UK] prison will not be able to receive parcels from their loved ones under petty and mean new rules introduced by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.  The new rules…forbid prisoners from receiving any items in the post unless there are exceptional circumstances…families are prevented from sending in basic items…such as cards, paper…pens…books…magazines…clothes and underwear…Instead people in prison are now forced to pay for these items out of their meagre prison wages to private companies who make a profit from selling goods to prisoners…

Imaginary Evils

A new article by Dr. Nick Mai on “sex trafficking” in the UK:

The moral panic on the supposed prevalence of trafficking in the global sex industry rests on a lie:  that the majority of sex workers are trafficked.  In fact, the opposite is true.  However, on the basis of this fiction, the dangerous abolitionist campaigns in favour of the criminalisation of clients…are gaining ground in several EU countries  …our research [found] that…only…about 6% of female interviewees …felt that they had been deceived and forced into selling sex…Most …thought their rights could be more asserted and their vulnerability reduced by decriminalising sex work…All…thought that restrictive migration policies and…criminalization…make people more likely to take risks and accept undignified and dangerous working conditions…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #342)

Following a series of articles in…The Guardian, ICRSE and many sex workers organisations, academics and allies have signed a letter demanding…fairer representation [of] the debate on criminalisation of clients.  To this date, the letter [has] not been published…”  The letter corrects both (unintentional?) errors on the part of the Guardian itself and (deliberate) misstatements of fact in Swedish model propaganda, and was signed by many whose names you may recognize.

Crumbling House

Pierre Fallavier, who…advised [Somaly Mam’s organization] Afesip between 1999 and 2007, wrote…that from the beginning of his relationship with the organization, [staff raised] concerns…that [victim narratives]…disseminated by Afesip [were] “exaggerated”…Fallavier said…“[I] find it unfair to point solely at Afesip for fabricating stories…This…is the approach that all major international NGOs use…They take bits and parts of the life stories of different beneficiaries and make up a ‘typical’ sob story…they are unapologetic, and…it is well known to anyone working in that sector…This is marketing…and it is only with extreme stories that they will get people to give the cash they need”…

Perverse Incentives banner

Unbound

The debate on Cato Unbound is drawing to a close; in all, I had four essays (plus an upcoming conclusion which will appear Monday or Tuesday), neofeminist prohibitionist Dianne Post had four, researcher Ronald Weitzer had three and “sex trafficking” NGO rep Steven Wagner had only the one.  If you haven’t read the entire issue yet, why not take advantage of the holiday lull to catch up before my conclusion next week?

Under Every Bed (TW3 #349)

The latest installment in Al Jazeera’s rapid descent into “trafficking” hysteria:

…Most victims of [sex] trafficking…in Spain come from Brazil, China, Nigeria, Paraguay and Romania, according to the police, who estimate the number of victims in the country at 12,000 and the earnings of the sex trafficking rings…at 5mn euros ($6mn) a day…”they don’t tend to recognise that they are victims,” said Paula Mandillo…with Mujer Emancipada…The first European Commission  report on human trafficking in Europe…put the number of victims between 2008 and 2010 at 23,632…Spain had the second-highest number of victims…in the European Union, after Italy…sex trafficking rings often use babies…to coerce [victims] into forced prostitution…[so] authorities…are…carrying out DNA tests on women and children at border posts, to verify that they are related…

If Spain has 12,000 “victims” and it’s second after Italy with 12,001, that gives the two countries together 24,001 of the total 23,632 victims.  Obviously math skills are not a requirement for either police work or reporting.

The Crumbling Dam (TW3 #351)

Look for a full column on the Canadian Supreme Court’s landmark decision week after next; I’m waiting to see if any politicians will open their mouths to insert their feet.  But in the meantime, here are three standout pieces on the subject.  First, one of the lawyers on the case expressed her opinion on one politician’s call for the Swedish model:

Elin Sigurdson…[said] “asymetrical criminalization…isn’t consistent” with the…ruling…”The same issue of danger and jeopardy will persist when one of the parties rather than the other is criminalized…it couldn’t be upheld under this decision…because you’re going to find the exact same problems persisting”…

Then Dr. Brooke Magnanti weighed in:

…Already, the decision is being decried by the losing side with complaints of how dangerous it would be for Canada to become “the next Amsterdam.”  On the one hand this is true:  the Dutch system does not work.  I have a friend who is an escort in the Netherlands and her home is regularly raided by police who accuse her of running an unlicensed brothel, even though she’s an independent escort who works alone…sex workers would prefer to not work in a country like the Netherlands…and certainly not in the dangerous and misguided setup endorsed by Sweden…most sex workers advocate for full decriminalization—as seen in the laws of New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia—as the best way to ensure minimum abuses and maximum access to rights…This is a view also supported by the WHO, UNAIDS, and other international aid agencies…Will Canada’s government craft a model of decriminalization, or something else, in the year until the new ruling takes effect?…

And on that last point, from Australia:Nikki Thomas, Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott

…The Swedish model…works to silence any alternatives to the narrative trope of pitiful victim in need of rescue…[it makes] big claims about ending prostitution…but the research does not back this up…and…sex workers [are] further stigmatized…sex workers…can guide our social policies towards best practice…Can we hear their voices ringing loud and clear?

Catastrophic Consequences

Because “bottleneck effect” is not in the lawhead vocabulary:

Health chiefs in Edinburgh want a network of tightly-regulated brothels to replace…[the] saunas…NHS Lothian revealed the plan during discussions with police and other agencies…Police Scotland are determined to close down Edinburgh’s saunas despite warnings that it will drive the sex trade underground and increase crime and sexually-transmitted diseases…A terse email from an unnamed NHS official said:  “Sauna owners are speaking to us about condoms and they are suggesting Police Scotland are insisting that ‘no items of a sexual nature will be permitted on the premises’…This will cause us big problems in terms of public health.”  Police Scotland replied…[that their] “aim is to stop the saunas being used for criminality – i.e. brothel keeping and other illegal activities”…

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I wouldn’t have known what I know now if I hadn’t lived the way I have.  -  Kathleen Rockwell

Though there have always been women who made a career of directly accepting money for sex, the majority of those who have taken money for it – perhaps as high as 90% of them – did so casually or infrequently, and never thought of themselves as whores per se.  Indeed, it wasn’t until the 19th century that any woman who had ever done so was judged to be as “fallen” as those who made a career of it and eschewed marriage and domesticity.  But like all new ideas, this one did not catch on everywhere right away; though it was popular in the “social purity” movement and later became the standard definition among American Progressives, many women of the transitional period continued to take money for sex on an irregular and unpredictable basis, leading to considerable controversy among both contemporary and modern bean-counters as to whether or not they were “really” prostitutes.

Klondike Kate, circa 1901Case in point: Kathleen Eloisa Rockwell, born in Junction City, Kansas, in 1873 (though she later claimed 1876).  Her parents had both divorced their spouses to marry each other, then in turn divorced after a move to North Dakota.  By the time Kate was five her mother Martha had again remarried to a wealthy businessman; until she was 15 she lived in a mansion in Spokane, Washington.  But after her stepfather’s business failed the marriage did as well, and Martha dragged Kate off to Chile, where her son from her first marriage was living; on the voyage there Kate accepted a young officer’s proposal of marriage.  Since Martha had entirely failed to grasp that “do as I say, not as I do” is an ineffective parenting strategy, she was aghast; she ended the engagement and upon arrival in Valparaiso enrolled Kate in a convent school.  No sooner had she graduated and started teaching kindergarten than she accepted another proposal, this time from a Spanish diplomatic attaché; she soon ended that one at the insistence of the school’s principal.  In later years, she claimed to have accepted over 100 proposals in her life, and broken all but a few of them; I suggest the reader view this as akin to courtesan’s claims of men committing suicide over them, or modern strippers’ staggering incomes that never seem to translate into actual bank balances.

Only three years after her arrival in Chile, Martha decided to return to New York; she soon asked Kate to join her there, but when she arrived in November of 1892(?) she found that her mother was both broke and too old to attract another rich husband.  Kate supported them both with a number of chorus-girl gigs until an old friend invited her back to work in a vaudeville theater in Spokane; there she not only sang and danced, but also made a cut from drinks customers bought her (it seems likely that her first tricks were picked up there).  When the Klondike gold rush started in the summer of 1897, Kate recognized it as a matchless opportunity; within a year she had put together the money to resettle her mother in Seattle and pay for passage to Canada.  She arrived in Victoria, BC late in the autumn, and discovered that the RCMP would not let women go any farther because the winter was “too dangerous”.  But like any good harlot, she refused to let the arbitrary declarations of cops deter her when there was money to be made; she therefore disguised herself as a boy and sneaked onto a cargo ship headed for Whitehorse, Yukon.

Klondike Kate, circa 1900She worked as a tap-dancer in Whitehorse for most of 1899, then joined the Savoy Theatrical Company when its new theater in Dawson opened in 1900.  Since she stood out in looks, talent and sex appeal from the other girls she soon attracted the attention of Charlie Meadows, who offered her $200 a week (about $5500 today) and star billing at his Palace Grande Theater, where she immediately became a huge hit.  Her show-stopper, the “Flame Dance”, included her twirling a huge swath of red chiffon about while singing and dancing; men threw money at her during the act, and she charged them to dance with her afterwards.  She is also known to have charged for company, but was extremely discreet about it; altogether, she later estimated she made about $500 a week beyond her salary, a total of about $30,000 ($815,000 today) by the end of 1900.  On Christmas Eve she was crowned “Queen of the Yukon” by her fans, and a miner named Johnny Matson (more on him later) fell instantly in love with her.

Unfortunately, she had recently begun a relationship with an ambitious Greek immigrant named Alexander Pantages, a former boxer and current bartender with plans to open a chain of theaters.  They opened the Orpheum together early in 1901, and with Kate as its headliner they were soon rolling in money.  But in the spring of the following year, Pantages realized that the gold was running out and suggested the two of them move to Seattle; Kate did not wish to leave Dawson, so they embarked upon a long-distance relationship.  Even after she finally came back to the US in 1903 or 1904, she wanted to tour while he was stuck in Seattle working on his dream of a theater chain.  While she was performing in Texas, Alex took up with a violinist named Lois Medenhall, whom he married on March 12, 1905; though their relationship had clearly been cooling for a long time Kate was furious and filed a breach-of-promise lawsuit against him in May, seeking the return of the $60,000 she had invested in his theaters plus another $25,000 in damages.  The affair upset her terribly, however, and she started drinking heavily; she settled out of court in April 1906 for a paltry $5,000, then moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, opened a hotel and performed at a nightclub called the Floradora.  Luck was not with her; the uninsured hotel burned down in 1907 and she left Alaska flat broke.

Klondike Kate, circa 1906Since she was only 34, she easily built up another career in vaudeville.  But there was not nearly as much money to be made in Seattle as there had been in the Klondike, and besides she was depressed and drinking; after a knee injury ended her dancing career for good in 1914 she had a nervous breakdown, and left Seattle to open a boarding house in Bend, Oregon (at which some of her boarders seem to have been whores).  Though money was tight, she preferred to do most of the menial work herself rather than sell any of her expensive jewelry; as she later told a biographer, “I can remember the queer looks on the faces of customers, seeing me up to my elbows in soap suds, with a thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds in each ear.”  She eventually built her business into a profitable enough venture to make large donations to the town’s volunteer fire department, but made the mistake of selling it in the early 1920s to start a restaurant in California…which promptly failed so badly she was forced to borrow money from the now-successful Alex Pantages.  The latter’s fortune did not last long after that, however; in 1929 his wife Lois was tried for killing a man while driving drunk, and Alex was charged with raping a young actress.  Though his conviction was overturned after two years in prison, he was financially ruined and died of a heart attack in 1936.

Kate married a cowboy named Floyd Warner in the late ‘20s, but that was over by the time she received a letter from Johnny Matson, who had never stopped loving her; he had read a newspaper account of the Pantages trial (during which Kate had been subpoenaed by the prosecution as a character witness) and decided to look her up again.  In that letter he proposed, and she married him in Victoria, BC on July 14, 1933.  He was still a miner and very solicitous of her welfare, so he insisted she spend the winters in Oregon rather than at his remote claim.  During this time she began to be invited to appear at miner’s reunions in Portland, and spent her winters training young Hollywood actresses in vaudeville techniques.  They lived happily this way until the winter of 1946, when she was notified that Matson had been found dead in the woods miles from his cabin.  Two years later she married another old admirer, an Oregon accountant named W. L. Van Duren, and was still with him when she died at the age of 83 on February 21, 1957.  Though she is not well-known in most of the US, she is still remembered fondly in Alaska and Oregon; in the former as the glamorous showgirl of her youth, and in the latter as the generous civic benefactress of her later years.  And despite what moralists like to believe, they were one and the same woman.

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These days it takes some serious balls for a man to stand up, demand rights for sex workers, and actually sign his real name to the thing. - Maggie McNeill

A year and a half ago I published “Stand-Up Guys”, in which I saluted men outside the sex industry who dared to stand up and speak out for sex worker rights, despite the rising tide of “end demand” and other Swedish-flavored prohibitionism.  Things have grown only worse since then; prohibitionists viciously attack men who support sex worker rights, hinting that they are “pimps” or “sex traffickers” even when they don’t identify as clients.  What’s more, some sex worker activists appear to have imbibed the neofeminist Kool-Aid and foolishly shun the help of clients or other men; some even proclaim themselves misandrists, which looks to me a lot like using one’s own feet for target practice.  And yet despite all that, some men stubbornly fight for our rights anyway; I don’t mind saying that I find that sort of obstinacy rather sexy.Tim Barnett  So today I present another list of male allies; remember, this doesn’t include men who are directly involved in our industry, since it’s as personal for them as it is for us.  It does, however, include clients (and one former sex worker) who have chosen to “out” themselves for the cause.  As before, this is by no means meant to be a complete list; if you have any suggestions who didn’t appear on either list, please mention them in the comments below!
Dave Barry
Tim Barnett  The New Zealand MP who sponsored the Prostitution Reform Act (which decriminalized sex work in 2003) is now his party’s general secretary, and still often speaks in favor of decrim both in New Zealand and in the UK.  Follow him on Twitter: @tim4858

Dave Barry  The famous humorist has libertarian leanings, and has spoken out about the injustice of prostitution stings.  Email him at nolowflow@davebarry.com or follow him on Twitter: @rayadverbChester Brown

Chester Brown  Well-known comic book artist who wrote Paying for It, in which he detailed his experiences as a client of Toronto sex workers; the book’s appendix contains a strong argument for decriminalization.  I’m also proud to say that he’s a regular reader and a friend, and drew the cover art for my upcoming story collection Ladies of the Night.  Chester can be contacted through his publisher, Drawn and Quarterly, at info@drawnandquarterly.comGraham Ellison

Graham Ellison  Professor of Criminology at Queen’s University Belfast, a staunch proponent of decriminalization and outspoken opponent of the Swedish model; I have linked a number of his essays in my TW3 columns.  Email him at g.ellison@qub.ac.uk

Rupert Everett  This British actor came out as having done sex work when he was young and struggling, and is nowRupert Everett supporting an anti-Swedish model campaign by the English Collective of Prostitutes and Queer Strike.  He can be contacted by mail through his agents.

Zander-Dexter Falcon  A regular client in Saskatoon who recently came out in the process of fighting legislation that endangers sex workers.  Email:  zanderfalcon@sasktel.net  or follow him on Twitter: @furyofpatience

Ally Fogg  Freelance journalist in the UK who generally writes on social justice and gender issues,Ally Fogg including strong support for sex worker rights.  He prefers to be contacted via Twitter: @allyfogg, but his website also has an email contact form.

Chris Hall  Freelance journalist in the US who can be counted on to consistently write about sex workers and our rights in a respectful and eloquent manner.  Follow him on Twitter: @literatepervertMichel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq  French novelist who has repeatedly states that he loves prostitutes, and has often featured us in his books.  You may email him at houelle@magic.fr

Karl Lagerfeld  The famous fashion designer prefers escorts to unpaid companions, and often speaks of his admiration for us; he also helped former underage hooker Zahia Dehar get started as a designer herself.Karl Lagerfeld  He may be written at Karl Lagerfeld Group, 12 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France.

Matthias Lehmann is a German sex work researcher whose articles (especially those debunking prohibitionist lies) I have referenced many times.  Email him here or follow him on Twitter: @photogroffee

Scott Long  Veteran activist for human rights,Paul Maginn especially sexual rights, who unlike many in that field does not seem embarrassed to speak out for the rights of sex workers.  Follow him on Twitter: @scottlong1980

Paul Maginn  Urban planning expert who is especially interested in the sex industry; I have linked his anti-criminalization essays several times.  Email him at paul.maginn@uwa.edu.au or follow him on Twitter: @planographer

Marc RandazzaMarc Randazza  Prominent First Amendment lawyer who has gone to bat not only for porn, but for the speech rights of hookers as well.  You may email him through this page, or follow him on Twitter: @marcorandazza

Mike Siegel  Astronomer, libertarian/conservative blogger, regular reader and friend who has written on numerous occasions in support of sex worker rights.  Follow him on Twitter: @Hal_RTFLC

Jesse WalkerJesse Walker  Though virtually all libertarians are against criminalization, some are more actively vocal about it; this historian, Reason editor & writer of The United States of Paranoia is one of them. Email him at jwalker@reason.com or follow him on Twitter: @notjessewalker

Ken White  Respected First Amendment lawyer, popular blogger, defender of those threatened by censorious twatwaffles, geek extraordinaire and personal friend.Ken White  Read his thoughts on sex work, email him at ken@popehat.com or follow him on Twitter: @popehat

Kevin Wilson  Professional research consultant, graduate student in epidemiology and friend who became interested in sex work research through reading this blog.  Email him at Wilson2@dal.ca or follow him on Twitter: @WilsonKM2

Tim Worstall  Economist and journalist who writes oftenKevin Wilson on the absurdity of prostitution law; he also debunks “trafficking” myths.  Email him at timworstall@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @worstall

I apologize for anyone I’ve forgotten.  If you’d like to be on the next list of this type, just email me with a link to whatever public statements you’ve made about sex worker rights under your real name, and we’ll see about adding you to the next oneTim Worstall (and you needn’t be shy, either; Aphrodite knows I’m certainly nothing of the kind).  If I did forget you, please don’t be offended; most of y’all know how busy I am, and things that shouldn’t often slip through the cracks.  In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for “Stand-Up Guys” in my weekly TW3 column, where I’ll mention guys who come to my attention without having to wait another year and a half.

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Mountains are the same as in the old times,
But streams are never the same;
They keep flowing day and night,
So they can not be the same.
The men of fame are like the streams;
Once gone, they never return.
  -  Hwang Jini

My column on the kisaeng, theHwang Jin Yi movie poster Korean equivalent of geisha, opened with a sijo poem by Hwang Jini, the most famous and beloved of her profession.  In recent years, she has essentially become the archetypal kisaeng, and as in the case of Western courtesans her life has provided the inspiration for novels, a television show  and a movie; of course, these fictional treatments are considerably embellished and dramatized, and it’s difficult to tell history from folk legend from deliberate “improvement”.  In this case, the task is further complicated by the dearth of English-language sources on the subject, but there is still enough to enable a sketch of a most unconventional woman of almost superhuman charisma who made her own way in a society where that was simply not allowed.  Hwang Jini’s extraordinary presence and strength of will is a large part of why modern Korean women find her so fascinating; she is a splendid example of what I call an archeofeminist, a woman who uses her femininity to advantage rather than rejecting it.

She was born about 1506 in Kaesong, which lies in what is now North Korea.  Her mother, Chin Hyungeum, was of the cheonmin caste, but her exact profession is unknown; some sources say she was a kisaeng herself, though this seems unlikely given her poverty.  She was, however, extraordinarily beautiful, and attracted the attention of a young yangban (nobleman) named Hwang Chinsa, who took her as a mistress for a time.  They had one daughter, Jini, who from a very early age was recognized as exceptional both in beauty and in musical skill; it is said that she made the decision to become a kisaeng after a young man killed himself or pined away over her, and she realized such powerful appeal would win her fortune.  Now, it is very likely that the decision to send her to a kisaeng house was actually her mother’s; training started very early (sometimes as young as eight), so it hardly seems credible that she was already breaking hearts and making major life-decisions at such a tender age.  However, the very fact that the legend portrays her as choosing her own destiny demonstrates the strength of the impression she made on people.

In Jini’s day, Confucianism was still solidifying its hold on the upper class, and different schools of thought were still vying for control.  Though the kisaeng were technically of slave status, the government did not claim ownership of them until almost a century after her death; she therefore enjoyed a freedom later generations of kisaeng were denied.  After her training was complete she set out to earn a living, taking up almost immediately with a gibu named Yi Saeng.  Though some gibu were jealous or behaved pimpishly, this does not seem to have been the case with Yi Saeng, who appears to have been almost a father-figure to her.  The two took a long sightseeing trip to Mount Kumgang, with Jini (who by then was using her stage name, Myeongwol [“Bright Moon”]) obtaining their needs via casual prostitution.  This story illustrates several important points about her character: first, her ability even at so young an age (she was probably about 15 then) to deal with men as an equal, the hallmark of all great courtesans; second, her willingness to use her sexuality to obtain what she wanted; and third, her total lack of artificiality.  The latter was her most striking characteristic: she spoke her mind freely, with little of the formality which was the norm in Korean society; she generally went without makeup at a time when most kisaeng painted their faces elaborately; and she often dressed attractively but plainly, with very little jewelry.

Hwang Jini (portrait from Korean textbook, c. 1910)But her beauty, personality, intelligence, musical talent and skill at poetry allowed her to seduce men almost without conscious effort, and when she actually applied herself she was practically an irresistible force.  One of her conquests was a misogynistic government official named So Seyang, who bragged he would keep her for a month and then dismiss her without regret; at the end of the time he begged her to stay and she refused, composing a poem to tell him goodbye.  Another of her famous clients was a noted musician named Yi Sajong, with whom she is said to have lived for six years; given the extremely short professional lives of the kisaeng, this was presumably in her thirties, after she had made her fortune.  And a fortune it was; though it could not compare with the wealth of a yangban or even that of a successful European courtesan of her time, it was more than enough to support her in comfort until her death in 1560.  One of the reasons for this success was her ability to deal with men in a completely unsentimental manner, which allowed her to always pursue the most lucrative arrangement available without hesitation or regret; this has been romantically explained as the result of a tragic love affair in her youth resulting in an inability to fall in love again, but that is almost certainly a mere fiction invented by male biographers unable or unwilling to grasp just how pragmatic a whore can be.

There was only one man in her life who seemed to rise above the level of friend or valued client, and that was the philosopher Seo Kyung Duk, under whom she studied for a time.  He was the only man said to have been impervious to her charms, and though she may have at first viewed him as a challenge she eventually came to admire his strength and steadfastness:  she is known to have described him as one of the “three wonders of Kaesong”, the other two being the Pakyon Falls and herself (modesty was clearly not among her virtues).  Though she left her home at a young age, she returned for a number of visits over the years; it was a place of great natural beauty, and her appreciation for such is demonstrated not only in her poetry and her trip to Mount Kumgang (at a time when she could have been occupied far more productively), but also in the fact that she asked to be buried in a simple grave on a riverbank in Kaesong.  She wished to die in the same way she had lived:  practically, honestly, and without the ceremony and pretense which was the norm in her society.

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Every decision I’ve ever made, including the decision to be a prostitute, is linked to a desire to be free.  -  Gabriela Leite

R.I.P. Gabriela Leite

Gabriela LeiteSex worker rights activist Gabriela Leite died of cancer on October 10th at the age of 62.  She organized the first Brazilian whores’ convention in 1987, then in 1992 founded a rights NGO named Davida; in 2010 she ran for the Brazilian congress (as depicted in the documentary A Kiss for Gabriela).  Though she lost the election she won tremendous respect, and a bill to eliminate the contradictory provisions in Brazilian prostitution law was recently named in her honor.  She was one of the greats, and will be sorely missed in the sex worker rights community.

Social Autoimmune Disorder

Police in Florida have begun…recording license plate information from cars that drive through areas frequented by sex workers and sending a letter to that individual’s home…[including] a close-up image of the license plate and…reminders about the potential for sexually transmitted diseases…Authorities speaking to the media seemed to assume that someone’s mere presence near illegal activity presumes their guilt…

An Educated Idiot

Charlotte Shane’s scathing review of Sudhir Venkatesh’s new book Floating City levels many of the same criticisms I and others have already made against the duplicitous sociologist (such as his total ignorance of the history of sex work, his dreadfully-low “estimates” of our income, etc).  But it also contains many telling observations about his character flaws:

…when one of his subjects is assaulted, and her co-worker asks that he not report it:  “I stood there, frustrated…What should I do?  Go along with them or call the damn police like a normal person?  I didn’t want to get sucked into their criminal value structure and end up doing the wrong thing.”  This alarming response encapsulates…[his] problem.  The desire to avoid arrest after suffering a brutal assault is a sensible one…but Venkatesh can’t wrap his head around it…he is “normal” and they are deviants…his responses are the right ones and theirs are not…Venkatesh clings to the notion that sex work is inherently, unavoidably risky, regardless of the legal and cultural circumstances…when the issue of…legalization…is raised, it’s only to dismiss it…

Not An Addiction (May Updates)rat with Oreos

Crypto-moralists are once again trying to pretend that fatty foods are addictive, but as Jacob Sullum points out:

…the study’s findings could just as truthfully be summarized… “Research Shows That Heroin and Cocaine Are No More Addictive Than Oreos.”  Putting it that way would have raised some interesting questions about the purportedly irresistible power of these drugs, which supposedly justifies using force to stop people from consuming them.  But the researchers are not interested in casting doubt on the empirical basis for the War on Drugs…they are trying to build an empirical basis for the War on Fat…if the neurological effects of Oreos make them impossible to resist, how is it that most people manage to resist them, consuming them in moderation or not at all?…

Dirty Amateurs

Whether the infection is biological or technological, it’s always the same:

…Symantec…found…that hackers…target…religious sites at a much higher rate:  “…religious and ideological sites…have triple the average number of threats per infected site than adult/pornographic sites.  We hypothesize that this is because pornographic website owners…have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free – it’s not good for repeat business”…

Dominating the News

Ex-vice madam Natalie Rowe has had her home raided by police days before she will make new claims about her relationship with Chancellor George Osborne…12…officers…with a battering ram burst into her London flat…[at] dawn…claiming they were acting on a tip-off…no drugs were found in the two-hour search…“WHY did one officer involved in the raid ask me whether I was about to publish my memoirs and WHY did a police inspector tell me I’d be opening a ‘whole can of worms’ if I complained?”…

Meanwhile, in Japan, “Yuka Fujisawa was arrested…for…sticking needles in gentlemen’s genitals for money…Fujisawa’s ‘needle play’ was performed on consenting adults, so her arrest is purely for the act of drawing blood without a medical license…

Elephant in the Parlor

Beleaguered former…MLA Mike Allen has received a rare note of support…from the Alberta Sex Workers.  Mr. Allen was one of 13 men caught in a St. Paul, Minnesota-area sting in July…He…could face up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine.  “Alberta sex workers wish to assure MLA Mike Allen…that his activities…would be lawful, private and welcome in Alberta…sex workers in Mr. Allen’s riding…want him to continue as their MLA.  We feel he made a mistake taking his business out of Alberta to puritan…Minnesota, but sex workers in his constituency are still pleased to have an MLA who values the services they offer”…Christian Adamek

Moloch

How many more kids have to be sacrificed on this loathsome altar?  “A popular 15-year-old student has committed suicide after he reportedly faced expulsion and being placed on the sex offenders’ register simply for streaking at a high school football  game.  Christian Adamek, from Huntsville, Alabama,  hanged himself on October 2, a week after he was arrested…

Full of Themselves (TW3 #4)

I hope this keeps happening, so pole dancers will be forced to stand with sex workers rather than pretending they’re different:  “…Swansea University [banned its]…Pole Fitness Society…[saying] ‘Pole fitness and pole dancing are a direct spin off from lap dancing…Everyone knows where it comes from…and that pole dancing is…specifically designed to sexually excite the watcher’…”  Swansea has a long history of pearl-clutching over sex work.

The Course of a Disease

The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe has come up with a “tool kit” containing “information, ideas and resources…to help sex worker rights…organisations and activists…challenge…[the] Swedish model.”  You can view and download the tool kit and its associated worksheets here, or visit the ICRSE website to download one individual section at a time.

Bad Fantasy, Good Reality (TW3 #7)

This short interview with Dr. Heidi Hoefinger on her book Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia supports everything I always say about Asian bar girls, but the comments are illustrative of the deep state of denial in which “trafficking” fanatics exist:  among them are the claim that a woman who spent ten years living among her subjects is “naïve” and the astonishing assertion that literally 99.99% of whores are coerced.

Above the Law

A [California] Sheriff’s Department deputy…sexually assaulted a [woman] he…pulled over…[he offered to] let [her] go in exchange for sex…[but when she] declined …he [forced her anyway]…”  The unedited original is almost incomprehensible for all the “alleged” and “unknown male” and passive voice; it even describes forcible rape as “sexual contact occurred”.  And in Kentucky, “A sexual assault lawsuit has been filed against…Sheriff Rick Clemons…‘I’m upset.  I’m very offended.  I’m actually shocked’, said Clemons…”  Cry me a fucking river.Rupert Everett

Stand-Up Guys

Rupert Everett is supporting a campaign against proposals…to criminalise sex workers’ clients.  The actor, who participated in sex work as a younger man is making a [TV] programme on the subject.  He has signed an open letter by the English Collective of Prostitutes and Queer Strike…journalist Cary Gee and a whole range of activist groups…have all added their names too…Former New Zealand MP Tim Barnett, who sponsored the…Act which decriminalised prostitution, described the…way…[end demand] laws were used…“Half of those arrested were transgender sex workers who were identified as men”…

Greeks Bearing Gifts

The noisome fruit of the “mandatory prosecution” tree:

…In an incident back in April, Joel Darvell, 36, allegedly choked his wife while drunk, causing his son to tackle him…Darvell allegedly pistol-whipped his son and then fired a .45 caliber round into the wall of their home.  No injuries were sustained.  Darvell was charged with assault…but [his] wife and children…refused to testify…Judge Michael Evans…[had them] dragged away…[to] jail…where they were held in cuffs and shackles…John Hays, who is representing Darvell’s wife…said…“The prosecutor wants to put the defendant in prison for over 20 years, and (his family members) really do not want that”…After 48 hours…the 13-year-old girl…broke…and…agreed to testify against her father.  The son and mother…were made to agree…as well…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #28)

Everyday Whorephobia interviews Morgane Merteuil of STRASS about the especially-revolting French version of the Swedish model:

…The law also proposes to fight…[advertising] websites…all the help…[for exploited migrants] is conditional on stopping sexwork…[and] working with  an “agreed organization”; of course…sexworkers rights [groups] won’t be [among] them…if students do sexwork, it is because they don’t have the consciousness that this is “prostitution”; so the solution is to add lessons about the “objectification of the body” at school…

Schadenfreude (TW3 #43)Meas Ratha

Somaly Mam has been caught in yet another huge lie:

…in January 1998, Ms. Mam was propelled…into the international media spotlight largely owing to the harrowing on-camera testimony of the young Meas Ratha…[who supposedly had] been promised a job as a waitress in Phnom Penh, but wound up a captive in a brothel…Sixteen years [later]…Ms. Ratha—now 32 years old and married—said her testimony…was fabricated and scripted for her by Ms. Mam…Ratha…said that she did not want to cause trouble for Ms. Mam’s NGO, which had provided an education for her, but that she could no longer continue a lie that had followed her for half her life…the fabrication of Ms. Ratha’s sex slave story is only the latest incident of false information to emerge from Ms. Mam and her organizations…

And how exactly does Somaly Mam “help” sex workers?

…Estée Lauder…has opened the Somaly Mam Beauty Salon…providing survivors of sexual slavery and human trafficking with…education and vocational training…in high-touch beauty services in hair care, makeup application and nail treatments…

Well, I guess it’s better than putting them to work in her fashion industry sponsors’ sweatshops.

Us and Them

These abuses always start with stigmatized groups, but never stop there:

[UK] police are to get the power to restrict the freedom of anyone they suspect of being a sex offender, even if the person has never been convicted of a crime…This can include limiting internet use, stopping the person from being alone with a child under 16 and preventing travel abroad.  Anyone breaching the so-called Sexual Risk Order, which lasts for at least two years, could be jailed for up to five years…

Unmentionables

WH Smith shut down its website…after it was revealed that a search for the term “daddy” brought up hardcore pornographic ebooks featuring bondage and humiliation alongside stories for children.  At least 60 pornographic ebooks…could also be found on Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble…WH Smith apologised to customers and said the “explosion” of self-publishing had left book retailers exposed to pornographic content…

They weren’t “exposed” to shit; they just had a poor website design and are passing the buck.Jerry Brown masturbatory gesture

The Punitive Mindset (TW3 #337)

The governor of California pretends prison inmates don’t have sex with each other:

…Jerry Brown…vetoed a bill a that would have…required…condoms [to be] available in every California prison.  Supporters…argued that [this] would help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among inmates, who have higher rates of HIV/AIDS…Brown…noted that family visitors are already allowed to bring condoms for…overnight visits…

Policing for Profit (TW3 #341)

A money-making venture to lure…drug buyers into Sunrise [Florida] to purchase cocaine from police has been halted…Mayor Michael Ryan…lay blame…on the [newspaper story exposing the racket]…Ryan did not express concerns about…[the busts taking place] in such public locations as parking lots and family restaurants…

Shift in the Wind (TW3 #341)

Another UN agency has reaffirmed…support of sex workers in response to Equality Now’s anti-sex worker campaign…This leaves Equality Now starkly on the fringes of the global women’s movement, as organisations as authoritative as UN Women…assert…that sex work is work, not trafficking.  The statement…also…[backs] safe workplaces – which come with decriminalisation – and the right to self-determination, including the right to stay in sex work…[this] precludes…the “Swedish model”…supported by Equality Now…which tries to drive sex workers from sex work (against their consent) through making it intolerably dangerous…

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I killed those men, robbed them as cold as ice.  And I’d do it again, too…I have hate crawling through my system…I am so sick of hearing this “she’s crazy” stuff…I’m trying to tell the truth.  I’m one who seriously hates human life and would kill again.  -  Aileen Wuornos

In my harlotographies, I’ve tried to cover as broad a range as possible: from the ancient to the recently-deceased, from streetwalkers to courtesans, from the noble to the self-centered, from the wise to the deranged and from the famous to the infamous.  Three years ago this month I presented short biographies of the victims of the first known serial killer, and today the first woman to be herself so labeled:  Aileen Carol Wuornos.

Aileen Wuornos as a childShe was born in Rochester, Michigan on February 29th, 1956 to 17-year-old Diane Wuornos, who had married Aileen’s father, Leo Pittman, less than two years before.  Aileen never met him; he was in prison when she was born, and her mother had already filed for divorce.  Pittman was a schizophrenic with a long history of violent behavior, and hanged himself in prison in 1969 while serving another sentence, this time for child molestation.  In January of 1960, Diane abandoned Aileen and her older brother Keith, leaving them with her parents Lauri and Britta Wuornos; they immediately adopted the children and for many years allowed them to believe they were their parents.  Unfortunately, they were just as bad as the real parents; Lauri sexually abused his granddaughter, and Britta was both physically abusive and an alcoholic.  Like many incest victims, Aileen became sexually precocious; she had sexual contact with boys at school in exchange for drugs, cigarettes and other things she wanted, and when she turned up pregnant at 14 she named Keith as the father.  As was typical in 1970 she was sent to a home for unwed mothers, and the baby was given up for adoption.  A few months later Britta died of alcohol-induced liver failure, and Lauri threw his granddaughter out soon afterward.  Though she and her brother were placed in foster homes, Aileen ran away almost immediately and lived in a patch of woods near her old neighborhood, supporting herself via prostitution.

But she did not stay there for long; by 16 she started hitchhiking around the Midwest, working mostly at truck stops, and was arrested for drunk driving in Colorado in May of 1974.  By the beginning of 1976 she had made it to Florida, where she was picked up while hitchhiking by Lewis Fell, the wealthy 69-year-old president of a yacht club.  He immediately fell in love with her and soon proposed; she accepted, and their marriage announcement even appeared on the local paper’s society page in May of 1976.  There the story might have ended had Aileen been merely the victim of a difficult life; as should be clear, however, mental and emotional instability ran deep on both sides of her family, and she was completely incapable of settling down to the comfortable situation of a trophy wife.  Instead, she insisted on drinking at bars and getting into fights; when she was jailed for attacking a bartender while on a trip home to Michigan (after her grandfather’s suicide), Fell came to his senses and had the marriage annulled.  She was arrested July 14th; her brother died of throat cancer three days later, and the annulment went through on the 21st.

Aileen blew through her brother’s $10,000 insurance policy in only a few months and returned to truck-stop prostitution, working her way back down to Florida.  But while she had been quite pretty in her teens, hard living and her volatile temper had faded that luster; it thus became increasingly difficult for her to make a living as a whore.  She was arrested for robbing a convenience store in May of 1981, and again for passing forged checks in May of 1984.  By 1986 she had just about hit bottom: she was arrested for car theft in January, then for attempted armed robbery of a client in June.  Soon after that, however, she met a hotel maid named Tyria Moore at a lesbian bar in Daytona Beach, and they moved in together; for a while Wuornos seems to have been happy in her way, and her earnings picked up enough for Moore to quit her job and let Wuornos support both of them.  But slowly, over the next several years, the chaos which followed Wuornos like a cloud returned and worsened.  In July of 1987, she got in a fight at a bar, then in March of 1988 with a bus driver.  And by the end of the following year, she had returned to where she was when she met Moore, and started robbing her clients…this time, killing them in the process.

Aileen WuornosThe particulars of the case are discussed in exhaustive detail all over the internet if you’re interested, so there’s no need to repeat them here.  Suffice to say that between December 1st, 1989 and November 19th, 1990, Aileen Wuornos murdered seven men – Richard Mallory, David Spears, Charles Carskaddon, Peter Siems, Troy Burress, Charles Humphreys and Walter Antonio, all with the same delicate little .22 caliber purse gun.  Moore was still with her at least until the fourth murder, but sometime after that they broke up and Moore went home to Pennsylvania.  She later admitted to knowing about the first murder, but claimed to have deliberately avoided asking about the others because she didn’t want to know.  Wuornos was a terribly sloppy criminal; she left a string of witnesses, fingerprints and pawned loot across Florida, and had the police been competent she would have been caught much earlier.  Wuornos was finally arrested on January 9th, 1991, and Moore the next day; she agreed to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution, and even talked Wuornos into confessing on the phone.  In that confession, Wuornos claimed that every single one of the men had tried to rape her, and that she had killed them all in self-defense.

Predictably, credulous feminists swallowed every word and touted her as some kind of heroine; remember, this was the height of child sexual abuse hysteria.  But she was neither a heroine nor the “man-hating lesbian” some pundits claimed; she was merely an unstable sociopath whose restless, violent life had exacerbated her existing problems.  At first, she seemed to enjoy the publicity and continually retold her story to recast herself more and more as the victim, ignoring her public defenders’ entreaties that she remain silent and insisting she be allowed to tell her story in court.  When the jury at her first trial (for Mallory’s murder) compared her absurdly-embellished version with the original videotaped confession, any credibility she may have had disintegrated; it took less than two hours for them to convict her of first-degree murder, and she responded by screaming “I hope you get raped!” at them.  She was sentenced to death.  Before her next trial could start, she decided to “get right with God” by pleading no contest to the murders of Humphreys, Burress and Spears, claiming in her statement that though Mallory (who had a previous conviction for the crime) did indeed rape her, she had only feared the others would and killed them before they could do so.  She was given three more death sentences.

Wuornos spent the next decade on death row, her mental health deteriorating the entire time.  In 2001 she fired her legal counsel and stated that she was giving up appeals, but then insisted that the prison staff were torturing her by contaminating and even poisoning her food so as to drive her to suicide before her execution; she also claimed that they intended to rape her before she died.  During the last few years of her life she gave a a series of interviews to Nick Broomfield, who had already made a documentary about her in 1993 (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer) and was in the process of making another (released in 2003 as Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer); the video below is the last such interview, made the night before her death.

She was executed by lethal injection on October 9th, 2002 after declining a last meal (she wanted only a cup of black coffee).  Her last words were, “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6th.  Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I’ll be back.”

There are some women I’m proud to share a profession with, and others I’m not; women like Theodora and Skittles show whores at our best, while women like Aileen Wuornos show us at our worst.  But I think her story is an important part of the picture, because it demonstrates once again that there is no one type of woman who sells sex, nor any consistent pattern to our lives and fates.

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When I stop loving her it will open the floodgates of resentment.
-  Owen Morris

tipsterEvery so often I’ll get an anonymous email out of the blue with a PDF or other such attachment, and some brief explanation of what it is I’m looking at; the sender is always careful to cover his identity, and in each case the account from which the correspondence originated is a temporary one which is deleted as soon as the source is sure that I’ve got what he sent and understand what it is.  It’s happened three times so far; the first two were in the summer of last year, and I shared the revelations they contained in the columns “Tangled Web” and “Show and Tell”.  But this time was different:  though the first two exposed hidden information on people I do not like, this time it involved someone I like very much.  At first, I had no idea what I was looking at; the sender was even more reticent than in the previous cases, and promised only that I would find the attachment “interesting”.  But as I scanned down the first page, the name “Brooke” leaped out at me and I realized I was reading an excerpt from the diary of Mr. George Owen Morris, ex-boyfriend of my friend Brooke Magnanti, who is currently suing her for libel and defamation of character.  A quick search for passages she has previously shared on her own blog (he gave her a copy of the diary in 2005) confirmed that this was indeed the same document.

Obviously, I was not about to publish the thing or even read any further (just what I had already seen on the first page felt uncomfortably like spying on her) without asking her how she felt about it; she replied “I’m a bit at a loss to explain how it came out, but I think if I trust anyone to comment on it, it’s you…When he gave it to me in 2005 it was specifically because he wanted me to read it, so it can hardly be considered ‘confidential’ now can it.”  I suspect my informant is someone inside some solicitor’s office, or perhaps at the Daily Mail (which has given Mr. Morris a platform for his bizarre allegations), but it hardly matters; what is important is the rather unflattering picture it paints of its author.  Now, there are a few important points to consider before we go any further.  First, I cannot be sure how much of the original text this represents; it is forty-six pages long and covers the period from late August to mid-December, 2004, but starts and ends so abruptly it seems likely to be a fragment of a longer work.  Second, the document was provided to me as a PDF composed of a series of what are obviously optical scans of typewritten or printed pages upon which the font changes a number of times; though Morris does make reference at one point to typing the diary, I do not actually know that all of the original was typed.  Furthermore, since I suspect most people are pretty careless about spelling and grammar in personal writing, I will correct any mistakes in the excerpts I include.  Third, though this was ostensibly a private diary, Morris apparently entertained plans to publish it or otherwise make the material known even while writing it, so everything must be viewed with that in mind.

I’ve uploaded the entire excerpt, so you can read it if you like; however, there are only a few points that I think are of major importance with regard to the ridiculous claims Morris makes in his lawsuit.  The first and most astonishing of these is the allegation that Brooke was never actually an escort, that she merely made it all up for her blog and books, and that he would “never knowingly sleep with a prostitute”.  But the diary makes it abundantly clear that not only was he knowingly sleeping with one (“she said that I would always think of her as a whore, I tried to tell her I didn’t but deep down was again upset by her escorting”), but that the thought was making him crazy enough to spy on her and actually go through her trash looking for used condoms:

Took her to work and came back to do the horrible check, still really surprised to feel so nervous and sick.  The two…condoms from the handbag were back in the box, I was so happy!  But I checked again and found that three of the ones that were in the box were gone.  Went to the rubbish and found one unopened one!??  What does this mean.  Missing condoms surely mean she is having johns but not if they are turning up opened.  On her table I found a bank slip dated the 28th.  It showed that a Jason had met her [and] paid her 400 pounds…

When he first made the incredible statements to the Mail at the beginning of August I was at a loss to understand what he might be thinking, but having read the diary I now realize that this might be the end result of a decade of rationalizations which were clearly well underway by the summer of 2004.  It is certainly possible that Morris eventually convinced himself of its truth just as “survivors” convince themselves of the verity of their outlandish tales, but it is equally possible that it is merely a poorly-considered plan for the revenge he admits to contemplating against her and another of her boyfriends:

I had got myself quite worked up over Brooke…and was thinking about when and how I would drop them both in it.  Not if, but when.  And I realized that the press turning up to see Nick could be quite a subtle revenge.  If he doesn’t realize she has written about him it could be quite a shock…

Another thing the diary makes clear is that the other major allegation of Morris’ suit – that his known association with an infamous harlot ruined his career and has somehow kept him from gainful employment since – is merely the latest and most extreme manifestation of a pattern of blaming Brooke for his troubles which permeates the diary.  Now, I am not by any means suggesting that Brooke was not partially to blame for the collapse of their relationship, but as the saying goes it takes two to tango; Morris repeatedly depicts himself as a blameless martyr under the spell of the “schizophrenic” and “autistic” Brooke, and as a virile, wise paladin sought by many women who could surely solve all of her problems if she would only give herself completely to him.  He also states, “she complains that I have no job when she herself lost me my previous two”, but does not explain how this was supposed to have occurred other than a later allusion to arguments on the phone  that he appears to have conducted without leaving the office.

I’m not sure what light his pronounced tendency for projection might shed upon the current proceedings; he repeatedly accuses her of jealousy, spying and refusing to accept responsibility for her own problems…while at the same time admitting to jealousy and spying and blaming her for all of his problems.  And then there are the hints at a violent temper:  “it was a dangerous game to play me off against Nick, people would get hurt” and “The fact that she began to double-lock the door for the first time…indicates…she really doesn’t know me; does she really think I couldn’t smash my way in?!

ledgerBut the most striking character flaw which the diary revealed to me was Morris’ disturbing tendency to keep a mental balance sheet in which he apparently kept track of not only how many favors each performed for the other, but how much money each spent.  Now, I understand that many younger people have been raised with the rather odd idea that women should pay equally or at least semi-equally in relationships, but this goes far beyond that; from the first page to the last disturbingly exact sums of money are mentioned over and over and over again, interspersed with much-too-descriptive accounts of the great sex he was getting from her for free even though (as we have established) he knew she was an escort.  And I can’t help but link this in my mind to the absurd sum for which he has asked in his suit…an amount which, incidentally, is larger than any ever awarded in a Scottish defamation case, ever.  I’m not sure what other claims Morris may decide to make as the case progresses over the coming months, but I’m glad my mystery correspondent has enabled me to ensure that a refutation of it from Morris’ own pen is readily available on a server residing outside the reach of Britain’s daffy libel laws.

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Proper she was and fair…yet delighted not men so much in her beauty, as in her pleasant behaviour.  For a proper wit had she, and could both read well and write, merry of company, ready and quick of answer, neither mute nor full of babble, sometimes taunting without displeasure and not without disport.  -  Charles Ross, Richard III

All through history, many a famous or important man has met his downfall through careless or indiscreet relations with whores; I’ve featured the stories of many of them in these columns, and I’m sure you can think of a few on your own without my assistance.  But sometimes it happens the other way around, and a whore is ruined by her association with the wrong client; Elizabeth “Jane” Shore was one such case, though the beauty and charm which had placed her in harm’s way eventually secured her escape from it again.

Jane Shore (18th century engraving)She was born in London about 1445 to John and Amy Lambert; her father was a wealthy dry-goods dealer who helped to finance King Edward IV’s wars against his Lancastrian cousins, and so the future courtesan was exposed from a young age to noblewomen from whom she learned courtly manners.  She was also well-educated, and though these preparations may seem to have been meant to prepare her for her future profession, it was actually unintentional; in fact, the constant and ardent attention paid her by wealthy and important (but married) men (including William Hastings, later King Edward’s Lord Chamberlain) seems to have inspired the Lamberts to choose a husband for her hastily and unwisely.  She was married sometime after 1460 to a wealthy goldsmith named William Shore, but the marriage was a loveless one; in fact, it appears to have been a sexless one as well, because the grounds for her eventual annulment was that the marriage was never consummated.  Given his wife’s beauty and the fact that he never remarried, it seems safe to conclude that Shore was a closeted homosexual; he certainly never interfered with Elizabeth’s social life, and sometime soon after Edward’s restoration to the throne in 1471 she became his mistress.

Though Edward IV was a notorious womanizer, Elizabeth quickly became his favorite; he described her as “the merriest harlot in the realm” and after the annulment of her marriage in 1476 he formally extended his protection to William Shore.  This favor was probably asked of him by Elizabeth, who unlike most royal mistresses used her influence not to gain favors or gifts for herself, but instead to win mercy for deserving men who had incurred the royal wrath.  As Sir Thomas More wrote of her many years later, she “never abused [her influence] to any man’s hurt, but to many a man’s comfort and relief.”  Even the Queen, whose name was also Elizabeth, liked and accepted her; in fact, it is likely that she changed her name to Jane around this time as a show of deference to her.  This nobility of character won the lasting respect of the King; though he generally discarded his mistresses as soon as he tired of them, he remained close to Jane until his death on April 9th, 1483.

It was after that death that her troubles began, however.  She briefly became the mistress of the late King’s stepson, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, but it was not long before William Hastings renewed his two-decade-old suit and she took up with him instead.  She also remained friendly with the Queen, and carried messages between her and Hastings.  The subject of these messages was undoubtedly her brother-in-law, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who had been declared “Lord Protector” over her young sons (and the kingdom) by the dying Edward IV.  Anyone who is familiar with Shakespeare knows why the Queen was afraid:  Richard immediately imprisoned the young princes “for their own protection”, then had them declared illegitimate and set about destroying everyone whom he thought might be loyal to his brother and the boy Edward V.  On June 13th he accused Jane and the Queen of trying to destroy him via witchcraft at Hastings’ request; the women were imprisoned, while Hastings was immediately beheaded in the courtyard of the Tower of London.  In some way which is unclear to history, Richard was persuaded to relent slightly on the witchcraft charges; they were never pursuedThe Penance of Jane Shore by William Blake (c. 1793) against the Queen, and Jane’s charge was reduced to “promiscuity”.  She was forced to do penance by walking through London barefoot in her petticoat, carrying a candle and singing hymns.  But if Richard hoped to humiliate her by this treatment, he was sorely disappointed: the crowds who had gathered to gawk were instead struck by her beauty, moved to pity by her condition and impressed with the dignity she displayed during her ordeal.

One of the admirers she won that day was Thomas Lynom, Solicitor General to the newly-crowned King Richard III.  After her penance Jane was confined in Ludgate prison, where Lynom visited her often and soon fell in love with her.  He asked the King to free her so he could marry her, and though Richard tried to dissuade him from what he considered a foolish action (and even wrote a letter to John Russell, the Lord Chancellor, asking him to persuade Lynom to give up the idea), he eventually gave his permission; Jane was pardoned, married Lynom, and bore him a daughter named Julianne.  And though Lynom lost his high position in August of 1485 (after Henry Tudor defeated Richard and became Henry VII), he got a new (though lower) government job, and Jane lived the rest of her days in middle-class comfort.  Sir Thomas More met and befriended her in her old age, and wrote that she was still a merry companion with a quick mind and a tender heart, and that one could still discern traces of her youthful beauty.

She died at last in 1527, at about the age of 82, and was buried at Hinxworth Church in Hertfordshire.  Some biographies erroneously claim that she spent her declining years in poverty, but this is not so; it is the fate of her character in an Elizabethan play named The True Tragedy of Richard III, which predated Shakespeare’s treatment by several years.  This confusion of historical dramas with history is not unusual; historians are still trying to untangle the historical Richard III from his wholly-villainous portrayal by Shakespeare and other Tudor dramatists.  Jane is mentioned frequently (as “Mistress Shore”) in the Richard III of Shakespeare, and is a major character in many other works of the period (plays, novels and even poems).  There was also an 18th-century drama about her life, and three different silent movies (though oddly enough, no talkies).  But as we have so often seen in the lives of the courtesans, truth is stranger than fiction, and real historical events more fascinating than the attempts of authors to improve on them.

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We only have so many criminal justice dollars, and we need to apply them…toward the areas where we’re afraid of the perpetrators…We’re not afraid of prostitutes. We’re just mad at them.  -  John Whitmire

R.I.P. Virginia Johnson

Virginia JohnsonThe female half of Masters and Johnson, the pioneering sex researchers, has died at the age of 88 (Dr. Masters died in 2001).  Though she never got a degree, Johnson’s intelligence, insight and willingness to speak candidly about the female sexual experience allowed the duo to accomplish what Masters’ academic credentials alone could never have: a thorough exploration of the sexual responses of both men and women, with a strong emphasis on direct measurement rather than the omnipresent questionnaires of most latter-day sex research.  Johnson’s importance to sexology cannot be overstated; it is not an exaggeration to say that modern women, in large part, are indebted to her for their current ability to openly discuss sex and sexual needs.

Bad Girls

How much of this story about the “Starlet Bandits” (a gang of hookers turned bank robbers) is true, and how much a combination of moral panic, journalistic exaggeration and Tarantinoesque tale-telling from a pimp who wanted to be a star?  There’s no way to tell, but I won’t be at all surprised to see it presented as a movie in about seven years.

Reading Between the Lines

Yet another “Operation Cross-Country” has resulted in the persecution of many hundreds of American sex workers.  The FBI is crowing that it “rescued 105 child sex-trafficking victims” and arrested “150 pimps”, but in reality the young women claimed to be “rescued” were also arrested, as demonstrated by this video released by the FBI itself.  As in the last couple of raids, officials are hiding the number of adult hookers busted in this vast boondoggle; however, if the proportions are the same as in the last case for which full figures are available, there were almost 1200 of them.  Even the identities of the so-called “pimps” (most likely male sex workers, drivers, etc) and “rescued children” (some of whom might actually be the children of the arrested women) are in question because the FBI plays fast and loose with the facts.  Consider that in the initial press release it was claimed that the youngest “victim” was 9 and another was so happy to be “rescued” she consented to an interview; later it came out that the youngest was 13 and the interviewee was actually an informant who has been working with them for years.  I suggest you judge the veracity of the other claims by that measure.

Real People

Cathryn Berarovich, a sex worker who writes a column for The Gloss, interviews a streetwalker who has recently gone indoors via online advertising.  Not only is the interview itself quite interesting, so is the story of how Cathryn met her.Tizzy Wall

What the Hell Were You Thinking?

Tizzy Wall (one of my pals from the Desiree conference) recently published “Safety Tips from Sex Workers”, in which she teaches amateurs how to use some of our screening tricks to keep safe:

Although meeting someone at a bar is not necessarily any safer, removing the ability to judge someone’s mannerisms and demeanor can understandably make the less tech-savvy nervous.  Who knows if that hottie on Grindr is going to turn out to be scary?  Even common dating sites like OkCupid host their fair share of creeps who can put the bravest of romance-seekers on high alert…Thankfully, the web offers a bevy of nifty little options that allow us to vet someone before a face-to-face meeting.  You may not be able to screen just like a sex worker, but you can still get some use out of their tools.  This may be the one (and only) time you find a sex worker giving tips rather than collecting them, so take note of these hard-earned harm-preventative measures that anyone can use…

Peeping Toms

…In…at least a dozen cases since 2011…[the Baton Rouge] Sheriff’s Office…used [Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law, which was struck down by Lawrence vs. Texas a decade ago]…to ensnare men who merely discussed or agreed to have consensual sex with an undercover agent…District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office refused to prosecute…the cases…a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman…denied that investigators had been misapplying the…law [because it] remains among the state’s criminal statutes…Peter Renn, an attorney with Lambda Legal…said the pattern…suggests authorities are using the stings as a means to harass gay men…“This is basically like the police putting up a sign that says ‘Please sue me’”…

The Mote and the Beam

You know that quote that says insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results?

Kirkland police served a search warrant against the infamous online ad company backpage.com, seeking information about its alleged promotion of prostitution…at the Motel 6 in north Kirkland…State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced…he and 49 attorneys general are asking Congress to give them the power to fight online ads promoting prostitution…

Say, Bob, how’d it turn out last time y’all tried that?  Oh, yeah, the State of Washington admitted it knew trying to hold websites responsible for third-party content was unconstitutional.  But hey, the $200,000 the judge made y’all pay Backpage didn’t come out of your pocket, so it’s no big deal to you, right?

Law of the Instrument (TW3 #25)

Another case of “human trafficking” meaning whatever the “authorities” want it to mean:  “Two men who were arrested…in connection to a large marijuana growing operation are now facing human trafficking charges…the pair brought a 15-year-old runaway girl from Southern California to their grow location [and] sexually assaulted her…”  She was not forced to work in any way; in other words, this is a case of abduction and rape.  Remember this next time you see “trafficking” statistics.

The Pro-Rape Coalition (TW3 #35)

Spongebob upsetMorality in Media’s campaign to get men’s magazines banned from military property has failed, sort of.  While the Department of Defense stated categorically that “the department’s Resale Activities Board of Review previously…concluded those magazines do not meet the definition of sexually explicit material under the [Military Honor and Decency Act of 1996], and are permissible for sale”.  However, Army and Air Force Exchange stores have announced they will no longer sell them:

…the decision…was not based on morality, but merely because the magazines were not selling, as people now get their pornography online…AAFES said it was permanently removing 891 magazines from its stock, including SpongeBob Comics and the Home Buyers Guide…to…create 33% more space in the stores to sell items such as DVDs and video games…

There is no word on whether the separately-run Naval Exchange stores are planning to do the same; SpongeBob was not available for comment.

King of the Hill

Cleveland obviously couldn’t stand Toledo claiming to be the biggest “sex trafficking hub” in the region:  “Ohio is a major pipeline for human trafficking, taking young, lost girls and turning them into sex slaves…the average age is now 12 for entry into this dark world…”  I just love the expression “turning them into sex slaves”; it sounds so science fictional.

Down Under (TW3 #40)

The predictable result of the years-long “crackdown” on street work in St. Kilda:

Members of the Victorian sex industry are calling on the state government to decriminalise street-based sex work after the death of a woman in St Kilda…Tracy Connelly, a 40-year-old sex worker known professionally as Kelly, was murdered in daylight…on July 21…Police said she had severe face and upper-body injuries and had suffered a “horrific” death…Janelle Fawkes…of…Scarlett [sic] Alliance, said by decriminalising street-based sex work, workers would look to police as protector rather than prosecutor, and thus feel safe to speak out when threatened or assaulted…

Follow Your Bliss (TW3 #44)Larry Kobielnik

As previously explained, “The TSA attracts criminals and those with personality disorders that exaggerate control and sociopathic tendencies…”:

A former [Florida] police officer kidnapped a woman at gunpoint and raped her while he held her captive for several hours…Larry Kobielnik, 37…an officer with the [TSA] for 11 years…offered the 30-year-old a ride…then pulled out a handgun and a police badge, placed the woman in handcuffs and told her she was under arrest…[he then] drove her…to a house…where he raped her…he [eventually] fell asleep, allowing her to escape and record his car’s license plate number…

The Public Eye (TW3 #49)

Here’s an interview with Kristen DiAngelo about her film, American Courtesans; it was screened at Desiree, but for some reason it was scheduled last in the evening (after two other movies I didn’t want to see), so I was not able to attend.  The interview doesn’t cover any new ground for readers of this blog, but note the venue (MSN) and the positive attitude of the interviewer.  Given some previous pro-decriminalization stuff from the Gates Foundation, perhaps Microsoft may eventually develop into a real ally.

Skin To Skin

Since prostitution is already legal in Spain, I’m guessing this campaign wants to ensure that no ridiculous “pimping” laws can be used to harass organizations which connect sex workers with disabled clients:

A Catalan organization which helps provide disabled people with sexual relations is pushing for “disability” prostitutes to become legal in Spain…Jaume Girbau…is…the engine behind Sex Asistent Catalunya…[which] wants the…government to…make sexual assistants legal as they already are in many countries across Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Denmark.  Some of these countries pay for the services with public funds…The group is already putting together the teaching material with the aim of offering those interested inEscape from the White Savior Industrial Complex professional training a…university degree…

FarmVille (TW3 #138)

Escape from the White-Savior Industrial Complex”  is a simple parody of Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky FaceBook game, designed and programmed by a recovering Kristof groupie.  Can you help Radhika escape “rescue”?

Coming and Going (TW3 #311)

You know that Texas “diversion” program that’s supposed to be so bloody wonderful?  One of things it does is teaches the women to blame themselves for the state’s criminalization of consensual behavior.

Dutch Threat

Amsterdam city council can continue with its policy of reducing the number of brothel owners in its red light district, the government’s highest advisory body…said…The city council began cleaning up the red light district in 2008 and has now introduced new zoning laws which make it possible to evict brothel owners who are uncooperative.  The aim is to reclaim one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of the city by encouraging exclusive shops to open there…62 red light windows will have to close…

Credit Where Credit is DuePat Robertson

Pat Robertson seems to be slowly going sane:

…Pat Robertson said on his show…that he believes transgender people are real, and that there’s “no sin” associated with that.  While Robertson’s entire comment isn’t perfect, it’s still surprisingly positive… “There are men who are in a woman’s body… it’s very rare but it’s true, or women that are in men’s bodies, and they want a sex change…I don’t think there’s any sin associated with that.  I don’t condemn somebody for doing that.”

An Example to the West (TW3 #316)

Nicaraguan sex workers have…set up an office to assist in protection from abuse, violence and discrimination…Prostitution is illegal in Nicaragua but authorities often turn a blind eye to it…Retrasex is part of a Latin American and Caribbean network of 1,000 affiliates…[which] is fighting to change the vocabulary used by media and official institutions to…the term “sex workers.”  The organization also seeks to influence social, health and education policy, as well as push for rights…

Celebrity

Steph Wilcock, another of my friends from Desiree, has unveiled her “Sex Workers Speakeasy” project, “the aim of [which] is to allow current and former sex workers a platform from which to express our experiences of working in an industry besieged by blame, discrimination, prejudice, and stigma.”  It will consist of very short videos like the one at this link, which Steph made of me just before we went to the after-party on Thursday night; if you’re a sex worker who’d like to participate, Steph explains how following the video.

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I Lais, once of Greece the pride,
For whom so many suitors sigh’d,
Now aged grown, at Venus’ shrine
The mirror of my youth resign;
Since what I am I will not see,
And what I was I cannot be.
  -  Julian the Egyptian

Lais of Corinth by Hans Holbein the Younger (1526)As I’ve written many times before, it’s difficult to know which details of the lives of courtesans are true and which are false, and which of the latter are embellishment or exaggeration and which outright invention on the part of the lady herself, her admirers, her enemies or her biographers.  And that’s just the modern courtesans; the biographies of those of the ancient world often trail off into legend and myth.  But the problem with writing about Lais is simultaneously simpler and more maddening: there may have been two hetaerae by the same name living at almost the same time, whose biographical details became confused with one another; or, there may have only been one Lais who sometimes looks like two because stories about other courtesans became mistakenly attached to her.  So though I’ll do my best to straighten things out, I cannot promise to fully untangle a skein it has taken over twenty-three centuries to tangle.

Some sources say she was born in Hyccara, Sicily in 421 BCE, and died in Thessaly in 340.  That’s a long lifespan, but not impossible even for the time; however, if she was only one woman the legend about her death – that she was stoned by the native women out of jealousy –  would certainly have to be false, since I hardly think even the greatest beauty of her age (as she was reputed to be) would still be capable of inspiring murderous jealousy at 81.  If the story of the murder is true, she would either have to have been born at least forty years later or to have been two women.  However, I am highly suspicious that it is indeed true, because it sounds a lot more like a tall tale men would make up than actual female behavior; while women are certainly capable of murder, we generally don’t do it in big groups unless there’s some sort of ritual involved.  If the death date is accurate, I think it’s much more likely Lais died of old age in her bed…but that makes a much less lurid story.

The account of her origin is no less interesting, but far more credible: her birthplace, Hyccara, was conquered by the Athenians in 415 BCE and its entire population sold into slavery.  Lais ended up in Corinth, and as she matured into a beauty won her freedom in much the same way Rhodopis did.  Some modern authors claim that the elder Lais was born in Corinth and the younger in Hyccara, but since the town was depopulated years before the birth of anyone who was still young in 340, this hardly seems likely.  The two-Lais theory is undermined still further by the fact that though there are solid contemporary references to her in the early 4th century BCE, those which take place later are entirely anecdotal.  The philosopher Aristippus (435-356 BCE) was one of her clients and mentions her in two of his writings, and in his play Wealth (388 BCE), Aristophanes states that she was kept by a man named Philonides.  By contrast, the accounts of famous men who were said to have sought her out in the mid-4th century (such as Demosthenes and Myron) are unverified by contemporary sources; furthermore, the story that she set an absurd price for one man while giving herself to the philosopher Diogenes for free is also told about Phryne, with Demosthenes playing the part of the King of Lydia.

There is one last factor which makes the one-Lais theory far more likely than its rival: the woman who died in 340 (and was buried in a tomb decorated by a statue of a lioness holding a ram in her forepaws) was supposed to have moved to Thessaly to live with a handsome young man named Hippostratus, with whom she had fallen in love.  Now, poets adore the romantic notion of a successful courtesan giving it all up for love, but in truth this rarely happens; most often, it’s older, retired courtesans who take up with much younger men rather than young ones running off with boys their own age.

So though we cannot be sure, the facts of Lais’ life seem to be these: she spent her later childhood and early teens as a slave, and was trained as a hetaera; after a while one of her admirers bought her freedom and she quickly became popular.  She charged very high fees and indulged herself in many of the extravagances common to her profession; she even developed her own exclusive perfume.  But by her early thirties she began to slow down, allowing herself to be kept by a succession of wealthy men rather than accepting a large number of short-term clients.  As she got older still she took up with Hippostratus and moved to Thessaly, and eventually died of old age.  But her legendary beauty and reputation attracted stories as honey attracts flies (even stories that were also told about others), and eventually there were too many of them for just one woman’s lifetime to contain…so some not-quite-as-clever-as-they-imagine historians decided to split her into two.Lais in Hades by Gustave Cortos, print by Luis Falero (1902)

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