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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

O sweet and noble lad, be not aggrieved!
Pray, lift thyself from off the cursed ground!
Thy travels long have left thee most deceived;
there is a sanctuary to be found.
 –  Pop Sonnets, “YMCA”

Police militarization has finally entered the sleepy consciousness of mainstream America due to the Ferguson, Missouri protests, but of course libertarians have been talking about it for decades; nobody has talked about it more, nor more eloquently, than Radley Balko.  Today’s first video is from a tiny town in Georgia and was, until Radley called attention to it, posted on the front page of the official police website; it’s a short, disturbing look at the modern police mindset and the image they want to project to the public.  Radley also provided the links above it.  The second video is a satire of out-of-control “sex offender” laws contributed by Robert King, and the links between the videos are from Scott Greenfield (“enough”), Michael Whiteacre (“RIP” and “hobby”), Rick Horowitz (“koinkydink”),  Mark Draughn (“perspective”), Saladin Ahmed (“sonnets”), Clarkhat (“Vikings”),  Lenore Skenazy (“farmers”), Popehat (“never call”), and Cop Block (“seriously”).

From the Archives

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To seek in the bright sky a place for freedom and unrestraint.  –  Liu Rushi, “On the Kite”

The gender roles of traditional Asian cultures were even more rigid and uncompromising than those of contemporary European cultures, but harlots have always stood outside of the limits their societies set for “good” women.  Where “good” women were expected to be chaste, whores were promiscuous; where “good” women were expected to be meek, whores were bold; where “good” women were expected to be ignorant, whores were well-educated; where “good” women were supposed to be submissive, whores accepted or rejected clients as we pleased; and where “good” women were prisoners of convention, whores flouted it.  And despite the feminist claims that men prefer women as ovine as possible, and that the patriarchal system is set up for men’s benefit at women’s expense, yet men have throughout history sought out the company of (and paid high prices for) women who were not only their equals, but often their superiors.  Like other courtesans, Liu Rushi ignored the rules her society set for “good” women, but unlike others she often ignored the rules it set for any women.

Liu RushiYang Ai was born in 1618 to a poor family of Zhejiang province, but her exceptional looks and intelligence allowed her family to sell her at the age of eight to the courtesan Xu Fo for training in the profession.  She learned so well that Xu was able to place her as a concubine to the prime minister, Zhou Daodeng, soon after she turned thirteen; however, Zhou died a year later and his widow threw her out of the household.  She sought out the famous poet Chen Zilong, whom she had met at Zhou’s house a few months before; he took her in as a concubine and the two fell in love and exchanged many poems.  Unfortunately, Madame Chen was just as jealous of her as Madame Zhou had been; when Chen went to take the Imperial Examination in 1635, she abused the poor girl so terribly that she fled back to Xu Fo, who now owned a brothel.  When Xu married in 1638, Yang Yin (as she now called herself) took over the management; she was already famous as a poet and painter by this time, and published three collections of poetry between 1638 and 1640.  But though she was doing well financially, she craved the stability of marriage; when a regular client named Song Yuanwen kept promising to marry her but never followed through, she is said to have thrown him out in a violent tantrum.

It was during her time as a madam that her androgyny began to assert itself; though her romantic poems were conventionally feminine, she also wrote in a masculine, “heroic” style and often left the narrator’s gender ambiguous.  In letters she favored gender-neutral terms for herself, and her calligraphy is distinctly masculine, using the “wild grass” style.  Her gender-bending behavior reached its zenith in 1640, when she decided to marry the famous scholar and poet Qian Qianyi.  She travelled to his home in her boat, dressed in men’s clothing, and asked Qian to give her his opinion on one of her poems.  He told her the poem was excellent and asked to see more, but before she left she made sure she let him see the small (bound) feet which left no doubt as to her sex even if he had been fooled at first.  The combination of her writing and her intriguing behavior captured his attention, and they were married in 1641.  Though she was only his concubine, they had a formal ceremony and he treated her as though she were a full wife, despite this being considered improper.  He gave her the nickname Hedong, which she often used in her writing thereafter; it was one of about twenty different names she used at different times and for different purposes.  The name by which she is best known, Liu Rushi, came from her continuing habit of cross-dressing; she would sometimes go on errands as her husband’s representative while dressed in his formal Confucian robes, for which people nicknamed her “rushi” (“gentleman”).

Rushi had finally found the stability she sought, but it was not to last long.  The Ming Dynasty her husband served collapsed in 1645, and she had become so deeply patriotic by that time she actually tried to persuade him to martyr himself by committing suicide; instead, he surrendered, served as an official to the new Qing regime for five months, then quit and joined the resistance.  Liu Rushi joined him and the two were active in the movement for over a decade thereafter; much of Qian’s poetry from the 1650s depicts her as a courageous Ming loyalist.  But in 1663, her life started to spin out of control.  First, the Qing finally crushed the last Ming resistance, burning her husband’s enormous library in the process; she was so aggrieved she took Buddhist vows.  Qian’s spirit was broken, and he died the following year; his creditors and enemies then began to hound Liu Rushi for money.  Alone again for the first time in decades, too old (at 46) to return to her former profession and deeply bereaved by the loss of both beloved husband and beloved cause, she was pushed over the edge by the legal persecution and hanged herself in 1664.  But though her life ended in despair and tragedy, her own poetry and that of her husband had already made her a legend; the historian Chen Yinke’s said she “embodies the independence of spirit and freedom of thought of our people”, and others have called her “the most respectable prostitute in Chinese history”.

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MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOn Saturday, August 2nd I drove into the Boston area; hotels in the city itself were so outrageously expensive that I actually stayed a little west of Framingham and, other than on Monday, restricted myself to that area.  Everyone I talked to warned me that the traffic going into Boston would be bad even if I were going in the opposite direction of the commute, so on Monday morning I decided to drive up to Salem for the afternoon and then go into the city from there.  My motive was twofold:  first, the suburbs to the north of Boston are largely residential, so I figured the traffic wouldn’t be as bad inbound from that direction; second, it seemed a shame to come so close to the site of the definitive American witch hunt without visiting it.  Of course, it was very touristy, but that really didn’t bother me; in some ways it reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans (another mixture of serious history and tourist traps).  My plan was a success; it took me only half an hour to reach the neighborhood of my speaking venue from Salem, and had I not blundered into a traffic jam by taking the wrong exit I would’ve been an hour earlier than I had planned to be.  Even with the error I arrived an hour before showtime, found a parking place literally across the street and thus had plenty of time to prepare.  The presentation went extremely well; I think it was among the best yet, and the bartender (who had no idea who I was before I got up to speak) was so engaged by the discussion that he bought a book and asked about my website!

Since I had nothing in particular planned for Tuesday, I took that night’s hotel in Providence, Rhode Island and went on a walking tour of H.P. Lovecraft sites on College Hill (yes, this is my idea of fun; you may laugh if you like).  I then checked into my hotel and ate dinner at a little mom-and-pop counter-serve restaurant called Cosmic Pizza and Steak, which I discovered quite by accident.  I’m very glad I did; the prices were very reasonable, the portions large (and delicious) and the people were extremely friendly and welcoming.  The next day I drove over to Hartford, Connecticut, where I planned my approach to New York and had dinner with the blawger known as Gideon.  He and several others suggested I park outside the city and take a train in, and a little research showed me the ideal spot was Metropark in Iselin, New Jersey, which cost me only $9 a day and $20 round trip for the train (and best of all, was on the way to my next stop in Philadelphia).

Manhattan subwaysSome of you may be surprised to hear that this was actually my first trip on a full-scale train; there are no commuter trains in Louisiana, and I’ve never taken a trip on a long-distance passenger train, either.  But that situation was corrected while I was in the city, because I took subways every place I had to go unless it was close enough to walk.  One of Tracy Quan’s friends was kind enough to offer a spare room just off Broadway, and when I went to dinner with Tracy and Melissa Ditmore on Friday evening I decided to walk to the restaurant; it was a lovely day and Manhattan is pretty narrow, so it only took me an hour to get there.  On Saturday I read to a packed house at Bluestockings Books on the lower east side, and answered questions for hours; afterward, I went out with regular reader Susan and another reader who prefers to remain incognito, and didn’t get to bed until almost 3 AM.  Finally, on Sunday I spoke to a group of woman journalists at the home of Jillian Keenan; Tracy was there as well, and with her help I discussed the general awfulness of reporting on the topic of sex work.

I don’t mind admitting that I was very intimidated by New York; I was worried about its size, its population density and its expense.  But a little careful planning and a lot of help from good people negated most of the real issues, and as so often happens the others faded into insignificance once I got to experience the reality rather than focusing on my own preconceptions.  Now that I’m past the most expensive part of the tour I can breathe a bit more easily; however, I still haven’t quite reached my funding goal yet so if you haven’t yet contributed, please consider doing so this week!

Here’s my tour schedule, which is now pretty tight; if your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within a few hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have much more impact if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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There may be people who like centipedes.  I have seen people handling tarantulas and scorpions, but never a centipede handler.  Personally, I would regard such an individual with deep suspicion…If such a man exists, I say kill him without more ado.  He is a traitor to the human race.  –  William S. Burroughs

The first video this week was contributed by Angela Keaton; it’s really the only important comment on Arab-Israeli hostilities you’ll ever need.  The second video, and the links above the first, were provided by Jesse Walker, and the links between the videos by Korhomme (“buttocks”), Dave Barry (“recipe”), Saladin Ahmed  (“Venn”), Michael Whiteacre (“accident”), Grace (“Nazca” and “dog”), Radley Balko  (“satire” and “ticket”), Luscious Lani (“employee”), Cop Block (“police state”), Nun Ya (“rescue”), and Police Misconduct (“medal”).

From the Archives

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Law enforcement stings designed to shame men who pay for sex are nothing more than the state blowing its own morality horn.  –  Jim Norton

Rough Trade Jason Oates

A convicted rapist…has been jailed for 11 years…Jason Oates…approached [a sex worker]…and agreed to pay £20…but…produced a large-bladed hunting knife…and demanded that she submit…to sex without charge…Oates…[previously served] three…years [for another rape]…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

I just can’t imagine how it got there:

Gardai are investigating after a laptop and documents belonging to a garda were discovered in a brothel in Amsterdam…The high-level investigation will probe how the individual’s bag was found in the brothel…

Check Your Premises

Cops in a country preparing to criminalize the purchase of sex insist men won’t be arrested if they confess to attempting to buy sex:

…PACT-Ottawa [reported that] more than half of…sex buyers they surveyed…said they…would call police if they suspected coercion.  That jibes with research…by sociologist Chris Atchison…Sextrade101 founder Natasha Falle, who [claims] she [was] trafficked…[in] her teens…[pretends that] “They never questioned our bruises, our broken bones…I used to see between one and five guys a night and I was in it for 12 years”…Det.-Const. Chris Lavergne has yet to field a call from a client…”Is there a way to make Johns understand, you’re not going to get in trouble for calling the police and giving us the information”…

1) Falle is full of shit; I bruise easily and was quizzed every time I had an unusually large one. I daresay nearly every sex worker has had that experience.  I do, however, think it’s interesting that she reports a realistic number of clients; I’m sure it will grow later.
2) Lavergne can’t conceive that the reason he “has yet to field a call” is that overt coercion in the sex industry is actually pretty rare.

The Scarlet Letter

What is it with New York state DAs and their sophomoric attempts at “humor”?  “Albany County DA David Soares rolled out a new initiative…to combat sex trafficking…Frontpage…will post a photo of every person convicted of paying for sex in the county…”  And this op-ed commenting on the “strategy” is so over-the-top it almost has to be a joke:

Some people say that prostitution is a victimless crime…but…there are victims.  A lot of them.  Children are often forced or compelled into prostitution at an early age…drug addicts sell their bodies to support their habits…prostitutes are often beaten and raped in order to keep bringing in the money for their pimps.  Families are harmed by the “johns” patronizing prostitutes.  Full neighborhoods fall victim to the plague.  Diseases are spread. Human trafficking — a $32 billion-a-year business in New York alone — is now an international crisis…

Saving Them From Themselves

If it had been pictures of himself, I’m sure the cops would’ve taken action:

A mother in South Carolina called sheriff’s deputies on her [15-year-old] son…after finding porn playing on her living room TV…the [woman] “immediately turned off the TV” and ushered her 2-year-old daughter out of the room…before calling the police on her son…the sheriff’s office did not make an arrest or issue a citation…

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic Joshua Baron

A federal judge has sentenced a 40-year-old suburban Chicago doctor to nearly six years in prison for using a classified-ad site to trade prescription pills for sex.  Joshua D. Baron…blamed what he called “demons” of sexual addiction…the pediatric neurologist placed ads on Craig’s List [sic] offering pills for sex and requesting photos of respondents.  He later e-mailed hospital website links to prove he was a physician…

An Example To the West

Patoo Abraham has led protests…to ensure that prostitution is legalized in Nigeria and that sex workers be protected and respected…“We are tired of dying in silence; we want to be able to practice our profession with pride like every other person…Sex work is normal work and there are sex workers everywhere under one form of disguise or the other”…

Stand-Up Guys 

Comedian Jim Norton’s article in Time is definitely flawed, but I applaud any client who comes out and has the balls to write about it:

I’m not ashamed to pay for sex—and other men shouldn’t be either…The illegal aspect of prostitution has never deterred me, nor would legalizing it cause me to engage in it more…in a free society, people must be allowed to make choices for themselves that are incomprehensible to others.  By keeping prostitution illegal and demonizing all of its parties, we (you) are empowering pimps and human traffickers and anyone else who wants to victimize sex workers…

Traffic Jam

This farrago of racism, xenophobia and “sex trafficking” nonsense is even over the top by Daily Mail standards:

…London has become the hub, the epicentre for a global trafficking enterprise involving thousands of children for exploitation, sexual abuse and even…ritual voodoo killing…Hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK…Many are raped and sexually abused…there is a vast reservoir of lost children…anonymously shuffled from flat to shabby flat – a dark pool feeding child exploitation and misery across the planet…Britain’s generous child benefits system has become an international magnet for fraudsters who…traffick…thousands of children into this country every year to take advantage of payments and these young victims are prey for other vices, too – a ready made market for sexploitation…

I love the way it grows from hundreds to thousands in just a few paragraphs; in his next article I’m sure it will be millions. naughty girls

First They Came for the Hookers…

These “complaints” are always from cops:

An Oshkosh [Wisconsin] strip club is closed [after]…the…District Attorney’s office filed a civil suit against the owner…in response to several prostitution complaints…The assistant district attorney says Naughty Girls is a nuisance to the community.  He is asking a judge to close the business for a year and that all moveable property be sold…

Yellow Fever

Bars and clubs = “hub for underage prostitution” because travel agents say so:

Indian men are flocking to Kazakhstan in droves, if travel and tour operators are to be believed…Reason?  The thriving sex industry.  Thailand, Singapore and Dubai have been the traditional destinations; but that is changing…Kazakhstan…has become a hub for underage prostitution over the past few years…bars, cafes and club [sic]…are used as pick-up joints…

King of the Hill

Are you slipping, Toledo?  In the original “King of the Hill” entry you were #3, but according to WKYC you’ve dropped to fourth place.  Maybe if you give grants to “pimps” to build more hair salons you can reclaim your lost glory from Miami or Tampa Bay.

What the Hell Were You Thinking? (TW3 #135)

The term “rescue” used in this context is utterly tone-deaf:

…[South African] University students…[designed] a device intended to…help sex workers’ organisations keep an eye on the safety of their members…[it] has eight Wi-Fi transmitters linked to armbands that will be worn by the sex workers in the vicinity…the armband…[has] four buttons…on-line, off-line, jump [check in to a call] or panic…Should a sex worker send a distress call, the control room will forward her…precise location…to sex worker organisations who will alert the emergency services…

I Saw My Brain

Polk County, Florida…Sheriff Grady Judd assembled a press conference…[to brag about a huge sting operation, but] either didn’t realize – or didn’t care – that a number of the 132 men whose faces appeared on his mugshot “big board” had already been cleared of committing crimes…”It’s fair…Because…when we arrest them as ‘sexual perverts on children,’ I’m going to call them [that]…we have a very liberal…criminal justice system, sometimes it’s more difficult to prove ‘beyond…every reasonable doubt’…”

Given that our “liberal” incarceration machine imprisons five times as many people as civilized nations do, imagine the nightmare that would result if maniacs like Judd got their way.

Dysphemisms Galore 

Even by the low standards of the modern American press, this article is hilariously yellow:

…Domestic sex trafficking…is an increasingly common and highly lucrative underground business …involving American girls and young women (but sometimes boys) forced into sex slavery by sick pimps…in places as unassuming as a mall or a train station.  Pimps can earn $150,000 to $200,000 a year on each victim they force into prostitution…experts say Philly’s location creates a particularly attractive opportunity for the brokers of enslaved women.  “We are sort of in a unique hub area because we’re between New York, Atlantic City, Washington, D.C., Harrisburg – all of which have child-prostitution problems,” said Michelle Morgan, an assistant U.S. attorney…”There are a lot of places for pimps to go from here to make more money, to buy new girls, to trade girls, so it’s a lucrative area”…Tiffany…[was] swept into the dark underbelly of sex trafficking…she [was forced]…to sell her young body to dozens of men…she would have sex with them or do whatever else popped into their twisted minds…

One can barely help picturing “journalist” Morgan Zalot masturbating furiously as he writes those last few lines.  The mall occupies the place in modern “white slavery” hysteria that the ice cream parlor did in the first cycle a century ago.

A Procrustean Bed (TW3 #339)

Because “rehab” to “get us off the streets” is a perfect “solution” for the 90% or more of sex workers who are neither “on the streets” nor addicted to any drug:

Members of the Zanesville City Council attended a neighborhood barbecue…to discuss…prostitution…Sandy Gentry…said…the…ideal response…would be to create some kind of rehabilitation facility where prostitutes could go to get help and get off the streets…helping reform their lives would be the best solution…

Vendetta

Buried under all the monstrous male-demonizing and female-infantilizing rhetoric is the unstated fact that the “National Day of Johns Arrests” ballyhooed in this article is the brainchild of one sad, sick woman acting out her twisted psychodrama on thousands of strangers who never did anything to hurt her:

Law enforcement agencies across the country collaborated in a recent series of sex stings that netted the arrests of almost 500 men seeking to buy sex and 14 pimps and traffickers…[as] part of an annual “National Day of Johns Arrests”…Officials said 111 prostitutes were recovered during the operation, including 13 juveniles…

“Recovered” means “arrested and caged”.  Note that this big “rescue” found only 13 underage girls in 14 states; so much for the “epidemic of child prostitution”.  Phoenix can always be counted on to put an extra-stupid spin on a story like this; a cop with the Dickensian name Trent Crump blathered, “We want people to understand this is not because of Super Bowl, but with the Super Bowl coming, this may be a venue in which people believe and people believe they can come here.”  Trent, Maggie McNeill believes and Maggie McNeill believes that you are an idiot.

Remembrance (TW3 #410)

A sequence of a dozen images…taken by [an English] Lieutenant…are believed to be the only photographs ever to surface of British officers from the 1914-1918 war inside a “blue lamp” – the refined category of brothel reserved by secret edict of the British army for the officer classes…Other ranks…were restricted to crude “red-lamp” brothels…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #415)

This is mostly a lot of asinine and self-contradictory political “sex trafficking” bullshit; for example, the mayor belches out “The program saves women’s lives,” but two short paragraphs later the women morph into teens (all of whom are said to be “12 to 14 years old”), and four paragraphs later they’re vomiting out “the needs of the child”.  The really interesting thing is the continued harping on “gangs” and the obvious grooming of “sex trafficking” to be the new excuse for the police state once the drug war inevitably dies: “Gangs and other criminal organizations prefer humans [to drugs] because they’re a reusable resource; they can be resold…

Facts in the Case of Monica JonesLaverne Cox

Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox of the hit series Orange is the New Black is lending her support to [Monica] Jones [during Jones' appeal of her conviction for "manifesting prostitution"]…Cox, like Jones, is a transgender woman of color.  She has some serious concerns about the Phoenix law, which some call “walking while trans”…

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 15th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Emperor JulianDuring the reign of the Emperor Julian a man named Numerius, who was governor of Narbonensis (what is today southern France), was accused of embezzlement by one Delphidius; because Numerius was a high official his trial was presided over by the Emperor himself.  Numerius’ defense consisted entirely of denying his guilt, but since Delphidius had no actual evidence this was enough.  When it became clear that his attempts to trick Numerius into self-incrimination had failed, and that the charge would fail with them, Delphidius cried out, “Oh, illustrious Caesar!  If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?”  Julian’s famous (and quotable) reply was, “If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?”

The principle was not new in 4th century Rome; it is clearly stated many times in Roman law, appeared in both Athenian and Spartan legal codes, and traces of it appear in Deuteronomy.  From Rome it passed into the Western legal tradition, and it is one of the pillars of English common law.  Indeed, every schoolchild knows that a person on trial is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  However, this is no longer true in many cases; all over the West, but especially in the United States, this powerful defense against tyranny once enjoyed by everyone from beggar to prince has been slowly eroded away in the name of expediency.  Prosecutors eager to “score” convictions take advantage of the vast arsenal of overlapping laws to charge people with so many different crimes for one supposed act that conviction on even a small fraction of them would result in decades of imprisonment; the frightened (and often completely innocent) victim nearly always agrees to some lesser charge rather than face the prospect of spending most of his life in a cage where he may be repeatedly raped, tortured  and denied even the respite of death.  Intimidating a victim into confession circumvents the need to have any evidence at all, much less enough to secure conviction in court.

In some kinds of cases, however, prosecutors don’t even need this kind of barbaric threat to induce a confession, because the presumption of innocence is either directly weakened or effectively nullified by other prosecutorial weapons; or, the accusations are handled in special kangaroo courts where the presumption does not exist; or, the accused is simply punished directly by the police without the need for a trial, evidence or anything else.  And what kind of crime, you may ask, is so heinous that it justifies undermining a venerable principle and virtually ensuring that huge numbers of people will be punished for things they did not do, or else receive punishments that are wildly disproportionate to something they did do?  Mass murder, perhaps?  High treason?  Burning down orphanages?  Stealing war widows’ pensions?  Plunging whole countries into economic depression?  No, something that in the minds of American is far worse than any of those:  pleasure-seeking, especially sexual pleasure.

In many American states, if a neighbor calls the cops because the couple next door is fighting, “the husband is arrested…no matter what the wife says…and prosecuted.  Because many wives rightly refuse to cooperate with such proceedings, the Office on Violence Against Women…authorized so-called “evidence-based” prosecutions, kangaroo courts in which…hearsay…is allowed and the accused man is denied the constitutional rights of confrontation and cross-examination.”  On university campus, a similar third-party accusation can subject a young man to a “campus tribunal” such as the one described here:

…the tribunal does pretty much whatever it wants, showing scant regard for fundamental fairness, due process of law, and the well-established rules and procedures that have evolved…for citizens’ protection…the…allegations were a barrage of vague statements, rendering any defense virtually impossible…Nor were [they] supported by any evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.  The [accused]…was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel…The many pages of written documentation…were dismissed as somehow not relevant…witnesses against him were not identified…nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser… 

The war against people who enjoy ingesting substances spawned an even viler abrogation of the presumption of innocence:  civil asset forfeiture, by which the police or a court can steal a victim’s property under the ludicrous pretense that it (the property) has committed a crime; since inanimate objects have no rights, the state can take it unless its owner can prove its innocence (a reversal of  the normal burden of proof).  From the drug war the practice expanded to the War on Whores, and in the US and UK the police now routinely rob sex workers and clients of money, vehicles and other property.  And when there’s nothing else for greedy cops to steal, there’s always a victim’s reputation:

[St. Louis, Missouri] police are reviving a push to…humiliate…those prowling the streets for prostitutes.  “Johns”…will receive postcards…admonishing them for their crime, giving reminders about…sexually transmitted diseases and listing their court dates…In addition, police say they plan to routinely provide local news media with mug shots of those charged with prostitution crimes…

Pillory stocksThese so-called “Dear John” letters are not unique to St. Louis, nor even to the United States; the practice of publicizing “mug shots” on television, the internet  or even billboards is also widely used.  The pretense used to justify this is that these shaming tactics are not punishments but merely “public records”; I’m sure people who lose their jobs or families due to these actions are comforted by the distinction.  The truth is obvious to anyone whose mind is not warped by the “law and order” sickness:  all of these practices – the extrajudicial punishments, the legally-sanctioned robbery, the kangaroo courts, the plea bargains – are just ways to get around the inconvenient necessity of actually having to prove a person has done something wrong before subjecting him to violence.  Oh, well, presumption of innocence had a good run, almost 3000 years; I suppose we should be grateful for that much.  But it sure was nice while it lasted.

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There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.  –  The Gospel of Philip

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, long considered to be either a prostitute or “reformed” prostitute and therefore the subject of special devotion by many Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican, and Lutheran) whores.  As I have explained before, there is no canonical evidence for this; the idea seems to date to a sermon  delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great, in which she was identified as a repentant harlot (possibly by identification with the “adulterous woman” whom Jesus rescues from being stoned in the 8th chapter of John).  But the four canonical Gospels are not the only ones:

…among those used by Gnostic congregations (and subsequently excluded from the canon) were four more Gospels:  Thomas, Philip, Mary and Judas, all but the last of which assign a much more prominent role to Mary Magdalene than the four canonical ones; indeed, the Gospel of Mary is actually attributed to her.  These Gospels refer to Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and describe him as loving her more than his other disciples and often kissing her on the mouth…the Gospel of Mary identifies her as the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” mentioned so often in John…

Pope Gregory may well have been aware of these gospels, and perhaps intentionally conflated the Magdalene with the adulteress as a way of smearing her in a time of increasingly-patriarchal Church practices and increasingly-prudish Church attitudes toward sex.  It is possible that one of the reasons Mary the Harlot caught on so quickly as a mythic figure was that she built upon and supplanted the clearly sexual (though not specifically professional) portrayal in the Gnostic gospels, oral traditions of which could well have survived their suppression two centuries before Gregory’s sermon.  I might even point out that she could well be viewed as a Christianized Venus, just as the Blessed Mother is a Christianized mother-goddess and Jesus himself a Christian solar deity.  The actual biographical facts of the lives of the human beings upon whom the mythic figures are based is of no more importance than whether Buddha could actually perform miracles, King Arthur pulled a sword from a stone or Mohammed flew into heaven on a winged horse; as in the case of Saint Nicholas (the official patron saint of whores), the mythology which has developed around the historical Mary Magdalene has a life of its own independent of the mundane facts.  The process of apotheosis creates a new being separate and distinct from the long-dead person whose name he or she shares, and that being inhabits the irrational realm of faith rather than the rational one of fact.

Simply put, Mary Magdalene the symbol is an entity wholly distinct from Mary Magdalene the first-century Jewish woman, and whether the latter was a whore, wife or mere follower to Yeshua bar Yosef is immaterial to the power of that symbol.  For centuries, the name “Magdalene” has been synonymous with “prostitute” in Christendom; when in the 13th century the idea arose for the first time that whores were “fallen” women in need of “rescue”, the asylums established for the purpose were called “Magdalene homes”.  Though few of these institutions survived the Black Death, the movement was revived in the mid-18th century and the number of such places multiplied with the rise of the “white slavery” myth a century later; though they again died out in most places in the early 20th century, they continued on in Ireland until 1996.  In various parts of the British Isles, the term “Magdalene” became “Maggie”, and applied either to whores in general (in England) or ones confined to Magdalene laundries (in Ireland).  The working girls in a number of folk songs are named “Maggie”, and of course Stephen Crane gave us Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets; some of y’all have probably guessed that I chose the name “Maggie” for a reason, and perhaps noticed that the name “Maggie McNeill” has a similar cadence to “Mary Magdalene”.

So even though I well understand that Mary Magdalene may not have “really” been a member of my profession, I also understand the difference between fact and truth.  The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.

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