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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

Project ROSE is a diversion program like a person who pushes ten people onto the train tracks and pulls three off is a hero.  -  Ryan Beck Turner

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

It’s especially satisfying when a vice cop is the victim:

…Denver police detective…Michael Ryan…[is under] investigation [for] solicitation of a prostitute…Ryan works in DPD’s Vice and Narcotics unit and was instrumental in the investigation that led to federal judge Edward Nottingham resigning in the face of accusations he had patronized prostitutes.  Ryan…also served on a human trafficking task force…

A False Dichotomy 

Another good essay from Belle Knox:

…The concept of the desperate exchange permeates discussions about sex work…People assume that my support for sex workers and porn is somehow invalidated because I chose to do porn for the money rather than for love.  They act as though this is some shocking victory for them because being a sex worker wasn’t my dream job…it now somehow reverts to being morally wrong, and I become another pitiable whore to be dismissed at leisure…of course I do porn for money.  It’s a job, not a summer retreat…The majority of people don’t work every day for fun; they do it because they want…something in exchange.  Do you honestly think that the people working at McDonald’s flipping burgers and responding to rude customers on a daily basis would come to work every day if they weren’t getting paid?  Moreover, do you think as a child their dream job was to do this?…

Rooted in Racism

Police in southern France have been accused of racism after asking local hotel owners to report the arrival of Eastern European guests, in a bid to crackdown on certain crimes like pimping…a national police union official [pretended]…”(It) would not violate the values of the Republic by advocating snitching…in the fight against pimping speed is essential”…French authorities have taken a hard line against the presence of Roma people from Romania and Bulgaria, repeatedly bulldozing their unsanctioned settlements and expelling them from France…

For more examples of “sex trafficking” and “the fight against prostitution” as excuses for racism and xenophobia, see here, here, here and here.

Umpteen Thousand People Can’t Be Wrong

It takes a special kind of stupidity for a reporter to call for censorship:

Young girls are being sold online for sex…but not much is being done to stop…the most popular websites…Backpage.com…makes millions of dollars each month from “escort” and “body rub” listings.  Portland police…said it’s frustrating to know Backpage.com makes money off illegal activity, but if it went away, another similar site that is less cooperative with law enforcement would likely pop up…

Divided We Fall

when…Queer Strike “named and shamed” LGBTI organizations who they said were refusing to help decriminalize sex work in the [UK], the picture they gave was misleading…in most cases it simply wasn’t part of those organizations’ remits.  This is a particular issue under British charity law, which means they have to stick to their stated “charitable aims”…

Feet of Clay

I’m really pleased to see Reason doing a lot more on sex worker rights these days, and doubly glad to see “sex trafficking” in scare quotes:

…If you could put a date on when modern-day progressives fully re-inhabited the moral rigidity of their…forebears, it might be September 24, 2012.  That’s when Village Voice Media…split off…Backpage.com after a years-long, progressive-led campaign to shutter the site over claims that it facilitates “sex trafficking”.  “If street pimps go to jail for profiteering on under-age girls, should…Village Voice Media really get a pass?”  New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, the country’s most prominent progressive scold, wrote in a March 2012 column that blamed Backpage for the 2003 peddling of a 16-year-old prostitute, even though the site didn’t exist in 2003.  “Paradoxically, Village Voice began as an alternative newspaper to speak truth to power.  So it’s sad to see it accept business from pimps”…Kristof had the paradox almost exactly backward.  It is he and his fellow crusaders, not the buyers and sellers of controversial products and services, who are aggrandizing power at the expense of the little guy and mangling truth in the service of that unseemly goal…

True Colors

This title of this New Yorker article would seem to indicate a general piece about HIV in the American South, but it’s really much more about Deon Haywood, Women With a Vision and the arson which destroyed their offices on May 24th, 2012.  The responsible party was never caught, but here’s a clue:  the fire was started by piling up all the reproductive health models and posters in one room and setting them ablaze.

Think of the Children! (TW3 #23) Christy Mack

Sex rays can apparently enter one Lego construction and be randomly emitted from other Legos elsewhere, presumably via quantum tunneling:

[In January]…Christy Mack…tweeted [“Whoever builds me the best Lego creation to put in my house gets a blow job”]… The response on Twitter was enthusiastic, to say the least…Unfortunately for Mack’s fans, and toy store proprietors nationwide…the Lego challenge drew to an abrupt close…[when] lawyers for the company had contacted her, objecting to her usage of the Lego name…

Broken Record

They won’t stop until they extend the “gypsy whores” myth to every possible event:  “An undercover sting operation targeting prostitution and child sex trafficking netted five arrests in Augusta [Georgia]…because of the Masters Golf Tournament…

Another Example of Swedish “Feminism” (TW3 #36)

Who cares that a woman was stabbed?  The sadfeelz of naïve prudes are much more newsworthy!

Hookers are using…Airbnb…to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels…One apartment…belongs to publicist Jessica Penzari…But when a hooker got slashed by a client in the…apartment over the price…Penzari got a call from cops…Airbnb put her up in the swanky InterContinental hotel in Times Square for two nights…and also paid to change her door locks, clean her apartment and replace her pillows and other belongings…Airbnb said…“we have zero tolerance for this activity”…

According to the Post, having a snack at your desk is “turning prime office space into a temporary restaurant”.

Under Every Bed

The underworld of prostitution and human trafficking is a dark one, often hidden from the public eye, but it exists in [Alabama] a lot more than one may think…”We used to be just a pass through state,” said Pat McCay with the Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force.  “They would come from Atlanta to Memphis…Now they are staying”…

The event which sparked all this portentous talk of vast criminal cartels?  A cop arrested a massage girl.  Of course the reporter has to get the usual self-important bile from a “legitimate” masseuse.

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #314) 

As the days pass with no sign of [missing 8-year-old] Relisha [Rudd], some…believe she may have been sold into a child sex trafficking operation.  They point to the wads of cash and expensive items Relisha’s mother and boyfriend flaunted on Facebook in the days following the little girl’s disappearance…Andrea Powell…of FAIR Girls…says, “There’s kids as young as 5, 6, 7.”  The average age of entry into this dark and devastating underworld is 13…Relisha RuddIn Washington, D.C. alone, the trafficking of children is a $100-million industry…

Given that the population of the Washington metro area is 5.8 million, that would make the “trafficking of children” worth over $5 billion in the US as a whole.  The level of mathematical illiteracy required to believe such a blatant absurdity constitutes a national crisis vastly greater than “sex trafficking” could ever be.

I Saw My Brain

Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Fla…brought felony charges…in October 2013 against two girls, 12 and 14, after the suicide a month earlier of a third girl, Rebecca Sedwick…[Judd] charged the two girls, Katelyn Roman and Guadalupe Shaw, with aggravated stalking and released their names and mugshots…He made it sound like they posed an urgent risk…A month later, prosecutors dropped the charges after…failing to find evidence of [Judd’s claims]…Judd’s tendency to overdo it isn’t news to the voters who elected him…a…suspect [was shot]…68 times…he boasted of arresting a man for running an Internet pornography site out of his home…[he] took the basketball hoops out of the local jail and stopped supplying inmates with underwear…[he uses] pepper spray on detained juveniles

Micromanagement

Is there anything more worthless than an “authority’s” promise?

French investigators began taking DNA samples…from 527 male students and staff at a high school…as they searched for the assailant who raped a teenage girl on the closed campus…All those who received summonses…were warned that any refusal could land them in police custody…Authorities have promised to discard the DNA collected once a donor is eliminated as a suspect…

One Born Every Minute (TW3 #338)

A French fundamentalist priest repeatedly raped three teachers at the school he ran in…Paris during so-called exorcisms…[he] was indicted this week on charges of rape, cruelty and torture…he had first raped one teacher during an exorcism to purge her of the “evil” from a previous sexual assault…[then] used his “spiritual influence” to convince two [others]…to undergo similar exorcisms…[which included torture with] a broom, a toothbrush and scissors…Police became involved only last year when two of the women reported the rapes to authorities…[but] several years ago the…society of St. Pius X tried him in a religious hearing and sentenced him to two years in a monastery…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #343)

A strong criticism of the ethical bankruptcy of Project ROSE from academics studying “human trafficking”:

This program is ostensibly designed to “rescue” victims…of sexual exploitation, yet there is no form of victim identification at any point in the process.  Rather than attempting to assess whether someone is being coerced…they threaten the arrested person with prosecution…If sex trafficking victims/survivors do not meet the “perfect victim” criteria and are convicted, they will face mandatory minimum sentencing in Arizona’s particularly brutal prison system…It…bears little resemblance to anything that could be considered an anti-sex trafficking program…and…is a tragically absurd version of a “diversion” program.  Instead of keeping people out of the criminal justice system, it sweeps them up and funnels them in…Project ROSE is responsible for at least 100 percent more incarcerations than “diversions”…ASU social workers…are acting like colonial missionaries – they offer to “save” the sex workers they perceive as helpless and damaged, but should [they] not gratefully accept…“help,” then armed…men are at the ready – “for their own good.”

Crumbling House

We are aware of certain allegations that have surfaced…regarding Somaly’s history…We are treating these accusations with the utmost seriousness…the Foundation has recently launched an independent, third party investigation to further examine these claims …

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

According to STRASS, sex workers are increasingly marginalized and insecure since the parliamentary debate on the criminalization of clients…attacks against prostitutes have increased…On the night of March 31…a Chinese prostitute was stabbed to death…“Her assailant was known to be a bad customer so she would have refused him if she had the means.  But she had been unable to work for several days, due to constant police operations targeting Chinese women, and was therefore unable to take the time to choose her customers” said a STRASS statement…The police harassment has been repeatedly denounced by Doctors of the World…

Surplus Women (TW3 #413)

Remember, three weeks ago they were saying there was no serial killer.

Two registered sex offenders have been arrested in connection with killing four women in Orange County…[targeting them] because of their ties to prostitution or escort services, and investigators suspect there are more victims yet to be identified…Franc Cano…and Steven Dean Gordon…were arrested Friday evening…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #415)

the Upper House of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution calling for an objective debate…amid plans by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002…The Bundesrat found that debates in the public sphere and in the media were still based on prejudices, a lack of knowledge and sensationalism.  The Bundesrat particularly opposed the blanket equation of prostitution and human trafficking…[and] opposed the introduction of mandatory health checks, judging them as unreasonable and hardly expedient…

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For regular readers, this month’s guest columnist needs no introduction; Laura Lee is a sex worker and activist who lives in Scotland, but is active in the fight against criminalization both in the UK and in her native Ireland.   You can find many stories about her (and videos in which she appears) in the subject index, most of them under the subtitle “The Public Eye“.  I admire Laura for her incredible courage in coming out as a sex worker and facing down politicians both in committee rooms and on television, but for this essay she preferred to speak of the courage of others; I’d say she’s well qualified to judge that particular quality.

Laura Lee CNNIn the current debate raging about further criminalization versus decriminalization, sometimes it’s very easy to lose sight of the real people behind the statistics, those sex workers on the front lines.  This week in Perth, Scotland, some of the bravest women I have ever encountered took the stand to give evidence against a vicious rapist; their courage took my breath away.

I could summarize the circumstances surrounding the case, but I think the voices of the sex workers concerned are far more powerful.  With their kind permission, I will replicate some of the email correspondence I’ve had below, changing some personal details to maintain their privacy and right to anonymity.

Myself and a few other girls travel from Edinburgh/Glasgow up to a flat in Perth for shifts, one of girls phoned in a state.  She had let a punter in, he demanded money from her, when she said she didn’t have any, he raped her and punched her in the face very violently.  She cried through the whole attack, that was around November last year.  We begged her to report the attack to the police which she was adamant she was not going to do fearing her family would find out what she did for a living.

Early February I was working in the flat, and although there had been reports of a guy hanging around the flat all week, I’d calmed down by then and thought I was out of danger.  A punter called, he knew where the flat was and I assumed he was a regular.  He came into the flat, told me I could do things the easy way or hard way.  He had to say it twice as I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but knew I was in big trouble.

I told him I had no money (understand the other girls he raped were tiny, I body build, plus I’ve got teenagers and don’t appreciate cheek).  There was obviously a “don’t mess with me” stance which had taken over in me without my knowledge.  He threw me on the bed and spread my legs apart.  I knew he was going to rape me.  I screamed at the top of my lungs, he jumped off me and made a run for the front door, curling his fist into a ball as I ran after him to get the door shut, that was his warning to stay away as he fled.

Within 15 minutes I’d phoned the police and reported the crime.  Laura, I know what I work as makes people disgusted and they think I’m a lesser person because of that but I’m not, I’m proud, this job has supported me and my kids and given me a support system financially that a lot of single mums can only dream about.  I refuse to go to work to be abused, battered or raped.  I never signed up for that, I am proud of who I am and what I’ve achieved!!!!!

The police were lovely and very supportive, they had no clue that sex workers were even in Perth, my friend was asked by the police if she would approach other flats in Perth with the promise there would be no charges for the other girls, they were not interested in what they were doing as they wanted this lowlife caught.  After a bit of persuasion it turned out that another two girls had been attacked, anally raped and battered by the same guy which they identified.

I can’t forget what he said to me – “You can’t phone the police, you’re just a prostitute!!!!”

That will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Perth High CourtSo that’s their story.  One by one those women took the stand against the man who thought “you’re only a prostitute”.  Isn’t it time that we acknowledged that they are far from “just prostitutes”?  They are women, they are mothers, working to support their children and they deserve the full protection of the law.  The police in this case have been wonderful and very supportive of the women, and have now appointed a liaison officer so that they can report their worries in private.  He was found guilty last Tuesday, and will be sentenced on the 30th; let’s hope it’s a long, long one.

Too little, too late.  The time has come to acknowledge that whatever your moral judgment on sex work, those who work within the industry deserve to do so in safety.  Had these women not had such immense courage to go forward and report these crimes, who’s to know where it would have stopped?  We need to decriminalize sex work right now, so that every sex worker can work with others for safety, and so that the stigma and vulnerability attached to sex work can begin to be peeled away.  When this lady told me the rapist’s  words will haunt her for the rest of her life, I resolved to fight for decriminalization with a ferocity rarely tested.  That, at least, I can promise them.

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I have to laugh when I hear people say: “Oh, I’ve never met a sex-worker before” and I have to say, chances are you have, you just don’t know it.  -  Valerie Scott

Bad Girls Andrea Alvira

Men:  Pay your hookers!  Ladies:  Get the damned money up front!

A 19-year-old…prostitute choked a [Florida] man to death after he tried to stiff her out of money he owed her for sexual services…Andrea Alvira…[chased] Brandon Day, 22…into a yard, where she dropped him by hitting him in the neck. She got on top of Day’s chest and forced her knees into his throat, suffocating him…

Grow the Hell Up!

Politicians, cops and naïve, whiny women are a dangerous combination:

…Rebecca McHood of [Mesa, Arizona] said she belongs to “a community of women who have been affected by pornography and sex addiction of their spouses…”I have five close friends whose husbands or ex-husbands have frequented [massage] parlors…I have seen the effects [sic] this has on their families, including the effects of divorce”…Lynnette Greybull…said she has found a website that lists 36 Mesa sex shops masquerading as massage parlors.  “They have a page…of acronyms…[detailing] what they’re able to do to these women…it’s very disgusting and perverted…These establishments are fake businesses…that…sell women.”

A Tale That Grew in the Telling

You know the oft-repeated lie that a third of teen runaways are approached by a “pimp” within 48 hours (when in reality, 84% of teen sex workers literally never meet a pimp)?  Well, it’s down to 45 minutes now:

Last year, King County’s Committee to End Homelessness issued a fact sheet that [stated]…“76 percent of unaccompanied minors [are] approached by either a known gang member or pimp in less than 45 minutes”…“That study has been altered, revised and bastardized beyond recognition,” says…Captain Eric Sano…“The actual study was from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  They say that one in three teens will be recruited by an exploiter.  In 2009 we…put a very youthful female member of the department [in a park in disguise] and within 45 minutes she was approached by two members of the Westside Street Mobb”…

It’s a good sign when a claim is too ridiculous even for cops and reporters.

Forward and Backward (TW3 #4)

An unusually-sensible attitude for a politician:

…I have decided to implement [activists’] recommendations…by introducing a bill to repeal “prostitution free zones” in D.C…transgender women…[say cops] regularly view and treat them as criminals…The prostitution free zones reinforce this bias…it is also critical that police officers help someone who is assaulted or raped, even if they were involved in sex work.  MPD is responsible for the safety of everyone, including sex workers…

Above the Law  

…Cleveland police officer Gregory Jones [was found] guilty of raping and kidnapping a woman…Prosecutor Jesse Canonico said…’He was a rapist masquerading as a police officer’…”  According to Canonico, cops and rapists are two mutually exclusive things!  Obviously he’s never been to New York:

Yonkers police officer Alex Della Donna…arrested…Sonia L. Gomez…[and] coerced her into having [sex] with him at least a half-dozen times…continually [reminding her] that drug charges…might be reinstated if she didn’t continue…[the rapes] ended only after Gomez’s husband threatened to tell departmental higher-ups…

Or California:  “…West Sacramento Police officer…Sergio Alvarez was convicted of…numerous counts of aggravated assault and rape…and…[given] a 205-years-to-life sentence…he raped women while on the job, sometimes even in his patrol car…”  Or even Utah:

…police officer Jeremy Rose has been charged with 15 offenses in the collection of thousands of photos of a teenage girl in various stages of undress…Rose convinced a then-15-year-old…to pose semi-nude for photos he said he would sell for her on the Internet…he also allegedly hid a camera in the girl’s bedroom to record video of her dressing and undressing…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #21)

Note the moronic “people can be sold repeatedly” canard:

[California] officials say gangs have become more involved in human trafficking because people can be repeatedly sold for profit, unlike drugs and guns…The legislature is considering a…bill…[to classify] human trafficking…as “gang activities”…Sentences for gang-related crimes are usually stiffer…

Feet of Clay (TW3 #22)

Following in the illustrious footsteps of Lauren Hersh:

An assistant district attorney was verbally berated and banished from a Bronx judge’s courtroom after failing to reveal evidence that would have freed a man held at Rikers Island on bogus rape charges…“This is an utter and complete disgrace — not just for you, but for your office in general”…Judge John Wilson told…Megan Teesdale before dismissing the case…The defendant, Segundo Marquez, had been held…for more than eight months awaiting trial…

Above the Law (TW3 #28) Jeffrey Holmes

A…Kansas City police officer who was accused of forcing two women to have sex with him was found guilty of acceding to corruption…and sentenced…to 15 days in jail…” When a non-cop does the same thing it’s called “rape” and gets more than 2 weeks in jail.

The Public Eye

In this interview with Valerie Scott (one of the plaintiffs in Bedford vs. Canada) she touches on the landmark case and the Swedish model; however, the more interesting part for me is her discussion of pre-internet sex work in Canada, sex work ethics, myths about sex work and “pimps” and the absurdity of trying to suppress the trade.

Where Are the Protests? (TW3 #48)

The…son of a peasant farmer from…China has been in custody since being found in a…Dublin…grow house with an estimated €1 million worth of cannabis…Fergal Kavanagh…said his client…[was] imprisoned in the grow-house by traffickers…[and] should be released pending a full investigation into his case…

Caring Professionals

Another nursing home ignites controversy by hiring sex workers for residents:

The elderly residents of a Long Island nursing home…[attended a male] striptease in the facility’s rec room, a new lawsuit claims.  The son of one resident, 85-year-old Bernice Youngblood, was shocked when he…found a picture of his mom stuffing dollar bills — which are supposed to be locked away in her commissary account — into a dancer’s briefs…“Plaintiff Bernice Youngblood was placed in apprehension of imminent, offensive, physical harm, as she was confused and bewildered as to why a muscular, almost nude man, was approaching her and placing his body and limbs, over [her],” the suit states…Youngblood’s attorneys argue she “lacks the mental and physical capacity” to protect herself…

Photo4by6.jpgUnless Mrs. Youngblood is unquestionably suffering from dementia, it sounds more to me like her son is just revolted by the idea that his mother might enjoy male strippers and might actually exert a little control over her surroundings instead of existing as a passive, passionless vegetable under others’ “care”.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #321)

Government officials in Phoenix are violating the law by compelling [sex workers]…to participate in a program administered by religious groups, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says…the program, Project ROSE, clearly violates the First Amendment…those arrested…are forcibly taken to Bethany Bible Church…in handcuffs…[and] given the option to avoid criminal prosecution by participating in a sectarian program.  “Phoenix is essentially telling criminal suspects that they can go to church or go to jail,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn…

Shame, Shame (TW3 #348)

[Congresswoman] Jackie Speier…has apparently decided to introduce a federal “revenge porn” bill, which is being drafted, in part, by Prof. Mary Anne Franks, who has flat out admitted that her goal is to undermine Section 230 protections for websites…to make…third parties — like “Google, any website, Verizon… face liability”…[she claims] she’s not seeking to undermine Section 230 in any way…[because it] has never protected sites from liability of federal crimes – just civil infractions and state crimes.  So her goal is to make the amorphous concept of “revenge porn” a “federal crime” thereby suddenly making third-party websites liable…this effort is fraught with dangerous consequences and potential First Amendment problems…

Subtle Pimping (TW3 #403)

You’ve got to love the way she makes it sound as though it were her idea:

University of Colorado sociology professor Patti Adler has axed the prostitution skit…that led administrators to pull her from the classroom last semester…[she] cited difficulty with consent forms and worries among participants after the…skit drew national attention…In the end, Adler canceled the controversial skit and invited local sex workers to her class…Adler interviewed the sex workers…and then allowed the students to ask…questions…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #405)

More on the German politicians who want to make life harder for whores:

…the Union [Party] wants to impose stricter controls on brothels and threaten clients with punishment.  The police and other authorities may also get the power to raid brothels without concrete suspicion, [sponsor] Thomas Strobl…said…clients should not be able to “make excuses” [if police declare that] a…prostitute has “obvious signs of ill-treatment”…the Union also wants [to reward] foreign prostitutes with…residence [if they agree to testify against]… “their tormentors” …presently, foreign forced prostitutes…do not report to the police because they…fear deportation…I Am Jennie

Drawing Lines

Former porn actress Jennifer Ketcham incoherently argues that the best way for porn actors to fight for decriminalization is to draw an artificial line between themselves and other whores.  Or something.

…Porn…advocates…are quick to distinguish between pornography and prostitution, and…it is way more okay to be a porn star than it is to be a prostitute…porn stars…[should] drop the label of “sex worker” and adopt the title of “adult film actor”…[to sever] it from the morally-loaded concept and illegality of prostitution…by drawing imaginary lines between sex work performed on camera and sex work performed behind closed doors, porn (unintentionally) debases the majority of sex workers…

The Sky is Falling! (TW3 #413)

Regarding the last line: what the hell does she think prostitution is?

…Équipe d’Action…has…[filed] legal proceedings against a “sugar daddy” dating site, which they accuse of operating a disguised prostitution racket.  The existence of such sites in France…[was ignored until] the arrival of the US site Seeking Arrangement…If the complaint is upheld in court it could change the definition of prostitution in France…Angela Jacob Bermudo, a spokeswoman for the French Seeking Arrangement site…[said] “Seeking Arrangement is not prostitution…For many girls, this is a viable option to be able to concentrate on their studies without the financial burden”…

Deafening Silence (TW3 #413)

Chinese officials violently suppress a city’s major industry, then wonder why its economy dies:

Prostitution was once rife in Dongguan…Local analysts estimated there were more than 250,000 prostitutes at its peak, and that the business generated about 50 billion yuan (HK$63 billion) a year…But…in February…authorities started a campaign to wipe out prostitution…hotel managers estimate…up to 70 per cent of prostitutes had left the city.  “The crackdown may not kill us, but it will kill [the nearby town of] Changping and then the city itself.  Without our xiaojie [whores], Changping is going to be a ghost town”…Many people working in the city’s retail and service sectors – from taxi drivers to snack sellers, landlords to restaurant bosses – grumble that their business has suffered since the…raids began…At the New South China Mall, the largest shopping centre in the world when it opened in 2005 with more than 2,000 shops, at least half the stores are vacant…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #413) 

In Canada, articles like the ones below and at right appear in the mainstream media:

…more than 300 of our fellow Canadian and international academics and researchers expressed their profound concern that the federal government is blatantly ignoring a large body of scientific evidence…that criminalization of any aspect of sex work, including the purchasing of sex, has overwhelmingly negative [effects]…banning the purchasing of sex is not scientifically grounded and sorely misguided by moral judgment of sex workers as victims.  In fact, evidence strongly suggests that this approach would recreate the same social and health-related harms of current criminalization regime…there is no evidence that criminalizing the purchasing of sex reduces or eliminates prostitution…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #414) 

Boo fucking hoo:

The person who runs Saskatoon’s “john school” is disappointed because he hasn’t had any participants since the start of this year.  Albert Brown…said that since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws last year, his class has been empty…

Synopsis of the rest of the article: “Dirty, dirty, filthy, diseased whores!”

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 23rd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Vestal Virgins were among the most important people in classical Roman society; they were charged with keeping the sacred fires burning, and accorded numerous privileges in return.  One of the greatest of these was that their persons were sacrosanct; in other words, no person could touch them without their permission, upon penalty of death.  That meant no one at all, not even high state officials; a Vestal could not be touched even if she were convicted of the greatest crime of which she could be accused, that of breaking her vows by having sex or allowing the sacred fires to go out.  Because these offenses were believed to anger the gods and thus risk the safety of all Rome, the penalty for them was death; but since nobody could touch them to administer the sentence there was only one way carry it out:  the dishonored priestess was buried alive.  In order to avoid breaking another law against burialVestal Condemned to Death (attributed to Pietro Saja, about 1800) within the city, the tomb was provided with a candle and a small quantity of food and water in order to establish the legal fiction that it was a “habitable room” rather than a sepulcher, and the unlucky woman was thus left to a lingering death by slow suffocation to preserve the illusion of piety which would have been shattered by spilling her blood.

Whores are in many ways the diametric opposites of the Vestals:  we are as far from virgins as it’s possible to be, are stigmatized and rejected by our societies rather than being honored by them, and are responsible for banking men’s sexual fires rather than keeping actual ones burning.  But in the past few decades, there has arisen a legal doctrine which represents all women as helpless, pure and sacred; we are supposed to be delicate flowers who are irremediably damaged by the evil lusts of brutal men, from whom the Sacred State must “protect” us.  Harlots sin against that precept by being strong, self-willed beings who deal with men on equal ground and make a living from male lust rather than being “ruined” by it as the catechism claims we should be.  We must therefore be punished, but since Holy Writ has declared us blameless victims how can that be accomplished?  The answer, as it was for the Vestals, is slow suffocation…though in this case economic and social rather than literal.

The tomb disguised as a “habitable room” into which prohibitionists want sex workers sealed is called the “Swedish model”; just as the Vestals’ persons technically remained inviolate, so women under this abominable regime are not technically criminalized.  Our meager provisions consist of the fact that we can, on paper, carry out our work unhindered.  But just as the Vestal was prevented by the earth above her “room” from getting any more food, water or air, so Swedish prohibition attempts to starve and suffocate their victims by persecuting their clients, getting them evicted from their homes, hounding them with police surveillance, denying them social benefits and even stealing their children.  Swedish proponents even go so far as to proclaim that sex workers are “decriminalized”…just as the Romans could say that the condemned Vestals had not been directly executed.

In all of Roman history, only ten Vestals were ever condemned to this horrible fate.  But unfortunately for the mad totalitarian dreams of the prohibitionists, there are millions of whores in the world; it would be absolutely impossible for them to ever entomb all of us, no matter how fervently they might wish to do so.  In order to advance their scheme to extinguish as many of us as possible, they must find and close up every possible gap through which economic sustenance might flow, and that means eliminating our means of attracting and contacting clients.  Increased police surveillance could drive street workers into the dark, dangerous places where the Pure and Holy need not see them, but street work has always been a minority of all sex work and that’s even more true now thanks to the internet (which allows incredibly cheap advertising with greater reach than even the most expensive venues had twenty years ago).  Banning escort advertising has no effect whatsoever; there is no way to stop people from hiding commercial sex adverts within other, unbanned forms, and almost no way to stop buyers living under such a censorship regime from accessing websites hosted outside its jurisdiction.  This utterly infuriates the prohibitionists, who are well aware of sex workers and clients conducting our business right under their noses; they have therefore embarked upon an all-out effort to destroy its most visible manifestations, no matter what the costs in human rights.  Irish prohibitionists have proposed giving police the power to steal sex workers’ phone numbers in order to convert them into traps for clients.  Scottish prohibitionists, defeated in their attempt to impose the Swedish model, are trying to drum up support for advertising censorship by demonizing clients.  And American prohibitionists are willing to totally destroy the internet as we know it:

…members of Congress have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Backpage.com for its role in prostitution and sex trafficking or to recommend legislation that would make prosecution possible…[they claim] that…tens of thousands of children are sold for sex…every year…Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects websites from liability for content posted by a third party. That means a website can’t be prosecuted when someone posts an illegal ad on their website…

Vestal Condemned to DeathWere websites to be held liable for third-party content, they would have no choice but to shut it down.  All of it.  Amazon reviews, YouTube videos, comments on websites, free hosting of sites like mine on larger entities like WordPress…all gone, wiped out overnight.  If you think this only applies to American websites, guess again; a large fraction of the internet’s backbone is on American soil, and the US government has given itself the power to shut down any website in any country which it decides has violated some US law, through the simple expedient of shutting down traffic to it at the point it passes through the US.  And while the article above restricts its language to “children”, others are more honest about the politicians’ intent:

…proposed legislation…would allow for federal felony charges to be brought against operators of web sites that fuel the illicit sex trade through commercial ads…Under the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, individuals would face felony charges for promoting an advertisement…that…facilitates any of numerous crimes against children and adults in the sex trade, including…pimping and prostitution.  The legislation would also allow federal authorities to shut down advertisements…

What these megalomaniacs seek is nothing less than the power to shut down any escort’s ad and to prosecute the website that carries it; even websites outside the US could be attacked as described above.  There is probably very little danger of the Roasting the Pig By Burning Down the House Act going through, or of it withstanding a challenge even if it did; US judges have repeatedly proven themselves wiser than politicians by striking such laws down every time they’ve been tried.  But the fact that they do keep trying is a measure of their hatred and disdain for the women they wish to suffocate in the name of “protecting” our sacred bodies from “violation” by consensual sex.

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Line in nature is not found;
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced, all rays return;
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.
  -  Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Uriel”

the brideI’ve been giving quite a few interviews lately, and I’ve noticed that one particular question comes up quite often (either on mike or off), especially from female interviewers:  “Would you ever do it again?”  I don’t think most of them intend it as a “gotcha” because I have been very fortunate so far in avoiding interviews with the sort of people who ask such questions (the most popular of which is “Would you want your daughter to do it?”)  Rather, I think it’s symptomatic of the underlying assumption, even among many people who firmly believe in self-ownership and sex worker rights, that there is something intrinsically “wrong” or distasteful about sex work.  I’m not blaming them, mind; that attitude is so deeply and firmly embedded in our culture that it’s a rare person indeed who is completely free of it, and that includes whores.  Most people, including many sex worker allies and staunch advocates, tend to think of retired sex workers as people who have “exited”, or “gotten out”, or even “escaped”, and are therefore understandably curious about someone like me who views our profession as not merely something to be tolerated, but a positive good.

When people ask why I retired, I often reply “Did I?”  As I’ve often stated, I don’t view marriage as all that different from prostitution; the affection my husband and I share does not lessen the economic basis of our formal relationship.  But that’s not really what my questioners mean; what they want to know is, “If you were faced with economic need, would you go back to professional whoring?”  And the answer is, “Of course I would.”  I already came out of retirement once due to a major financial setback, and life is full of such passages; if a similar situation arose, I would do it again.  There’s nothing strange about this; many women drift in and out of sex work at different times in our lives, or change between different types of sex work as conditions change, and I’m no different from anyone else.  Perhaps the question also reflects a kind of intellectual snobbery; maybe there’s an assumption that because I’m now a writer who is noted for her mind and words, that returning to sex work would be a kind of regression or even debasement.  But that’s elitist garbage; unless I suddenly evolve into an incorporeal being who can live on air and sunlight, I will always have physical and economic needs which must be addressed pragmatically.

The fact that this isn’t completely obvious to everyone says a lot about our society’s weird hang-ups.  Nobody would even think of asking a retired nurse, teacher, cook or real-estate agent if she’d go back to it should the need arise; for any profession other than whore, it would be a given.  Only when we reach the point where that query seems just as inane when directed toward a sex worker, will we know that at long last humanity has given up its childish and destructive superstitions about sex.

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For a model that is supposed to help prostitutes…[the Swedish model] shows them remarkably little respect.  –  Mishka Gora

Rough Trade Danford Grant on video

Accused rapist says it wasn’t rape because his victims were only whores:

Danford Grant, a prominent Seattle lawyer…is charged with six counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and one count of burglary for allegedly attacking multiple women at massage clinics…Grant’s lawyers claim Jie Shao, owner of Carnation Massage:  “deleted all the footage that recorded what really occurred…to destroy what was evidence of prostitution, not rape or attempted rape”…attorney…Richard Hansen…has repeatedly put…responsibility …on the…victims…saying…“a lot of these…(massage businesses) were advertising on Backpage…that should tell you something”…

The Lesser of Two Evils

An excellent Christian argument against criminalization of sex work, especially via the Swedish model:

…To criminalise male purchasers while simultaneously exonerating female vendors…is a violation of natural justice…this…“denial of consent”…fails to understand the motivation of women who…prefer prostitution to the alternative…the duplicity and irrationality of wanting to eliminate prostitution…while simultaneously denying the moral agency of prostitutes…is mind-boggling.  The contortions of the mind needed to support this feminist narrative have…also led to…prostitutes [being treated]…like children incapable of taking responsibility for their actions…[while] male clients…are…“sex offenders”…along with rapists and child abusers…According to Dr Melissa Farley, upon whose dubious “research” seemingly every justification of the Swedish model is based, they are “predators”…For Christians, promiscuity has [always] been the defining aspect of prostitution…medieval canonists agreed that although it was wrong for a prostitute to practice her trade, there was no wrongdoing in her receipt of money for her services…It is…hypocritical and inconsistent to criminalise only this one form of promiscuity…It is not…criminal…for a woman to have a different sexual partner each night…nor…for a man to buy his mistress an apartment, clothing, etc…integrity would demand…prohibition [of sex work] apply to all illicit sex…Such a prohibition…was ludicrous in Catholic medieval Europe, and…even more so in a modern western democracy…

Actually, This is Good News

The more sex workers are treated as other professionals are, the better:

Prostitutes could be sued for breaching the Consumer Guarantees Act, the same as any other service provider, a law professor says.  A man who tried to sue a prostitute for compensation and damages  had his claim dismissed…But…Professor Cynthia Hawes said prostitutes were…no less accountable than other service providers…”if you’ve made a contract with somebody there could be a case.  A contract of prostitution is not unlawful in itself”…

Maggie in the Media

On Wednesday I was a guest on the Inspireland podcast; you can listen to it at that link or download it on iTunes.

Parable white slave girl

For April Fools’ Day, Jenny Heineman wrote a satire entitled “It Happened To Me:  I Read And Believed Nick Kristof”:

Despite ample warnings about the prevalence of con men seeking to prey on easily malleable puppets like me…I almost became the victim of a murky, seedy, dark, sex trafficking ring operated by equally murky, seedy, dark (-skinned) men…prostitution…is never a victimless crime…all fact-based evidence to the contrary should be deeply scrutinized…Furthermore, prostitution and sex trafficking are synonyms because if you disagree…you’re a pedophile…

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

A [Connecticut] woman faces prostitution charges after…she reported being robbed by a man who responded to her ad…Nikoletta Herman…became nervous about the way he was acting…changed her mind and…the man got upset, assaulted her and stole her cellphone…

Marching Up Their Own Arses

The newest anti-whore fad:  using “licensing” to jack up prostitution fines:

…Wausau [Wisconsin] Police Chief Jeff Hardel [wants]…an escort license…ordinance [which] would impose fines in the $2,000 to $5,000 dollar range, and [require] licensed escorts to be fingerprinted, pass background checks, and file a…business plan.

Full of Themselves (Updates Galore)

Massage parlors are victims of licensing as well:

…Minneapolis will require massage businesses to be licensed…to prevent sex trafficking…With cooperation from…victims, prosecutors are…working to drive down the demand…through aggressive prosecuting of “johns.”  The city also has conducted training sessions to educate hotel and motel owners and employees to recognize, report and stop sex trafficking…

coffee crack pipe
To paraphrase one line from the article, “The new law is intended to make Minneapolis a safe police state to call home.”

Gullible’s Travels

Coffee smoking is a dangerous new trend that could be going viral among teens…But the side effects can be dangerous. People have reported trouble breathing, dizziness, vomiting and even hallucinations.”

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

violence and assault against sex workers by the police…has come under the scanner of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission…Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a complaint…on behalf of the sex workers…”Women have been beaten up just for standing on the road, or while walking towards the bus stop…Women have been…compelled to pay money, failing which they are threatened that false cases will be filed against them,” Professor Rajendra Y J of PUCL said…

The Prudish Giant (TW3 #9)

PayPal is at it again; here’s a letter sent out on Monday by the crowd-funding platform Patreon (which lets patrons pledge a set amount to an artist for every new work created) to artists who create “adult” material:

…we had to change your custom URL and set your Patreon page to “private”…users must [now] have a specific link to view your page, as it no longer appears in our search results.  We got a notice from Paypal this morning that they were shutting down their entire integration with Patreon because of “adult content” on our site!  As you can imagine, this would be detrimental to creators – hundreds of thousands of dollars were to be “frozen” unless we flagged all adult content pages, made them private, and removed Paypal functionality from their individual pages…We have already emailed your patrons who signed up to become your patron through Paypal, and we have asked them to switch over to a credit card.  No action is needed on your part, however, if you would like to email your patrons as well, that could be helpful in converting patrons from Paypal to credit card…

Above the Law 

Kansas jailer Kenneth Reese “has been arrested, accused of sex crimes against jail inmates”; the first allegation a year ago didn’t go anywhere, but a second accusation seems to have tipped the balance.  Meanwhile, in Louisiana, “Richland Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Dewey Allen has been arrested on charges of sexual battery and malfeasance…

Held Together With Lies

Emily J does a splendid job of ripping apart prohibitionist nonsense:

…here are the basic numbers of their claims:  140 girls & women in Ottawa right now are trafficked sex slaves…[each makes] $260 000 – $280 000…on average…[at] $200/Hour average price…$260 000 per year at $200/hour…[is] 1300 sessions in a year…if each one works 365 days per year, they earn $712 per day…[and] 3.56 clients per day, every single day…that’s 498 unique men seeing trafficked girls in Ottawa…[and] 182,000 sessions per year…[which would mean] 65% of all men in Ottawa have had sex with a trafficked sex slave…

Number Puzzle

The invaluable Wendy Lyon debunks another bogus “trafficking” study:

There’s been much in the Irish media…about a new report on sex workers’ clients…You’d need a pretty small population size for 58 [respondents] to…tell us anything about clients as a class – and the authors can hardly claim simultaneously that the population size is small enough, and that it spends €250m a year…if the respondents amounted to even 10% of the sex-buying population of Ireland, that would still require them to pay an average of €431,034 per year for sex…the…survey…asks…Have you ever changed your mind and walked away because the person seemed…a list of options follows, including “scared”, “controlled”, “unwilling”, “unhappy” and “too young”…a client who…walked out of an appointment with an independent escort who was in a bad mood…[was] recorded as having encountered a sex worker who he believed was exploited or trafficked.  This…is a gigantic leap that undermines whatever credibility this survey might otherwise have had…

Under Every Bed

This collection of single sentences  about the “sex trafficking problem” in Boise, Idaho (population 200,000; known chiefly for lumber and potatoes) is not actually organized into a coherent article; apparently, its “writer” is a dual devotee of the “sex trafficking” cult and the Hemingway software.  The gems found therein include (multiple sic):  “a child is taken in…they’re used not only for prostitution but also in gang organized crimes”; “victims…go through a ‘moral development’ period…in order to stay safe they must go along with their captures”; and “investigators…believe that a major problem stems from the Internet…‘where kids play online’”.

Bottleneck (TW3 #324)

This breathless article from the Canberra Times is clearly intended as an attack on decriminalization in New South Wales:  it spouts “sex trafficking” nonsense; quotes cops, politicians and an NGO named “Brothel Busters”; and does not quote any sex worker organizations at all.  But like many prohibitionist screeds about the “failure” of legal sex work regimes, it ignores a vital point:  the women it discusses are only victims because they are specifically excluded from working legally via some legal bottleneck, in this case the inability to get visas for sex work.  Naturally, Scarlet Alliance has repeatedly warned the government about this exact issue.

Bootlickers (TW3 #326) 

Because surely there are scads of women who think escort to barista is a good career move:

[Sheriff's Sgt. Darrell L. O'Neill] was charged…with felony promoting prostitution…for allegedly tipping off bikini baristas in exchange for sexual favors…[cops claim] Java Juggs stands hire young women who have worked as strippers and escorts and “essentially operate as drive-through strip clubs or brothels”…

Innocence Never Had

Another useless public policy based upon the absurd notion of magical “pimp” mind control powers:

[Los Angeles] officials are exploring a plan to require more…training for foster parents and group home workers to help them recognize …signs that children and teens under their care may be victims of sex trafficking…pimps sometimes recruit underage sex workers from group homes…Rachel Thomas, a sex trafficking survivor [said]…”There’s a grooming process…with recognizable signs.”

The Punitive Mindset (TW3 #352) 

Campaigners fighting the Ministry of Justice over a ban on books being sent to prisoners…threatened to take their battle to the courts…Geoffrey Robertson QC, who has offered his services for free, said…justice secretary Chris Grayling [is] acting “unlawfully and irrationally”…to inflict “cruel and unusual punishment” on literate prisoners.  “Grayling is not a lawyer, he is a politician who seems to think he is above the law,” said Robertson…”He has no power to impose additional punishment on prisoners over and above that which is imposed by the courts.  The action has nothing to do with prison security or any other legitimate purpose”…Grayling [pretends]…”the arrival of thousands of unknown parcels in our prisons each day”…would undermine the…battle against drugs…

R.I.P. Andrew Hunter

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

Sex workers from across the UK and rest of Europe crammed into a select committee room in the House of Commons to argue against plans to change prostitution laws that would criminalise clients…

Whither Canada? 

Canadian prohibitionist is sad because he can no longer force sex workers traumatized by arrest to listen to his “rescue” sales pitch:

A prostitute rescue program…is now on hold because police are no longer laying prostitution charges in Saskatoon, says…Don Meikle…once an arrest was made “we would be sitting at the police station waiting for them…It’s…very disappointing…It’s taken away that crisis that quite often created change”…

The rest of the article is littered with words like “combating prostitution” and the program is praised by a pro-Swedish model prohibitionist group.

Delightful Conversation

Go back and look at the text below the second picture on yesterday’s column (which I actually posted on March 8th) before reading this:

…[Miranda Barbour] made up the claim that she killed more than 20 people and is drawing on the escapades of television serial killer “Dexter,” her sister said…”She takes a lot of truths and puts the lie in the middle so when people…see all these truths…they believe the lie”…Ashley Dean said Elytte Barbour loved the TV show Dexter and suggested that her sister…”is using descriptions from the show”…

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Impenetrable in their dissimulation, cruel in their vengeance, tenacious in their purposes, unscrupulous as to their methods, animated by profound and hidden hatred for the tyranny of man…  -  Denis Diderot, “On Women”

As I have written on numerous occasions, the fallacious notion of the prostitute as a specific type of woman, with characteristics that set her apart from all other women, is a relatively recent one.  Prior to the mid-19th century it was widely understood that transactional sex was a normal female behavior, one that any woman might engage in under the proper circumstances.  This is not to say that it was accepted and condoned; far from it.  But nobody imagined that a woman was entirely defined by the act, either, nor embraced the foolish fantasy that only women of a certain background or experience made the choice.  I have also often pointed out that women are far more pragmatic than men like to believe; many if not most of us, even those from relatively sheltered lives, are perfectly capable of trading sex for money or other advantages should the need arise.

Jeanne de ClissonCase in point Jeanne-Louise de Belleville, Dame de Montaigu, born in 1300 to the powerful Breton nobleman Maurice IV of Belleville-Montaigu and his wife Létice de Parthenay.  She was married off at the age of 12 to a 19-year-old nobleman named Geoffrey de Châteaubriant and bore him two children.  Geoffrey died young in 1326, and four years later she married Olivier III de Clisson, bearing him five children.  But while her first marriage seems to have been a typical one, the second one was unusually passionate for a 14th-century noble couple.  The two were extremely close, and Jeanne was very devoted to him…so devoted, in fact, that what would have been the easy and unremarkable life of a wealthy French noblewoman became remarkable indeed after her husband was executed for treason in 1343.

It happened like this:  in the early part of the Hundred Years War, there were two rival claimants for the title of Duke of Brittany; Charles de Blois was favored by the French and John de Montfort by the English.  Olivier was on the French side, but after he lost Vannes to the English in 1342, de Blois complained that Olivier had not fought enthusiastically enough, and accused him of having defected to the English.  Olivier responded, predictably enough, by defecting to the English, but was captured by French forces and beheaded by order of King Philip VI on August 2nd, 1343; in a particularly barbaric touch, his severed head was then displayed on a pole at Nantes.  Jeanne was devastated by his death and furious at the King and de Blois, and swore revenge on both.  But while a lesser woman might’ve been content with cursing them from afar, spreading rumors or bribing someone to poison the royal wine, Jeanne was no ordinary woman.  She promptly sold off all of the Clisson lands the King had not seized, purchased the three best warships she could find, and had them painted black and rigged with sails dyed blood-red.  To raise money for a crew and to win allies from amongst the other Breton noblemen (who were none too fond of the French to start with), she sold her favors to them and charmed them into swearing to support her.  Keep in mind she was 43 years old at the time, had borne seven children and presumably had only been to bed with two men before this; she must have had a powerful charisma.

But that charisma, however great, paled beside her hatred.  From 1343-1356 the “Lioness of Brittany” mercilessly hunted and pillaged every French ship she could find, slaughtering the crews except for one or two who would be released on shore to tell the King who it was that had done the deed.  At the Battle of Crécy (1346), she helped to secure an English victory by bringing in supplies on her ships.  And after King Philip died in 1350, Jeanne only got worse; apparently enraged at his having escaped her wrath by fleeing into Hades, she began specifically hunting down ships owned by French nobles, and whenever she caught one she would personally behead him with an axe and have his body thrown into the sea, despite the fact that she could’ve made tremendous profit by ransoming them.  Were this a Hollywood movie, she would have eventually caught up with Charles de Blois and given him his comeuppance, but real life is rarely so neat; de Blois not only outlived the Lioness by five years,Château de Clisson but was also made a saint (though the canonization was annulled by the next pope on request from the English-supported Duke John V of Brittany, whose side had eventually won).  By the time she was 56 Jeanne’s thirst for vengeance was apparently slaked at last; she retired from piracy, married Sir Walter Bentley (who had personally fought de Blois) and settled in Hennebont, France, where she died in 1359.  Her son, Olivier Jr, earned the sobriquet “The Butcher” for his fierceness in war; he obviously inherited that from his mother, whose ghost is supposed to haunt the ruins of the old Château de Clisson (which was destroyed during the French Revolution).

Jeanne de Clisson was neither poor nor disadvantaged; neither sexually abused as a child nor mistreated by a husband; and neither homeless nor addicted to any drug.  Perhaps it could be said that she was emotionally disturbed by the loss of her beloved husband, but if so it was a very lucid kind of madness:  Jeanne knew exactly what she was doing, and chose to sell sex as a means toward that end.  And though most whores have far more mundane goals than the death of a king and the downfall of an entire country, our choices are every bit as pragmatic – and often as temporary – as hers.

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The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector.  -  Ernest Hemingway

invisible whore Major events always provide an excuse for governments to “clean things up” in the host cities before the guests arrive.  These include World’s Fairs and Olympic Games.  Police sweep undesirable, embarrassing, ugly people out of public view.  They throw them into jails or exile them for the duration.  The victims vary with the time and place.  The poor, the homeless, unpopular minority groups, drug addicts and gay people have all been among them.  The list always includes sex workers.  Moralists in countries where prostitution is legal still feel they must purge it from visitor areas.  They don’t want the visitors to see it, even in Greece or Brazil.  Bigotry is also heightened by such events.  Those so predisposed fear strangers coming to town, bringing with them outlandish and alien forms of sin and crime.  Together, these two factors may be the origin of one of the strangest and most persistent myths of our time.  Tens of thousands of whores wander about the world from mega-event to mega-event.  They are not impeded by the usual logistics of transport and lodging.

The legend seems to have first appeared in conjunction with the 2004 Olympics in Athens.  Prohibitionists depicted sex work as “sex trafficking” since the late 1990s.  But the moral panic seems to have begun in earnest in January of 2004.  Athenian officials went through the usual pre-Olympic cleansing procedure.  They raided brothels for bogus violations of zoning restrictions.  A Greek sex workers’ union complained.  They said the city would increase illegal prostitution by making it difficult to work in legal brothels.  European prohibitionists twisted this into “Athens is encouraging sex tourism.”

The growing “anti-trafficking” movement used bad stats.  They claimed that “sex trafficking increased by 95 percent during the Olympics.  And they did it by the end of the year.  Then anti-sex worker groups predicted that about 40,000 women would be “trafficked” into Germany.  They meant for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.  It was bizarre.  Of course, nothing of the kind happened. Police raided 71 brothels, but only came up with five cases of exploitation they believed linked to the event.  The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women investigated the myth in its 2011 report.  The report’s name was “What’s the Cost of a Rumour?”, and it was unable to find a credible source for the “40,000” figure.  It seems somebody made it up.  But it has hung on like a tick since then.  It accompanies every major sporting event.  Some of them were the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the 2012 Olympics in London.  Massive police crackdowns cost about £500,000 in London.  They found no significant increase in prostitution, coerced or otherwise.  Neither has anyone else.

By 2008, the myth reached the United States.  It became attached to the Super Bowl in place of the fading but also spurious claim about domestic violence.  You know the one.  The story that year took the form of police statements  about “warnings” that they “[were] prepared for”.  But by the following year police and other officials in Tampa had turned the rumor into a campaign.  They bagged exactly one quarry.  She was a 14-year-old.  Her pimps were two clueless individuals. They called her a “Super Bowl Special” on Craigslist.  Ever since, prohibitionists repeat the detail as part of their catechism.

The Florida Department of Children and Families claimed to have “rescued” 24 other people.  This is not substantiated.  But that number pales beside the grandiosity of another claim.  The claim was that “‘tens of thousands of people‘…[were] sold into the sex trade during Miami’s Super Bowl in 2010.”  The claim was that most of them were young girls.  Miami was the first instance of full-blown circus-like hype.  This hype has characterized the buildup to the game in later years.  Members of “anti-trafficking” groups descend in droves upon the host city. They do it to “raise awareness” and “rescue victims”.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott would not to be outdone.  He declared the Super Bowl “one of the largest human trafficking events in the United States”.  He organized a huge “task force” involving a dozen different federal, state and local agencies.  He did this in preparation for the Dallas game (2011).  He missed no opportunity to pontificate about “pimps” and Backpage.com.  The total haul from all this effort?  One would-be pimp who got the idea from hearing the myth on television.

But legends like this take on a life of their own, which mere facts cannot end.  By July, Indiana’s attorney general, Greg Zoeller, got the Indianapolis Super Bowl bandwagon rolling.  He made the claim that the Texans had made “133 separate human trafficking related arrests”.  They picked a two and a half week period around the game.  Then they claimed every vice arrest made in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was “trafficking”.  It was dishonest.  The number has since become part of the narrative.

The hype around the New Orleans game last year was somewhat muted.  But Cindy McCain seems unwilling to wait her turn.  She is already beating the drum over “human trafficking” for the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix. The myth is not limited to the Super Bowl any more.  In the past two years people have made similar claims about other large football games and sporting events.  They range from the Kentucky Derby to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to hunting season in rural Minnesota.

PapaMost of the media have been complicit in spreading this lurid fantasy, but there have been a few dissenting voices. One is “Papa” Kotz of Village Voice Media, who interviewed me for “The Super Bowl Prostitute Myth” three years ago.  He expanded upon that article for “The Super Bowl Prostitution Hoax” the following year.  Several others articles quoted the latter piece since then.  One was this year’s “The Super Bowl Sex-Trafficking Story That Just Won’t Die”.  It also references the GAATW report cited above.

Reporters can locate such articles with a quick search.  It’s easy.  But even if they’re too dumb to handle that, they could just go to Snopes.com, which has listed the story as false since February 2012.  But sex sells and the “rescue industry” brings in at least tens of millions of dollars per year.  Anthropologist and commercial sex researcher Dr. Laura Agustín called it that.  The “rescue industry”, I mean.  So there are quite a few people in and out of government with a vested interest in keeping the myth going.  Even if it’s destructive, absurd, and easy to show up as false.

But there’s a glimmer of hope.  An article reports that some “anti-trafficking” folks are unhappy with the legend.  It was in Canada’s National Post, but I won’t quote it because it’s too hard to read.  True Believers will ignore anything skeptics or sex worker rights advocates have to say about the issue.  But they may listen to those they consider fellow travelers. With any luck the Super Bowl Prostitute Invasion story may finally be on the way out.  We can only hope that the “sex trafficking” hysteria of which it is a part will follow close behind.

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Making pimps the centre of things justifies more money to catch/punish them & keep the status quo where women are collateral damage in a war.  -  Laura Agustín

Es dimonióI’m sure you saw all the hype and ballyhoo about a “landmark” government study of pimp bragging the sex industry,  and if you’ve read my columns about the relative rarity and non-centrality of pimps, the so-called “facts” this report “found” must strike you as the farthest thing from.  As I wrote in my recent Washington Post article,

The researchers made bold statements about the “U.S. sex economy” based on interviews with law enforcement personnel, 73 men convicted as “pimps,” and only 36 incarcerated street workers.  As the sex worker activist Melissa Gira Grant observed, the average sex worker activist follows more sex workers on Twitter than these researchers managed to find for a supposedly “landmark” study.  Furthermore, the report’s bias is clear from the skewed proportion of its interviewees:  Street workers represent less than 15 percent of the trade, but were 100 percent of the sex workers interviewed for the study.  Moreover, fewer than half of street workers have pimps, and about half of the pimps are actually the employees of the women they manage, not the other way around.  Yet the researchers interviewed twice as many pimps as sex workers, thus inflating their perceived importance remarkably…

Dr. Laura Agustín had much more to say about the report than that, both on Twitter and in her blog.  But I’m not going to write more about how awful this report is; rather, I’m going to discuss the motive behind it.  Agustín’s statement in my epigram sums it up nicely, but more detail will provide a better picture.  The story starts in September of 2008 with the publication of “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City”, AKA the John Jay study, which was funded by the US Department of Justice:

[Meredith] Dank and [Ric] Curtis…interview[ed]…249 underage prostitutes…and…thoroughly obliterated the long-held core assumptions about underage prostitution:

• Nearly half the kids — about 45 percent — were boys.
• Only 10 percent were involved with a “market facilitator” (e.g., a pimp).
• About 45 percent got into the “business” through friends.
• More than 90 percent were U.S.- born (56 percent were New York City natives).
• On average, they started hooking at age 15…
• Nearly all of the youths — 95 percent — said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.

Jenny HaniverIn other words, the typical [underage sex worker]…is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp.  Nearly all the boys and girls involved in the city’s sex trade are going it alone.  [Curtis and Dank] were…completely unprepared for the way law-enforcement officials and child-advocacy groups reacted… “I remember going to a meeting in Manhattan where they had a lot of prosecutors there whose job was to prosecute pimps,” Curtis recalls.  ”They were sort of complaining…that their offices were very well staffed but their workload was — not very daunting, let’s say.  They had a couple cases, and at every meeting you go to, they’d pull out the cherry-picked case of this pimp they had busted, and they’d tell the same story at every meeting.  They too were bothered by the fact that they couldn’t find any pimps, any girls.  So I come along and say, ‘I found 300 kids’ — they’re all perky — but then I say, ‘I’m sorry, but only 10 percent had pimps.’  It was like a fart in church.  Because basically I was saying their office was a waste of time and money.”

As Curtis explained, law enforcement “authorities” were very unhappy with the results of his study, which is why they have been buried (you won’t find them on any official website dealing with the subject of prostitution).  As Maier’s Law states, “If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of”; the DoJ therefore immediately ditched Curtis in favor of his younger, hungrier and less-principled assistant Dank, who was obviously instructed to do another study which would find what the DoJ wanted found - that pimps run the whole show - so as to shore up “sex trafficking” mythology and justify the vast expenditures and rampant civil liberties violations of the War on Whores.  Since interviewing real sex workers would merely find the truth again, they were largely avoided except for an easily-manipulated handful in prison.  Since the John Jay study couldn’t find any pimps in the actual environment where sex work takes place, Dank instead just interviewed people the “authorities” had already decided were pimps.  And since interviewees might still tell some truth despite incentives to the contrary, the fantasies of cops and prosecutors were included to balance that.

Fiji mermaidTo ensure that the “researchers” stayed on-message, the report’s “recommendations” must have been dictated in advance:  they include “Cross-train drug, sex, and weapons trade investigators to better understand circuits and overlaps” (i.e. more money to cops); “Continue using federal and local partnerships to disrupt travel circuits and identify pimps” (i.e. justify illegal use of federal funds and manpower to enforce local prostitution laws); “Offer law enforcement trainings for both victim and offender interview techniques, including identifying signs of psychological manipulation” (i.e. teach cops to psychologically manipulate arrestees); “Impose more fines for ad host websites” (i.e. pressure the courts into giving politicians the power to censor the internet); and so on.  The result?  A Jenny Haniver, a methodological monstrosity cut and stitched and distorted to provide bogus “evidence” for a creature that exists only in the minds of prohibitionists:  a sex industry dominated by “pimps” and “trafficking gangs”.  When charlatans produce objects they claim to be mummified mermaids, chupacabra carcasses and yeti scalps, it’s the duty of skeptics to expose the scam.  And when the con artist is the government, and the goal destroying people’s lives rather than merely separating them from a few bucks, that duty is even more crucial.

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We call on the Government of Canada to join with global leaders, community, researchers and legal experts in rejecting criminalization regimes, including those that criminalize the purchase of sexual services, and instead support the decriminalization of sex work…as scientifically-grounded and necessary to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers.  -  The Gender & Sexual Health Initiative

Maggie in the Media

Here’s an interview with me on the Euvoluntary Exchange podcast, and a guest column I did for Radley Balko’s blog at the Washington Post.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do Steve Smith

The Robbinsdale [Minnesota] police chief resigned from his position…after…he was arrested in a prostitution sting…ten people were arrested…including…Steven Smith…

The Scarlet Letter

Richmond, California’s…police department…plans to…post…photos of men arrested in prostitution stings to Facebook and Twitter…even though these men might not ever be convicted of any crime…

And Speaking of Victim Blaming…

It’s blessedly absent from this story:

Two…thugs bound and gagged a prostitute after robbing her — thinking that she wouldn’t call the police.  Jason Barton…and John Coulter…were joined by David Coulter from Northern Ireland, in a sickening attack on the 27-year-old Polish woman…[who] was found in her flat after her muffled cries for help were heard.  She pleaded with the tower block caretaker not to call the police but he ignored her protests…the vile trio…[was] found guilty… Book of Legendary Lands

Presents, Presents, Presents!

This week I received Playing the Whore and The Book of Legendary Lands from Korhomme and The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection from Gumdeo.  Thank you both so much!

The Sky is Falling!

The arrival of…Seeking Arrangement…has caused…consternation in France…40,000 French “sugar babies” have already signed up…“Seeking Arrangement takes advantage of the financial misery of students.  The site hides violence against women in beautiful wrapping paper,” said Anne-Cecile Mailfert…[of] Osez le Feminisme…“We hope lawmakers will [ban] websites when they…adopt…the law criminalizing the purchasing of sex”…

Thou Shalt Not

Because prohibition always works so well:

Leading doctors have called for a ban on cigarette sales to those born after 2000 in a programme of “progressive prohibition”…They urged the British Medical Association to lobby for a complete ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone born in this century…

Above the Law 

Maryland Transit Administration Officer Martez Johnson…[gave a woman] a ride…after an MTA bus hit her car about 3 a.m. March 13…Martez walked the woman to the front door of her home…[then] forced his way inside…pushed her onto her couch and raped her…After he left, she called 911…Earlier this week, a Baltimore City police officer was charged…[with buying sex from] a 14-year-old girl advertising prostitution services online…

Finding What Isn’t There

In science, theories change to fit facts.  In politics, facts change to fit beliefs:

…a law designed to catch human traffickers…has netted few charges and even fewer convictions in Canada, anti-trafficking advocates complain.  There have been [only] 35…convictions since new laws…came into effect in 2005…MP Joy Smith…says more charges and convictions [must be created]…Jennifer Mann, a…Crown attorney, said…it’s…under-reported…But…John Ferguson, a retired RCMP superintendent, says the lack of convictions…may indicate that it is not that widespread…

Only one man is willing to accept that women have agency; all the women interviewed insist that childlike women are “controlled” by evil men.

An Example To the West (TW3 #39) Rajib Boy

The impoverished son of a sex worker in Calcutta…has been selected to participate in a Manchester United soccer training camp…Rajib Boy, 16…will head to the U.K. in April…amid hopes that the sport will liberate them both from poverty…”I am not ashamed of being a sex worker’s son…She is my main source of inspiration.  But I want to take her out of the red-light district as early as possible”…

Buried Truth

[Illinois] State Rep. Keith Farnham stepped down…after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided his home and his state office [for child porn]…Farnham…has…co-sponsored two laws cracking down child pornography [including] one…stiffening penalties for its possession…

Prudish Pedants (TW3 #133)

A federal appeals court…upheld the convictions of…fetish filmmaker…Ira Isaacs…A three-judge panel of the…9th Circuit Court of Appeals…rejected Isaacs’ arguments that the lower court…abused its discretion by excluding [his] proposed expert testimony.  Defense attorney Roger Jon Diamond said he would discuss with Isaacs whether to file a petition for rehearing before the full 11-judge appeals panel…

The Proper Study (TW3 #319)

Porn Studies has released its first issue:

…In the introduction…editors-in-chief – Feona Attwood…and Clarissa Smith…write:  “Recent years have seen a resurgence of public discussions (and scares) about…pornography-related topics, perhaps most notably the expansions of pornography across the internet, its putative links to rape and sexual violence, and erotic life-styling or the oft-cited ‘sexualisation of culture’”…

Predictably, Gail Dines used the occasion to bark at the moon.

FearusOscillation (TW3 #321)

You’ve probably seen this image floating around the internet, and since it contains the address of a long-abandoned website someone bought that domain in order to debunk the image.  The nutshell version: in the original 1979 survey, students were given a five-point range from “always” to “never”, and this chart counts all responses except “never” as a “yes” response.  It certainly changes one’s impression to know that the “yes” percentages are actually four different gradations of agreement added together, doesn’t it?

Unmentionables

Chase Paymentech…told Lovability founder Tiffany Gaines…that the company considers it a “reputational risk” to handle online payments for condoms, which it classifies as an “adult-oriented product”…Gaines…created Lovability with the goal of making it less awkward for women to buy condoms

Micromanagement

Dr. Feelsad wants DNA surveillance of sex workers because of his sadfeelz:

…DNA…can be a powerful tool in combating human trafficking, according to forensic scientist Timothy Palmbach…[who] set out…to…develop…a DNA database of victims and at-risk persons…Palmbach ventured to a number of places, including Costa Rica, Nepal and Djibouti to see if he could successfully identify and obtain DNA samples from victims and possible perpetrators…in Costa Rica…police asked for help investigating a hotel known for sex tourism… he eventually found himself alone with a 14-year-old girl…[who would have charged him] $400 an hour…Palmbach [said] “I really almost started to cry…I just saw the depravity of the situation and how much it’s all driven by money and demand”…

O, Canada! (TW3 #405)

More harassment of legal sex workers in Canada:

…CEASE, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation…[is harassing sex workers with offensive] texts…Any sex worker with a phone number listed in the Edmonton…Backpage.com has likely received one of [the]…messages…Project Backpage [is] a new collaboration between the University of Alberta, Chrysalis Network…and CEASE…Because the sex industry has mostly moved from the streets to the Internet, [rescue industry] groups are finding it more difficult to [annoy] women…Susan Davis…[of] the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals…takes the view that the texting tactic is a preferable alternative to police raids and sting operations, such as Operation Spotlight…

ritual shaming
Deafening Silence (TW3 #407) 

China aims to prove it can be at least as stupid and brutal as the US when it comes to destroying businesses and hurting the economy through liberal use of cops and dysphemisms:

The vice crackdown that began in Dongguan last month has resulted in the arrest of more than 850 suspects and will expand across Guangdong before it wraps up in May…the three-month campaign against the illegal sex trade has already led to the break-up of more than 60 criminal gangs…[and] cost more than 3,000 hotels, saunas and massage parlours their licences…In addition, some 854 websites and more than 96,000 public instant-messaging accounts have been closed for promoting sex services online…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410)

Articles like this give me hope that we’ll eventually start seeing similar ones about “sex trafficking” hysteria:

The nation’s largest and most influential anti-sexual-violence organization is rejecting the idea that culture — as opposed to the actions of individuals — is responsible for rape…Recently, rape-culture theory has migrated from the lonely corners of the feminist blogosphere into the mainstream.  In January, the White House  asserted that we need to combat campus rape by “[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.”  Tolerance for rape?  Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised…there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm…Rape-culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense…But now…RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)…repudiates the rhetoric…and…is especially critical of the idea that we need to focus on teaching men not to rape…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

A poll…shows that over half the population of the UK is opposed to the criminalisation of prostitution.  Only three in ten nationwide were in favour.  In London it was only one in four…The exact wording for the poll was:  Currently in the UK under certain circumstances, it is legal for men and women to pay for sex.  There are some people that wish to make it illegal for the user to pay for sex.  Do you think such a criminalisation is a good idea or not?…51% agreed that “No, paying for sex should not be criminalized.”  31% agreed that “Yes, it should be illegal to pay for sex.”  The other 18% had no opinion.  There was little difference between the sexes with 53% of men and 49% of women opposing criminalisation.  Under a third of both sexes were in favour…

To Protect and Serve (TW3 #411)

25 exotic dancers filed suit against the [San Diego Police] Department for violating their civil rights…during a routine permit inspection…10 unidentified officers detained the dancers under no stated suspicion and began photographing…[them] against their will for roughly one hour…

Whither Canada? Joy Smith

It’s good to see real information in the public discussion of sex work in Canada:

The Conservatives say they are listening to all the submissions they receive before they draw up Canada’s new prostitution law…But the…government [is using] a report by Conservative MP Joy Smith, titled The Tipping Point, as the intellectual underpinning for…the so-called Nordic model…The problem is much of the research cited in The Tipping Point is highly selective — ignoring truths that are inconvenient or cast the Swedish model in a poor light…The…report contends that countries like New Zealand that have decriminalized…have seen a dramatic increase in sexual exploitation and violence.  But anyone who reads the Prostitution Law Review Committee report assessing New Zealand’s legislation comes away with a very different impression…

And here’s one from the Ottawa Citizen:

…In Canada, we’ve been sold a false dilemma that presents only the possibility of a “Nordic”…regime or…“Dutch” approach…But Canadian sex workers…know that New Zealand’s model…merits much closer consideration…Sex workers in New Zealand are now covered by labour laws…the Prostitution Reform Act has not resulted in any growth of the sex industry or increase in number of sex workers, nor has the sky fallen.  The Prostitution Law Review Committee…found that there has been a marked improvement in employment conditions and a decrease in violence…

And an open letter signed by 300 academics:

We…are profoundly concerned that the Government…is considering …new legislation to criminalize the purchasing of sex.  The proposed legislation is not scientifically grounded and evidence strongly suggests that it would recreate the same…harms of current criminalization.  We join other sex worker, research, and legal experts across the country and urge the Government of Canada to follow the Supreme Court…decision and support decriminalization of sex work as a critical evidence-based approach to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers…

Surplus Women (TW3 #412)

What if…Orange County [California is] dealing with a serial killer preying on prostitutes?…Orange County…formed a multi-agency task force when homeless men were being fatally stabbed over a few months…but [are] not doing so now when the victims [are] female prostitutes…Are cops making a judgment call on which type of victims are worthy of their attention?  Anaheim Police Lt. Tim Schmidt…[says] “We don’t have the evidence to say they’re connected”…of the cases involving missing persons Kianna Jackson, Josephine Vargas…Martha Anaya…Tina Hoang and Jarrae Estepp…[rescue industry figure] Lois Lee…of Children of the Night…[says] “It’s just a high-risk job”…

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