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Undeserving

Plead what I will be, not what I have been;
Not my deserts, but what I will deserve.  –  Shakespeare, Richard III (IV,iv)

If you’ve been reading me for a while you’ve noticed that I’m a bit persnickety about words.  OK, that’s an understatement; I can actually be downright maniacal about them.  But as I pointed out in “Nasty Words”,

As a writer, words are my tools, and I cherish them and baby them the way a good mechanic cares for the tools of his trade.  And just as a good mechanic always uses the right tool for the job rather than trying to make do with whatever happens to be nearby, so I insist on using the right word…and just as some mechanics are annoyed by seeing others misuse or abuse their tools, so am I annoyed by the misuse or abuse of words…

This doesn’t mean I’m a grammar Nazi, though (as you’ve also probably noticed).  It’s not misspellings, malapropisms or mistakes like “irregardless” that set my teeth on edge, and you’ll probably never see me rail about them unless I’m deliberately trying to be difficult.  No, what annoys me are A) words which are improperly constructed (such as “homophobia”) or improperly used (such as “vagina”) by people who should know better, trying to sound “proper” or “intellectual” or “serious” and failing miserably; and B) proper words used properly which nonetheless grate on my nerves due to their referring to morally or philosophically objectionable concepts.  I’ve already written about (A) in the aforementioned “Nasty Words”, and about one important example of (B) in “The Privilege Paradigm”.  But today I’d like to target the word “deserve”, the visible part of an iceberg of moral odiousness floating unseen below the social waterline.

Weighing of the HeartIf you’re scratching your head about now, consider what the word “deserve” implies:  that there is some absolute and unambiguous moral standard in the universe against which actions and people can be weighed like a heart against a feather in the Egyptian afterlife, with “deserving” things exalted with hosannahs and “undeserving” thrown to that crocodile-headed thing.  Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much; “deserve” implies a clear, objective standard on which all right-thinking people can agree, and sets up an external authority as the judge.  And those implications lead to two important misrepresentations of subjective things as objective; the first is merely annoying, while the second is one of the chief rationalizations for tyranny.

The first of those misrepresentations is the one used with irksome regularity in advertisements for luxury goods or what we might call “common luxuries”, things such as ice cream or fast food which aren’t luxurious, but aren’t strictly necessary either. It’s nearly impossible to go a day without seeing some huckster hawking his goods with phrases like McDonald’s classic “You deserve a break today,” implying that the consumer is a long-suffering paragon of virtue whose unremitting efforts go unrecognized by Them, despite the fact that the whole business would fall apart if not for her. So even if she isn’t paid as much as she “deserves” or given the praise she “deserves”, she can reward herself by spending money at whatever business the ad is trying to promote. Vacation travel is one of the most notorious abusers of the word, but in a bad economy it has a strong challenger in loan companies who promise to give the consumer “the credit you deserve”, implying that hey, it isn’t actually your fault that you defaulted on all those bills. Am I implying that people with bad credit are deadbeats? Not at all; life is hard and shit happens (and I’m only just building back my own credit from a near-total wipeout in the autumn of 2008). But let’s not pretend that good credit is some kind of award for the virtuous, either; actuarial tables are not based in scruples, but in statistics. Either there’s a good chance a lender will get his money back from a borrower or there isn’t, and “deserve” has nothing to do with it.  That also happens to be the title of an excellent essay by Ken “Popehat” White which I linked in “Return of the Agitator“:

…the central narrative of our criminal justice system…offers the ultimate excuse for cutting corners, giving police the benefit of the doubt, looking the other way at constitutional violations, putting our thumbs on the state’s end of the scales of justice.  He got what he deserved — that’s what one side says, cutting through facts and law and reasoned analysis to pure us vs. them.  He didn’t deserve that,  says the other side, unwittingly lending support to the implicit argument that there are some who do.  But deserve’s got nothing to do with it.  Heroism and villainy have nothing to do with it.  We have to demand that everyone be treated justly, whether our viscera tell us that they do not deserve the rule of law at all…because it’s…foolish and perilous to let the state (or the mob) decide who deserves rights and who doesn’t…

I'm No Saint, I'm No Angel, I'm Just Human by Rebivaleska (2012)The word “deserve” is thus allowed to excuse the inexcusable; it’s OK that we gunned down that black kid, because he stole a pack of cigarettes two years ago.  It’s OK we raped that woman, because she’s a streetwalker.  It’s OK we’re fining charities for feeding those people, because they’re drug addicts.  It’s OK we entirely shut these men out of human society, because they’re “sex offenders”.  They don’t deserve to be treated like human beings, because they’re “no angels”…the implication being, of course, that only angels deserve humane treatment, no matter what the easy-credit guys tell you.  And if you see nothing wrong with that implication, you deserve everything you get.

Sugar Loaves

I’m a 23-year-old professional who wants to pursue a Masters degree in a related field, but my current job alone just won’t pay for tuition on top of my rent, bills and current student loan payments.  I already tend to attract successful men and I’m a skilled and empathetic listener, so I feel I could make it as a courtesan with a select few clients.  However, I’ve never been an escort so I have no existing clientele to draw from.  Also, I’ve read that real courtesans don’t discuss payment openly with a client…I don’t understand how that works.

Given your circumstances, you might want to consider advertising on one of the sugar baby sites.  A 23-year-old graduate student is exactly the kind of lady many potential sugar daddies are looking for; the hours tend to be pretty brief, the pay is good (you can probably get about $3000-$4000 per month), and best of all it isn’t illegal yet so in the present climate of hysteria, it would be much safer for you.  Furthermore, you need to be very discreet in your advertising because even legal sex work could potentially come back to bite you.  As for “real” courtesans not discussing it…you should always be wary when people make statements like that.  Some of the courtesans of old charged set rates, some used a sliding scale and some preferred to let their patrons give them money and gifts, then complain if they weren’t generous enough.  It’s absolutely true that women who let their patrons set the fees and benefits generally do better in the long run, but it can take a lot of time investment to reach that point and you have to be good at sizing up a man’s income and generosity level right from the get-go so as not to waste too much time with a skinflint.

I am a mature and educated paid companion who has traveled the world and speaks several languages; men tend to find me fascinating and I live in a resort area.  I have three kinds of clients:  those who live here, those who come in for a few days a month or so and one-time vacationers.  I’m working on transitioning some of my regulars in the first two groups to longer-term arrangements; I think I could have client types 1 & 2 pay a monthly “allowance” plus a fee for dates, and just charge a regular flat fee to vacationers.  Do you have any suggestions on how to set my prices?

If you’re going to have regular “sugar daddy” type clients (the 1s and 2s), you may want to consider just charging them the flat fee and leaving it at that, especially if they only see you once a month to once a week at most.  Obviously you have to be sure it’s enough to justify whatever time you spend with them, but you may find that they tend to give you other presents and tips beside the fee anyhow.  Setting a rate in your situation is tricky; I expect most things in your area are more expensive than in a city, and that the clients tend to be wealthy?  That, and the fact that you can provide a more “upscale” experience, would tend to drive your price up.  You may want to do some research to see what other escorts in similar resort areas charge, and ditto what sugar babies in such areas tend to ask for…and then go just a smidgen higher.  Given your circumstances you can probably get it, and the higher price reinforces the image you’re trying to project.  As time goes on you will be able to tell if you can raise your prices, but it’s usually best to allow those who are already seeing you to continue at their current rates.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

Diary – Week 229

Princess of Quite-A-LotAs I wrote in my diary entry for Chicago, it’s a good thing I’m polyamorously inclined, because now another city has won my affections!  But if St. Louis seduced me and Chicago swept me off my feet, Seattle grabbed my wrists and had me trussed up in shibari before I could catch my breath.  I’ve been here longer than any other city I visited this year, yet I had absolutely no time to be bored.  On Sunday the 9th, the day after I arrived, I spoke to a packed room at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture and sold the majority of the books I had left from my tour; the rest went over the next few days, many of them at a party SWOP Seattle held for me the next night.  Two nights last week were spent going to dinner with tour patrons, including the generous gentleman who actually paid for the train tickets to bring me to the city; two others were spent socializing with the incredible sex worker activists who live here, and last weekend was spent more or less quietly (hah!) at the lovely studio flat where my hostess, Jae, had invited me to stay with her.  When she first made me the offer several months ago, she promised to pamper me while I was here, and she was better than her word; I honestly can’t say when I was last spoiled to this degree, if it was even in this lifetime.  A girl could definitely get used to this sort of treatment; if my Seattle friends put her up to it in order to entice me back as soon as possible, they definitely succeeded!

Last night, I demonstrated my gratitude by preparing my famous Southern fried chicken for my closest friends here, and tonight Savannah Sly and I will be participating in a panel discussion organized by (and stacked with) prohibitionists; I have no idea how well that will go, but Mistress Matisse asked me to do it and she’s very persuasive even when she hasn’t got a whip in her hand.  Then on Wednesday afternoon I’m getting back on the train to return home by way of Chicago; I’ve stocked up on diphenhydramine, so I plan to sedate myself soon after dinner both nights of the return trip, thus sleeping through the problematic hours of darkness when I can’t get a sense of motion by looking out the window.  That’s the theory, anyhow; I’ll let you know how it works next week!

Skewed by Taboo

Eroticism differs from animal sexuality in that human sexuality is limited by taboos and the domain of eroticism is that of the transgression of these taboos.  –  Georges Bataille

weird tipAs so often happens these days, reporters looking for clickbait to draw eyeballs to their flashing, jiggling banner ads were recently all a-buzz about a new study which purported to discover which sexual fantasies are “normal” and which are “abnormal”.  Aside from the disturbingly-judgmental bias in what should be an objective study, a lot could be said about the flaws in the experimental design; I asked my go-to methodology guru Kevin Wilson about it, and he said:

…The sample was recruited primarily online and via ads, social contacts, etc; it’s probably best considered to be a convenience sample and is almost certainly not representative of the adult population at large.  As such, it’s hard to trust the prevalence rates generated by the data, or that they generalize to the general population from which the sample was drawn…Originally, each fantasy was presented to participants in the survey along with an eight-point scale measuring intensity of interest in that fantasy (where zero = “not at all [interested]” and seven = “completely [interested]”).  The authors coded responses of three or higher as indicating an interest in a given fantasy; this is arbitrary and no justification appears to be offered…the authors’ definition of unusual (endorsed by 15.9%) and rare (2.3%) sexual fantasies is likewise arbitrary…They could just as easily have said, “less than 1% is rare because… 1% is a small number” and had it been just as valid…

But there’s a bigger problem, which as it turns out I’ve written on before when the titillation du jour was the claim that fewer men were paying for sex:

…the General Social Survey…has one huge, massive flaw that was mentioned by my psychology professors way back in the Dark Ages of the 1980s, yet seems not to trouble those who rely upon it so heavily these days:  it is conducted in person, face to face with the respondents.  And that means that on sensitive topics carrying criminal penalties or heavy social stigma, the results are less than solid; negative opinions of its dependability on such matters range from “unreliable” to “useless”.  The fact of the matter is that human beings want to look good to authority figures (like sociologists in white lab coats) even when they don’t know them from Adam, so they tend to deviate from strict veracity toward whatever answer they think the interviewer wants to hear…

So, what does this study say constitutes an “abnormal” fantasy?

“Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they induce pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction,” Christian Joyal, the lead author of the study, said…The researchers found that only two sexual fantasies were…rare:  Sexual activities with a child or an animal…only nine sexual fantasies were considered unusual…[including] “golden showers,” cross-dressing, [and] sex with a prostitute…

Arpaio on a dateJoyal’s claim that sadistic and rape fantasies are innately “pathological” is both insulting and totally wrong; we “know” no such thing.  And did you think it was a coincidence that pedophilia and bestiality were the only two fantasies to fall into the “rare” category during a time when those are the two most vilified kinks in the catalog, kinks which will result in permanent consignment to pariah status if discovered?  Guess again; as recently as the 1980s it was acceptable to at least talk about both of these, and neither is as rare as this “study” pretends.  But Man is a social animal, and even if someone is absolutely certain of his anonymity (which in the post-Snowden era would be a much rarer thing than either of those fantasies), few are willing to risk the disapproval of a lab-coated authority figure even if he isn’t sitting directly in front of them.  What this study shows is not how common these fantasies actually are, but rather how safe people feel admitting to them.  And while that’s an interesting thing in itself, it isn’t what everyone from researchers to reporters to readers is pretending the study measured.

Links #228

Is this a joke?  –  Nathan Robinson

This week I wasn’t on a train and I’m not sick, so I had no trouble getting everything straight on time (except for the abundant distractions provided by my wonderful friends here in Seattle).  Both videos this week are reactions to that heavily-edited “catcalling” viral thing; the first was provided by Rick Horowitz and the second by Mike Siegel (who also gave us “ghouls” and “shoplifting”).  Everything above the first video is from Radley Balko, and the links between the videos from Clarissa (“recycling” and “mistake”), Grace  (“resisting”), Jesse Walker (“music”), Mistress Matisse (“never call”), Cop Block  (“first aid”), and  Joyce Arthur (“together”).

From the Archives

Abolishing prostitution is a complete fantasy, and those deluded by it…sacrifice the lives of real human beings on their altar of sexual purity.  –  Joyce Arthur

Rough Trade 

A Delhi court has sentenced four youths to 10 years rigorous imprisonment for abducting and gangraping a Rwandan refugee, saying merely because she was working as a sex worker does not confer the right upon anyone to violate her dignity…lynch mob

Think of the Children! 

Norah Langweiler…was…hired as Adolescent Health Training Coordinator of Mississippi First, a non-profit specializing in education advocacy and reform…she would design and implement a training center to train educators and medical professionals on…sex education…an…online harassment…group…mined through Langweiler’s Facebook, Etsy, and Twitter accounts to find and repost any “objectionable” material they could find on her, current or years-old…The incriminating “stuff” the small guild dug up included a link to a cartoon about vibrators, mild cursing, and…a photograph of Yoda-shaped pasties…[after a politician joined them]…she was asked…to resign from her position…

The Scarlet Letter

Flint, Michigan has one of the highest crime rates in the US, so cops there have decided to give up on that and use their time trying to destroy the lives of people engaging in peaceful commerce instead:

Suspected Flint prostitutes and johns will be the target of a new police social media tactic to stamp out the world’s oldest profession…police will begin posting on its Facebook page the names and photos of suspects who have been arrested and arraigned on prostitution-related charges…Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said he believes more-severe punishments are needed to deter prostitution…[an amateur circle-jerk he participates in] has proposed legislation that would change the crime to be a five-year felony…

Scrambled Eggs

In the entire history of futurism, has any futurist ever been right about anything?

One of the developers of the contraceptive pill has predicted his own invention will become redundant as more people choose to be sterilised, making sex purely recreational by 2050…Professor Carl Djerassi said increasing numbers of babies being born through IVF…will lead to men and women choosing to have their eggs and sperm frozen at a young age…people would then be sterilised out of convenience because there would be no need to have sex to produce children…

Above the Law 

Some rapist cops carefully plan their assaults:  “A..Wisconsin [cop]…has been convicted of sexual assault of a child…and possessing child pornography.  Daniel Barber [abused]…several boys, including two toddlers…he [used]…Craigslist and Facebook to connect with parents in need of baby sitters…”  While some prefer to simply take advantage of opportunities:

[Florida cop] Carlos Xavier Lopez…responded to a call about a possible domestic incident [then] a few days [later]…he returned for a followup…he…forced himself on a…woman…and…kissed her, pressing his tongue into her mouth…he told her he “could last for hours” and that “I’m not going to get caught.”  Then…he forced his hand inside her underwear and touched her, so she attempted to pretend someone was coming into the garage so he would stop…[he] followed her and tried to guide her toward a bedroom…Lopez allegedly said he would have had sex with her if members of her family hadn’t been home at the time…

Gingerbread House

Look beneath the Orwellian language:

Every year in Texas 46,000 kids will go missing…More than 6,500 of them will become victims of sex trafficking…the…Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking…is working to open the refuge ranch where victims of human trafficking can get all the help they need.  “Everything will be self-contained on the 50 acres so that in the beginning the girls don’t have to be moved outside of that and that gives them some safety and consistency”…Girls ages 11-17 will be able to stay as long as they need…

“Girls don’t have to be moved” = “girls won’t be free to leave”.  “Safety and consistency” = “security and isolation”.  “Stay as long as they need” = “indefinite, open-ended sentence”.  And given that only 6 of that “missing children” figure are actually abducted by strangers, it’d be a good trick for “more than 6500″ to be “sex trafficked”.

Sex Work is Work

Bitch Magazine eschews the usual nonsense about whether sex work is “bad” or “empowering”, instead treating it as work and interviewing three sex workers whose names you know:  Mistress Matisse answers “How Does a Dominatrix Do Her Taxes?”, Melissa Gira Grant talks about “Looking at Sex Work from a Labor Perspective”, and Emi Koyama discusses “The Social and Legal Reality of Sex Work”.

Droit du Seigneur (TW3 #132)

A group of [Nigerian] sex workers…beat up a top politician…over his refusal to pay for services rendered…Eye witness [sic] said that the prostitutes…began to drag him along the…road, shouting, “pay us our money for the service we do for you”…his clothes had been torn to shreds before his friends…moved to rescue him, while pleading for forgiveness from the sex workers…

Theatrics Tinder propaganda

If this supposed “crime” is so common, how come the only pictures we have of it are always fake ones?

Fake accounts on Tinder, using pictures of models with cuts and bruises, have been set up as part of a campaign against sex trafficking.  Dublin-based advertising agency EightyTwenty and the Immigrant Council of Ireland are behind the scheme.  Profiles initially show a picture of an attractive person, but when users swipe to see more photos they are then confronted with images depicting abuse that victims of trafficking are [supposedly] subjected to…

Policing for Profit 

The seminars offered police officers some useful tips on seizing property…Don’t bother with jewelry (too hard to dispose of) and computers (“everybody’s got one already”), the experts counseled.  Do go after flat screen TVs, cash and cars.  Especially nice cars.  In one seminar…Harry S. Connelly Jr., the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., called them “little goodies”…And…described how [cops]…could not wait to [steal] one man’s “exotic vehicle” outside a local bar…In September, Albuquerque, which has long seized the cars of suspected drunken drivers, began taking them from men suspected of trying to pick up prostitutes, landing seven cars during a one-night sting.  Arkansas has expanded its seizure law to allow the police to take cash and assets with suspected connections to terrorism, and Illinois moved to make boats fair game under its D.W.I. laws…In Mercer County, N.J., a prosecutor preaches the “gospel” that forfeiture is not just for drug arrests — cars can be seized in shoplifting and statutory rape cases as well…Officials offered advice on dealing with skeptical judges, mocked Hispanics whose cars were seized, and made comments that, the Institute for Justice said, gave weight to the argument that civil forfeiture encourages decisions based on the value of the assets to be seized…

Pimping the Pimp (TW3 #403) 

Annie Lobert of “Liars for Jesus” is back in the news again, and the source who pointed this story out to me has a bit more info on her.  It turns out she went by the stage name “Fallon” and used to work the casinos; she was never a streetwalker, never had a “pimp” (unless you count her current husband, Oz Fox of the Christian rock band Stryper) and has continually inflated her stories of beatings and the like for the past eight years.  Remember her “prostitution glossary“, in which she pretended agency escorts use terms cops claim are from the narrow little world of pimped streetwalkers?  Yeah.  Anyway, this “Destiny House” is actually the second mansion some would-be rescuer has allowed her to use; she lost the first one because she couldn’t prove her “charity” actually accomplished anything, and now that she’s about to lose this one she’s crying for public funding with the help of a reporter best known for Area 51 stories.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

Drawing Lines

Once again:  No, adding a camera won’t protect you from prostitution charges,  even though the distinction is total bullshit:

Porn stars get paid to have sex.  Prostitutes get paid to have sex.  But porn is legal, and prostitution is not.  And now porn stars are letting fans pay for the chance to have sex with them on camera…While at first glance the concept of someone bidding thousands of dollars…to have sex with a porn star in front of a video crew might seem like prostitution, adult industry experts say it’s not…Marc Randazza…explained that the differentiation between pornography and prostitution generally refers back to a 1988 California Supreme Court case, People v Freeman

See No Evil (TW3 #421) premature nursing

A picture showing a new mother breastfeeding her premature baby for the first time was removed by Facebook after a user complained it contained “offensive” nudity.  Emma Bond, 24, said she wanted to share the image of the “special moment” with Carene, who was born 12 weeks early…Facebook said breastfeeding photos have never been against the firm’s Community Standards, but nipples had to be covered or concealed.  It said the picture had been removed in error and had since been reinstated…Sarah Crown, editor of parenting website Mumsnet, said…”We have a problem with photos of women breastfeeding on Facebook because they involve breasts”…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #423)

Canada’s new anti-prostitution law was passed this week despite mountains of evidence of his harmfulness and unconstitutionality.  The city government of Vancouver has protested the new law, strongly implying that it will refuse to enforce it, and steadfast ally Joyce Arthur had this to say about it:

…The misnamed “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” will accomplish neither, because the main unwritten goal of the law, bluntly stated by Injustice Minister Peter MacKay, is to “abolish prostitution“…the law is a recipe for violence against sex workers, who]…will be pushed into more isolated areas, forced to work alone, pressured into rushing transactions, harassed by the police, less able to access social and health services, and subjected to increased stigma and discrimination.  New prohibitions on advertising will put many indoor workers onto the street…Kerry Porth…of Pivot Legal Society…said…”The new laws are so confusing that no one — not even the government itself — really knows what activities will be illegal and what will be legal”…a Charter challenge is all but certain. Sex workers will win again, this time for good.

If Men Were Angels

A…teacher [named Tariq Ahmad] is wanted [for]…the sexual abuse and rape of two female students at a private Islamic school in Florida…one…[needed] “substantial surgical repair”…the school knew about the alleged incidents, which happened between 2006 and 2008, but did nothing about them…

Safe Targets (TW3 #439)

Would he have been prosecuted if not for the Vice article?  Doubtful.

A Fairbanks man arrested…after a two-month investigation is accused of posing as a [cop] and trying to blackmail local prostitutes for cash…Jase O. Connors, 26…[is only in trouble because he’s] not a certified police officer…none of the victims who came forward to discuss the case…will face prosecution as a result of doing so…

Of course, now cops and prosecutors know their names and details.

Whore Detection

Note that she doesn’t question the prohibitionist laws that both reinforce this stigma and raise it from merely insulting to actually dangerous:

The online conversation about women of color being profiled as sex workers made me think about my own stories…I [am] a…twenty-something [black] woman [married to] a white man in his mid-thirties…[I get] propositions a few times each year…Stop Street Harassment…has found…that dark-skinned women are more likely than light-skinned women to be asked questions like, “How much?” by men in public spaces…

Banishment (TW3 #444)

Red Light Legal…has called on the Oakland City Council to repeal new rules allowing the city to force landlords to evict alleged prostitutes…the Oakland City Attorney’s Office…[pretends that] the city won’t actually use the legislation to target sex workers…[but rather only the] motels and hotels [they live in.  City Attorney Barbara] Parker…demanded [newspapers censor their truthful coverage of the law]…and print [city propaganda] instead, [vomiting out the myth that] “Prostitutes are…victimized and brutalized by the pimps, Johns, and others who prey on them and force them into that life“…Despite Parker’s [lies]…the law still leaves the door open [to persecute sex workers on the whim of cops or prosecutors]…

Man alone knows that he must die; but that very knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth.  –  George Santayana

It seemed to Sarah that Conclaves were getting closer and closer together, but she knew that was just an illusion of age; as one grows older it’s inevitable that the years seem to fly by more and more quickly.  All she had to do to remind herself that they were still as far apart as they had always been was to remember contemporary events:  when the last conclave was held the humans were plunging headlong into the madness of their First World War, and the time before that they were congratulating themselves on having got rid of that would-be Caesar from Corsica, unaware that he was about to stage a comeback.  And the time before that…Sarah sighed as she realized that she couldn’t remember.  Though the Elders had far longer lives than the humans they so closely resembled, their brains were no better; a humanoid brain can only hold so much information, and Elders above eight hundred or so began to find that older memories which hadn’t been accessed in a while were often quietly and unceremoniously dumped in order to make room for newer ones.  Of course, that only applied to healthy brains; the very old often went the opposite way, losing the ability to form new memories entirely and existing only in a twilight rooted in the experiences of centuries past.

Still, she wasn’t that old yet, and might never get there; medicines developed by human doctors worked just as well on their Elder cousins, and they were making great strides in the treatment of senile dementia.  By the next Conclave they’d probably have it licked. And Sarah was aging well; a human making a quick appraisal might’ve taken her for 40, and one who took the time to look at her hands and count her grey hairs would’ve called her a young-looking fifty.  Either one would have laughed at someone who told them she had been born at least one human generation before William the Conqueror.  Of course, not all of them aged so well; Aaron, for example, was almost four hundred years younger than she was, yet looked older than she did.  That was because his paternal grandmother had been human; his father aged more quickly still, and had passed away several Conclaves ago.  But what the halfbloods lacked in longevity, they made up for in virility; Aaron had at least seven siblings that Sarah knew of, and had himself sired three besides her daughter Deborah.  By contrast, her own brother Jacob had but one son to his credit, and she had never heard of any pure Elder, male or female, with more than three (and even that many was such a rarity it was occasion for the largest kind of celebration outside of the Conclaves).

Virility wasn’t the only reason halfbloods had no trouble finding partners, though; there was also that incredible human passion that no pureblood could match.  Sarah had often thought that perhaps all humanoids had only one measure of passion, which had to last the Elders for over a millennium but could be spent by humans in mere decades.  When Aaron had first seen her upon arriving at the meeting-place this morning, it was as though they had only parted as lovers three years ago rather than nearly three hundred; she had not been kissed so thoroughly since before his human kin had harnessed the power of steam, and though she knew his insistence that she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever known was a sweet lie intended to get her back into bed, it was more than convincing enough to win her consent.Mercury 7  Enoch had moved out to go over to America after becoming fascinated with their Space Program, and Deborah had been encouraging her to take a new lover for a few years now; wouldn’t she be confused if her father moved back in again, at least for a little while?  Sarah knew that was unlikely, though; Aaron seemed to be making the most of his remaining years, and rarely lived with his women any more.

She decided that after the Conclave, she’d go to visit her own father, whom she hadn’t seen since Deborah’s coming of age; he had never really liked Conclaves, and after the last one had declared them a “waste of time”, resolving never to go to one again.  It appeared he was as good as his word, because he would surely have sought her out if he was at this one.  But Sarah knew the real reason he wasn’t there:  he was a genealogist, and recognized better than most how their people were dwindling.  Every Conclave had smaller attendance than the one before, and every time the attendees were older.  While the ranks of the Younger Race burgeoned, the Elders couldn’t even replace themselves, and increasing numbers of halfbloods were choosing to live among and mate with humans, their bloodlines lost to the Elders forever.  In time, they would cease to exist as a separate race entirely, and they would be remembered only in human legends.  Though most of the Elders never thought about it, their wisest had understood and discussed it since soon after their short-lived kin had begun to build cities.  Since humans could never hope to see the future themselves, they strove all the harder to create things which would outlast them.  Since they could not live long enough to grow tired of life, they never lost their zeal for living.  And since they reproduced and came of age so much more quickly than their longer-lived kin, they had changed the face of the Earth more in the ten Elder generations since they had invented writing than the Elders had managed in all the eons before.  As in so many legends, the younger sibling had received a blessing that had allowed him to usurp the birthright of the elder; no power of Sarah’s people could possibly compare to the humans’ precious gift of mortality.

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