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(This is the second of two parts; if you missed yesterday’s installment, go back and read it first!)

Hole in the Moon by Chesley BonestellAfter several agonizing minutes, Doc came on the line; I was relieved that his speech was unslurred.  “What can I do for you, my dear?”

“Doc, honey, what can you tell me about the slugs?”

“You mean the limaxomorphs?  We don’t know much about them yet; they spend most of their time submerged in the lakes, and don’t do much of interest when they’re basking.  We’ve never even found remains to examine, but long-distance scans seem to indicate a very simple bodily structure, much lower on the evolutionary scale than the earthly gastropods they resemble.”

“Could they be intelligent?”

“Mercy, no, dear girl; they don’t seem to have anything like a brain that we can detect, though again we would need to dissect one to be sure.  Still, we’ve never observed any behavior that would seem to indicate intelligence.”

“How about coordinated group activity?”

“That’s not really a sign of intelligence per se; ant and bee colonies have very sophisticated group behavior, but they’re not intelligent as we understand the term.”

“So, abducting women wouldn’t qualify?”

“Well, it depends; group hunting behaviors are not…wait, are you saying this isn’t a theoretical question?”

“Not as such, no.”

“They actually abducted you?  When?  How?  Where are you now?  What are they doing?”

“I’d call it dancing.”  While I had been talking, the slugs had seemed to become increasingly…well, excited, and sort of throbbed while swaying forward and backward.  And just as the Doc started to ask those rapid-fire questions, they had begun to slowly slide sideways in a circle around me, not getting any closer.  The ones who were not in direct proximity to me were still swaying and throbbing, as if to music I couldn’t hear.  And the weirdest part of the whole performance?  I wasn’t scared at all.

Dancing?”

“I took a lot of lessons as a girl, Doc; dancing would be the word I’d use.  Artistic expression through rhythmic movement.”

“That still doesn’t mean they’re intelligent; birds do mating dances, for example.”

“I don’t think they want to mate with me, Doc; I think they’re trying to communicate.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Call it a hunch.  I’m going to ring off now; I want to see how they react to that.  But don’t worry, I’ll call as soon as something changes, and I’ll answer if anyone calls me.”

When I broke the connection, they abruptly stopped moving; they did not resume when I started talking to myself out loud, but did when I called the club again.

“Tell Doc they’re sensitive to radio waves,” I told Frances, then “I’ll call when I learn anything else.”

The slugs were still again for quite some time, and I began to get a bit thirsty.  I hadn’t intended to be gone so long, so I hadn’t filled my water bottle; fortunately the air recirculator had recently been serviced, so I wouldn’t suffocate unless I stayed here for several days.  After a while I got up to stretch my legs; there was no reaction at all from my strange hosts.  It was as though the only thing that excited them was electromagnetic energy.

That stray thought gave me an idea, so I activated my built-in torch and played the light over the slugs in the front row.  The effect was almost immediate; they started to sway again for a few moments, then gorgeous ripples of color began to play over them as though someone were putting on a laser show.  The colors changed, brightened and dimmed and moved in waves from slug to slug, not stopping for an instant when crossing between individuals, as though they were all part of a greater whole…Say, what if they were?

“Frances, put Doc on again…Doc, could all the slugs be one creature?”

“You mean like a bee colony, many creatures bound together in a swarm?”

“Sort of, only more so; what if the slugs aren’t actually individuals at all, but simply cells connected together by telepathy or radio waves or something?”  I explained how they had reacted to my light, and as I spoke they began to do their dance again while the colors ebbed and flowed among them in intricate patterns, like unearthly flowers blossoming and dying on shifting dunes, or like silent fireworks merged with rolling waves.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life.

“I think you may be onto something, my dear!  If each limaxomorph is merely part of the greater whole…oh, my!”

“What?” I asked after a few moments of silence.

“They – or if we’re right, it – may assume that we’re connected to each other just as they are.  Perhaps your abduction was, to it, nothing more than a tap on collective humanity’s shoulder?”

“And the reason they – it – gets excited when I’m talking on the phone is that it believes I’m communicating to the rest of you like its cells communicate!  Yes, that must be it!  Doc, I’m going to try a few things here, so don’t get worried if I’m quiet for a while.”

“Understood.”

I rang off, and though I expected it I couldn’t help being disappointed when the color waves and dancing abruptly stopped.  So I turned on the light again, and was rewarded with the colors; I called a friend I knew wasn’t home, and the dance continued until her answering machine got tired of my talking nonsense and hung up on me.  Then I stood up again, and started moving toward the entrance; the slugs didn’t budge.  Clearly, I wasn’t going to get out of here until it was satisfied that we had understood whatever it was trying to say.

Sometime after midnight I fell asleep, but I didn’t sleep well; I was haunted by nightmares of an immense, formless something peeling off my clothes and trying to get into my skull via my ears.  Doc called once and Frances twice, and though the slug-collective responded as usual to the calls, it didn’t do anything else.

If you’ve never slept in a spacesuit, I have some advice for you:  Don’t.  They’re not made for it, and you’ll ache all over and be grumpy all the next day.  So I was in absolutely no mood to deal with the first phone call of the morning, Marshal McBusybody himself.

“What is going on, Miss Trevor?  I called your office and they said you were out.”

“You expected the owner of a nightclub to be awake at 0900?”

“Not really, but I heard that you left in a huff last night, never came back, and that Dr. Robinson spent the entire evening in your office.”

“So you’re spying on me, too?  I don’t think that’s playing strictly by the rules, Marshal.”

“You still haven’t answered my question; what exactly is going on?”

blonde in retro spacesuit“Ask your spies,” I said, and hung up.  Frances would get an earful from me later for letting him bully her into giving out my personal phone code.  I had rather hoped that an angry conversation would cause a different reaction in the slugs, but no such luck; they reacted exactly the same way as before, and stopped when the call did.  I tried explaining to them/it that I was hungry, exhausted, cramped and dying for a cigarette, and that I really despised having to take care of personal business in a spacesuit, but it was no use; I wasn’t even sure they could hear me.

The morning dragged on, and though I tried everything from semaphore with my suit light to my best Ginger Rogers impression (or the closest to it I could get in space boots), the only reactions I got were the same ones I had before.  Then at 11:37 I heard the amplified voice of my new adversary calling down from above, and the slugs didn’t seem to like him any more than I did.

“MISS TREVOR, THIS IS MARSHAL McBAIN.  ARE YOU DOWN THERE?”

“Of course I’m down here, you imbecile!  You obviously used a robohound to track me to this hole in the ground, so where did you think I’d be?  In Detroit?”

“ARE YOU IN ANY IMMEDIATE DANGER?”

“If I were in immediate danger, I’d have been dead hours ago!  Any more stupid questions?”

“WE’RE GOING TO LOWER YOU A LINE.”

“You do that.  Is Doc with you?”

“I’m here, dear girl!” he shouted down.  “This is amazing; we had no idea there were this many of them in the area!”

“Yeah, well try to keep Captain Gungho there from killing ‘em all until I get upstairs,” I said as I adjusted the sling around my torso; “I think I know what they want.”

Later in his office, I tried to drive my theory into the marshal’s thick skull.  “Look, it’s not that complicated.  If Doc and I are right, the slugs are one big creature.  Not just in that lake, but all over Titan; your men found slime trails leading out in every direction from that cave.  One single creature, spread out over a whole world.”

“So?”

“So how do you think you’d feel if you were the only intelligent creature on a whole planet, with nobody else to talk to?  And what if another creature came along that was so different from anything you knew, that you at first thought it wasn’t intelligent, but then you realized it might be?  Wouldn’t you try to talk to it?”

“I suppose I would.”

“Well of course you would, Marshal!  And let’s say it ignored your first few attempts…”

“What attempts?”

“Who knows?  It could’ve been sending out all kinds of signals we didn’t recognize as communication, right Doc?”

“Indubitably.”

“Like he said.  So wouldn’t you eventually get frustrated and go to even greater lengths to attract the stranger’s attention?  Try to talk to her?  To impress her with your charm and personality?”

“You think the slugs were flirting with you?” he asked incredulously, and with undisguised disgust.

“Not with me, Marshal, with us.  It’s one big organism, more than the sum of its parts, so naturally it thinks humanity is as well.  Heck, maybe it’s even right, in a way.  But you seem to think loneliness is all about sex; it’s not, you know.  Not for slugs, and not for humans, either.”

He looked at me for a long time before speaking.  “Perhaps I misjudged you, Miss Trevor.  You may be more of an asset to this colony than I had at first imagined.”

“We all do that sometimes, Marshal; until last night, we thought the slugs were just mindless bottom-feeders.  It takes a big person to admit he misjudged somebody or something.”

For the first time since I’d met him, I saw a slight smile crack his face.  “Well, I hope we still see a lot of each other.”

I blew smoke in his direction and smiled back. “Count on it.”

The 1920s and ’30s were the heyday of the pulps, cheaply-produced magazines crammed with new fiction in almost every genre imaginable.  They were the forerunners of comic books and, in a way, of television and video games in that they provided affordable entertainment and tried to reach every possible niche market.  Like their modern successors, they were often condemned by critics as lowbrow, but had a certain undeniable charm; many of the best stories are still read and anthologized today.  This story was based on a dream I had on my first night in New Orleans at the end of my recent tour; perhaps it was inspired by a poster of sci-fi pulp covers Denise had on the wall of the guest room.  Though modern science has rendered its setting highly dubious, I ask that you approach it as readers approached those old tales from nearly a century ago:  as an imaginative tale of adventure on a fantastic world.

Saturn as Seen from Titan by Chesley Bonestell (1952)Every time I looked up at that spectacular view of Saturn, I congratulated myself on having had the good sense to invest in topside property.  Though it had meant a heavy mortgage, the expenditure of every penny I’d made my first year on Titan, and the calling-in of every favor I had accumulated, it was totally worth it; nearly every visitor to the colony preferred my club to the ones down in the red-light district, as did every local with any poetry in his soul.  Sure, it meant I had to charge more for drinks and house fees, and to maintain a more discreet atmosphere than the anything-goes places in the backstreets.  But you know what?  I never liked working in that kind of place, and I’ll be damned if my name was going to be attached to one.  I could never have afforded the rent or the bribes to own a place this classy on Earth, but here it was still wide open for a gal with a little bit of business savvy and a lot of what Mama Nature gave her.

That’s not to say that I didn’t breathe a little sigh of relief every time I sat down with my books and saw loads more black ink than red.  While it’s true that there are few things more dependable than gents’ desire for booze and female company when they’re months away from population centers with a more even distribution of the sexes, it’s also true that hospitality is always a precarious business and a proprietor always needs to be aware of developments that might queer the whole deal faster than sunset on Ceres.  And on the particular night of which I’m about to tell you, one such development walked through my door and none-too-politely requested my company.  Well, demanded is maybe a better word.

Said development was about 190 centimeters tall, wore a badge and a blaster and looked a helluva lot like Fred McMurray; I mean the young Double Indemnity Fred McMurray, not the old Disney-comedy one.  Which is kind of a funny coincidence, because I’ve often been told I look a lot like the young Barbara Stanwyck.  By the time I excused myself from mingling and reached the office, he was looking through my file cabinet.

“Didn’t your mama ever tell you it’s not polite to riffle through a lady’s drawers without her permission?” I asked from the doorway, projecting a nonchalance I did not feel.

“You’re required to keep these available for inspection on demand; I’m demanding.”

I shrugged.  “Suit yourself.  You’ll find they’re all in order; I pay my lawyer and my CPA to make sure they are.  In fact, I could’ve delivered ‘em to your office and saved you the trouble of coming all the way across town.”

“I wanted to look the place over for myself.  You know this sort of business isn’t supposed to be operating on the surface; you appear to have been grandfathered in somehow, but I want you to know that I’ll be watching, and if this place becomes a nuisance…”

I was sitting at the desk by this point.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance too, Marshal,” I said, blowing smoke in his direction before stubbing the cigarette out in the ashtray.  “I get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

“Count on it,” he said, slamming the door on his way out.  I will not record what I said the moment he was gone, because I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m unladylike.

Though I learned long ago to keep control of my temper when dealing with men, I was boiling inside and knew it would be a mistake to go back to the floor right then.  So I left things in the capable hands of my assistant Frances, put on my thermal suit and decided to go for a walk along the lakeshore.  Now, if you’ve never been to Titan (and let’s face it, that’s probably a safe assumption), I should probably explain that the lakes, rivers, swamps and seas here aren’t made of water but of a liquid hydrocarbon mixture; it would probably smell like tar or gasoline, but since you need a helmet to go outside I can’t be sure.  If you absolutely have to know, ask a chemist.  Anyhow, the native life seems to like it all right; the shallows of the lake swarm with bugs during the day, and even at night you can hear lots of things moving around in the water.  Oil.  Benzene?  Oh, you know what I mean.

McMurray & StanwyckI was plenty mad when I left the dome, and by the time I had cooled off I had walked about three kilometers beyond the end of the well-travelled path.  Not that I was worried, mind you; humans are by far the largest animals on Titan.  The second-largest is a kind of giant slug massing about 30 kilos, and I suddenly realized I had walked right into the middle of a much larger aggregation of them than I’d ever seen or heard of.  They like to lie in the mud sunning themselves during the day, in groups of maybe a few dozen at a time, but it was rare to see ‘em at night.  Yet here I was, surrounded by hundreds of the slimy things; though they are usually very shy and always flee the approach of humans by sliding into the lake, these weren’t moving at all and I bet Doc Robinson would’ve given a month’s pay to trade places with me right now because what had made me stop and wake up to my surroundings was nearly putting my foot in one.

Doc could’ve saved his money, though, because I’d have gladly traded places with him for free.  Yeah, they were harmless…but this was a much larger grouping than anybody had ever seen in one place, and at night to boot; it gave me the heebie-jeebies, and I decided that even the company of the new marshal would be preferable right now.  But as I turned back, I realized that there was no place to go; the slugs had slithered onto the path behind me, and I couldn’t move from the spot where I was standing without stepping on one.  I don’t scare easy, but let me plop you down alone on another planet, surrounded entirely by shapeless aliens, and let’s see if you do any better than I did.  I was totally terrified, and I guess I must’ve had my oxygen valve turned a bit too low for the combination of exertion and excitement because when they started closing in and actually crawling up my legs I passed out.  Aw, who am I trying to kid?  Like the heroine of a Victorian melodrama, I fainted.

By the time I opened my eyes again, my radiophone’s readout said 23:14; I had only been out for maybe half an hour, but my surroundings were completely different and I shuddered when I realized the slugs must’ve dragged me here.  I wasn’t sure where “here” was, exactly, but it looked like a cave and the rocks were wet with slime.  The entrance was above, so there was plenty enough Saturn-light for me to see that the group which had captured me was only a small fraction of the number here; there must have been thousands.  Though I was still petrified they hadn’t actually harmed me (except for the nice new grey hairs I had probably sprouted), and in fact were giving me a wide berth; the only bad thing was the unshakeable feeling that they were looking at me (despite the fact that they lack any visible sensory apparatus at all).  After about ten minutes of calming myself, I decided to risk the radiophone; Frances answered.

“Hiya doll.  Keeping things together over there?”

“Janet?  Where in blazes are you?  You’ve been gone for over two hours!”

“No time to explain now.  Is Doc Robinson still there, and sober?”

“Yes and mostly.  You want me to get him on the phone?”

“Please.”  The slugs hadn’t moved; could they hear, or detect radio waves, or both?  If so, they didn’t seem overly concerned.

(What do the slugs want with Janet?  And even if she escapes them, how will she deal with the new marshal?  Be here tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!)

Links #219

We cannot turn a blind eye to these violations.  –  Chuck Sykes

I’ve got a couple of animation videos for you this week; the first one is a short documentary from the planning stages of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the second another installment of The Kronies (a series mocking fascism by casting crony capitalists as ’80s superhero toys).  The links above the first video  are from Jason Kuznicki, and those between the videos from Michael Whiteacre  (“headline”), Lucy Steigerwald (“stranger danger”), Scott Greenfield (“purdah”),  Rick Horowitz (“libertarianism”), Jesse Walker (“Stonehenge”), Grace (“cat lovers”), and Popehat (“cycling”).

From the Archives

To believe that we can eliminate sex work…without…affecting other industries…operates on the assumption that sex work happens in isolation—that what happens on the back page doesn’t affect the front, when, in fact, it’s financing the whole operation.  –  Alexandra Kimball

Think of the Children!

The Telegraph‘s headline writer obviously doesn’t know the meaning of the term “graphic novel”:

A council worker who wrote a “raunchy” novel was sacked from her job at a children’s centre after complaints from parents who compared the book to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Bettina Bunte…was…told…that her book damaged the reputation of the…centre…

Five Women in Whitechapel Russell Edwards with supposed Ripper shawl

You’ve probably heard all the hubbub about Jack the Ripper being “definitely” identified by DNA testing of a shawl supposedly found next to the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes (cue Maggie’s goose pimples).  Unfortunately, we’ll still have to put up with the endless speculation for a while yet:

…Leaving aside…the claim that the shawl was never washed or cleaned at any time during the past 126 years, the biggest problem in carrying out such sensitive DNA analysis is the question of cross contamination…When other labs have worked on the ancient DNA of important samples…they have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the possibility…They have also worked…“blind”…to ensure they do know which sample they are analysing in order to avoid unwitting prejudice…None of this, as far we know, has been done in this case.  Dr Louhelainen may be satisfied that he has found the culprit, but many other scientists are not, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique…“An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants”…Sir Alec [said, adding]…“Kosminski was long regarded as by far the most likely perpetrator.”

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

[Florida cop James Yacobellis, who was]…busted in a…sting of a Boca Raton Asian massage parlor…isn’t a stranger to trouble…in one instance…he…[threatened] a suspect by putting him in a bathtub, turning on the faucet, and pointing his taser…between October 2011 and February 2013, Yacobellis was on paid leave while [other] allegations were being investigated.  He was still drawing a $87,000 a year salary…In nine years, Yacobellis was involved in six …internal affairs investigations.

Perquisites

Funny how the truth doesn’t get as much press as silly lies about sports:

…So far there are about 13,000 delegates lined up to attend 18 events when the Nova Centre opens in 2016.  Local sex workers expect that will make business busier than usual.  “A lot of businessmen have an entertainment allowance”…said one Halifax-based sex worker.  “Out-of-town clients are about 60 percent of the business right now.”  Business travellers are why one local sex worker allows clients to pay by credit card—with the nature of the transaction concealed.  “A lot of them will use [their company credit card] or write it off as a business expense,” she says…

The Law of Averages 

It’s good to see this in as mainstream a publication as The Atlantic:

There is little basis for the claim that 13…is the age that most sex workers begin working in prostitution.  It’s hard to pin down where exactly the…claim originated, partly because it’s so often repeated without a citation or context…Most organizations, if they refer to a source at all, reference [the Estes & Weiner] study…Most current government and nonprofit policies on sex work define their goals as “rescue,” which makes perfect sense if the age-of-entry statistic is central to your understanding of the sex industry…But…in reality, many sex workers come into the industry as adults and without coercion…

StruwwelpeterAuthor Chris Hall does discuss the Silbert & Pines study, but does not mention Melissa Farley’s distortion of their data.

Presents, Presents, Presents! 

Daz sent two presents while I was on the road, so I only saw them after I got home last week!  One was Acolytes of Cthulhu, and the other Struwwelpeter (in English).  Thank you so much!

Confined and Controlled

Another idiot who doesn’t understand the bottleneck effect and thinks women are too stupid and weak to be allowed to manage our own sexuality:

A mayoral candidate says he wants Ottawa to be the “test city” for legalizing prostitution and is in favour of legalized bordellos.  Darren W. Wood…says he wants prostitution to be “tightly controlled and highly taxed” as a means of protecting sex workers and generating revenue…Under his proposal, sex workers would be…regularly checked for sexually transmitted infections, protected from pimps and johns via an onsite security system and fined or jailed if they are working without a license…

The Last Thirteen for Fourteen

Here’s another excellent column from Marijke Vonk; this one’s on how to be a good ally to sex workers:

…By vocally supporting sex workers we can challenge the  assumptions of the people around us…As professionals, academics, social workers, educators or people in a position of social power we can…even influence legislative reform…It can be scary to openly disagree with the current discourse of sex workers as either victims or dirty whores who were asking for it, but as a non-sex worker you have the privilege of staying relatively safe as you speak out about these injustices…

The Public Eye

Pop singer Lowell spent some time as a stripper in Canada…[but while] a lot of singers might cover up that past…it became immediately obvious that she has nothing to hide…She’s been [drawing on her stripping and bisexuality]…since her brilliant 2013 EP, I Killed Sarah V(Sarah Victoria was her name when she was a dancer).  She told Rolling Stone, “There can be something really empowering about [stripping]…by making it taboo, we alienate these girls and allow…victimization to happen.”  It’s important to bring those kinds of ideas into the mainstream…


Feminine Pragmatism (TW3 #133)

You’d almost think reporters were historical ignoramuses who didn’t know that up until a century ago, the professions of actress and whore were indistinguishable:

Shweta Prasad, one of India’s best known former Bollywood child stars, has been arrested for prostitution…she said…she and many other actresses had been lured into prostitution when Bollywood roles dried up and the money ran out.  She had not found a film role in eight years…Inspector P Murali Krishna…said…“We are treating her as a victim and she’s been sent to a rehabilitation home.  We have arrested the person who exploited her”…

A 23-year-old woman voluntarily doing productive work is an “exploited victim”, but she wasn’t at all exploited when others pimped her in movies at the age of 11.  But in India, unlike the US, some are willing to point out the truth:

…the law clearly says that the practice of selling…sexual service is…not a crime…the actress…had not been coerced, kidnapped or tricked…but had chosen this from among the options available to her…the media [should] refrain from gleefully jumping in with police stings that are unauthorised and illegal…it wasn’t the activities of the actress that were illegal but the actions of the police…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Canadians feminists prove themselves just as obsessed with trivia as their sisters in the mother country:

A Vancouver catering company that offers sushi served on women’s naked bodies is sparking controversy among feminists who call the practice disgusting and degrading…“We’re not hijacked into doing this,” [said] Vancouver model Jessica Perry…Naked Sushi…offers nyotaimori— the Japanese practice of serving sashimi or sushi on a naked female body adorned with strategically-placed flowers and leaves…women’s rights activists are asking health officials to shut [it] down…the health authority does not have jurisdiction over the catering company as it serves its sushi after the food is prepared in an approved kitchen…

My First Million (TW3 #343)

I reached a total of three million page views soon after 2:30 PM CDT Thursday.  Thanks so much to all the readers who have helped make this blog a success! 3,000,000

O, Canada! (TW3 #405) 

Cop gets in trouble for unofficially doing the same thing other cops do officially:

Six guilty verdicts…against an Ottawa [cop] who…repeatedly…[accessed] confidential police records for personal reasons could result in dismissal.  Sgt. Rohan Beebakhee…took it upon himself to book dates with escorts, showing up in full uniform and having what he called a “safety briefing” with sex trade workers…He would often bring along junior officers…An internal affairs investigator…ordered in 2011 that Beebakhee stop all contact with escorts.  He didn’t…Beebakhee…was charged with sexual assault…in 2007 [but the] charge was withdrawn in 2009…

Property of the State

Note that at 12 weeks abortion is totally legal:

A [Montana] woman…is now facing a felony criminal endangerment charge for putting her unborn child at risk by taking illegal drugs.  Casey Gloria Allen, 21…[tested] positive for the presence of benzodiazapines, THC, and opiates…Allen is 12 weeks pregnant…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #423) 

Excerpt from a press release by Terri-Jean Bedford:

This afternoon I testified before the Senate Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs.  I gave my speech and then was ejected from the question and answer session for failing to stop speaking when the Chair asked me to.  I apologize for losing my temper.  I was barely able to read my speech because I was so angry at the government for parading victims with repeated irrelevant information and then organizations who were shilling for government handouts on which they are dependent.  The shameful use of victims by the government in this process, and their disregard for life by ignoring court findings, refusing to listen to their own legal staff and refusing to answer questions from legitimate sources made me snap…

If Men Were Angels

So now joining a cult is “sex trafficking” too?

Four members of [an Israeli] messianic group have been arrested on charges of kidnapping young women and forcing them into prostitution …the group would control women with a combinations of drugs, alcohol and heavy brainwashing techniques and convince them to have sex in exchange for money…Police allege that the girls were taught that “lying with non-Jews would hasten the redemption” of the Jewish people and that by having sex with non-Jews, the girls would purify them and bring back their “holy sparks” to Israel…

Divided We Fall (TW3 #427)

Another good call for Canadian queers to oppose criminalization:

The government…[has] a…history of criminalizing consensual sex to promote the majority’s sexual morality.  Think of the ban against gay sex, lifted in 1969.  Nobody suggests that ban really changed people’s desire to engage in gay sex or reduced its incidence.  Instead, it cast a stigma and criminal status over a class of individuals [and]…impaired their ability to participate as full and equal members of society.  It also made people who had gay sex vulnerable to blackmail and less able to seek police protection when threatened…If you are a trans person…many obstacles still face you in Canada.  But if you are gay or lesbian…it’s a good place to be…[because] of political and legal struggles over past decades.  The beneficiaries of these reforms have a responsibility to fight a law that flies in the face of our experience…the commitment to sexual justice that underlay our earlier struggles entails fully decriminalizing adult sex work.

Bait and Switch

You can bet that “minor child” in this context actually means “young woman above the age of consent but below 18″:

…Timothy S. Griesemer was found guilty of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and…faces up to life in prison…he sent a text message to a female acquaintance indicating he was looking for a minor child.  The woman contacted…police who…[called] the U.S. Secret Service…

Another Fine Mess

More about the long pre-internet history of sex work advertising:

…There is no question that online advertising has transformed the sex industry, but in fact, ads for sexual services are far from endangeredWhile most sex workers are online…many also use free dailies and weeklies to reach markets that aren’t as amenable to the Internet…online ad sites [are also more] vulnerable to government shutdowns…and…clients who are wary of online transactions are liable to see escorts with print ads as less likely to cheat or scam them…

Buyer’s Remorse

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 10th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Buyer's RemorseMost people have probably had the experience of buying something and regretting it later.  Sometimes it’s because the product is substandard, or because it was deceptively advertised and turned out not to be what the buyer expected.  Sometimes one simply gets caught up in the moment, as at an auction or while on a shopping trip with friends, and then feels differently once one is out of that situation.  And sometimes one spends the money while locked in the grip of powerful drives, like hunger or lust, and later experiences remorse over buying overpriced food products or dropping a lot of money on porn or sex workers.  In most cases, no harm is done; the buyer can simply return the unwanted item for a refund.  When the regretted purchase is an ephemeral, however (such as dinner, a show or sex), returning it simply isn’t possible; the ethical person chalks it up to experience and perhaps learns his lesson, but other, less moral types scheme to steal the money back.

Nearly every sex worker has encountered buyer’s remorse at some point in her career; dishonest workers who are better at the sale than the performance  encounter it frequently, but even the best, most conscientious whore sees it from time to time.  Part of it is the nature of male sexuality; some men lose all judgment and perspective while in the throes of desire, and do things they wouldn’t if the “big head” were fully in control.  In the worst cases they may rape, molest or otherwise violate someone; in lesser cases, they might commit career- or marriage-ending indiscretions of the sort that keep blackmailers in business.  And in the situations sex workers encounter, they simply spend more money than a more prudent man would have…which might possibly attract the attention of a wife or employer.

Even in cases where the money isn’t really an issue, some men are overcome by feelings of guilt or shame after release.  Such a client may go from enthusiastic and outgoing to withdrawn and unfriendly; the conversation which was so effortless suddenly becomes labored or ceases entirely, and an invisible wall suddenly goes up between him and his date.  In an incall situation, he will hastily dress and leave immediately; in an outcall he will try to get the escort to do the same.  Sometimes such a man will even rush for the bathroom in order to place a physical barrier between himself and the focus of his shame, or will become blatantly rude in order to drive her out all the more quickly.  A few rare outliers might even become violent and/or attempt to steal the fee back, but even among those a reaction this extreme is highly unusual:

A dominatrix and two friends accused of holding one of her clients hostage and “torturing” him have been cleared of all charges…the alleged victim [claimed he]…was held at knifepoint…forced to dance around in…women’s underwear and clean his face with a toilet brush…while being filmed.  The man claimed he had gone to the home of…Sinead Nijjer…under the impression she was willing to have sex with him for free, having twice previously paid £50 pounds for oral sex.  He told the jury that when he got to her flat…he was jumped on by two men…and…subjected to the embarrassing ordeal, which included him being forced to suck Ms Nijjer’s toes and being told his…“penis would be cut off”…[he further claimed] his captors threatened to release the video footage unless he paid them…[but] he was able to escape when he exaggerated breathing difficulties he was having and one of his alleged captors called 999…Miss Nijjer [explained] the alleged victim had come to her flat…for a [domination] session which he refused to pay for…The victim denied making up the story to cover up his embarrassment at being found by paramedics in…women’s underwear…[and] that he had faked the panic attack to get out of paying…

remorseIt doesn’t surprise me that this outlandish drama came as the result of buyer’s remorse over a fetish session; though the shame reactions I described above were often connected to vanilla dates, in my experience they were more common in kink or fetish sessions.  This should surprise no one; though vanilla sex is loaded down with culturally-inflicted shame and paid sex even more so, kink is burdened with the greatest weight of it.  And if even ordinary sex can provoke such strong rejection of the sex worker in some clients, that might be all the more true of someone who craves humiliation, but got more of it than he bargained for.

Grace’s Chili

Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.  –  Harry James

One of the things I really missed on the road was my own cooking.  I don’t mean that in a vain sense, as though my cooking was better than everyone else’s; what I mean is that I am, as I reminded y’all on Tuesday, a creature of habit, and it feels weird to go that long without cooking.  It’s part of the rhythm of my life, something that shapes my days, and my husband and Grace will both attest to the fact that no matter how tired I am or how busy my day, I insist on preparing a proper evening meal for my family unless I’m either too ill to stand up or we’ve already planned to do something else.  In fact, when I arrived home a week ago today I insisted on fixing dinner, despite having just driven for more than eight hours; it was part of the process of re-orienting myself to my normal life.  That’s not to say that Grace couldn’t have done it; she’s a competent cook herself, and though her repertoire is very limited she does what she does very well.  Today I’d like to share her recipe for chili; though I’m the one who cooks it for us nowadays, she developed it all by herself over 20 years ago and in my opinion it’s the best chili ever.

3# (1.4 kg) ground beef
2 (8 oz/225 g) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz/170 g) cans tomato paste
2 sauce cans water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-tel tomatoes)
1 medium onion, minced
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) granulated garlic*
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) prepared brown mustard
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sage
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) mace
Tabasco sauce to taste

*If you don’t have granulated garlic, use half as much garlic powder or twice as much finely-minced garlic or garlic flakes.

Brown ground meat thoroughly in a large, deep skillet, then add onions and saute until tender.  Transfer to a large pot and add all other ingredients, stirring well after each addition.  Simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with crackers.

You will notice that the recipe contains no beans; that’s because we prefer beanless chili.  If you like beans, there is an additional step which must be performed first:  in a large pot cover one pound of pinto beans with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour.  Then drain the beans completely and add two liters of fresh water; bring water to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 90 minutes.  At the end of this precooking process, drain the beans again and add them to the chili with all the other ingredients; increase the chili’s cooking time to 90 minutes or until the beans reach the desired degree of tenderness (it won’t hurt the chili to cook longer).

One thing that’s really good about this chili is that when prepared as directed it’s spicy, but not blisteringly hot; however, it’s really easy to turn up the heat if so desired.  You could use the hot Ro-tel tomatoes instead of the original ones, use a hotter type of chili powder (or increase it to three tablespoons), use hot Hungarian paprika instead of the mild Spanish variety, substitute red pepper for the black, substitute horseradish for the brown mustard or increase the amount of Tabasco…or if you really like to live dangerously, all of the above.  The recipe makes enough for six people (nine if you make it with beans), but it also freezes well so don’t hesitate to try it even if there are only two of you.

New and Improved

It seems to me that since sex doesn’t invariably lead to procreation any more, we have a lot of mumbo jumbo about “emotional commitment” and such.  Why is sex supposed to be for fun when you are young and single, but then when you get married it is supposed to take on some sacred, personal significance such that you don’t do it with anyone else?

Reed warbler and cuckoo chickFor most of recorded history, female marital fidelity was more important than male for the simple reason that we always know who a baby’s mother is, but until recently had no way of being sure of the identity of the father.  Since most men were repulsed by the idea of spending their resources on (and even leaving their property to) a cuckoo in the nest, a woman’s “purity” and “chastity” became the ancient world’s version of a credit rating; just as the latter helps to convince lenders that a modern person will pay back credit which has been extended him, so the “purity rating” helped to convince men with resources to invest them in a woman and her children.  Originally, women without such a rating weren’t shunned or stigmatized; they simply weren’t considered good marital prospects.  But as the centuries wore on such “purity” went from being a bonus to being a necessity, and the lack of it became a mark against a woman’s character (much as poor credit is becoming in our modern society).  By the Victorian Era, the emphasis on chastity had spawned the notion that proper women were totally asexual, and female sexuality thus became a sign of either bad breeding or psychological/spiritual damage.

For all this time, male fidelity was never important to society as a whole because children’s maternity was never in question; it wasn’t until the appearance of that peculiar blend of pseudoscience, authoritarianism and Christian moralism we call “progressivism” that anyone other than Christian clergy and wronged women really gave a damn about male sexual behavior.  Progressive thought held that if only “experts” educated in “scientific” methods of social engineering (including eugenics and control of the foods and other substances people ingested) could gain control of society, the human race could be “perfected” and we’d all live in a Utopia.  First-wave feminists embraced this excuse to mind everyone else’s business, and one of the main goals of the resulting “social purity” movement was inflicting the societal expectation of female asexuality on men as well (because sex is dirty and nasty and a “superior” man wouldn’t want it).  An avalanche of busybody laws followed, including the first widespread criminalization of sex work and alcohol, and if it weren’t for the Nazis giving eugenics a bad name it would no doubt still be just as popular as prohibitions against certain substances and sex acts (which are its ideological siblings).

Some rather ignorant people believe that these Victorian growths are things of the past, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Oh, they were tweaked somewhat in the middle decades of the 20th century, but the basic notion that members of the ruling class have the right to inflict violence upon everyone else “for their own good” is so useful a tool of control they’ll never let it go until it’s ripped from their cold, dead, severed hands.  Alcohol prohibition was scaled back somewhat, but violent pogroms against users of other intoxicants were piled on top of it; the insistence that “official” sexual relations be licensed was replaced by sanction of unlicensed but noncommercial relations coupled with violent repression of commercial ones and the expectation that “immature” non-monogamous relations would eventually give way to serial monogamy based on romantic “love”.  Furthermore, the party of the first part (hereinafter referred to as “the individual”) agrees that the party of the second part (hereinafter referred to as “society”) has the right to discourage “immature” pleasure-based relations by propaganda, shaming, pseudoscience about “sex addiction” and “negative secondary effects”, criminal prosecutions of sexual encounters that for one reason or another violate the expectations of one or more of the participants or uninvolved bystanders, or any other method society cares to introduce at a later time in perpetuam; the individual further agrees to internalize society’s discouragement of such “immature” relationstoilet plunger by a date not to exceed that of the individual’s thirtieth birthday or date of his or her first legally-contracted marriage, whichever comes first.

I think you get the picture.  Society hasn’t actually changed its old, repressive ways; in fact, it has actually expanded them and repackaged them in a different-shaped box with a colorful, “modern” wrapper in the hopes that you won’t notice that the same old oppression is still being rammed down your throat with a toilet plunger.

(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.)

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