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New Excuse

The most dangerous prohibitionists…are those who oppose no particular behavior or thing, but rather the very freedom of choice itself.  –  “Thou Shalt Not

As I have pointed out many times in the past, all prohibitionism is the same:

…some object, substance or activity is depicted as intrinsically harmful regardless of context or actual outcome, a connection to children is invented if one does not exist, and the prohibitionists then argue that any abrogation of personal liberty (no matter how invasive) and any expansion of the police state (no matter how destructive, evil and counterproductive) is justified to stop the threat to Our Treasured Way of Life…

The primary tool used by prohibitionists to drum up support for their crusades is the Big Lie, a gigantic state-sponsored myth totally unsupported by facts which plays upon people’s primitive fears and tribalism to justify the criminalization of consensual behavior and the use of grotesque levels of state violence to suppress it.  For most of the 20th century the most aggressively-promoted campaigns of prohibition were those directed against intoxicants of one kind or another; first alcohol Prohibition, then the “War on Drugs“, were used to increase the power of the state to control, spy upon, harass, brutalize, rob, cage and murder its citizens, with the full approval of the useful idiots who never understand that once a weapon is forged, there is no way to stop government from expanding its use to persecute those who supported giving it to the government in the first place.

40 Years 0f Drug War FailureBut now, this abomination which has resulted in the deaths of many millions and the waste of several trillions is finally on the way to its long-overdue demise.  The week does not pass that some retired official or politician who fervently supported the depredations speaks out against it, governments all over the world are ponderously drifting away from drug-war policies, and one would be hard-pressed to find a reputable human rights or public health authority or organization which has not yet denounced the vile insanity of destroying the lives of large segments of the population in a futile attempt to stop them from enjoying themselves in a way the “authorities” disapprove of.  But most of the foes of prohibition, whether long-standing or Johnny-come-lately, are wrong in one vitally important respect:  many of them declare the Drug War a “failure”.  This is absolutely incorrect; prohibition can only be considered a “failure” if one accepts the rationale for it publicly promoted by politicians, that of actually stopping whatever it is the government claims it wants to stop.  But that isn’t the real reason for its existence, and never has been; if it were the government would surely have learned its lesson from alcohol Prohibition, and wouldn’t have begun its drug prohibition with those substances favored by three minority groups it wished to suppress (marijuana was favored in the Hispanic community, cocaine in the black community and opiates in the Chinese community).  Simply put, the Drug War exists as an excuse for expanding government power, and for no other reason.

But now, that excuse is not working any more; few well-informed older people and virtually no younger people believe the propaganda, and even those who do often recognize the ruinous costs of the suppression.  Within a few years, it is very likely that drug prohibition will be scaled down dramatically or even ended entirely, and good riddance.  This does not mean, however, that governments will give up the powers they have granted themselves; far from it.  There are police budgets to be justified, prisons to be filled, minorities to be suppressed, populations to be terrorized, surveillance powers to be expanded and rights to be eroded, and if the Drug War no longer serves to allow those things the rulers will have to replace it with something else: that “something” is “sex trafficking”.  I have often demonstrated the interchangeability of the rhetoric used to justify suppression of drugs and of prostitution, and Carol Fenton and others have pointed out that “sex trafficking” laws are usually built on “drug trafficking” laws, right down to the terms used and the penalties inflicted (such as asset seizure).  Gangs which were targeted for drug-war operations are now blamed for “sex trafficking”, and the most stories in which some cop vomits out propaganda onto a passive reporter or credulous audience now contain some variation on the claim that “gangs are now switching from drug trafficking to sex trafficking, because a quantity of drugs can be sold only once while a sex slave can be sold many times.”  The truth, of course, is that gangs are doing nothing of the kind; it’s just that the “authorities” are switching to a new excuse to justify their anti-gang campaigns.

police stateIn some places, the new “anti-trafficking” operations are being carried out by the same police units that are assigned to harass people for drugs; in Oklahoma, for example, the “Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs” is the entity assigned to persecute sex workers and spread the new propaganda, and they didn’t even bother to change its name.  Even in states and cities with a slightly higher opinion of their citizens’ intelligence, however, the situation is the same: cops, funds, resources, policies and even laws are being gradually reassigned from inflicting violence in the name of stopping one consensual behavior to inflicting it in the name of stopping a different one.  And this pattern will continue until society rids itself of the evil delusion that governments own the bodies and lives of individuals, and therefore have the right to harm or even murder them for behaving in some way those governments have arbitrarily prohibited.

The Wrong Track

In your posts I’ve read about how sex work is a performance.  Is a key part of the art of a courtesan, then, to make sure that it stays a performance and does not turn into real sexual desire and expression?  I am guessing that a key skill of sex work would be getting oneself to “turn on” at the right time without that arousal turning into too strong of a sexual connection.  Or am I on the wrong track?

train wreckI’m afraid you’re on the wrong track.  Unlike men, women don’t need to be “turned on” to perform; the majority of the time sex workers aren’t aroused during work sex at all, so there’s no danger of it turning into a “sexual connection”.  I know this is hard for a guy to grasp, because if you aren’t aroused penetration isn’t going to happen.  But a woman can simulate arousal without feeling it, and the majority of sex workers use lubricant even if they get wet because it’s better for condoms.  Of course arousal sometimes does happen, but for most sex workers it’s a minority of the time, and certainly not common enough for dealing with it to be considered a “key part”.

(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.)

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

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

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

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

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

Marijke Vonk is a Dutch sex-positive psychologist who specializes in working with sexual minorities; besides working as a therapist, she is a writer and lecturer on various topics concerning sexuality.   Since I discovered her blog a few months ago I’ve been repeatedly impressed by both her thoughts and the way she expresses them; if we had a thousand allies like her sex worker rights would be all but accomplished.  So naturally, I had to ask her to do a guest column for me!

When it comes to sex, the Netherlands is known as a tolerant country.  We’ve got marriage equality for same-sex couples, a usually laid-back attitude towards sexual diversity, famous red-lights districts and since 2000 legalised brothel-keeping.  But in recent years, the human trafficking panic has caught on and attitudes towards sex work have changed.  “The happy hooker does not exist” claimed Dutch politician Gert-Jan Segers, one of the initiators of new legislation to criminalise clients of sex workers.  “All prostitutes are forced” states Frits Rouvoet, an “expert” on sex work.  It’s interesting how these men will not change their minds, not even when numerous sex workers contact them to let them know they are indeed happy and not forced.

cops at brothelAs in the rest of the world, inflated numbers of incidences of trafficking are used to reduce sex workers’ rights.  The National Reporter on Trafficking in the Netherlands claims thousands of reported cases of possible victims of trafficking, but these reports include registration of non-sex worker women travelling alone (!) and sex workers visiting family abroad.  Even sex workers who buy new things, have a lot of friends or like their workplace are regarded with suspicion and reported as possible victims.  Sadly, these “thousands of reported cases” are repeated by politicians and NGO’s who claim more action (and money) is needed to combat this extensive problem.  When confronted with the inaccuracy of their claims they seem wholly uninterested.  “Maybe the problem is slightly exaggerated.  If that means we get more help for victims I have no moral objection”.

Most people involved in the Dutch rescue industry don’t seem to mean any harm towards sex workers themselves, they genuinely appear to want to help victims.  They don’t see the harm, and I think that’s where one of the major issues in Dutch sex workers’ rights lie.  They truly don’t see how their actions are harming both victims and sex workers.  And from a psychological viewpoint this makes sense:  it feels good to fight for a just cause, to help powerless innocent victims, to be one of the good guys.  Accepting that the “victims” not only refuse your help but are actually victimised by your actions causes a great deal of cognitive dissonance, something we all try to avoid.  It’s no wonder then that rescuers deny facts and sex workers’ experience, but their ignorance is far from harmless.

During recent raids on legal brothels hundreds of policemen violently forced their way into the workplace of twenty or thirty sex workers, smashing up their belongings, taking their earnings and bringing the women, their clients and anyone else near the establishment to police stations for questioning.  Scaring clients of sex workers is currently a popular method, not only by harassing them during raids but also by lying about the prevalence of forced prostitution: This has caused a noticeable drop in business for Eastern European sex workers in red light districts.  New legislation is being proposed to criminalise clients of sex workers when they “should have known” those sex workers are forced to work.  To be clear, sex with people who are obviously forced is of course already illegal and called rape.  But the major initiator of this new legislation is of the opinion that all sex workers are forced, this is simply a step towards end-demand laws.  Eastern European women are disproportionally stalked by police under the guise of anti-trafficking, they are followed around airports and stopped and questioned in public areas.  Prostitutes working from home are raided, their belongings confiscated and are even kicked out of their homes.  Necessary permits for brothel-keeping are impossible to get, which has resulted in a strong power imbalance between brothel-workers and the proprietors, a situation which almost begs for abuse and exploitation.  Sex workers have no legal way of arranging a work place for themselves.  The lies about trafficking and forced prostitution have resulted in increased funding of rescue organisations and ceased funding of sex workers’ rights organisations.  Actual victims are becoming more and more invisible under all the bloated claims, making them harder to reach.  Outside of the Netherlands the situation is even worse; anti-trafficking laws and regulations have hurt the position of sex workers and has increased police brutality towards sex workers.  Rescue organisations are currently the biggest perpetrators of human trafficking in the world, abducting women and girls from their homes and workplaces, keeping them in shelters against their will and forcing them to do manual labour under terrible circumstances and for a criminally low wage.

A stone bridge, Gapstow Bridge, in Central Park, NY.In order to change this, we need to make people see the harm they are doing.  But it’s difficult to convince people of the idea that they believe in lies and that their actions have resulted in the harm and even death of others.  In couples therapy I often explain the idea of “the golden bridge out” of a conflict.  If you and your partner disagree you need to give the other person a graceful way of admitting they are wrong; if the only way they can change their mind and agree with you is by agreeing they are a lying piece of garbage with no sense of empathy, they’re not going to agree.  Always give the other person a golden bridge out, a graceful way of changing their minds that doesn’t necessarily involve crushing their self worth.  I think we need such a bridge out for the antis, the rescuers, a graceful path for them to change their minds without having to state they were the bad guys.  They need a story in which their egos can stay intact.  They need a golden bridge out of their far from victimless crimes.

Links #214

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

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

From the Archives

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

Rough Trade Jason Oates

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

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

I just can’t imagine how it got there:

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

Check Your Premises

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

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

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

The Scarlet Letter

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

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

Saving Them From Themselves

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

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

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic Joshua Baron

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

An Example To the West

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

Stand-Up Guys 

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

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

Traffic Jam

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

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

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

First They Came for the Hookers…

These “complaints” are always from cops:

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

Yellow Fever

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

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

King of the Hill

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

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

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

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

I Saw My Brain

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

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

Dysphemisms Galore 

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

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

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

A Procrustean Bed (TW3 #339)

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

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

Vendetta

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

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

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

Remembrance (TW3 #410)

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

Traffic Jam (TW3 #415)

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

Facts in the Case of Monica JonesLaverne Cox

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

Prudesville

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 22nd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

There’s a persistent belief that some areas in the United States are more liberal and urbane than others, and while I suppose that’s true to some extent the differences are generally cosmetic.  It would be more accurate to say that some areas enjoy pretending to be more sophisticated than others, or at least that they delude themselves into believing they’re more sophisticated.  But pull back the curtains or lift the rug just a bit, and you’ll find the vilest and most disgraceful ignorance collected there, just out of view.

Seattle stereotypeTake the state of Washington, for example; it has a reputation for being very liberal, modern and forward-thinking, as exemplified by its being one of only two states to decriminalize recreational cannabis, and by being home to grunge rock, Microsoft and Starbucks.  But while Washingtonians may be very accepting of tech, drugs and rock and roll, they behave like pearl-clutching Victorians when the subjects is ess-ee-ecks and positively foam at the mouth if such impurity exists anywhere in close proximity to money.  For example, Washington is one of several states that forbid alcohol in strip clubs, and cities there regularly enact bizarre and schoolmarmish restrictions on lighting levels, the distance dancers must keep away from patrons, etc.  And when it comes to prostitution, they’re completely barking mad:

…some of the silliest, most absurdly exaggerated and just plain  stupidest “trafficking” tripe in the entire country erupts forth from the Pacific Northwest at least once a week these days…in the name of “fighting sex trafficking” the Washington legislature actually passed a law which would have totally destroyed the internet as we know it, and despite a federal slapdown they’re at it again; this is also the state which devotes hundreds of man-hours to trying to trick coffee-stand waitresses into flashing their tits so they can be charged with “prostitution”.  And who could forget the hilarity which ensued when Shared Hope International held a program warning high school girls, “Don’t run off to the other side of the country with strange adult men after turning over your life savings to them, because pimps are cool and abortion is sex trafficking”.  Or something like that…

white trash capital of the worldThe crusade against caffeine-dispensing harlots mentioned above is largely concentrated in Snohomish County, in other words suburban Seattle.  The police of the county’s largest city, Everett, are especially obsessed with the wanking fantasy that there are whores hiding in every coffee stand, and have aggressively persecuted a number of shops for years.  But they’ve apparently tired of this game, and decided to go after a bigger target:  rather than trying to “end demand” for coffee, they now want to regulate the sun on the grounds that it causes “sex trafficking”:

When the weather gets nicer in Everett, the number of suspected prostitute sightings increases…(the SUN) appears to be a strong factor in the increase in traffic.  Although, website traffic for prostitution maintains a steady pace throughout the year [sic].  We believe there is evidence that people are brought to Everett from neighboring states/counties by pimps…

I can’t help but be fascinated by this reporter’s idiosyncratic capitalization, fondness for sentence fragments and creative use of scare quotes:

…there are many factors that may lead someone into the “sex trade” and…some women are independent “workers”…

But the cops’ un-self-conscious hypocrisy is even more fascinating:

…There are many reasons and/or intricate layers involved for someone to enter the sex trade (either voluntarily or by force).  Drug addiction, mental health, lure of money, survival and forced/coercion just name a few [sic].  The bottom line:  Women are human beings; someone’s daughter, sister, mother or friend.  Treating them with respect and dignity is our priority…

Because deceiving, hunting, beating and caging a woman, subjecting her motivations for consensual behavior to state scrutiny, denying her right to choose her own work, thinking of her not as an individual but only in relation to some man, and referring to her normal economic needs with the dysphemistic phrase “lure of money”, constitute dignified and respectful treatment in the minds of Everett cops.  The rest of the article refers to other “end demand” practices embraced by the Everett police, including “Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution” orders, which are essentially similar to Britain’s ASBOs; in the United States, however, such practices are flagrantly unconstitutional and can only continue until challenged in court – which, needless to say, means they’ll probably be around until at least the end of the “sex trafficking” panic.

As I said at the beginning, there’s a persistent belief that some areas in the United States are more liberal and urbane than others; the actual truth is that they’re all pretty authoritarian and unsophisticated where sex is concerned.  It’s just that some places seem less aware of how ridiculous, childish, bluenosed and tight-arsed their anti-sex policies make them look to the adults of the world, and within those areas are cities which, due to being surrounded by normalized prudery, feel free to carry their priggishness to truly clownish levels.

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