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A Look at the Works

We are hardly ever grateful for a fine clock or watch when it goes right, and we pay attention to it only when it falters.  –  the 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Every so often I get an email or series of “tweets” that causes me to shake my head and wonder whether the author has been paying attention at all at any time in the past four years.  Now, I’m not talking about communications from new readers or from non-readers who just read one column or even one “tweet”; rather, I mean people I’ve corresponded with before who have (presumably) been reading here for a while and should know how I do things.  Recently, I had several such incidents, so I think it would be worthwhile to address the points that somehow seem to have escaped some folks.

clockwork girlFirst, it appears that I need to spell out some details about advice letters (again).  It seems as though some people have made it several decades into their lives without quite understanding how an “agony aunt” column works, so I’ll reiterate and add details specific to mine.  Since there are many different, competing demands on my time (especially while on tour), I cannot promise that I will always get to advice emails quickly.  I understand that people who write are often upset or even suffering, and I really do try to answer every letter as quickly as possible.  Usually that’s within a few days, but while I’m travelling it can be longer; some letters that arrived in July took me almost six weeks to answer.  Yes, I could dash off a quick response, but I hardly think that’s what anyone wants unless the question only requires that sort of response.  Unless you specifically ask me not to publish your question, it may appear in a future Wednesday column, though edited and condensed to remove identifying details or even to broaden the scope slightly.  Some of you may have noticed that if you clarify the situation in a later letter and my advice changes because of that clarification, it’s still the original version which appears on the blog; when that happens it’s because I felt either that the clarified version gave away too many personal details, or that the original version would apply to more people reading.  Though you are only concerned with your own specific problem, you’d be surprised how many other people may find my answer helpful (even if their own issues are slightly different).

Next, some people seem to have failed to notice the level of organization I maintain in this blog, and have made requests of me that, while they might seem reasonable, are actually nothing of the kind.  I’ve noticed that when a reader links to either a column or one of my feature pages to make a point elsewhere on the internet, at least one ass will usually disparage the citation with some variation on “a WordPress blog isn’t a credible source”.  If I ran this like an ordinary blog, a place to jot down stray thoughts here and there as they came to me, that might be a valid criticism; however, as anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed, that isn’t how I do things.  I treat this like an electronic magazine; I write a column every day, hyperlink and cross-reference my citations, and include every post in the extensive subject index.  Once a post is published, the only changes I make are to correct typos or (within the same day or two) to correct some major error or omission; also, I may change a picture for one of higher resolution, or because the subject of a picture asked me to use a different one.  I take an extremely dim view of websites who shove posts down the memory hole just because some readers didn’t like them; I have the philosophy that “you can’t unring a bell”, so once a post is up I will not remove it no matter who finds it offensive.  Besides the ethical problem that would create, removing the index entries and hyperlinks would be like pulling one gear out of a clock; given that many of my posts are reblogged or scraped, it might not even do any good for me to censor a post because it might already have been copied elsewhere.  And if you think I’m going to leave an ugly and conspicuous hole in a four-year-long perfect record just because it hurt your feelings, I respectfully suggest you reconsider your place in the universe.

Finally, some people seem to have developed very strange misconceptions about my status in the universe, so let’s put those to rest, shall we?  I am not a goddess, an angel, a superheroine, a bodhisattva or any other form of superior entity, and have never claimed to be.  Accordingly, I am not perfect; I make mistakes and misjudgments like anybody else.  Because of this, you cannot use the evidence-free accusation that I made one mistake as an argument that my entire body of work is flawed; rather, you can do that, but it will simply result in your looking like an idiot.  Even if you have actual evidence of an error in one essay or statement, it doesn’t ruin my “perfect track record” because I don’t have a perfect track record, and nobody sane ever claimed that I did.  Moreover, I’m not required to explain every editorial choice I make to the satisfaction of whatever random stranger cares to demand such an explanation, and anyone who believes that I am needs more help than I can give in one of my advice columns.

Last month’s tale was inspired by the pulp magazines, but this one was inspired by one of their successors:  comic books, specifically the horror comics of the 1970s that I grew up reading.  Those familiar with them will probably see the influence, but I hope even those who don’t will enjoy the tale.  Happy Halloween, dear reader.

“Daniel, unless you agree to see me more regularly, I honestly don’t know how I’m going to help you.  You not only refuse to come in every week, but to make regularly-scheduled appointments at all; I’m sure you realize that as long as you insist on only coming in when someone else has cancelled, our visits are going to be irregular and infrequent.”  The man she was addressing responded by getting up and walking to the window for the seventh time since the beginning of the session.  “And would you please sit down?”

He complied, then looked around for his bottle of water and began to get up to fetch it; Dr. Nolan pre-empted the move by reaching for it herself, then leaning forward to give it to him.  He drained the last of the water, sucking on the bottle for several seconds after it was dry as if to draw more water from the plastic, then replaced the cap and looked around for a wastebasket; the psychologist took the bottle from him so he wouldn’t have the excuse to get up again.  “I’m sorry, Doctor, but it has to be that way because of the nightmares.”

“You mentioned them last time, but didn’t elaborate; do they have anything to do with your inability to stick with a therapist for more than half a dozen visits?”

He nodded nervously, then leaned forward so his elbows rested on his knees and hung his head forward.  “And with my inability to hold down a job, and with my refusal to set regular appointments,” he said to the floor.  “And it’s why I don’t live near my family and have no friends.”

“But surely your family hasn’t abandoned you; our visits are billed to your father’s insurance.”

He continued to avoid eye contact, but responded, “No, it’s not like that; my family loves me and I have plenty of friends who really want me to come home again.  I know you probably don’t believe this, but until these awful dreams started I never had any mental problems in my life.”

“I believe that you believe it, Daniel, but recurring nightmares so disturbing they drive a person away from his family and friends don’t spring out of nowhere.  They come from some pre-existing issue that you’ve been unable or unwilling to acknowledge.”

“I’ll be damned if I know what that might be,” he said, straightening up suddenly in the chair.  “I can’t remember any kind of childhood trauma, always did well in school, got along fine with everybody, graduated not all that far from the top of my class.  The first person I had the dream about was my mother.”

“Go on.”

“I was living in an apartment, but you know how in dreams you’re sometimes still living with your parents.  Well, anyway, I don’t even remember what I was doing in the dream, but my mother was in another room talking to me about something; it was just a regular conversation, nothing I can even recall.  But when she came into the room, she had no face!

“What do you mean, no face?”

“I mean exactly that, no fucking face!  I mean the front of her head was totally smooth, no eyes or nose or mouth.  And she just stood there with her head turned toward me as though she was looking at me, only she had no eyes.  And I woke up screaming.”

She resisted the urge to ask him to sit down again; if pacing helped him unburden himself, so be it.  “So you kept having this nightmare about your mother?”

“Not just about her.  My dad, my little brother, my girlfriend, all of my friends, my boss…everybody I knew.  Every damned night I had them.  Every one was different; I would be doing some mundane thing, then without warning the other person in the dream would come into the room or turn around or whatever and have no face.  And then I wake up.”

“It never goes any further?”

“No, that’s it, I always wake up as soon as I see that horrible faceless head.”

“So why did you leave your home?”

“A few months after the nightmares started, my little brother went off to college.  Then when he came home for a visit, I had the nightmare about him that very night.  Thinking about it later, though, I realized that I hadn’t dreamed of him even once while he was gone.  I quit my job and went to work somewhere else…and my old boss immediately stopped appearing in the nightmares.  It wasn’t long after that I moved away.”

“Did it help?”

Faceless Girl by Varjo66 (2005)“It worked perfectly.  I only have the nightmare about people I know well, and even then if I see them often.  As long as I spend my days with strangers, my nights are peaceful.  But if I get to know anyone too well, the nightmare comes back starring that person, except without a face.”

“So every time you get to know a therapist well…”

“…he or she starts appearing in the nightmare, and I have to stop going.  Same thing with jobs; as soon as faceless versions of my boss or coworkers start haunting me, I quit.  My neighbors probably think I’m a terrorist or something because I totally avoid talking to them, for fear of being forced to move.  I’m hoping that if I see you sporadically, it will at least take longer for me to start having the dream about you.”

“Well, at least I know what we’re up against now.  Please try to make another appointment as soon as you feel comfortable, and we’ll see if we can’t figure out the real reason you’re so afraid to get close to anyone.”

“Do you think that’s what it is, Doctor Nolan?”

“I think it’s very likely.  Until then, try to keep your mind occupied, and try to at least call your family and friends if you can do that without setting off the nightmares.”

After leaving her office, Daniel felt extremely agitated; talking about the problem had only served to churn up the terror in his mind, and despite the doctor’s advice he didn’t feel it wise to call home too often.  A long walk in the park did nothing to clear his mind, nor did dinner and a movie, and he didn’t like to go home between dinner and midnight because a couple of his neighbors often sat out on the steps talking on fine nights like this one.  So he decided to seek some company from one of the girls who frequented the stroll about ten blocks from his place; the only one in sight when he arrived was a slender, 30-ish woman named Lisa he’d been with a few times before.  It occurred to him that even seeing the same hooker too many times was probably not safe, but if he started dreaming about any of them he’d just have to start going to massage parlors instead.

Lisa recognized him, and the deal was quickly made; he followed her to her room, and the two of them got undressed at the same time.  He was still quite nervous from the afternoon’s session, though, so he tried to focus on what she was doing so he’d get excited and forget about all that, at least for a little while.  He watched as she kicked off her shoes, shimmied out of her dress, removed her underwear, and took off her face.

Only this time he didn’t wake up.

Diary – Week 224

Cat PrayerAs of last Tuesday evening my trains to Chicago and Seattle are paid for; I’ve also booked my hotel room in Kansas City, though I decided to wait a little for Chicago because everything near Union Station was too pricey when I last looked (I’m trying to do this trip on the funds I have left from my fundraiser this summer).  As of right now, the only gig that’s fixed in place is a talk at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM on Sunday the 9th, the day after I arrive; I expect to hear back from SWOP this week, and then I’ll try to fill in a few private meetings with donors and a few sex workers I know there from online.  Due to a miscommunication about the dates my Portland side-trip is still up in the air, but that should be remedied this week; by next Tuesday I should have the whole trip mostly penciled in just before I leave for New Orleans two days later.  And I’ve even figured out what I’m probably going to do with my internet-less time during the 46-hour trip to Seattle.

I mentioned my leftover donations above, and that reminds me:  if you look at the subscription box on the right, you’ll notice I’ve added text about how to give me a one-time cash gift if you prefer to do that instead of subscribing.  It’s very simple; all you have to do is PayPal whatever amount you like to my email address, maggiemcneill@earthlink.net.  Ta-dah!  I like to keep things simple whenever possible.  But even if your budget won’t allow that sort of thing right now, there’s another way you can help me that won’t cost you a dime.  The pressures of this year seem to have inflicted more stress on me than I bargained for, so I’ve found myself moody and very blue lately and would appreciate your prayers, good thoughts, well-wishing, positive vibrations or whatever the equivalent in your philosophy.  You needn’t worry; these moods do come occasionally and I always get past them.  But I figure a little extra psychic support can’t hurt, even if the effect is only in my own mind…which, since it’s where the problem lies anyhow, seems perfectly reasonable.

Dave Krueger used to run an excellent blog named Sex Hysteria! in which he chronicled the many instances of human stupidity about the subject.  “Sex trafficking” was only one of the many topics he covered, and I first heard about the “gypsy whores” myth from him.  Alas, real life eventually put so many demands on his time he could not continue the blog, and he doesn’t write as often as he used to, however, he recently reappeared on Twitter and I hope this isn’t the only guest spot he does for me.

One doesn’t have to be an avid follower of the news to notice that American law enforcement is becoming ever more tightly integrated into the day-to-day affairs of ordinary citizens; you no longer have to be suspected of a crime (in the traditional sense of the term) to warrant the interest of any of a multitude of police agencies with overlapping jurisdictions at federal, state, and local levels.  Almost every government agency that generates regulations has an enforcement branch armed with guns making sure you aren’t braiding hair or arranging flowers without a license, dealing non-approved milk, buying too much cold medicine, or allowing your kid to sell lemonade, etc.  Government insists on using its police powers to dictate even the tiniest details of human commerce; in today’s America, if you breathe, you are probably a law breaker.

But even aside from the regulatory environment, fabricated crime has replaced traditional crime as the central focus of the justice system.  In a traditional crime, some act injures a non-consenting person in some way; in a consensual “crime”, all parties engaged in the activity consent to it.  Consensual crimes may still result in injury, but no force was used to compel anyone into being a party to them.  Consensual crimes include almost all prohibitions on drugs, sex work, gambling, and usury; laws specifically targeting minorities (race, gender, and sexual orientation) belong to the same class.  Without compulsion and victimization, it is rare for anyone to report such “crimes”; that is the crux of what differentiates traditional from consensual crime from a law enforcement perspective.  Equally important is that many more people engage in outlawed consensual behavior, and usually do so more often than they would commit traditional crimes.   In other words, consensual crime creates an endless supply of easy targets for law enforcement.

Over the course of the 20th century, the US justice system experimented with and expanded its focus on consensual crime; in recent years, federal grant programs and asset forfeiture laws have actually incentivized police departments to divert resources away from traditional violent crime fighting.  Because people who engage in consensual crime rarely complain, law enforcement must resort to “stings” and confidential informants (CIs) to produce evidence of law breaking; a sting consists of tricking someone into committing the outlawed act, and a CI is anyone willing to testify, in exchange for cash or favors, that someone else committed a crime.

The most prolific campaign against consensual crime started in the 1970s with Nixon’s “War on Drugs”, which triggered a perpetual erosion of the civil liberties which were once considered a defining characteristic of American freedom.  Key among these lost freedoms are protections against self-incrimination, unreasonable searches, and privacy in general.  The U.S. now has the distinction of having more criminals behind bars than any other country on the planet, and virtually all convictions now come from plea agreements induced by prosecutors who overcharge a defendant and then offer to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.  The path from freedom to prison has become a high-volume assembly line consisting largely of clerical steps in a Kafkaesque system that holds all the cards.

Mixed with the bad news that all Americans are subject to harassment and arrest is the sobering fact that police are not subject to the same laws as the rest of us; there are no consequences when they don’t respect our rights.  In the absence of public outrage and irrefutable proof of misconduct, the entire justice system stands ready to shield cops from accountability.  Nothing has exposed this culture of corruption like the widespread use of video-capable cell phones to expose cops blatantly and routinely lying about the facts of an arrest, but even when caught red-handed it’s rare for a cop to even be fired, much less charged under criminal law.  Cops are also shielded from damages stemming from civil suits; successful suits are paid by taxpayers.  On top of that, police are taking on a more militaristic character; SWAT teams that were once intended for dangerous situations like hostage standoffs are now used to serve routine search and arrest warrants.  This militaristic, us-against-them, mindset instills an attitude that the public is the enemy; escalation of violence is becoming a reflex law enforcement reaction rather than a tactic of last resort.

Is there any way to reverse this trend?  Even as traditional crime rates plunge, the fear-mongering “tough on crime” rhetoric that permeates election campaigning remains very effective with voters.  And though millions of Americans are adversely affected by the government crusade against consensual crime, they remain largely disorganized and ignored by the establishment media.  The drug war throws thousands out of work, making many unemployable, eroding the tax base and exacerbating poverty, while the voting block that benefits from this taxpayer-financed crusade (cops, prosecutors, judges, the prison system, treatment specialists, attorneys and the illegal drug industry itself) thrives.  So although there has been some limited success with rolling back some state marijuana laws, there is not going to be any noticeable diminishment of the powerful industry that benefits from consensual crime laws without massive public pushback; this, however, is highly unlikely because  activists who fight consensual crime laws are divided by category.  The crusader against the drug war doesn’t see gamblers or sex workers as natural allies, etc.

The only viable prospect for reversing this trend is for everyone with a dog in the fight to recognize they are all fighting the same foe; rather than remaining in isolated pockets of resistance, they need to join together as one movement with one voice.  It’s time to make the case that consensual crime laws and the American police state are everyone’s problem.  This is not a left vs right issue; the current state of affairs has been an enthusiastic hand-holding joint venture between both Republicans and Democrats, but history shows that parties can change when pushed by a large enough interest group.  If you’re a sex worker, gambler, or drug war opponent, you are part of that interest group.  If you are the spouse or parent of someone whose life has been ruined because of some low-level consensual crime arrest, you are part of that interest group.  Even if you’re just a taxpayer who doesn’t want your taxes used for persecution, you’re part of that interest group.  There is power in numbers; we need to stop sending thousands of people to prison every year for no other reason than we don’t like what they do behind closed doors.

Links #223

And they’re like, “Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?”
“The King of Sweden.”
“Why did he give this to you?”
“Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.”
 –  Brian Schmidt

Lots of links this week but only one Halloween item so far; I’m hoping to see more this week.  The first video is a German Volkswagen commercial from  Grace (who also provided “home while black”); the second is from Dave Barry (I especially love the way Apostle Emeka is unable to prevent eye-rolling).  Everything above the first video is from Radley Balko, and the links between the videos from Clarissa (“your way”), Angela Keaton (“consequences”), Nick Tolman (“tombstone”), Lenore Skenazy (“precaution”),  Rick Horowitz (“another day” & “seat belt”), Mistress Matisse (“peasants”),  Michael Whiteacre  (“bureaucrats”), Jesse Walker (“distrust” & “combination”),  Jason Kuznicki  (“smartphone”), Cop Block (“vegetable”), and Paul Murray (“hysterically”).

From the Archives

Tattooing of ["trafficking" victims doesn't]…make much sense outside of sadistic, pornographic fantasy.  –  Julia Davidson

Check Your Premises

Any teen who won’t behave in the way most adults want to manipulate her into behaving, must be being manipulated by another adult:

It took nearly two decades for Smith to realize she…was a victim of child sex trafficking.  “I was what they call a ‘willing victim’,” she said…the media and advocacy organizations depict child sex trafficking as an issue that involves physically abused or helpless children.  But “just being a teenager” is a predisposition factor…Smith said she’s a strong advocate for kids who insist they want to live the way they’ve been manipulated by an adult into living…

Above the Law Grant Carruth

an Amite [Louisiana] police officer accused of sexually assaulting women after deceiving them online has been arrested…Grant Carruth…faces…counts of…kidnapping…aggravated rape…sexual battery and…theft…he…identified himself as a narcotics officer, handcuffed them and said they were being arrested…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

Note the liberal use of dysphemisms, and the pretense that gross proceeds equal net profit:

A…woman was [sentenced] to…10 years in state prison for operating a prostitution ring in…New Jersey…Deanna Ruiz…pleaded guilty to racketeering…over a 15-year-period, she collected millions of dollars…[and] booked more than 6,000 hotel rooms at a cost of $1.087 million…she created several sham companies and used them to launder the money…and…commit tax and unemployment…

How, pray tell, does one “commit tax and unemployment”?

Broken Record

A grassroots advocacy group is trying to raise awareness about increased demands for paid sex during the Pan Am Games…Buying Sex Is Not A Sport…is…faith-based…The link between increased sex trafficking and large sporting events has been a controversial one that is not clearly agreed upon by experts…

Wrong; the experts have declared these “faith-based” claims total fabrications.

The Widening Gyre

They finally realized they could expand the panic by adding male “sex slaves”:

Viktor Berki…Gabor Acs and Andras Janos Vass [ran]…Never Sleep, Inc. [which] involved slaves — who did not speak English and barely got to sleep…Three of the victims…rescued in South Florida were first promised that they would earn thousands of dollars as escorts.  But…they were forced to perform sex acts in front of a webcam and engage in prostitution for 18 to 20 hours a day…

Soap Opera

It’s hard to pick one “sex trafficking” trope that’s stupider than all others, but barcode tattoos are definitely in the running:

People traffickers are believed to have marked their victims with symbolic tattoos to assert their ownership over “assets” that can be sold for thousands of pounds…The victims have been “branded like cattle” – a practice commonly seen worldwide for women in the sex trade – to show that they were aged over 18, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said…One Romanian woman – who was whipped and held against her will in Spain – had been tattooed with a bar code and a sum of money that investigators believed was the amount that she would have to earn before the gang…would release her…The NCA said the extent to which tattoos were used was not known…barcode tattoo

The extent is very well known:  one single case, the one (from 2012) mentioned above.  And as I pointed out at the time, it was “…an example of life imitating artifice because these absurd tales have been circulated…for at least six years now.”  Dr. Julia Davidson explains just how stupid this trope actually is:

…If thugs were criminally coercing someone into prostitution, why would they care whether she was 17 or 18 years old?  Conversely, if they were supplying women to managers of establishments that would only accept…over 18, why would those managers be satisfied by a tattoo, as opposed to identity documents…if tattooing were actually common practice…  victim identification would be a far simpler matter…

The Public Eye

Sex workers were among the first not directly involved with the Ferguson protests to spread the word on social media; others like cam girl Sasha Pain are doing even more than that:

…she and two friends…[are] filming protests and sharing them with her audience…Pain…won’t stop working just because she’s on the road.  When she has an Internet connection in Ferguson, she’ll make sex tapes and donate proceeds from videos to buy supplies to protect protesters from tear gas…”Everything that I make while I’m here that I don’t need to feed myself, the people I’m with and over my bills is going toward buying food for protesters and gas masks”…

On the Simultaneous Having and Eating of Cake

Portland…strip-club dancers are working…with lobbyists, legislators, and social workers to draft a new set of…regulations slated to hit the House floor…in…February…Generally, laws that regulate strip clubs and other sex industry businesses are handed down from the top by legislators, with little input from the people most directly affected…Whether because of stigmas related to…sex work…or a prevailing misconception that most…sex workers are victims of trafficking, there are very few, if any, legislative precedents that show adult entertainment professionals actually being asked to weigh in…

Checklist

Writer cannot conceive that the reason more people don’t notice “sex trafficking” is that it doesn’t exist on anything like the scale it’s purported to:

…airline employees are now being trained to…carefully watch for…unusual activity…such as when kids don’t answer questions or avoid eye contact when addressed.  Other telltale signs might be bruising…or a ravenous appetite…victims…sometimes have been at the mercy of their traffickers for so long they see themselves not as women being pimped out for sex but as girlfriends helping their boyfriend pay the bills…sex trafficking spikes around the Super Bowl…If you see something say something…

Cops and Condoms (TW3 #313)

The sheer wrongness of this cannot be overstated.

Dysphemisms Galore 

Korean officials only persecute sex workers in order to please their masters in Washington:

…since the implementation of the 2004 Special Law on Prostitution…the number of red-light districts…has decreased nationwide, from 69 in 2002 to 44 last year.  But…the prostitution industry has actually grown…[and]  transformed to avoid the confines of the law…pimps posing as ordinary citizens scour the streets to find potential customers…Transformed prostitution businesses have doubled over the past three years as traditional brothels have decreased, swelling to 4,706 in 2013, up from 2,068 in 2010…

The phrase “pimps posing as ordinary citizens” is both hilarious and telling.

Ad Absurdum

Because obviously, “victims” always go around bragging about their “abuse”:

Two teachers at the same Louisiana high school have been charged in the sex abuse of the same male student…Shelley Dufresne, 32, and Rachel Respess, 24, both teach at Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish….an unnamed source…implied that the victim was involved in a threesome with the teachers…at Respess’ apartment after a…football game [on] Sept. 12, and that…the…student had been “bragging to other students that he was having a sexual relationship with teachers”…

A Procrustean Bed (TW3 #339)

For the past year Red Umbrella Project has studied New York’s “trafficking courts”, which define all sex workers as “victims”; to absolutely nobody’s surprise, the majority of those arrested are minorities, and in Brooklyn a stunning 94% of women arrested for “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” (in other words, “looking like a whore”) are black.  Since Melissa Gira Grant,  Noah Berlatsky and Michelle Chen all went into the findings in detail, I’ll just refer you to those articles. Samantha Azzopardi

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #346)

Samantha Azzopardi, 26, who was found wandering the streets of Dublin last fall, led Irish police to believe that she was a 14-or 15-year-old sex-trafficking victim from eastern Europe…Now…[she] has shown up in Alberta…claiming that her name was Aurora Hepburn, that she was 14 and that she had been the victim of an abduction, sexual assault and torture…Calgary police became suspicious after learning of [the Irish] case…Azzopardi has been charged with public mischief…an offense punishable by up to five years in prison…

The Spiral of Absurdity

Houston is bound and determined to win this pissing contest, no matter how ludicrous the claims it has to make:

Houston is a hub for…sex trafficking…[due to its] size, port location and ethnic diversity…a three-month analysis of ads posted on backpage.com…[found] a higher number of ads per person than were posted for Manhattan and northern New Jersey during this year’s Super Bowl…

This is equivalent to concluding that Houston has more people who are morbidly obese than New York because it has more billboards for barbecue restaurants.

Above the Law (TW3 #407)

For those who think I make too big a deal about the euphemisms prosecutors and reporters use for rape by cops:  “Sorrento, Louisiana police chief Earl Theriot pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an unconscious woman and then lying about it to the FBI…Theriot managed to escape jail time…taking just a $2,500 fine and 2 years probation…”  Think he’d have escaped that easily if his crime had been called what it was? Theresa May, arch-censor

Opting Out (TW3 #408)

The other shoe drops:

Britain’s…Home Secretary Theresa May [said]…that if re-elected next year, the [Conservative] party will introduce civil powers to disrupt people who “spread poisonous hatred” even within the law…police could apply for a court order to disrupt “harmful activity” by restricting an individual’s movements, preventing them from speaking in public or stopping them publishing articles online…

Which views are “harmful” to be determined by the government, of course.

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410) 

the rate of forcible rapes in 2012 was estimated at 52.9 per 100,000 female inhabitants…Assuming that all…women are uniformly at risk, this means the…probability that an American woman is raped in her lifetime is 2.6 percent and in college 0.2 percent — 5 to 100 times less than the estimates broadcast by the media and public officials…

Forward and Backward (TW3 #415)

…the District of Columbia Council voted…to repeal the District’s  “Prostitution Free Zones” law as well as the “Drug Free Zones” law that it was based on…Although a largely symbolic gesture, since the police have already acknowledged not using the zones for the past two years…the debate over the bill shows the importance of removing laws targeting sex workers, and those profiled as such…

The Missing Word

Despite the fact that the exploitation is clearly laid out here, the magic word appears only once, saying that a sting involved “only a tiny piece of the trafficking industry”.  One can only surmise that because the smugglers only threatened to sell their “client” to a brothel (a threat made credible by the moral panic), the New York Times figures it isn’t a “real” case of “trafficking”.

Schadenfreude (TW3 #424) 

Just a few highlights of this expose of “sex trafficking” fraud Chong Kim’s lies:

…Chong Kim [was] convicted by a Minnesota judge for stealing money from a human-trafficking survivor…She is…on probation…as a result…Chong Kim walks with a cane, which she told me was an injury suffered from her days of sexual slavery…she actually had that disability since she was seven years old, and up until at least 2005, she collected Social Security checks for it…she…frequently claims that she was living in Texas when she got sold into sexual slavery in 1994…she was actually a junior in high school in…Minnesota…The…1994…Yearbook clearly contains a photo of Chong Kim…her…social security number is linked to multiple people…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

The myths that circulate about German prostitution legislation are a perfect example of how lies and misconceptions become accepted as ‘truths’ if only they are repeated often enough.”  In this short article Matthias Lehmann debunks lies including “the 2002 Act legalized prostitution”, “brothel owners can force sex workers to perform certain acts”, “Job Centres can force job seekers to take up sex work” and “sex trafficking has increased under the law”.

Lower Education (TW3 #438) 

the University of Michigan’s…policy on sexual violence…says:  “Examples…include…criticizing the partner sexually [and]…withholding sex and affection“…this policy suggests that under some circumstances, a partner is entitled to sex…there theoretically exists at the University of Michigan some circumstances in which not consenting to sex is against the rules.  This is utterly unconscionable, and, frankly, insane…

Sold Out (TW3 #438)

Facebook…[has backed off of its] “real-name” crackdown on drag queens and performers…and…apologized to all those whom they’ve offended.  Though the exact policy changes remain TBA, a source…says Facebook is planning to revert to a “preferred name” policy instead…

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 14th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work.  The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.  “Let Me Help” discusses the first two factors, but I recently discovered a fine example of the third:  a situation of genuine coercion which nonetheless runs counter to many “trafficking” claims.

…Pardip Singh [of Indianapolis, Indiana]…was convicted…of promotion of human trafficking, criminal confinement, intimidation, battery and domestic battery.  On May 11, 2012, Singh called several men and told them that for $500 they could come to his…apartment and have sex with a “teacher’s daughter from India”…The first potential client to show up learned that the victim was Singh’s wife and witnessed Singh hit her…that man “told Singh he should not treat his wife that way and then left”…Just after midnight on May 12, 2012…police…responded to a domestic disturbance at the couple’s apartment…the victim, “visibly shaken and crying,” told the officer she needed help…

Pardip SinghRight from the start, the true story belies the familiar “trafficking” porn.  Singh is clearly no slick, mastermind pimp with insidious hypnotic powers, but a crude bully.  He didn’t have a dozen slave-captives confined in dog kennels or controlled via “Stockholm syndrome” or magical mind-control philter, but one wife that he attempted to control through garden-variety brutality.  He didn’t advertise her on Backpage or any other site used by sex workers, but by contacting people personally.  Though the rescue industry’s professional victims entrance their salivating audiences with tales of daily parades of dozens of callous, uncaring men oblivious to their plight, the very first man who answered Singh’s advert was disgusted by what he found and refused to participate.  And while those same prohibitionist shills claim to have been successfully held captive for years, Singh’s wife escaped the very next day after he started trying to “traffic” her.

…Court documents describe a devastating chain of events that began March 13, 2006, when the victim became Singh’s wife in an arranged marriage in their native India…Singh was living in the United States but traveled to India for the marriage…After the wedding, he returned to the United States while his new wife stayed in India to attend college.  In 2012, after obtaining a nursing degree, the victim moved to the United States to live with Singh in New Jersey…Within a few weeks, Singh began physically abusing [her]…Singh was angry that the woman’s family did not send the couple more money [so he] took her to Atlantic City to try to get her a job in a strip club…which he believed would generate a more immediate windfall.  Singh would not allow the woman to speak with her parents except when he was within earshot…and regularly hit and abused her.  During one week when Singh worked as a semi truck driver…he forced [her] to remain in the back of the truck cab during a long interstate trip.  At stops, he would get into the back…and force her to have sex with him…The events in Indianapolis occurred about a week later…

The conventional narrative tells us that huge cartels of slick international gangsters abduct teen girls by the tens of thousands and reap vast profits without detection, but what do we see here instead?  A greedy, pathetic wife-beater who tricked a grown woman (and university graduate) via a venerable social institution.  This sort of “pimp” is much closer to the norm than the racist stereotype in clownish attire, yet I don’t see anyone screaming for the criminalization of marriage.  Prohibitionists are fond of saying that sex workers “believe pimps are their boyfriends” because they can’t face the uncomfortable truth that neither emotional attachment nor a license from the state is a guarantee against emotional or economic exploitation in a relationship, and that the main difference between a “pimp” and a “sex trafficking” fetishist’s own abusive spouse is the label. tractor-trailer

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