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Diary – Week 229

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

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

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on October 19th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

I am often asked by interviewers if I think the majority of sex work prohibitionists truly wish us harm, or if they’re just misguided.  I answer that while the leaders of the prohibition movement are evil, duplicitous and fully aware of the harm they’re causing both to whores and to our clients and families, most of the rank and file are well-intentioned people who believe the prohibitionists’ claims that they “only want to help sex workers, to ‘rescue’ us from ‘objectification’ and ‘degradation’, to ‘save” us from our own choices.”  This is nothing new; all through history unscrupulous leaders have used similar claims (“saving the souls of heathens”, etc) to justify conquest, pillage, rape and murder, and the majority of the population supported them because they simply didn’t know any better.

For the most part, anyone with the slightest actual knowledge about sex work sees right through such claims; a large fraction of the writing, speaking and social-media activity of activists and allies these days is devoted to exposing these false claims of concern for our welfare, often under hashtags such as “#NotYourRescueProject” and “#RightsNotRescue”.  But every so often the prohibitionists manage to sugar-coat their bait well enough so that even veteran activists swallow it, and unwittingly promote the interests of prohibitionists by spreading their propaganda and contact information.  In June of last year I shared several examples in “Long Spoon”, but a month ago another, even better one appeared:  Massachusetts end demand press releaseThis graphic was shared on Facebook and Twitter by a number of activists, but few seem to have noticed the direct source, the Massachusetts State Police, who are about the farthest thing from sex worker allies it’s possible to be.  And even fewer saw this article, which totally lays bare the agenda behind it:

…the large female percentage signals that these arrests may not be dealing with the root of the problem, the demand for prostitutes created by johns and pimps and the over-sexualization of the female in American culture.  “Mass NOW believes that the commodity model of sexuality in our culture contributes to the inability of law enforcement officials to see the percentage of sex workers who are coerced into the sex industry as victims”…said Katie Prisco-Buxbaum …“We believe…in…working to erode some of the cultural perceptions around prostitution”…“It is certainly cheaper for police to arrest the sellers, but there isn’t much evidence saying that it is efficient to do so,” said Michael Shively, founder of Demandforum.net…If prostitution is to ever be truly eliminated, the state of Massachusetts and the rest of the world need to make a larger effort to eliminate the prostitution market by targeting the johns and the pimps…

I doubt many of those sharing the above infographic without comment (or even worse, with supportive comment) would have done so had they realized that it was naked “end demand” propaganda, a blatant push toward Swedish-style systems that aim to “eliminate prostitution” by eliminating prostitutes through slow starvation.  The filth about “victims”, “commodification” and “cultural perceptions” belched forth by Katie Buxbaum would’ve been quite enough, and even the name of Michael Shively would’ve rewarded a quick Google search with the revelation that he makes a very good living producing bogus studies for Swanee Hunt, a morally-warped multi-billionaire with a personal vendetta against whores who actually bankrolls pogroms against us.  These “operations” go under the name “National Day of Johns Arrests”, but just because a politician calls something the “Free Kitten Act” doesn’t mean it’s actually devoted to giving out free kittens; in fact, it may be the exact opposite.  The center of Hunt’s private anti-sex jihad is Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located; its sheriff, Tom Dart, vomits out “end demand” poison every time he opens his filthy mouth on the subject.  So one would expect his county to be a model of “john arrests” in order to uphold his advertising and please his obscenely-wealthy patron, wouldn’t one?  Well, not quite:

On paper, sex workers are still not as likely to face felony charges as their patrons, who can be charged with a felony on their first offense…But…analysis of the…data shows that prostitution-related felonies are being levied almost exclusively against sex workers.  During the past four years, they made up 97 percent of the 1,266 prostitution-related felony convictions in Cook County.  And the number is growing:  Felony convictions among sex workers increased by 68 percent between 2008 and 2011…

Trojan horseIn other words, the city most associated with Hunt’s “end demand” program saw an increase in the number of sex workers’ lives destroyed by police, despite propaganda to the contrary.  Given the presence of her toady Michael Shively and the recent announcement that she’s inaugurated a new crusade in Boston, this “infographic” has Swanee Hunt’s name all over it, and those who spread it without explanation were doing her dirty work.  The proverb tells us not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the Trojans might have a different opinion on the wisdom of doing so; given the cleverness and resources of our enemies, advocates would do well to closely examine the teeth, hooves, withers and (especially) parentage of any horse presented to us before saddling it up and riding it in this very serious race where our lives are literally at stake.

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Whenever an obviously well founded statement is made…by a person specially well acquainted with the facts, that unlucky person is instantly and frantically contradicted by all the people who obviously know nothing about it.  -  George Bernard Shaw

A few months ago a reader asked if I’d grown less patient than I used to be, and I replied that while I certainly hoped I was no less patient with good readers and people who genuinely want my help, “I’ve never been patient with fools, trolls, ninnies, sophists, fanatics and the other assorted riff-raff who attempt to lay claim to my time and energy.”  Well, I need to add one more type to that list; I’m afraid I no longer have any patience with people who refuse to understand that the plural of anecdote is not data.  Now, my forbearance for such well-meaning but ignorant folks was never exactly Penelopean to start with; even as a teenager statements like, “well, my grandpa smoked his whole life and he lived to a hundred” set my nerves on edge, and in July I published a whole column about people who think that one exception invalidates an entire rule.  But lately, I’ve found that my immediate response to comments declaring that I must be wrong about such-and-such because the commenter knows of an exception (which she then proceeds to relate without any corroboration) is to immediately trash it.

This doesn’t quite rise to the level of a new rule; one of the suggestions in “How Not To Get Your Comments Posted” was, “Pretend to be more knowledgeable in my subject than I am without offering any proof whatsoever.“  I suppose that the assertion, “my cousin’s friend is a hooker in Chicago and everybody she knows has a pimp”, doesn’t quite qualify as no proof whatsoever, but neither does it reach the level of credibility required to cause me to rethink four years of research.  No, I don’t have a PhD, nor have I done field trials in two dozen cities involving hundreds of respondents.  But you know what?  Neither have the prohibitionists.  And unlike them or some anonymous person’s cousin’s friend from Chicago, I have spoken to or corresponded with hundreds of sex workers and read dozens of methodologically-sound studies in addition to actually being a hooker for years, so please don’t think me vainglorious if I trust my own judgment over theirs.

I’m sure someone will accuse me of simply not wanting to be challenged; please give me a little credit.  Not only am I quite aware of exceptions to hooker norms, I even feature them in TW3 or other columns when I encounter them.  But there’s a vast difference between “20 witnesses saw such-and-such and here’s the video” and “you just have to believe me”; or between “what do you think about this unusual circumstance?” and “no you’re TOTALLY WRONG because a prohibitionist said so”; or between odd but well-documented phenomena and outrageous claims which violate the laws of physics or stretch the limits of human credulity.  Furthermore, reputation helps; when someone who’s been commenting here for months or years and impressed me with his good sense and veracity tells me something, I’m a hell of a lot more likely to give credence to what he says than to a newcomer whose very first act on this blog is to make some outlandish statement in the most belligerent tone possible.  If you’re spoiling for an argument or seeking converts for your prohibitionist cult, I suggest you try posting your comment on YouTube or Huffington Post, because it’s highly unlikely it will ever see the light of day around here.

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tow truckLast week I described my trip home with the few words “on Monday I drove home”;  however, as I said in the previous sentence, I wrote that on Sunday night.  As it turned out, the trip back was not so easy; when I tried to start my truck in Shreveport after returning the rental I had taken to New Orleans, it behaved as though it was out of gas despite having nearly a full tank.  None of Grace’s suggestions resulted in any change, so I found a garage which was willing to take me immediately;  unfortunately AAA took so long to arrive there was no way they could fix it that day, so I was stuck overnight.  Needless to say, I was not happy; I get very upset when my plans are disrupted, especially by machines.  I resolved to lessen the impact as much as possible by finding a new garage 100 miles closer to home and using my maximum towing allowance, so as to shorten my trip the next day; luckily, the tow truck driver and manager were both very sweet and helpful, and by the time we arrived I was in a much better mood than when we left.  I also think my professionalism had a lot to do with it; long years in sex work trained me to bury bad moods instantly when in the presence of strangers, so that I can be a charming and interesting companion and conversationalist.  Anyhow, the problem turned out to be a bad fuel pump (we had only changed it in September) and as soon as that was replaced, I was on my way and got home Tuesday afternoon.  At some point that same day, this article by Nathan Goodman was published on the blog of the Center for a Stateless Society; it’ll give you an idea of what I spoke about in New Orleans and how it was received by the audience.

Anyhow, I spent the rest of the week trying to get ahead on my work, but unfortunately other concerns got in my way (losing a whole day didn’t help, either).  One nice break from all that was the arrival of a birthday present from Kevin Wilson, namely a copy of Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” with new illustrations by Mahendra Singh.  Thank you, Kevin!  Today I’m on my way to Kansas City, from which I’ll depart on a train tomorrow morning to speak at Loyola University in Chicago tomorrow night.  Then Thursday afternoon I’ll be boarding another train which will take me to Seattle, where I’ll be appearing Sunday night at the Foundation for Sex-Positive Culture.  I’ll tell you all about that next week!

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Diary – Week 226

TulaneI’m not sure how the hell I did it, but I managed to forget my laptop at home when I left for New Orleans last Thursday.  Remember, I’m the Princess of Paranoia; I compulsively inspect my luggage, counting each item in the car to be sure I”m not leaving anything behind.  Yet that day, my head was in some kind of fog; I didn’t notice the omission until after I had pickup up my rental car in Shreveport and was well on the way down the road.  This, of course, will make me much more paranoid in the future; the rare occasion of my actually doing whatever it is I’m worried about doing acts to reinforce the paranoia.  You can bet I will not be forgetting it when I leave for my Northwest tour a week from today!

Other than having to make do with online maintenance, though, it was a really good weekend.  On Friday morning I met my little sister for breakfast, and we had a good long talk about family stuff.  Then in the afternoon I went to the library to check my emails and Twitter, and I took my cousin Alan to dinner in the evening.  Saturday was a long day, but a fruitful one; the Students for Liberty conference was excellent and the lineup of speakers very interesting.  Some libertarian gatherings are dominated by people who seem more concerned with economic issues than anything else, but this was not one of them and the speaker lineup reflected that; the afternoon block was especially subversive, with my talk followed by Thaddeus Russell‘s and then Angela Keaton‘s a bit later.  And I can assure you that whatever trees remained unshook when Thad Russell and I were done, were entirely cleared of loose branches and leaves by the time Angela put down the mike!  After dinner there was a social, and then a house party at the organizers’ home; I borrowed Angela’s computer to finish Sunday’s “Links” column, then sat on the porch swing and fielded questions until after 1 AM.

It’s a good thing I don’t need a lot of sleep any more, because I had to get up early Sunday morning for breakfast with Thad Russell; we talked about future projects and then I took him on a short tour of the city before bringing him to the airport.  After that, Denise was kind enough to allow me the use of her computer for several hours, during which time I was able to mostly catch up on my bookkeeping (though I was behind on my Twitter blog-promotion until this morning) and write the very column you’re reading.  Then on Monday I drove home, and for the next week I’ll be busy trying to get as far ahead as I can in preparation for the next trip!  Last but not least, my sincere thanks to the readers who sent me monetary gifts over the weekend; y’all covered my entire trip to New Orleans and left some for Chicago and Seattle!  If anyone else would like to donate, just see the subscription box at right.  Your donations not only help me in the practical sense, but also let me know that y’all appreciate my efforts and think my work is important enough to support; that moral support is every bit as vital as the financial.

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My short break from running around the country is almost over; this Thursday I’ll be departing for New Orleans, where I’ll be speaking on Saturday at the Students for Liberty regional conference along with Thaddeus Russell, Angela Keaton and several other big names.  Then on Monday I’ll be home for just one week before leaving again two weeks from today; on Wednesday, November 5th at 7 PM I’ll be speaking to another chapter of Students for Liberty at Loyola University in Chicago, then on Thursday I’ll get on a train for Seattle.  The day after I arrive, that is Sunday November 9th, I’ll be speaking at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM, and the next day there’s a private event for SWOP members which I think I’ll enjoy very much.  The rest of my time will probably be spent visiting various individuals I’m friendly with there, and doing things that I may even be able to tell you about.  Or maybe not, depending on whether the other participants give their permission.  I’m still trying to arrange for a visit to Portland, but I’m not sure if that will work out; it seems as though it’s a bad time of year for Portland.  C’est la vie.  Anyway, as things stand now I’m supposed to be back here on the afternoon of the 22nd, but that may be subject to change.

I thank y’all very much for the good thoughts and kind words last week; y’all really did succeed in raising my spirits, and very quickly, too.  I’ll have some more news pretty soon; there are several irons in the fire, and I’ll announce each as it comes ready (or forget about it if it doesn’t pan out).  All I can say for now is that the next year should be very interesting.

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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.

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