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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

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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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.

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Despite [all], some men stubbornly fight for our rights anyway; I don’t mind saying that I find that sort of obstinacy rather sexy.  –  Maggie McNeill

It’s already getting close to a year since I’ve compiled a list of men who have spoken out for sex worker rights, in defiance of the popular Swedish-flavored narrative which casts sex work as tantamount to rape and a form of male “oppression” of women.  In such a climate, speaking out for sex workers is liable to get one labeled a client or even a “pimp”, so “these days it takes some serious balls for a man to stand up, demand rights for sex workers, and actually sign his real name to the thing.”  Here, then, is another list of male allies; remember, this doesn’t include men who are directly involved in our industry, since it’s as personal for them as it is for us.  It does, however, include clients who have chosen to “out” themselves for the cause.  As before, this is by no means complete; please make any new suggestions in the comments below, so I can include them in a follow-up next year.

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance journalist who writes often about feminism, comic books and “geek” culture; he’s been published in Slate, the Atlantic, Wired and many others, and he has a book on the Golden Age Wonder Woman comics out early next year.  Follow him on Twitter at @hoodedu.

Magnus Betnér is a Swedish comedian who has dared to mock the Swedish model in front of Swedish audiences in Sweden; that automatically qualifies him for this list. Follow him on Twitter at @Magnusbetner;  he tweets in both Swedish and English.

Andy Bodle is a journalist and scriptwriter who has written for the Guardian, the Times, the BBC, and ABC.  He is out about having hired sex workers when he was younger, and has written several times debunking “trafficking” claims and arguing for decriminalization from a harm reduction viewpoint.  Email him at andybodle@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @_Womanology_

Felix Clay is not a cat, but rather a writer for the humor site Cracked who not only writes sex-positive articles, but even defended sex work in one where he admitted to hiring an escort (though he denied having sex with her).  Follow him on Twitter at @Felix_Clay

Leonard Fahrni is a regular reader and an instructor at Metro State University in Denver; beside speaking up in person and in a number of blog posts, he also proved hugely helpful to me when I reached Denver on my tour this past June.  Follow him on Twitter at @LeonardFahrni.

Robert King is a professor of applied psychology at University College, Cork, Ireland; he writes the blog Hive Mind at Psychology Today, in which he has on a number of occasions defended the legitimacy of sex work.  Email him at r.king@ucc.ie or follow him on Twitter at @DrRobertKing

Ed Krayewski is an editor at Reason who has, like so many libertarian journalists, consistently supported people’s right to do whatever they damned well please with their own bodies, including sell or buy sex.  Email him at ekrayewski@reason.com or follow him on Twitter at @edkrayewski

Jay Levy is a Cambridge University researcher whose 2012 PhD looked at Swedish prohibitionism as a form of violence against women; he has also written a book on the subject and discusses it in this video.  Email him at j.levy.03@cantab.net.

Nicola Mai is a professor of sociology and migration studies at London Metropolitan University; he not only authored an important study debunking “sex trafficking” myths in the UK, but has also supported decriminalization in both scholarly and popular articles.  Email him at n.mai@londonmet.ac.uk.

Robert Murphy is a well-known libertarian economist who, though he has not written on the subject of decriminalization before, did so after attending my presentation in Nashville back in July.  Email him via this page or follow him on Twitter  @BobMurphyEcon

Jim Norton is a comedian who recently came out as a client and published an article about it (in Time, no less), opening himself to the kind of prohibitionist attack that would cause fainter hearts than his to quail.  I don’t know if he ever reads this blog, but I have it on good authority that he owns an autographed copy of Ladies of the NightEmail him via this page or follow him on Twitter at @JimNorton

Peter Brian Schafer is a photographer and regular reader who strives in his work to portray whores with dignity and respect and to debunk the Madonna/whore dichotomy.  Email him at hookstrapped@gmail.com 

Sam Seder is a comedian, writer, actor, film director, television producer-director, and talk radio host; in the latter capacity, he has debunked ridiculous excuses for the criminalization of sex work and had Melissa Gira Grant as a guest on his show, Majority Report.  Contact him while on the air via this page or follow him on Twitter at @SamSeder

Michael Smerconish is a radio (on Sirius XM) and TV (formerly on MSNBC, now on CNN) personality who has made at least one persuasive on-air defense of prostitution from a harm reduction perspective, also mentioning clients with disabilities.  Follow him on Twitter at @smerconish

If you’d like to be on the next list of this type, just email me with a link to whatever public statements you’ve made about sex worker rights under your real name, and we’ll see about adding you to the next one (don’t be shy; if you don’t tell me, who will?)  In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for “Stand-Up Guys” in my weekly TW3 column, where I’ll mention guys who come to my attention without having to wait another year.

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I realize that most people wouldn’t struggle with the process of figuring out a way to designate the individual entries of a new recurring feature.  I’m sure many probably wouldn’t bother with it at all; they’d just call this feature “diary” and delineate the individual entries by date (if they gave it even that much thought).  But most people don’t view blogs as monumental projects, either; it takes a special kind of obsessive-compulsive thinking to maintain daily posting of (mostly) full essays for four years, and to insist on a fairly rigid format and schedule.  You want a window into my crazy librarian brain?  Read the intro to “Links and Changes“,  then watch the first video in Sunday-before-last’s Links column.  Anyhow, I’ve decided to just use the blog week number (as explained in “Links and Changes”) and call it good.  This is the second day of the 223rd week (WordPress starts its statistical weeks on Monday) since I’ve had the blog, hence the title.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s an update on my travels.  Everything’s all set for New Orleans the weekend of the 25th, and I know two of the other speakers (Thaddeus Russell and Angela Keaton), so it’ll be fun to visit with them again.  I’m finalizing the details of my Seattle tour, and everything should be paid for by the end of the week; I’m staying with friends there, so the only lodging I’ll have to worry about will be my few days in Portland.  As of right now, here’s what it looks like: I’ll drive to Kansas City on Tuesday, November 4th (it’s the nearest Amtrak hub with halfway-decent connections), then take a train to Chicago on the 5th to speak at Loyola.  On the afternoon of the 6th I’ll depart by train for Seattle, arriving the morning of Saturday the 8th, then around the 12th-15th I’ll do a little side-trip to Portland.  I’ll leave Seattle on Tuesday the 18th, reach Chicago on Thursday the 20th, take the train back to Kansas City on Friday the 21st and drive home on Saturday the 22nd.  I’ll probably have more details on my appearances next week, so if you have any ideas please contact me as soon as you can!

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 7th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

As I’ve previously explained, a large part of the process of writing my blog consists of scanning Twitter (and emails from readers) for likely stories:

The majority of sex work-related items end up in my weekly “That Was the Week That Was” [TW3] news summary, which normally appears on Saturday; other interesting stories appear in my weekly “Links” column, which normally appears on Sunday.  Some are worth quoting in a longer discussion, and others aren’t noteworthy enough to get any coverage in my work at all.  But every once in awhile a story comes along which is so interesting, funny, horrible, odd or whatever, that I like to analyze it at length.

complex Venn diagramWhen I feature a story in a TW3 column, it appears under a subtitle which refers to an earlier, topically-related essay (and contains a link to that essay for further reading).  But sometimes I find a story which defies categorization; usually this is because it contains so many different elements that I’m not sure what heading to file it under, so I end up just picking the one I feel is the most important and perhaps noting the others via links.  However, I recently discovered an item for which the sheer number of overlapping, intersecting areas of interest constituted a story in itself.  Rather than quote the mainstream media’s parrotlike repetition of what the police claim happened (which is itself one of the points I wish to make), let’s instead look at the more objective way it was reported by Elizabeth Nolan Brown in Reason:

…Florida resident Bobbey Jo Boucher went with her 10-year-old daughter to a neighbor’s barbecue and left the girl there when she headed to work, instructing her to go back home when it was over.  When the girl didn’t return within a few hours, her grandmother called the…Sheriff’s Office, which called Boucher at work.  When the line was somehow disconnected—Boucher says accidentally, police say she hung up—Boucher wound up arrested for obstructing justice.  The daughter was fine…she was going to play at church with some neighborhood kids….[who] had left from the barbecue and were riding there on the church bus when police stopped it…Officer Nicholas Carmack…”[reported that another cop claimed that Boucher]…stated ‘I have to get on stage’ and hung up the phone”…a 10-year-old girl who maybe lied to a bus driver to go play with friends at church, who has been out of her working mother’s sight for all of about 2.5 hours, and on whom a missing person report hasn’t yet been filed…[was quickly located by the cops]…and that should be that.  But, no, someone must be punished.  Officer Carmack really wanted to…take a trip down to [the strip club where Boucher worked] for more information…and he was obstructed by them finding the “missing” child perfectly safe and nearby first…The whole report just oozes with so much condescension …that I feel a little bit slimy reading it.  At every point where it’s possible, the cops assume Boucher is a bad, unconcerned mother…Boucher…was eventually arrested, taken to…Jail, and charged with resisting without violence and obstruction.  No matter how it shakes out, she already had to miss work, post bond, and owes $78 in “investigative costs recovery”…

The very first point that needs to be made here is that there is no situation, no matter how mundane or extreme, that the police cannot make worse; it is therefore an extremely bad idea to call them for any reason whatsoever, because once they are called they cannot be uncalled and there is a very high likelihood that some innocent person or animal will end up harassed, beaten, tased, pepper-sprayed, arrested, caged, robbed, charged with felonies, murdered or all of the above.  In the situation at hand, if the grandmother had heeded this simple principle the child would have eventually come home, possibly been fussed or punished for going off without permission, and the family would not have lost the money the cops’ violent pomposity has already cost them and will continue to cost; Boucher and the child are both very lucky the cops didn’t decide to assault them.

Next, Boucher belongs to not one but three separate groups upon whom American society in general and the police in particular are wont to pour derision:  black people, single mothers, and sex workers.  Any one of these would probably have resulted in Boucher’s having a harder time with the cops than (for example) a white, married teacher would, and the combination is so likely to lead to evil from the twisted minds of government thugs that one must wonder whether the grandmother was entirely in her right mind when she picked up the phone to call them.

safe childrenFurthermore, we have recently seen the rapid growth of a dangerous trend of the state involving itself in what used to be considered the province of the family; police and other official busybodies now routinely insert themselves between parent and child, and in the past few months we’ve seen a rising number of cases in which police (especially in Florida) arrest mothers for failing to keep their children under a level of surveillance and restriction of movement more appropriate to a prison than to an ordinary neighborhood.  It’s impossible to know where this will end, but it’s rapidly reaching the point where the only sane and reasonable course of action will be to refrain from having children at all.  This, however, won’t keep the police away; criminalization of ordinary parental decisions with which any fatuous imbecile with a title disagrees is only a subset of the larger problem of universal criminality.

Finally, there’s the issue I referenced before the quote:  the mainstream media no longer question anything the police say, no matter how stupid or self-evidently biased.  The New York Daily News credulously parroted the police report, adding insult to injury via editorial inanities like “jiggle joint”, and everyone else obediently fell in line behind so as to generate pageviews at the expense of yet another victim of our terminally-bloated police state.  And it’s a safe bet that the majority who read such pap really believe that they, as “good parents” and non-sex workers, are totally safe from the djinni they have allowed to escape his bottle with the promise that he’s only going to go after the “bad people” they don’t like.

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As I wrote in “Change Is“, most Tuesdays will now be diary columns bringing you up to date on what I did the week before and what I’m about to do in coming weeks.  I also think it will be a good place to share links to podcasts and  embed video interviews I’ve done, to tell you about articles I publish in other venues, and even to thank readers for presents and the like.  That means I’ll be retiring the “Maggie in the Media” and “Presents, Presents, Presents!”  headings from TW3 columns, but the tags will persist to enable location of diary columns with items that would’ve gone under those tags.  I don’t have any media for you this week, but I do need to mention a couple of presents I received in Washington, DC and forgot to mention earlier:  when I met Eddie Cunningham for dinner he gave me copies of Guns, Germs and Steel and The Boat of a Million Years.  Thank you, Eddie, and I apologize for not mentioning your gift earlier!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in catching up on work I had to neglect in the last month of the tour; I was so busy with activities and writing new columns for August and early September that I had to neglect correspondence, plus indexing and other blog maintenance, and by the time I got home my normal one-month buffer was entirely gone.  However, you’ll be glad to know that my correspondence is fully caught up, that the buffer was restored by last Saturday, and that the indexing will be fully caught up sometime today; once I bring up the PAQ page and a few other little things I’ll be all done.  Furthermore, you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t have to run myself ragged to do it; my improved procedures are making things easier on several fronts, and that means now that I’m caught up I’ll have time to start working on a few other things.  One of them is increasing my mainstream presence by submitting articles to a few big sites you may have heard of; another is that essay collection I’ve promised y’all for almost two years now, and the other…well, let’s not say too much about it yet.

On the travel front, I’ll be back in New Orleans again the weekend of October 25th to speak at a convention of Students for Liberty, then on November 5th I’ll be speaking to the same organization at Loyola University in Chicago.  The following afternoon I’ll be leaving Chicago by train for my mini-tour to Seattle and Portland; there is no wi-fi on long-distance routes yet, so I will be out of touch all day Friday the 7th, all evening on Thursday the 6th and the morning of Saturday the 8th.  But don’t worry, everything will be set up to go, so those who don’t follow Twitter closely probably won’t even know I’m missing.  I want to get all of my activities for those cities planned before I leave, though, so if you would like me to speak or read anyplace in either Seattle or Portland please let me know by two weeks from today, three weeks at the absolute latest!

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Usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open for increasingly tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives.  –  “Politicizing the Personal

lipstick on a pigIt’s often easier to write about something than to think of something to write about, which is one of the reasons this blog is so structured; since I publish a new column every single day, it’s important that I do everything I can to keep the mental bearings lubricated.  Though in September of 2011 I was still a long way from the weekly format I use now, there were a number of recurring monthly features such as the Q & A and  Miscellanea columns; I usually featured an “update” column as well, but since I had already used the title “September Updates” back in 2010 I went with “They Speak for Themselves” this time.  That was my first indicator that I would have to change my way of doing things soon; most of the month-names had already been used and the rest would be gone by the end of the year.Ahmed Hasnain  I don’t recall if I was already thinking of switching to weekly updates by this point, but I certainly was by December; in fact, I’m not really sure why I waited until February to start “That Was the Week That Was” instead of just doing it from the first week of January.  Such are the mysteries of the human mind.

Nailiya 1913Besides the monthly features, holidays  and other special occasions (such as Banned Books Week) were always good for me; in addition, my two-month-old “One Year Ago Today” feature was a big help in coming up with column topics.  For example, this month’s harlotography, “Lulu White“, was a sequel to the previous year’s “Storyville”;  “Tyranny By Consensus” followed an earlier column about AHF, “Inappropriate Women” followed my very first hooker song column, “More Terminology” is a direct sequel to its one-year predecessor,  “Hiding from the Light” is a commentary on its, and “Nasty Words” is an elaboration on one of the points made in the column a year before it.  And though “Profound Mental Disabilities” was based on a then-current news story it fell exactly a year after my first column on BDSM.  But inspiration didn’t always have to wait a year; “The Ouled Nail“, about a Berber tribe in which prostitution is normal, inspired both “The Girls from Tarzana” and “Dance of the Seasons“.

Feminism women as childrenThen, as now, news stories often provided a launching point for commentary; “She Should Know Better“, “The Other Foot” and “Surplus Women” fall into that category, as do “Setting Women’s Rights Back a Century” (the beginning of the anti-college-sex crusade), “The Mote and the Beam” (the beginning of the anti-Backpage crusade), and “Size Matters” (the beginning of Phoenix’s anti-whore crusade).  Other columns featured several stories I saw as linked by a single topic; “Wise Investment“, “Uncommon Sense” and “Dominating the News” fall into that category.  And though my very first guest column appeared this month, a two-parter by veteran activist Norma Jean Almodovar, it would be another year and a half before such columns  became a regular feature.

As usual, there were a few that don’t quite fit easily into groups.  “A Thousand Words” makes a point with two pictures, “To Spite Their Faces” criticizes neofeminist attacks on an economist, “Politicizing the Personal” debunks the feminist maxim that “the personal is political”, and “Don’t Take My Word For It” shares a couple of other ladies’ views on male sex workers for women.The Arlington and Mahogany Hall

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