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Back Issue: November 2011

My gifts and abilities are mine to be used as pleases me; they are not for others to command or control, and only I determine which of them I’m willing to trade on, and when and how they will be employed.
–  “The Logical Song

fetishes demotivationalAs the end of 2011 approached, my procedures slowly began to shift toward those I have used for two years now.  The number of miscellaneous news items had grown so large it had become impractical to hold them for only one feature per month; since “November Updates” appeared in three parts and was supplemented by “Further Developments“, I could easily have organized them into four weekly columns instead and started to do so only three months later.  In “October Q&A” I had also announced that I would answer questions more regularly than once per month, but somehow that took another year to happen.  In a bigger sense, though, the pattern had already been established; the essays from this period read very much like those I write today in style, length, tone, etc.

mad scientistOne of the things I had learned was that the hardest part of doing a daily blog is figuring out something new to write about every day; it’s why the blog has become so much more structured as time has gone on.  As of the day I write this I could already tell you what type of column (though obviously not the subject) will appear on more than half of the days in the first seven months of 2015, and though that wasn’t nearly so true three years ago I was clearly headed that way.  Besides the miscellanea, fictional interlude (“Bad News”) and harlotography (“Veronica Franco“) columns, this month featured special essays for the Day of the Dead (“Saint Death“), Guy Fawkes’ Day (“Revolution“), the USMC “birthday” (“Semper Fidelis“), Armistice Day (“Collaboration Horizontale“), “Thanksgiving” and the beginning of the Yuletide season (“Toys for Tots“).  However, the “One Year Ago Today” feature didn’t produce many sequels this time around; only “Gorged With Meaning“, “It’s That Time Again” and “The Law of Averages” fit into that category, and all of them would have to have been written anyway.  That last is an extended debunking of the “average debut at 13″ myth; many more “child prostitute” lies are refuted in “Water Seeks Its Own Level“.

platypusThe observant will recognize an unusually-large number of the titles from this month; many of them  persist as subheadings in TW3 columns, some very commonly. “Forward and Backward“, “See No Evil“, “Schadenfreude” and “Follow Your Bliss” appear quite frequently, and “Across the Pond” did until a year ago.  And though “Umpteen Thousand People Can’t Be Wrong” and “Divided We Fall” aren’t nearly as ubiquitous, both have been used in the past few months.

LolitaThere are always a few columns which defy easy categorization in these retrospectives; this time there are seven.  “TANSTAAFL” looks at an example of the adage, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is”; “Maier’s Law” does the same for “if the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.”  “If I Can’t Sell It…” is another collection of whore songs, and “The Logical Song” a look at how the titular hit described my own experiences.  “Eglimaphilia” discusses sex work clients who fetishize the illegality of prostitution, while “Big Sister” discusses Swedish model vigilantes in Iceland.  And “Don’t Confuse Us With Facts” examines the bizarre belief that people can somehow be magically “harmed” by electronically-generated pictures that they didn’t even know existed. God kills kittens

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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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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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Prostitution is the elephant in the American parlor; though most men and a sizable fraction of women see it standing there, they refuse to talk honestly about it lest they upset their half-blind old Auntie who either can’t see it or has mistaken it for a large and rather oddly-shaped sideboard or ottoman.   –  “Elephant in the ParlorLilith by John Collier (c 1892)

As long-time readers know, October is my favorite month.  Part of it is because of the weather and the shortening of the days, but a lot of it is because it ends in my favorite holiday, Halloween.  I try to do as many horror-themed columns as possible in October, but it isn’t always easy; in 2011 I only managed five of them, and that’s including the one for Halloween itself and this month’s fictional interlude, “Pearls Before Swine” (which is, BTB, one of my personal favorites).  The other three were “Moondance” (on sex, death and October weather), “Frightful Films” (a love-letter to horror movies), and “Mass Hysteria” (in which I compare “sex trafficking” hysteria to the War of the Worlds radio play scare).

Photo courtesy of Royce Williams (http://www.alaska.net/~royce/spam/)Semi-coincidentally, the day before the latter column I published “The Country of the Blind“, which uses a metaphor drawn from a different H.G. Wells story; this must’ve been a good month for that sort of thing, because “With Folded Hands” was also inspired by a classic science fiction tale.  And as I explained last month, the “one year ago today” feature provided plenty of inspiration, too; “A Serpent’s Tooth” and “Bad Fantasy, Good Reality” were inspired by the columns of a year before (though they dealt with new articles), and “Slap on the Wrist“, “The Crumbling Dam” and “Wine, Women and Song” were direct sequels to their precursors.  This month’s harlotography, “Su Xiaoxiao“, had little resemblance to the previous year’s harlotography despite appearing on the same day, and this month’s  updates and Q & A columns were likewise scheduled on the anniversaries of similar columns, but of course featured new material.

penny-farthing crashBy this point, columns based on individual news stories had become the rule rather than the exception; “We Told You So“, “Marching Up Their Own Arses“, “Wholesale Hypocrisy“, “An Ounce of Prevention“, “The Punitive Mindset” and “Elephant in the Parlor” all fall into that category.  So do “The Enlightenment Police“, “May I Add…” and “Scrambled Eggs“, but these all deal with “welcome to our world” topics, those in which non-sex work subjects are discussed with similar rhetoric.

female vampireAs usual, a few columns don’t easily fit into any grouping for discussion.  “The Pigeons Come Home” discusses a complaint asking the APA to revoke Melissa Farley’s membership for gross ethical violations; “None of Your Business” recounts Jimmy Swaggart’s difficulties with whores (on the anniversary of the second time he was caught with his hand in the crumpet tin); “Under a Rock” asks why so many people are in denial about the existence of neofeminism; “Stranger Than Fiction” tells a strange story about stranger people from my university days; and “A Visit to Soapland” recounts my husband’s visit to a Japanese bathhouse.  The latter is my most-read column of all time, by a comfortable margin; as you can imagine, my husband will never let me live down the fact that the most popular essay on this blog was written by him instead of me.  Hill House

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It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror.  The air itself is filled with monsters.   –  Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester) in Bride of Frankenstein

another vintage Halloween cardLast year I celebrated the Halloween season with a collection of horror-themed links, both to columns on my blog and to articles off of it.  If you missed that one, you definitely ought to take a look at it; this is just an update, rounding up things I’ve featured since last October 28th.  First and foremost, of course, are last year’s columns for the holiday itself, “Halloween 2013” and “The Dance of Death“.  Despite its name, “Buried But Not Dead” isn’t really on the subject, but “Total Perspective Vortex” and “Cleansing Fire” are (at least a bit).  And I think “The Pit” definitely qualifies.  Last October’s harlotography was on the serial killer Aileen Wuornos (certainly an appropriate seasonal topic), and I featured either scary or creepy-fun videos in Links #171, #172, #173#174#176#183#206 and #212.  Earlier this year on May Eve I shared some less-known horror books, poems and videos; also, my own stories “The Other Side“, “Invasion” and this month’s “The Company of Strangers” are all solidly in the horror genre.  Finally, here’s a list of creepy, spooky, horror or monster-related links from the past year:

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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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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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