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There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.  –  The Gospel of Philip

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, long considered to be either a prostitute or “reformed” prostitute and therefore the subject of special devotion by many Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican, and Lutheran) whores.  As I have explained before, there is no canonical evidence for this; the idea seems to date to a sermon  delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great, in which she was identified as a repentant harlot (possibly by identification with the “adulterous woman” whom Jesus rescues from being stoned in the 8th chapter of John).  But the four canonical Gospels are not the only ones:

…among those used by Gnostic congregations (and subsequently excluded from the canon) were four more Gospels:  Thomas, Philip, Mary and Judas, all but the last of which assign a much more prominent role to Mary Magdalene than the four canonical ones; indeed, the Gospel of Mary is actually attributed to her.  These Gospels refer to Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and describe him as loving her more than his other disciples and often kissing her on the mouth…the Gospel of Mary identifies her as the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” mentioned so often in John…

Pope Gregory may well have been aware of these gospels, and perhaps intentionally conflated the Magdalene with the adulteress as a way of smearing her in a time of increasingly-patriarchal Church practices and increasingly-prudish Church attitudes toward sex.  It is possible that one of the reasons Mary the Harlot caught on so quickly as a mythic figure was that she built upon and supplanted the clearly sexual (though not specifically professional) portrayal in the Gnostic gospels, oral traditions of which could well have survived their suppression two centuries before Gregory’s sermon.  I might even point out that she could well be viewed as a Christianized Venus, just as the Blessed Mother is a Christianized mother-goddess and Jesus himself a Christian solar deity.  The actual biographical facts of the lives of the human beings upon whom the mythic figures are based is of no more importance than whether Buddha could actually perform miracles, King Arthur pulled a sword from a stone or Mohammed flew into heaven on a winged horse; as in the case of Saint Nicholas (the official patron saint of whores), the mythology which has developed around the historical Mary Magdalene has a life of its own independent of the mundane facts.  The process of apotheosis creates a new being separate and distinct from the long-dead person whose name he or she shares, and that being inhabits the irrational realm of faith rather than the rational one of fact.

Simply put, Mary Magdalene the symbol is an entity wholly distinct from Mary Magdalene the first-century Jewish woman, and whether the latter was a whore, wife or mere follower to Yeshua bar Yosef is immaterial to the power of that symbol.  For centuries, the name “Magdalene” has been synonymous with “prostitute” in Christendom; when in the 13th century the idea arose for the first time that whores were “fallen” women in need of “rescue”, the asylums established for the purpose were called “Magdalene homes”.  Though few of these institutions survived the Black Death, the movement was revived in the mid-18th century and the number of such places multiplied with the rise of the “white slavery” myth a century later; though they again died out in most places in the early 20th century, they continued on in Ireland until 1996.  In various parts of the British Isles, the term “Magdalene” became “Maggie”, and applied either to whores in general (in England) or ones confined to Magdalene laundries (in Ireland).  The working girls in a number of folk songs are named “Maggie”, and of course Stephen Crane gave us Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets; some of y’all have probably guessed that I chose the name “Maggie” for a reason, and perhaps noticed that the name “Maggie McNeill” has a similar cadence to “Mary Magdalene”.

So even though I well understand that Mary Magdalene may not have “really” been a member of my profession, I also understand the difference between fact and truth.  The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 8th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

According to the popular narrative, sex workers are “bad” or “defective” or otherwise abnormal; we are not to be trusted even to run our own lives, so when “good” women who claim to want what’s best for us say that we need to be criminalized for our own good – that our statements should be ignored, our clients demonized, our workplaces raided by armed thugs who drag us away to cages where we can be subjected to degrading attempts to “correct” or brainwash us, and our organizations branded as a “pimp lobby” – the politicians side with them and the legions of the ignorant mindlessly parrot their drivel about “sex trafficking”. There are many of these righteous guardians of female purity; in Ireland, for example, they are led by Ruhama, an organization founded by the exact same nuns who ran the infamous Magdalene laundries, where sex workers and other “sinful” women were condemned to slave labor until they were completely broken. Among these outcasts were unwed mothers, whose children were ripped from them and incarcerated in hell-holes like St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home:

The bodies of 796 children…have been found in a disused sewage tank in Tuam, County Galway. They died between 1925 and 1961 in a mother and baby home under the care of the Bon Secours nuns…historian Catherine Corless discovered the extent of the mass grave when she requested records of children’s deaths in the home…The vast majority of the children’s remains, it seemed, were [simply dumped into] the septic tank. Corless and a committee have been working tirelessly to raise money for a memorial that includes a plaque bearing each child’s name…death rates for children in the Tuam mother and baby home, and in similar institutions, were four to five times that of the general population. A health board report from 1944 on the Tuam home describes emaciated, potbellied children, mentally unwell mothers and appalling overcrowding. But, as Corless points out, this was no different to other homes in Ireland. They all had the same mentality: that these women and children should be punished…

Eden posterAnd yet, these nuns still receive funding from the Irish government and their lies about sex workers are still accepted unquestioningly by the Irish media. In the United States, laws and old prejudices prevent the Catholic Church from gaining quite such a powerful hold, but nothing short of absolute exposure stops sociopaths like Somaly Mam or the woman whose supposedly “true” story the movie Eden was based on:

…Chong Kim whom [sic] has claimed to be a survivor of human trafficking is not…after thorough investigation into her story, people, records and places, as well as, [sic] many interviews with producers, publishers and…organizations, we found no truth to her story. In fact, we found a lot of fraud, lies, and the most horrifically capitalizing [sic]…We have found several other organizations…who have been defrauded by Chong collecting money in their name…

When Eden came out many sex worker activists condemned it as a pack of lies; we’ve done the same about Somaly Mam for years. And despite their being exposed as charlatans, others very like them continue to cash in and exert such powerful influence over politicians that outrages like this are the norm these days:

…This cynical, dystopic model does not resolve the problems found by the Court in Bedford to be unconstitutional, and adds new ones such as the prohibition on advertising.  The Charter rights…[of] life, liberty, security of the person, freedom of expression and equality…are [all] breached…It is an unconstitutional variation of our broken laws that impose more danger, more criminalization, and fewer safe options, contrary to the requirement of the Supreme Court of Canada…All that will be required for police to surveil and target sex workers is the suggestion that a person under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present…purchase [of]…sex…[carries] mandatory fines…from $500 to $4,000, to five years in jail…Without the ability to advertise in newspapers, online, or other forms of media, sex workers will now have severely limited means for working safely indoors…

pile_of_bonesHow many more skeletons need to be found in closets or cesspools before the public wakes up to the evil of prohibitionism? How many more lies until the self-appointed saviors lose their credibility for good? And how many more women have to die before governments abandon their mad dream of controlling the sexuality of every individual within their borders?

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I’m hungry, I don’t need respect, I don’t need honour, I just want three meals a day.  –  Elderly Korean sex worker

Think of the Children! 

A teacher who describes note-passing as “scary”?  The jokes write themselves.

A…woman has been charged with prostitution at the Tewksbury [Massachusetts] Public Library…a…plain clothes detective claimed Brittany Macintyre…handed him a pen and…paper.  The two passed notes back and forth until she allegedly asked for $60 in exchange for a sex act…one library patron [said] “I’m quite shocked because a lot of kids come here and I’m a teacher, so it’s pretty scary”…

Feminine Pragmatism Bacchus-D

Koreans could once be sure that their children would look after them in their old age, but no longer…As a result, some elderly women are turning to prostitution…”Bacchus Ladies” [are] older women who make a living by selling tiny bottles of the popular Bacchus energy drink to male customers.  But often that’s not all they’re selling.  At an age when Korean grandmothers are supposed to be venerated as matriarchs, some are selling sex…they invested their savings in the next generation.  In a Confucian society, successful children are the best form of pension.  But attitudes here have changed just as fast as living standards, and now many young people say they can’t afford to support themselves and their parents…The government…is scrambling to provide a welfare system that works [but] in the meantime…[the elderly] have no savings, no realistic pension, and no family to rely on…

One Born Every Minute

A neuroscientist who claimed to have fathered 58 children while running [an]…insemination service preyed on three women desperate to become mothers by sexually assaulting them…during the…process…[Professor Gennadij] Raivich told one alleged victim she had to give him oral sex repeatedly in order to get a sperm sample.  He told another she was more likely to get pregnant if she orgasmed…

Tyranny By Consensus

Michael Weinstein [spoke to]…the press…on the…condom mandate bill…armed with what he claimed to be the smoking gun that justified his campaign to force condoms down performers’ throats…a survey done by the UCLA School of Public Health which, according to Weinstein, proved that there was a “public health danger” involving porn performers…Weinstein presented this “pictographic”AHF Porn Study Propaganda Graphic which attempted to…paint a picture of porn performers as oppressed, drugged out, abused, exploited, and basically unable to think for themselves…[so] the state absolutely had to step in and rescue them with condoms…Both AVN’s Mark Kernes  and The Real Porn Wikileaks  have done fine efforts to debunk this agitprop, but there are some points that even their efforts do manage to miss which deserve additional attention…

A Procrustean Bed (First Updates of the Year)

The evil clownishness continues:

[Rhode Island Senator] Gayle Goldin…is urging her…colleagues to…reject [a "sex trafficking" bill which]…conflates sex trafficking with prostitution…the bill as written could mean that [a] cab driver [who carries a whore to a call could be convicted of] sex trafficking…Goldin said [a] slight change [to her original wording] has fouled the intent of the legislation.  It “would mean that the penalties intended specifically for the traffickers could also be used to penalize sex workers themselves,” she [wrote]…

A Whore in Church

This is absurd on so many levels:

The Roman Catholic sisters whose convent fence-line is mere inches from a flashy new strip club…were unable to prevent the business from opening last year.  But they haven’t given up…and…the Village Board of Melrose Park voted to join the nuns…in a lawsuit against…Club Allure…and the Village of Stone Park, which granted its license to operate…One of the main arguments in the lawsuit is expected to center on a provision of state law that…prohibits such businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of a place of worship…

Broken Record

I don’t know what’s more pathetic, Rachel’s idea of “big events” or her mathematical illiteracy:

Soon hundreds of thousands will pack [Omaha, Nebraska] for the College World Series…any big event…creates a bigger opportunity for…prostitution…Rachel Davis escaped such a life 15 years ago…[and] now helps others get out…“During…the world series…the Olympic Swim Trials, the Berkshire meeting…quotas…go up to $2,000 a night”…

Damned If You Don’t

Among those arrested [in a Sacramento, California sting] was the Rev. John Oselsky…who…stopped at a fast food parking lot…to purchase a meal when he was approached by two women who knocked on his vehicle window…Oselsky…speaks fluent Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian.  But his English is not good…Oselsky never…offered money [and] had [only] $13 in his wallet…

An Example To the West (TW3 #39) Naked Football Club

Brazilian prostitutes…played a football match …in World Cup host city Belo Horizonte…to raise awareness about sex workers’ rights…the women set up an impromptu pitch using traffic cones for goalposts and played to the enthusiastic cheers of onlookers.  The prostitutes, calling themselves the Naked Football Club — though in fact they played in the green and yellow uniforms of Brazil — teamed up with the visiting evangelicals from the United States to take on a local university team…

Libertarianism Happens To People

Mark Shurtleff…Utah attorney general…set up a unit…[which] sent armed police to raid businesses that were suspected of employing undocumented workers…Shurtleff…also…[over]saw a dramatic increase in the use of SWAT teams and…opposed an important ballot initiative  to rein in the abuse of civil asset forfeiture…[now] Shurtleff…[is] under investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance law…and…”accused law enforcement agents of using ‘Dirty Harry’ tactics when they searched his house, breaking through his door and pointing automatic weapons at his children…

Somewhere in the Middle

Chris Atchison…[has] been studying [sex workers' clients] for about 20 years…[and] doesn’t think…there is…such a thing as a “typical john”…”People who purchase sexual services come from all walks of life…[and] all racial and ethnic categories…they don’t all [have]…identical reasons or…identical needs…Some…are physically disabled.  Some of these individuals have great social stigmas, social-anxiety disorders.  And some are individuals who…just…are lacking a partner, a widower, and so on and so forth…most [clients] would never hurt their escorts, from whom they mainly seek “companionship”…

Check Your Premises (Hysteria on Parade)

Another warped view of touring:

…Taken from one hotel to the next, she’s been forced to have sex with men for money again and again.  And there are many more like her.  Hundreds of young women and girls are coerced into doing this on any given day, police…say.  Most are…sent along what’s commonly described as The Pipeline, which takes them to cities such as Montreal, here to Ottawa and all the way to Windsor.  Shipping girls along circuits such as The Pipeline is a crucial component to a trafficker’s success.  The constant movement helps pimps avoid police detection, isolates the women and girls from their family and friends, and attracts a larger clientele by offering up fresh-faced girls…

Backwards into the Future (TW3 #352) ritual shaming

dozens of prominent legal experts…are calling for the abolition of the police-run “custody and education” system, which…resembles the “re-education through labor” system in all but name, and has no basis in Chinese law…which forbids the state to deprive citizens of their freedom without any basis in legislation.  The first…facilities began to be built in 2002, in line with a 1993 directive from…the State Council, which ordered that those found engaging in sex work should be given “legal and moral” education, subjected to tests for sexually transmitted diseases and organized to take part in productive work…a person can be incarcerated by police for up to two years without trial for involvement in the sex industry, whether as a sex worker or a client…

Dutch Threat (TW3 #418)

Another excellent essay from Felicia Anna:

…the [Dutch] minister of Justice Ivo Opstelten presented…the government’s…new campaign against human trafficking…[with] an overview of the results of the last campaign…[which] got 392 anonymous tips…[this was] 93% more…then the years before…[but] 392 reports out of 20,000 estimated legal working prostitutes in Holland isn’t very much.  In fact, it’s only about 2%…while the police [claimed] in their own ‘report’ “Schone Schijn“…that it was somewhere between 50 and 90%…of those 392 reports…the police only decided to investigate 250…a whopping 28 arrests where made, which comes down to about 7% of the total amount of reports…This means that only 7% of the reports leads to an actual arrest, and…93% of the cases are false alarm…In short, people report it much more then before, but the actual number of people arrested has not changed at all…

Choke Point 

A mysterious group of business people will spend up to $5 million campaigning against…”Operation Choke Point”…The United States Consumer Coalition says the…operation unfairly targets legal businesses by choking off their access to banks and third-party payment processors…Brian Wise, a partner in the Washington strategic communications shop Wise Public Affairs, began forming USCC at the beginning of the year.  A Facebook site was launched in March, and the group has stepped up its media campaign…[to] highlight…business that…have been hurt by Choke Point…

Property of the State

Tennessee moves to criminalize smoking during pregnancy:

When newborn babies begin to withdraw from powerful drugs, they shriek at a high, telltale pitch.  Cut off from the substances they ingested through their mothers, they convulse, projectile vomit or writhe from skin-scorching diarrhea.  Their tiny bodies shudder violently…Tennessee…has made its mark in trying to understand what triggers the painful symptoms in babies going through nicotine and opioid withdrawal.  Researchers and insurers alike are looking for ways to reach out to and treat pregnant women with addictions…

The Roof Caves In

The Somaly Mam Foundation has pledged to change its name following the resignation of its founder…executive director Gina Reiss-Wilchins says the organisation has ‘been working tirelessly to chart the best path for…rebranding, renaming, and re-launching our organisation’…”  Meanwhile, there’s a petition for the New York Times to fire Nick Kristof for his lies and his perpetuation of Mam’s scam.  But as Dr. Laura Agustin points out, it’s a mistake to concentrate on Mam and Kristof:government money machine

…if some [donors] do stop funding SMF, they will simply shift support to other similar institutions engaged in the same cause…And some new figure with the ability to stir feelings will eventually emerge from the hundreds of groups now dedicated to sex trafficking…The current fuss about Kristof and Mam reproduces the cult of personality that caused trouble in the first place.  To focus on individuals is to avoid addressing structures.  A couple of self-promoting showoffs pale beside proliferating government machinery that now churns out salaries and prestige for thousands worldwide caught up in a movement based on fraud.

Whither Canada? (TW3 #423)

In what was billed as a national day of action, rallies against the government’s new prostitution legislation were [held] in several cities…Dozens of demonstrators gathered around red umbrellas…in a downtown Toronto park to speak out against the proposed law, which would…”simply move sex workers out into more isolated and more marginalized areas of the city”…said Jean McDonald, head of…Maggie’s …She said that…the Conservatives are “spitting in the face” of the Supreme Court’s landmark prostitution decision and ignoring the vital input of sex workers…

Schadenfreude (TW3 #424) 

Noah Berlatsky on Chong Kim and Eden:

…Breaking Out, an anti-trafficking organization, announced that [it]…had been unable to confirm [her tale and]…is contemplating legal action against her.  Kim’s supposedly true story was the basis for a 2012 film, Eden…the…exploitation tropes…are clustered about so densely and insistently that it’s hard to believe anyone missed them.  There are women-in-prison shower scenes…The trope of giving prisoners kittens to love is straight out of Caged from 1950…There’s also some S&M fetish (again a staple of the genre), and…stylized violence a la Tarantino…To just point out the most obvious issue, the movie details a copious number of murders, several of them committed by the main character herself.  This is standard issue for a Hollywood film, but in real life, this amounts to mass murder, including the killing of multiple law-enforcement personnel…where’s the massive investigation?  Why is this being covered in an entertainment review, rather than on the front page?…

TRPWL presented a catalog of the many inconsistencies in Kim’s story, including her omission of the fact that she was convicted of fraud in 2009.

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Feminine virtue is nothing but a convenient masculine invention.
–  Ninon de l’Enclos

The neofeminists would like people to imagine whores and intellectuals as opposites, and they pretend that making one’s living by pleasing men is philosophically incompatible with equality.  Indeed, most modern prohibitionist propaganda is based upon depicting the prostitute as a mentally inferior creature whose statements about her own thoughts and feelings cannot be trusted, and the horrible Swedish model is sold as a means of promoting female equality.  But as regular readers know, these dogmas are the exact opposite of the truth; throughout history many harlots chose the life specifically as a means of ensuring economic and social independence, and up until the 19th century courtesans were nearly the only women who were educated.  In fact, the spiritual ancestresses of modern neofeminists based much of their condemnation of whores on the very qualities the neofeminists pretend we lack, namely our independence, unconventionality and willingness to engage in free commerce with men; rather than whoredom being the opposite of feminism, whores were in fact its originators, both practically and philosophically.

Ninon de l'EnclosOne of the first to write extensively on the subject was Anne de l’Enclos, who is best known by her childhood nickname “Ninon”.  She was born in Paris on November 10th, 1620 (some sources claim slightly earlier or later years)  to a devout Catholic mother and an Epicurean father; not much is known about her parents (not even their names) except that they were comfortably middle-class and that their personalities and philosophies were strikingly different.  Ninon was a tomboy, and it amused her father, a professional musician, to indulge her by educating her like a boy and even allowing her to dress as one while riding (to her mother’s consternation).  By the time her father was exiled from France in 1632 (due to a duel fought over another man’s wife), Ninon had decided that religion was an invention; perhaps due to the disastrous example provided by her parents, she had also resolved never to marry.  In her late teens she allowed herself to be “ruined” by the Comte de Coligny so as to ensure her mother could not marry her off, and though she was consigned to a convent because of it she left as soon as her mother died, less than a year later.

Though it is doubtful her father had planned for her to become a courtesan, his example and the education he had afforded her (including mastery of the lute and clavichord) made her perfect for the profession, especially considering that she had also been well-known in Parisian society since childhood.  She frequented all the fashionable salons, and soon established one herself (generally holding them in rented hotel suites rather than her own drawing room); at first only men attended due to her reputation, but she eventually became so popular that even “respectable” women could be found there.  It is difficult to know which of the notable attendees were clients and which just friends, because she kept most of the transactions strictly business.  Though many courtesans of the time preferred long-term semi-romantic arrangements to one-off dates, so great was Ninon’s aversion to matrimony that she avoided anything which even resembled it; though she did take lovers, they never lasted for more than three months and she still accepted paid dates during the term because she refused to be financially dependent on anyone.  Once she grew tired of a lover she would tell him so honestly, and the majority of her exes remained friends or even clients.  She only ever made one exception to the three-month rule:  She lived with the Marquis de Villarceaux at his country estate for three years, pursuing her studies while he hunted and chased other women; she even bore him a son, whom she loved dearly for the rest of her life.  But eventually Paris beckoned and she answered, and when the Marquis followed her and confronted her in a rage, she cut off her hair and handed it to him as a keepsake:  the bob started a fad, and the Marquis cooled down and went back to being just a friend.

In that sexually-saner time, courtesans were in no danger from the law; but while gossip and jealousy were the worst harms Ninon’s libertinism could bring, her outspoken views on organized religion were another matter.  It was not illegal to hold such views (which were not at all uncommon among the intelligentsia of the time), and even most clergy were inclined to be tolerant of them; Cardinal Richelieu had once even tried to hire her, though she had spurned him.  But certainly some of those in power took a dim view of them: one of these was the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, who as regent for her young son Louis XIV had Ninon imprisoned in the Madelonnettes Convent in 1656.  She passed the time writing a pamphlet entitled “The Coquette Avenged” (in which she argued that it is not necessary to be religious to be moral), but she was not there long; she was visited by Queen Christina of Sweden, an intellectual who had abdicated the Swedish throne to travel about Europe as a patron of arts and letters.  Though without a throne, Christina was still very influential; she wrote to Cardinal Mazarin asking him to release Ninon, and he immediately granted the request.

The above-mentioned pamphlet, released in 1659, is one of the few specimens of the courtesan’s philosophical writing to be published in her lifetime; most of what we know of her thought comes from accounts by friends such as Moliere, and from her extensive correspondence with the Marquis de Sévigné (published half a century after her death).  Like her father, Ninon was an Epicurean; she was a materialist who denied the existence of the soul, and held that ascribing spiritual origins or dimensions to impulses which derived from physical causes was the source of much of the world’s sorrow.  Nowhere was this more true, in her estimation, than in the case of love, which she held to be the greatest of pleasures; by pretending that an amoral, physical passion actually derives from lofty spiritual impulses, people do love a disservice and create conflict where it does not naturally exist.  She also argued that men and women are naturally equal, and more alike than different; she felt that more egalitarian relations between the sexes would result in greater appreciation of each for the other.

Ninon de LenclosAfter she turned forty, she began to invest more time and energy in intellectual and literary activities and less in sex work; she stopped taking new clients entirely about 1667, though she never stopped being sexually active.  By this point in her career, “good” women were no longer as afraid of her as they once were; she even became the close friend of Françoise d’Aubigné, a lady-in-waiting who later become the second (morganatic) wife of Louis XIV (who was himself said to have great respect for the veteran courtesan’s advice).  Her heightened respectability was not due to any softening of her attitude about marriage, however; while it was customary for established, property-owning sex workers to affect the title “Madam” even if they had not entered into marriages of convenience, Ninon defiantly styled herself “Mademoiselle de l’Enclos” in her later years.  After her retirement, she opened a school in which she taught the arts of love, covering such topics as how to woo a woman, how to take care of a wife or mistress and how to properly end an affair.  She also took female students, though she taught them privately rather than in groups; while she charged men tuition, she gave women the benefit of her experience for free.  She was by this time quite wealthy, and often assisted struggling writers; when she died on October 17th, 1705 she bequeathed 2000 livres as a scholarship for the ten-year-old son of her accountant Francois Arouet, a boy who grew up to write under the name Voltaire.

While it’s completely true that Ninon de l’Enclos was an exceptional whore, the difference was mostly one of degree rather than of kind.  For millennia before her and for centuries since her time, intelligent, pragmatic women have chosen to sell sex as a way of supporting ourselves without selling ourselves as so many of our conventional sisters do.  Like Ninon, many of us are freethinkers who are skeptical of society’s sacred cows; like her, many of us are generous with both money and advice in causes we consider important.  And like her, those of us who dare to express our ideas are targeted by prohibitionists who want to lock us away someplace where our voices cannot be heard by the young and open-minded.

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I have not been in many relationships and am still a technical virgin at 25.  In the past that was mostly due to a desire to wait until marriage (inspired by a Catholic upbringing and severe OCD), but more recently a busy grad school/work schedule and a plethora of painful “female problems” have made a healthy, happy sexual relationship an impossibility.  Despite the physical issues, the biggest impediment to physical intimacy is my mind; I allow myself to be on the receiving end, but find myself unable to reciprocate.  I want to be physical and uninhibited, but I find myself frozen and cannot get past it to take an active role in pleasing a man; though my OCD is better it isn’t gone, and I can’t let myself lose control.  I want to be a giving, honest lover, but something in my head just stops me and I feel indifference, if not aversion.  I have a therapist, but I need any advice you can give; chronic pain and no physical intimacy makes you feel dead.

cluttered deskWhen one is trying to deal with a problem, and I mean any problem, it helps to be able to clearly see what you’re working with.  If you were trying to repair something or get your tax papers in order, you’d be wise to clear off the table before putting your work there; extraneous clutter gets in the way of seeing whatever it is you’re trying to focus on, and might even result in some important part or paper being lost among things that have nothing to do with the problem at hand.  Personal problems aren’t any different; trying to focus on one while there are a number of others in the way can make it difficult or even impossible to deal with the main issue.  Unfortunately, clearing away mental and emotional clutter is vastly more difficult than transferring a bunch of junk from the table to the sideboard and wiping the surface down; furthermore, it’s not always possible to tell which bits and pieces are pertinent and which extraneous.  However, it’s vital that you at least make the attempt.  Any one of the issues you have listed could present a barrier to intimacy, and you have several; the first step in solving your main problem is therefore dealing with as many of the underlying ones as possible.

First, you speak of your OCD in the past tense; I’m guessing that most of that is due to therapy, but if you’re taking medication for it please be aware that psychoactive drugs often have sexual side effects.  I am not advising you to go off any meds; what I’m saying is that you need to be aware of the way in which they may help or hinder your quest for intimacy.  Since your issues are “better but not gone”, it goes without saying that you need to keep doing whatever you’ve been doing, so as to continue toward they day when they are largely behind you.

Next, there’s the issue of your schedule.  I understand better than most people that economic realities supersede considerations of what we “want” or what might be convenient, but at the same time you need to realize that work- and school-related stress can be huge barriers to emotional intimacy, even for people without your other problems.  I suggest examining your schedule and trying to find ways in which it can be made less busy so that you have more time for you.  Perhaps you need to take fewer hours; perhaps you need to pace your course work out more; perhaps you need to find an alternative source of income so as to lessen your need to work (obviously, in your case sex work would not be a good idea).  Failing everything else, perhaps you may need to take a sabbatical from relationships until you finish school:  I was largely celibate from early 1995 to late 1997, and avoided sexual relationships until the end of 2000, and it really helped me to discard a lot of the heavy emotional baggage I had been carrying around for the better part of two decades.  Only you can determine which of these approaches is right for you, but I’m sure your therapist and/or trusted friends can help you to think it through.

Then there are the female problems; as I’m sure you’re already aware, two of the three you listed are often (if not usually) of psychosomatic origin, and therefore may not truly be separate from the psychological and emotional issues, especially considering that those issues are related to your aversion to premarital sex.  Though Christian anti-sex propaganda teaches that sex is better for those who wait, this is rarely true and is often a blatant lie:  women who have been afraid of sex and avoided it for their entire adult lives don’t suddenly open up and lose their fear merely because Church and State give them a signed permission slip.  More often, they are unable to relax until days, weeks or even months after the wedding, and as an escort I saw many clients whose wives were still highly sex-averse after decades.  What this means to you is getting a competent gynecologist to determine whether your physical problems are somatic or psychosomatic, and to proceed with whatever therapeutic regimen is indicated for each one.

The Sheik (1921)Finally, there’s the passivity issue.  This is actually less unusual than you might think; every escort has heard things like “my wife gives me sex, but she won’t give head”.  Many women, especially those from Christian backgrounds, view sex as a thing to endure  rather than to participate in; since sex is “sinful” they’re “bad girls” if they initiate any sexual act, but “good girls” if they passively submit to a husband’s desires without actively doing anything themselves.  This is one of the reasons rape and bondage fantasies are so popular:  they allow women with this kind of programming to subconsciously say, “this isn’t my fault; he made me do it”.  It may be that you will need to explore that side of your sexuality; embracing submissive fantasies may let you short-circuit the guilt that comes from active participation, and that can (paradoxically) open the door to full acceptance of yourself as a sexual being.  Think of it as a mental judo move:  rather than trying to take on your inner nun directly, you’re using her own attack against her.  The very impulse to avoid responsibility for sex could be the back door into enjoyment of it.

I used the word “finally” above, but there’s nothing “final” about this discussion; as you begin to sort through the problems, you may find others waiting underneath to jump on your hands.  Don’t let that discourage you; it’s part of the process, like having to pay an overdue bill that you discover while clearing off the table.  It’s going to take you some time, so you must be patient; however, you’re still young so that is to your advantage.  I was 28 before I even began to deal with my issues, so you’ve got a three-year head start on me.  And as you make progress with separating the important issues from the incidental ones and the easily-cured ones from those that will take a lot of work, remember that any advice I can give you is yours for the asking.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Preteens selling goodies, the police…lectured [her]…was unfair to establishments…like Starbucks.  –  Robert Fernandes

Juxtaposition

Popehat suggests we compare and contrast this:

Just days after Iran’s president denounced Internet censorship as “cowardly,” six young Iranians were arrested and forced to repent on state television…for the grievous offense of proclaiming themselves to be “Happy in Tehran,” in a homemade music video  they posted on YouTube…The arrest of the young dancers, and their televised public humiliation, angered Iranians at home and abroad…

And this:

U.S. Park Police arrested five people…at the Jefferson Memorial.  Their offense?  Dancing.  The dancers were protesting an appeals court ruling…that the national monuments are places for reflection and contemplation — and that dancing distracted…

Real People Maria Isabel

Photographer Bénédicte Desrus spent six years…documenting Casa Xochiquetzal, a home in Mexico City for…retired sex workers…She only took photographs of the women who gave her permission and provided them with prints, which often inspired other women to participate…Desrus then teamed up with journalist Celia Gómez Ramos, who began interviewing and transcribing the residents’ stories.  They eventually decided to publish…as…Las Amorosas Más Bravas (The Toughest Lovers)…

Check Your Premises

34-year-old…Vanessa Gumataotao of Sacramento…was arrested on suspicion of prostitution…as well as child abuse and endangerment for allegedly using [a] 17-year-old [boy] as her pimp.  The…boy was arrested on suspicion of pimping…

If It Were Legal

Too bad he lost the suit; this kind of ethical breach is unforgiveable:

A top London solicitor who had sex with a Chinese law student [and sex worker]…has lost his claim for damages after she told his daughter and colleagues about previous affairs.  The solicitor…identified only as AVB, sued the young sex worker, known as TDD, for breach of confidentiality…after she found information about past liaisons on his laptop.  Senior…Justice Tugendhat…said TDD broke a duty she entered when she accepted money for sex.  But…AVB…would not receive damages because although he experienced “some embarrassment” he “has suffered no real distress”…

Something Rotten in Sweden (July Updates, Part One)

Cops busting kids’ lemonade stands isn’t news any more, but this is a new low:

[San Francisco cops busted] two…lemonade stands…the 11-year-old proprietor of one…was informed that simply giving away the fudge brownies and lemonade the police forbade her…to sell would result in a $1,500 fine…Not long after police cleansed the…area of unlawful lemonade dispensaries…they returned due to complaints about “a live band.”  This stemmed…from a neighborhood tradition of setting up a drum kit during [a public event] and allowing local kids to keep the beat.  At the time the police showed up, the unlicensed live bandmember was…a toddler…

The Punitive Mindset

Because obviously, female guards’ delicate ladyfeelings are more important than men’s lives:

…Bradley Ballard, a…schizophrenic [inmate at New York’s Rikers Island] died…after he was confined to his cell…for seven days for making a lewd gesture at a female guard…Denied…his medication, the agitated inmate tied a rubber band tightly around his genitals…Ballard was found naked and unresponsive on the floor, covered in feces, his genitals swollen and badly infected.  He died at a hospital of…[massive systemic] infection…

Above the Law

Two [Atlantic City cops] have been arrested on charges they sexually assaulted a 16-year-old in separate incidents…Andre Corbin and…Ralph Pereira…were…[each] charged with…sexual assault…endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct…

That Old Black Magic

A man was killed by a mob…in…Burkina Faso, after being accused of making another man’s penis “disappear”…a local mechanic…claimed that his penis had been “stolen” by the second man, who was not from the district.  The first man called the police.  But by then…the residents decided to lynch the man in the middle of the street…

I’ve mentioned West African “penis stealing” hysteria before in Links #141.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #51)

The acquittal of the 13 people “sex trafficking” fanatic Susan Trimarco implicated in her witch hunt provoked such an outcry among her disciples that two of the three judges were pushed into retirement, the third has been threatened with impeachment and the Argentine president swore to “reform” the judiciary because it is too objective and not sufficiently influenced by public opinion.  A higher court then convicted ten of the 13 defendants on charges of running an “evil network of sexual exploitation…with…international connections, and satanic rituals.”  Still think this hysteria is different from the Satanic Panic?

The End of the Beginning

The California Sex Offender Management Board…[recommends] that lawmakers…overhaul registration laws so that some offenders can be removed from the list after 10 or 20 years.  The list — which currently includes almost 100,000 registered offenders — is too large to be useful to law enforcement or the general public.  Under current laws, all sex offenders must register for life regardless of the offense they committed…[the list] includes…almost 900 [people] who have not committed a sex-crime in more than half a century…Ninety-five percent of sex-crimes are committed by individuals who are not on the registry, and the existence of the registry has not worked as a deterrent…

Comfort Zone (TW3 #320) Louie Gohmert

The endgame of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

…U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said the debate over…immigration reform is prompting undocumented minors to enter the United States… “And…you know that some get sucked into sex slavery,” Gohmert said…adding…“This administration, and this Congress also, is complicit in helping lure people into sex trafficking”…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

The [French] National Consultative Commission on Human Rights  (CNCDH)…has [rejected] the law…which seeks to punish “the purchase of sexual acts”…[The Commission] consulted many experts…and…[outlines] the three-point position of the committee:

  • “Chosen prostitution” is legal, so clients are not criminals.
  • Legal prostitutes should be easier for clients to access.
  • Victims of trafficking and exploitation need better support…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #351)

Mobs with torches are back in fashion, it seems:

An international association of Catholic nuns has launched a public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking and prostitution during the World Cup in Brazil.  The nuns will use social media, billboards and rallies…to draw attention to the heightened risk of exploitation…Sister Gabriella Bottani said…that for previous World Cups in Germany and South Africa, the level of “exploitation” had gone up by 30 per cent and 40 per cent respectively…Among past and upcoming initiatives will be…a torchlit procession in Brasilia…and handing out pamphlets at…beach resorts…

Naturally, the usual predators are taking advantage of the anti-whore hysteria:

…police…invaded…a building where…prostitutes operated…in [the suburbs of]… Rio…Without a warrant, police…[arrested] more than 100 women…and seized their goods.  Women were attacked and raped – police forced them to perform oral sex and put their hands on the women’s genitals…One woman…had…[her] whole week…[of] money…robbed, including any money to take the bus home…

Guest Columnist:  Sarah Woolley (TW3 #406) 

Amnesty International has urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to ditch plans to criminalise the purchasing of sex.  The human rights organisation wants a clause contained in a bill against human trafficking to be excised because…it would create a “hierarchy of criminal liability” among sex workers…Amnesty stressed it was not taking sides on the debate over sex work and prostitution, but said sex work and human trafficking were “two very complex social phenomena” that required different laws…

“Those who…sit on the fence do indeed side for a political party: The ruling party.” – Max Frisch

Sex Work is Work (TW3 #407)

Another blow against the absurdity of consensual crime:

…Italy’s national statistics office, will include estimated dealings from drugs, arms trafficking and prostitution in its GDP figures from now on…This move should increase Italy’s economy by at least 1.3 per cent in the first year, helping it to comply with EU rules on indebtedness, which limit member countries to spending no more than 3 per cent of their GDP…the calculation would also include revenues from contraband tobacco and alcohol…The Bank of Italy estimated the value of the criminal economy at 10.9 per cent of GDP in 2012…The move…is motivated by the EU’s desire to measure its member countries’ economies more closely…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #409)

community members carrying information and harm reduction supplies were threatened with arrest and were not allowed to communicate with sex workers…who had been…forcibly transported to Project ROSE…[which has] come under intense scrutiny because of a long list of rights violations…advocates from the Best Practices Policy Project and SWOP Phoenix traveled to the United Nations to raise concerns about these abuses to the Human Rights Committee…a group of social workers, Social Workers United for Justice, is petitioning the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to “demand an end to Arizona State University School of Social Work’s involvement with Project Rose” because it violates socials work’s core professional principles…

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #410) Alyssa Funke

Unfortunately, not every outed sex worker has Belle Knox’s incredible strength and resolve:

Nineteen-year-old Alyssa Funke…bought a shotgun, drove to her family’s boat, and killed herself there on April 14.  Students at her former high school had outed her as the star of a “casting couch” porn video, and her parents say the subsequent online harassment contributed to her suicide.  Funke…did her first and only porn video…earlier this year…Soon after the video went up, Funke  started getting nasty Twitter and Facebook messages from students at her former high school in Minnesota, calling her a slut and worse…Funke’s parents said she had long suffered from depression, but they believe the harassment…played a major role in her [suicide]…

Belle also wrote an open letter to Alyssa after hearing of her death.

Deafening Silence (TW3 #413)

discussion of whether the sex trade should be legalised [in China]…came to the fore…after Huang Haibo, a 39-year-old actor best known for his “nice everyman” roles, was arrested…for allegedly soliciting prostitutes…The news led to a surprising outpouring of sympathy on social media…after the crackdown in…Dongguan…[there were many] online comments like “Dongguan, hang in there” and “the public has your back”…

The Missing Word

Silly preacher, only politically-connected companies are allowed to do this:

A South Carolina pastor has been accused of turning his Bible College into a forced labor camp for foreign students.  Reginald Wayne Miller…made the teens toil for no or little pay for more than 50 hours a week while housing them in rooms without hot water, heating or air-conditioning.  He…threatened to revoke their student visas if they complained or failed to comply with his demands…Students reportedly told [federal] investigators that classes “were not real” and that the main focus of the school was to have them working full-time at its campus and Miller’s home…In 2006, [Miller] was…detained on charges of lewdness and prostitution for exposing himself to an undercover cop in a bathhouse…

Three Steps Back (TW3 #418)

A bill designed to help New Orleans police crack down on prostitution is headed to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk…The legislation…makes it illegal…to solicit money or rides with the intent to exchange it for sex acts.  Marjorie Esman [of the ACLU says the law]…does nothing that isn’t already covered by Louisiana law.  Esman also had problems with an earlier version…[that banned] solicitation for any purpose…which…would have effectively outlawed panhandling…the bill gives police a mechanism to [harass] suspected prostitutes…enough so they might move on…

The Mote and the Beam (TW3 #419)

The US House of Representatives passed all five of the “sex trafficking” bills before it; most of them are the usual political boondoggles, but one creates a “criminal advertising” crime to stack on people being railroaded for “sex trafficking”, and the most dangerous one allows the federal government to give even more money to local cops for sex work stings under the guise of “fighting sex trafficking”.  But the most shocking example of political hubris comes from Representative Randy Hultgren of Illinois, who seems to imagine that the U.S. Congress has the power to criminalize prostitution in foreign countries; he supports this with a lot of nonsense including the discredited Neumayer, Cho & Dreher report.

Blood on the Sand

[Vanessa] Stiviano…is now the subject of a criminal probe…[due to] accusations that Stiviano sought money from Sterling to stop her from releasing more recordings…Stiviano’s attorney has denied she leaked the recordings that set off the scandal, saying a friend did it without her permission.

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It does seem overkill to shoot someone who is running away from you.  –  Cindi Keele

This week’s contributions were totally dominated by Popehat, who contributed both videos and everything above the first one, which the city of Indianapolis doesn’t want you to see (to the point of hinting it might issue a bumptious legal threat to the video’s creator).  The second video is a 1971 NASA documentary for kids, and the links between the two were provided by Clarissa (“RIP”), Radley Balko (“balloons” and “another day”), Mara Dyne (“wishlist”), Rick Horowitz (“mayhem”), Cop Block (“blinded”), and Amy Alkon (“together”).

From the Archives

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